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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-12-08

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Monday, 8 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.


  • At Kyoto Climate Change Conference, Secretary-General urges developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Secretary-General says both parties, but especially UNITA, are responsible for delays in Angolan peace process.
  • Secretary-General requests his Special Envoy for Sierra Leone to make arrangements for liaison office there.
  • President of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda says first three trials can be concluded by early next year.
  • Secretary-General recommends United Nations pullout from Eastern Slavonia, but calls for continued international engagement there.
  • United Nations refugee agency warns that more people are expected to flee their homes but few will find refuge.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees schedules a meeting in Kiev to discuss situation of refugees in Eastern Europe.
  • United Nations expert condemns brutal police assault on peaceful women demonstrators in the Sudan.
  • Head of United Nations Special Commission overseeing Iraqi disarmament heads to Baghdad for talks on cooperation.
  • Secretary-General stresses universality and indivisibility of human rights.
  • Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights proposes UN action to track the impact of sanctions.
  • In Brazil, United Nations-organized conference seeks to promote ethics in public service and to combat corruption.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the world's richest countries to commit themselves to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In a message to the parties to the high-level segment of the Third Conference of the parties to the Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, the United Nations Secretary-General said that leadership on the part of the developed countries in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions was clearly the way forward.

The statement, which was delivered by Maurice Strong, the Secretary- General of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, expressed the hope that need for special consideration of the position of developing countries will not be a stumbling block to agreement in Kyoto.

According to the Secretary-General, developing countries have contributed little to the build-up of greenhouse gases, nor have they enjoyed the benefits of the economic growth which generated the build-up. Most are still in the initial stages of the development process, he pointed out, adding that they should not be denied their right to grow, nor should their development be constrained by the imposition of undue costs and constraints.

The Secretary-General noted that developing countries have indicated their willingness to cooperate in global efforts to reduce the risk of climate change if their interests can be protected and their needs met on a fair and equitable basis.

Nearly a hundred ministers and other heads of delegations addressed Monday's high-level segment. At the same time, negotiations were held at the political level in an effort to arrive at an agreement on ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the peace process in Angola continues to be slow, with intermittent surges of UNITA cooperation and long periods of stagnation following one another. In a new report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General says that since his last report on 17 October, there has been no significant progress in the implementation of the remaining tasks. He blames both the Government and UNITA, but in particular UNITA, for this unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Stating that it is disquieting that the peace accord for Angola has not been completed, the Secretary-General notes that several key provisions of the Lusaka Protocol, in particular the demilitarization of the troops of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and the extension of State administration throughout the country still remain to be completed.

The Secretary-General urges UNITA to complete without further delay the crucial tasks of demilitarization and extension of state administration throughout Angola.

The Secretary-General also indicates his intention to reduce the military component of the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) as previously planned. The current strength of MONUA now stands at approximately 2,500.

With the completion of the quartering of UNITA troops which was their main task, the military component will be gradually downsized to approximately 1, 750 by the first week of January, the Secretary-General says.

Mr. Annan says that the resumption by UNITA on 21 November, of the implementation of its remaining tasks has slightly improved the general security situation in Angola.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has requested his Special Envoy for Sierra Leone to make arrangements for a small liaison office in the country.

In his latest report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General says that the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone has deteriorated since the 25 May coup. The health and nutritional status of the population has been especially affected owing to a combination of insecurity, a drastic breakdown in public services, and limited supplies of essential drugs, vaccines and food, Mr. Annan points out.

On the political situation in the country, the Secretary-General says that Sierra Leone and its people have suffered greatly from the overthrow of the democratically elected Government of President Tejan Kabbah.

He points out that the signing of the Conakry Agreement on 23 October was a significant step towards resolving the crisis in the country. The agreement was signed at a meeting of the Committee of Five of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and a delegation representing the coup leader, Major Jonny Koroma. However, the Secretary-General adds, despite some encouraging indications, little concrete progress has been made in the implementation of the Agreement.

He says that the agreement should be implemented urgently, with pressure being exerted on the military junta in Freetown. Meanwhile, the military, political and humanitarian aspects of the Agreement require further clarification and negotiation, according to the Mr. Annan. He calls for the early formulation of the practical modalities for its implementation. These aspects should include the development of a concept of operations for the deployment of the Economic Community of West African States Observer Group (ECOMOG) throughout the country as well as disarmament and an effective process of national reconciliation.

While these efforts must be pursued vigorously, the junta should not be allowed to manipulate the talks and to procrastinate in carrying out its commitments under the Agreement, says Mr. Annan.

Under that agreement, the constitutional government of President Tejan Kabbah should be restored by 22 April 1998.

The President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has said that the first three trials currently under way before the Tribunal may be concluded in the first months of 1998.

Introducing the report of the Tribunal to the General Assembly on Monday, Judge Laity Kama, said that although the court's beginnings were difficult, there has been both qualitative and quantitative development in the work of the Tribunal.

The first trial of persons suspected of participating in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda opened on 9 January, quickly followed by two others in the first part of 1997. There are now three trials under way in Arusha. "Thanks to the work of the Prosecutor the Centre in Arusha, Tanzania now has 24 detainees who have all been indicted."

The indicted persons held high posts in Rwanda, in the political and administrative area as well as the military. Judge Kama said that although at the beginning the Tribunal did not have enough space to speed up the trials, since September 1997, the two hearing chambers can meet simultaneously "even though the second hearing room is only temporary" and is not ideally equipped.

Judge Kama pointed out that there were only six judges for the Tribunal and some of them did not qualify because they were involved in the acts of indictment and other proceedings. "In other words it will be harder and harder to form a complete trial chamber to address certain cases. This is why we are asking whether the time has not come to implement paragraph seven of resolution 955 which provides for the possibility of increasing the number of judges if this proves necessary."

The judge called on Member States to support the work of the Tribunal which, he said, is important for national reconciliation in Rwanda and the stabilization of the Great Lakes Region.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) pull out by 15 January 1998. But he also cautions that "without continued international engagement, there is a clear risk that the termination of UNTAES might be seen in retrospect as having been premature".

In his latest report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General also recommends that the Security Council establish a support group of 180 civilian police monitors to oversee the performance of the Croatian police in the Danube region, particularly in connection with the return of displaced persons. They would monitor allegations of police misconduct. According to the report, the Transitional Police Force does not enjoy local confidence. "It is not viewed as a credible, trustworthy police force by Serbs who remain or by Croats who will return." The Force has been reluctant to effectively act against violent offenders, and is "often hesitant to respond to crimes with possible ethnic overtones".

The civilian police monitors would be stationed in the main Croatian police headquarters and the 20 Croatian police stations throughout the region where they would maintain 24-hour coverage of police activities. The Secretary-General recommends that the monitors be deployed for up to nine months, with the option of leaving sooner if circumstances permit.

The report finds that the successful activities of UNTAES have set a positive precedent for peace throughout the former Yugoslavia. It states that UNTAES has provided the necessary stability for the normalization of relations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Croatia.

Overall, the report finds that during the latter part of this year, some 6, 000 Croats and 9,000 Serbs returned to their original homes. "This is a major achievement, which two years ago many thought unlikely to happen in this time-frame."

The 1997-1998 State of the World's Refugees report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that life has never been tougher for the 22 million refugees under UNHCR's responsibility.

In many parts of the world, people who have taken refuge in another country are being harassed, attacked, and even forced to return home, according to the report. In some regions, refugees are being pushed from one country to another, fleeing fighting or attacks.

Addressing reporters in New York, Assistant United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Soren Jessen-Petersen said that refugees were being threatened by an explosive mix of factors. "They are threatened by armed conflicts, by human rights abuses by economic decline, and simply escaping from situations of danger, very often landing in other situations of danger."

UNHCR charges that rich nations are united in their determination not to accept refugees. Governments are slamming the door in the faces of people seeking asylum. They fear the refugees, and see them as political, social or economic threats. UNHCR's Soren Jessen-Petersen stressed that all countries -- rich and poor -- must protect refugees. "The right to asylum must be preserved. Asylum is the best way to safeguard human security and dignity and therefore remains absolutely essential for humanitarian action."

In order to prevent displacement, the report recommends measures to eradicate poverty, strengthen peace and bring to justice those people who are responsible for forcing millions from their homes.

The United Nations refugee agency scheduled a conference in Kiev, Ukraine, on Monday, to find ways to alleviate problems caused to millions of asylum seekers and displaced people in Eastern Europe.

Pam O'Toole, the Spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has told the press that the Conference, called "Freedom of Movement and Choice of Place of Residence" has been organized by UNHCR in conjunction with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe.

According to the refugee agency, asylum seekers in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) face a number of problems, including a system which requires returnees to register and get permits. According to Ms. O'Toole, without these permits, which can cost thousands of dollars, returnees and displaced persons are treated as illegal immigrants who cannot have access to employment, housing, basic health or education services. "They can't get access to refugee status determination procedures because they don't have this permit. They can't get this permit because they don't have employment. They can't have employment because they can't raise money for the permit."

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, UNHCR estimates that some 9 million people have been on the move in the region.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Sudan has condemned an assault on women demonstrators in Khartoum.

Gaspar Biro, said that on 1 December some 50 women demonstrating against the forced military conscription of their sons were assaulted with sticks and rubber hoses. Police allegedly beat and slapped the women in their faces.

The women were arrested and dragged into police vehicles. One woman remained in critical condition and a number of others had to be hospitalized, he said. Approximately 34 of the women were sentenced to ten strokes, while another woman suffered forty strokes, allegedly because she was "improperly dressed in trousers and a t-shirt."

The incident took place just outside the premises of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Khartoum. Special Rapporteur Gaspar Biro has called on the Government of the Sudan to investigate the attack and punish those responsible.

He said that the fact that such a brutal incident took place in front of UNDP is an affront to the international community. Mr. Biro charged that the attack showed that the Sudanese security forces thought that they could act with total impunity.

The Special Rapporteur said the assault on women demonstrators proved that the human rights situation in the Sudan was deteriorating, especially for the country's women.

Ambassador Richard Butler, Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission overseeing the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, is headed to Baghdad for talks on improving cooperation. He was scheduled to leave on Monday for Paris and London on his way to Baghdad.

Speaking to reporters after briefing the Security Council, Ambassador Butler said that despite recent disagreements between the United Nations and the Iraqi Government, talks with the country's Deputy Prime Minister could be constructive. "Where I found myself in disagreement with Tariq Aziz it was not personal, it was about claims that he had made that were not factual and I thought it important first of all in defense of my highly professional staff but also in defense of objectivity to seek to put the record straight." Saying that he took none of that as personal, Ambassador Butler said he hoped the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister did the same. "I'm here, I'm ready to have serious, objective, professional conversations and that's what I'm looking forward to."

Ambassador Butler will return to New York on 18 December to report to the Security Council.

"Human rights are foreign to no culture and native to all nations", Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Monday in a video message to a two- day international journalists round table convened as part of the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Secretary-General said it was the universality of human rights that gave them their strength. "It endows them with the power to cross any border, climb any wall, defy any force", he said. The struggle for universal human rights had always been the struggle against all forms of tyranny and injustice such as slavery, colonialism and apartheid. Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent, he said, adding that they are "what makes us human".

The Secretary-General also stressed the importance of tolerance in ensuring fundamental freedoms for all peoples. "Young friends all over the world", Mr. Annan said, "you are the ones who must realize these rights now and for all time. Their fate and future is in your hands. Human rights are your rights -- seize them, defend them, promote them, understand them, and insist on them, nourish them and enrich them. They are the best in us, give them life."

The United Nations High-Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, speaking in a taped interview, said the message of the Universal Declaration is as powerful today as it was when it was signed on 10 December 1948. "The Universal Declaration is a living document", she said, noting that approximately one billion people live in poverty that denies them access to basic rights.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Public Information, Samir Sanbar, told the gathering that the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration provides an opportunity for people worldwide to recommit to that important document.

Fareed Zakaria, Managing Editor of Foreign Affairs, said in his keynote address that there was an unhappy tension between two virtues that had long been thought to be indivisible -- democracy and human rights. Democracy and elections were flourishing throughout the world, but constitutional protections and liberalism were being denied. Elections were viewed as positive steps of democracy, but they tended to concentrate power in governments, and leaders often abused that power. He said that a government should be given credit for liberalization measures even if it was lacking in democratic institutions such as elections.

At the end of its session in Geneva, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights proposed the creation of a United Nations mechanism for anticipating and tracking sanctions impacts.

The 18-member expert Committee also said that not enough attention is being paid to the impact of sanctions on vulnerable groups.

In a "general comment" adopted by the Committee, experts said that the party or parties responsible for the imposition of sanctions should take account of economic, social and cultural rights when designing a sanctions regime. According to the Committee, those considering sanctions must distinguish between the basic objective of applying pressure upon the governing elite and the collateral infliction of suffering upon the most vulnerable groups within the targeted country. They should also respond to any disproportionate suffering experienced by vulnerable groups in the affected countries.

The Committee also stressed that the State under sanctions has an obligation to ensure the absence of discrimination in relation to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.

The Committee said its sole aim was to draw attention to the fact that the inhabitants of a given country did not forfeit their basic economic, social and cultural rights by virtue of any determination that their leaders had violated norms relating to international peace and security. The aim was not to give support or encouragement to such leaders, nor was it to undermine the legitimate interests of the international community in enforcing respect for the provisions of the United Nations. Rather, it was to insist that lawlessness of one kind should not be met by lawlessness of another kind which paid no heed to fundamental rights.

The Committee is charged with monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

About 150 senior Brazilian public servants from both the federal and state levels are gathering in Brasilia to discuss trust and integrity in public institutions at a colloquium organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Participants are expected to work on recommendations for launching a national ethics initiative in the public service. Among other issues, they will discuss a recent United Nations General Assembly resolution on action against corruption as well as the current proposed code of conduct for United Nations staff.

The event is cosponsored by the Council of State Reform and the Ministry of Federal Administration and State Reform of the Federal Republic of Brazil.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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