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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-13

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Friday, 13 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.


  • Secretary-General dispatches technical team to Baghdad to map "presidential sites" in next three to four days.
  • Security Council calls on Croatia to intensify its efforts to promote full integration in Eastern Slavonia.
  • Security Council members call for immediate humanitarian assistance to Sierra Leone.
  • Security concerns force United Nations to curtail programmes in Tajikistan, Secretary-General reports.
  • United Nations seeks over $90 million to meet Angola's humanitarian needs.
  • United Nations Secretary-General augments his investigative team in Congo- Kinshasa.
  • United Nations food agency says sub-Saharan Africa risks economic marginalization unless it improves agriculture.
  • Head of United Nations refugee agency travels to Cibitoke, Burundi to survey return areas.
  • United Nations human rights office in Abkhazia concerned over phasing out school instruction in Georgian language.
  • Miles Stoby named to head United Nations fund working with Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation, Inc.
  • Patrizio M. Civili of Italy appointed Assistant Secretary- General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday informed the five permanent members of the Security Council that he would be sending a technical team to Baghdad this weekend to work with Iraq to map out presidential sites on an urgent basis. "I expect them to conclude this task within three or four days", he said.

Mr. Annan met with the Permanent Representatives of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States on ways to resolve the current crisis relating to United Nations inspections in Iraq. The meeting focused on the need to define the so-called "presidential sites and palaces" and how to inspect them. "Large areas of common ground emerged, but discussions will continue and we will meet again later during this long weekend", Mr. Annan said. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m.

"The participants in the meeting expressed full confidence in the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and its work, which is continuing elsewhere in Iraq and which must continue unimpeded", the Secretary-General said.

The Security Council on Friday called on Croatia to intensify its efforts to promote full reintegration in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium.

In a statement read out by Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon, the Council welcomed the successful completion of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), but noted that much remains to be done. The Government, Mr. Rewaka said, "remains responsible for the rights and safety of members of all ethnic groups" within its territory.

Croatia was called on to resolve property issues and other problems which are hindering the return of refugees and displaced persons. It was also called on to protect human rights, including taking action against harassment. In addition, the Council called for the Croatian Government to address uncertainties about the Amnesty Law, and to take measures to improve public confidence in the country's police.

The Council commended the commitment shown by Croatia in the implementation of its comprehensive programme of national reconciliation, and stressed the need for continued progress in that area. "The Council is also encouraged by signs of increasing participation in Croatian political life by the region's ethnic Serb citizens", said Mr. Rewaka. He underlined the importance of Croatia's continued efforts to ensure full participation by the Serb minority in the country's political life.

Members of the United Nations Security Council have called for immediate humanitarian assistance to Sierra Leone.

In a statement read out to the press by its President, Ambassador Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon on Friday, the Security Council expressed its concern over the unstable situation and the reported loss of civilian lives. It emphasized that international humanitarian assistance must be upheld.

The Council called for the immediate activation of humanitarian assistance, including cross border operations, and unrestricted access to people in need. It also called for a guarantee of the safety and security of all humanitarian personnel in Sierra Leone.

The Council expressed the need for national reconciliation and a comprehensive demobilization, in accordance with the agreements reached.

It also called on the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) to cooperate fully with the Secretary- General's Special Envoy, with a view to the rapid evaluation of the situation on the ground.

In a related development, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sergio Vieira de Mello told reporters that an emergency relief operation would be launched within a few hours. Mr. de Mello had earlier briefed the Security Council on the situation in Sierra Leone.

He said that President Tejan Kabbah and the Government of Sierra Leone have promised to facilitate entry into the country of humanitarian relief assistance through cross-border operations and the use of the airport and harbour of Freetown.

The precarious security situation is impeding United Nations efforts to bring peace and development to Tajikistan, according to the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation there.

Released on Friday, the report outlines measures to limit risks faced by United Nations personnel in Tajikistan. These risks were brought into sharp focus last November when two French relief workers were abducted by a group which was also responsible for a previous hostage-taking incident. Although one of the hostages escaped, the other died during an exchange of fire with security personnel.

"The hostage-taking underlined the vulnerability of the international personnel in Dushanbe", Secretary-General Kofi Annan writes. In response, more than 70 per cent of the international staff serving with humanitarian relief programmes were relocated to the north of Tajikistan and to other countries, while some non-governmental organizations were forced to suspend their activities.

The Secretary-General has approved the concentration of United Nations offices and accommodations in a small number of well-guarded premises, according to the report. There has been some progress in relocating offices, but no solution has been found for private accommodations where, the Secretary-General notes, international personnel are most vulnerable.

The Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States has offered to help provide security, and preparations are under way to establish joint security operations with the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT).

Crisis management has slowed the pace of the peace process, Mr. Annan writes. He calls on the parties to achieve tangible progress on such matters as the reintegration of fighters of the United Tajik Opposition and the revision of the Constitution. The Secretary-General further encourages the Commission on National Reconciliation to launch a broad dialogue among the various political forces aimed at creating the conditions for full participation in the country's political life, and free and fair elections as soon as possible.

The United Nations on Friday appealed for $91.2 million to meet urgent humanitarian needs of over one million Angolans who continue to suffer from the effects of conflict.

While last year saw some positive developments, the situation in certain provinces remained tense. A volatile security situation resulted in new population displacements and increased difficulties in providing humanitarian assistance.

In response, the Appeal aims to support an expected gradual consolidation of peace, which will allow for the resettlement and reintegration of internally-displaced people, returnees, the disabled and underage demobilized soldiers. The Appeal will also provide support to the national demining and mine-awareness programme, and will assist the Government in strengthening its capacity to coordinate the country's entire humanitarian programme.

The effort is known as the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Angola because it covers the activities of all United Nations agencies in the country.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday appointed two new members to his investigative team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Secretary-General increased the team from three to four by appointing Ambassador Paul Eugene Laberge of Canada and Daniel Michael O'Donnell of the United States. The two appointees will also replace members of the team who have resigned.

Mr. Laberge is a former member of the Canadian Foreign Service who served as Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations from 1986 to 1989. In the mid-1990s, he worked as a training coordinator for some 200 human rights monitors in Haiti. In the course of his career, Mr. Laberge has served in diplomatic posts in Washington, D.C., Algeria, Paris, Viet Nam, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania and Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr. O'Donnell was Director of Investigations of the Commission for Historical Clarification in Guatemala from July 1997 to January 1998. He has also worked as a consultant on children's and human rights for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). He was involved in standard- setting for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and a number of United Nations human rights bodies.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, members of the investigative team probing grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, were able to work freely for a full week in the northern part of the country, United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard told the press on Friday. He said that a team of six investigators was in Mbandaka and that an additional investigator will be added to that team over the weekend.

A separate four-person team had been interviewing refugees in the Central African Republic since last Sunday and received full cooperation from the local authorities, he said. The team will be returning to the Congo this weekend, Mr. Eckhard said. Another team had completed its interviews in the neighbouring Republic of Congo, according to Spokesman Eckhard.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that Sub- Saharan Africa risks being marginalized from the mainstream world economy unless it improves agricultural practices.

In a paper for discussion at the FAO's Regional Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next week, the agency says that many countries in the region have failed to adopt environmentally sustainable agricultural practices to improve productivity.

FAO calls for urgent action to transform agriculture and rationalize the exploitation of forests and other natural resources to halt the process of degradation which, it says, has characterized the last three decades. It says that the main cause of this situation is lack of policies to promote widespread gender-sensitive and environmentally sustainable agricultural technologies and practices to improve productivity.

While acknowledging that population growth has contributed to the degradation of natural resources in the region, the paper stresses that the main factor is policy failure to address this problem, to transform agriculture and make it sustainable and to rationalize the exploitation of forests and other natural resources.

The FAO paper also points out that a fundamental requirement for sustainable development is political and social stability. It says that environmental degradation often reflects the desperate competition for access to resources under unstable social conditions, adding that good governance, a pre-requisite for stable political and social climate, cannot be overemphasized.

The head of the United Nations refugee agency went to Cibitoke in Burundi on Friday to survey areas where Burundians are returning from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sadako Ogata, who arrived in Burundi on Thursday as part of her tour of nine African countries, was scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister, Pascal-Firmin Ndimira. She is expected to meet with President Major Pierre Buyoya on Saturday.

Mrs. Ogata went to Burundi following her visit to Tanzania where she met with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Reintegration of Displaced People and Refugees. The officials were very pleased to receive the High Commissioner's news that the Tanzanian Government had accepted the idea of a Tripartite mechanism, involving Tanzania, Burundi and UNHCR, to discuss issues related to the repatriation of Burundi refugees.

The United Nations Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia has expressed serious concern to the local authorities regarding violations of the right to choose language of instruction in schools.

The trouble is found in the Gali district of Abkhazia, where the population is estimated to be nearly 100 per cent Georgian. Children there in grades one through three are being instructed in Russian. In most of the schools in the district, the remaining higher classes are taught in Georgian, which was previously normal for all grades. The remaining two schools -- traditionally Russian -- forbid teaching in the Georgian language, even though 95 per cent of the students in those schools are ethnic Georgians, with the remainder being ethnic Armenian, Greek and Russian.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, the aim appears to be to phase out Georgian as the language of instruction, and convert all schools to the Russian language. Parents of the affected students brought the issue to the Office's attention in October 1997.

According to the Office, which communicated its concern to the de facto authorities in Sukhumi, they replied that "they do not approve of the Georgian history books, and they would concentrate on Abkhaz schools and Abkhaz language as a priority".

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday announced the appointment of Miles Stoby as Executive Director of the United Nations International Partnership Trust Fund (UNFIP). Mr. Stoby, a national of Guyana, will assume his new post on 1 March. The post will be at the level of Assistant Secretary- General, with Mr. Stoby reporting directly to the Secretary-General.

UNFIP has been established by the Secretary-General as an autonomous Trust Fund to interface with the United Nations Foundation, Inc., a public charity established by Ted Turner to channel his generous and historic gift of $1 billion in support of United Nations causes. UNFIP will provide the coordination and programming mechanisms to facilitate the solicitation, review, analysis, execution, monitoring and reporting arrangements of United Nations projects to be funded by the Foundation.

Last year, Mr. Stoby served as Deputy Executive Coordinator for United Nations Reform. From 1992 to 1996, he served as Director of the Division for Policy Coordination and Economic and Social Council Affairs in the Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development. From 1988 to 1992, Mr. Stoby was the Director of the Division of Economic and Social Council Affairs. He was Director-in-Charge of the Management Advisory Service and Central Evaluation Unit in the Department of Administration and Management in 1987 and 1988. From 1984 to 1987, he worked in the Department of Public Information as the Director of the Division for Economic and Social Information.

Mr. Stoby joined the United Nations in 1978 as Senior Officer, later Principal Officer, in the Office of the Director-General for Development and Economic Cooperation, where he remained until 1982.

Patrizio M. Civili of Italy has been appointed to the newly established post of Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter- Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The establishment of this position was approved by the General Assembly last December and is part of the Secretary-General's reform initiatives aimed at strengthening substantive support to the Economic and Social Council and the Assembly in the economic and social field, as well as to the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC).

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs, headed by Under- Secretary- General Nitin Desai, was created last year in the first phase of the Secretary-General's reform programme, which included the merger of three Headquarters departments in the economic and social area.

Mr. Civili is currently serving as Director in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General overseeing economic and social affairs. He also serves as Secretary of the ACC which, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General, comprises the executive heads of all specialized agencies, including the Bretton Woods institutions, and the heads of all United Nations programmes and funds. He will continue to act as ACC Secretary, responsible to the Secretary-General.

Mr. Civili joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1969 in the Office for Inter-Agency Affairs and Coordination -- a component of the Executive Offices of the Secretary-General which provided the secretariat of the ACC. He held a variety of posts throughout his career, including, from 1986 to 1992, as the senior member of the cabinet of the Secretary- General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and as Director for Programme Support and Management Services of UNCTAD.

Throughout his career, Mr. Civili has been closely associated with the work of the Economic and Social Council and the ACC, as well as with reform processes both at Headquarters and in Geneva. Special assignments have included acting as Deputy Secretary of the High-Level Group on the Restructuring of the Economic and Social Sectors of the United Nations System (1975).

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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