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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-03-23

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

Thursday, March 23, 2000

SECURITY COUNCIL CONSIDERS UN ROLE IN DISARMAMENT

Secretary-General Kofi Annan began today's open debate in the Security Council on the role UN peacekeeping plays in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, by saying that it is essential for those three activities to be integrated into any peace agreement which is reached.

He noted the findings in his report last month to the Security Council on those three activities, and said that the United Nations needs to build on its current role by strengthening its focus on the needs of child soldiers. Recently, he noted, UN operations in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) included child protection advisers to identify children's special concerns.

The Secretary-General also called for more flexibility by the Security Council in using assessed funding for disarmament and demobilization tasks, so that some key activities -- including the destruction of weapons and the establishment of "quick-impact" projects -- can take place before voluntary funding is received.

The open debate will continue into the afternoon, with 27 Member States inscribed on the speakers' list today. At the end of the debate, the Council will issue a Presidential Statement.

On Friday, the Council is expected to hear an open briefing on the Secretary-General's latest report on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, including the findings of the recent visit of a Group of Experts that studied the state of Iraq's oil industry.

MANAGEMENT CHIEF REPORTS ON FINANCIAL PICTURE

This morning in the Fifth Committee, Under-Secretary-General for Management Joseph Connor delivered an assessment of the United Nation's financial situation at the end of 1999.

His basic message to the Committee is that, after years of being on the financial brink, the United Nations last year took a step back from the precipice, with cash balances up, unpaid assessments down and debts to Member States also down.

At the end of last year, the United Nations had nearly $1.1 billion in its cash balances, up from a total of some $736 million by the end of 1998. Unpaid assessments by year's end stood at some $1.7 billion, which, although still substantial, is less than the more than $2 billion that was owed by the end of 1998.

Connor expects to discuss those findings at a press briefing on Monday.

The Fifth Committee will continue its work in the afternoon with closed consultations.

UN PEACE OPERATIONS PANEL TO MEET NEXT IN MAY

The Secretary-General's panel on UN Peace Operations concluded their inaugural session Wednesday and agreed to meet next at the end of May in London.

The Secretary-General, at their opening session, urged them to think broadly and imaginatively about practical ways that the UN system as a whole might better respond to threats to international peace and security.

The panelists discussed the structure of the study and of the report itself, and agreed on the ways they would maintain a dialogue among themselves throughout the process.

The panelists hope to meet again in the second half of July at UN Headquarters to discuss and review the actual text of the report, which the Secretary-General asked be submitted that month.

ANNAN SAYS SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAQ NOT REQUIRED

The Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General had decided last August that it was no longer necessary for his Special Representative for Iraq, Prakash Shah, to remain in Baghdad. Consequently, Shah was based in India and travelled to Iraq from time to time in his capacity as Special Representative.

In light of the Security Council's new plan for inspection and monitoring in Iraq, the Spokesman said, the Secretary-General considers that a Special Representative is not required at this time. He informed Shah of that decision and thanked him for his contribution over the past two years.

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS DISCUSSES RACISM

The Commission on Human Rights began a debate on racism in Geneva this afternoon with a presentation by Special Rapporteur Maurice Glele Ahanhazo, who deals with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Special Rapporteur noted a rise in xenophobia and racism even as next year's World Conference against Racism, to be held in South Africa, nears. He noted the rise to power in Austria of the Freedom Party, the attacks against mostly Moroccan migrant workers in southern Spain and the killing by New York police of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo . His report is available on the web site of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

UN EXAMINES CONDITION OF RAPE VICTIMS IN SIERRA LEONE

In Sierra Leone, a United Nations Human Rights Officer went Wednesday to Kenema, in the south, to assess the availability of health and social services for victims of rape and sexual abuses.

According to medical sources in Kenema, a number of female abductees returning from the region controlled by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in recent weeks have died from malnutrition and infection. Treating physicians stated that in the past week alone 12 children and women have died from complications arising from the physical abuse, poor medical treatment and malnourishment they experienced in RUF-controlled area.

The doctors strongly suspect that HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases, and infections from injuries caused by rape and sexual abuse contributed to the weakened state of these female victims.

In other news from Sierra Leone, a UN patrol travelling 30 km from the eastern town of Kailahun to Buedu was obstructed by a local RUF Commander, who said prior permission from RUF leader Foday Sankoh was required for the patrol to go forward. The patrol will make another attempt to go to Buedu on Friday.

EAST TIMORESE CHILDREN RETURN TO PRIMARY SCHOOL

The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) reported that 92 percent of the East Timorese children who had attended primary school in 1998-99 are back in the classroom. More than 147,000 children are currently being taught by some 6,400 teachers.

There are now 686 schools registered with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in East Timor. They have been repaired with assistance from UNTAET, the previously-deployed International Force in East Timor and the United States Navy.

There is no standard curriculum yet in East Timor, although UNTAET is planning to establish one by next October.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about any UN reaction to the visit by United States consular officials to Libya, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General welcomed any increase in dialogue between the two nations.

The World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that it would spend $50 million over the next two years to ensure that hundreds of Northern Ugandans living in precarious circumstances continue to receive food. WFP said that the announcement came at a crucial moment, as violent attacks by rebel groups operating in the northern part of the country continue unabated, and tens of thousands of Ugandans have been forced from their homes.

Today, the United Nations Foundation, the charity founded by Ted Turner, announced that it would invest $17 million to support 11 UN projects, with a particular focus on women's health and HIV/AIDS prevention. The new round of UN Foundation funding, which is its sixth round, includes $6 million on AIDS prevention projects in southern Africa; $3 million to the UN Children's Fund and UN Population Fund to meet the needs of adolescent girls in Bangladesh; and $1 million in relief assistance for Mozambique.

The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River will give a press conference on March 30 in Vienna on pollution from mining accidents at Baia Mare and Baia Borsa and their impact on the Tisza/Danube river system.

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