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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-26
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.com
Friday, 26 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.
"We have, finally, turned the tide on the production and use of landmines and started a momentum which one day will include all nations in the fight against landmines", United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday. He made his remarks at a ceremony and press conference where the Foreign Minister of Norway handed over to the Foreign Minister of Canada the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The treaty was negotiated at the Diplomatic Conference on Landmines in Oslo earlier this month.
Expressing his conviction that the treaty would be a landmark in the history of disarmament, the Secretary-General said, "the United Nations is proud to play our part in this noble cause." The Secretary-General noted that in December in Ottawa, almost 100 countries were expected to sign the Convention. "The Ottawa Convention is, however, only the beginning", he added. "We must then work with even greater persistence towards the removal of the millions of mines that plague post-conflict societies, from Bosnia to Angola to Cambodia."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that if the Secretary-General's investigative team probing alleged past massacres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo cannot begin its work immediately it should be withdrawn.
In a live interview on United Nations Radio, High Commissioner Mary Robinson said "if this investigative team cannot go out very, very soon, and I mean very, very soon, then my advice would have to be that they should be withdrawn".
The unrehearsed question-and-answer broadcast, anchored from the United Nations Radio studios in New York, involved the participation of foreign affairs correspondents and editors from 10 countries on a range of human rights issues.
Expressing her deep concern about the work of the investigative team, the High Commissioner said "it is very sad because there are 55 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who badly need support to build up their society. They had a terrible time, not just in the recent conflict but long before that and the world did not care enough, and now unfortunately this issue is blocking a broader front of human rights."
The High Commissioner also said she would try to be a "bridge builder" by acknowledging when there was substantial promotion of human rights while speaking out for victims. "I hope that next year, which is the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will give an opportunity for a more honest debate, that we will have an openness, and people will face the fact that there are very big gaps -- some even say a gulf -- in the understanding about human rights. That's a big responsibility and I hope to give some leadership in it."
Participating in the radio programme, which was also webcast live, were the following 10 networks: Voice of America, Vatican Radio, Special Broadcasting Services (SBS/Australia), Radio Thailand, Radio Netherlands, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), Radio Japan (NHK), Deutsche Welle, Channel Africa and All India Radio.
The Joint United Nations/Organization of African Unity (OAU) Special Representative in the Great Lakes Region on Friday underlined the need for the deployment of peacekeepers in Congo-Brazzaville.
Speaking to the press after briefing the Security Council on the situation in the Republic of Congo, Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun warned that the conflict in Brazzaville could spread to other parts of the Great Lakes Region. Ambassador Sahnoun said that during his briefing he had "insisted and underlined the need for the deployment of the force" as soon as there was a ceasefire in Brazzaville, "and not waiting for the ceasefire then to break" as had been the case with the last cease-fire, which lasted for almost a month.
On the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Congolese problem, the Special Representative said that the Congolese parties were already engaged in a political discussion. "They already committed themselves to a number of steps within the framework of political discussions." Asked about the possibility of another ceasefire in Brazzaville, Ambassador Sahnoun said the two parties were in agreement with the draft proposed at the summit held in Libreville on 14 and 15 September. The draft was not signed "because General Denis Sassou Nguesso said he would not sign with the Prime Minister but with President Lissouba. President Lissouba was absent in Libreville so he could not sign."
The President of the Security Council, Bill Richardson of the United States, told reporters that the Council's position was that the UN Secretary- General's preconditions must be met before the commitment of a peace- keeping force. Those preconditions included a cease-fire and a political framework to resolve the conflict in the country.
The King of Swaziland on Friday reiterated the position of Africa that it should have at least two seats on a reformed Security Council.
Addressing the plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly, King Mswati III said expanding the Security Council would have a major impact on the openness and accountability of the United Nations decision-making process. The Kingdom of Swaziland, he said, fully supported Africa's common position, which called for, among other measures, membership of the Security Council to be determined by an equitable geographical formula, on a regional or continental basis.
"Africa believes that the continent should have at least two permanent seats, with full voting rights, to represent the views and concerns of the other 51", the King of Swaziland told the Assembly, adding that those two permanent seats would be appointed through the mechanism designed by the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
King Mswati III also expressed his country's support for the Secretary- General's initiatives designed to reduce administrative costs and to channel savings to development programmes in the field. Swaziland, he said, also fully supported the Secretary-General's proposals on economic and social reform, development cooperation, humanitarian relief and human rights.
The Prime Minster of Malta on Friday expressed support for the reform proposals presented by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which he said were of "an unprecedented comprehensive nature".
Prime Minister Alfred Sant said that three types of transnational security problems required immediate attention: the war on drugs, environmental challenges, and the eradication of poverty. The United Nations was well- placed to deal with those problems, and it must be made more relevant and more democratic. "In a world where everyone is speaking about democracy, the right and use of the veto is anachronistic." On the issue of expanding the Security Council, he said that since the Charter considered all States as equal, the Security Council should become more representative.
He also expressed support for the Secretary-General's proposal that the Security Council give more consideration to limiting collateral damage when imposing sanctions on States. Concerning the Department of Political Affairs, the Prime Minister said it should dedicate more time and attention to the situation in the Mediterranean region. Toward that end, consideration should be given to the establishment of a Mediterranean desk within the Department.
The Foreign Minister of Malaysia on Friday said that the process of democratizing the United Nations, especially its Security Council, was long overdue.
In his statement during the plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly, Seri Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi said that Malaysia supported an early resolution of the question of Security Council reform. He added that "since the Council's permanent members cannot be abolished, its continued existence must reflect current realities, in particular, the significant role of the developing countries in international affairs".
The Foreign Minister of Malaysia said there should be no discrimination or differentiation between the old and new permanent members. He called for the restriction or removal of the veto. "Democracy in the United Nations is a mockery if the voice of the majority is rendered meaningless by the narrow interests of a dominant few", he added.
"The reforms proposed by the Secretary-General provide the basis for fundamental changes in the activities of our Organization that will allow it to serve better the needs and expectations of all Member States facing the challenges of the twenty-first century", Poland's Foreign Minister, Dariusz Rosati, told the General Assembly on Friday. He added that the reforms would lead to better management, greater focus on development and enhanced credibility for the United Nations. "We are prepared to cooperate actively in this process and we are vitally interested in further efforts to reinvigorate the United Nations system, including its economic and social sectors."
Reform of the Security Council should aim to increase its effectiveness, he said. "With our experience of nearly two years of participation in the Security Council we are inclined to conclude that its effectiveness is greatly enhanced when it enjoys full support of the respective regions represented in the United Nations", he said.
The Foreign Minister said the United Nations reform had introduced the human rights issue in the Security Council's agenda. "We welcome this trend." There was a clear connection between international security and respect for human rights which he said should be reflected in the activities of the Security Council.
Albania's Prime Minister has said that reform of the United Nations should not take place for reform's sake.
Addressing the General Assembly on Friday, Prime Minister Fatos Nano said the reform process must ensure that any money saved would be transferred to economic development for those in need. The Secretary- General's proposed reforms represented the right approach toward reform.
Reform of the Security Council was a long process, he said. "No one can say for sure when, if at all, the Security Council will be reformed another time in the future." The work must move forward without getting caught up in endless discussion. "With a clear objective, we will be able to show the necessary maturity, to give this body the right, balanced, flexible, democratic representation, capable of successfully dealing with the next century's challenges", he said.
The Secretary-General's proposed reforms, taken as a whole, represented the best effort to obtain what was realistically feasible and should thus be considered as a package, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Iceland, said on Friday.
In his statement to the General Assembly, Halld¢r Asgr¡msson said the Secretary-General's reform initiative "is the most comprehensive attempt to date at fashioning the United Nations of tomorrow into an instrument capable of serving the common interests of all peoples, guided by the enduring tenets of peace, human rights, the rule of law and social progress enshrined in the Charter more than half a century ago".
Noting that the United Nations had declared next year the Year of the Oceans, he said the world's oceans were a crucial part of the earth's biosphere, in addition to being the single largest source of protein for mankind. "This vital resource is now threatened in some regions of the world. Therefore, it is important that the Year of the Oceans be used to raise public awareness and to reinforce efforts to protect the marine ecosystem." He called for the negotiation of a global, legally binding agreement to limit the emission of pollutants.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, Abel Matutes, has called for limiting reform of the Security Council to an increase in the number of non- permanent members.
"Proposals currently on the table for enlarging permanent membership of the Security Council introduce formulas which tend to meet the legitimate interests of a few States, but fail to resolve serious problems raised for the vast majority of Members of the Organization and so cannot be positive for the United Nations as a whole", he said.
Foreign Minister Matutes also said that the Secretary-General's proposed reforms were comprehensive. "Recent experience has shown the difficulties in implementing partial reforms." He declared Spain's backing for the Secretary-General's reforms. The reform process, he added, must not be seen solely as a remedy for saving the United Nations from financial crisis.
Given the importance of Security Council reform, Monaco has said it stands ready unreservedly to support any compromise that may emerge, including the establishment of seats with long terms of office, for example for six to 10 years. That view was expressed by Prince Albert of Morocco to the General Assembly on Friday.
The Secretary-General's proposed reforms corresponded to the real need for changing the United Nations, he stated. Over the past 52 years, the United Nations had created new structures without always eliminating the old ones. The United Nations must make an effort to reform without delay, he added, or risk losing its prestige and having its role in the international community diminished.
He expressed support for the Secretary-General's proposal to hold high- level thematic debates in the General Assembly. Such debates, he observed, would be covered in the press and would reduce the need for world conferences.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece has said that his country fully subscribes to reforming the United Nations within existing resources.
In his statement to the General Assembly on Friday, Theodoros Pangalos said that a comprehensive reform and restructuring of the United Nations system, including the Security Council, must be attained with a view to meeting the changing needs of the world community.
He said the Secretary-General's proposed reform package was a response to that necessity, adding that the package constituted a welcome step towards modernizing and strengthening the United Nations. "Greece will contribute in a constructive and positive way to the success of the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General", he said.
Reform of the Security Council is essential since the world has taken on new forms of violence, and the instruments available for responding were increasingly insufficient and inappropriate, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Telecommunications of Comoros said on Friday. Mtara Maecha told the General Assembly that peace within States had become a new concern of the United Nations, which was now confronted by civil wars, genocide, ethnic cleansing, mercenaries and all forms of transnational crime.
Against the backdrop of threats to the territorial integrity of Comoros, he appealed for international assistance to eradicate the ills which were destroying it: underdevelopment and destabilization. He expressed confidence that Comoros could rely on the United Nations and its specialized agencies.
More than ever before, he noted, underdevelopment remained the major source of threats to international peace and security. Illiteracy, health problems and other scourges were challenges to the international community. The series of United Nations conferences held over the past decade, he said, exemplified the will of the Organization to combat such ills.
The Foreign Minister of Myanmar has called for a thorough review of the United Nations Charter in order to strengthen the General Assembly. U Ohn Gyaw on Friday called for the Assembly's role to be enhanced to make it more actively involved in the settlement of political issues before the United Nations. "The practice of hijacking important political issues by a few great powers to settle among themselves in the Security Council while bypassing the Assembly is basically not consistent with principles of the Charter", he added.
On the reform of the Security Council, the Foreign Minister of Myanmar said his country endorsed the position of the Non-Aligned Movement that at least 11 new members should be added. Such enlargement, he said, should be based on the principles of the sovereign equality of States and equitable geographical distribution and rotation.
Regarding the Secretary-General's reform package, he said, "the important thing is that the reform of the United Nations should truly benefit the entire membership, of which the majority are developing". A leaner and more efficient United Nations could more effectively respond to the challenges of the time and better serve the interests of the Organization's entire membership. "We need to examine most carefully whether new senior executive posts, proposed to be created, are really necessary and whether emphasis and focus on institutional reforms are rightly placed", he added.
The question of Security Council reform is too important to be tied to settling other issues, the Foreign Minister of Turkey said on Friday.
"The reform of the Security Council constitutes the most serious attempt in years to enhance the role and moral authority of not only the Council but also of the United Nations as a world organization", Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told the General Assembly. "We have to ensure that the envisaged enlargement and future composition of the Security Council will correspond to the expectations of the largest possible segment of the United Nations membership."
Turkey's Foreign Minister also commended the Secretary-General for placing high priority on alleviating poverty and promoting development, which he said was an indispensable requisite for achieving peace and security both within and among nations. He supported the Secretary- General's proposal to create a United Nations development group to promote coordination and cohesion of the Organization's development activities. The development group must operate in such a manner that would not weaken the authority, independence and individual fund-raising activities and capacities of its members, he added.
Panama's Foreign Minister on Friday expressed concern that most discussions of reform of the United Nations were disproportionately focused on the use of force, instead of on cooperation for development. Ricardo Alberto Arias Arias told the General Assembly that the growing threat of poverty was the greatest threat to international peace and security. "What army of what present or future Government on the Security Council could eliminate it?" Proposals for reducing the United Nations social and humanitarian activities raised important questions about the reform effort. The reform package must be balanced, he stressed.
Reform of the Security Council must aim to improve its capacity to discharge its tasks, he said. Powers of the past no longer existed and new powers were emerging. Further, wars were no longer the defining events in history. He proposed reorganizing the United Nations on the basis of peace, trade, the sharing of the fruits of technology and other future considerations. "It is not military tools to prevent war that must be strengthened; what must be strengthened are the tools to build peace."
Since neither ideological or military blocks were configuring the new world map, it was no longer appropriate to speak in terms of geographical distribution, he said. The new borders which were forming were ethnic, cultural and religious. He called for an end to the dichotomy between the United Nations regular budget and the budget for peacekeeping operations. Currently, development programmes were subsidiary to peacekeeping operations. "One sole budget with a periodically agreed political strategy should respond to the changing challenges of the new international world", he said.
The Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina has called for prudence in dealing with the question of reform of the United Nations Security Council. Jadranko Prlic told the General Assembly on Friday that a balance must be found between more democratic representation and the Council's capacity to act flexibly and quickly.
The Bosnian Foreign Minister said his country went along with those "who insist on modern, streamlined efficient Organization, ready to respond to the demands of the new time". The current session of the General Assembly, he said, was taking place at a time when the global political scene was rapidly changing. "With the cold war behind us, the new prospects with new fears and new challenges are looming over the world. In such environment we attach the greatest importance to the place and the role of the United Nations."
The United Nations must reach out to the world with new vigour and offer all its assets in order to prevent threats to international peace and security and to address the growing number of universal problems, he said. The United Nations must reform its bureaucracy in order to offer a vision for future, he added.
The Foreign Minister of Uganda on Friday told the General Assembly that adequate financing should be a matter of top priority in order to reform the United Nations and make it more effective.
Eriya Kategaya appealed to all Member States to fulfil their Charter obligation by paying their dues in full, on time and without conditions. "Without this commitment, reforms will only be a smokescreen to hide our reluctance to implement the commitments we collectively agreed on at the celebration to mark the fiftieth anniversary of this Organization two years ago", he said.
On the expansion of the Security Council, he reiterated the positions of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Non-Aligned Movement that both permanent and non-permanent members should be added "on the principle of equitable geographical representation". Africa, he said, had already proposed that it should be granted two permanent seats with full veto powers. At the same time, he added, the veto power must conform to democratic principles.
The need for action to stem cross-border trafficking in firearms destined for use by assassins, criminal gangs and illicit sale to civilians was high on the agenda of a United Nations European workshop on problems with civilian-owned firearms, which ended on Friday in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Other issues addressed during the one-week session were rates of firearm- related homicides, suicides and accidents; the impact of firearm violence on public security and socio-economic welfare; and the role of organized transnational crime in the illicit trafficking of non-military firearms. Among the concerns raised was the link between firearm trafficking, drug criminality and terrorism.
The meeting, which began on 22 September, was organized by the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division in cooperation with the College of Police and Security Studies of Slovenia. It brought together 46 participants from 18 countries, most of whom were experts in firearm- related fields of police work, customs and national security.
The Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has called for an end to the ongoing massacres of civilians in Algeria.
Stating that scores of women and children had been among the victims in Algeria, Carol Bellamy urged the Secretary-General's Special Representative on children and armed conflict, Olara Otunnu, to give priority to the matter. "I call on the perpetrators to put an immediate stop to this incomprehensible slaughter", Ms. Bellamy said. "The targeting of children and women in Algeria, or anywhere, is an appalling trend."
A bill in the United States to block payment of the country's arrears to the United Nations was "decisively defeated", Ambassador Bill Richardson of the United States announced on Friday.
Ambassador Richardson told reporters that a United States congressman had introduced an amendment which would have blocked payment of $100 million to the United Nations this year. "The vote was defeated by a 248 to 162 margin. It was defeated decisively on a bipartisan basis." Ambassador Richardson said the vote indicated that support was slowly building for the United Nations and for the arrears package put forward by the President of the United States. Those who had voted against the amendment included the leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties, he added.
"We hope in the days ahead to complete negotiations on the arrears package so that it can be ready for discussion here at the United Nations", Ambassador Richardson said.
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