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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-04-07
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MICHELE MONTAS
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Monday, April 7, 2008
ZIMBABWE: BAN KI-MOON URGES EXPEDITIOUS RELEASE
OF PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS
Nine days ago, the people of Zimbabwe voted in a responsible and peaceful manner.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is concerned that presidential results have yet to be released in spite of the constitutional deadline.
He urges the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to discharge its responsibility and release the results expeditiously and with transparency.
He calls upon all actors to act responsibly, exercise restraint and calm, and to address all issues regarding the elections through recourse to legal means and dialogue as necessary for the good of all Zimbabweans.
Asked about the activities of the UN system in Zimbabwe, the Spokeswoman said that all of the main UN agencies are in the country, although
UN activity there is not connected to the elections, which the United Nations did not observe. The United Nations, she said, has not received a request to become involved in the elections.
Asked whether such a request would have to come from the Government, Montas said it would, but added that the United Nations would take into consideration what all parties have to say.
BAN KI-MOON URGES FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN NEPAL
In the run-up to the Constituent Assembly election in Nepal this Thursday, the Secretary-General, in a video message, expressed fervent hope that the ballot will take place in a free and fair atmosphere.
Stressing that Nepals political leaders have a critical responsibility to ensure that voters can freely exercise their democratic right in a secret ballot, without fear of violence, intimidation or manipulation, the Secretary-General said much hinges on the success of the election, and the acceptance by all of the people.
Adding that the election is an opportunity to further cement the peace process in Nepal, he said the international community has consistently demonstrated its support and the UN is closely following the conduct of the election, including through the presence of hundreds of international observers.
The Secretary-General stressed that the election is not the end of the road and the peace process will continue, particularly in the drafting of a new constitution for a new Nepal. He also said he has accepted the invitation of the Government of Nepal to visit the country, and looks forward to witnessing the achievements of the democratic process.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) yesterday
released the third of a series of periodic reports on the conditions for the 10 April Constituent Assembly election.
The joint report, by UNMIN and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, notes that while campaigning was peaceful in many constituencies, incidents of election-related violence and intimidation by party workers continued, with frequent and severe clashes between political parties in many districts.
The report also highlights the results of UNMINs and the Human Rights Office in Nepals monitoring over the past week, related to violence by groups opposed to the election, violations of the electoral code of conduct and of human rights, and the monitoring of arms.
The Secretary-Generals Special Representative there, Ian Martin, continues with his regional tour in the run-up to the election, including Maoist army cantonments.
BAN KI-MOON IS DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT RISE IN WORLD FOOD PRICES
The Secretary-General has been watching the rise in global food prices with deep concern, which he recently expressed in The New Face of Hunger, an op-ed on 12 March for the Washington Post.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the price of essential agricultural stapleswheat, corn and other cerealshas gone up by more than 50 percent over the last six months. Rice prices have risen far faster than this average: up over 50 percent over the past two weeks, and 10 percent just last Friday alone.
Governments are understandably alarmed. Food protests and, in some cases, riots have taken place in a number of countries, from Egypt to Haiti to Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Some nations have barred the export of rice while others have moved to create financial incentives for importing additional supplies. This threatens to distort international trade and potentially exacerbate shortages.
The reasons for the shortages are many and cannot be solely ascribed, as some do, to a simple trade-off between biofuels and agriculture, though this may indeed be a factor. High oil prices have increased production and transport costs. Worldwide food production has been affected this year by droughts and other natural disasters. Economic growth has increased consumption, especially in Asia.
We must take steps, beginning now, to assure the worlds food security. The first step must be to meet urgent humanitarian needs. This year, the World Food Programme plans to feed 73 million people. But to do so, it requires an additional $500 million simply to cover the rise in costs.
Longer term, we must increase production. World Bank president Robert Zoellick notes there is no reason why Africa cant experience a green revolution of the sort that transformed southeast Asia in previous decades. UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development are working with the African Union and others to do just this.
Simply improving market efficiency can have a huge effect. Roughly a third of the worlds food shortages, according to the WFP, are the result of bottlenecks in local distribution systems.
RISING FOOD PRICES COULD RESULT IN FURTHER TENSIONS
IN HAITI AND ELSEWHERE
The World Food Programme (WFP) has again appealed for urgent funds for its operations in Haiti after four people were killed in riots over rising food prices. The agency says Haiti, with the worlds highest daily deficit of calories per person, has been particularly vulnerable to the soaring prices.
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran urged donors to respond to the agencys appeal, warning that rising food prices could result in further tensions in a number of countries.
For Haiti, WFP has received so far only 13 per cent of the US$96 million needed to assist some 1.7 million hungry people, hardly enough to support operations throughout April. Due to rising costs, WFP recently revised its funding requirements upwards by 22 percent.
Asked about the UN response to last weeks violence in Haiti, and whether bullets fired by UN peacekeepers had killed protestors, the Spokeswoman said that the UN Mission (MINUSTAH) had opened an investigation to determine whether the peacekeepers had acted in conformity with the rules of engagement. It was to examine whether the response of the peacekeepers was proportional to the situation they faced.
She noted that military reinforcements and police from Brazil, Bolivia, China and Nigeria had been sent to Cayes to assist the Haitian National Police.
U.N. POLITICAL CHIEF HOLDS TALKS ON CYPRUS
WITH GREEK AND TURKISH LEADERS
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe held constructive meetings on the Cyprus issue in Athens, Greece, today with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and other senior ministry officials. Pascoe told reporters that he and the Foreign Minister had "very fruitful talks" and had agreed to work together to help the people of Cyprus in their efforts at reunification.
Pascoe will be arriving in Ankara, Turkey, this evening ahead of meetings on Tuesday with Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan, and other officials before joining the Secretary-General's delegation in Moscow on Wednesday.
Pascoes meetings in Greece and Turkey are a continuation of his consultations that began last week on how the UN can best assist reunification efforts in Cyprus.
SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS HAITI AND LEBANON TRIBUNAL TOMORROW
Tomorrow morning, the Security Council will have an open briefing, followed by consultations, on Haiti, with the Secretary-Generals Special Representative, Hédi Annabi, talking to reporters at the stakeout afterward.
In the afternoon, the Council will hear in an open meeting from the head of the International Independent Investigation Commission dealing with
Lebanon, Daniel Bellemare, and will follow that meeting with consultations, as well. Bellemare will hold a press conference tomorrow in Room S-226 at approximately 4:45 p.m.
U.N. OFFICIAL CONVEYS SECRETARY-GENERALS CONCERN
OVER CONTINUED POLITICAL STALEMATE IN LEBANON
Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane was in Lebanon this weekend, where she met on Sunday with Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri.
Speaking to reporters after that meeting, she said she had come to Lebanon to convey the Secretary-Generals and the United Nations concern about the continued stalemate in the political situation.
She also visited southern Lebanon and the headquarters of the UN Interim Force (UNIFIL) on Saturday.
U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF VISITS PERSIAN GULF STATES
TO STRENGTHEN PARTNERSHIPS
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes is on a six-day mission to the Gulf region, where he has been visiting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar to strengthen partnerships between the Gulf States and the United Nations.
met in Riyadh with the King of Saudi Arabia, saying that he was deeply impressed by the Kings commitment to humanitarian causes throughout the world. He also met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, discussing a wide range of humanitarian issues and agreeing on the need to reinforce further the UN-Saudi partnership.
Tomorrow, Holmes will deliver the keynote speech at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference.
DR CONGO: SECOND PHASE OF KIVUS PEACE PROCESS UNDERWAY
Alan Doss, the Special Representative of the Secretary General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was in the northeastern town of Goma on Friday to take part in the opening of the mixed technical commission on peace and security in the Kivus, otherwise known as the "Amani Programme."
In a speech at that event, Doss said that the so-called Amani Programme marks the second phase of the Kivus peace process, which he called a realization phase. He also appealed to the parties to work urgently to help end the difficult living conditions of the more than one million displaced persons and refugees, whose resumption of normal life is contingent on the realization of the commitments made at the Goma Conference on Peace, Security and Development in the Kivus.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL BEGINS REVIEW OF
RIGHTS RECORDS IN 16 COUNTRIES
The Human Rights Councils Universal Periodic Review was launched today in Geneva.
The Universal Periodic Review is a new mechanism unique to the Human Rights Council, which requires that the human rights records of all UN Member States be examined. Over the next two weeks, a first group of 16 countries will have their records reviewed starting with Bahrain and Ecuador.
The meetings will feature interactive discussions between the States in question and the Universal Periodic Reviews Working Group, which comprises all 47 members of the Human Rights Council. The discussions will be based on national reports and information from a variety of sources, including treaty bodies, Special Rapporteurs, NGOs, national human rights institutions and academics.
Additional countries being reviewed over the next two weeks include Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Czech Republic, Finland, India, Indonesia, Morocco, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.
BAN KI-MOON CALLS ON MEMBER STATES TO ELIMINATE CHEMICAL WEAPONS
In a message to the Second Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, delivered earlier today in The Hague by Tim Caughley, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, the Secretary-General said that with its near-universal membership, the Convention has an undisputed record as one of the worlds most successful disarmament treaties.
He noted that because of the Convention some 27,000 tonnes of chemical weapon agents and 2.9 million chemical munitions and containers have been destroyed. We must recognize this progress, he said, and the positive role played by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
He also called on Member States to eliminate all outstanding dangers posed by chemical weapons and to redouble their efforts to build a world free from these instruments of mass destruction.
BAN KI-MOON CALLS FOR REINVIGORATION OF DISARMAMENT EFFORTS
In his remarks to the 56th anniversary of the Disarmament Commission, the Secretary-General today underscored the importance of the Commission, which performs a unique function in the UN disarmament machinery, serving as a deliberative body that reports to the General Assembly.
Renewing his call with a greater sense of urgency, the Secretary-General stressed that in shaping international peace and security, the Secretariat, Member States and civil society must reinvigorate collective efforts to reach shared goals in disarmament and non-proliferation.
He urged all nations to take very seriously the challenges posed by weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear arms including risks from their continued existence, their geographical spread, and the possibility that they could fall into the hands of terrorists.
WORLD HEALTH DAY FOCUSES ON THREATS POSED BY CLIMATE CHANGE
In his message on World Health Day, which is today, the Secretary-General says that climate change is sometimes debated as if it affected only the planet and not the people living on it.
He says this years World Health Day is an opportunity to broaden this view by spotlighting the major health threats we face as a result of global warming for the sake of our planet and all of its inhabitants.
The World Health Organization warns vulnerable populations at greatest risk, saying that human beings are already exposed to the effects of climate-sensitive diseases and these diseases today kill millions. They include malnutrition, which causes over 3.5 million deaths per year, diarrhoeal diseases, which kill over 1.8 million, and malaria, which kills almost 1 million.
The impact of climate change could fall disproportionately on women and children, UNICEF cautioned today, saying that nearly 10 million children under age five die every year of largely preventable diseases.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO MARK 14TH ANNIVERSARY OF RWANDAN GENOCIDE
The Secretary-General this evening will take part in a ceremony here at UN Headquarters to mark the 14th Anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda.
In prepared remarks he will deliver at that event, the Secretary-General will pay a tribute to the more than 800,000 people who perished and other victims as well as survivors of the genocide.
He is also expected to say that the United Nations has a moral duty to act on the lessons of Rwanda and will pledge to bolster UN efforts to prevent genocide.
The Secretary-General will also say that preventing genocide is a cause that he is resolved to pursue during his term and in the years beyond.
He will also cite the creation of the position of Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and the appointment of a Special Adviser with a focus on, among other subjects, the responsibility to protect.
UNICEF WITHDRAWS FROM OLYMPIC TORCH RUN IN DPRK: Asked about UNICEFs withdrawal from part of the Olympic Torch Run taking place in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Spokeswoman said that UNICEF originally decided to participate in the Pyongyang leg of the Olympic Torch Run in response to a request from - and as a demonstration of support for - the International Olympic Movement. However, Montas said, UNICEF is no longer convinced that its participation in the run will support the aim of raising awareness of the situation of children in the DPRK and elsewhere. UNICEF, therefore, decided more than a week ago to withdraw from the Pyongyang relay. She added that UNICEF continues to be committed to its partnership with the International Olympic Committee and to taking advantage of this partnership to draw attention to problems that children face around the world.
COMMISSION ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT OPENS ITS 41ST SESSION: All this week, the 41st session of the Commission on Population and Development is meeting at Headquarters. The Commission will consider the ongoing and profound changes in the distribution of the world population. These include the fact that, by the end of 2008, the number of people living in cities will exceed those living in rural areas for the first time in history.
U.N. SECRETARIAT NOT INVOLVED IN TERRITORIAL CLAIM INVOLVING THREE PERSIAN GULF ISLANDS: Asked about Irans claim of ownership of three islands in the Persian Gulf, the Spokeswoman said that the UN Secretariat is aware of that information but is not involved per se and has no comment, since territorial law is a matter for an international court, not for the Secretariat.
UNRWA CONFIRMS STRIKE AMONG ITS EMPLOYEES IN JORDAN: Asked about striking UN workers in Jordan, the Spokeswoman said that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) confirms that there has been a strike among its employees in Jordan. UNRWA and staff unions are engaged in talks to prevent further industrial action.
UNITED NATIONS IS DISCUSSING PROPOSED MOSCOW CONFERENCE ON MIDDLE EAST: Asked whether the United Nations supports a conference in Moscow on the
Middle East, the Spokeswoman said that it was discussing the matter with its Quartet partners.
SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSSES SITUATION ON CHAD-SUDAN BORDER WITH LIBYAN LEADER: Asked whether the Secretary-General had spoken with Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qadhafi, the Spokeswoman said that they spoke by phone on Saturday to discuss the situation along the Chad-Sudan border, which Qadhafi had earlier mediated
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