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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-12-05

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Friday, 5 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.


  • UN official in Western Sahara says identification of voters is going well.
  • Developing countries and China reject New Zealand's proposal on climate change in Kyoto, Japan.
  • Over 120 countries sign the Convention banning landmines and $500 million is pledged for assistance in demining.
  • Secretary-General leaves for Teheran to address Organization of the Islamic Conference.
  • Another flight delivers supplies to United Nations investigative team in Mbandaka, Congo-Kinshasa.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visits overcrowded prisons in Rwanda.
  • United Nations expert on human rights in Burundi will go there to review impact of conflict and sanctions.
  • Over $140 million is approved for United Nations anti-drug activities worldwide.
  • General Assembly debates Security Council reform, with speakers calling for more equitable representation.
  • Secretary-General praises those who serve others selflessly on International Volunteer Day.
  • United Nations prepares to organize conference on urban development in harmony with the environment.

Since the identification of voters resumed on 3 December, 556 voters have been registered as part of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. The referendum is being held to give the people of the territory a chance to decide between independence or integration with Morocco. Since two identification centres re-opened three days ago, more than five hundred voters have been processed.

The Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Erik Jensen, said the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) and the Government of Morocco are both working in support of MINURSO. "We've had excellent cooperation in terms of practical arrangements, we've had excellent cooperation in terms of the making available of the people necessary."

The settlement plan envisages that 12 identification centres will open by February 1998 to complete the process by May. Mr. Jensen said prospects for success are better now than ever before. "I've been here now for four and a half years; if I wasn't an optimist I wouldn't still be here. You've got to believe that there is a possible solution, even if it is very hard to reach, even if it takes a long time, even if it takes enormous perseverance, but you've got to believe that there is a possible solution otherwise you cannot work towards it."

The parties reached their agreements at talks mediated by former United States Secretary of State James Baker III. Both sides undertook to create a climate of tranquility so that the UN can conduct the referendum free of all constraints, intimidation and harassment.

The Group of 77 developing countries and China have rejected a proposal by New Zealand seeking their further commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposal was made at the World Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which is being held in Kyoto, Japan.

The New Zealand proposal calls for more binding commitments of developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Chairman of the Group of 77 developing countries and China Ambassador Mark Mwandosya of Tanzania, told the main conference committee that the proposal was a step backward and should be dropped. Ambassador Mwandosya asserted that he spoke "with the full faith and mandate of 131 countries."

However, the proposal was supported by the United States. It was also welcomed by the European Union (EU). EU Spokesman Pierre Gramegna of Luxembourg said that the New Zealand proposal was controversial because the issue was being debated for the first time. Nevertheless, he added, the ball has started rolling and there will be more discussions with developing countries on the matter.

In a related development, it was decided that the fourth session of the Conference of the Parties will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 2 to 13 November 1998.

As of Thursday 121 countries had signed the Convention which bans 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.

$500 million have been pledged for assistance in demining. The amount includes an $87 million pledge from the United States, $70 million from the European Union, $24 million from Norway, $16 million from Japan, $14 million from Canada and another million from Germany.

A United Nations Spokesman told reporters on Friday that the entire UN system in 1997 spent about $80 million on landmine clearing.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to leave for Teheran via London on Saturday, on an official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Secretary-General will address the Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference which will be held in Teheran from 9 to 11 December, United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard announced on Friday.

He will arrive in Teheran on Monday. He will then travel to Kuwait for another official visit where he will be from Friday the 12th to Sunday the 14th of December. The visit will include a trip to the United Nations Iraq- Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM). From Kuwait, the Secretary-General will go to Malaysia also for an official visit on Sunday the 14th to Wednesday the 17th of December.

Another flight left Kinshasa for Mbandaka on Friday to delivery supplies in preparation for the deployment of United Nations investigators probing allegations of massacres.

The delivery included vehicles, tents, water, and other equipment to be used by a larger team of forensic investigators expected to go to the north of the country on Saturday.

The investigators are part of the team sent by United Nations Secretary- General to investigate allegations of violations of humanitarian law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A United Nations Spokesman said that difficult conditions on the ground made it necessary to fly virtually everything the team will need during its stay in Mbandaka, including food and water.

The team to Mbandaka will be headed by Andrew Chigovera, while Kofi Amega will remain in Kinshasa to prepare for the second leg of the assignment in the eastern part of the country.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has visited some of the overcrowded prisons in Rwanda.

According to a United Nations Spokesman, the Human Rights Commissioner visited Remeri prison in Kigali, where 5,000 prisoners were locked in a prison with the capacity of 3,000. On Friday afternoon she also went to Cachots, twenty kilometres from Kigali where eighty prisoners are crammed in each room of 25 X 13 feet (6 X 4 metres). The rooms had no electricity. The Human Rights Commissioner also found that the rooms lacked ventilation.

While in Rwanda, Ms. Robinson met with the President of Rwanda, Pasteur Bizimungu and Vice President Paul Kagame. She is scheduled to have several meetings on Saturday before going to South Africa on Sunday.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, Paulo S‚rgio Pinheiro (Brazil), has announced plans to travel to that country from 7 to 20 December.

In a press release issued from Geneva, the Special Rapporteur expressed his desire to visit more provinces in the country to observe the impact of the conflict in Burundi and the burden of economic sanctions which have been imposed against the country since 31 July 1996.

Mr. Pinheiro will meet with political, civil, military and judicial officials in Burundi. He will also have talks with religious leaders, heads of the diplomatic missions accredited to Burundi, representatives of United Nations organizations, and international non-governmental organizations. In addition, the Special Rapporteur will meet with members of Burundi's civil society through local associations.

The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs has approved $148.5 million for the next two years for the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) which is working to control narcotics worldwide.

The Executive Director of UNDCP, Pino Arlacchi, said the funds would be used for projects to help peasant farmers move away from drug crops and to prevent drug abuse among youth and vulnerable groups, among other activities. He emphasized that administrative and overhead costs remain constant, even though there would be an increase in activities.

Most of the additional funds will be channeled to projects aimed at stemming the flow of opium poppy and its derivative, heroin, from Afghanistan and Myanmar, which together supply more than 90 per cent of the world's heroin. Funding directed to sub-Saharan Africa will double, reflecting a greater commitment to the region.

As the General Assembly concluded its second day of debate on the reform of the Security Council on Friday, the representative of New Zealand said any enlargement which did not enjoy consensus support would be flawed from the start. Michael Powles said it was inconceivable that such a fundamental issue could be resolved by a simple majority of those present and voting on a particular day.

The representative of the Russian Federation, Alexandre S. Gorelik, said the increase in the Council's membership should be minimal, so as not to adversely affect its efficiency and effectiveness. He said the Russian Federation could accept an expansion in both the Council's permanent and non-permanent categories if that was the wish of the regional groups. The most important goal was well-balanced expansion, including increased representation of developing countries, he stressed.

South Africa's Ambassador, Khiphusizi J. Jele, said proposals to grant two permanent seats to industrialized States and three to developing countries would create an imbalance on the Council. He emphasized that Africa had a legitimate claim to five non-permanent seats and at least two permanent seats.

General Assembly President Hennadiy Udovenko of Ukraine characterized the discussions as focused, serious and thought provoking, according to his Spokesman, Alex Taukatch. Seventy-one countries participated in the debate.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday said the world would be a "harder, colder, poorer place" without volunteers.

In his message on International Volunteer Day, the Secretary-General said that the individual gesture to help another is the spirit of international cooperation in a microcosm. He noted that there are 4,000 United Nations volunteers from 125 nationalities working in more than 130 developing countries. These volunteers, he said, are "ambassadors of the United Nations at the grass-roots level".

The President of the General Assembly, Hennadiy Udovenko of Ukraine, said one could take inspiration from the activities of United Nations Volunteers, who are helping to build peace, advance democracy and human rights, alleviate suffering and promote sustainable development. He expressed gratitude for the important job they are doing and wished them great future success.

United Nations officials met in Tokyo on Friday to prepare for an international conference there next year on urban development and the environment. The World Conference on International Cooperation of Cities and Citizens for Cultivating an Eco-Society will be held from 26 to 29 May 1998.

The Conference will be jointly sponsored by the United Nations and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Meetings were held between Nitin Desai, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and the Vice-Governor of Tokyo, Masami Higaki, as well as other officials.

Some 500 delegates from all over the world are expected to attend the Conference, which has been dubbed "Eco-Partnership Tokyo". Mr. Desai said the term "Eco-Society" meant greatly reducing the ecological footprint which modern society, through its patterns of production and consumption, leaves on the natural environment.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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