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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-05
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.com
Thursday, 5 February 1998
This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.
The Security Council on Thursday expressed its intention to consider establishing a new United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic.
The Council requested the Secretary-General to prepare recommendations on such an operation, including its proposed structure, specific goals and cost.
The Council's action came as it extended its authorization of the current regional peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic, which is known as the Inter-African Mission to Monitor the Implementation of the Bangui Agreements (MISAB). The extension is good through 16 March, at which time the Council will take a decision on the proposed new force.
The Bangui Agreements, signed in January 1997, constitute the framework for achieving national reconciliation in the Central African Republic. They call, in part, for the formation of a government of national union; the adoption of an amnesty law; disarmament; and the organization of a national reconciliation conference.
While MISAB has been working to monitor these Agreements, it cannot continue to do so on its own because France, which contributes more than 1, 400 troops to the Mission, will pull them out by mid-April. Currently, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali, Chad, Senegal and Togo are contributing troops to MISAB.
In a report before the Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that a new United Nations force in the Central African Republic could maintain stability in Bangui so that the peace process could continue to move forward. The new operation would seek to maintain the security established by MISAB and create an environment conducive to holding elections in August/September.
As a preliminary step, the Secretary-General will appoint a special representative to the Central African Republic, a move which the Security Council said on Thursday could assist the parties and provide support to United Nations activities in the country.
The President of the Central African Republic, Ange-F‚lix Patass‚, has expressed his full support for the Secretary-General's proposal.
The Security Council resolution adopted Thursday called upon the parties to the Bangui Agreements to implement them without delay. It further reiterated the Council's call to all States, international organizations and financial institutions to assist in post-conflict development in the Central African Republic.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan continued on Thursday to closely follow diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis related to the inspections of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
The United Nations leader on Thursday morning called the Foreign Ministers of Turkey and France, Ismail Cem and Hubert Vedrine, respectively, to discuss the situation.
Responding to "many queries on the subject", United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard said that the Secretary-General had no plans, at present, to travel to Iraq.
Humanitarian supplies continued to flow into Iraq under the oil-for- food programme.
United Nations Spokesman Eric Falt told reporters in Baghdad on Thursday that to date, a total of 4 million tonnes of commodities had arrived in Iraq -- the equivalent of 174 kilograms of food for each Iraqi citizen. He said that 90 per cent of the food had been distributed to Iraqi beneficiaries.
Mr. Falt pointed out that, in the northern governorates, the distribution performance by the World Food Programme in January had been "the best so far". WFP distributed food to a total of 230,000 vulnerable people, including malnourished children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, displaced persons and those in hospitals. He underlined that this performance was accomplished against a background of difficult weather conditions, including heavy snowfalls in many areas.
According to Mr. Falt, there are currently 349 United Nations staff members involved in the humanitarian programme for Iraq, including 214 personnel in Baghdad and 135 in the northern governorates.
Asked if the Government of Iraq had responded formally to the Secretary- General's proposed expansion of the "oil-for-food" programme, Mr. Falt said that there had been no official reaction yet. But he added that the United Nations expected a prompt response. "We certainly hope that the authorities will view the proposals of the Secretary-General as an opportunity to support the people of Iraq, and we trust that they will react positively and constructively to the report", he said.
Responding to the tense situation in the occupied territories, Secretary- General Kofi Annan said on Monday that he has called on the parties to restore mutual confidence and resume negotiations in earnest.
Addressing a United Nations committee charged with monitoring the rights of Palestinians, the Secretary-General described worsening economic conditions as a result of security measures. He noted that there has been a deepening anxiety among Palestinians over the construction of settlements and its potential consequences for the final status talks.
"Regrettably, the developments of the last year have sparked concern that the fragile edifice of the agreements reached since 1993 is in danger of collapse," the Secretary-General said. "More than once, I have been compelled to voice sorrow and dismay at the horrifying acts of violence against innocent civilians."
Calling such acts "the work of enemies of peace", the Secretary- General said he has appealed to the parties not to let themselves be discouraged or distracted by the actions of a radical few who seek to destroy the peace process.
The Secretary-General said he was encouraged by the recent meetings in Washington with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and by the agreement to continue those talks in the near future. "It is essential that remaining obstacles to the resumption of the bilateral negotiations can be overcome", he said.
Mr. Annan also called for the promotion of social and economic development and cooperative relationships throughout the Middle East region. In particular, he said that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had a key role to play. "The continuing serious financial situation faced by UNRWA and the hardship caused to refugees by austerity measures must be addressed urgently in order to contribute to stability in the area."
The Secretary-General also expressed his intention to visit Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
The Observer for Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said that the Palestinian leaders and people looked forward to welcoming the Secretary- General to Palestine. This reflected their conviction that the United Nations remained the ultimate refuge for the recovery of the Palestinian people's inalienable rights.
Throughout the entire United Nations system, a more integrated framework for conflict prevention is being developed, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a forum in New York on Thursday.
"For the United Nations, there is no higher goal, no deeper commitment and no greater ambition than preventing armed conflict", Mr. Annan said in his address to a forum hosted by the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.
Outlining his vision for conflict prevention, the Secretary-General said that the Department of Political Affairs was taking the lead in the Organization's early-warning and preventive efforts, joined by the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator.
Mr. Annan said that the operational prevention strategy of the United Nations involved four fundamental activities: early warning, preventive diplomacy, preventive deployment and early humanitarian action. The Organization's structural preventive strategy, he said, involved three additional activities: preventive disarmament, development and peace- building.
As an example of preventive disarmament, the Secretary-General cited the work of the United Nations Special Commission overseeing the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But he also stressed that urgent action was needed to stem the flow of conventional weapons. The new United Nations Department of Disarmament Affairs would undertake the task of working with governments to focus on the illegal trade in small arms.
Political will was the most important requirement for preventing deadly conflicts, Mr. Annan stressed. "We have no excuses for inaction and no alibies for ignorance. Often we know even before the very victims of conflict that they will be victimized." The promise of prevention must not be deferred, he said. "Too much is at stake, too much is possible, too much is needed."
A United Nations official who recently visited two countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa has expressed concern at the worsening situation there.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Martin Griffiths, the Deputy Emergency Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that relief workers were facing enormous difficulties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "The provinces of North and South Kivu are suffering a highly complicated conflict", he said. As a result of insecurity in that region, he added, humanitarian agencies had limited access to people in need. "I would go so far as saying we are not really in a position to know the extent of the need, let alone respond effectively to it because of the insecurity problems."
According to Mr. Griffiths, the conflict in Congo-Kinshasa was complicated by the situation in northwest Rwanda and the continuing insecurity and war in Burundi. He suggested that governments in the region should respond politically to the situation, and that there should be an increasing economic investment there to give people hope.
On the Republic of the Congo, Mr. Griffiths said that there was a possibility of providing a transitional humanitarian programme during the course of this year to rebuild the economy. He said that the country had enjoyed a good record of social and economic investment before being ravaged by four-and-a-half months of war. "The town of Brazzaville is an extraordinary sight with the centre almost completely empty" as a result of the war, he said.
Mr. Griffiths told correspondents that the United Nations was seeking international support for a relief programme that would address various sectors, including education, health and social services and trauma stress counselling for the victims of the war. Such a programme, he said, should not just give people a chance to recover but also inhibit any return to conflict.
A team of United Nations officials is on its way to Sierra Leone to assess the country's humanitarian situation, including the humanitarian impact of United Nations sanctions and the embargo of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
According to a United Nations Spokesman, the mission will focus on the civilian population's access to basic food and health-care services, as well as population displacement. It will also look into basic economic conditions and the activities of humanitarian organizations working in Sierra Leone.
This mission is headed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and is composed of experts from humanitarian agencies, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, and the United Nations Children's Fund.
The mission will make recommendations to the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator on how to monitor the humanitarian impact of the sanctions and how to facilitate the provision of humanitarian relief to Sierra Leone.
The United Nations refugee agency has appealed for more than $10 million for the repatriation of refugees from Mali and Niger who are in Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Algeria.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Thursday that the sum would cover activities during 1998.
More than 120,000 refugees have returned to Mali since 1995. Over 90,000 of them received assistance from UNHCR. At least 11,000 of the remaining refugees were expected to be repatriated in the coming weeks.
The United Nations refugee agency said it was supporting reconciliation meetings between returnees and other communities in Mali. UNHCR was also encouraging the country's authorities to visit camps in order to build confidence among the former exiles about the possibility of returning home.
According to UNHCR, the reintegration process in Mali is fragile and depends heavily on the development of the arid north of the country. The agency said that it was digging and remaking 135 water outlets of all types in that region.
In Niger, the refugee agency was planning to complete its repatriation operation during 1998, if security concerns, particularly criminality, did not multiply. Approximately 4,000 refugees who fled political turmoil and armed rebellion in the late 1980s and renewed insurgency in the early 1990s are set to return from Algeria.
The United Nations children's agency has expressed concern at the possible negative impact of austerity measures on children in East Asia.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday that in the effort to rescue East Asia's sagging economies, it was not clear that children would be protected from the effects of severe fiscal austerity. "Unless there are explicit safeguards for social programmes, efforts to ease the region's financial problems will cause great suffering for children," said Carol Bellamy, UNICEF's Executive Director.
Noting that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had stressed the importance of protecting the social sector, Ms. Bellamy pointed out, however, that the austerity measures prescribed for the region's economies might make it difficult -- if not impossible -- to protect social programmes. "We know from bitter experience that the imposition of stringent austerity measures can trigger wrenching social disruption -- and that in these situations, children are always at risk", she said.
The Executive Director of UNICEF said millions of workers would likely be thrown out of work, making the prospects for children much more dire. "Many of these workers have children -- and others are themselves children, some working in abusive and exploitative forms of child labour", Ms. Bellamy said.
According to UNICEF, critics of the IMF measures have argued that the requirement that governments show fiscal surpluses by the end of the year was needlessly onerous, since deficits were never an element in explaining why the financial crisis had developed in East Asia. Such a measure, the United Nations children's agency added, could lead to a sudden cutoff of subsidies for basic consumer goods such as food and kerosene, leaving the poor unprotected against inflation.
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