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United Nations Daily Highlights, 02-08-27

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







Tuesday, August 27, 2002


Before leaving Angola this morning to travel to Botswana, Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement to voice his worries about the deteriorating food situation in southern Africa. He noted in particular that t he UN system is already fully engaged in a comprehensive humanitarian effort to ensure adequate food supplies in Zimbabwe, as well as its neighbors.

Turning specifically to Zimbabwe, he said that, as the risk of famine looms, a successful, sustainable land reform program that will benefit all the people of Zimbabwe, especially the landless poor, is more important than ever.

He said, There can be no lasting solution to the current problems unless the Government of Zimbabwe implements a phased and fully funded land reform program. That program, he emphasized, should be one that is run according to the rule of law, that allows for proper training and adequate support to new small farmers and compensation to displaced farm workers and commercial farmers.

Such a land reform program, he added, is urgently needed in order to minimize the negative effects of the current situation on food production and the overall economy in Zimbabwe. It would also ensure the engagement and future support of the international community.

Asked if there was a link between land reform Zimbabwe and the current food crisis, the Spokesman said that it was widely acknowledged that the land reform crisis has had an impact on the food crisis. The land reform issue, the Spokesman added, has aggravated a food crisis caused by drought and other factors.

Asked about the timing of the statement and its relation with the Johannesburg Summit, the Spokesman said the statement comes at a time when the Secretary-General is traveling through southern Africa and is highlighting issues of importance to the region, including the food crisis.


The Secretary-General this afternoon arrived in Gaborone, Botswana, becoming the first Secretary-General to visit that country.

He and his wife, Nane Annan, first went to the Princess Marina Hospital to visit the AIDS project there, in a country where nearly 40 percent of adults are infected with HIV and one out of every eight children is born HIV-positive.

Despite such problems, the Secretary-General said he was inspired by the work being done at the hospital, and said that he considered the fight against AIDS to be a personal priority. He underscored that governments alone could not defeat AIDS, saying, We need to work in partnership and we need to pool our efforts if we are going to stand a chance to defeat this disease.

The Secretary-General then met with the UN country team and staff in Botswana, and, in talking to them, again focused on AIDS. He praised the women of Botswana for their courage in coming forward to seek treatment for AIDS and encouraged the nations men to do the same.

He then met briefly with Botswanas President, Festus Mogae, to talk about the nations International Trade Fair, and then he attended the official opening of the Fair itself. He said at the opening that Botswanas impressive economic achievements were an eloquent demonstration that Africa can overcome the problems of hunger, disease and war. But he warned that the country still faces great challenges in dealing with poverty, unemployment and the devastating consequences of AIDS. He then looked around the exhibition stalls at the Fair.

Later today, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with the facilitator of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, former Botswanan President Ketumile Masire, before attending a dinner in his honor hosted by President Mogae.


On Monday afternoon, while in Angola, the Secretary-General met with the leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), General Paulo Lukamba Gato, who thanked the UN for its humanitarian assistance and asked for the Security Council to lift the sanctions remaining on UNITA.

The Secretary-General said he would bring the issue to the Councils attention and pledged continued UN assistance, particularly in dealing with internally displaced persons and demining.

On Monday evening, the Secretary-General had a one-on-one meeting with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos before attending a dinner that the President hosted in his honor.

At that dinner, the Secretary-General discussed Angolas humanitarian crisis, with one of every three Angolans internally displaced; the problems caused by land mines; the need to demobilize former combatants; and the enormous challenge of rebuilding Angola.

He told the Angolans, I am encouraged by your plans to hold general elections within the next two years, and believe the most inclusive approach will yield the best results. The United Nations, he added, stands ready to assist in that effort.

This morning, he talked to journalists upon leaving Angola, reading out the statement on Zimbabwe and also noting President dos Santoss concerns about AIDS in Angola. He said he informed the President that the Joint UN Programme against HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) would work to help the Angolan Government in its fight against AIDS.


In Johannesburg, the World Summit on Sustainable Development entered its second day today with negotiations on the major outcome document for the Summit continuing to make progress.

Seventy-five percent of the document had been agreed on by the end of the preparatory meeting in Bali. There has now been agreement on 40 more paragraphs, with agreed-on paragraphs now comprising 82 percent of all paragraphs in the text. There are still 116 paragraphs outstanding in the final document.

Today, plenary sessions have been held on agriculture and globalization, among other issues. In the session on agriculture, the impact of agricultural subsidies on both developed and developing countries was discussed. The session also addressed market access for the products of developing countries and support for small farmers.

Also in Johannesburg today, the UN Environment Programme announced that last weeks meeting of High and Supreme Court justices adopted an action plan to strengthen the development use and enforcement of environment-related laws.


This morning the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss Afghanistan.

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Turk provided the briefing, which updated Council members on security, human rights and humanitarian affairs in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke to the press today and shared his impressions on President Hamid Karzais government, saying that it is struggling but adding, The new younger breed that has joined the government are really working extremely hard. He warned that there is no room for complacency in Afghanistan, saying, I dont think peace is firmly established.

Brahimi was asked about the possibility for an investigation into mass grave in northern Afghanistan, and he said that, as far as he knows, no active investigation is going on now. The Afghan Government, he said, has said it would like to investigate, but he added, I dont think they have the capacity to do so.

He reiterated his concern to protect potential witnesses before an investigation, and to keep the gravesites protected until then, which, he added, is being done by repeated visits to the sites by people from the UN Mission. He said, We will definitely do our utmost to follow this up, but he also emphasized, We cannot take a risk of putting anyones life in danger.

Asked about Afghanistans stability, he said he was encouraged by the work being done to prepare for a national police force and army, and believed that, within two years, we are going to have enough soldiers and enough policemen for the country to stand on its own two feet.

Asked if the United Nations would assist the Afghan government in an eventual investigation into the mass graves, the Spokesman said the UN position is that it is prepared to help the Government once the Government feels it is ready to conduct an investigation, with the proviso that a witness protection program is in place.


The direct talks in Cyprus between Glafkos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, resumed today in the presence of the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto.

Todays meeting was the 50th face-to-face meeting between the two men since the direct talks began on January 16.

The two leaders will meet again this Friday, August 30, and next Tuesday, September 3, prior to traveling to Paris to meet the Secretary-General on September 6.


The weekly update from the Office of the Iraq Programme shows that the level of Iraqi oil exports declined from last weeks high of 7.2 million barrels, to a total of 5.3 million barrels during the week ending August 23. The exports yielded an estimated $137 million in revenue.

With the implementation of the new procedures for processing contracts, some $107 million worth of supplies under 61 contracts, previously placed on hold by the Security Councils 661 sanctions committee, have now been re-assessed as not containing Goods Review List items and, therefore, they were approved by the Office of the Iraq Programme.

These include a contract for 16 oxygen plants for the production of medical oxygen valued at $58 million, which had been on hold for almost a year because of military dual use concerns.


The UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention today issued its first comprehensive survey of opium poppy production in Myanmar, saying that production estimated for this year of some 828 metric tons of opium is less than last years estimated production. Last year, Myanmar was the worlds biggest opium producer, with an estimated production of 1,097 metric tons.

Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the Office, said, This decline is a step in the right direction. But he added that concerns remain about production in Myanmar, and the United Nations will strengthen its investment in alternative development projects.

The surveys findings also indicate that some 80,000 people in Myanmar, or about 1.6 percent of its total population, are smoking opium on a daily basis.


The Spokesman today drew attention to one of the priority areas for sustainable development underscored by the Secretary-General: energy. He said that a world could be imagined in which energy use could be cut back in a way that helps improve the health of city dwellers: by having car free days in cities, where cars sit idle and people use bicycles, or their feet, to travel.

The Division for Sustainable Development of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has been promoting the cause of car-free days in recent years, with Europe holding its first Car Free Day on September 22, 2000, and the first Earth Car Free Day, with events taking place in dozens of cities around the world, being held on April 19, 2001.

As cities from Bogotá, Colombia, to Bilbao, Spain, participate in car-free days, the people living in those places have started to notice the benefits of fewer cars on the streets.

This past June 13, when several counties in north-east England participated in what they called Leg It Day, they drew attention to studies saying that heart disease rates would drop by five to ten percent if just one-third of all short car journeys were made by bicycle.

They added that research has shown that a 10 percent increase in the number of people cycling regularly would lead to a 4 percent reduction in the number of people with heart disease.

The people of Fremantle, West Australia, meanwhile, have promoted the idea of an annual Shed Your Car Day in which the community is brought together to participate in considering alternatives to car traffic.


The UN Mission in Kosovo today clarified a misunderstanding that has arisen in recent press reports about mass graves in Kosovo, saying that it cannot confirm the discovery of a new mass grave in Kosovo and has not discovered any new site in several months. The Missions forensics unit continues to oversee exhumations and identifications of remains in dozens of areas in Kosovo, including a cemetery in Suva Reka where bodies were exhumed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1999 and 2000.

The UNs Cyber School Bus website has introduced a new feature called Ask an Ambassador. As part of its extensive electronic resources for Model United Nations groups, every month one UN ambassador will answer questions e-mailed by students. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation has kindly agreed to be the first. This is not a live Internet chat, so there will be some time lag between the time the questions are submitted and when the answers are posted.

Mexico, Denmark, the European Commission and Austria today ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Denmark will also ratify the Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

  • The guest at today's briefing was Michael Doyle, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser, who discussed the Secretary-General's recent report on the Millennium Development Goals.

    Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

    United Nations, S-378 New York, NY 10017 Tel. 212-963-7162 - press/media only Fax. 212-963-7055

    All other inquiries to be addressed to (212) 963-4475 or by e-mail to:

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