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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-02-05

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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

ARCHIVES

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON'S

PRESS ENCOUNTER FOLLOWING HIS BRIEFING TO

THE SECURITY COUNCIL

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

OPENING REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

As you know, I have just briefed the Security Council on the serious developments in Africa.

Over the past month, I have been deeply engaged in the evolving situation in Kenya.

As I warned at the African Union summit last week, ethnic clashes threaten to escalate out of control. During my visit, I told Kenyas leaders, President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, that they bear a particular political responsibility for the future of Kenya. I stressed to all the Kenyan leaders the need to stop the unacceptable violence and killings and to resolve their differences through dialogue and the democratic process. I also appealed to all the political leaders to think beyond their individual interests or party lines, and to look to the future of Kenya as one country.

I reiterate my support to the mediation efforts of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities led by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. When I met him in Nairobi, we discussed in depth his roadmap for the talks. The parties are now talking and discussing practical measures to stop the spiral of violence, to address the humanitarian crisis, and to restore fundamental human rights and liberties.

I have assigned several members of my staff to provide necessary assistance to Mr. Annans team, and we have established a UNDP trust fund to support this. With our partners, we have been able to meet the initial basic needs of displaced populations, totaling around 310,000 IDPs spread over 192 sites in the western and central provinces, and I am going to dispatch Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to look after these issues.

Needless to say, much more needs to be done. I urge donors to provide additional funding to address this grave emergency.

Turning to the situation in Chad, I am alarmed by the deteriorating security situation in the capital, NDjamena, and elsewhere. We can no longer guarantee the safety and security of UN staff in Chad and we have evacuated, with the help of the French Government, most of the personnel into neighbouring countries, in Cameroon and Gabon.

However, a small number of personnel from MINURCAT in NDjamena, and some other UN agencies, some essential members, are still remaining. We will take necessary measures in close cooperation with the French Government when it is necessary.

The United Nations will do its utmost to help resolve the crisis. I welcome the initiative of the African Union to have designated leaders of Libya and the Republic of Congo to mediate this issue.

I urged the Council to act swiftly to help bring this terrible crisis to an end. It has devastating consequences not only for the people of Chad and Darfurian refugees seeking shelter there, but also for Darfur itself.

The situation in Darfur is no less troubling. Insecurity continues to severely restrict humanitarian access to civilians in need of assistance.

UNAMID troop contributors must speed up their preparations. We need our forces in the theatre of operations as soon as possible. UNAMID still lacks required aviation and ground transportationchiefly helicopters. Additional troops will not make up for this shortfall. Countries that called for intervention in Darfur are under a special obligation to deliver on their promises.

On the margins of the AU Summit, I discussed the major outstanding UNAMID issues with President [Omar al-]Bashir of Sudan. I am pleased to report that we are making good progress on the Status of Forces Agreement. The Government has indicated that we can expect the signing to take place this week.

However, the deployment of UNAMID will only be as effective as the political process it is mandated to support. My special envoys will therefore continue their efforts to bring the government of Sudan and the movements to the negotiating table.

Before concluding, let me say a few words about the security and safety of United Nations staff and premises. Recent events in Kenya, Chad, Darfur and Algeria serve only to underscore this matters urgency.

I am therefore setting up, as I already announced in Geneva two weeks ago, an Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and Premises. The panel will be chaired by Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, who possesses vast experience and knowledge of UN operations.

I will also be engaging with Member States in the coming weeks and months to strengthen the security and safety support they are providing to UN staff posted in their countries. Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, two questions. You said that you urged the Security Council to do more in Chad. Yesterday, the Council adopted a Presidential Statement giving a green light for other countries to support Chad, the Chadian Government. What more did you ask them to do? And in terms of Sudan and Darfur, have you gotten any pledges of helicopters at all, and what more are you doing to try and resolve that issue?

SG: On Chad, it will be up to Member States to provide the necessary assistance, whatever may be possible and available, in accordance with the PRST [Presidential Statement] adopted yesterday. On the helicopters and other critical assets, we have received some offers from at least two countries. I will continue to urge the Member States to provide such critical assets.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, also on Sudan, does your prediction that there will be a signing of a Status of Forces Agreement mean that you have reached agreement with the Sudanese over the composition of that force, or is the Sudanese government still objecting to some countries participating in that force?

SG: The Status of Forces Agreement is a bit different from a Composition of Forces. Without the legal framework under this Status of Forces Agreement SOFA - it would be very difficult for the peacekeepers to operate properly. We have agreed to the contents of this Status of Forces Agreement during my meeting with President Bashir, and we will be able to sign during this week. On the composition of forces, again, that was one of the major subjects which I discussed with him, particularly in deploying non-African soldiers. Our understanding is that even though it may have to still be worked out at technical levels, we will first try to deploy African peacekeepers who are readily available, for example, Egyptians or Ethiopians. Then, as this deployment is taking place, we will try to deploy Thailand and Nepalese soldiers.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, two things on that, just to follow up. You will try to deploy the Thailand and Nepalese soldiers, which means, I am assuming that the Sudanese Government, President Bashir, has not agreed yet to that and you will have to continue discussions on that. And secondly, may we assume from what you said about the SOFA agreement that the UN has gotten Sudans agreement to all things that were the sticking points night flights, landing agreements, possible communications blackout during Sudanese affairs, or advance notice of UN movements all those things that were sticking points. Have those things been settled in the UNs favour, or at least in terms of what they need, or feel they need, to conduct the mission appropriately?

SG: For detailed matters, I would like to say that my meeting with President Bashir went reasonably well. I was encouraged by a very constructive meeting with President Bashir. On the composition of forces, as I said, we will first try to have African soldiers deployed. Considering the agreement, and that the nature of this UNAMID is a hybrid the African Union and the United Nations then there will have to be some composition of African and non-African. We have already Bangladesh and Chinese engineering units already on the ground. We will work out, in very close consultation with the Sudanese Government, on the Status of Forces Agreement and all other administrative issues, we will continue to consult. However, President Bashir told me that he is forward-looking in addressing all these issues. Therefore, we will have to continue to iron out all these remaining issues.

Q: The situation in Gaza is getting very dire, and the population is under collective punishment. Also, we hear more and more threats that fuel has been stopped there. It has been a year almost that Gaza is under siege. What is your plan, or what initiatives would you follow in order to alleviate the situation there?

SG: On this issue, I share your concern. You have seen how much I have been working hard to address this issue. I have met with President Shimon Peres in the Davos Forum, and I have spoken to Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert on this issue. And the Quartet members had a telephone conference a few days ago to address all these issues. We are still working on that. My message is quite clear that, while I appreciate and understand the security concerns of the Israelis, therefore the rocket firing should be stopped, and at the same time, the Israeli Government should also take the necessary measures to ease these humanitarian difficulties brought by these crossings and crossing this [inaudible] - they should not take this as collective punishment.

Q: There are reports that you intend to appoint Lakhdar Brahimi to head the Algiers commission. Could you confirm that?

SG: I have announced this.

Q: You just didIs it okay that a man who is both Algerian and a former UN [official], is he well positioned to be independent? And also, on the Gaza situation, the Israeli Supreme Court just declared Gaza under the control of, not Israel actually, its a hostile entity. My question is, can Gaza be still defined as an occupied territory, as it is all across the United Nations?

SG: About Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi taking this very important role as Chair of the Independent Panel, I am sure that everybody will agree on his integrity; even though he is an Algerian, he is more known as a cosmopolitan leader. He has been working on many important agendas in world affairs during the last 10-15 years. Therefore we full confidence and trust. And I have discussed with some key members on his nomination, and I have not received any such concern about his integrity as chair of this independent Panel. I am quite sure that he will lead this independent panel with fairness and objectivity, to bring a very important recommendation for the safety and security of the UN staff.

On this Gaza situation, I again would like to urge the parties concerned first of all to refrain [to] the maximum [extent] from these violent actions, and the Israeli Government should also take necessary measures to look at these humanitarian situations.

Q: That doesnt answer my question: Is it occupied territory?

SG: I am not in a position to say on these legal matters.

Q: I wanted to ask you if you are satisfied with the percentage of your senior officials who have followed your advice and filed voluntary public financial disclosure. It seems that almost half have not, and some have said that they choose to maintain confidentiality. And also more timely, on this event that is taking place tomorrow night on the North Lawn of the UN. Questions have arisen about whether Gucci has put out [a release] saying that it celebrates the opening of a store on Fifth Avenue, and theres questions about one of the non-profits that would benefit from it. What are the standards that the UN applies before entering into that kind of an arrangement with a commercial entity?

SG: One of my priorities is to ensure the accountability and transparency of our staff. This is a commitment which we are showing to the Member States. As a part of that commitment, we are now disclosing the financial assets, and yesterday, all the senior managers have signed an individual compact with me. This is a very good commitment we are showing to the Member States. As for the exact numbers of advisors who have disclosed their financial declarations, I hope that remaining people will also follow suit. The registration will begin from March 1st for the year, starting this year, therefore I am expecting that more will follow soon.

On this event which will take place tomorrow, I understand that the proceeds will be used for a proper purpose as agreed between UNICEF and the organizers.

Q: But what about a company saying that a UN event is in celebration of the opening of a store? Who here polices, in there, theres a logo of UNICEF and Gucci intermingled; who is in charge of policing the integrity of the UN, its logo and its "brand", so to speak?

SG: You know what kind of humanitarian efforts UNICEF has been carrying out during the last several decades. I understand that the main purpose of this event will raise funds for a humanitarian purpose, and I am sure that the proceeds will go to the purpose of this event.

Q: On Lakhdar Brahimi, was that the only way to get the cooperation of the Algerian Government on that matter?

SG: I have very closely consulted with the Algerian Government. We have thought that Mr. Brahimi would be a very appropriate person to lead this independent panel. This independent panel will be composed of several experts coming from all different countries; therefore, as far as integrity, fairness and objectivity and neutrality of this independent panel, you should have not have any doubt about that.

Thank you very much.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS FROM ACROSS THE U.N. SYSTEM

BAN KI-MOON APPOINTS LAKHDAR BRAHIMI TO HEAD

PANEL ON SAFETY AND SECURITY OF UN PERSONNEL AND PREMISES

The Secretary-General has decided to establish an Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN personnel and premises around the world.

The independent review will evaluate the strategic issues vital to the delivery and enhancement of the security of UN personnel and premises and the changing threats and risks faced by it.

The Panel will examine the inherent vulnerabilities of UN operations around the world in order to build confidence among the staff within the system and enhance credibility among the member states, civil society and other relevant stake holders.

It will study the responses of host countries as well as identify the fundamental lessons drawn from preceding reports on the subject up to and including the preliminary report of the Department of Safety and Security of January 11 2008, covering the most recent attack.

It will make recommendations on improvements needed in the systems and practices of the UN, as well as additional resources needed to face security challenges, where possible, to prevent the occurrence of such incidents and where they have occurred, to lessen their impact.

After engaging in consultations, including with member states, the Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi to serve as Chairperson of the Panel. Additionally, the panel will comprise of a number of experts in the field of safety and security who will function independently and in their personal capacity. The names of these experts will be announced shortly.

Mr. Brahimi met the Secretary-General yesterday to discuss the composition of the panel as well as the scope and direction of its work.

The Secretary-General recognizes the urgency of the review and has stressed that the Panel should begin its deliberations as early as possible and that it completes its work expeditiously.

U.N. AGENCIES HELP DISPLACED CHADIANS

A team from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) arrived yesterday in the Cameroon border town of Kousseri and estimates that up to 20,000 people have crossed the Cameroon-Chad border since Saturday to escape fighting in Chad.

The World Food Programme (WFP) says it has food stocks, including high-energy biscuits, in Cameroon and will be distributing food in Kousseri. UNHCR is preparing to send two flights this week from Dubai to Cameroon, carrying 90 tons of relief supplies for 14,000 refugees. In eastern Chad, meanwhile, UNHCR and its partners continue to care for hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UN humanitarian agencies are evacuating non-essential staff from Chad. OCHA reports that most of the UN offices in the capital have been looted and vehicles stolen, and that if the fighting continues, Chad could become a humanitarian catastrophe.

For her part, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today expressed her deep concerns regarding the military escalation in Chad in recent days and the threat this represents for civilians. In expressing her sorrow at the reported loss of lives and wounded among the Chadian population, she called on both Government forces and rebel groups to respect international human rights and humanitarian law and to take all appropriate measures to protect civilians.

Regarding the Chadian capital of N'Djamena, a small group of personnel from the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) remains on the ground there.

HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF TO CONDUCT FACT-FINDING MISSION IN KENYA

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour will field a fact-finding mission to Kenya starting Wednesday, 6 February, to look into human rights violations that had been committed since December 2007.

The three-week mission will involve travel around the country, security conditions permitting, to gather first-hand information from diverse sources, including victims and witnesses, Government officials, non-governmental organizations, representatives of the Kenyan national human rights commission and other stakeholders.

In related news, a team from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) arrived over the weekend in Uganda to coordinate relief activities for the thousands of Kenyan refugees there.

Meanwhile, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, this morning met with Kenya's Minister for Special Programmes, who is overseeing the internal displacement operation in Kenya. She assured the Kenya Government of UNHCR's continued readiness to support ongoing efforts to help an estimated 300,000 internally displaced people.

U.N. WARNS OF DIRE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN SOMALIA

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is warning that the relief effort in

Somalia has never been as restricted as it is now. Roadblocks, shelling and attacks in Mogadishu, along with rising threats against and targeting of the humanitarian workers, have severely limited the humanitarian communitys ability to operate and has contributed to an increase in the vulnerable population.

OCHA is stressing the need to address the continuing consequences of the countrys unresolved political and security crisis.

MIDDLE EAST COUNTRIES NEED TO OVERHAUL EDUCATION SYSTEMS

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa need to overhaul their education systems to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive world and realize the potential of their large and growing youth population. That is one of the principal findings of a new World Bank

report, The Road Not Traveled: Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

The report offers a comprehensive economic analysis of the impact of education investments on the region, as well as demographic changes, globalization, labor migration, and the role of the labor market.

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055

to the Spokesperson's Page


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