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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-28
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.com
Wednesday, 28 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.
Calling for bold and imaginative efforts to find a political solution to the Kosovo crisis, the Secretary-General on Wednesday cautioned that the search would be a long, complex and drawn-out process.
"We are in the early stages yet and I would not want anyone to have unrealistic expectations as to the immediate or instant success," the Secretary-General told a news conference in Berlin just before his departure for Moscow.
The Secretary-General will hold a day of talks with Russian leaders who, he said, were playing "a very constructive and useful role" in efforts to find a solution to the crisis.
In several comments today, Mr. Annan voiced concern about the rising civilian death toll, increasing numbers of displaced persons and devastation to the country's infrastructure.
After receiving what he called "fresh, reliable reports" -- including from Cornelio Sommaruga, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross -- on the deteriorating humanitarian situation, the Secretary-General issued a statement in which he stressed that each day's delay in the search for a political solution meant more deaths, more displacement and more destruction.
"We must be bold and imaginative in the search for a lasting political solution, which cannot be won on the battlefield," he said, stressing that as the conflict escalated, its negative impact was spreading in the sub- region, claiming victims throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Discussing his plans to appoint a special envoy for the Balkans, the Secretary-General confirmed at a press encounter that there was general agreement on the candidature of Eduard Kukan, the Slovakian Foreign Minister. Mr. Annan said he was also considering former Austrian Chancellor, Franz Vranitzky, former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, and Swiss Foreign Minister, Flavio Cotti.
On the final day of his official visit to Germany, the Secretary- General also met with US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott who reported on his recent talks in Moscow on the Kosovo crisis. Later, Mr. Annan had a working luncheon with Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and met with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday appealed to European countries to accelerate the evacuation of Kosovo refugees as camps in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia filled to breaking point.
With more than 5,000 ethnic Albanians pouring into the camps, UNHCR reported that tensions were rising, and health and sanitation were quickly deteriorating, leading to fears of an outbreak of epidemics with the onset of warmer weather.
UNHCR urged European governments, which have offered to take in a total of around 85,000 Kosovars, to raise the level of departures to at least 2,000 refugees a day.
The agency also urged the authorities in Skopje to allow construction of new camps and the expansion of existing ones and to let new arrivals, especially those with relatives, stay with host families. However, the estimated 78,000 refugees staying with families or in private accommodations throughout the country, are straining the ability of local communities to provide support, UNHCR said.
Meanwhile thousands also crossed into Albania. In interviews with UNHCR staff, dozens of people said they had been thrown out of their homes which had then been burned behind them. The refugees also reported that men were systematically pulled off departing tractors and wagons and taken away and were feared killed.
According to UNHCR, refugees arriving from the villages of Meja and Orize said they had seen many bodies. A group of five men, all academics and professionals from Prizren, said they had been arrested on Tuesday and deposited at the Albanian border. Their wives and children were not allowed to accompany them.
The situation in Prizren, now apparently a transit point for refugees fleeing to Albania, is reportedly deteriorating sharply as food becomes scarce. Several refugees from the town said that over the past few weeks, men had been systematically rounded up to be used as forced labourers, blood donors and "human shields".
Members of the Security Council on Wednesday expressed their concern at the continuing conflict and deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Somalia and called on Member States and international organizations to intensify urgent aid.
In a press statement issued by the President of the Council, Ambassador Alain Dejammet of France, Council members welcomed efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Organization of African Unity and the League of Arab States and other interested countries, but urged Member States to comply with Security Council resolution 733, which established an arms embargo on the country.
At the same time, members of the Council underlined that the Somali people bore the responsibility for their situation and called for the release of an Italian humanitarian aid worker who has been kidnapped.
In a related development, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced in Nairobi that a large shipment of food aid donated by the European Union for victims of the drought in the Puntland region of northeast Somalia arrived in the Somali port town of Bossaso.
The agency said the 355 metric tons of cereals and pulses received was part of a 1,500 consignment organized by it to feed nearly 100,000 Somalis living in communities severely affected by the drought.
WFP is seeking $14 million to continue its food distribution programmes throughout Somalia. Since last November, it has been running a large emergency operation in the south of the country, where over one million people have been affected by severe food shortages following three years of failed harvests.
The upcoming dialogue between the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Bretton Woods institutions is another step towards "instilling new life" into ECOSOC as one of the principle organs of the United Nations, Council President Ambassador Paolo Fulci of Italy, said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a news conference in New York on the eve of ECOSOC's meeting with the leaders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, Ambassador Fulci said that one of his goals when becoming President of the Council was to enhance Council's working relationship with the Bretton Woods institutions.
"We want an ECOSOC which is truly action-oriented and results- oriented," Ambassador Fulci said, noting that efforts had begun last year to revitalize ECOSOC and to bring it back to its original role of coordinating among the various development bodies in the UN system.
Named ECOSOC-Bretton Woods II, the one-day meeting will be held at UN Headquarters on Thursday under the theme, "Functioning of international financial markets and stability in financing for development". The first such meeting between representatives of ECOSOC and the Bretton Woods institutions was held in April 1998, also in New York.
Representatives from the 54 countries that are Council members will represent the United Nations at the meeting. International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Michel Camdessus, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, Development Committee Chairman Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda -- Minister of Finance of Thailand -- and Interim Development Committee Chairman Carlo Azeglio Ciampi -- the Italian Minister of the Treasury -- are among the panellists who will speak on behalf of the Bretton Woods institutions.
While there is no formal agenda for the dialogue, some likely areas of discussion will include promotion of economic recovery in developing and transition countries and ways of increasing long-term finance flows for development. Debt relief for poor countries and other social policy initiatives are also likely to receive considerable attention.
The 55th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) ended in Bangkok on Wednesday with a call for comprehensive economic and social recovery through reform and regional cooperation.
The session, which brought together Ministers and senior officials from 49 ESCAP member and associate member countries, focused on the theme of "Asia and the Pacific into the Twenty-first Century: Information Technology, Globalization, Economic Security and Development". Representatives from various UN bodies and specialized agencies and intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations also took part in the session.
After a three-day Ministerial-level segment, the session unanimously adopted a report containing a series of resolutions that called for greater economic and financial monitoring in the region, sustainable development of inland water transport, integration of older persons into the work of the United Nations and national socio-economic programmes and closer regional cooperation for tackling the Year 2000 problem.
The Commission also reconfirmed the position of ESCAP as the main economic and social development centre within the United Nations system for the Asian and Pacific region.
In her closing statement, Chairperson of the 55th session Nyam-Osoryn Tuya, urged governments in the region to sustain efforts and speed up reforms towards economic recovery.
"Considering that the Asian crisis was not the first one in the last few years and that it may not be the last one in the coming years, countries are encouraged to fully participate in the formulation of the new international financial system", Ms. Tuya said.
In his closing remarks to the 55th Commission session, Mr. Adrianus Mooy, ESCAP Executive Secretary, stressed that the UN Commission, as a truly representative intergovernmental body, remained committed to exploring new avenues and modalities of regional cooperation that could benefit members, especially the neediest of them.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution on Wednesday calling on States that still have the death penalty to restrict the offenses for which it is imposed.
In a resolution adopted by a roll-call vote of 30 in favour to 11 against with 12 abstentions, the Commission called on all States with the death penalty not to use it except for the most serious crimes. Capital punishment should not be used against persons below 18 years of age, pregnant women or anyone suffering from any form of mental disorder, the resolution states.
The Geneva-based Commission, which is the UN's main human rights body, also urged a worldwide moratorium on executions with a view to the complete abolition of the death penalty.
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