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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-23

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Tuesday, 23 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.


  • UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq says food and supplies are arriving on time, but medicines face delays.
  • Cambodian refugees continue exodus to Thailand, UN refugee agency reports.
  • UN refugee agency says more than 2,000 refugees in Tanzania have returned to Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Andorra's President says unpaid dues hinder progress in implementing Secretary-General's reform proposals.
  • Togo's Foreign Minister welcomes Secretary-General's proposed focus on development and elimination of poverty.
  • Luxembourg's Foreign Minister, speaking for European Union, favours treating proposed reforms as a package.
  • United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary calls on States to set aside narrow interests in considering reform proposals.
  • Russia's Foreign Minister says United Nations cannot be reformed without overcoming its financial problems.
  • Latvia's Foreign Minister says success of United Nations reform depends on sound financial footing.
  • Foreign Minister of Nigeria says Africa should have two permanent seats on expanded Security Council.
  • Paraguay's President says enlarged Security Council must include representation of Latin America and Caribbean.
  • Japan's Foreign Minister says his country is ready to serve on Security Council.
  • Finland's Foreign Minister says General Assembly must give Secretary- General authority to act on his reforms.
  • Foreign Minister of Portugal advocates equitable increase in permanent and non-permanent Security Council members.
  • Foreign Minister of Netherlands says Assembly should accept reform package now and work out details later.
  • Guatemala's President "deeply thankful" for United Nations assistance to peace process in his country.
  • Costa Rica's President says Central American countries support Secretary- General's proposed reforms.
  • El Salvador's President supports reforming United Nations to make it better able to tackle future challenges.
  • President of Honduras says process of reforming Security Council must not be rushed.

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq told reporters in Baghdad on Tuesday that more than 2 million metric tonnes of food and related supplies had arrived in the country as part of the "oil-for-food" programme established under Security Council resolution 986 (1995).

The Humanitarian Coordinator, Dennis Halliday, said that while food such as wheat could be supplied quickly, medicines and medical supplies sometimes had to be newly manufactured, causing delays of three months or more. "We are all deeply frustrated about the arrival of medicines, which is way behind schedule", he said. Mr. Halliday noted that the committee monitoring the sanctions against Iraq had expedited its procedures for approving contracts. He added that there were "political aspects to this humanitarian programme which make it difficult for all of us".

Meanwhile, a UN spokesman in New York on Tuesday told reporters that the sanctions committee had last week approved three humanitarian supplies contracts involving the sale of wheat and other foodstuffs. One contract was given to an Australian company for $47.5 million; the second, for tea, went to a Sri Lankan company for $6.3 million, and the third, for infant formula, went to a Tunisian company, for $2.3 million. In addition, three more contracts were approved on Monday, involving $9.1 million for wheat, $11.2 million for sugar and $21.8 million for powdered milk, all for French companies.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that some 20,000 refugees have left western Cambodia and crossed the border into Thailand. "They were travelling along the road from Samlot in southern Battambang province, carrying all their possessions on ox carts, or in pickup trucks, sometimes leading their livestocks," a UNHCR spokesman told reporters in Geneva.

According to the spokesman, UNHCR had local suppliers in the area and stood ready to help the Thai authorities with any assistance they sought. "These new refugees join a total of more than 4,000 other Cambodian refugees in Thailand's Trat province, some of whom arrived at a place called Ban Mun Dan over the weekend, and others at Chong Khao Phlu where they arrived in August," she said.

Thailand was also hosting more than 20,000 refugees in Surin province, where refugees fled fighting in northern Cambodia, according to the spokesman, who said that UNHCR had been providing food rations for those people.

More than 2,300 Congolese refugees in the Kigoma camps in the United Republic of Tanzania have returned to the Uvira region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The UNHCR reported on Tuesday that since a voluntary repatriation programme started on 1 September, the ferry transporting returnees across Lake Tanganyika was making twice-weekly trips, and plans were under way to increase that to three times per week. The rate of return would further increase when a second ferry would be put into operation by next month, UNHCR said.

More than 72,000 Congolese refugees had fled into Tanzania following the outbreak of civil war in the former Zaire in October 1996. Of those, 22,000 had registered to return.

Meanwhile, UNHCR reported that the Tanzanian army had, since Sunday, been rounding up refugees found outside the camps in the Kigoma region. The refugees were being screened by UNHCR with the aim of repatriating them to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Marc Forn‚ Moln‚, President of the Government of Andorra, has expressed unconditional support for United Nations reform.

President Moln‚ told the General Assembly on Tuesday that the Secretary- General's proposals for reform are "conscientious, fair, innovative and practical". In particular, the proposal for a Deputy Secretary-General would serve to lighten the agenda of the Secretary- General, allowing the former to serve as a manager and the latter as a statesman.

President Moln‚ welcomed the Secretary-General's proposals for shifting the work of the United Nations towards concrete, time-bound objectives. "This strategy of working towards objectives will probably save money for the United Nations, and will serve as a model for the necessary efforts towards achieving development." Although reforms would lead to savings, he said it remained critical that Member States paid their dues. "Let us be clear: the delay in payments due to the United Nations acts as such a heavy weight on any attempt at reform that it will be nearly impossible to make progress if the conditions of payment are not satisfied."

The Foreign Minister of Togo on Tuesday welcomed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposals to streamline the United Nations and to channel savings from cost-effective measures to development programmes.

In his address to the General Assembly, Koffi Panou expressed hope that the United Nations would give priority to the elimination of poverty and the advancement of sound economic growth in developing countries. He emphasized the urgency of eliminating poverty, which he characterized as the principal cause of instability.

On restructuring the Security Council, he said that any enlargement should take account of the interests of developing countries and should be based on equitable geographical distribution. That, he said, would make the Council more representative and more democratic, thus enabling it to more effectively meet the needs of the day.

The Secretary-General's reform proposals represent a balanced package that, once implemented, would enable the Organization to better carry out its tasks in the service of the international community, Luxembourg's Deputy Prime Minister, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said on Tuesday. For that reason, he urged the Assembly to consider the reform proposals in an integrated manner and to abide by the Secretary-General's timetable so that they could be implemented starting in early 1998.

Jacques F. Poos told the Assembly that reform of the United Nations could not be conceived as a cost-cutting exercise, but on the contrary must be designed to strengthen the Organization. "Only a reformed and revitalized United Nations can be the foundation for a global partnership between developing countries, developed countries and multilateral organizations", he said.

Necessary though it was, reform would not bear fruit until the United Nations had the resources it required to fulfil its mandate, he continued. The financial crisis, which had become structural, could not be resolved until all Member States had agreed to meet their obligations under the United Nations Charter. For their part, European Union Member States collectively paid 35 per cent of the regular budget and 38 per cent of the peacekeeping budget, fully and unconditionally. Measures must be adopted to speed up the payment of arrears, tighten up the system for paying contributions, monitor United Nations spending more closely, and reform the scale of assessment of dues.

Member States must support the Secretary-General's reform proposals, as they will give the United Nations system what it needs to respond rapidly to the new challenges of a new century, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom told the General Assembly on Tuesday. "We must each stop measuring each proposal for reform in terms of narrow self-interest, and instead recognize that we all have a greater interest in supporting reform", he said.

Regarding the structure of the Security Council, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said, "we all agree that what was appropriate in 1945 is not what is right in 1997". Japan and Germany should both be included in an expanded permanent membership, and there should be a balance between developed and developing countries in a modernized Council.

"If the United Nations is to be relevant to its members, then more than anything else it must enable people to lift themselves out of poverty", he continued. The second key goal for the United Nations was peace -- preventing conflicts, helping to end them through peacekeeping, and helping to rebuild lasting peace after conflict. Thirdly, the United Nations must focus on human rights. "We must not fail. There are too many children stunted by poverty, too many mothers fearful of war, too many people whose basic human rights are being abused. Let us commit ourselves to achieving a modern, reformed United Nations that will turn hope into reality", he concluded.

The Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation has said that reforming the United Nations would be inconceivable without overcoming the Organization's financial problems. Yevgeny M. Primakov told the General Assembly that the financial problems of the United Nations "have become chronic". Stressing that all Member States had financial responsibility for the United Nations, he urged them to pay their dues.

Mr. Primakov said that the priority objective of the Organization's reform should be to enhance its "usefulness quotient". That goal, he pointed out, could be attained only if the Organization concentrated its efforts on the areas where it had obvious advantages over other international organizations. "It is also imperative to eliminate duplication in the work of United Nations agencies, while directing the work of the United Nations staff, as much as possible, towards meeting the real needs of United Nations Member States."

On proposals for expanding the Security Council, he said that a decision on the matter was long overdue. However, he added, such an expansion must not hamper efficiency. "The United Nations reform will take place against the background of an ever-increasing role of regional organizations, which is a logical process", he said, adding that the leading role of the United Nations among all other international organizations must be preserved.

The Foreign Minister of Latvia on Tuesday said that the Secretary- General's reform package contained measures which would enable the United Nations to respond to the imperative of organizational evolution. "Latvia views this package as a work in progress, rather than completed reform proposals for the long term."

Valdis Birkavs said the success of the reform would depend on a sound financial footing for the United Nations. Three factors must be considered: the rapid changes in peacekeeping budgets; the need to reform the scale of assessment of dues; and the recent unprecedented increases in outstanding contributions.

Latvia supported expanding the Security Council to make it more representative of all regions and of small States, he said. In view of the growth of crimes that escaped national punishment or crossed national borders, Latvia fully supported the establishment of an international criminal court with independent prosecution. "We consider this to be the most important development in international law since the creation of the International Court of Justice", he said.

Foreign Minister Chief Tom Ikimi of Nigeria on Tuesday stressed the need for Africa to have adequate representation on an expanded Security Council.

Speaking in the General Assembly, the Nigerian Foreign Minister said that "the reforms of the United Nations as proposed for the Secretariat, the General Assembly and the specialized agencies would be incomplete without a corresponding reform of the Security Council". He said that Africa, which had almost a third of the membership of the United Nations, should have adequate representation on an expanded Security Council. He recalled that at their June Summit in Harare, leaders of the Organization of African Unity had reaffirmed the need for the region to have two permanent seats with full veto powers.

Chief Ikimi said that since the establishment of the United Nations 52 years ago, the Organization had served as an instrument for implementing a global agenda of a diverse, complex and pressing nature. During that time, he stated, the United Nations had grown enormously and needed urgent reforms.

Reform of the Security Council must result in adequate representation for all geographical groups, including Latin America and the Caribbean, Paraguay's President told the General Assembly on Monday.

President Juan Carlos Wasmosy recalled that he had chaired the eleventh summit of the Rio Group, comprising Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Guyana, Honduras, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. The summit had adopted a declaration on strengthening the United Nations and reforming the Security Council. That declaration, he said, expressed support for the bold reform proposals put forward by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Rio Group declaration also set out a number of principles which should govern reform of the Security Council, he said. Such reform should aim to correct the Council's current imbalances and improve its decision-making capacity. Latin America and the Caribbean should have special consideration in any proposal for increasing the membership of the Security Council. Reform must respect the principles of equitable geographical distribution and the sovereign equality of States. The veto should be completely eliminated; as a first step toward that end, it should be allowed only in cases of draft resolutions making reference to Chapter VII of the Charter. The President said Paraguay supported granting permanent seats to Brazil, Germany and Japan.

"I would like to state again that Japan, with the endorsement of many countries, is prepared to discharge its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council in accordance with its basic philosophy of the non-resort to the use of force", the Japanese Foreign Minister said on Tuesday.

In his statement to the General Assembly, Keizo Obuchi said that in addition to those States that were originally expected to assume primary responsibility for international peace and security, other States with the capacity and willingness to play a global role had emerged. In addition, many other States had also gained independence and today represented the majority in the international community, where, the Foreign Minister said, they were important players. Security Council reform must take account of those two changes. Japan advocated an increase in both permanent and non- permanent members.

Mr. Obuchi said that Japan's assessment of dues to the United Nations budget was about to reach the same level as the United States, and it was already almost as great as the assessments of the other four permanent Security Council members combined. "If Japan's assessment were to increase further out of proportion, with reform of the Security Council not realized, I must say there would be a problem with the fairness of such a situation." He expressed strong hope that the financial reform of the United Nations would proceed together with reforms in other areas in a balanced manner.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reform proposals "are in tune with our thinking in Finland", the country's Foreign Minister said on Tuesday, urging the General Assembly to consider them as a coherent whole. The Assembly should also give the Secretary-General the authority to act on them during the current session, Tarja Halonen added.

Finland had consistently advocated a strong United Nations, mandated and capable of addressing socio-economic and development issues in an effective and coordinated manner, she said. The Secretary-General's proposal for the creation of a United Nations Development Group was an important first step. All United Nations activities in the field, including those of its specialized agencies, must be fully integrated.

Non-payment of United Nations dues was a serious threat to the Organization's future, she stated. "Not only because of the unfair burden put on Member States who do pay, such as my country, but because it undermines the commitment and the solidarity that we as Member States share towards our common Organization and among ourselves." Recalling the Secretary-General's appeal on Monday to make the current session of the Assembly one of reform, she said, "This is a challenge that we and our Organization cannot afford to fail."

The Foreign Minister of Portugal said on Tuesday that his country advocated an equitable increase in both permanent and non-permanent membership on the Security Council.

Jaime Gama said the Security Council should be reformed and enlarged to take account of new realities and ensure fairer geographical distribution. Certain criteria should be applied to select new members, including the capacity and will to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. Reaffirming his Government's support for the inclusion of Germany and Japan as permanent members of the Security Council, Mr. Gama said that "it would be difficult to understand if the increase in the number of permanent members did not include also States from the regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean."

Mr. Gama also called for a review of the working methods of the Security Council not only to render their decision-making processes more transparent, but also to create the conditions for non-members to follow the Council's work.

Welcoming Secretary-General's reform proposals, the Foreign Minister of Netherlands called on the General Assembly on Monday to "get on with" the process of implementation.

"I would argue that the present package of reform measures is well- directed, substantial and worthwhile," H. van Mierlo told the Assembly. He called on Member States to rise to the occasion and accept the Secretary- General's package of reforms as it stood, working out the details of implementation later. "Endorsement in general terms needs to be expressed before we all adjourn in December. Without such endorsement, the momentum in the reform process will be lost."

Foreign Minister van Mierlo also expressed support for the establishment of an international criminal court. "My Government is looking forward with anticipation to this new offspring in the international legal order, and I take pride in announcing that my country is offering to house the seat of the court in city of The Hague."

The President of Guatemala on Tuesday thanked the United Nations for its role in the verification of the peace process in his country.

President Alvaro Arzu Irigoyen said that he, and other presidents of the region, wanted to report to the Assembly progress achieved in Central America. He said that they brought good news from a region which only 12 years ago had been on the verge of a regional war. "The dialogue and reconciliation processes began their way through difficult and complex roads. The heat of combat was substituted by the warmth of debate."

On the peace process in Guatemala itself, he said that on 29 December 1996, the Government and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) had reached agreement on the final accord for a firm and lasting peace. "Thus we put an end to 36 years of internal armed conflict that had torn to the core of my country." He attributed that success to the will of the parties and the timely and decided collaboration of the international community which, in just three months, completed the demobilization of the former guerrilla combatants with the assistance of Security Council- mandated military verification mission.

President Jose Maria Figueres of Costa Rica said on Tuesday that Central American countries firmly supported the Secretary-General's proposals for reforming the United Nations.

In his address to General Assembly, the Costa Rican President called for a constructive revision of the scale of contributions. Central American countries sought a modification of the criteria establishing dues to be paid by Member States which would take account of their realities.

He also proposed that "the plan regarding the protection of international peace and security designed in 1945 should be the object of a detailed revision through a broad and consensual exercise." Any proposal for reform of the Security Council should aim to make it more democratic and representative of the pluralism of Member States. He expressed strong support for giving permanent seats on the Security Council to representatives from the three developing regions, adding that "the veto power, if there is no willingness to eliminate it, should apply exclusively to the topics pertaining to Chapter VII of the Charter."

The President of El Salvador, Armando Calderon Sol, has expressed support for reform of the United Nations to make it better able to tackle the challenges ahead.

Stating that the principles of the Organization were still valid, he said that El Salvador supported the institutional changes needed to make the United Nations able to meet the challenges of today's world. For the United Nations to become more operational, it must have a sound financial basis. Member States had the responsibility to fulfil their financial obligations without conditions in order to safeguard the independence, impartiality and credibility of the United Nations.

Reform of the Security Council was necessary, he said, calling for an increase in the number of both permanent and non-permanent members in order to make it more representative of the United Nations as a whole. Developing countries must be represented in both categories. Special attention should be paid to the Council's working methods and procedures with a view to ensuring that the Council's decision-making processes were transparent.

The President of Honduras has cautioned that reform of the Security Council must not be rushed.

In his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, President Carlos Roberto Reina expressed support for the process of reforming the United Nations in the various areas in which it operated as well as in decision- making organs. The world had changed, he said, and the United Nations must move ahead and keep up with the times. El Salvador endorsed the position of the Rio Group on Security Council reform, namely that the Latin American and Caribbean region must be taken into account in any proposal relating to an increase in membership on the Security Council.

Honduras had suffered the effects of anti-personnel landmines, he said, expressing strong support for efforts to deal with the problems caused by mines.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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