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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-23

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Friday, 23 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


  • General Assembly confirms appointment of new head of UN Development Programme.
  • Two UN agencies concerned at lack of donor support for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
  • UN refugee agency reports signs of ongoing insecurity in Liberia and Guinea.
  • Top UN aid official calls for immediate release of relief worker abducted in Somalia.
  • UN Secretary-General appoints new judge for Rwanda tribunal.

The General Assembly on Friday confirmed the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown, a senior World Bank official with extensive background in UN humanitarian work, corporate management and communications, as the new head of the UN's lead agency involved in development activities.

Mr. Malloch Brown, who was nominated for the post of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will begin his four-year term of office on 1 July.

In that position, he will succeed James Gustave Speth, who had informed the Secretary-General of his intention to resign halfway through his second term to take up a post at Yale University.

Introducing Mr. Malloch Brown at a press conference at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General highlighted the three main criteria that guided his choice of the appointee: experience of management in a major organization, a strong and effective advocacy of UN development activities, and the need to establish a close working relationship between UNDP and the World Bank.

"He is a most articulate and persuasive person, who all his life has been devoted in one way or other to the cause of development," the Secretary- General said, pointing in particular to Mr. Malloch Brown's success in upgrading the World Bank's presence in Europe and in attracting funds from donors both there and elsewhere, including persuading Congress to clear the US arrears.

In his remarks to the UN press corps, Mr. Malloch Brown said he would work towards building what he called a "great development partnership" of the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions "to tackle the great issues of poverty reduction and development and quality of life for people everywhere."

At the press conference, the Secretary-General paid tribute to Mr. Gustave Speth for advancing and then translating into action a vision of development that was both sustainable and centred on the real-life experience of human beings. The Secretary-General stressed that Mr. Speth had made an "invaluable contribution" to the success of the UN reform programme by revitalizing UNDP and getting the new UN Development Group off to "a flying start."

Two United Nations aid agencies expressed concern on Friday at the lack of donor support for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

Guillermo Bettocchi, Officer-in-Charge of UNHCR's office in Pakistan, told a news conference in Islamabad that the agency's efforts were slowed down by a shortage of donor funding needed for repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and their reintegration inside the country. In line with previous years, there were plans to assist the repatriation of some 100,000 persons in 1999, for which UNHCR would need a minimum of $2.4 million, Mr. Bettocchi said.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) was facing similar problem, according to Ms. Susan Manuel, WFP's Regional Public Affairs Officer. She said that on 30 April WFP was very likely to stop feeding 20,000 extremely vulnerable refugees in Pakistan due to a lack of resources from donors. That group of refugees, part of a wave who had fled to Pakistan following the Taleban takeover of Kabul in 1996, now resided in two camps near Peshawar, Pakistan, Ms. Manuel said. WFP was making last-ditch appeals to various countries, fearing that these Afghans would face severe hardship without external assistance.

Ms. Manuel added, however, that according to WFP and UNHCR surveys, the majority of longer-term refugees had become economically self-sufficient and did not face severe food shortages in Pakistan. She also noted that WFP had earmarked sufficient food in Afghanistan for the 100,000 persons that UNHCR planned to repatriate from Pakistan.

According to the UN officials, financial constraints encountered by UNHCR and WFP pre-dated the Kosovo crisis, which nevertheless promised to further limit the availability of new donor funding to alleviate the Afghan refugee situation in Pakistan.

UNHCR and WFP conducted one of their largest and longest-running relief operations from 1980 to 1995. WFP fed more than 3.2 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan at a cost of more than $1 billion. At least 1.2 million Afghans still live in refugee villages in Pakistan in addition to an undetermined number residing in Pakistani cities.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday warned of ongoing insecurity in the West African countries of Liberia and Guinea.

According to the agency, the fighting which broke out early on Wednesday in the northern Liberian town of Voinjama interrupted a joint UNHCR/World Food Programme (WFP) food assessment mission which was visiting the area at the time. The members of the mission, which included representatives from donor governments, took refuge at the UNHCR compound in the town where they were "visited" by unknown persons and robbed of their valuables and personal effects.

On Thursday, the UN was able to send in a WFP helicopter to evacuate the group of six persons who arrived safely in Monrovia, the country's capital. Other 75 staff members of the UN and non- governmental organizations reached Monrovia safely by road, UNHCR said. However, the toll from the day's events had been substantial, with many UN and NGO vehicles commandeered, and UNHCR offices looted.

In Guinea, the UN refugee agency reported that there was a cross border attack on Tuesday, apparently by rebels from Sierra Leone. The attack on Moola district in Forecariah Prefecture had increased tension between the local population and refugees from Sierra Leone, UNHCR said. As a result, Guinean villagers burned down the refugee settlement at Moola, forcing the refugees to scatter.

(Visit UNHCR's for in-depth coverage.)

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, called on Friday for the immediate and unconditional release of a relief worker kidnapped in Somalia.

In a statement issued in New York, Mr. Vieira de Mello, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that he had learned with great concern of the abduction last Friday of the worker with Terra Nuova, a non- governmental organization (NGO), while on a humanitarian mission in the Lower Juba Region of southern Somalia. Mr. Vieira de Mello said that the incident was particularly regrettable considering that Terra Nuova was the only international NGO with a permanent presence in that part of Somalia.

Mr. Vieira de Mello said that the abduction of the relief worker was a sombre reminder of the need for the international community to take urgent measures to safeguard the lives of relief workers whose only aim was to help vulnerable civilian populations.

After consultations with the President of the Security Council and the General Assembly, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed Judge Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana from Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The ICRT announced on Friday that Judge Gunawrdana would be assigned to the newly created third chamber of the Tribunal based in Arusha, Tanzania. He replaces Judge Dionysios Kondylis of Greece who resigned on 22 March 199 for personal reasons.

Established by the Security Council on 8 November 1994, the ICRT has the mandate to prosecute persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law in Rwanda between 1 January and 31 December 1994.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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