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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-12-03

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Wednesday, 3 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.


  • Over 100 nations sign Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines.
  • Security Council reiterates its demand that Iraq cooperate fully with UN weapons inspectors.
  • Secretary-General's team investigating alleged rights abuses in Congo- Kinshasa starts field work in Mbandaka.
  • United Nations Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara resumes voter identification process.
  • At Climate Change Conference, Japan announces initiative to transfer technology to developing countries.
  • Klaus Topfer of Germany elected as new Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme.
  • Marking International Day of Disabled Persons, Secretary-General says millions of them face discrimination.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights starts her African tour.

More than one hundred nations started signing the Ottawa Convention against anti-personnel landmines.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Landmines was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada on Wednesday. The United Nations Secretary- General will be depository of the Convention.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the signing of the Convention, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the event marked a historic victory for the weak and vulnerable of the world. "It is they who have suffered from the plague of landmines, year in and year out. It is they who have paid the ultimate price in lives and limbs. It is they and their children who will reap the reward of security and civility that this ban makes possible", Mr Annan said.

The Secretary-General said that the Convention has been created by a global alliance made up of individuals, governments, grass roots movements and global humanitarian organizations. "It is an alliance that has shamed the world and enlightened it, unmasked its excuses and revealed its potential. It has held up a mirror to us all, revealing the wickedness of human folly and the wisdom of human courage." The Secretary-General said the alliance made the international community a living, thriving reality, and not just the hope of a distant future. "Only a living, thriving international community could come together, across borders and beyond regions to eliminate this universal plague."

Mr. Annan paid tribute to the role played by hundreds of non- governmental organizations which make up the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in mobilizing public opinion against landmines. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines was not, however, content with mobilizing public opinion, but its many members also put pressure on governments which, in turn, were moved by the groundswell of public opinion, Mr. Annan said. Ultimately, the Secretary-General added, those members became partners with those very governments in what he said was a remarkable expression of the new diplomacy.

The Secretary-General saluted the governments of Canada, Norway, Austria, Belgium and South Africa which have played a leading role in the achievement of the Convention against landmines.

He called for the mobilization of resources for the removal of millions of mines that plague post-conflict societies from Bosnia to Angola to Cambodia. "Each mine cleared may mean a life saved. Each mine cleared brings us one step closer to building the conditions for lasting and productive peace" adding that the presence or even the fear of the presence of just one landmine can prevent the cultivation of an entire field, robbing a family of its livelihood and an entire village of its sustenance.

The Security Council has reiterated its demand that Iraq cooperate fully with United Nations weapons inspectors.

In a statement read out on behalf of the members by Council President Fernando Berrocal Soto of Costa Rica, the Security Council endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of the report of the emergency session of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM). The conclusions and recommendations are aimed at full and expeditious implementation of the relevant resolutions and the efficiency and effectiveness of UNSCOM, which is overseeing the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The Security Council once again demanded that Iraq fulfill its obligations and cooperate fully with UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in implementing their respective mandates. It stressed that the effectiveness and speed with which UNSCOM may accomplish its responsibilities, is, above all, determined by the degree to which the Government of Iraq cooperates in disclosing the full extent and disposition of its proscribed programmes and in granting unimpeded access to all sites, documents, records and individuals. The Council acknowledged the conclusion of the UNSCOM report that UNSCOM respected the legitimate national security, sovereignty and dignity concerns of Iraq in the context of the need for full application of the mandate given to it by the Council.

Welcoming the progress achieved by UNSCOM and the IAEA in various disarmament areas, the Council encouraged intensified efforts to fully implement the UNSCOM and IAEA mandates in each of their disarmament areas. The Council acknowledged that once it agreed that Iraq had complied with its obligations, UNSCOM and the IAEA would make the transition from investigation to monitoring in their respective areas, expanding the use of the ongoing monitoring system functioning in Iraq.

The Security Council urged Member States to respond positively to the requests contained in the report of the emergency session of UNSCOM, in particular those related to the provision of additional personnel, equipment and information required by UNSCOM and the IAEA for more efficient and effective implementation of their respective mandates.

The United Nations Investigative Team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrived in Mbandaka on Wednesday.

The team is in the country to probe allegations of human rights violations.

A United Nations Spokesman said that the plane borrowed from the United Nations operation in Angola to transport the team will make two more trips this week, bringing equipment needed for the forensic investigations and the Argentinean forensic experts who will carry out those tasks.

By the end of this week, the full strength of the team is expected to be 38 international, and about 30 local staff, including the Argentinean forensic experts.

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) resumed the voter identification process on Wednesday.

According to United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard, the identification of voters began at two MINURSO centres at Laayoune and Smara. A total of 12 identification centres are scheduled for operation by February, including two in southern Morocco, two in Mauritania, two in the territory of Western Sahara, and two in the Tindouf area. Each centre will be staffed by two observers from each of the parties, one from the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and 8 to 10 MINURSO personnel.

Under the timetable agreed to by the parties, the final list of voters will be issued by 26 July 1998.

Japan has announced an initiative to help developing countries with the transfer of technology to combat global warming.

The announcement was made by Japan's representative, Akasaka Kiyotaka as the Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change entered its third day in Kyoto, Japan on Wednesday.

The Kyoto initiative for sustainable development towards the twenty- first century, was announced as delegates at the Conference turned their attention to the Development and Transfer of Technology. The initiative is aimed at strengthening environmental support with the focus on assisting developing countries to combat global warming. The representative of Japan said the initiative will be implemented under the country's Official Development Assistance Programme (ODA) under the philosophy that both developing countries and developed countries need to work together to solve world wide problems of global warming.

Meanwhile, delegations of the Caribbean and other small island States continued negotiations aimed at getting the best possible commitment from developed countries to combat global warming. Grenada's Ambassador to the European Union, Fabian Redhead said the small island States have a special interest in the outcome of the Kyoto Conference.

He said that his country is a small island but the coastal areas tend to be more developed with most of the roads and beaches. All of this he added, is in serious danger with any change in the climate. He said the small island states hoped that they "will end up here with quantifiable commitments by the developed countries to reduce emissions because for us its a question of survival" not only because of the change of climate, but more so, the rise in sea-level.

The General Assembly on Wednesday elected Klaus Topfer of Germany as the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). His four-year term will begin on 1 February 1998.

Mr. Topfer is currently serving as his country's Federal Minister for Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development. From May 1994 to May 1995, he served as the Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. That Commission is charged with monitoring the implementation of Agenda 21 -- the blueprint for sustainable development adopted by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

As part of his long and distinguished career in both government and the academic world, Mr. Topfer served as the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety from May 1987 to November 1994. Prior to that, from May 1995, he was the Minister for Environment and Health of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate. He also served from 1978 to 1985 as State Secretary at the Ministry for Social Affairs.

As the fourth head of the Nairobi-based UNEP in its 25-year history, Mr. Topfer will be succeeding Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell of Canada who held the post since 1 January 1993.

In his message marking the International Day of Disabled Persons on Wednesday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that more than five hundred million disabled persons worldwide face discrimination and poverty. He called this a "silent crisis", affecting not only disabled persons and their families, but also the development of entire societies.

The United Nations has always been at the centre of global efforts to promote the rights of people with disabilities, the Secretary-General said.

The theme of this year's observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons is "arts, sports and disabilities". Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that arts and sports play a vital role in preparing disabled people for learning and career success.

The President of the General Assembly, Hennadiy Udovenko of Ukraine, said that in the areas of arts and sports, people with disabilities display their remarkable perseverance, talent and energy, and make an impressive and lasting contribution towards human cultural heritage and sports achievements.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has started a tour of three African countries.

The week long tour will take the Human Rights Commissioner to Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa.

She will start in Uganda where she will meet with President Yoweri Museveni, heads of United Nations agencies, and the staff of the new Human Rights Centre at Kampala University. The centre will be officially inaugurated on Human Rights Day next week.

In Rwanda, Mrs. Robinson will meet with the President, Vice President and other senior government officials. One of her objectives in Rwanda, is to develop ways of better integrating human rights into the full range of United Nations activities in the country. She will be there until 7 December.

Mrs Robinson will then fly to South Africa where on 8 December she will speak at a conference on the protection of human rights. The conference is being organized by the Western European Parliamentarians for Africa.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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