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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-08-03

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Monday, 3 August, 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 to host working dinner for Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Portugal in advance of East Timor talks.
  • Secretary-General's Panel of Eminent Persons concludes series of meetings in Algeria.
  • United Nations and partner humanitarian agencies say Sudan faces worst food crisis in 10 years.
  • Genocide suspect Milan Kovacevic dies of natural causes at International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia.
  • World Health Organization issues warning on health hazards of motor vehicle exhaust, especially diesel fuel.
  • United Nations marks "Friendship Day" at Headquarters.
  • United Nations prepares commemorative events for International Day of World's Indigenous People.

On the eve of talks on East Timor set to take place at United Nations Headquarters, the Secretary-General plans to host a dinner for the Foreign Ministers of Portugal and Indonesia on Monday evening.

The talks are scheduled to take place from 4 to 5 August. At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 August, the Secretary-General will begin separate meetings with the two Foreign Ministers. Mr. Annan is then expected to chair a joint meeting between the two starting at 11 a.m. The Secretary- General will then return to his other official duties and will be represented at the talks by his Personal Representative, Jamsheed Marker. The discussions are scheduled to continue on Tuesday afternoon and to conclude the following day at around 1 p.m.

Asked to comment on the meeting's prospects, United Nations Spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt said "it is going to have a good beginning." He expressed the hope that the Secretary-General's dinner with the two Foreign Ministers would "help ease them in into a good and productive session."

The Secretary-General's Panel of Eminent Persons has concluded its series of meetings in Algeria and is now due to report back on the results of its two-week mission to the country.

On Monday, Panel members met with Algerian President Liamine Zeroual. This followed a series of meetings on Sunday with civic leaders, including Boudiaf Ahmed Reda, the President of the National Bar Association, and Mahfoud Nahnah, the President of the Mouvement de la société pour la paix. Panel members also met with Saida Behabyles, the Spokesperson for the National Alliance of Women's Associations along with a group of other women's organizations.

In other meetings held over the weekend, Panel members held discussions with former Minister Leila Aslaoui and with lawyer Mohamed Tahri on Saturday. They also met directly with families of disappeared persons and survivors as well as relatives of victims of massacres.

"The Panel has listened to a range of views and submissions, and it is grateful for the cooperation it has received from all concerned," said United Nations Spokesman Hassen Fodha. "The Panel is particularly appreciative to the Government and people of Algeria for the cordiality of their welcome," he added, extending the Panel's best wishes to the Algerian people.

The Panel is headed by Mario Soares, the former President of Portugal. Its other members are I.K. Gujral, the former Prime Minister of India; Abdel Karim Kabariti, the former Prime Minister of Jordan; Donald McHenry, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations; Simone Veil, former Secretary of State of France; and Amos Wako, Attorney-General of Kenya.

Following its mission, the panel will present a report to the Secretary- General, which he will make public.

Sudan is facing its worst humanitarian aid crisis in 10 years, according to a group of United Nations agencies and partner humanitarian relief organizations which collectively form "Operation Lifeline Sudan."

In a position paper released on Monday, Operation Lifeline Sudan describes Sudan's increasingly dire situation. "In southern Sudan, coping mechanisms have been largely exhausted. Reflecting serious food shortages, people are resorting to the consumption of fruits and plants, and the sale and slaughter of livestock." The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is currently targeting some 2.6 million people throughout the country, mostly women and children.

"Emergency non-food needs are increasingly acute as people become weaker," the paper points out. "Malnutrition rates among children under five have reached unprecedented levels of over 60 per cent in some locations in Bahr Al Ghazal, and the incidence of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases is rising."

Operation Lifeline Sudan warns that Sudan faces a continued need for emergency health services, nutrition, clean water supplies and other relief and shelter items, such as plastic sheeting, blankets, cooking pots and mosquito netting.

In response to the crisis, Operation Lifeline Sudan has launched its most comprehensive humanitarian operation since its formation 10 years ago. "The food airdrop alone is the largest in the 35-year history of WFP." In addition to distributing food, Operation Lifeline Sudan is providing integrated nutrition services, including supplementary and therapeutic feeding, emergency health interventions, and water and sanitation programmes.

These efforts are expected to bear fruit in a month or so, according to the paper. "However, even at this level, it is not likely that all of the needs will be met by current Operation Lifeline Sudan member agencies alone," it warns. Efforts are under way to encourage other agencies to join the relief effort.

Operation Lifeline Sudan faces a number of obstacles, including restrictions on access, funding shortages and logistical constraints. In a country with four million displaced persons -- the largest displaced population in the world -- relief agencies have difficulty reaching those in need. "With added logistical capacity, improved donor response and recruitment of additional staff, this problem is being addressed," the paper states. But it also cites unconfirmed reports that "food is being diverted by armed men and that some of the most needy are unable to access food because they fall outside of traditional kinship networks" which are used to distribute food.

Operation Lifeline Sudan recommends that instead of considering massive relief assistance as a viable long-term solution, the international community should continue to advocate for political solutions that will bring peace and security to Sudan.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia announced on Saturday that genocide suspect Milan Kovacevic had passed away in his cell that morning.

The Tribunal's medical officer on duty reported that the death was due to natural causes, presumably a massive heart attack, according to the Tribunal. Mr. Kovacevic's family and his counsel were informed, as were the Dutch authorities and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The 47-year old suspect was detained by the NATO Stabilisation Force (SFOR) on 10 July 1997 in Prijedor under an indictment issued by the Tribunal in March 1997.

Mr. Kovacevic's trial began on 6 July 1998. He was facing charges of genocide, complicity to commit genocide, crime against humanity, violation of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions of 1949.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the connection between carcinogens found in diesel exhaust and lung cancer.

At the European Forum on Transport, Environment and Health, organized jointly by WHO and the Government of Austria, scientists are examining a new class of potent mutagenic compounds found in diesel exhaust which is thought to be among the key factors contributing to lung cancer. Participants have also been examining evidence linking childhood cancer and motor vehicle exhaust.

Dr. Gerd Oberfeld of the Austrian Medical Association told the gathering in Vienna that combustion engines are compromising the health of millions of Europeans every day. "People are suffering from increased coughs, asthma attacks, from acute and chronic bronchitis as well as from heart and circulatory problems," he said.

According to WHO's most recent estimates, some 80,000 deaths a year can be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution caused by road traffic. Professional drivers and road workers face the greatest risk, followed by the elderly and the very young.

"Redesigning our urban transport policies could bring massive health benefits for Europe," said Dr. Carlos Dora, an environmental epidemiologist at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. He pointed out that cars contribute to a sedentary lifestyle. "Increased physical activity, especially walking and cycling, will reduce death and disability from chronic disease and improve the quality of life."

On Monday, the United Nations observed Friendship Day by holding a concert for children on the outdoor plaza on the grounds of its Headquarters.

The event was hosted by Nane Annan, wife of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, with the participation of Kathie Lee Gifford, co-host of the ABC talk show "LIVE with Regis & Kathie Lee." Disney recording artists Marco Marinangeli and Tyler Collins performed, and children were treated to appearances by the Disney characters Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore.

Performers sang in front of a colourful backdrop: the Global Pooh Friendship Flag, which is made up of winning entries in an art contest sponsored by Disney. Each of the winners, who ranged in age from 4 to 75 years old and came from Australia, Japan, Mexico and the United States, received a trip to New York City with his or her best friend including a visit to the United Nations.

Winnie the Pooh was created by British author A.A. Milne in 1924, and brought to the screen by Walt Disney in 1956. These classic children's stories relate the adventures of a young boy, Christopher Robin, and his assortment of animal friends, including a bear named Winnie the Pooh. Together, with their different strengths and weaknesses, they help each other out of various mishaps.

Friendship Day is an outgrowth of National Friendship Day, established by the United States Congress in 1935. Last year on this day at Headquarters, Mrs. Annan presented Winnie the Pooh with the honourary title, "Ambassador of Friendship."

The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Public Information (DPI) and Disney Consumer Products, a division of Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Indigenous people from around the world are expected to gather at United Nations Headquarters in observance of a international day in their honour, observed annually on 9 August, but commemorated this year on 5 and 6 August.

The first event marking the International Day of the World's Indigenous People will be a drum convocation at 11:30 a.m. on 5 August at the United Nations Visitors Entrance Plaza. Statements from Kofi Annan, Secretary- General of the United Nations, and Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will then be read. At 12 noon, the traditional Sacred Pipe Ceremony will be carried out by Dr. Arvol Looking Horse (Lakota), 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred Buffalo Calf Pipe, followed by musical presentations. Nana Osei Boakye Yiadom II, Chief from Aburi-Akuapem, Ghana, will offer a blessing for children. Jose Luis Piaroa, an elder and community leader from the Venezuelan Amazon, will make a ceremonial presentation.

That afternoon, at 3:30 pm., a panel discussion and dialogue will be held on the topic of "Education and Language" þ- the theme for the year 1998 as agreed in the programme for the International Decade for the World's Indigenous People (1995-2004). On Thursday, 6 August, a day-long workshop will focus on United Nations human rights programmes and activities with special attention to specific issues of particular interest to indigenous peoples, such as the environment and development, land rights and children's rights.

The International Day of the World's Indigenous People was created in the context of the International Decade for the World's Indigenous People. Both were proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994. The date of 9 August was designated as the Day because of its significance as the anniversary of the first meeting in 1982 of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. This date is viewed by many as the beginning of United Nations dialogue efforts on behalf of indigenous people.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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