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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-07-31

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Friday, 31 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.


  • Secretary-General calls for early restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.
  • United Nations Panel of Eminent Persons visits site of recent massacre in Algeria.
  • UN World Food Programme begins feeding severely malnourished Sudanese citizens arriving in Wau.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that Angolan refugees are fleeing to Namibia.
  • Human Rights Committee issues recommendations on improving respect for human rights in six countries.
  • United Nations agencies join forces to end violence against women in Africa.
  • President of Economic and Social Council says 1998 session saw major achievements, including UN reform.
  • Secretary-General will address two international meetings on youth next month in Portugal.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for an early restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.

In a statement read by his Spokesman, Juan Carlos Brandt, the Secretary- General expressed concern about the situation in Guinea-Bissau and said he has been following recent developments closely.

"The Secretary-General welcomes the recent announcement of a truce in Guinea-Bissau, and the singing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the self-proclaimed Junta forces under the auspices of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries," said Mr. Brandt.

The Secretary-General renewed his call for the early restoration of constitutional order, according to the statement. He also appealed to all parties to respect international humanitarian law and principles and to make every effort to facilitate the free flow of humanitarian assistance to affected populations.

The United Nations Panel of Eminent Persons has visited the site of a massacre in Tlemcen, Algeria.

Panel members on Thursday met with some of the victims who had managed to escape an attack in Tlemcen which had taken place during the night of 25 to 26 July. The attack had resulted in the death of 12 persons, and the kidnapping of five women, including three adolescents.

After hearing information on the nature of the terrorist attack provided by military authorities in the region, Panel members visited the actual site of the massacre, where they witnessed the damage and spoke with survivors.

Later that afternoon, Panel members visited the city of Oran. On Friday, they were scheduled to visit the towns of Tizi-Ouzou and Bejaia.

The panel is headed by Mario Soares, the former President of Portugal. Its other members are I.K. Gujral, the former Prime Minister of India; Abdel Karim Kabariti, the former Prime Minister of Jordan; Donald McHenry, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations; Simone Veil, former Secretary of State of France; and Amos Wako, Attorney-General of Kenya.

Following its mission, the panel will present a report to the Secretary- General, which he will make public.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Friday began helping to feed displaced Sudanese citizens arriving in Wau who are too malnourished and weak to prepare food for themselves.

"Some of these people are so thin and malnourished when they arrive, they don't even have the energy to stand in line for food, never mind attempt to cook a meal," said Tesema Negash, WFP's Deputy Director for Africa, who is currently running the agency's operations out of Khartoum. "We're providing special foods to makeshift kitchens which are being set up around town so that these people can receive two cooked meals a day, until they are strong enough to begin looking after themselves," he said.

Care International, which recently established operations in Wau, opened the first kitchen this week. Care plans to open and manage nine additional sites, which will be supplied with food by WFP. Each site will be able to provide food to some 500 people a day.

This week, an average of 700 Sudanese have been arriving in Wau each day. Aid workers on the ground say that many continue to arrive in horrific physical condition, having walked for weeks with only wild foods to sustain them, according to WFP. "Most have no possessions, arriving severely malnourished and empty-handed, with only the clothes they are wearing hanging from their thin, frail bodies," the agency reported.

WFP has greatly expanded its programme in Wau by running an airlift operation which has allowed it to keep feeding centres fully stocked. Over 2,500 children have received therapeutic supplementary feeding, while more than 64,000 are receiving general food rations.

According to WFP, some 2.6 million Sudanese require varying levels of food relief assistance this year. At greatest risk are 1.2 million Sudanese living in rebel-held areas of the south. Not only do they face severe food shortages, but they are also the victims of continuous insecurity.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that Angolan refugees are crossing the border into Namibia.

"The UNHCR office in Windhoek, Namibia has reports of several dozen Angolan refugees crossing the border in the past few days near Rundu," said UNHCR Spokesman Kris Janowski. Local officials recently registered 46 refugees who had fled Angola's Cuando Cubango province.

"Given the spreading insecurity in several areas of Angola, UNHCR is preparing a contingency plan for a possible influx of 5,000 refugees," Mr. Janowski said.

On Thursday, five UNHCR staff members flew to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to reinforce the agency's office in Kisenge, where the majority of the 25,000 Angolan refugees have fled in recent weeks.

The Human Rights Committee ended its summer session on Friday by issuing conclusions and recommendations on reports submitted by a number of States parties to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, including Israel, Italy, Algeria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Concerning Israel, the Committee noted that 'moderate physical pressure' was still allowed during interrogation of suspected terrorists; and that persons held in administrative detention on security grounds could be kept in custody for apparently indefinite periods. Further, Committee members pointed out that Arab homes continued to be demolished as a means of punishment.

Among the panel's recommendations were that the Israeli Government should enforce rigorously the strict limitations on use of firearms and use of rubber bullets against unarmed civilians. The Committee requested that Israel's next report contain information on the number of deaths, including those caused by rubber bullets, the number of complaints arising from their use, and the number of defence and security personnel punished or disciplined as a result.

Several positive aspects were noted in the report of Italy, including the fact that it had set up a National Observatory on Religious Freedom. However, Committee members expressed concern about a number of issues, including continued discrimination against women. The Committee recommended, among other measures, that Italy impose effective sanctions against police and prison officers who abuse their powers. It also called for vigilance over the outcome of complaints made against members of the Carabinieri and against prison officers.

Concerning Algeria, the Committee said it was appalled at the widespread massacre of men, women and children in many villages and towns. It cited concern that women also had been subject to abduction, rape, and severe violence. Panel members were also concerned about persistent allegations of collusion of members of the security forces in terrorist attacks. Committee members also expressed concern over reports of torture in Algeria, as well as allegations from family members of disappearances and a failure of the State to investigate or respond to those disappearances. They were also concerned over restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of association in Algeria.

Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the Algerian Government to prevent attacks against civilians, and to come promptly to the defence of the population when attacks occurred. It called for independent investigations into the attacks, including the possible role of security forces. Committee members called on the Government to ensure that all allegations of arbitrary or extrajudicial executions, be thoroughly investigated, and that offenders be brought to justice. They also called for thorough and impartial investigations of disappearances, and urged respect for the rights to freedom of press, assembly, association, and free political activity.

On the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Committee members called for a response to reported cases of abuse of police authority, including unlawful arrest and detention and excessive use of force, especially against minority groups. Committee members said that persons responsible for such offenses should be identified and appropriately punished.

On the situation in the United Republic of Tanzania, Committee members expressed concern over traditional customs and pressures that inhibited complaints about rape between separated spouses or about genital mutilation, even though such acts were now criminal offenses. They were also concerned about a law in force in Zanzibar allowing imprisonment of both mother and father in the event of an unmarried woman becoming pregnant. The Committee recommended that police officers receive thorough training in human rights and crowd control and that an independent mechanism be set up for investigating complaints against them. They also called for improved prison conditions, as well as measures to prevent sexual abuse or rape of female prisoners.

Several United Nations agencies have announced a joint effort to end violence against women and girls in Africa.

In a message marking the start of the campaign, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as long as violence against women and girls remains unchecked, "we cannot honestly claim to be making progress towards the objective of equality, development and peace."

The Secretary-General's message was read at a press conference on Friday by his Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Angela King. "Action to enable women and girls to live a life free from violence is just a central feature of the struggle for sustainable development in Africa, as elsewhere in the world," she said.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Noeleen Heyzer, said the effort would aim to increase public awareness and policy advocacy to address the many dimensions and costs of violence, especially gender-based violence. "It hopes to motivate governments to institutionalize policies, laws and practices that deter and prevent gender-based violence," said Ms. Heyzer. "It hopes to strengthen the capacity of media, different networks and organizations to implement programs to eradicate violence against women," she added.

Thelma Awori, the Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that since African women were the "bedrock of development" on the continent, all development efforts would be meaningless without measures to stem gender-based violence. In such countries as Uganda, Sudan, Somali and Liberia, the campaign would work to assess the trauma that women experienced from losing their children and other loved ones to war or abduction.

Agencies participating in the initiative include UNDP, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Economic Commission for Africa, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank.

The President of the Economic and Social Council has issued a positive assessment of the Council's 1998 substantive session, which ended on Friday.

"This year's work has been marked by a series of 'firsts' in the activities and working methods of the Economic and Social Council," said its President, Ambassador Juan Somavia of Chile.

Among the unprecedented actions, the Council issued its first-ever Ministerial Communique following the high-level segment, which focused on market access for developing countries in the$ context of globalization and liberalization. "This was made possible by the willingness of delegations to hold intensive informal consultations prior to the opening of the Council -- a practice never before followed," noted Mr. Somavia.

The Council also took measures which served to advance the cause of United Nations reform. For the first time, the Council decreased the number of members of one of its subsidiary bodies -- the Commission on Science and Technology for Development -- from 53 to 33. The Council also combined two other bodies -- the Committee on New and Renewable Sources of Energy and Energy for Development with the Committee on Natural Resources -- to form the new Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for Development. Ambassador Somavia noted "our decisions on reform of the Economic and Social Council machinery will actually save money for the Organization." Specifically, the decision to combine the two Committees will result in a savings of $152,900 over a two-year period.

On Friday, the Council also adopted a resolution on the "millennium bug" computer problem. The Council set out a point-by-point set of guidelines to raise the awareness of governments about the year 2000 problem, which stems from the fact that many systems use only the last two digits to identify the year. If these systems are not converted by 31 December 1999, they will recognize '00' not as the year 2000 but instead as the year 1900.

The guidelines are aimed at government institutions, but generally could apply to the private sector as well. Recommendations are geared towards recognizing, assessing and tackling the year 2000 problem, including through risk analysis; attention to questions of liability; budgetary provisions for new hardware, conversion software and related costs; and contingency planning, such as the establishment of a hotline "for the public to report possible millennium-related problems and obtain assistance in case of emergencies."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will speak at two conferences dealing with youth being convened in Portugal in August -- the third session of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System and the first World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth.

On 7 August, Mr. Annan will address the closing session of the World Youth Forum, which will take place in Braga from 2 - 7 August. The following day, he will open the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth along with President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal. The meeting is being convened in Lisbon from 8 to 12 August.

Under the theme "Youth Participation for Human Development," the World Youth Forum will bring together representatives from non- governmental youth organizations, youth-related agencies of the United Nations system and intergovernmental organizations, to discuss enhanced cooperation. About 500 young people from youth and student movements will participate in the meeting, which will focus on youth policies, youth participation and youth rights. The third session of the Forum is being convened by the United Nations in partnership with the Portuguese National Youth Council. A delegation will present the Forum's recommendations to the Ministers Conference in Lisbon.

The World Conference of Ministers will be the first global meeting on youth at the ministerial level held since the founding of the United Nations in 1945. It will decide on further ways of implementing the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1995.

National youth policies will be high on the agenda. Discussions will also be held on the relevance of the three themes of International Youth Year -- Participation, Development and Peace. In addition, participants will address major priority issues for action, including employment, health and drug abuse. Over 100 government leaders are expected to attend the meeting which is expected to adopt a historic declaration on youth. The Conference is being convened by the Government of Portugal in cooperation with the United Nations.

The two meetings being hosted by the Government of Portugal are a follow-up to the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth, which focuses, in particular, on measures to strengthen national capacities regarding youth, and to increase the quality and quantity of opportunities available to young people.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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