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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-04-03

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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

ARCHIVES

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY MARIE OKABE

DEPUTY

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, April 3, 2008

BAN KI-MOON PLEDGES U.N. COMMITMENT TO AFGHANISTAN

Today, in Bucharest, Romania, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the high-level meeting on Afghanistan, and he pledged the UN's commitment to that country, vowing, "We shall not leave Afghanistan as long as we are needed by the Afghan people."

He noted the signs of progress in the country, as well as the obstacles that are still present, foremost among them the threat posed by the continuing violence and militancy in various parts of the country. Another obstacle, he said, is the constantly growing drug economy.

The Secretary-General acknowledged that the UN has not been as effective as it needs to be in coordinating the international community, adding that the new Security Council mandate will allow the UN to take a more assertive role in coordination.

The Secretary-General began the day with a working breakfast with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and met with other leaders participating in the NATO summit over the course of the day.

The Secretary-General and the Afghan President discussed the importance of todays conference as a means of reaffirming the international communitys long-term support for Afghanistan. The Secretary-General and the President also discussed the latest audio message from al-Qaeda, and both noted, contrary to that message, the contributions that the United Nations has made to the Muslim world.

After visiting UN staff in Romania, the Secretary-General then held bilateral meetings with the President of France, the Prime Ministers of Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and the Foreign Ministers of Canada and Germany, as well as the European Union High Representative and the President of the European Commission. All those meetings included discussions on the ways that the international community can improve its assistance to the Afghan people.

In his meeting with the Swedish Prime Minister, the Secretary-General thanked the Prime Minister for offering to host the 29 May meeting of the International Compact for Iraq.

Later today, the Secretary-General expects to meet with the President of Romania, which will be the last of his bilaterals for the day.

He will be back in New York tomorrow.

Okabe, in response to questions about the Secretary-General's reported reaction to the Al Qaeda message, said the Secretary-General when he visited UN staff in Romania referred to it, describing the totally false and unacceptable accusation that the United Nations did not help the Muslim world.

In response to further questions on security implications of the message, the Deputy Spokesperson said the United Nations is constantly reviewing its security arrangements around the globe.

CYPRUS: BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES OPENING OF SYMBOLIC CROSSING POINT

The Secretary-General welcomes todays opening of a crossing at Ledra Street in the old town of Nicosia. Since its closure in 1963, Ledra Street has come to represent the division of Cyprus. Its reopening today, after more than four decades, is the symbol of a new and hopeful environment. As the Cypriots now embark on what will be a challenging process towards renewed negotiations aimed at reunifying the island, the United Nations is fully committed to help them succeed.

At todays opening ceremony in Nicosia, Elizabeth Spehar, the Secretary-Generals Acting Special Representative in Cyprus, said we all know that the opening of Ledra Street does not mean the Cyprus problem has been solved. But the opening does give us a glimpse of what is possible, she added. We have her full remarks upstairs.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Mario César Sánchez Debernardi of Peru has assumed his duties as Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.

SECRETARY-GENERAL LAUDS ENTRY INTO FORCE OF DISABILITIES TREATY

The Secretary-General welcomes the entry into force of the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

The Secretary-General welcomes the 20th State depositing a ratification or accession today, which triggers the entry into force of the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Protocol on 3 May 2008.

The Secretary-General congratulates the States that have already ratified or acceded to the Convention for enabling the entry into force only a year-and-a-half from its adoption by Member States on 13 December 2006.

It is estimated that there are at least 650 million persons with disabilities worldwide, of whom approximately 80 percent live in less-developed countries. The Convention, together with its Optional Protocol, is deeply rooted in the firm commitment of the international community to rectifying the egregious neglect and dehumanizing practices that violate the human rights of persons with disabilities.

The Convention will be a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacle faced by persons with disabilities: discrimination, segregation from society, economic marginalization, and lack of opportunities for participation in social, political and economic decision-making processes. It is a historic moment in our quest for realization of the universal human rights for ALL persons, creating a fully inclusive society for all.

Therefore, all States are called upon to ratify or accede to this Convention without delay. They will have an opportunity to deposit instruments of ratification or accession to this convention during this years annual treaty event at the beginning of the sixty-third General Assembly session.

INT'L TRIBUNAL ACQUITS FORMER K.L.A. COMMANDER

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today acquitted Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for alleged violations committed in Kosovo between March and September 1998.

The third accused, Lahi Brahimaj was sentenced to six years imprisonment for cruel treatment and torture of persons.

Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj faced charges of participation in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was to consolidate the Kosovo Liberation Armys total control over an area of northwestern Kosovo by the unlawful removal, mistreatment and murder of Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians, as well as Kosovar Albanian citizens who were perceived to have been collaborating with Serbian forces.

U.N. MANDATE NOT SUITABLE TO ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES

OF CONFLICT IN CHAD AND CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Available today is the Secretary-Generals latest report on the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).

In it, he says that Chads internal crisis, the situation facing refugees and internally displaced persons in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic, the tensions between Chad and the Sudan and the situation in Darfur should be addressed simultaneously in a coordinated effort.

He adds that while such an effort should take into account the root causes of the internal conflicts and their regional aspects, neither the UN Mission nor the European Force (EUFOR) is suitably mandated to address these issues.

Noting the need for Chad and Sudan to reach a negotiated and comprehensive settlement of their disputes, the Secretary-General says that while the international community can assist them in settling their differences, it is incumbent upon the parties to demonstrate the political will and commitment to address the underlying challenges.

Constructive relationships between Chad and the Sudan, as well as coordination in the activities of the UN Mission, EUFOR, the UN and African Union Mission in Darfur, the UN Mission in Sudan and humanitarian organizations operating in eastern Chad and Darfur, are essential to restore peace and security and ensure the protection of refugees and IDPs in the region.

As developments in eastern Chad have prompted the Government of Chad to seek an increased involvement of its police force in coverage of IDP sites, the Secretary-General intends to recommend that the six-month review of the UN Mission and EUFOR, expected to be finalized in September, look at this issue and develop recommendations.

UNITED NATIONS IS WORKING HARD TO GET CAPABLE FORCE IN DARFUR

Asked about a letter by the U.S. envoy for Darfur that 3,600 additional African peacekeepers be deployed under the UN/AU umbrella by June, the Deputy Spokesperson confirmed that the Secretary-General had received the letter and replied that the United Nations is pleased that the United States is committed to the rapid deployment of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

"We are working hard with troop contributing countries and donors to get capable troops on the ground. One of the challenges we face is that these troops will be going into an extraordinarily difficult environment. They have to be ready for it," she said.

She added, "Donors like the US have a serious role to play in ensuring these troops - most of them African - have the capabilities necessary. Donors can help procure equipment and ensure that it can maintain it once the troops hit the ground. Troops who are deployed before they are ready will put themselves at grave risk and will, frankly, set the Mission back.

"We would also call on concerned member states to help us fill critical gaps we still face -- particularly in aviation. We are short 2 tactical helicopters and 18 military transport helicopters and also a military transport unit. These are all essential if the force is going to have the effect we all want it to have."

CRIMINAL NETWORK ACTED TOGETHER

TO KILL FORMER LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER

Available today is the latest report of the International Independent Investigation Commission.

In it, Commissioner Daniel Bellemare presents an overview of progress made to date in the investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He also underlines the complexity of the investigation as he prepares for an effective handover of collected evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

In this 10th progress report, the Commissioner says that his team has evidence that a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out the killing of Hariri and that this criminal network, or parts of it, are linked to some other cases of political assassination within the Commissions mandate. The Commissions priority is now to determine the scope of the network and the identity of its members.

HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE RESPECTED DURING NEPAL ELECTION PROCESS

In the run-up to the April 10 Constituent Assembly election in Nepal, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) there is

urging all political parties, government and Nepalese people to abide by the electoral Code of Conduct and ensure respect for human rights during the election process.

Adding that the human rights relevant to the election include the right to freedom from intimidation and discrimination, as well as freedom of opinion and expression, OHCHR stresses that a sincere commitment by the people to respect these rights will create an environment for a successful and credible election.

The Office recommends a six-point measure to ensure respect for human rights in order to help create a free and fair election, including ensuring that voters are free to choose without fear and that children do not participate in political activities that risk their safety.

URGENT EFFORTS NEEDED TO CLEAR LANDMINES IN IRAQ

Ahead of tomorrows International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, UNICEF and the UN Development Programme are calling for urgent efforts in Iraq to clear landmines, unexploded ordanance and other deadly remnants of war.

The agencies say that Iraqis live amidst one of the greatest concentrations of such munitions in the world, with cluster bomb remnants of particular concern. The contamination is so widespread that it is hampering several development programmes, the agencies say.

The United Nations is helping Iraq with the clean-up, but much more work is needed, particularly in central Iraq where funds and capacity are limited.

MORE H.I.V.-POSITIVE KIDS & PREGNANT WOMEN GETTING TREATMENT

UNAIDS, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization today released their second stock taking report on children and AIDS, which reviews progress since the last such report in October 2005.

It finds that more HIV-positive children and pregnant women are receiving treatment, but much more remains to be done. For example, there was a 60 percent increase in the number of HIV-positive pregnant women who received antriretrovirals to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus to their children. But that still represents less than one in four HIV-positive pregnant women.

Despite the gains in preventing mother-to-child transmission, UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot says much more must be done to prevent HIV among young people. Of new HIV cases in those older than 15, 40 percent are among those under the age of 25.

But the report argues that achieving an AIDS-free generation is still possible, through the scaling up of initiatives that have proven effective.

NEW APPOINTMENT MADE IN HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT

The Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Catherine Pollard of Guyana as the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management. Ms. Pollard succeeds Ms. Jan Beagle of New Zealand who was appointed Deputy Director General of the UN Office in Geneva.

This appointment is a cornerstone of the Secretary-Generals commitment to strengthen the Organization in the key area of human resource management. Ms. Pollard brings to the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) her demonstrated capacity to forge collaborative partnerships with different groups of stakeholders in order to get the job done.

She currently holds the position of Chief of Staff in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and has a proven track record in financial, human resources and general administrative management.

Responding to further questions about the appointment, the Deputy Spokesperson later said that the OHRM post had been advertised and that Pollard was one of the candidates.

NEW DEPUTY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NEPAL IS APPOINTED

The Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Aracelly Santana of Ecuador as his Deputy Special Representative for Nepal and Deputy Head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). Ms. Santana succeeds Mr. Tamrat Samuel of Eritrea and will assume her new functions on 21 April.

Ms. Santana is currently serving as Chief of Staff in UNMIN and has served in a number of capacities since joining the United Nations in 1980. She has been responsible for a number of active portfolios, both in African and the Americas regions in the Department of Political Affairs.

BAN KI-MOON TO MAKE OFFICIAL VISIT TO RUSSIA NEXT WEEK

The Secretary-General will embark on a three-day official visit to the Russian Federation next week. This will be his first trip to the Russian Federation since taking office as Secretary-General.

He is expected to meet with Russian Government leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

While in the Russian Federation, the Secretary-General will also meet with the Deputy Chairman of the State Duma and civil society leaders, and he will speak at the Moscow State University. The Secretary-General will also address the launch of the UN Global Compact's Russia network.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

KOSOVO MISSIONS LEADERSHIP REMAINS IN PLACE: Asked about the status of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)s leadership, Okabe said UNMIK continues to operate in critical and evolving conditions and that the mission's leadership remains in place to carry out the UN's mandate under resolution 1244 (1999).

HUMAN RIGHTS AND LEGAL CHIEFS TO LEAVE DURING SUMMER: Asked when the resignations of Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Nicholas Michel, the Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel, would become effective, Okabe said that both officials would be leaving the Organization during the summer.

  • *The guest at noon was Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, who announced plans for the global commemoration of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, to be observed tomorrow.

    Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

    United Nations, S-378

    New York, NY 10017

    Tel. 212-963-7162

    Fax. 212-963-7055

    to the Spokesperson's Page


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