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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-02-06
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ
ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
SECRETARY-GENERAL BRIEFS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON AFRICA
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this morning spoke at an informal meeting of the General Assembly, where he briefed the membership, as he did with the Security Council on Tuesday, on the situations in Kenya, Darfur and Chad, as well as on his recent meetings in Europe and Africa.
He also discussed his participation in last months annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, where he spoke on the related challenges of water scarcity and the Millennium Development Goals. He noted that many of todays conflicts are being fueled or exacerbated by struggles over scarce resources, and climate change seems set to make a bad situation worse.
On the crisis in Kenya, he noted that Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, is heading to Nairobi to take stock of evolving needs.
The Secretary-General added that he is in the process of establishing an independent panel to address strategic issues vital to the delivery and enhancement of staff security for the United Nations in its operations around the world. The panel, he said, will be chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi, who possesses vast experience and knowledge of UN operations.
INDEPENDENT PANEL ON SECURITY STILL BEING FINALIZED
Asked about reports that suspects in the 11 December Algiers bombing have been arrested, the Spokesperson said that the criminal investigation into the perpetrators of the attack was a separate issue from those being explored by the Independent Panel.
Pressed for more details about the Panel, Haq said that the composition and terms of reference for that group were still being finalized. More details may be announced next week. Lakhdar Brahimi, the head of the Panel, intends to brief the press once the panel has been formed, Haq added.
Asked if Brahimis report would be made public, the Spokesperson said that was the intention.
Asked if the Secretary-Generals choice of Brahimi to head the Panel had been discussed with Algeria, Haq said the Secretary-General had told reporters that he had consulted closely with the Algerian Government and that Brahimi would be a very appropriate person to lead the Panel.
Asked how the Secretary-General would select the Panel members, the Spokesperson said normal selection procedures would apply, including consultations with Governments and individuals. The goal would be to have a wide range of expertise and geographic origin.
Regarding staff involvement in the work of the Panel, Haq said the UN Staff Council had presented its own views on staff security, and management had repeatedly engaged with them.
U.N. MISSION IN ETHIOPIA/ERITREA FACING FUEL CRISIS
A statement issued late Tuesday expressed the Secretary-Generals deep concern about the critical crisis facing the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) as a result of the stoppage of diesel fuel supplies to the Mission by the Government of Eritrea since 1 December 2007.
UNMEEs fuel stocks will be exhausted in the coming few days. The Mission will be immobilized and rendered unable to carry out its critical functions. The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council that if the fuel supplies are not reinstated by today, he will be compelled to instruct UNMEE to begin relocating the Missions personnel and equipment from Eritrea, on a temporary basis.
The Secretary-General emphasizes that the temporary relocation of the Missions personnel is a contingency measure forced by the restrictions imposed on UNMEE by the Eritrean authorities, which are endangering the safety and security of the Missions personnel, and is without prejudice to any provisions of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities of 18 June 2000, including on the Temporary Security Zone.
Asked about the deadline for Eritrea to end its fuel blockade on the UN Mission there, the Spokesperson said the UN was monitoring the situation to see if there would be any change in the fuel situation. More announcements would be made later as needed.
JOHN HOLMES TO VISIT KENYA ON HUMANITARIAN ASSESSMENT MISSION
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes is scheduled to arrive in Nairobi this Friday for a
three-day mission to assess the humanitarian situation in Kenya.
While in Kenya, he will meet with Government officials and opposition leaders, as well as representatives of the UN country team, aid agencies, and the donor and diplomatic community. He will also travel to the Rift Valley to survey the areas where most of the recent fighting took place and to speak with people who have been displaced or otherwise affected by the violence. Holmes will also visit a camp for internally displaced persons near Nairobi.
Meanwhile, a fact-finding mission deployed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour arrived in Kenya today. The team will conduct research for an initial period of three weeks, as it works to assess allegations of recent grave human rights violations in the country.
The mission will gather firsthand information from a variety of sources, including victims and witnesses, government officials, representatives of the opposition, civil society organizations, and the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights. Its findings, which will include recommendations on accountability mechanisms, will be made public.
In related news, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided enough food in the town of Turbo to last nearly a month for 4,500 displaced Kenyans. Food aid has also been dispatched to 4 hospitals in Kenyas Central Province.
U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF CONCERNED ABOUT SITUATION IN CHAD
John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is
gravely concerned about the situation of some 50,000 people from the Central African Republic who are staying in refugee camps in southern Chad. Holmes fears that the Central African refugees risk being uprooted again by the violence in Chad.
Meanwhile, UNICEF says that an inter-agency team has begun an urgent operation to assess the needs of some 30,000 refugees from Chad who crossed into northern Cameroon from the capital NDjamena. The team is tasked with determining how much food, water, medicine and shelter will allow decent basic living conditions for the refugees. It will also give out food, vitamins and re-hydration salts, and immunize the refugees against measles and meningitis. UNICEF is also readying blankets and school supplies for some 10,000 children.
The UN Refugee Agency, for its part, is preparing to send two airlift flights this week from its regional aid stockpiles in Dubai to Cameroon. The planes will carry some 90 tonnes of relief supplies for some 14,000 refugees.
SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS SIERRA LEONE OFFICE CAN BE DOWNSIZED
The Secretary-General has sent a letter to the Security Council detailing his proposed completion strategy for the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone.
In it, the Secretary-General says that the UN Office could be downsized by 62 posts, or 20 percent of the current staff, by late March this year. That will leave 247 civilian personnel to perform the Missions tasks until the Missions mandate expires in September.
OPIUM CULTIVATION IN AFGHANISTAN STILL SHOCKINGLY HIGH
According to a report issued today by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium cultivation in Afghanistan in 2008 will be broadly similar to last years record harvest of 192,000 hectares, or may be slightly lower.
UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, who presented the
Afghanistan Opium Winter Survey in Tokyo today, warned, Opium cultivation in Afghanistan may have peaked, but the 2008 amount will still be shockingly high. He said that Europe, Russia and the countries along the Afghan heroin routes should brace themselves again for major health and security consequences.
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL NOTES IMPORTANCE OF DECENT WORK
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro addressed this mornings opening of the 46th session of the Commission for Social Development (CSD). The current session, which runs through February 15th, focuses on employment, ageing and disability.
In her remarks, the Deputy Secretary-General stressed that decent work is not just an end in itself but is also crucial for poverty eradication and social integration, and she added that appropriately remunerated employment must be reinforced by workplace security and social protection for workers and their families.
She called on the Commission, in its current session, to produce concrete policy recommendations to advance decent work in national policies and development strategies. She said that special priority should be given to designing policies aimed at resolving the problem of long-term unemployment and underemployment of youth, women, persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups.
UNITED NATIONS FOOD BODY TO EXPAND OPERATION IN YEMEN
The World Food Programme (WFP) today
announced that it was expanding its operation in Yemen to feed thousands more Somali refugees fleeing the conflict in their country.
WFP has appealed for more than $4 million to fund for the operation, which is to run until January 2010 and will provide food to 43,500 of the most vulnerable refugees. This is up from the 33,000 people WFP was helping before.
WHO TO RELEASE NEW REPORT ON GLOBAL TOBACCO USAGE
The World Health Organization (WHO) will on Thursday release a new report, presenting the first comprehensive analysis of global tobacco use and control efforts.
A press conference on the report will be held Thursday morning at 11:00 a.m. at the New York Marriott East Side, at Lexington Ave and 49th Street. WHO head Margaret Chan and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be there.
Then, at 3:00 p.m. in the United Nations, there will be another briefing on the report by the Director of WHO's Free Tobacco Initiative, Douglas Bettcher, and other officials.
SECRETARY-GENERAL: GAZANS SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHED
Asked about developments in Gaza, the Spokesperson referred to the Secretary-Generals comments yesterday, in which he said that, while he understood Israels security concerns, the people of Gaza should not be punished.
Asked about the Secretary-Generals meeting on Tuesday with the Arab Group, the Spokesperson said the meeting had been called at the Arab Group's request. They raised the issues they wanted to discuss, including Gaza, and the Secretary-General listened. Asked about the Security Councils inability to adopt a Presidential Statement on Gaza, Haq said the Security Councils decisions were its own business.
Asked if Gaza was considered by the UN to be occupied, the Spokesperson said Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were still considered by the UN as the occupied Palestinian territory.
U.N. URGES STRONGER COMMITMENT TO END FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
Marking the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today called for stronger commitment to end the harmful practice and protect the rights of women and girls around the world.
UNFPA Executive Director, Thoraya Obaid, in a message, urged all leaders and decision makers to take action against ending female genital mutilation in line with the UN resolution adopted last year.
It also called on governments to develop effective policies for the elimination of such practices and to support the development of prevention and education programmes.
Obaid also reiterated UNFPAs commitment to womens empowerment and gender equality and the right to sexual and reproductive health.
UNITED NATIONS RESPONDS TO TAJIKISTANS REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE: Following a wave of abnormally cold weather, the Government of Tajikistan requested the United Nations for assistance particularly with supplies of fuel oil, gasoline and kerosene, as well as diesel engine generators, power transformers, power cables and food products. At the same time, the Ministry of Health has approached the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) for support with emergency generators, baby blankets and other non-food items; UNICEF estimates that it will require $720,000 to support the Ministry of Health in its request.
SPECIAL ENVOY FOR DARFUR TO BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL: Asked if Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-Generals Special Envoy for
Darfur, would be briefing the Security Council soon, the Spokesperson said Eliasson was scheduled to brief the Security Council in consultations this Friday. Asked for an update on Eliassons efforts, Haq said Eliasson has been working to determine whether the various groups in Darfur, including those who have not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, can become part of the peace process.
SOMALIA ASSESSMENT TEAMS WORK CONTINUES: Asked about the Secretary-Generals assessment team to Somalia, the Spokesperson said the teams mission had not been completed yet. Once it was finished, the team could brief the Security Council. Asked which UN departments were involved with the mission, Haq said the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations, among others, were working on this matter.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TRAVELING TO CHICAGO: Asked if the Secretary-General would attend a UNICEF benefit tonight on the UNs North Lawn, the Spokesperson said the Secretary-General would not be in town as he was traveling to Chicago.
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