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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-12-17

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Wednesday, 17 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.


  • Members of the Security Council condemn the recent killing of a French relief worker in Tajikistan.
  • More than 63,000 people are identified for the referendum on Western Sahara.
  • The United Nations Development Programme allocates $2 million for demining in Chad and Yemen.
  • There are still some problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina despite some improvement in people's lives, according to High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • International Court of Justice rules that counter-claims by Yugoslavia are admissible in the case concerning a dispute with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Three United Nations agencies launch a campaign to end violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Bolivia becomes the 97th member state to pay its assessed contributions in full.
  • UN Department for Public Information will provide access for Permanent Missions to NewsEdge.

Members of the Security Council have condemned the recent killing of a French relief worker and hostage-taking in Tajikistan.

Following a briefing by the United Nations Secretariat on the situation in that country, Council President, Ambassador Fernando Berrocal Soto of Costa Rica said that the members of the Council were concerned about the worsening security situation in Tajikistan. They stressed their concern about the security of international personnel and humanitarian workers in that country, Ambassador Berrocal added.

The Council members also expressed their concern about the delay in the implementation of the peace process and the possible delay in the steps leading to free elections in Tajikistan, he said.

The members welcomed the success of the Vienna Donors Conference for Tajikistan where a substantial amount of resources was pledged for supporting the peace process.

The members of the Security Council called upon all the parties to be more active in fulfilling the commitments undertaken in the peace process and to refrain from any activities that might compromise it.

They called on the two parties to ensure the security of the United Nations personnel and of all the international personnel in Tajikistan.

More than 63,000 people have been identified for participation in the referendum on Western Sahara.

A United Nations Spokesman said on Wednesday that 484 people were identified at five places on Tuesday. Since the identification resumed on 3 December, 7,492 people were convoked and 3,327 were identified.

The identification process is being conducted by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) so that the people of Western Sahara can choose between independence and incorporation into Morocco.

The problem of the territory in the north-west coast of Africa started in 1976 when Spain, the former colonial power, relinquished international responsibility for the territory. It was later claimed by Morocco and Mauritania.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia El-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) opposed the two countries' claim to the territory and waged a struggle for self-determination. Algeria supported the POLISARIO Front.

Mauritania subsequently renounced all its claims to Western Sahara and the dispute remained between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front.

Following diplomatic initiatives by the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations, the Security Council established MINURSO in 1991 to help in the identification of Western Saharans eligible to participate in the referendum. Implementation stalled as Morocco and the POLISARIO Front differed on the identification of certain groups of people.

With the resumption of the identification process, there are now hopes to hold the referendum in 1998.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has allocated $2 million for mine clearance in Chad and Yemen.

UNDP's Crisis Committee will use the money for training, mine clearance, surveys and victim assistance and rehabilitation in Chad. The funds will also create a management system to monitor the quality of demining activities.

Tens of thousands of landmines were planted in northern Chad during years of civil conflict in the country. The country is littered with the unexploded explosive devices which are buried on the ground and kill unsuspecting civilians.

In Yemen, the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) and UNDP have provided assistance to destroy some 30,000 landmines out of an estimated 100,000. The assistance has also strengthened national capacity in mine clearance.

UNDP Resident Representative in Yemen, Onder Yucer has said that UNDP planned to continue the work in 1998 by providing training and technical assistance.

The Head of the United Nations refugee agency has said that there are still problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina notwithstanding some improvement in people's lives.

In a statement at the Humanitarian Issues Working Group on Peace and Implementation in Geneva on Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said she saw an atmosphere of normalization in Sarajevo. Mrs. Sadako Ogata said that when she walked the streets of Sarajevo during her recent visit, she saw "a vibrant city abuzz with commercial activity."

Mrs Ogata said that lives of people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are improving. "Their strength and industriousness, which once helped them cope with the ordeal of war, has now become the driving force for peace" she added.

The High Commissioner for refugees cautioned, however, that "there are no quick fixes" after four years of bloodshed, hatred and despair. Behind the signs of normalization, Mrs. Ogata said, "many wounds remain and much must still be done", adding that on the third year of peace, return remained an unkept promise for some 1.4 million people who lost their homes.

She highlighted three "key issues" which would allow refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in safe and orderly manner: freedom of movement, security and the right of people to return to areas where they are either the majority or the minority.

Regarding the freedom of movement, Mrs. Ogata said there has been some improvement largely due to the reform and training of local police forces undertaken by the International Police Task Force (IPTF) and the deployment of joint police forces in key areas such as Central Bosnia and Neretva Cantons and Brcko. She pointed out, however, that there is still need for UNHCR bus services which are the only secure means of transport for certain people.

On the issue of security, the High Commissioner for Refugees said there was growing consensus that the security umbrella involving the Stabilization Force (SFOR) must remain in place well beyond June 1998. "For the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina the continuing presence of SFOR proves the international commitment to peace and stability", she said.

Concerning the right to return to both majority and minority areas, Mrs Ogata said that there have been many obstacles. Recalling that the war displaced more than 1.2 million people who fled to neighbouring countries and afield, Mrs. Ogata said few have repatriated from the principal asylum countries in the region. 111,000 refugees will have repatriated in 1997, with 95,000 returning from Germany alone, the Head of the refugee agency pointed out. As expected, she added, nearly 98 per cent of all returnees travelled to areas where they are the majority, with most arriving in urban areas of Sarajevo, Una Sana and Tuzla Podrinje cantons although for many, these were not their areas of origin.

Mrs. Ogata said that her agency plans to work closely with communities and authorities at the municipal and cantonal levels where people can return to their homes regardless of ethnicity. She said that six such areas, called "Open Cities" of Bihac, Busovaca, Vogosca, Goradze, Konjic and Kakanj are now receiving preferential and fast tracked international assistance. The authorities of Banja Luka and Sarajevo have also indicated their willingness to have "Open Cities".

The High Commissioner also touched on the region as a whole and spoke of the need to have a regional strategy for the return of refugees. "We have long known that the issue of displacement in the former Yugoslavia is profoundly intertwined", she said, adding that despite the many obstacles, there are positive signs.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday ruled that counter- claims by Yugoslavia are admissible and do form part of the proceedings in the case concerning a dispute with Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the first time the Court has ruled on the admissibility of counter- claims at a preliminary stage.

In its counter-claim submitted on 22 July 1997, Yugoslavia requested the Court to rule that "Bosnia and Herzegovina is responsible for the acts of genocide committed against the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina" and that it "has the obligation to punish the persons held responsible" for these acts. It also asked the Court to pronounce judicially that Bosnia and Herzegovina is bound to take necessary measures to prevent any repetition and to eliminate all the consequences of the violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The dispute started on 20 March 1993 when Bosnia and Herzegovina instituted proceedings against Yugoslavia alleging that the country violated the Genocide Convention.

Bosnia and Herzegovina requested the Court to adjudicate and declare that Yugoslavia, through its agents and surrogates, "has killed, murdered, wounded, raped, robbed, tortured, kidnapped, illegally detained, and exterminated the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina" and that it had to cease immediately this practice of "ethnic cleansing" and pay reparations.

On 8 April 1993 the Court indicated that Yugoslavia should immediately take all measures within its power to prevent the crime of genocide being committed. The Court also said that both Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina should not take any action that might aggravate the existing dispute.

Despite further requests by the two countries for provisional measures, Bosnia and Herzegovina for provisional measures the Court reaffirmed that the measures it had indicated earlier were to be immediately and effectively implemented.

Yugoslavia then raised a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the Court. The Court dismissed the objection on the grounds that it had jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute.

The Court noted that its ruling on Yugoslavia's counter-claims in no way prejudges whether such counter-claims are well founded. It required the Parties to further present their views on their respective claims next year.

Three United Nations agencies are launching a campaign to end violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced in its latest weekly publication, UNDPFLASH.

In a campaign involving media and public education drives, UNDP, and its United Nations Fund for the Development of Women (UNIFEM), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) are joining forces to raise awareness about the scourge of violence against women and girls in the region.

The one year campaign, which is being launched ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is aimed at finding ways to stop the violence altogether.

According to UNDP, gender based violence is not only a loathsome human rights abuse, but also a major obstacle to social and economic empowerment of women.

About sixty per cent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean are believed to have suffered from physical or psychological abuse by their intimate partners, says UNDP.

Although the Organization of American States has the Inter-American Convention to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women, incidences of abuse in the region continued to rise, reports UNDPFLASH.

Bolivia today became the 97th member state to pay in full its assessed contribution of $106,508 to the regular budget of the United Nations.

United Nations Spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt said that by this time last year, the same number of countries had paid in full.

The outstanding contributions to the United Nations stand at over $2.1 billion of which over $500 million is for the regular budget, and over $1.6 billion for peacekeeping.

The Department of Public Information (DPI) on Wednesday announced that starting on 1 January 1998, all permanent missions to the United Nations will be able to have direct access to NewsEdge, the live-time news feed, as well as the entire contents of the Economist Intelligence Unit Internet Database. This enhanced information access has been arranged by the Dag Hammarskjold Library in cooperation with the Information Technology Services Division.

NewsEdge features multilingual wires from the Financial Times, Africa News Agency, Los Angeles Times/Washington Post, Agence France Presse, Deutsche Presse Agentur, South American Business Information (SABI), Xinhua News Agency, Inter Press Service, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) News Views, Latin American Service (LATAM), Kyodo World Service (KWS), Itar/TASS, Compass Middle East Wire and many others.

The missions will also have desktop access to the full text of all the country reports and forecasts of the Economist Intelligence Unit Internet Database, as well as to its country risk service. The database also contains the full text of all of the Unit's other publications, including Cross Border Monitor, Business Russia, Business Middle East, and World Commodity Forecasts. The database is updated daily.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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