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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-27

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 27 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


  • UN warns of worsening health conditions in overcrowded Kosovo refugee camps.
  • Top UN humanitarian officer says oil embargo against Yugoslavia will affect civilians before military.
  • UN human rights commission expresses concern over situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Thousands of Liberian refugees flee fighting to Guinea -- UNHCR.
  • UN health agency chief calls for cigarettes to be regulated like other drugs.
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea out of food, says UN food agency.
  • Vital role of information technology stressed at meeting of UN commission for Asia and the Pacific.

With the biggest daily influx of Kosovars in over a week, health conditions in the hopelessly overcrowded camps in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are rapidly deteriorating, the UN refugee agency warned on Tuesday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that with more than 4,000 new arrivals on Tuesday morning, the camps had "reached the limit" and there was no space for new arrivals. The agency was still trying to get permission from the Macedonian government to expand current sites, while construction on a new site at Cegrane was being held up by the government's insistence on using a local contractor who did not have the capacity for the job.

Around 500 refugees from Kosovo and another 500 from Montenegro crossed on Monday into Albania, which has already taken in 365,500. The same day, UNHCR moved 5,500 people out of the Kukes and Krume areas in the north but many are reluctant to leave behind their tractors -- their sole remaining possession. Yesterday, the government allowed 600 tractors to be driven south. To encourage refugees to move, UNHCR has been organizing "go-and- see" visits by elders and leaders to prospective relocation sites.

UNHCR said it was also concerned about the fate of civilians in Serbia who were bearing some of the brunt of NATO's air campaign. The agency said it was disturbed by the deaths of civilians, refugees and residents alike. The damage to infra-structure caused by the bombing has affected all civilians in Serbia. In a related development, it was reported that the UN Special Rapporteur for the former Yugoslavia, Jiri Dienstbier, was evaluating the impact of NATO air strikes on human rights in Montenegro.

Meanwhile, with the latest wave of refugees continuing to report widespread physical abuse, including rape, the Prosecutor for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will travel to Washington on Wednesday for discussions with State Department and Pentagon officials.

Justice Louise Arbour will ask the US government to help facilitate investigations into possible commission of crimes under the Tribunal's jurisdiction. She has already had similar discussions with NATO, German, Dutch and British officials, according to a UN spokesman.

An oil embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would affect civilians before it had an impact on the military and make the provision of relief aid more difficult, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council on Tuesday.

In a briefing on Kosovo, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, spoke about the likely psychological, social and economic impact of a protracted NATO air campaign on the Yugoslav population. He said he was particularly concerned for the welfare of host communities and the recently displaced in Serbia and Montenegro, as well as over half a million refugees from Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina, whose fate deserved equal attention and compassion.

Mr. de Vieira de Mello also cited continuing reports of Serb forces using ethnic Albanians as human shields and the fact that the latest waves of refugees from Kosovo were in a much worse state than earlier arrivals. He appealed to the international community to do all it could to provide protection and relief aid to civilians in Kosovo before it was too late.

In a statement to the press after the briefing, the President of Council, Ambassador Alain Dejammet of France said that Council members had expressed deep concern at the continuing degradation of the humanitarian situation in and around Kosovo.

The UN Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday expressed concern at the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and called for the UN to investigate massacres and other rights violations occurring in that country.

In its resolution, the Commission voiced concern at the continuing human rights violations committed in the DRC, particularly the perpetration of massacres, executions, disappearances, torture, beatings and reports of sexual violence against women and children.

The Commission also urged parties to the conflict to work toward a rapid and peaceful settlement and to sign immediately a ceasefire agreement.

In extending for another year the mandate of the Secretary-General's Special Rapporteur for the DRC, the Commission also requested that immediately after the signing of a ceasefire agreement UN personnel investigate alleged human rights violations and atrocities carried out in the DRC.

In the wake of last week's fighting in northern Liberia nearly 6000 Liberian refugees have crossed the border into neighbouring Guinea, where efforts are underway to assist the new arrivals, spokesman for the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.

Kris Janowski, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in Geneva that most of the refugees had left Liberia following clashes around the town of Voinjama between unidentified assailants and government forces, which had last week forced the evacuation of aid workers to Monrovia.

UNHCR was sending additional staff to Guinea to help refugees with the immediate needs of water, food, shelter and protection, Mr. Janowski said, adding that food distribution had begun on Monday.

In a related development, the spokesman said that 10 vehicles and other equipment belonging to United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, which had been looted during last week's fighting in Voinjama, had been now recovered with the assistance of the Liberian Defense Ministry. Although Voinjama was reported to be back under government control, tension had remained high in the area, forcing UNHCR to put its operations there on hold for the time being.

Deploring the attitude and advertising strategies of tobacco companies, the head of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday called for cigarettes to be regulated like other drugs.

WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland told a meeting of international drug regulators that the product should be judged for what it was, not for what it was made out to be by the tobacco industry.

"A cigarette is a euphemism for a cleverly crafted product that delivers just the right amount of nicotine to keep its user addicted for life before killing the person," Dr. Brundtland said.

The initiative is the first time the United Nations health agency has urged regulators of food and drug health standards to rationalize rules that govern all forms of nicotine consumption. Tobacco control experts have pointed out the contradiction in allowing nicotine from cigarettes to be freely available while prescriptions are necessary for therapeutic nicotine.

Dr. Brundtland said WHO would soon convene a high-level meeting of international regulators to assess the extent to which the tobacco industry had subverted science and used false advertising and promotional tactics to veil nicotine additions as an act of free choice.

WHO has also begun work on a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to address tobacco related issues ranging from taxes to epidemiology, advertising bans and smuggling. It has urged that national plans and international action be synchronized so that tobacco control takes root and spreads.

According to WHO, a cigarette is the only consumer product which -- when consumed as indicated -- kills 4 million people each year, with over 70 percent of them in developing countries.

Famine-stricken population of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) faces the hardest months of the year as the country is running out of food for general distribution from its last harvest, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Tuesday.

Citing reports from its international emergency officers who had visited several counties, WFP said that there was virtually no grain left after final distribution of last year's harvest through the state Public Distribution System (PDS). Rations of 150 grams of grain per person for 10 days were the last amounts given out.

"Most people try to survive by whatever coping mechanisms they have, and these vary from place to place, and through what 'alternative foods' are distributed by the PDS in this annual lean period," said UN Humanitarian Coordinator David Morton, who is also WFP's representative in DPRK.

Last week WFP appealed for $260 million or 584,619 metric tons of food aid to help feed eight million people in DPRK for a year beginning July 1.

The new operation is aimed at the largest number of people since WFP began fighting famine in DPRK in late 1995. For the first time it targets 500,000 elderly people, seen as particularly vulnerable to running out of food, and plans to give high energy biscuits as snacks to students at primary and secondary schools up to 17 years of age.

Governments in Asia and the Pacific need to focus more on developing their electronic commerce and information technology capabilities or risk losing business to a small number of developed countries, according to experts attending the annual session of the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) currently under way in Bangkok.

Speaking at a panel discussion on "Information technology, globalization, economic security and development", experts warned that if current trends in information technology use continued, the gap between "information-rich" and "information-poor" countries would further widen.

Adrianus Mooy, ESCAP Executive Secretary, said most governments in the region had yet to absorb the implications of information and communication technology, or to adopt policies to encourage the required development of skills and the spread of access.

"We need to grasp that enlightened policy initiatives will enhance the positive economic impact of information and communication technology, that such initiatives can lead to the reduced marginalization of developing countries in the global society, and of economically disadvantaged groups within a country", Mr. Mooy said.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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