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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-22

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


Thursday, 22 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.

Latest Developments


  • Report to Security Council on Guinea-Bissau depicts "precarious" situation despite gains in disarmament.
  • UN Secretary-General welcomes efforts to alleviate debt burden of poorest countries.
  • UN commission for Asia urges collective action to sustain recovery from economic crisis.
  • Funding of efforts to fight AIDS outpaced by epidemic, UN-sponsored study finds.

Despite significant gains in the disarmament process in Guinea-Bissau, the situation on the ground remains precarious, according to a report submitted to the UN Security Council by a group of West African nations whose military observer force had been deployed in the country to monitor a ceasefire agreement.

The report, prepared by Lansana Kouyate, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), says that as the date of the elections draws nearer, the risks of tension developing between the loyalists and the junta and political parties will increase.

Under the Abuja Agreement of 1 November 1998, general and presidential elections were to be held not later than the end of March 1999. However, the delays in implementing the agreement made it impossible to hold the elections by the dates originally stipulated and Guinean parties later decided to hold those elections in June or July.

The report says that the ECOWAS Military Observer Group (ECOMOG) which was deployed in Guinea-Bissau in December 1998, has done excellent work as part of the implementation of the Abuja Agreement. It points out, however, that ECOMOG still has many tasks to accomplish in the country.

The ECOWAS report calls for what it describes as "appropriate friendly pressure" to be brought to bear on the parties to encourage them to resolve the crisis peacefully, avoid any institutional vacuum and refrain from recruiting and training new combatants and hiding weapons.

The report also notes that the "presence and effective action" in Guinea- Bissau of United Nations humanitarian agencies would be of great help to the country. "Adequate assistance, promptly provided, would do much to alleviate the suffering of displaced persons and refugees," the ECOWAS report says.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed the efforts made by the members of the Group of Seven donor countries to alleviate the debt burden of the poorest countries.

In a statement issued by his spokesman in New York, the Secretary-General also said that the announcement by Japan that it planned to cancel $7.82 billion of the debt to the poorest countries was in line with similar proposals made by the other Group of Seven nations. The donor countries are planning to convert to grants or cancel a large part of their official bilateral debt.

The Secretary-General said that he was gratified by these expressions of international cooperation. He expressed the hope that the donor countries would support additional measures to enable the multilateral financial institutions to reduce the debt burden of the poorest countries and provide additional resources to reverse the trend of declining Official Development Assistance, known as ODA.

Collective action is urgently needed to sustain the recovery from the financial crisis that has gripped the countries of Asia and the Pacific for nearly two years, the head of the United Nations regional commission said on Thursday.

Speaking in Bangkok at the opening of the annual session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Executive Secretary Adrianus Mooy said there were some "hopeful signs of recovery", including in several of the hardest hit countries.

This year's session of ESCAP, the largest of UN's five regional commissions, began with a three-day Senior Officials' segment in preparation for next week's Ministerial-level meeting, which is expected to culminate in the adoption of a plan of action and resolutions.

The focus of today's debate was on policies to strengthen intra-regional trade and investment flows and to take advantage of new opportunities in the aftermath of the crisis. In the discussions, the delegates highlighted four areas with the potential for reviving intra-regional trade flows: the liberalization of trade in services, commodity price risk management, trade facilitation and Internet commerce, and trade and investment information networking.

Delegates also noted that the current crisis has revealed fundamental weaknesses in the local economies. They urged appropriate policy responses to achieve structural changes not only in the financial sector but in industrial and technological areas, particularly in the small- and medium- sized enterprises.

Wealthy countries' level of support for the international fight against the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is being vastly outpaced by the epidemic, according to the findings of a UN-sponsored study released on Thursday.

"Weighed against the global catastrophe of the AIDS epidemic, the level of spending for HIV prevention around the world is minimal," said Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The study, prepared by UNAIDS and the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard University School of Public Health, points out that donor nations are providing approximately $350 million a year for an epidemic that has already infected 47 million people and grows by nearly 6 million new infections annually.

The study examined donor spending on national, regional and international efforts to address HIV/AIDS, and national HIV/AIDS spending among developing countries for the years 1996 and 1997.

The report used available historical data from a group of countries that together comprise 75% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding to uncover a global spending trend for the years 1987 to 1997. After a quick influx of donor support, AIDS funding began to level off in 1990, the study found. Between 1990 and 1997, when the number of people living with HIV more than tripled to reach 30.3 million, HIV/AIDS funding rose only from $165 million to $273 million.

"Twenty years into the epidemic is alarming that AIDS is expanding three times faster than the funding to control it," said Dr. Piot. He stressed that donor countries must realize that their substantial investments towards improving conditions in developing countries would be effectively obliterated unless more was invested in fighting AIDS -- "the single greatest threat to global development today."

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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