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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-02-26
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS POLITICAL AND HUMANITARIAN BRIEFINGS
ON THE MIDDLE EAST
The Security Council this morning held an open meeting on the Middle East. It then held closed consultations on that same topic.
Briefing Council members this morning, the UNs Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said the Annapolis process needs to continue and needs support. But it can only be sustained by real changes on the ground, he added.
On the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Serry said the imposing presence of the barrier, expanding settlements, unremoved outposts, the system of closure and constant military incursions have grave implications for the human rights, economic life and social fabric of the entire population.
He added that, in Gaza, the deprivations of basic human dignity are even more acute, and the sense of abandonment and frustration is palpable.
Serry said the security situation for both Israelis and Palestinians remains deeply concerning. He said he was particularly alarmed at the number of incidents on both sides where children are being killed or injured.
Also briefing the Security Council this morning was Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who recently undertook a mission to the region. Holmes said he found conditions for the people of Gaza grim and miserable, and far from normal. He also highlighted his visit to the Israeli town of Sderot, which has been targeted by more than 4,300 rockets since 2004. Holmes said the rockets are aimed at hurting civilians and clearly constitute terrorism. Hamas must act to stop the rockets immediately, he added.
At the same time, however, Holmes stressed that whatever the provocation and illegality of the rockets, the effective Israeli isolation of Gaza is not justified, given Israels continuing obligations to the people of Gaza. It amounts to collective punishment, he said, and is contrary to international humanitarian law.
BAN KI-MOON IS INFORMED OF SUSPENSION OF KENYA TALKS
Asked about reports that former Secretary-General Kofi Annan was suspending talks between the Kenyan parties, the Spokeswoman confirmed that the former Secretary-General had informed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today of the impasse in Kenya.
She added that Annan had told the Secretary-General that other ways of breaking the impasse were being explored.
REFUGEES FLEEING RECENT RAIDS IN DARFUR ARE TRAUMATIZED
The Special Representative for the joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Mr. Rodolphe Adada, today visited the town of Silea in Western Darfur to assess the situation on the ground following recent attacks in the area.
He met with the affected community and explored ways to hasten the delivery of assistance to the region. Silea was one of the areas seriously affected by the recent violence and witnessed displacement of people and destruction of houses and other property.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners have opened up a new site in the West Darfur region of Sudan to accommodate up to 6,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Meanwhile, according to UNHCR, civilians who were affected by the recent air raids in the Northern Corridor area of West Darfur are not currently moving southwards to El Geneina. They mainly go to other villages or have been hiding in the Jebel Moun mountains. Many also appear to be attempting the dangerous journey into Chad in order to seek safety.
According to a UNHCR team at the border, more people have crossed into Chad over the past weekend, following renewed attacks on Jebel Moun. The latest arrivals are mainly women, children and elderly people, and they are extremely traumatized. Furthermore, refugees are suffering from exposure to the harsh weather, living in the open, with cold winds affecting especially children and the elderly. Two refugee women and two children died last night because of the cold temperatures.
The vast majority of the new refugees in Chad had already been displaced previously in West Darfur since 2003 and are traumatized by the recent attacks. All of them fear going back to Darfur and have asked to be moved further inland, as they do not feel safe near the border.
UNHCR also reported today that some 5,500 Chadian refugees were relocated to a newly equipped camp in the village of Maltam in northeastern Cameroon. There are some 30,000 Chadian refugees in northern Cameroon. These are civilians who fled the late January-early February fighting in NDjamena.
REGROUPING CONTINUES FOR TEMPORARY RELOCATION FROM ERITREA
The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) says that Eritrean soldiers have blocked the passage of 8 UN peacekeeping vehicles in the past 24 hours. This occurred at a checkpoint near Senafe, inside the Temporary Security Zone.
The Mission says the eight vehicles were en route to a UN camp to collect equipment for the ongoing gathering of UN personnel and equipment in Asmara ahead of a planned temporary relocation outside of Eritrea.
Meanwhile, other movements by peacekeepers and vehicles have proceeded without incident.
TOP POLITICAL OFFICIAL VISITS MOSCOW AFTER TOKYO, SEOUL
The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, left Seoul today en route to Moscow after attending the inauguration yesterday of President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea, along with the Deputy Chef de Cabinet and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, Kim Won-soo.
The delegation reports it had a very warm meeting with the new President, who expressed strong interest and determination to expand, as part of his countrys global diplomacy, its role in the United Nations, including on climate change, increased participation in peacekeeping operations and Official Development Assistance.
The delegation was in Tokyo before visiting Seoul, and had very useful discussions there with Japans Minister for Foreign Affairs, Masahiko Koumura, and other senior officials on the areas where Japan and the United Nations could further strengthen their interaction, including UN reform and international peace.
Mr. Pascoe expressed the Secretary-Generals strong appreciation for Japans contributions to the Organization and assured that the UN would work for the success of the coming G8 Summit in Hokkaido, as well as the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development.
Under-Secretary-General Pascoe should be arriving in Moscow on Wednesday for high-level consultations on a range of U.N. issues and departing there for New York on Thursday following meetings with senior officials.
SIERRA LEONE: PRISON OFFICERS TO GAIN GREATER AWARENESS
OF DETAINEES RIGHTS
UN human rights officers are working with Sierra Leones National Human Rights Commission and the NGO Prison Watch to improve monitoring of prison conditions in that country. The initiative will kick off tomorrow with a 3-day training session in Freetown for prison monitors from across Sierra Leone.
Given the countrys recent past and ongoing prosecution of crimes committed during the civil war, the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) continues to emphasize that protection of prisoners rights is a key condition for a lasting peace.
Tomorrows training exercise is expected to enhance human rights protection for detainees. The UN team says it has put together a handbook on national and international prison standards that it intends to distribute among local detention officers.
RISING FOOD COST HAS CENTRAL AMERICA AT HIGH RISK OF CRISIS
The World Food Programme is warning of a looming nutritional crisis in Central America, as a result of skyrocketing food costs. Wheat and corn prices have nearly doubled in the past year, and bad weather has pushed the price of beans to unprecedented levels. The estimated calorie intake of an average meal in rural El Salvador is today roughly 60 percent of what it was in May 2006.
In response to the growing crisis, WFP has increased local purchases and is urgently asking international donors for more contributions, in order to make up for its sharp decline in purchasing power.
WFP has also set up an internal task force at its Rome headquarters and is reviewing ways to target its assistance with the maximum precision.
Asked about WFPs warnings on rising food prices, the Spokeswoman noted that WFP is not planning any cuts or to reduce the number of people it feeds. Instead, as Montas had noted earlier, WFP is doing everything possible to mobilise world attention and support through governments, the private sector and individuals to stave off such a drastic measure.
PRODUCTION OF FERTILIZERS TO OUTPACE DEMAND IN YEARS TO COME
World fertilizer production is expected to outpace demand over the next five years, thereby supporting greater production of both food and biofuels. Thats according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
FAO estimates that supplies of nitrogen, phosphate and potash nutrient will increase at 3 percent per year through 2012, versus an expected growth in demand of roughly two percent per year.
UNICEF OFFERS TO REBUILD LIBERIAN SCHOOLS: UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, on her first visit to Liberia, has announced the allocation of nearly $20 million to help rebuild the countrys primary education system. A new public/private partnership, based on donations from the Dutch Government and the Open Society Institute, will train teachers and rebuild schools that were destroyed during the countrys 15-year civil war. Only one third of primary school children in Liberia reach fifth grade; it is one of the few countries where the younger generation is less literate than the one before it.
RATES OF MULTI-DRUG-RESISTANT TUBERCULOSIS AT ALL-TIME HIGH: Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis has been recorded at the highest rates ever, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO)
report. The highest rate was recorded in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where nearly a quarter of all new tuberculosis cases were reported as multi-drug-resistant. Surveys in China suggest that the sickness is also widespread in that country, according to WHO.
GREECE, F.Y.R. OF MACEDONIA TO MEET U.N. OFFICIAL IN DISPUTE OVER NAME: In response to your questions yesterday, the Secretary-Generals Personal Envoy for Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, will be having continued discussions with representatives of those two countries here in New York this Friday, the 29th of February.
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