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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-06-26

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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

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SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON'S

PRESS ENCOUNTER

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, June 26, 2008

[The noon briefing will resume tomorrow, Friday, June 27, 2008]

SG: "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen:

As you know, I leave on a two-week trip to Asia tomorrow morning, with stops in Japan, China, the Republic of Korea and then again to Japan to participate in the G-8 summit meeting in Hokkaido.

This years Group of 8 meeting in Hokkaido Toyako has taken on a special urgency. It is no exaggeration to say that we face three crises, all interrelated and demanding our immediate action.

The first and most pressing is the global food crisis.

The second is climate change, and the need to act now if we are to reach an agreement to limit greenhouse gases by the end of next year.

The third is the emergency of development, especially in Africa. We are falling behind on our Millennium Development Goals. If we are to deliver on this promised future, we must take steps today.

Before departing I will send a letter to each of the leaders of the G8 nations, laying out my concerns and requesting their leadership. As I sayif ever there were a time to act, together as one, it is now.

In Hokkaido, I will appeal to world leaders to deliver on the measures agreed to in Rome earlier this month under the UNs Comprehensive Framework for Action. It offers a roadmap for ending the current food crisis and preventing a recurrence.

As you know, it calls on nations to remove export restrictions and levies on food commodities and reduce agricultural subsidies, particularly in developed countries.

I will also propose that we triple the proportion of Official Development Assistance for agricultural production and rural development. To overcome this crisis, we need nothing less than a second green revolution.

Climate change is no less immediate a concern. Floods throughout Asia and in the American Midwest. A third year of drought in Australia. Arctic melting, this year at an accelerated pace. Growing incidents of extreme weather around the world. Do we need more reminders about the urgency of global warming?

We achieved much in Bali last year. Now we must press forward in order to achieve the climate change agreement that the world expects and needs in Copenhagen in 2009.

In Hokkaido, I will ask for short- and medium-term targets for reducing greenhouse gases. It is not enough to talk of change by 2050. If we want real change, we must begin nowwith targets for real progress by 2020.

We cannot hope for success in Copenhagen without concrete action in Poznan in December this year. To help the worlds must vulnerable nations to cope with climate change, we must have a fully funded and operational Adaptation Fund in place by the end of this year. We need to take the concrete steps to transfer the latest low-carbon green technologies to developing countries.

As I say, we need leadership on all these fronts.

Lastly, the Millennium Development Goals. The food crisis and climate change are slowing, and in some cases reversing, our progress. In Hokkaido we must deliver on our commitments. I will also seek increased funding for specific programs relating to infant and maternal health, community health projects and disease-controlHIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Seldom has the global community been under such stress. The ties that bind us, as humankind, are fraying. We must work especially hard to preserve them, at this critical juncture, in the interests of our common future.

Thank you very much and I will be happy to answer your questions."

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for a standing press conference. We would rather that you come to 226 and talk to us in a more leisurely time. I hope you will take that into consideration instead of the stakeout all the time.

Jose Ramos Horta, the President of East Timor, claimed that you have offered him the post of High Commissioner for Human Rights. Can you confirm? Because he said he is going to announce it tomorrow, Friday, in East Timor. Can you confirm that you have offered him the post, and under what criteria have you applied to select him?

SG: As you know, the current High Commissioner, Ms. Louise Arbour, is going to retire as of the end of this month, and my senior advisers and myself have been actively going through a selection process. There were a number of candidates, very qualified candidates, and we are now in the process of narrowing down to a final shortlist of the candidates. In fact, I have interviewed some of them. I am still in the process. It may take a few more days before I will be able to submit the final candidate to the General Assembly for confirmation.

At this time, I would like to make it quite clear that I have never spoken to anybody to offer my nomination.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I would like to ask you about the Brahimi report that was released [the day before] yesterday. In the report, Mr. Brahimi talked about a sort of culture at the United Nations. He said that there was a reluctance, in Algeria, for example, to ask for help because that might be considered a sign of managerial weakness. He also said that the suggestions about UN staffing around the world hadnt been really brought to your attention. And one of the quotes was No one moves, no one suggests solutions, no one brings these issues to the higher echelons of the hierarchy, up to the Secretary-General himself. My question is this: to what extent do you believe that your own managerial style may have contributed to this culture where perceptions of weakness and so forth, and also, more broadly, what personal responsibility do you take for any of the failings outlined in the Brahimi report?

SG: First of all, I would like to make it quite clear again, that I have a firm commitment as far as safety and security of our staff and premises are concerned. In that regard, I take it very seriously, the report of the Brahimi Independent Panel, and I appreciate his contribution to that. Based upon his recommendations, I have established another committee to determine individual accountabilities of our staff involved in this. I am expecting within six weeks when they finish their review of this individual accountability. But I can assure you again my firm commitment that the safety and security is paramount to the United Nations organization and to all our staff, I will not spare any efforts to protect our staff and this organization from any threats.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the DPRK has submitted its declaration of its nuclear programme to China, and in return the US President has expressed his intention to take DPRK off the list of US terrorism. What is your reaction to this? And is this encouraging enough for you to consider going to the country any time soon? Thank you.

SG: It is a very encouraging development of the situation. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I welcome continued progress in the six-party talks towards a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. Todays submission by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea DPRK - of the declaration of its nuclear programmes to China as Chair of the six-party talks, followed by the reciprocal actions of the United States, are important steps forward. I call on all six-party participants to take this opportunity to expedite movement towards full implementation of the 2005 joint statement. I strongly support their efforts towards this end.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, thank you very much. Now, what is left actually to be done more in order to reconcile the two sides from Pristina and Belgrade, when it is clear that President [Fatmir] Sedjiu of Kosovo said there are not going to be any negotiations? Yet your Special Representative, the new one, just announced that he is going to encourage a new tour of negotiations. And why didnt you go so far to the region, especially to Kosovo or to Belgrade, and where have you been invited so far?

SG: As you have seen and you are aware, I have presented my special report on June 20th to the Security Council about how to proceed with reconfiguration of UNMIK to manage the situation on the ground. As I told the members of the Security Council, this package, proposal, may not be satisfactory to all the parties concerned, but I am still convinced that this can be the least objectionable solution to manage this situation. I was encouraged by what President Boris Tadic of Serbic said, that he will continue to engage in dialogue to discuss on all six points contained in my package of proposals. I know that the positions between Kosovo authorities and the Serbian authorities are different, but with a new SRSG, Mr. [Lamberto] Zannier, taking over new responsibilities in Pristina, I sincerely hope that they will engage in dialogue to resolve all the issues in a peaceful way. As Secretary-General, I will continue my efforts to create such a politically conducive atmosphere.

Q: Have you been invited to go there, so far?

SG: I will see when I will be able to visit in the region. But at this time, since I have presented my package proposal, I will continue to maintain very close coordination with the leaders of all the parties concerned, both Pristina and Belgrade, and the European Union.

Q: The issue of Japanese abductees hasnt yet been resolved by this recent declaration. Will you address this in any kind of way on your trip to Asia - South Korea, Japan or China?

SG: I know that this is a very serious concern shared by the Japanese Government and people on these humanitarian aspects of the abduction case. With the situation moving in a favourable direction, I sincerely hope that both the Japanese and DPRK will engage in dialogue so that they can resolve this issue in a peaceful manner.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you believe that the answer to the request from Mr. [Morgan] Tsvangirai about UN peacekeepers will be something that you will consider?

SG: My first and foremost concern at this time is how to ensure that violence and intimidation stop, and that people are no longer intimidated and that people no longer suffer from this humanitarian crisis. As I have urged, under these circumstances where one cannot expect a credible and fair election, this presidential runoff election should be postponed until such time when we can create fair and credible conditions for the election. I have been discussing this issue with many African leaders. Even this morning, I had a good discussion with President [Jose Eduardo] Dos Santos of Angola, who is now facilitating this process. And I have been engaging with African and world leaders to bring a peaceful resolution of this issue. The situation seems to be evolving, but I am still concerned that if the election is held under these circumstances, there will be serious questions and controversies about the legitimacy of the elections. Therefore I again urge the African leaders to engage in more dialogue. The United Nations fully support SADC [Southern African Development Community] and AU positions to postpone this election.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, besides the Middle East, the clear and present danger in the world, international peace and security, now is on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Afghanistan is threatening to attack Pakistan, and Pakistan is also going to threaten otherwise. And the United States is involved in the strikes, also. And there are reports that the Taliban are going to attack Peshawar and take over. So do you think you will use your offices of international diplomacy to somehow calm the situation down in the region?

And on another question related to Pakistan, have you made any decision on the investigation of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto?

SG: I am deeply concerned about the continuing violence and political and social instability in Afghanistan. The international conference on Afghanistan on June 12th in Paris was a very encouraging one, where the whole international community expressed their full support and provided more than $20 billion in financial assistance. I have urged President Karzai that, first of all, he should engage in inclusive political dialogue, embracing all the political factors there, and secondly, engaging in a more cooperative relationship with the neighbouring countries, including Pakistan. It is again very important for both the Pakistani and Afghan Governments to fully cooperate to work for the common efforts to fight against international terrorism.

And as for your second question, I have received such a request officially from the Permanent Representative of Pakistan here and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan in Paris, and we are still examining and reviewing their request to establish some Commission under my authority. But I have not yet [reached] any conclusion.

Q: What is your current assessment of the current situation in Burma, on the political front right now? And do you think there is some movement towards achieving your goal after your meeting with Senior General Than Shwe last month?

SG: There are two aspects of our concern, as far as Myanmar is concerned. As far as humanitarian assistance is concerned, I think the Myanmar authorities are moving toward the right direction to allow international aid workers and UN staff to deliver humanitarian assistance. The ten helicopters of the World Food Programme are making a great difference in delivering the necessary humanitarian assistance. And in that regard, we will continuously monitor and coordinate with the Myanmar authorities. The tripartite mechanisms among the UN, ASEAN [the Association of South East Asian Nations] and Myanmar are also functioning well. We are going to have a revised appeal for recovery and immediate humanitarian assistance some time in July.

There is another very serious aspect of the democratization process, including the continued detention, house arrest, of Aung San Suu Kyi. We will continue to engage in dialogue through my good offices role, mandated by the General Assembly, through the [Ibrahim] Gambari process. We will continue to widen and deepen this process. In fact, this afternoon, I am going to have a meeting, a consultation, with the ambassadors of the concerned parties, including Mr. Gambari.

Q: On Lebanon, Sir, where are we on Lebanon now? Are you talking to the Lebanese Government and establishment? Have you started your talk with them, consulting with them on the establishment of the Court? And where is the Shaba Farms? That is the second part of my question. They have asked for you to take over, [for the Farms] to be under the trusteeship of the United Nations. What moves are you doing? It seems that everybody wants to solve this problem now. Are you doing anything on that?

SG: I have been continuously talking with the Lebanese authorities, including with President [Michel] Suleiman, Prime Minister [Fuad] Siniora, and I am going to, soon after this press conference, talk with the Syrian President to discuss the Lebanese situation. This Doha Agreement should be fully implemented. We were encouraged by the election of President Suleiman. However, we have been very much disappointed by the lack of progress in forming a national unity government. I was briefed this morning by Mr. [Bader] al-Dafa, [head of the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia], that after his meeting with Speaker [Nabih] Berri, he was told that the formation of the government may come soon. This is encouraging; I sincerely hope that they will be able to announce the formation of a national unity government.

On Shaba Farms, I have discussed again with Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice and Prime Minister Siniora, and I may speak this afternoon with the Foreign Minister of Israel. As you know, I am going to submit my report under Security Council Resolution 1701 by the end of this month. This is something where we need flexibility and the political will of all the parties concerned. My senior cartographer has already concluded his work in the provisional delineation of the Shaba Farms, without any reference to ownership. I need some political will. I will continue to promote this.

Q: But Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora asked you to have it under the trusteeship of the United Nations. Its not Israeli, everybody knows that; its either Lebanese or Syrian. Are you willing to take responsibility for that until the ownership is decided?

SG: That is also an issue which needs agreement among the parties concerned. First of all, we need to discuss among the parties concerned how we can make progress on the Shaba Farms, even before we can talk about any further options on this issue.

Thank you very much. I will see you when I return. Thank you; all the best.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE U.N. SYSTEM

ZIMBABWE: HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF CALLS FOR JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour on Thursday called for justice and accountability in response to the campaign of political violence that has corrupted the electoral process in Zimbabwe.

"Serious violations of human rights and the associated impunity attributed mainly to groups linked to the ruling ZANU PF and, in some cases, to the MDC party, are unacceptable and need to stop immediately. Victims and their relatives deserve justice. Those who perpetrate crimes must be held to account."

Arbour described the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe as a "perversion of democracy", saying that respect of fundamental human rights and the rule of law are at the heart of any meaningful political and democratic process. Arbour added that international actors assisting Zimbabwe on the road back to sustainable peace, rule of law and stability should not overlook legitimate claims by victims for justice.

She welcomed the continuing regional and international efforts to resolve the crisis and urged mediation efforts to be guided by the necessity for justice and accountability, the essential first steps towards reconciliation. She reiterated the need for "wide ranging, participatory national consultations" in Zimbabwe to develop appropriate mechanisms to this end.

MORE MUST BE DONE TO FIGHT TORTURE

Today is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In a message, the Secretary-General says torture is a profound abuse of human rights and a horrific aberration of the human conscience. He adds that, despite a comprehensive legal framework against torture, Member States must do more to ensure that the torture-protection framework is applied in a gender-sensitive manner.

Meanwhile, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has issued a statement along with the United Nations Committee against Torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its cause and consequences, and the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

The parties to the statement call on all States, in particular those which have been found to be responsible for widespread or systematic practices of torture, to contribute to the Voluntary Fund as part of a universal commitment for the rehabilitation of torture victims.

They also urge all States to join the 34 that have so far ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and subsequently to engage with the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.

For its part, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has

marked the day by calling for all allegations of torture in Afghanistan to be properly investigated.

KOSOVO: U.N. MISSION GETS GREEN LIGHT TO START RECONFIGURATION

The Secretary-Generals Special Representative in Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, met today with Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu.

Speaking to the press afterwards, Zannier said he now had a green light from New York to proceed with the reconfiguration of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). He added that the conditions now existed for him to start moving towards a 120-day reconfiguration period, most likely finishing at the end of October.

The reconfiguration will result in the substantial reduction of the structures of UNMIK, in line with the new realities on the ground and the role that new actors are expected to play, Zannier added.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR GREATER EFFORTS

TO HELP REDUCE ILLICIT DRUG TRAFFICKING

Today is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. In a statement to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General says that drugs continue to destroy lives, generate crime and threaten sustainable development.

He called for assistance to states with weak criminal justice systems and limited law enforcement capabilities to help them reduce illicit drug trafficking.

He also reminded Member States of their responsibility to fully respect the rights of prisoners who are drug dependent or are in custody for drug-related crimes and called on them ensure that people who are struggling with drug addiction be given equal access to health and social services.

SURGE IN OPIUM AND COCA CULTIVATION, RISING DRUG USE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES THREATEN PROGRESS IN DRUG CONTROL

In its just-released World Drug Report 2008, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns that progress in drug control is threatened by a surge in opium and coca cultivation, as well as the risk of higher drug use in developing countries.

The report notes that Afghanistan had a record opium harvest in 2007, resulting in an almost doubling of illegal opium production worldwide since 2005. Most of the cultivation took place in five southern provinces that are under Taliban control. Meanwhile, the area of coca cultivation in Colombia increased by 27%; much of that was also in insurgent-controlled regions. Total production of cocaine remained steady, however, because Government eradication programmes have destroyed large-scale plots, forcing growers to use smaller, more dispersed locations.

The report notes a systemic shift in major drug routes, especially for cocaine. Traffickers are now targeting West Africa because of improved interdiction along traditional routes. The report also notes a fear, not yet borne out by evidence, of emerging markets for drugs in developing countries. UNODC is calling for greater technical assistance, prevention and treatment, and law enforcement programmes to prevent the threat this poses to weak governments.

UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa also called for a stronger focus on health, with drug dependence treated as an illness like any other. He also spoke out in favour of the human rights of drug addicts and against the death penalty for drug-related crimes. Although drugs kill, we should not kill because of drugs, he said.

FOOD DISTRIBUTION RESUMES FOR IRAQI REFUGEES IN SYRIA

To the huge relief of tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Damascus, the UN refugee agency and sister organization, the World Food Programme (WFP), resumed food distribution this week in the Syrian capital after an unexpected two-month interruption, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. (UNHCR).

"I totally depend on this food," said Iraqi refugee Om Khaled after picking up her food aid at the UNHCR Registration Centre in the suburb of Douma. "These past two months of waiting have been torture. I have had to rely on my neighbours for their charity. There were days where I cried in desperation. I have promised my landlord that I will give him some of the food instead of rent," added the widow, who has four children to look after.

The food distribution resumed on Tuesday, when 100 families each received a food basket containing basic foodstuffs from WFP (rice, lentils and vegetable oil) and complementary commodities supplied by UNHCR (tea, sugar, tomato paste, pasta, cracked wheat, washing detergent, mattresses and blankets

JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN IN DETENTION IN AFGHANISTAN

A new

study on the situation of children in conflict with law by the Afghan Independent Human Right Commission (AIHRC) in collaboration with the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) was released yesterday in Kabul.

The report shows that children in detention continue to face rights violations including maltreatment, lack of access to education and health services.

The study urges full implementation of the Afghan Juvenile Code of 2005, which incorporates the basic principles of juvenile justice as expressed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Following the launch of the report, AIHRC and UNICEF will be holding a workshop for judicial representatives in order to initiate a dialogue on the recommendations of the report.

UNICEF URGES STEPPED-UP EFFORTS TO PREVENT IODINE DEFICIENCY

In a major report on Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD), released today, UNICEF says that Governments, communities, and the salt industry have made great strides in combating iodine deficiency, though much still remains to be done.

IDD, the single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation, results from a diet low in iodine, which is particularly damaging during early pregnancy because it retards foetal development, especially of the brain. The problem is easily and inexpensively prevented by iodizing salt for human and animal consumption.

Some 34 countries now have universal salt iodization, but roughly 38 million children born each year are still at risk. To eliminate IDD, UNICEF urges continued political commitment; partnerships between governments, donors, and the salt industry; and the strengthening of monitoring mechanisms, as well as education and communication.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

GREECE-F.Y.R.O.M. ENVOY HOLDS MEETINGS IN ATHENS & SKOPJE: The Secretary-Generals Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, is currently in the region for continued consultations on the name issue. Nimetz said he had a good meeting today with the Greek Foreign Minister and other Greek officials in Athens. No specific new proposals were put forth but the outline of a solution was discussed. Nimetz is expected to be in Skopje tomorrow, Friday, for meetings with the President and Prime Minister of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and other officials.

ITU AND MICROSOFT TO COLLABORATE ON ACHIEVING MDGs: Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates met with the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Hamadoun Touré, in Redmond (USA) to discuss extending the collaboration between ITU and Microsoft. Discussions ranged from improving education through information and communication technologies (ICT), developing digital resources, providing access to low-cost ICT devices and building human capacity to expanding e-health services and other e-applications.

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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