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United Nations Daily Highlights, 05-01-10

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPOKESMAN'S BRIEFING

BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC

ASSOCIATE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, January 10, 2005

UNITED NATIONS WELCOMES INITIAL ANALYSIS BY THE INDEPENDENT INQUIRY

COMMITTEE INTO THE OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAMME

We welcome the release of the internal audits and the

Independent Inquiry Committees (IIC) initial analysis.

This is just one step in the progress of an inquiry which

Secretary-General Kofi Annan initiated, and which continues to enjoy his full support and cooperation.

We are going to study the IICs briefing paper carefully, and we look forward to the broader findings that will be contained in the interim report due in the next few weeks.

What this initial briefing from the Committee does show is that there was a dynamic auditing process generated by the United Nations itself, as well as the reports of external auditors which have already been made public. All the audits, both internal and external, were conducted in accordance with internationally recognized standards.

At the same time, it is already clear from the briefing paper that there were deficiencies in the management of this unique and highly complex programme, which had to be implemented in an acutely difficult political environment.

The IIC has said that its interim report later this month will examine how far the UNs management safeguards and responses were sufficient or deficient.

We ourselves are already focused on issues of management and accountability, and engaged in a critical review of the way we work, which will lead to a broad overhaul of the UNs management structure and systems in order to improve performance and accountability. The lessons of the Committee's interim report, when it is available, will be fully taken into account in that process.

Some lessons are already being applied. For example, on the financial side of the tsunami relief effort the United Nations is already implementing procedures for greater accountability and transparency.

The tsunami effort, like Oil for Food, is a humanitarian programme on an unusually large scale, although they differ from each other in nearly all other respects.

Finally, let's not forget that the

Oil-for-Food programme did fulfill its main objective by providing humanitarian relief to 27 million Iraqis and thereby helping to maintain political support for the sanctions which, in turn, prevented Saddam Hussein's regime from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

INTERNAL AUDITS 'JUST A SNAPSHOT' OF OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAMME

In response to questions about the internal audits, the Spokesman said that the audits were just one snapshot of the program. In addition to the audits that were released, Volcker had access to UN staff, and the United Nations is waiting for Volcker to come out with his full findings.

Asked about how the audit process worked, the Spokesman said that the internal audits were a management tool for program managers. There were often disagreements, as in all audits. After exchanges between auditors and auditees, outstanding issues were reported up the chain of command.

Volcker would examine, among other things, how UN management reacted to the information that it received.

Asked who in senior UN management would receive information about the work of the auditors, Dujarric said that the reports went to officials in the Department of Management and the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.

The Spokesman, in response to a question, said senior management was given a breakdown of outstanding issues that were resolved and the ones that were not resolved. He added that there were also external audits, which were made public.

He said that the briefing paper issued on Sunday by the Independent Inquiry Committee is not a paper of conclusions, and that the United Nations would await further details from Volcker about how the United Nations managed the auditing process.

He said the audits were dynamic, with the relationship between the auditors and auditees sometimes being an adversarial one. The United Nations would not comment on specific details in the audits until the full report of the Independent Inquiry Committee comes out.

Asked about whether the Iraqi Government refused visas to UN auditors, the Spokesman said the United Nations was dependent on Saddam Husseins Government to grant visas for Iraq, including the northern governorates.

Asked whether the United Nations still employed Saybolt, the Spokesman noted that the United Nations was no longer involved in work in Iraqs oil sector, and therefore did not need their services.

Asked about efforts to regain money lost to contractors, the Spokesman said that remedial measures were taken by UN agencies to get their money back.

Asked about the UNs responsibility for verifying the quality of goods in the oil-for-food program, the Spokesman said that is something the United Nations will be examining.

Asked about the

UN Compensation Commission, the Spokesman said that Volcker would have access to the Commission. The Commission, he noted, provided comprehensive information about its awards on its web site.

Asked about

Security Council approval for contracts, the Spokesman said that the humanitarian contracts were all approved by the Councils

661 Sanctions Committee. That Committee was briefed regularly by the Office of the Iraq Programme. Asked whether the 661 Committee received internal audits, the Spokesman said that they had not. But he added that the General Assembly last December approved a resolution that all Member States can receive internal audits. The United States since then has requested 37 internal audits, which it is to receive.

ANNAN WELCOMES PALESTINIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

AS SIGNIFICANT STEP IN DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION

Secretary-General Kofi Annan

welcomes the Palestinian Presidential election as a significant step in what is a historic democratic transition in the occupied Palestinian territory.

He is especially pleased with reports indicating that the election was conducted in a politically competitive yet peaceful atmosphere.

The Secretary-General congratulates President Mahmoud Abbas as the representative of the Palestinian people.

He also congratulates the Palestinian Central Elections Commission for the organization of credible and genuine elections under challenging conditions.

The commitment to democracy of the Palestinian people and their institutions is a strong foundation for President Abbas to build on.

The Secretary-General is looking forward to working with the new President of the Palestinian Authority on the implementation of the

Road Map and the achievement of an independent and viable Palestinian state.

The Secretary-General, speaking to reporters in Sri Lanka yesterday, said that he was very impressed with the Palestinian elections, adding, This election has been very well prepared, perhaps one of the best prepared that we have been involved in.

The Secretary-General said the new Palestinian leader will need not only the cooperation of his people, but also the support of the international community, which has to ensure the economic viability of a Palestinian state and help the Palestinians with reform.

ANNAN WELCOMES SIGNING OF SUDAN NORTH-SOUTH PEACE AGREEMENT

The

Secretary-General has welcomed the historic signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement by the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement as an important milestone.

In a statement read at the signing ceremony in Nairobi on Sunday by his Special Representative,

Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General said the agreement heralds the possible definitive end of a prolonged period of brutal conflict that has killed at least two million people, uprooted four million more, and forced some 600,000 to take refuge in neighbouring countries.

It also provides a unique opportunity to apply the principles enshrined in the Naivasha Protocols as a blue-print for addressing conflicts in other strife-torn areas such as Darfur, where the situation remains horrific and where the vital African Union Mission deserves greater support.

The Secretary-General hopes the parties in Darfur will be inspired by what has been achieved today, and pursue a wide-ranging political solution to their conflict without any further delay. It is hard to imagine that the full promise of the Agreement being signed today will be fulfilled without an end to the enormous suffering in Darfur, he said.

Pronk is on his way to New York to brief the

Security Council on Sudan tomorrow.

POLIO VACCINATION CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY IN DARFUR, SUDAN

The

UN Mission in Sudan reports that a planned

polio immunization campaign got off to a flying start today with apparently no security incidents, as teams of vaccinators fanned out across the north of the country, including the conflict-ridden

Darfur states where more than one million children are hoped to be reached.

A similar campaign in Southern Sudan is due to start on 17 January, 2005.

The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for the Sudan,

Jan Pronk, had called for "Days of Tranquility" across Sudan, to allow the immunization to proceed unhindered by military activity.

Today, his deputy, Manuel Aranda da Silva, who traveled to Darfur, said the days of tranquility for the polio immunization will build a momentum towards peace, which was important. Otherwise, he said, the international community may run out of patience.

CONFERENCE TUESDAY TO FOCUS NEEDS FOR TSUNAMI-AFFECTED COUNTRIES

The UNs

Emergency Relief Coordinator,

Jan Egeland, will chair a ministerial-level pledging

conference in Geneva tomorrow, at three in the afternoon, Geneva time.

The meeting will focus on both immediate and long-term priority needs, and Member States will be invited to announce new pledges through multilateral and bilateral channels.

In other news, the

World Food Programme (WFP) announced over the weekend that it had reached its target of feeding 750,000 Sri Lankans hit by the tsunami. The food will last for 15 days.

WFP also welcomed the establishment of a humanitarian air base in Malaysia dedicated to serving the United Nations and other aid groups shipping relief supplies into hard-hit areas.

The new hub is expected to relieve congestion in Sumatras two airports, and is being managed jointly by WFP, the UN Humanitarian Air Service, the UN Joint Logistics Centre, and the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

Meanwhile,

UNICEF, the UN Childrens Fund, has outlined five key steps necessary for keeping children safe from exploitation and trafficking in tsunami-hit areas. The steps include: registering all displaced children; providing immediate safe care; locating relatives; alerting the police to the threat; and putting in place special national measures. Child registration has already started in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Also, UNICEF today announced that it is joining forces with former U.S. President Bill Clinton to help bring safe drinking water and sanitation systems to children and families hit by the tsunami.

Adolf Ogi, the Secretary-Generals Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, today

launched a call for coordinated action to the world of sport in response to the tsunami disaster. First to respond to Ogis call was the International Volleyball Federation, which announced a $3 million contribution. That donation followed other spontaneous contributions from racing driver Michael Schumacher, Real Madrid, and the International Federation of Cricket.

Meanwhile, the UN System in Ghana, the Ghana Red Cross Society and other Ghanaian groups today launched a humanitarian appeal to assist victims of the tsunami disaster. Donations totalling around $100,000 were presented to the UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Alfred Sallia Fawundu.

ANNAN VISITED AREAS IN MALDIVES AFFECTED BY TSUNAMI

The

Secretary-General this morning travelled by sea plane south from the Maldives capital of Male to visit two villages that were especially hard hit by the

tsunami of 26 December.

The first village he touched down at was Vilufushi. The Secretary-General and his wife Nane talked with villagers, including children. Rubble was everywhere.

But the organizers of the recovery were proud of what they were accomplishing and conveyed their enthusiasm to him. The Secretary-General also flew to the next atoll to the north, Meema.

Returning to Malé, the Secretary-General said at a press conference that he was leaving the Maldives with a very clear understanding of what your problems are.

After the press conference, the Secretary-General flew to Mauritius to attend the UN conference on small island developing states.

Sunday evening, the Secretary-General met with the President of the Maldives, saying afterward that the Government should think of recovery plus not just rebuilding what was there, but improving on it.

ANNAN HOPES SRI LANKAN LEADERS WILL WORK TOGETHER

TO DEAL WITH EFFECTS OF TSUNAMI

Over the weekend, the

Secretary-General visited Sri Lanka, where he met on Sunday with President Chandrika Kumaratunga, as well as with opposition leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations involved in the aid effort.

On Saturday, he had visited some of the areas in the country hardest hit by the tsunami.

In a press conference before he left Sri Lanka, the Secretary-General said that this is a tragedy that has affected all Sri Lankans. It is a disaster that transcends the divisions that have long wracked your country.

He added that ordinary Sri Lankans had come together on an extraordinary scale to deal with the crisis and added, I fervently hope their political leaders will do the same, and join hands.

Asked what the Secretary-General can do to mediate in Sri Lanka, or in Aceh, the Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General had urged the parties in Sri Lanka to come together. The Spokesman was not aware of any specific peace initiatives for Sri Lanka, adding that the focus of the Secretary-Generals trip was humanitarian.

ANNAN SADDENED BY DEATH OF PEACEKEEPER IN SOUTHERN LEBANON,

CONDEMNS MILITARY ESCALATION

The

Secretary-General was deeply

saddened to learn of the death of a French UN military observer and the injury of his Swedish colleague while on patrol along the Blue Line yesterday.

The Secretary-Generals heartfelt condolences go to the family of the deceased.

The observers were hit by a barrage of Israel Defense Force (IDF) tank and machine gun fire that followed a Hizbollah roadside bomb attack on an IDF patrol on the Israeli side of the line in the Shaba farms. The Hizbollah action killed one IDF soldier and injured three others.

The Secretary-General condemns the military escalation along the Blue Line. The Secretary-General also wishes to underscore both parties responsibility to ensure the safety of UN personnel deployed in the region.

He urges Israel and Lebanon to exercise maximum restraint and not further jeopardize the relative quiet that has characterized the Blue Line for the past six months.

Under other matters, a briefing was expected on the weekend incident on the blue line in Lebanon.

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS MINUTE OF SILENCE FOR TSUNAMI VICTIMS

The

Security Council began its open briefing on

Afghanistan its first public meeting for this year by offering a minute of silence, to mourn for the lives lost from the earthquake and tsunami that affected countries from Indonesia to Somalia.

AFGHAN PEOPLE EXPECT ENHANCED ROLE IN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

The

Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Afghanistan,

Jean Arnault, said that the

Afghan people are expected to play an enhanced role when parliamentary elections take place in the country this spring. Arnault, in an open briefing to the

Security Council today, said he expects that an Independent Electoral Commission will be appointed for Afghanistan in the very near future.

Arnault told the Council that, while the Afghan police and army will play a major role in providing security for the spring elections, international forces will remain indispensable.

He added that the repeated failure of extremists to derail last years presidential elections process, combined with the better performance of the security forces, points to the possibility that the recent improvements in security will be sustained.

The Security Council followed the open briefing with consultations, also on Afghanistan.

The Security Council issued press statements on Afghanistan, Sudan and the Palestinian elections following its consultations.

U.N. CONFERENCE ON SMALL ISLANDS STARTS IN MAURITIUS

The

International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States began in Mauritius today, with a call for development partners to increase their official development assistance to these vulnerable countries.

The meetings Secretary-General,

Anwarul Chowdhury, made the call at the opening ceremony.

He also urged small island developing countries to increase their efforts in regional economic integration as many aid programmes arent viable when targeted for specific countries, but could yield better results where small island states are integrated.

More than 20 heads of States and governments, heads of several UN agencies and the

Secretary-General, will take part in the high-level segment of the meeting this Thursday and Friday.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN STARTS 32nd SESSION: The

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women convenes its 32nd session today at UN Headquarters. Over the next three weeks, it will examine the reports of the following eight States parties: Algeria, Croatia, Gabon, Italy, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Paraguay, Samoa and Turkey. It will also continue its work under the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which provides for a petition and an inquiry procedure regarding violations of the rights of women in States parties to the Convention.

ANNAN APPOINTS DEPUTY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR U.N. MISSION IN SIERRA LEONE: The

Secretary-General has appointed Steinar Bjornsson of Iceland as his Deputy Special Representative for Operations in Liberia. Bjornsson most recently served as the Director of Administration in the

UN Mission in Sierra Leone. He is expected to arrive in Liberia later this month.

UNITED NATIONS WORKING WITH TROOP CONTRIBUTING COUNTRIES ON ABUSE INVESTIGATION: Asked about

sexual exploitation allegations in the

Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Spokesman said the United Nations was working closely with troop contributing countries, through the good offices of Prince Zeid of Jordan, to obtain their cooperation in efforts to investigate and resolve those allegations.

UNITED NATIONS CONSIDERING STEPS TO ACHIEVE GREATER TRANSPARENCY: Asked about an editorial calling for

Ruud Lubbers, the

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to step down, the Spokesman said the United Nations had nothing to add about his case. He said the United Nations is always concerned about accusations of sexual harassment. He noted that UN management is also looking at drafting new policies to protect whistle-blowers and other steps to achieve greater transparency and accountability in UN management.

  • The guest at the noon briefing was Kevin Kennedy, Chief of the Humanitarian Emergency Branch of the Office for the Coordination of

    Humanitarian Affairs, who provided an update on assistance to the tsunami victims.

    Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

    United Nations, S-378

    New York, NY 10017

    Tel. 212-963-7162 -

    press/media only

    Fax. 212-963-7055

    All other inquiries to be addressed to (212)

    963-4475 or by e-mail to: inquiries@un.org


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