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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-18
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 18 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.
As Secretary-General Kofi Annan prepared to depart for Iraq on a diplomatic mission aimed at averting military action, the Security Council threw its full support behind his efforts.
After being briefed by Mr. Annan on Wednesday, Council members expressed their "complete confidence in the Secretary-General's ability to find the ways and means of resolving the crisis" relating to the United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq. "The Security Council gives its full support to the Secretary-General's mission because its success would have a real impact on the implementation of United Nations resolutions by Iraq," said Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon, on behalf of the Council members.
The Secretary-General welcomed the Council's full support. "I'm happy that on this issue and at this critical stage the unanimity of the Council has been re-established and that the members are behind what I'm going to Baghdad to do," he told reporters in New York. "I'm also encouraged by the message coming from Baghdad that they are prepared to engage me constructively to find a solution," he added.
Mr. Annan referred to the magnitude of the task ahead, stating, "Obviously this is not going to be an easy mission -- its a difficult mission coming at a very critical juncture."
Over the past week, the Secretary-General held a series of discussions with representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council. "I had made it very clear that a trip had to be prepared very carefully both here and in Baghdad, and I needed to have the elements and have a reasonable chance of success before I left," Mr. Annan said, adding, "that's why I'm leaving."
Responding to a reporter's question, Mr. Annan said he hoped he would not have to stay very long, but added "I will stay as long as it takes."
"Diplomacy is nearly exhausted, and I think the Secretary-General's efforts could be amongst the last, if not the last," said United States Ambassador Bill Richardson. He told the press that the Secretary- General's mission should endeavour to enforce Security Council resolutions, gain "free, unconditional, unfettered access" to all sites by United Nations inspectors, and guarantee the "complete integrity and inviolability" of the United Nations Special Commission.
Meanwhile, the Council is still considering a proposal by the Secretary- General to expand the oil-for-food programme for Iraq. Mr. Annan proposed raising the ceiling of Iraq's oil revenues from $2 billion every six months to $5.2 billion over the same period. The money is used, in large part, to fund humanitarian operations in the country.
In a new letter to the Secretary-General, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said his country has the capacity to export a maximum of $4 billion worth of petroleum. Mr. Aziz called any higher target "unrealistic and unfeasible". He further asserted that "the insistence on putting forward figures which exceed Iraq's real capacities does nothing but complicate the situation and increase the problems involved, the main result being to hinder the implementation of the plan's humanitarian objective."
The United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) on Wednesday expressed concern at the number of house burnings in Drvar.
United Nations Spokesman Alexander Ivanko told reporters in Sarajevo that three house burnings had occurred in the last three days. In one case, he said, the owner was due to return to his house next month.
Spokesman Ivanko said that the Deputy Commissioner for the United Nations International Police Task Force (IPTF), Werner Schumm, was on his way to the town to meet with the Chief of Police on the issue. Schumm would also ask to see the local police's operational plans and investigations into the recent incidents, the Spokesman added.
UNMIBH was also concerned about three other incidents which had occurred in the Velika Kladusa area. Two houses belonging to the Democratic National Community (DNZ) supporters had been hit by rocket propelled grenades, and on Tuesday, a DNZ supporter claimed that he had been threatened by a man at a market near Velika Kladusa. According to Mr. Ivanko, all of the victims believed that the incidents had been politically motivated.
The Spokesman added that the IPTF would closely monitor the police investigations into those incidents.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned of a likely deterioration of the food situation in rural areas of Sierra Leone.
In its Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture report, FAO said on Wednesday that while the food supply situation in Freetown might improve following recent events, it was likely to worsen in rural areas.
FAO also pointed out that since the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) military forces were now in control of Freetown, the economic embargo in force since August 1997 might be relaxed or lifted, allowing some improvement in the functioning of food markets and the flow of relief supplies to the capital.
FAO pointed out that since the imposition of the economic embargo, very little humanitarian assistance had been provided to Sierra Leone despite an agreement between the United Nations and ECOWAS on exemptions for such assistance. Furthermore, restricted internal commercial activity and poor infrastructure severely hampered the movement of available food and led to skyrocketing food prices. If the embargo was lifted, FAO said, the supply situation in the capital would ease and prices would decline.
FAO warned, however, that if fighting spread to the rural areas, which remained relatively calm during 1997, more people would be displaced. In addition, agricultural activities, which normally start in April, would be hampered. Heightened insecurity would also impede the distribution of inputs to farmers. FAO added that fighters might possibly loot cassava fields and rice stocks. As a result, crop production might fall in this year if peace was not fully restored throughout the country, said FAO.
The Food and Agriculture Organization said that the recent fighting in Sierra Leone also increased the number of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to approximately 250,000. It expressed concern about their nutrition and health situation. FAO warned that with household food stocks exhausted or looted, the nutritional situation of the IDPs was likely to deteriorate unless there were rapid interventions.
A second United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) convoy reached the earthquake-stricken Takhar region in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday.
The six-truck convoy carried 50 tonnes of food and other relief supplies to the stranded survivors of the earthquake, which rocked the region on 4 February. Ten tonnes of supplies were distributed to the victims in the region and the remaining 40 tonnes will be flown by helicopter to remote areas, WFP said. The United Nations food agency said that the distribution was conducted by United Nations staff and representatives of non- governmental organizations and the community.
According to WFP, the convoy took seven days to complete the 315- kilometre trip from Faizabad in Badakshan province. The journey had been hampered by a snowstorm and extremely poor road conditions.
WFP said that a third WFP convoy carrying 71 tonnes of food was expected to arrive in Rostaq in approximately two days after crossing the Amu Darya (Oxus River) on rafts made of wood and tractor tyres.
The United Nations food agency estimates that 30,000 Afghans in the Takhar region will need approximately 1,500 tonnes of relief food aid for the next three months due to the loss of all food supplies, including livestock. Faced with severe winter conditions, the victims are also in immediate need of medical supplies, tents and blankets. Other urgent needs are vehicles to transport supplies and generators, according to the United Nations food agency.
Viable economic alternatives to cultivating and trafficking illicit drugs must be created, the Executive Director of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Pino Arlacchi, told the United Nations Commission for Social Development on Wednesday.
Mr. Arlacchi said his Office was striving to eliminate illicit crop cultivation over the next 10 years, but it counted on the active support of donors for alternative forms of development.
Another key factor in the fight against drugs, he added, was convincing the world community that the problem could be solved. The final goal of anti- drug efforts should be eliminating the problem, not coexisting with it. The General Assembly's special session on international drug control, scheduled for June, would start the real war against drugs and convince nations and people that there could be a drug- free world. That session would be called upon to adopt a Declaration on the guiding principles of demand reduction, Mr. Arlacchi said. He invited governments to give their full support to that initiative.
The international community had instruments to address the drug problem, he noted. The drug control treaties had yielded positive results. On the eve of the twenty-first century, the international community must define the legacy it wished to pass on to the next generation in the field of drug control, crime prevention and criminal justice. The security and health of individuals and society at large were at stake.
On the issue of trafficking in persons, Mr. Arlacchi said that over 200 million people were today subject to contemporary forms of slavery, which was estimated to generate some $6 billion annually. The United Nations Office at Vienna was undertaking a global study to better understand the problem and to propose measures to dismantle the networks involved.
The outlook for world food supplies has improved somewhat, but stocks of cereal remain below minimum safe levels for world food security, according to the United Nations food agency.
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported on Wednesday that 1997 saw an increase in global cereal output, but this year, a near record number of countries are facing food supply problems. Thirty-seven countries -- up six from last year -- will suffer shortages largely as a result of the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon.
The early outlook for 1998 cereal crops is mixed, according to FAO. Good wheat crops are expected in Western Europe, North Africa and India, but conditions are unfavourable in China, Pakistan and parts of Eastern Europe. While the impact of El Nino was not as bad as expected in Southern Africa and Latin America, it did reduce rice plantings and yields in Southeast Asia.
Rice prices rose as a result of the increased import needs of several Asian countries, FAO reported. By contrast, international wheat and coarse grains prices have weakened thanks to improved supply and reduced demand.
The United Nations health agency has announced a new flu vaccine aimed at combating new strains of the influenza virus.
Experts meeting at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday recommended a change in the components used in last year's flu vaccines. Their recommendation is aimed at national authorities, and is timed to allow companies to prepare new vaccines in advance of the flu season. Normally, the influenza season in the northern hemisphere runs from October to March, while in the southern hemisphere, it runs from June to August.
WHO strongly advocates the use of vaccines to prevent the spread of influenza, which can be fatal. Although the degree of protection offered by vaccines varies from person to person, 50 to 80 per cent of those immunized can be protected if the vaccine matches the flu strains in circulation.
The head of human resources management has announced the setting up of a task force to review the management of the United Nations staff.
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management Rafiah Salim told the press in New York on Wednesday that the setting up of the Task Force was part of the United Nations Secretary-General's reform programme to strengthen the Organization's management and staff.
She said that the Task Force will focus primarily on the need to align the staff with the United Nations' mission, structure, culture, capacity to handle changes and ongoing process of reform.
Ms. Salim recalled that the Secretary-General had stated in his reform paper that the United Nations staff would have to be highly competent, multi-skilled, versatile and mobile. "We are also moving towards developing a culture that is mission-driven and results-oriented, thus needing staff and managers who are very performance-driven", she added.
The Task Force will also review and recommend revisions to the current mechanisms for attracting, recruiting, developing as well as training staff to meet the qualities required for the future of the United Nations, Ms. Salim said.
Furthermore, the Assistant Secretary-General pointed out, the Task force will review the existing personnel rules and regulations. "We have very, very complex rules" she said adding that they will have to be simplified and, if needed, modernized to render the system more transparent while enhancing managerial responsibilities and accountability.
The Task Force, which comprises experts outside the United Nations system in human resources management from various regions of the world, will submit its findings and recommendations to the Secretary-General before the next session of the General Assembly.
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