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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-08-31
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.com
Monday, 31 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.
The Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of all foreign forces, and the initiation of a peaceful process for political dialogue in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In a presidential statement read out on Monday by its president, Ambassador Danilo Turk of Slovenia, the Security Council expressed its deep concern about the current conflict in the country which, it said, posed a serious threat to regional peace and security. It expressed alarm at the plight of the civilian population throughout the country.
The Council reaffirmed the obligation to respect the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other States in the region and the need for all States to refrain from any interference in each other's internal affairs. In this context, the Council called for a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Security Council expressed support for all the regional diplomatic initiatives aimed at a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The Council said that the problems of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be solved on the basis of a process of all-inclusive reconciliation which fully respected the equality and harmony of all ethnic groups, and which would lead to the holding of democratic, free and fair elections as soon as possible.
The Council urged all parties to respect and protect human rights and respect humanitarian law, in particular the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols of 1977. It condemned reported summary executions, torture, harassment and detention of civilians based on their ethnic origin, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, the killing or wounding of combatants who had laid down their weapons, hate propaganda, sexual violence and other abuses.
In particular, the Council called for the protection of the civilian population. It recalled the unacceptability of the destruction or rendering useless of objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, and in particular, of using cuts in the electricity and water supply as a weapon against the population. The Council reaffirmed that all persons who committed or ordered the commission of these grave breaches were individually responsible for such breaches.
The Security Council also called for safe and unhindered access for humanitarian agencies to those in need, irrespective of their location. It urged all parties to guarantee the safety and security of United Nations and humanitarian personnel.
The Council encouraged the Secretary-General to consult urgently with regional leaders in coordination with the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) about ways to bring about a peaceful and durable solution to the conflict, and to keep it informed about developments and his own efforts. It reaffirmed the importance of holding an international conference on peace, security and development in the Great Lakes region under the auspices of the United Nations and the OAU.
During a brief official visit to Cote d'Ivoire on Monday, Secretary- General Kofi Annan discussed African issues with the country's President, Henri Konan Bedie, for about two hours.
The Secretary-General also discussed Africa in a subsequent meeting with Foreign Minister Amara Essy. He later met with representatives of United Nations agencies and other United Nations staff in Cote d'Ivoire.
The Secretary-General will continue his official visit in Africa by travelling to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was expected to arrive late Monday, according to his Spokesman, Fred Eckhard. On Tuesday, Mr. Annan will meet with eminent South African personalities to discuss governance and poverty eradication.
Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General will then meet with members of the United Nations family in South Africa before proceeding to the University of Witwatersrand, where he will receive an honorary degree. In the late afternoon on Tuesday, the Secretary-General is scheduled to leave for Durban, South Africa to attend the twelfth summit of the Non- Aligned Movement.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg, has urged all parties in the country to exercise restraint to ensure that Cambodians can enjoy their right to freedom of assembly in a safe and peaceful manner.
In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Hammarberg reacted to a peaceful demonstration under way in front of Cambodia's National Assembly. He warned that both the authorities and the demonstrators have responsibilities which, if not properly observed, may result in violence, injury and death. He urged that only violent demonstrations -- or those that may lead to violence -- should be broken up or banned. The minimum force necessary should be used to break up demonstrations, he stressed, and in no case should lethal force be exerted.
"Freedom of assembly should not be limited because of the threat from outside groups against demonstrators," Mr. Hammarberg went on. "Instead, it is the duty of the police and other relevant authorities to protect demonstrators from threats from political opponents and others," he pointed out.
The Special Representative observed that so far, the demonstrators have behaved in a generally peaceful manner, but he expressed deep concern about recent public statements by political leaders which may incite violence against a particular political party or ethnic group. He reiterated his earlier call that public speakers refrain from using any xenophobic rhetoric, particularly directed against persons of Vietnamese origin.
According to Mr. Hammarberg, no serious violence has been carried out by demonstrators in Cambodia since 1993. The only such violence has been aimed at the demonstrators, he stated.
Freedom of assembly is guaranteed under international and Cambodian law. Cambodia is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects "the right of peaceful assembly." Articles 37 and 41 of the Cambodian Constitution also protect the "right to peacefully demonstrate" and "freedom of assembly," the Special Representative noted.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday appealed to the international community to assist Bangladesh in the wake of devastating floods there.
"The Secretary-General is deeply distressed over the widespread devastation caused by flooding in Bangladesh, where two thirds of the country now lie under water," said his Spokesman, Fred Eckhard.
The Secretary-General called on the international community to respond "quickly and generously" to an appeal launched on Wednesday by the Government of Bangladesh for urgently needed assistance.
"The Secretary-General extends his condolences to all families who have suffered losses as a result of this disaster and wishes to reiterate that the United Nations is prepared to assist Bangladesh in its relief efforts in every way possible," Mr. Eckhard concluded.
The United Nations system is providing some $1.16 million in assistance to flood victims in Bangladesh. Participating agencies include the United Nations Development Programme, the World Food Programme, the United Children's Fund and the World Health Organization.
Many of the world's leading scientists in the field of global environmental change will come together at a meeting in Nairobi hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) starting on Tuesday.
The seven-day meeting will review the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, which was established in 1986 to generate an understanding about the processes that regulate the earth as well as the impact of human activities.
"We need a better understanding of how the natural functioning of the Earth's system impacts on human activities and interests," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus T”pfer, affirming the importance of the gathering. "More importantly, we have to learn to think through the environmental consequences of our decisions and our actions," he noted.
Among the scheduled events is a two-day science symposium on "living with global change in Africa" which will serve to give scientists the opportunity to examine the variety and quality of ongoing research on the continent.
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