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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-06-18
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MICHELE MONTAS
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES ISRAEL/GAZA CESSATION OF VIOLENCE
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes the announced Israel/Gaza Cessation of Violence.
The Secretary-General hopes that these efforts will both provide security and an easing of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and end rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli targets. He also hopes that this cessation of violence will lead to a controlled and sustained opening of the Gaza crossings for humanitarian and commercial purposes.
The Secretary-General looks forward to all sides acting with care and responsibility in ensuring that this cessation of violence endures.
The Secretary-General congratulates Egypt on its persistent efforts to achieve calm through this agreement.
Asked about Israeli human rights violations, the Spokeswoman noted that they were brought up regularly by High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour under her mandate.
FOOD SITUATION PLACES WORLD AT RISK OF
POLITICAL AND HUMANITARIAN CRISES
The Secretary-General this morning briefed an informal session of the General Assembly on his recent travels and on the developments over the past few weeks in the world food situation.
He told them that easy access to food is already beyond the reach of most of the worlds poor at an affordable price.
If we fail to act effectively now, he warned, we will see more unrest, the reversal of important development gains and the emergence of new humanitarian crises. Going forward, we need a global partnership for food.
He added that, during his visit this past weekend to Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah fully shared his concerns about exceptionally high oil prices and their impact on vulnerable countries and assured the Secretary-General that he was ready to bring together relevant parties to find a solution.
The Secretary-General briefed the informal Assembly session on his recent trip to Myanmar, as well, saying that, on the whole, the relief effort there is continuing to improve and to scale up.
At the same time, the Secretary-General stressed that the humanitarian tragedy in Myanmar should not be politicized, and that he intends to remain personally seized of all aspects, including through the continued engagement of his Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, in the context of the Secretary-Generals good offices mandate.
In addition to discussing his recent travels, the Secretary-General expressed his profound alarm over the situation in Zimbabwe. The current violence, intimidation and the arrest of opposition leaders are not conducive to credible elections, he asserted. Should these conditions continue to prevail, the legitimacy of the election outcomes would be in question.
Asked whether the Secretary-General intends to talk to the press, the Spokeswoman said that, in addition to his press encounters during his travels, the Secretary-General expects to have a press encounter with the UN press corps next week.
Asked whether the subject of the selection of a new High Commissioner for Human Rights came up at todays meeting, Montas said it did not.
ENVOY TO ZIMBABWE MEETS OPPOSITION,
CLERGY AND CIVIL SOCIETY LEADERS
Haile Menkerios, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is continuing his visit to Zimbabwe.
He has held meetings today with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, with the presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, church leaders and civil society groups, including human rights organizations.
Following his meeting with President Mugabe yesterday, Mr. Menkerios told reporters he is in Zimbabwe to learn what the conditions on the ground are like ahead of the forthcoming elections and see what the UN can do to support Zimbabwe.
He said the United Nations will be supporting the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to boost its capacity to observe the election.
Regarding the security situation, Mr. Menkerios said the reports have been about violence, people being displaced, houses being burnt. The Secretary-General is concerned about what measures can be put in place ahead of the elections.
Asked when Menkerios would return to New York, the Spokeswoman said that he was expected to leave Zimbabwe on Friday but may have other engagements before he returns to Headquarters.
FOOD INSECURITY COULD AFFECT UP TO 5 MILLION ZIMBABWEANS
A new report finds that up to five million Zimbabweans could be facing food insecurity by early next year.
Todays joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme reflects the findings of an assessment team that visited the country from 29 April to 23 May.
It found that, for a second year in a row, adverse weather, the untimely delivery of seeds, shortages of fertilizer, and severe economic constraints have combined to create food insecurity and other hardships for people in both urban and rural areas.
By the height of the hunger season next January, more than five million people will need food assistance, the report says.
It recommends a combination of international emergency aid, agriculture development assistance, reforms of the grain marketing system and other measures. The full 34-page report is on FAOs website.
ZIMBABWE: HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER DENOUNCES
DEPORTATION OF U.N OFFICIAL
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today denounced the expelling of a UN human rights official by Zimbabwe as regrettable, untimely and uncooperative.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, she added that the move appeared to fit with a pattern which the government has chosen on non-cooperation with various international agencies.
The staff member in question was a Geneva-based desk officer. He was on a routine mission, expecting to work with the UN Country Team and non-governmental organizations on issues relating to human rights.
He was asked to leave Zimbabwe yesterday by the authorities, on the grounds that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had not given them enough warning that the desk officer was coming.
For its part, OHCHR says it did alert the authorities. Arbour said she would like to see Zimbabwe reverse its decision and allow her staffer to return.
PEACEKEEPING MISSION OFFICIAL BRUTALLY ASSAULTED IN DARFUR
The UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) says a UN Staff member, working with the mission, was abducted, stripped of official and personal belongings, and physically assaulted by members of an armed Arab militia, approximately 10 meters from the UNAMID military base in El Geneina - and within close proximity of El Geneina airport.
The staff member was repeatedly beaten by rifles before he was abducted, while three of his colleagues were held at gun-point, the mission reports.
UNAMID said a member of the Sudan National Security intervened and the perpetrators released the staff-member, who is a in stable condition.
The militia moved in a convoy, made up of approximately 1,000 men on camel, horseback and in 4 Wheel Drive vehicles, on their way to the Headquarters of the Sudan Armed Forces, according to UNAMID.
In a statement issued after the briefing, UNAMID said it avoided opening fire in response to avoid further aggravating the situation and in consideration of the lives of the civilian population in that area. UNAMID condemns, in the strongest terms, the attack on its peacekeepers.
The Mission is deployed to help the people of Darfur achieve peace and stability. In their attempt to resolve the conflict in Darfur, peacekeepers should not, in any way, be made party to the conflict.
Meanwhile, the head of the Department of Field Support, Susana Malcorra has started her visit to Darfur.
In response to an earlier question about the status of the helicopters needed in Darfur, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations says that in addition to the four out of six required tactical support helicopters, there is a critical shortfall for three Medium Utility Helicopter Units (providing 6 helicopters each) and reconnaissance aircraft. We are still in discussions with member states to fill the aviation shortfalls.
Asked about comments made by the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, responding to complaints made by U.S. envoy Richard Williamson, the Spokeswoman noted that Qazi was the senior UN official on the ground but added that the Secretary-General had not commented on the exchange.
CHIEF POLITICAL ADVISOR COMPLETES VISIT TO CYPRUS
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe today wrapped up his two-day visit to Cyprus and is now on his way back to New York.
Speaking to reporters in Nicosia this morning, he said he had met twice with each of the two leaders: the Greek Cypriot leader, Dimitrios Christofias, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat.
He also held meetings with representatives of civil society and the Security Councils permanent members.
And he was briefed by the UN facilitators of the working groups and technical committees, which the two leaders decided to set up last March.
Pascoe said he remains optimistic about developments in Cyprus, adding that the two leaders are off to a very good start and that the United Nations is solidly behind them.
He noted that the two leaders advisors are to meet with the Secretary-Generals Special Representative in Cyprus, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, tomorrow, to set a date for the leaders next meeting.
Pascoe also said, There are huge expectations internationally that Cyprus will make it this time We want to make it work and the sooner the better.
SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF LIBERIA SANCTIONS PANEL
The Security Council this morning held a formal meeting to hear from the leaders of its recently-concluded mission to Africa.
The Permanent Representatives of South Africa and the United Kingdom briefed the Council on the delegations visits to Djibouti, to deal with Somalia, and to Sudan; the Permanent Representative of France spoke about their stops in Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and the Ambassador of Burkina Faso provided a briefing on the Côte d'Ivoire leg of the trip.
Earlier, the Council had unanimously approved a resolution requesting the renewal of the mandate of the Panel of Experts dealing with sanctions on Liberia by six months, until 20 December.
Council members also discussed the format of a meeting they intend to hold on Kosovo this Friday.
HUMANITARIAN WORK RESUMES IN RESTIVE NORTHEASTERN CHAD
UN officials in Chad say that the security situation in the northeast is calm after days of gun battles between armed opposition groups and government forces.
UN humanitarian workers have been instructed to redeploy to provide key assistance to internally displaced Chadians and Sudanese refugees from Darfur living in camps around the town of Goz Beida.
SECURITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS CONDITIONS IN D.R. CONGO
REMAIN ON DOWNWARD TREND
The monthly human rights report of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) is available on the Missions website today.
It says that foreign and national armed groups continue to be responsible for a marked deterioration of the security and human rights situation in several parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the government army and police remain among the main violators of the rights of civilians, including through rape and torture.
The government, for its part, has responded to the situation by prosecuting some soldiers from its ranks. Recently, it obtained the imprisonment of five of its soldiers for up to 15 years for raping minors.
However, at a time when the number of jailbreaks is mounting, the government continues to deny access to prisons in many parts of the country to human rights officials.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCILS SESSION ENDS
WITH 15 NEW RESOLUTIONS AND DECISIONS
The Human Rights Council is scheduled to wrap up its 8th regular session in Geneva this afternoon after having adopted 15 resolutions and decisions.
It already decided to extend the mandates by three years of seven of its thematic Special Procedures and is expected to also appoint a number of mandate holders for its Special Procedures.
Regarding Myanmar, the Human Rights Council condemned the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar.
It called on Myanmars Government to fully implement the commitments it made to the Secretary-General on granting immediate full and unhindered access by relief workers to all persons in need throughout the country, following the recent cyclone.
[Today marks the end of the 2nd annual cycle of the Human Rights Council. The first cycle began on 19 June last year.
Tomorrow, the Human Rights Council will hold an organizational meeting to elect its new President and Vice Presidents, as well as adopt its programme of work and calendar for the coming year and its third cycle.
The new Council members, elected by the General Assembly last month, will assume their membership starting tomorrow.]
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS NEW INSTRUMENT
ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today congratulated the Human Rights Council on its adoption of an important new instrument to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights.
The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will provide an important platform to expose abuses that are often linked to poverty, discrimination and neglect abuses that victims frequently endure in silence and helplessness, she said.
It will provide a way for individuals, who may otherwise be isolated and powerless, to make the international community aware of their situation.
This is a highly significant achievement, she added.
MARKED INCREASE IN COCA CULTIVATION IN THE ANDES
The annual Andean coca survey, released today by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), shows a marked increase in coca cultivation.
The increase was driven by a 27 per cent rise in Colombia, the worlds principal source of coca, and smaller increases in Bolivia and Peru.
UNODCs executive director, Antonio Maria Costa, called the increase in Colombia a surprise and a shock given the governments efforts to eradicate coca. Mr. Costa also noted that most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents.
UNITED NATIONS COMMITTED TO ASSISTING VICTIMS
OF SREBRENICA MASSACRES
The Spokeswoman, in response to questions, said the following about the hearing of a case in the District Court of The Hague against the United Nations and the Kingdom of the Netherlands: The case was brought by various individuals and the Mothers of Srebrenica Foundation.
The survivors of the Srebrenica massacres are right to expect justice for the most heinous crimes committed on European soil since World War II.
The Secretary-General shares their feelings and expresses his deepest sympathies to them and to the relatives of those brutally executed at Srebrenica almost 12 years ago.
As we have so often said, those indicted for having planned, orchestrated and carried out the attacks must be brought to justice. Yet, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic remain at large. The international community should not rest until they are apprehended and brought to trial.
Nor should the UN rest until it is fully-equipped to efficiently participate in the prevention of such tragedies from occurring in future within its peacekeepers' midst. To that end, the former Secretary-General's report of 1999, on the Fall of Srebrenica, highlighted in very frank terms the actions that need to be taken by the UN -- namely, the Security Council members, the Secretariat, and military and civilian personnel on the ground to avoid a repeat of those tragic events.
The fact that the United Nations is immune from legal process under the
Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations in no way diminishes the United Nations' commitment to assist the people of Srebrenica in the aftermath of their tragedy. The UN continues to do everything within its ability to bring those responsible for the atrocities to justice, and to assist in the recovery of Srebrenica and the region.
These efforts have been through the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as through a variety of efforts of other United Nations bodies and international partners.
Asked about the efforts the United Nations was making to deal with Srebrenica, the Spokeswoman said that these efforts have been through the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as through a variety of efforts of other United Nations bodies and international partners.
Asked about the UN responsibility at Srebrenica, she noted that the former Secretary-General's report of 1999, on the Fall of Srebrenica, highlighted in very frank terms the actions that need to be taken by the UN -- namely, the Security Council members, the Secretariat, and military and civilian personnel on the ground to avoid a repeat of those tragic events.
The United Nations, Montas said, understands its responsibilities, and it also has been asking for transfer of accused suspects, including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, to stand trial at The Hague.
Asked whether the United Nations was present at the Hague trial, she said it was not.
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