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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-12-02

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 2 December 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.


  • Head of Office of UN Programme in Iraq says more and better quality food is needed for the country's people.
  • Meeting in Kyoto, parties to Framework Convention on Climate Change debate role of developed and developing States.
  • Secretary-General sends three-person team to Scotland to help resolve Lockerbie affair.
  • Over $125 million pledged for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees concludes eight- day visit to Mexico and Guatemala.
  • Flooding threatens families in northern Kenya, according to United Nations refugee agency.
  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomes discussions aimed at clarifying 'right to food'.
  • Secretary-General says crime of slavery must be attacked by fighting poverty and resisting tyranny.

The Executive Director of the Office of the United Nations Iraq Programme says despite efforts to distribute food in the country, there is not enough protein to meet the nutritional needs of the people. Benon Sevan is calling for a review of the food basket allowed under the "oil- for-food" programme for Iraq.

"The conditions are terrible", Mr. Sevan told reporters in New York on Tuesday. "I don't want to try to point fingers at whose fault it is, but unless urgent measures are taken to alleviate the situation and to meet the malnutrition situation, particularly among children, I think the situation will get worse and worse and worse."

He also called for improvements in the delivery of medical supplies to Iraq.

Mr. Sevan's comments are in line with a report issued on Monday by Secretary-General Kofi Annan which finds that the current food ration falls far short of meeting the country's nutritional needs. The report also calls for a review of the process of approving contracts for supplies to Iraq.

Delegates of over 170 countries meeting in Kyoto, Japan on Tuesday continued their negotiations on an agreement on the reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

As the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change entered its second day, the major debate has been on the role of both developed and developing countries in reducing the emissions. The representative of the United States -- the country which is responsible for the largest amount of emissions -- insisted that her Government will not accept binding limits without "meaningful" participation by developing countries. United States Assistant Secretary of State Melinda Kimble also said that climate change was a global threat which required global action.

While acknowledging that as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases developed countries must take the first steps to reduce them, Ms. Kimble said the United States was proposing joint implementation with credit as a key element of any Kyoto agreement. "It is important to realize that joint implementation is the most innovative mechanism for the transfer of technology to developing countries", she said.

Under proposals already on the table, the European Union is calling for reductions of 7.5 per cent by the year 2002 and 15 per cent by 2010. That proposal has the support of the Group of 77 developing countries and China. However, they are seeking an additional 35 per cent cut by the year 2020. Members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), threatened by sea level rise, want a roll back of 20 per cent by 2005.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said developing counties have lived up to their commitments under the Convention. Ambassador Mark Mwandoysa said in some developing countries, fossil fuel subsidies have decreased by 45 per cent in the last five years. Some other countries have introduced gasoline with 50 per cent ethanol from sugar cane, thus reducing emissions by 15 per cent, he added.

Ambassador Mwandoysa challenged the argument that solutions must be politically acceptable, saying that no one country can claim a monopoly to political accountability. He said that the environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change are disastrous for developing countries.

The Kyoto conference, which started on Monday, is scheduled to last for ten days.

The United Nations Secretary-General is sending a three-person team to the United Kingdom in an effort to help resolve the Lockerbie affair.

At the invitation of the British Government, the Secretary-General has decided to send the former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, Enoch Dumbutschen, a human rights professor from the Netherlands, Henry Schermers, and Mona Khalil from the United Nations Legal Department.

At the end of October, the Secretary-General welcomed the invitation of the United Kingdom to send his representatives to the trial of the Libyans suspected of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 which crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. The Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom had informed the Secretary-General of his Government's invitation to send observers for the purpose of briefing them on the safeguards to ensure a fair trial, and to discuss how international observers may best be accommodated in court proceedings.

A United Nations Spokesman said the three-person mission will begin work in London on Wednesday, and then continue on Thursday and Friday in Lockerbie Scotland. The team is expected to visit a prison facility and meet with officials from the Scottish Court and Prison Services.

Pledges totalling $125,677,700 were announced on Tuesday for the 1998 programmes of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides educational services, food aid, medical services, relief and social services to the Palestinian people.

While welcome, that amount is less than 40 per cent of what UNRWA will need to maintain its regular education, health, relief and social services programmes in 1998.

Addressing a special committee of the General Assembly convened for the purpose of announcing pledges, UNRWA's Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, said if UNRWA received the same amount for its General Fund in 1998 as it had in 1997, it would still face a deficit of over $50 million. He stressed that the international community must maintain its decades-long support for the Palestinian refugees until their problem is resolved. The prospects for peace in the Middle East would be dim if the Palestinians could not maintain hope for the future, he added.

Twenty-three countries made pledges to UNRWA. The United States made the largest pledge, at $70 million, followed by Sweden, with $19 million, Norway, with $14.2 million, and the Netherlands and Switzerland, with $5.5 million each.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has concluded an eight-day visit to Mexico and Guatemala and is now on her way back to Geneva.

Sadako Ogata on Monday received a peace medal from the President of Guatemala in recognition of UNHCR's participation in the country's peace process. She also visited refugee settlements in Mexico and returnees in Guatemala.

During her visit, Mrs. Ogata held talks with the presidents and foreign ministers of both countries. According to UNHCR Spokeswoman Pam O'Toole, the discussions included proposals for local integration in Mexico of some 20,000 Guatemalan refugees who have expressed a wish to stay there. They are among the 46,000 people who fled to Mexico during the armed conflict in 1980s. A total of 28,000 refugees remain in Mexico.

Flooding is threatening families in northern Kenya according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

UNHCR Spokeswoman, Pam O'Toole said in Geneva on Tuesday, that there were heavy rains again over the weekend, following what seemed to be an improving situation last Friday.

She said aid workers in the mainly Somali refugee camps were trying to sandbag warehouses and to help families threatened by flood waters. UNHCR has begun to move about 5,000 refugees whose shelters have been destroyed by floods in the Somali camps of Ifo and Dagahaley.

Rains have continued in that area, and water is still a metre deep over much of the camps surface, according to UNHCR. At this stage, the camps have been cut off from assistance by road for two weeks.

Over the weekend the refugee agency flew seven tonnes of diesel into Dadaab to provide fuel for the water pumps to ensure clean drinkable water for the 2,000 refugees in the area. A second flight with another seven tonnes is expected to arrive on Thursday, she said, adding that two more airlifts are scheduled for next week.

Ms. O'Toole said that fortunately, there have been no serious health problems. However, she pointed out, with the collapse of the latrine system, the United Nations refugee agency remains vigilant.

Welcoming consultations in Geneva on the "right to food", the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed hope that the discussions would serve to guide her work on the issue.

High Commissioner Mary Robinson told a meeting of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that its discussions should address the questions of who was responsible for implementing the right to food; how would a legal framework on this right be applied; and what role should civil society play in these endeavours.

At the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, States adopted a Plan of Action which invited the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to better define the rights related to food under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

During their discussions of the right to food on Monday, Committee experts said it was the responsibility of the Committee to uphold the right to food and force Governments to develop a socio-economic model for its application and implementation. They stressed the need to move away from the consideration of the idea of a right to food towards discussions on accountability and implementation.

"Whether it is endemic poverty or persistent tyranny -- and the two are often linked -- slavery is a crime that must be attacked at the root", Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday in his message on the international day for the abolition of slavery. "By fighting poverty and resisting tyranny -- locally, nationally and globally -- we strive to eliminate the potential and possibility of slavery."

The Secretary-General expressed sadness that, on the threshold of a new millennium, both old and new forms of slavery exist. He noted that hundreds of thousands of people the world over live and die as slaves in one form or another. "Women and children are particularly vulnerable to all forms of slavery, including such reprehensible practices as forced labour and prostitution, as well as the sale and exploitation of children", he said.

Calling on leaders, national governments and civil society to eradicate slavery from their nations, the Secretary-General said that only then could they truly call themselves democratic and their peoples free. "Only then can the world community call itself a community of conscience."

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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