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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-13

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 13 April, 1999

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.


  • UN Commission on Human Rights strongly condemns policy of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo.
  • Refugee children from Kosovo face acute distress and trauma, says UNICEF.
  • Nearly 5,000 Kosovo refugees cross into Albania, says UN agency.
  • UN Secretary-General ends official visit to Spain.
  • Security Council calls for immediate halt to fighting between Eritrea, Ethiopia.
  • High output, strong prices combine to generate lofty revenues for Iraq oil programme.
  • UN cultural agency publishes General History of Africa.
  • UN labour agency tells job safety forum over one million work- related deaths occur each year.

The UN Commission on Human Rights has strongly condemned the policy of "ethnic cleansing" perpetrated by the Yugoslav authorities against the Kosovars.

In a resolution adopted in Geneva on Tuesday, the 53-member Commission demanded that the Yugoslav authorities immediately sign and implement all aspects of the Rambouillet Agreement.

The Commission expressed deep concern at the continued campaign of repression and "gross and systematic" violations of the human rights of the Kosovars following the revocation of autonomy by the Yugoslav authorities.

The resolution was adopted by 43 votes in favour with one against and six abstentions. A UN spokesman said that although not binding, the resolution carries the moral authority of the international community through the highest UN human rights body.

The acute distress and trauma suffered by hundreds of thousands of refugee children from Kosovo was one of the main challenges facing relief workers, according to the Head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

About half of the 517,000 Kosovar refugees who have poured out of the province in the last three weeks are children under the age of 15.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, who just returned from visiting Kosovo refugees in Albania, said in a press release on Tuesday that in addition to supplying emergency aid, some of the most important long-term work was in programmes to help children cope with emotional stress, through play and educational activities.

In Kukes, Albania, UNICEF is helping a network of local trauma counsellors create positive stimulation for young children through the play groups. In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, tent schools are being created and local teachers and counsellors are being trained to cope with the special psycho-social needs of refugee children. Bellamy also said the needs of children still inside Kosovo and in Serbia and Montenegro, would have to be addressed, once conditions permitted the return of international relief agencies.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported on Tuesday that nearly 5,000 new refugees from Kosovo poured into Albania overnight, the majority driving tractors pulling cars that had run out of gasoline.

One group of refugees told UNHCR that they had been turned back from the Kosovo border on 4 April after Yugoslav President Milosevic announced a unilateral ceasefire. Serbian police sent them back to their village where they stayed in houses, surrounded by snipers, until Tuesday, when the police told them to go to the border. There they were stripped of their money and identification documents before being allowed to cross into Albania.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UNHCR and its partner agencies were expected to complete the takeover of Kosovo refugee camps from NATO next week, said a UN spokesman. The UN agency was also registering the refugee population, a process which would make it possible to manage delivery of assistance, reunite divided families, and identify candidates for humanitarian evacuation to other countries.

Meanwhile, UNHCR said it was receiving many inquiries from around the world about the possibility of adopting unaccompanied refugee children. At this stage, no Kosovar refugee children were available for adoption. While children had been separated from their families during their flight, they were not necessarily orphans. UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross and other agencies, were giving top priority to tracing family members of separated children and to family reunification.

Kosovo was on the agenda during talks between United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan and Spanish government leaders on Tuesday in Madrid.

The Secretary-General, who was on the last day of an official visit to Spain, met with the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Manuel Pimental Silas, for discussions on social issues such as child labour and the status of women. He also met with the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, or Parliament, Federico Trillo, and then joined a working session of the Chamber's Foreign Affairs Committee. In impromptu remarks, Mr. Annan emphasized the importance of human rights and discussed his proposal to end the crisis in Kosovo.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Secretary-General attended a private lunch hosted by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia. After lunch, Jose Borrel, a candidate of the Spanish Socialist Party paid a courtesy call. The Secretary-General had a final meeting with Foreign Minister Abel Matutes and the Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Fernando Villialonga.

Mr. Annan will travel to Brussels on Wednesday to attend a summit of the Council of the European Union, which will discuss the situation in Kosovo. He will return to New York on Thursday.

The Security Council on Tuesday reiterated its call for an immediate halt to fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

In a statement to reporters, Security Council President Ambassador Alain Dejammet of France said members of the Council strongly supported the efforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to promote a peaceful resolution to the border dispute.

Ambassador Dejammet said the Council welcomed the Secretary- General's decision to send his special envoy for Africa, Mohamed Sahnoun, to the region in support of efforts by the Organization for African Unity (OAU) to end the dispute and called upon both countries to cooperate with Mr. Sahnoun.

The Security Council also condemned the assassination of President Ibrahim Mainassar Bare of Niger last Friday and called on those who seized power to restore the rule of law and to respect fundamental rights and freedoms, Ambassador Dejammet said.

Relatively high output and strong prices combined to generate one of the highest weekly revenue totals since the Iraq oil-for-food programme began more than two years ago, a UN spokesman said Tuesday.

In its latest update, the Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP) reported that between 3 and 9 April, Iraq exported 16.7 million barrels of oil for an estimated $211 million, the spokesman said.

The OIP also announced that the Security Council committee overseeing the sanctions regime on Iraq lifted the hold on a contract to provide one million doses of vaccine against foot and mouth disease. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in February that the epidemic of livestock diseases in Iraq needed urgent attention to avoid a threat to human health and food security, the spokesman said.

A three-million year account of the history of Africa has been published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The public presentation of the text -- in eight volumes of between 800 and 1000 pages each -- was made on Monday in Tripoli, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, at the final meeting of the International Scientific Committee, which was responsible for the publication. The research took nearly 350 scholars 20 years to complete.

The project was conceived in the 1960s but began in 1971. Two-thirds of the members of the Committee, which was established in 1970 by UNESCO's Executive Board to accomplish this work, were African.

The publication is now available in Arabic, English and French. An assortment of parts has, however, also been published in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Hausa, Peulh, Korean and Kiswahili. At the presentation ceremony, famous Ghanaian historian Adu Boahen, the president of the International Scientific Committee, described the publication as a "phenomenal success."

More than one million work-related deaths occur each year and hundreds of millions of workers suffer from workplace accidents and occupational exposure to hazardous substances worldwide, according to estimates by the UN's labour agency.

In a statement to the 15th World Congress on Occupational Safety and Health, the chief of the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Health and Safety programme, Dr. Jukka Takala, told delegates that workplace deaths exceeded the average annual deaths from road accidents (999,000), war (502, 000), violence (563,000) and HIV/AIDS (312,000).

Approximately one-quarter of the 1.1 million deaths each year resulted from exposure to hazardous substances which cause such disabling illnesses as cancer and cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous-system disorders, he said.

In addition, deaths and injuries continued to take a particularly heavy toll in developing countries, where large numbers of workers were concentrated in primary and extraction activities such as agriculture, logging, fishing and mining -- some of the world's most hazardous industries, he said.

Dr. Takala said a large proportion of the deaths and injuries by workers could be attributed to inadequate safety and health information and urged delegates to set a number of measurable targets for improving occupational health and safety.

The World Congress is meeting in Rio de Janeiro to discuss a variety of workplace-related issues, including the management of occupational safety and health (OSH); the improvement and control of working conditions and the environment and OSH problems with regard to child labour and gender issues.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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