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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-15
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, 15 September 1997
This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.
The Security Council must minimize the unintended adverse effects of sanctions on civilians, according to a new text on the question of United Nations sanctions that is annexed to a resolution adopted without a vote today by the General Assembly -- one of a series of actions taken as the Assembly concluded its fifty-first session.
While sanctions are an effective international tool, the text states, they should be resorted to only with the utmost caution and due attention to their short-term and long-term effects. The possibility of introducing a range of sanctions and then lifting them progressively as targets are achieved is also suggested.
In addition, the Assembly called for exempting foodstuffs and medical supplies from all sanctions regimes. It further stated that sanctions committees should give priority to humanitarian problems that could result from the application of sanctions. Intensified efforts are required to address the special economic problems of third countries affected by sanctions regimes, according to the text.
The working group negotiating Security Council reform has "come tantalizingly close towards being able to have a package that could win the support of at least two thirds of the General Assembly members," Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia, the outgoing President of the General Assembly, told reporters in New York this morning.
Despite some progress, Ambassador Razali acknowledged that there remained permanent members of the Security Council who had still not moved from their basic positions. He called for scrutiny of the veto power, saying, "We are not going to go through the next so many years continuing allowing five countries to have the veto without having this veto made more accountable to the general membership."
Ambassador Razali said that the momentum of reform was affected by what he termed "the most disappointing part" of his tenure: the non- payment of back dues owed by Member States. "One cannot but look at any aspect of reform, whether it is the Security Council or elsewhere, in the context of this huge arrears that is hanging over everything else," he said.
The outgoing General Assembly President was also disheartened by the lack of progress on the question of arrangements governing the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the work of the United Nations. "It is a matter of a great deal of disappointment to me that after over 30 hours of negotiation, there is not even a mandate agreed to on how to proceed in dealing with the subject of NGO participation," he said.
Of his legacy, Mr. Razali, whose term ends today with the closing of the fifty-first session of the General Assembly, said, "I hope that the 'business-as-usual' syndrome is a chapter of the past in the habits and ways of diplomats at the General Assembly."
Taking up her duties in Geneva today as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson pledged "to be a voice for those who are victims of injustice and cruelty".
As the official with principal responsibility for all United Nations human rights activities, Ms. Robinson said she would work to reach the goals of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reform package by making human rights a more integral part of the Organization's work. "I will try to combine the need to be an effective leader of a team that is central to the United Nations presence and role in human rights, and also to be very close to those for whom we work," she said. "We serve human rights worldwide and therefore we must be in touch with those for whom it really matters."
Ms. Robinson, the former President of Ireland, was appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 8 June. She has undertaken numerous international activities relating to human rights, and has special expertise in constitutional and European human rights law.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will reconvene the Special Conference on Liberia on 3 October in New York, according to a report released today. Held at the ministerial level, the meeting will aim to capitalize on the momentum generated by the successful completion of the peace process in Liberia.
In his final report on the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), the Secretary-General notes that at the meeting, Liberian President Charles Taylor is expected to present his Government's preliminary priorities and strategic vision for recovery.
President Taylor has welcomed the proposal to establish a small United Nations office in the country following the UNOMIL's withdrawal, according to the report. The head of the proposed office would serve as the focal point for post-conflict peace-building activities and would have overall authority for coordinating the activities of the United Nations system throughout the country.
The UNOMIL, whose mandate will expire on 30 September, was deployed in September 1993 to work with the Monitoring Group of the Economic Community of West African States to resolve the conflict which, according to the Secretary-General's report, has claimed the lives of as many as 150,000 civilians and forced some 700,000 Liberians to flee to neighbouring countries as refugees.
The investigative team dispatched by United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan to probe alleged past massacres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today informed the country's Government that it must begin work immediately, according to a UN spokesman.
The team, which is headed by Atsu-Koffi Amega, has been in the country for four weeks awaiting authorization to deploy to the field. Twice last week scheduled deployments had to be cancelled.
In a meeting with the country's Minister for Reconstruction, Etienne Richard Mbaya, who has been designated to liaise with the team, Mr. Amega formally requested authorization to go to Mbandaka, a town north of Kinshasa, on Wednesday to examine reports of alleged massacres of Rwandan refugees there in May.
Mr. Amega recalled that the team had been sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Secretary-General Kofi Annan with the agreement of the country's President, Laurent Kabila.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today expressed support for efforts to achieve a nuclear weapon-free zone in Central Asia. Noting that more than 110 United Nations Member States are currently covered by nuclear- weapon- free zone agreements, he said that additional zones would be a "boon to regional security cooperation, would contribute to non- proliferation and disarmament, and would represent a further step in the direction of a nuclear-free world".
In a message to the International Conference on "Central Asia -- Nuclear- Weapon-Free Zone" delivered on his behalf by Vladimir Petrovsky, Director- General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Secretary- General said the elimination of nuclear weapons -- a goal shared by all humanity -- is a feasible long-range objective. "Still, uncertainties and serious challenges remain, in both the nuclear and conventional fields, and a new international security agenda must be agreed that takes account of our rapidly changing world," he said.
The Commission on National Reconciliation in Tajikistan, which was set up as part of the United Nations-monitored peace process, began its work today in Dushanbe, according to a UN spokesman.
Chaired by the leader of the United Tajik Opposition, Sayed Abdullo Nuri, the Commission began working on a timetable for implementing the General Peace Agreement and Moscow Declaration, which were concluded by the parties on 27 June. Four sub-committees were also set up today, to deal with refugees as well as political, military and legal matters.
Evidence is mounting that slow growth and rising inequalities are becoming more permanent features of the global economy, according to the Trade and Development Report 1997, released today by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The report finds the income gap growing both between and within countries. In Africa, where the gap has been widening over the past 30 years, average per capita income is now only 7 per cent that of industrialized countries. In many countries, the per capita income of the poorest 20 per cent averages less than one tenth that of the richest 20 per cent. "Those at the bottom have failed to see real gains in living standards, and in some cases have had to endure real losses."
"What is especially disturbing is that the concentration of national income in the hands of a few has not been accompanied by higher investment and faster growth," the report continues. Instead, increased profits are associated with stagnant investment, rising unemployment and reduced pay.
In order to face the challenges posed by globalization, the report states that "some awkward truths must be faced". Among these, it is necessary to acknowledge that "no economic law exists that will make developing economies converge automatically towards the income levels of developed countries". The report recommends that developing countries take measures to manage their economies, while the international community works to redress biases against them.
The Security Council must take account of human rights conditions when planning United Nations operations, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International, Pierre San‚, told reporters today.
Following meetings with members of the Security Council, Mr. San‚ said he had called on them to place human rights considerations at the centre of efforts to manage conflicts. "We have to make sure that as the conflict develops, reporting on human rights issues continues to reach the Security Council", he said, adding that this would be the first step towards establishing accountability.
Amnesty International also brought the issue of arms transfers to the attention of the Council members, according to Mr. San‚. "The failure up to now to monitor adequately transfers of arms, especially light weapons in situations of armed conflict, contributes to gross violations of human rights." Not only illicit but also government-authorized arms transfers must be scrutinized, he added.
Portuguese Ambassador Antonio Monteiro, who sponsored today's press conference and was present during the meetings, said the general reaction among Council members was very favourable. "Human rights are at the centre of the Security Council's attention," he said.
The United Nations Department for Public Information today began two training programmes for journalists, one for Palestinians and one for others from developing countries.
Activities for the journalists will include serving as United Nations correspondents covering events on behalf of their media organizations; visiting major media organizations in New York, Washington and Atlanta; attending special classes at Colombia University's School of International and Public Affairs; and obtaining on-the-job training.
The programme for 10 Palestinian journalists from broadcast and print media will run from now through 17 November.
Seventeen junior and mid-level journalists from developing countries will participate in a six-week programme ending on 23 October. This year's participants come from media organizations in Algeria, Argentina, Bahamas, Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador, Gambia, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Philippines, Samoa, Thailand, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Yemen.
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