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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-07-08
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.com
Wednesday, 8 July, 1998
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.
Members of the Security Council on Wednesday expressed concern about the conclusions of a recent report of the Secretary-General's aborted human rights Investigative Team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The report, which points to evidence that killings in the country constituted crimes against humanity, was considered by the Council in closed consultations.
Addressing the press following consultations, the Council President, Ambassador Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation, said members had expressed concern about the conclusions of the report and were beginning to think about the Security Council's reaction in the light of its mandate to maintain of international peace and security.
"We started to work on the reaction from the Council to this report on the basis of our responsibilities under the Charter," Ambassador Lavrov said.
In a cover letter transmitting the report to the Security Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan highlights the Team's conclusion that the killings by the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (AFDL) constituted crimes against humanity, as did the denial of humanitarian assistance to Rwandan Hutu refugees.
The Secretary-General withdrew the Team in April because of the Government's total lack of cooperation. The Team had gone in with a mandate to investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law which were alleged to have been committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo up to 31 December 1997.
The report finds possible evidence of genocide, noting that attacks on camps in North Kivu in 1996 "reveal the intent to eliminate those Rwandan Hutus who had remained in Zaire." It calls for a further investigation of those crimes and their motivation.
Warning that "time is running short," Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged delegates to a United Nations conference in Rome to finalize a draft statute for an international criminal court capable of serving the cause of justice.
In a letter to Giovanni Conso, the President of the UN Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, the Secretary-General indicated that he is following the proceedings of the Conference, which is due to conclude on 17 July. He acknowledged that "participants are working extremely hard and that they spare no effort in trying to achieve the task entrusted to the Conference," but added that "it is obvious that many questions still remain to be solved."
The Secretary-General expressed hope that States participating in the Conference will cooperate in order to finalize a draft statute for the court by 17 July. Reiterating his opening remarks to the Conference, the Secretary-General stressed that the overriding interest must be that of the victims. "The court must be an instrument of justice, not expedience," Mr. Annan emphasized. "It must demonstrate that an international conscience is a reality."
Meanwhile in Rome, delegates are reportedly debating which crimes will be included under the court's jurisdiction. On Wednesday, the Committee of the Whole, which is negotiating the draft statute, began to hear reactions to a discussion paper presented by the bureau on contentious issues relating to crime, jurisdiction and applicable law. Among the matters being discussed are whether or not to include the crime of aggression and whether or not to cover internal armed conflict, in addition to international wars.
There are at least 52,000 displaced people throughout Kosovo, according to a new United Nations update on the situation there.
The update, issued by the Belgrade Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), states that the agency does not know the whereabouts of former residents of whole towns and villages on the Albanian border area which have been deserted.
Refugees interviewed by UNHCR after crossing the border into northern Albania over the past week reported that the journey was more dangerous than ever before due to shelling. Despite the dangers, 83 people crossed this week, including several who were elderly, sick or accompanying young children.
According to reports from the new arrivals, there are still many civilians seeking to cross the border into Albania, the update states. There have been a number of reports of security incidents, which UNHCR says may explain the lack of refugee movements into Albania during four of the past seven days.
Relations between refugees and the local population in Albania are good, according to UNHCR. However, both fear that the conflict may spread to northern Albania. In the country's Tropoje district, the local population is armed, and even young boys are seen carrying Kalishnikovs. "There are many shooting incidents all the time," the update states.
The Panel of Eminent Persons to visit Algeria, established by the Secretary- General, met with him at United Nations Headquarters on Thursday.
The Chairman of the Panel, Mario Soares, former President of Portugal, said the discussions had resulted in a decision to leave from Lisbon to Algeria on 22 July.
Secretariat officials also attended the meeting, which was held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Panel members held further internal discussions among themselves on organizational aspects related to their forthcoming visit to Algeria.
In addition to Mr. Soares, the members of the Panel are I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India; Abdel Karim Kabariti, former Prime Minister of Jordan; Donald McHenry, former United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Simone Veil, former Secretary of State of France; and Amos Wako, Attorney-General of Kenya.
Panel members are expected to stay in Algeria for about two weeks. They will then submit a report to the Secretary-General which he will make public.
One out of three children born each year are at risk because they are not registered at birth, according to a new report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The Progress of Nations, an annual report on how effectively countries are improving the status of children, says that the 40 million children who are unregistered each year are deprived of key citizenship rights. Twenty-two nations have no data on birth registration.
"This is one of the major unreported stories of our time," UNICEF's Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, said at the launching of the report in London on Wednesday. She pointed out that lack of a birth certificate threatened children. "Whether seeking immunization, entering school or proving one is too young for military service or to work in hazardous industries, a birth certificate is a necessity.
Without proof of birth, a child cannot be legally vaccinated in at least 20 countries, according to the report. More than 30 States require birth registration before a child can be treated in a health centre. Most countries demand to see a birth certificate before enrolling a child in school. Many require one for supplemental feeding programmes.
The author of the lead article in The Progress of Nations, Unity Dow, brought her personal experience as the first female High Court Judge in Botswana to the task of reporting on birth registration. Noting the usefulness of a birth certificate in the hands of a teenager accused of a crime, she writes, "I am presiding over a murder trial of a young man who does not have a birth certificate. If convicted, he could face the hangman's noose because he cannot prove that he was under 18 at the time the crime was committed."
Her article provides details about the countries where birth certification is made difficult by cumbersome procedures or costs. In addition, she devotes attention to the problems faced by refugees and others born away from home. "Threatening as it is to be without a birth certificate in a settled community, to be denied proof of identity outside the borders of one's home country is to be consigned to the no- man's land of statelessness," she observes.
Some countries have been taking steps to improve their certification process, according to the report. Under the auspices of the United Nations Statistical Division and a consortium of UN agencies, training workshops have been held for registrars throughout the world to improve civil registration systems.
Countries undergoing the transition to a market economy described the lessons they had learned in the process as the Economic and Social Council continued its high-level debate on Wednesday.
Vladimir Galuska of the Czech Republic said his Government had learned that moving from a centrally planned to a market economy meant an increase in competition. Competitiveness not only involved the quality of a product and its price, but a series of inter-linked factors, from good production practices to export financing. Secured market access itself did not provide for increased export revenues, he stressed.
The representative of Latvia, Janis Priedkalns, said that the transition of Central and Eastern Europe countries from centrally planned to free market economies had proved more complex and prolonged than initially anticipated. Latvia had achieved notable progress towards macroeconomic stabilization through structural reforms and active investment policies, he said.
Poland's Ambassador, Eugeniusz Wyzner, said the liberalization of international economic relations had opened new opportunities for his country to modernize its economy and generate new jobs. By creating a favourable legal network for foreign investment, Poland was able to attract foreign capital, thus generating growth and reducing unemployment rates, he said.
Following meetings on Wednesday with representatives of China and the United States, Klaus Topfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), stressed the environmental importance of last week's summit between the two countries.
"The agreements reached in Beijing should send a positive signal of environmental cooperation around the world," said Mr. Topfer. "This is the direction to go, and other countries should follow their example," he added.
According to UNEP, the United States and China recently established a number of joint programmes to address environmental degradation, cleaner uses of energy, and climate change. The two countries also agreed to expand cooperation in the areas of health sciences and natural resource management. Specific agreements on air quality and land-use were signed, and other agreements were reached on fighting diseases, preserving endangered species, emergency preparedness, freshwater and marine resources conservation, and natural disaster reduction.
Commenting on the fact that many of the programmes agreed to by the United States and China reflect UNEP's new areas of concentration, Mr. Topfer said his agency stood ready to assist in any way it could. He also expressed the hope that the two countries would share their experience with UNEP, "to enable us to pass on this valuable information to other countries."
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