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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-30
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, 30 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.
Members of the Security Council on Tuesday expressed grave concern at a possible internationalization of the conflict in the Republic of the Congo, the President of the Council told correspondents at United Nations Headquarters.
Speaking on behalf of the members, Ambassador Bill Richardson of the United States said that the Council had received information on the recent shelling of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by elements in the Republic of the Congo. Members of the Council urged all parties to show restraint. The Council again urged the parties in the Republic of the Congo to agree on an effective ceasefire and on a political settlement.
Ambassador Richardson added that members of the Council reiterated their support for the mediation efforts of President Omar Bongo of Gabon, other regional States, and the Special Representative of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) for the Great Lakes Region, Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun.
Members of the Security Council have welcomed the initiative of the Secretary-General to convene a meeting of concerned countries on 1 October to re-assess the situation in Afghanistan.
Speaking on behalf of the Security Council, its President, Ambassador Bill Richardson of the United States, told reporters on Tuesday that regional States should play an active role in achieving peace in Afghanistan.
After being briefed by the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, Ambassador Richardson told reporters that the members of the Council remained gravely concerned at the continuation of the armed conflict in Afghanistan and the danger it posed to the region.
According to Ambassador Richardson, Ambassador Brahimi had briefed the Council on the cruel effects of the continued conflict on the population and had stressed that the conflict had destabilizing effects on regional peace and security, especially for Tajikistan. Mr. Brahimi had also referred to the terrible effects of Afghan drug trafficking in many countries.
Ambassador Brahimi had also made clear that the conflict and its ultimate resolution were the responsibility of the Afghans themselves and had made it clear however, that the conflict in Afghanistan was "fuelled from the outside". In that context, Ambassador Bill Richardson added, the members of the Council called on all States to avoid any action which would be inconsistent with the search for peace. They stressed the urgent need for a ceasefire and for concrete steps by all parties to guarantee the safety of international personnel so that incidents such as the detention of the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs would not recur, Ambassador Richardson said.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has learned with shock and outrage of further brutal massacres in Algeria in recent days in which numerous innocent civilians, including several women and children, were savagely killed, according to his spokesman.
Through his spokesman, the Secretary-General on Tuesday condemned in the strongest possible terms "these cowardly and heinous murders and wishes to underline that such terrorist acts are totally unjustifiable, whatever the circumstances".
"It pains me that in recent years, the already meagre official development assistance allocated to least-developed countries has shrunk yet further", United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday in a statement at the Seventh Annual Ministerial Meeting of the Least- Developed Countries. Noting that the developed countries' ratio of assistance to gross national product had hit its lowest point so far in 1996, the Secretary-General pledged "to bring to bear all the pressure I can to help reverse this trend". To ease the debt burden, relief measures should be applied with dispatch, flexibility and maximum coverage, he added.
Outlining the role played by the Organization in assisting the least developed countries, the Secretary-General said the United Nations would not rest there. "Let me assure you: the ongoing reform of the United Nations has this major objective -- to enhance the United Nations capacity to meet the challenge of development." A reformed United Nations would free up resources for that challenge, he said.
Reform of the United Nations must be approached pragmatically, the President of Tajikistan said on Tuesday. Emomali Rahmonov called for reform efforts to concentrate on solving the most pressing issues, maintaining a reasonable balance between innovative initiatives and proven mechanisms. "As a State that has experienced first-hand all the hardships of civil war and has travelled the complex road toward national reconciliation with active support and assistance from the United Nations, Tajikistan is convinced of the need to preserve strong and efficient peacemaking mechanisms", he said.
The representativeness of the Security Council would be enhanced if its membership were expanded not only among industrialized countries such as Japan and Germany, but also by providing rotating seats to developing countries, he continued. The Tajik President also called for a zero- growth budget, and called for maximizing the use of resources.
He said Tajikistan was counting on the support of the United Nations to implement the inter-Tajik agreements and resolving the problem of refugees. Tajikistan also supported the efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. "I will be honest: it is in Tajikistan's vital interests that peace be established in Afghanistan for yet another reason -- this would help to substantially reduce the flow of arms and drugs across the Tajik-Afghan border and the proliferation of waves of terrorism and extremism which destabilize the whole region."
The Foreign Minister of Brunei Darussalam on Tuesday called on the Secretary-General to ensure that reforms do not weaken what the United Nations does well for ordinary people.
Speaking before the General Assembly, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah welcomed the Secretary-General's reform package but said they seemed to be oriented towards changes in management. Good management principles represented only one aspect of proper reform, he said.
The Foreign Minister of Brunei Darussalam also welcomed the Secretary- General's efforts to enhance development cooperation, which he said was linked to an important chapter of the United Nations Charter calling for higher standards of living, full employment and economic and social progress. Without those, he said, there could be no peace and security in the developing world.
"We applaud Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has presented perhaps the most extensive reform proposals in the history of the United Nations", the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago told the General Assembly on Tuesday.
Ralph Maraj said a restructured United Nations would be better poised to meet the challenges of the next century. "We are particularly interested in efforts at reform and reconstruction especially as they relate to the development activities of the United Nations." In particular, attention should be paid to the forthcoming review of the Barbados Declaration and Programme of Action which emerged from the 1994 Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
Trinidad and Tobago welcomed the ongoing discussions aimed at reforming the membership and working procedures of the Security Council, he said. "It is our hope that this process will result in a Council the composition of which more accurately reflects the wider membership of the General Assembly and whose working procedures are more open and inclusive than has previously been the norm."
The Foreign Minister of Mauritius cautioned against streamlining the General Assembly agenda in such a way that it would end up being dominated only by the concerns of the strong and powerful States. "It is the way in which this Organization addresses issues most relevant to its smallest members that the international community at large will judge its significance", Rajkeswur Purryag told the Assembly on Tuesday.
On the reform of the Security Council, the Deputy Foreign Minister expressed hope for a general agreement based on the wide range of views offered so far. Such agreement should ensure that the composition of the reformed Council was based on greater representation, transparency and equitable geographical distribution, with the inclusion of developing countries as permanent members.
Reaffirming support for the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, he said the Security Council should be expanded on the basis of fair and adequate representation. The current representation of Africa on the Council did not reflect its status as the "most sizeable group of the Organization's membership". Reform of the Council, he said, must restore Africa's position to the fullest extent possible. He also reiterated his country's support for India's claim for a permanent seat on the Security Council.
The Foreign Minister of Lesotho has expressed his country's support for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's initiative to unify all the United Nations Funds and Programmes involved in development operations at the field level.
Kelebone Maope told the General Assembly on Tuesday that his country also supported the maintenance of the distinct nature of these entities. The enhanced coordination and pooling of resources and services among the specialized funds, he added, would not only lead to better planning but would also maximize programme impact and minimize administrative costs. He said the Government of Lesotho had already contributed to the idea of a unified United Nations presence in the field by constructing a "UN House" office complex to accommodate all field representatives of the Funds and Programmes in the country.
On the Secretary-General's proposal for the establishment of a $1 billion revolving fund, he said it had its own merits but added that "there can be no substitute for a demonstrable commitment by all Member States to honour their treaty obligations by paying their assessed contributions on time, fully and unconditionally, in order to ensure the financial health of our Organization". Nevertheless, he said, Lesotho believed that the proposed revolving fund could be a "short term palliative".
"Secretary-General Kofi Annan has taken on the challenge of reform with the necessary combination of energy and circumspection", Liechtenstein's Foreign Minister, Andrea Willi, said on Monday, expressing her full support for his reform proposals. Reform must not be a cost-cutting exercise, but a matter of strengthening the role of the Organization as an active and effective world forum.
She expressed support for the proposed establishment of the post of Deputy Secretary-General. "We particularly support the Secretary- General's suggestion to fill this post with a qualified woman." The appointment of Mary Robinson as High Commissioner for Human Rights had been welcome, but the consolidation of her office with the Centre for Human Rights would only succeed if adequate funding were provided to human rights programmes. The overall financial situation, which was a matter of grave concern, was obviously linked to the failure of some Member States to discharge their financial obligations to the Organization. "It is important to note that the best reform efforts will be seriously hampered unless the Organization's finances are put in order."
Kazakhstan supports Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reform proposals, the country's Foreign Minister told the General Assembly on Tuesday. "Nothing could be harder than to live in times of change, but even more so to be the maker of these changes. This is why we are fully on the side of the head of the United Nations and welcome his initiatives and his course of action," Foreign Minister Kassymjormart Tokaev said.
The financial crisis demanded a solution, he said, stressing that Member States must meet their obligations to the United Nations.
Reform of the Security Council was also essential, he continued. Kazakhstan supported granting permanent membership to Japan and Germany. Permanent membership should also be given to developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America in order to reflect existing geopolitical realities. "It is important to keep in mind, however, that to preserve the Security Council's efficiency, the number of its members should be limited."
"By virtue of our experience with the Security Council, we know and appreciate the importance and the necessity of reforming the Security Council and expanding its membership", Libya's Ambassador Abuzed Omar Dorda, told the General Assembly on Tuesday. He stressed that reform should focus first on improving the Council's methods of work in order to "make it impossible for any country to hamper the work of the Council". Any reform of the Security Council without rescinding the privilege of the veto would be meaningless, he added.
The Libyan Ambassador's statement was largely devoted to providing the "real truth about Lockerbie". He said Libya had nothing to do with the tragic downing of an airplane over that town in Scotland. Despite the motives of the United States and the United Kingdom, he said, Libya dealt with their accusations with seriousness and pragmatism. Still, the legal question was politicized in the Security Council. Numerous organizations, including the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement had all supported Libya.
"Members of the Security Council are not against us", he said, "They have expressed that in all our meetings with them. They also added that our problem is with the United States and the United Kingdom." He called on Member States to intervene so that a peaceful solution could be reached.
Niger's Foreign Minister on Tuesday welcomed the Secretary-General's reform proposals, which he said should provide the synergy, means and flexibility which the United Nations needed to meet future challenges.
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki also told the General Assembly that the reform process must include the Security Council, which had to be rendered more effective in the face of its responsibilities for collective security. In particular, the Council should be enlarged in order to make it more representative.
Since its establishment, United Nations had always given high priority to disarmament, he said. There had been notable progress in that field, including the conclusion of the Comprehensive Test-ban Treaty. Disarmament was essential to the maintenance of international peace and security. The current climate of cooperation provided the right moment to give new impulse to negotiations on the critical issue of nuclear disarmament.
Uruguay has proposed that the United Nations General Assembly be empowered to suspend the right of Security Council permanent members to use their veto on certain subjects.
In his statement to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Uruguay's Foreign Minister, Alvaro Ramos Trigo, said his country had expressed its strong support for progressively limiting the right to the veto by enabling the General Assembly to determine a majority that could limit it. "That mechanism, essentially democratic in nature, would help reduce the absolute power of the right to the veto as established by the Charter, while at the same time strengthening the competence of the General Assembly", he said.
The Foreign Minister of Uruguay underlined the need to strengthen the General Assembly which he described as "a unique body in the international institutional machinery" and where representativeness was "practically universal". In the Assembly, he said, States "participate on an equal footing without regard to their size or power, and the ideal of international democracy attains its clearest expression, at least in formal terms".
He said that Uruguay supported an increase of both permanent and non- permanent members of the Security Council to a total of not more than 25 members so that efficiency would not be affected by greater representation. He expressed particular support for a stronger presence of developing countries in order to achieve a better balance in the Council's membership.
Welcoming the Secretary-General's reform proposals, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia on Tuesday said he supported "the endeavour to transform the leadership and management structure o the Organization so that it can address the challenges of the new millennium with greater sense of purpose, effectiveness and efficiency".
Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas stressed that in the reform process, Member States must not lose sight of its fundamental goal: to enhance the United Nations ability to foster development and to address the root causes of poverty and conflict. "Reform should not become a euphemism for budget- slashing or an excuse for certain Member States to renege on their financial obligations to the Organization." Reform would become meaningless if, due to insolvency, the United Nations were rendered incapable of fulfilling its mission, he added.
Indonesia supported adding new permanent members to the Security Council not only on the basis of equitable geographical representation, but also on the basis of "a set of criteria such as political, economic and demographic weight; their capability and their track record of contributing to the promotion of peace both regionally and globally; and their commitment to assume the responsibilities inherent to permanent membership". He added that predetermined numerical limits on Security Council reform could distort the representative value of the Council's expansion.
The Foreign Minister of Bahrain on Tuesday called for more involvement of the United Nations in non-political matters.
Shaikh Mohamed Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa told the General Assembly that the international community aspired for a world Organization active and effective not only in political and security affairs, but also in cultural, developmental, economic, environmental, educational and intellectual matters. Those non-political areas, the Foreign Minister pointed out, had an increasing bearing on world affairs and on the life and direction of peoples. Bahrain would welcome any actions taken by the General Assembly that reflected the general attitude of member-states vis-a-vis a reform process which met the current requirements and desires of Member States.
On the reform of the Security Council, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain said it was in the interests of the reform process to make the work of the Council transparent so that all other Member States which are not members of the Council were aware of its proceedings.
The Foreign Minister of Armenia said on Tuesday that the Secretary- General's proposed reforms provided "a sound basis for immediate actions, further negotiations and deliberations by the General Assembly". But, Foreign Minster Alexander Arzoumanian added, "we should avoid reducing the evaluations of these reforms to a purely financial or managerial approach".
Concerning reform of the Security Council, he said Armenia supported current discussions on making the Council more representative. "We are in favour of expansion in both categories -- permanent and non- permanent." There should be five new permanent seats, he said, which would serve in part to improve representation for Asia, Africa and Latin America. Armenia also supported Japan and Germany in their quest for permanent seats.
Regarding the non-permanent seats, he said expansion should take into account the "legitimate interests of the Eastern European Group, which has more than doubled its membership in recent years".
The Foreign Minister of Tunisia on Tuesday reiterated Africa's position that it sought two permanent seats on a rotating basis on the Security Council.
Abderrahim Zouari reaffirmed his country's support for the restructuring of the Security Council to ensure a fairer representation of member countries to assure interests of developing countries. He recalled "the legitimate claims" of the African States, made by the OAU Summit in Tunis in June 1994 and reiterated by the recent OAU summit in Harare that Africa should have the two permanent seats on the Council.
The Foreign Minister of Tunisia also emphasized the need to strengthen the role of the United Nations in the field of development. He also stressed that Member States must honour their financial commitments to the United Nations in order to provide the necessary means required for successful reform, the realization of the Organization's various programmes, and rational and judicious use of resources.
The Foreign Minister of Bulgaria has said that an additional permanent seat on the Security Council should be allocated for the Group of Eastern European States.
In her statement to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Nadezhda Mihailova said that a fair decision on the enlargement of the Council should preserve the balance between the permanent and non-permanent members, as well as among the regional groups.
"Obviously, three things are needed for the success of a reform: vision, strategy and courage. The vision about where we want to go, the strategy for getting there, and the courage to begin", the Foreign Minister of Bulgaria said.
Turkmenistan supports the Secretary-General's proposals for reforming the United Nations system, the country's Foreign Minister said on Tuesday.
Boris Shikhmuradov said he shared the Secretary-General's conclusion that reform should be radical and not gradual, but, he added, reforms should not be carried out "as a revolutionary rehaul".
While stressing that reform of the Security Council should aim to make it more representative, he said that "after it becomes more representative, the Security Council should remain an effectively functioning body that should not supplant the General Assembly". A rational increase in the number of permanent Security Council members should primarily call for the inclusion of States such as Japan and Germany, "because they can impart constructive input and greater political objectiveness to the work of the Security Council". He added that those new permanent members should be vested with all corresponding rights and powers.
There has been a steady drop in the number of human rights violations by public officials in Guatemala, but "disturbing factors persist, such as the great number of alleged violations for which public officials have been identified as being responsible and, in particular, the fact that most unlawful acts go unpunished." This is one of the conclusions of a new report on human rights by the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA).
According to the report, Guatemalan State organs have failed to provide safeguards, resulting in "little progress with regard to observance of the principle of due process" and "a negative impact on the commitment to take action against impunity". The Mission noted discrimination against indigenous people, especially in connection with access to the justice system and due process.
The Mission heard three complaints of enforced disappearances, the most serious of which involved Juan Jose Cabrera Rodas, a member of the Organizacion Revolucionaria del Pueblo en Armas who went by the name "Mincho". According to the report, evidence suggested that he had been involved in a kidnapping and was later captured, but his whereabouts were still not known. Evidence also showed that the Presidential staff who had carried out the anti-kidnapping operation "might have exceeded their functions and overstepped the boundary of what is permissible under the rule of law". The report concludes that "in view of the importance of definitively eradicating the practice of enforced disappearances in Guatemala, the Government's failure to cooperate in the 'Mincho case' is a matter of concern".
Overall, the report concludes that the government had fulfilled its commitment to respect the autonomy and safeguard the freedom of action of the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor's Office.
Experts on the Committee on the Rights of the Child on Tuesday expressed concern about the involvement of children in the fighting in northern Uganda.
Members of the Committee were concerned about the ongoing civil strife in the northern part of Uganda, where one expert said international humanitarian law was being violated without the knowledge of the world community. The Committee urged the Government of Uganda to tell fighting groups recruiting children that they were committing crimes.
Uganda's Minister of Gender and Community Development Janat Mukaway accused the rebels in the north of committing atrocities, including the abduction of children to use as fighters. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had taken the initiative to bring back the children in captivity, she said, adding that since the Government had liberalized the political field, any organization was free to travel to northern Uganda and observe the conflict there.
The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Elisabeth Rehn, has recommended to the Commission on Human Rights that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia be removed from her mandate. In a report dated 30 September, which will be publicly available by 15 October, the Special Rapporteur says that the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has made considerable progress in the protection of human rights.
While saying she is generally satisfied by the Government's efforts in the field of human rights, the Special Rapporteur notes that there is still cause for concern about the abuse of police authority, excessive use of force and physical ill-treatment of detainees. On the issue of minority rights, the Special Rapporteur says that some problems still exist, especially for ethnic Albanians.
In her report, the Special Rapporteur made it clear she reserves the right to comment on future developments in the country and says she will continue to observe the human rights situation there.
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