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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-10-14
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.com
Tuesday, 14 October 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.
After being briefed in an unscheduled meeting by United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan on the situation in the Republic of the Congo, members of the Security Council are considering rapid action, including the imposition of an arms embargo on the Republic of the Congo and the possible deployment of a peacekeeping operation in Brazzaville and elsewhere in that country.
Speaking on behalf of the members, Council President Juan Somavia of Chile said they were "aware of the Secretary-General's wish to have an advance military headquarters deployed to Libreville, a proposal on which he would like to see action taken in the very near future".
Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the press that the United Nations wanted to "send an advance headquarters element which would also have two advisory teams that would be able and prepared to help the parties monitor a ceasefire, if we were to get a credible ceasefire", adding, "that is what we are pressing them to do".
"Given the involvement of neighbouring countries, given the possibility that this will spill over to other countries in the region, if we do not act now and put pressure on them and show action, it may be much worse later on", the Secretary-General said. "I believe that if, given the action that the Council is taking and the signal that we are sending that we are prepared to follow through with action, I hope that the protagonists will see the determination of the international community and begin to talk seriously about a ceasefire and reconciliation." He added that the United Nations was prepared to work with leaders in the region towards that end.
Ambassador Somavia told reporters that Council members were concerned about the sharp deterioration of the situation in the country, and that they "share the opinion of the Secretary-General that the situation poses a threat to the peace and security of the subregion". He noted that the Secretary-General had urged the Council to take action to address the situation, stating that "inaction is more dangerous than the risk involved".
The members of the Council strongly urged the parties to adhere to the ceasefire agreement they had signed and to agree on first steps for a political settlement, Ambassador Somavia said. "The members of the Council strongly urged neighbouring countries and other external parties involved to withdraw any forces they may have sent to the Republic of the Congo and to refrain from intervening in the country's internal affairs", he added.
Ambassador Somavia also said that the members of the Council called on Member States with influence in the subregion to do what they could to help resolve the situation.
The General Assembly on Tuesday elected Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, the Gambia and Slovenia as members of the Security Council for two-year terms. They will fill the five non-permanent seats which will be vacated by Chile, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Poland and the Republic of Korea when their terms expire on 31 December.
The new non-permanent members, who were elected in one round of voting, will assume their Council seats on 1 January 1998. The five other non- permanent Council members -- Costa Rica, Japan, Kenya, Portugal and Sweden - - will serve for another year.
The Republic of the Congo has requested an urgent meeting of the Security Council to discuss the involvement of Angolan troops on its territory.
In a letter sent to the President of the Security Council on Monday afternoon, the representative of the Republic of Congo said that a convoy of heavily armed men from Cabinda province entered Congolese territory through the village of Pangui in Komongo District on 11 October.
"The convoy consisted of five tanks, two BM-21, seven OURAL-37J personnel- carriers, two tank trucks, one engineer vehicle, one tank transporter, three Chilcas and tractor-drawn guns", the Congolese Ambassador Daniel Abibi said in the letter.
He also said that the convoy was deployed in the town of Kimongo, where it took district administrative and police officials hostage and seized all weapons at the police stations and military posts. According to Ambassador Abibi, the estimated 1,000 troops wore either Congolese or Angolan army uniforms, and some spoke French or Congolese national languages, while others spoke Portuguese or English.
The Republic of the Congo also informed the Council that on 13 October, two unidentified military aircraft had dropped bombs on Brazzaville, killing at least 20 civilians.
"The Government of the Republic of the Congo solemnly denies the allegations by the Luanda authorities of attacks by the Congo which are being used to justify raids by Angolan troops on Congolese territory" the letter concludes.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has sent a letter to the President of the Security Council requesting an urgent meeting of the Council to discuss "premeditated aggression" by the Republic of the Congo.
Ambassador Andre M. Kapanga said in the letter that the Congolese capital Kinshasa has, for several weeks, been subjected to sporadic mortar fire from the city of Brazzaville across the Congo River. Citing three incidents of shells hitting Kinshasa on three different days, Ambassador Kapanga said his country is outraged by "this intolerable provocation and these gratuitous and barbarous criminal acts".
The Ambassador also said that the Congo "will not shrink from any sacrifice in order to ensure its population peace, tranquillity and security", and calls on the Security Council "to assume fully its responsibility" in order to halt this "incipient crisis" and restore harmony in the region.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is working to strengthen the primary health care system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a UNICEF spokesman in Geneva.
Patrick McCormack told reporters that UNICEF is providing essential drugs and other basic medical supplies for distribution to health centres throughout South Kivu. During the second half of September, UNICEF distributed 30 basic health kits, 27 supplementary health kits, three surgical kits, 900 boxes of quinine and 500 boxes of choroquinine. In order to help reduce the risks for pregnant women, UNICEF had also distributed 69 home delivery kits and 45 midwife kits, he added.
UNICEF was also helping reunite unaccompanied children with their families, Mr. McCormack said. In recent weeks, it had repatriated nine unaccompanied Rwandan children from the Bukavu transit centre to their home country, while eight Congolese children were reunified with their families.
The Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights will visit Belgium and the United Kingdom later this month on the invitation of their Governments. While in the United Kingdom, the Special Rapporteur intends to travel to London and Belfast to meet with ministers, senior Government officials, judges, barristers, solicitors, non-governmental organizations and private individuals. He also anticipates visiting detention/holding centres in Northern Ireland.
Param Cumaraswamy of Malaysia will be in Brussels from 14 to 18 October to meet senior government officials, lawyers and the judiciary to discuss moves under way to reform the judicial system. The reform process follows the public response to the handling of cases involving child abuse and murder in which an investigating magistrate was removed from a case.
The Special Rapporteur will meet the Prime Minister of Belgium, the Minister for Justice and the President of the Court de Cassation -- the highest court of appeal.
From 20 to 30 October, Mr. Cumaraswamy will conduct a fact-finding mission to the United Kingdom with the aim of investigating complaints he received alleging intimidation and harassment of defence lawyers by the police. He will also investigate regulations which are alleged to impede the effective legal defence of clients in Northern Ireland.
According to the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, the Special Rapporteur would like to examine certain procedures in the United Kingdom whereby "high-risk" prisoners are allowed legal visits in prisons only when separated from their lawyers by a transparent screen. He also intends to look into the "tension that exists in the United Kingdom between the Government and the judiciary concerning the judicial review of administrative decisions".
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the former Yugoslavia, Elisabeth Rehn, has expressed deep concern about the recent terrorist attack carried out at the Catholic School Centre in Sarajevo.
A UN spokesman in Sarajevo told reporters on Tuesday that "the terrorist attack which affected that institution should be considered as "an attack against the basic human rights of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina". He said the Special Rapporteur called upon the relevant authorities to undertake all necessary steps to stop terrorist activities and to apprehend and punish their perpetrators.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for greater cooperation between her office and that of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In a statement to the UNHCR Executive Committee on Tuesday, Mary Robinson said "human rights are deeply connected to the problem of refugees: first and foremost, because human rights violations often represent the root causes of refugee flows; and secondly because the problem of refugees can be properly managed and effectively solved only through an improvement in the standards of protection of human rights".
She said that there was some informal cooperation between her office and the UNHCR, but added that such cooperation must be strengthened. "The ongoing United Nations process of reform should improve cooperation among our institutions and ensure greater comprehensiveness and consistency in the system-wide response to refugee problems."
"Money from child labour is not regular money, profit from child labour is not regular profit. It is bloody money, it is bloody profit", Austria's representative told the General Assembly's Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee on Tuesday.
Willi Mernyi also told the Committee that real economic progress would only be achieved "when adults are at work and when children are in school". While there were laws against child labour in many countries, he said, few enforced them. "Those who profit from the exploitation of children should be held responsible and brought to justice", he said. He supported the work of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its efforts to combat child labour.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, the ILO on Tuesday announced that it would participate, along with UNICEF, in an International Conference on Child Labour, to be held in Oslo from 27 to 30 October. The Conference will bring together ministers from 40 countries, as well as leaders of trade unions and employers' organizations, non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies and leading experts on child labour.
According to the ILO's latest estimates, over 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working around the world "in countries rich and poor". Many are denied education and are trapped in cycles of poverty. Their most basic rights, their health and even their lives are sometimes placed in jeopardy.
The United Nations has 185 Member States, but only eight of their Missions are headed by women. These women, who call themselves the "group of eight" met on Tuesday with Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The Ambassadors of Liechtenstein, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Australia, Guinea and Kyrgyzstan wanted to discuss gender balance in the Secretariat as well as the need for more women representatives among envoys and special representatives of the Secretary- General. They were expected to be submitting names of qualified women for those posts, according to a UN spokesman.
The Secretary-General currently has 20 people variously designated as special representative, special envoy or personal representative or personal envoy who deal, on his behalf, with situations in regions around the world. None of them are women. Two women do hold "special assignments" - - Gertrude Mongella, the Special Envoy for Women and Development, and Sylvia Fuhrman, Special Representative for the United Nations International School.
According to the spokesman, women hold 36.6 per cent of all United Nations Secretariat jobs. Broken down by rank, they hold only 9.4 per cent of all posts at the level of Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary- General. That figure rises significantly at the lower echelons of the professional hierarchy.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has sent urgently needed food aid to Juba in southern Sudan where civil war continues to cause widespread shortages.
The WFP reported on Tuesday that a convoy of barges left Malakal with 2,664 metric tonnes of food to the city for the first time this year, following months of delays caused by insecurity in the region, particularly along the Nile River. It plans to distribute the food aid along the Nile River to a total of 373,835 people living in areas under the control of the Government or rebel forces.
Fighting between government and rebel forces around Juba, the largest city in southern Sudan with 185,000 people, has created chronic food shortages and forced most of the inhabitants to flee their homes. The barge convoy to Juba is expected to reach its final destination in November.
Another barge convoy carrying 453 metric tonnes of food aid is scheduled to depart on Kosti for Bentiu on Thursday. That food will be distributed to some 41,000 people in Unity State in southern Sudan. The area is facing food shortages as a result of crop failure and civil war.
The phenomena of globalization and economic liberalization have heightened the importance of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), its Secretary-General has said.
Rubens Ricupero told the opening session of the Trade and Development Board in Geneva on Monday that as countries struggle to understand, and come to grips with, the impact of global trends and other powerful forces beyond their control, they should fully exploit the possibilities offered by UNCTAD.
"Greater international flows of goods, finance and investment associated with globalization are not the only basis on which the development process should be judged", Mr. Ricupero stated. "The ultimate objective of development policy is raising living standards for everybody." He emphasized that "the business of UNCTAD is development."
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