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United Nations Daily Highlights, 02-08-28

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

HIGHLIGHTS

OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY

FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

DELEGATES MAKE PROGRESS AT JOHANNESBURG NEGOTIATIONS

Major progress has been made in the negotiations on the major issues relating to trade and finance questions in the outcome document for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. About 99 percent of the text concerning finance has been agreed upon, as well as about 80 percent of the section on trade.

Overall, about 88 percent of the text of the outcome document is complete, and of the 156 paragraphs that were in dispute at the start of the Summit, 76 are still outstanding.

The chairman of the talks on trade, finance and globalization, John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, reported that the key to the progress so far has been the good spirit in the room that allowed delegates to work until 3:00 in the morning. On the outstanding issues, Ashe said negotiations were continuing on the issue of phasing out subsidies, but there were still disagreements on how to characterize the effects of globalization, as an opportunity as well as a challenge.

In other negotiations, countries agreed to restore depleted fisheries by 2015. About three-quarters of the worlds fisheries are fished to their sustainable limits or beyond. The chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States, Ambassador Neroni Slade of Samoa, said the agreement was an acknowledgement of a situation that has existed for years and that the specific target of 2015 is an attempt to reverse the trend.

Todays plenary discussions are on water and sanitation and energy.

ANNAN TRAVELS TO LESOTHO, ENDING VISIT TO BOTSWANA

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today left Botswana, following a meeting in the morning with President Festus Mogae, in which the Secretary-General raised his concerns about food shortages and AIDS in the country. He also appealed to Botswana to join the UN standby arrangements for peacekeeping and raised the issue of indigenous people in Botswana. The two exchanged views as well on the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development and on the newly-created African Union.

He talked to the press after that meeting, and, in response to a question on his views about any possible military action against Iraq, said, The UN is not agitating for military action.

He then travelled to Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, from where, in the early afternoon, he took a short helicopter tour of the Mohale Dam and then met in Mohale with Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili. They discussed the recent elections in Lesotho, as well as the two crises of food shortages and AIDS that are facing the country.

Speaking about the AIDS crisis, the Secretary-General noted that Lesotho was spending two percent of its national budget to treat victims of the epidemic, and he pledged the United Nations help in tackling the crisis.

They also held a ceremony to launch the International Year of the Mountain, with the Secretary-General planting an olive tree in the mountainous region while rain poured down.

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General returned to Maseru, where he met with His Majesty King Letsie III, while his wife, Nane Annan, met with the Queen of Lesotho.

The Secretary-General then addressed a joint session of the nations Parliament. He congratulated the people of Lesotho for the elections held last May, and underscored the importance of education and the empowerment of women. Returning to the AIDS crisis, he noted that 30 percent of the nations population between the ages of 15 and 49 were estimated to be HIV-positive.

Later, after a press encounter, the Secretary-General witnessed the re-naming of a road in the capital, from Maseru Bypass to Kofi Annan Road. He asked anyone using that road from now on to drive carefully.

This evening, the Secretary-General will attend a banquet in his honor hosted by King Letsie.

Last night, in Gaborone, the Secretary-General attended a dinner held in his honor by President Mogae of Botswana, and he praised the people of that country for their achievements as a stable, multi-party democracy with a consistent track record of high economic growth and improvements in health, water, sanitation and education. He added, That only makes the tragedy of HIV/AIDS all the more poignant, since it is snatching away the precious development gains you had made.

UN CONCERNED ABOUT ERITREAN EXCLUSION OF DEMINING GROUPS

Following a directive from the Government of Eritrea ordering international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in mine action to cease all activities by the end of this month, a joint letter was sent out on August 19 by the UN Secretariat, the UNs Childrens Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), asking the Government to suspend the deadline and allow for further discussion.

As a follow-up to the letter, a delegation met with President Isaias Afeworki in Asmara. This delegation was headed by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Simon Nhongo, and by the Chief of the UN Mine Action Service, Martin Barber.

They assured the President of the effectiveness of the NGO operations in mine action. They also appealed for an extension of the deadline to allow the various parties involved to work out an appropriate transition strategy with the Government.

President Afeworki stated his concern regarding the NGOs activities and re-affirmed his decision to have them cease their operations by the end of the month.

The Spokesman said, We very much regret that Eritrea insists on its decision to exclude the international NGOs from mine action. This will, no doubt, result in a significant loss of human and material capacity in this vital area.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS BOUGAINVILLE, SIERRA LEONE

There are no meetings of the Security Council scheduled for today.

The next scheduled meeting will be Thursday, when the Council meets in closed consultations to review the situation in Bougainville. The Department of Political Affairs will provide the briefing on that subject.

Security Council members will also discuss the issue of diamond exports from Sierra Leone.

UN ENVOY VISITS REFUGEE CAMPS AT SIERRA LEONE BORDER

Alan Doss, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, on Tuesday led an assessment mission to two refugee camps in that country, located near the Liberian border, where there has been an intermittent influx of refugees whenever fighting is on the rise in Liberia.

Doss was told that there were inadequate health facilities for the more than 6,000 residents of one of the camps, at Jimi Gbagbo. He said he would look into the concerns of the refugees and said efforts will be made to increase the resources available in the camps, especially for health.

UN HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERT BEGINS VISIT TO SOMALIA

The independent expert on human rights in Somalia, Ghanim Alnajjar, has started an 11-day mission to the region, during which he will visit Nairobi and different regions of Somalia, as time and security permit. Starting today, he will visit Somalia itself, exploring issues from the state of the judicial system and prison conditions to the status of women and the challenges facing internally displaced persons.

Alnajjar said he is convinced that, since his last visit to Somalia a year ago, there has been an escalation of violence in parts of Somalia and a deterioration in security, which is having an impact on the human rights of thousands of ordinary people.

Also, the Secretary-General recently informed the Security Council that he has appointed three people to serve as a panel of experts to acquire information on violations of the UN arms embargo on Somalia and consider practical steps for implementing those sanctions.

The experts he named are Ernst Jan Hogendoorn of the Netherlands, Mohamed Abdoulaye MBacke of Senegal and Brynjulf Mugaas of Norway.

RIGHTS CHIEF WELCOMES DEFERRAL OF PHILIPPINES EXECUTION

High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson today welcomed the news that the scheduled execution in the Philippines of Rolando Pagdayawon, who would have been the first death-row inmate to be executed in that country since 1999, has been deferred.

A moratorium was placed on the death penalty in the Philippines in January 2001 but then lifted last October; however, since the moratorium was lifted, there have been no executions.

The High Commissioner calls on the Philippines to continue its moratorium, and eventually to abolish the death penalty.

GUATEMALA MISSION REPORTS INCREASE IN LYNCHING

The UN Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) today released a report on lynching in Guatemala.

The report says recent statistics show that although lynching has increased, the mere presence of the National Civil Police (PNC) prevented many from turning into more violent incidents with casualties. In addition, a comparative study has shown that the areas with the greatest incidence of lynching are also the poorest areas of the country.

MINUGUA is calling on the Government of Guatemala to formulate a policy to put a stop to lynching. The governments reaction up to now has been too weak to change a practice which is well-rooted in Guatemalan society, the Mission says.

WHO HEAD ASKS DONORS TO RESPOND TO SOUTHERN AFRICAN CRISIS

In Harare, Zimbabwe, today, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Gro Harlem Brundtland appealed to donors to respond promptly and generously to the humanitarian crisis facing southern Africa. She spoke at a meeting of the health ministers of ten southern African countries and WHO senior officials that discussed the health sectors response to the crisis.

She said food shortages were followed by illness and that the solution is to supply food supply along with health services. The people weakened by hunger can survive by receiving the treatment they need for diseases that otherwise will cost them their lives, she said.

Brundtland also explained that the evidence available today suggests that genetically modified food is not likely to present human health risks and that such foods may be eaten. She added that southern Africa countries should consider accepting such foods during the current crisis.

PROGRAM FOR TUBERCULOSIS SHOWS STRONG RESULTS IN INDIA

Drawing attention to the Secretary-General's five priorities for the Johannesburg Summit, the Spokesman today focused on health, and in particular the fight against tuberculosis, which kills two million people worldwide each year. Drug resistant strains of the disease have been compounded by HIV/AIDS and the breakdown of health services.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a program to fight back. It is called Directly Observable Treatment Shortcourses, or DOTS, and combines five elements--political commitment, detection services, drug supplies, surveillance and monitoring systems and the use of treatments in which patients are directly observed.

India has the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the world. About a thousand people die each day of the disease in that country. Under the DOTS program, eight out of ten people participating are fully cured.

Baidnath Yadav was diagnosed with tuberculosis seven years ago. He was given medication, but he would stop taking it each time he felt better. In May 2000, it began to consume him. He was afraid he would lose his job in New Delhi, forcing him to pull his 14-year old daughter Anita out of school to care for him and return to his village.

But then he was referred to a clinic where he entered the DOTS program. Under DOTS, each patient's medication is kept in a separate box with a card to record doses administered. Baidnath took his medication regularly, under the close supervision of a health worker. He was cured in eight months.

India has the fastest expanding DOTS program in the world. In 1998, just eight percent of the population had access to DOTS programs. Today that figure has risen to 30 percent.

Millions of people are being helped on the road to recovery by DOTS, making them not only more healthy but more productive.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Secretary-Generals Representative on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis Deng, concluded his visit to Mexico on Tuesday. Deng said that the current displacement in Mexico is largely concentrated in Chiapas, and noted that the Mexican Government has formed a task force that has visited that state. He urged the Government to expedite the formulation of its policy on internal displacement, and added there is a need to break the current impasse in the peace process in Chiapas.

This morning, Nicaragua became the 30th country to ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. This afternoon, Switzerland will ratify the 1997 and 1999 Amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

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: inquiries@un.org


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