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United Nations Daily Highlights, 07-12-18
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MICHELE MONTAS
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
BAN KI-MOON MEETS WITH U.N. STAFF IN ALGIERS
AFTER VISITING BOMBED U.N. OFFICES
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today went to Algeria, where he saw the site of the bomb blast last Tuesday that hit the UN offices, killing 17 staff. After visiting the site, the Secretary-General had an emotional meeting with UN staff in Algiers, telling them, Since Tuesday last week, you have been on my mind every hour of every day.
He said he was shocked at seeing the site of the bombing, and added, after seeing those who have been injured and the families of those who died, that he has no words to say how profoundly he feels about what has happened.
But we will not be intimidated, we will not be discouraged, the Secretary-General said. He added that he will spare no effort in ensuring that the United Nations provides adequate security for its staff, wherever they serve.
The Secretary-General was visibly moved and pledged UN support to the people he met, particularly the children. The Secretary-General was also given the tattered flag that had flown outside the UN offices, and he will bring that flag back to New York as a symbol of the UNs determination to work in Algeria.
While in Algiers, the Secretary-General met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, with whom he discussed issues related to the security of UN staff in Algeria. They also talked about counterterrorism, migration, the Middle East, Darfur, climate change, the Millennium Development Goals and Western Sahara.
Before leaving Algeria, the Secretary-General held a press conference at the airport in which he called terrorism a crime against humanity and called on Member States to agree on a plan of action against terrorism, including an agreed definition of terrorism.
In New York, the UN International Civil Servants Federation, the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Staff Council and the UN Staff Union have called for a silent march, tomorrow Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 11:30 am in the UN Secretariat Circle in New York, to protest the attack on the United Nations and to remember friends and colleagues killed in Algiers last week.
Asked whether UN security officials have made recommendations on security improvements following the Algiers attach, the Spokeswoman said that they have made recommendations, which are being implemented; for security reasons, she declined to provide specific details.
Asked whether there will be a report on security issues in Algiers, similar to the one issued by Martti Ahtisaari following the destruction in 2003 of the UN compound in Baghdad, the Spokesperson said that a similar report is expected in this case.
BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES GENERAL ASSEMBLYS
CALL FOR DEATH PENALTY MORATORIUM
The following statement is attributable directly to the Secretary-General:
"I welcome the adoption today by the General Assembly of a call on all States to establish a moratorium on the application of the death penalty.
"Today's vote represents a bold step by the international community.
"I am particularly encouraged by the support expressed for this initiative from many diverse regions of the world.
"This is further evidence of a trend towards ultimately abolishing the death penalty."
MIDDLE EAST QUARTET WELCOMES FUNDS
PLEDGED TO PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
At the conclusion of the Secretary-Generals meeting late yesterday in Paris with the other principal members of the Middle East Quartet, the Quartet issued a
statement which lauded the success of the November 27 Annapolis Conference.
The Quartet expressed its strong support for the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan presented by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, welcomed the generous support of the international community at the Paris Donors Conference, and urged donors to maximize the resources available to the Palestinian Authority.
UNITED NATIONS ISSUES CLARIFICATION ABOUT ETHIOPIA PROGRAMMES
In response to yesterdays questions regarding allegations that the Government of Ethiopia is forcing civilians, including employees of programs financed by the World Bank and the United Nations, to fight rebels in the Ogaden Region of Ethiopia, UN staff per se have not been subject to this practice.
However, in order for the United Nations to effectively provide assistance, in some cases government staff need to be available in order to run UN-financed projects, including such essential humanitarian operations as rural health clinics.
Although the United Nations is not aware of specific cases in which these staff have been forced into supporting the Ethiopian military, it has nevertheless noticed that, in some instances, such clinics no longer have personnel available.
Since the United Nations only established a presence in the region in early November in the area of military operation within the Ogaden, it does not know how long this has been the case. If this practice indeed occurred in hospitals or clinics, it would seriously affect the provision of basic humanitarian services to the civilian population.
Since the start of the UNs presence, it has reinforced the monitoring of the delivery of aid, and has been advocating for increased humanitarian presence in order to enhance the provision of much-needed assistance.
The Government thus far has granted 19 NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) access to the region, and the United Nations is looking forward to seeing more. If more needs to be done, the United Nations would look into ways of augmenting its own staff in consultation with local authorities in order to save lives and reduce suffering.
SUPPLIES SENT TO IRAQIS DISPLACED BY TURKISH SHELLING
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is very concerned about the displacement of people in northern Iraq caused by the ongoing shelling by Turkey.
It has urgently dispatched supplies to help those who fled, and those supplies will be distributed today.
Last weekend more than 1,800 people fled their homes to move to safer areas, with displaced people telling UNHCR that ten villages had been affected by the shelling. One woman was reported killed and several people injured.
Yesterday, UNHCR teams reported ongoing shelling in the Sangasar Pishdar area, causing even more displacement.
On Monday, UNHCR with its partners on the ground quickly dispatched assistance, including blankets, mattresses, stoves, lanterns, jerry cans, plastic sheets, kitchen sets and soap to Sulaymania and Erbil after being asked by the Kurdistan Regional Government to provide additional help to those displaced.
MIGRANTS MAKE VALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS
Today is International Migrants Day. In a message to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General says we must redress prevailing misconceptions about migrants and raise public awareness about their valuable contributions to both countries of origin and destination.
In a separate message, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour says migrants are among the groups most exposed to human rights violations in the 21st century and will continue to be so if we do not act now with serious determination.
SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON IRAN SANCTIONS
The Security Council this morning heard an open briefing on the work of the Security Councils 1737 Sanctions Committee, which deals with Iran.
The chair of that committee, Ambassador Johan Verbeke, reported to the Council members on the implementation of the sanctions imposed under resolution 1737 on Iran.
U.N. MOVING FULL STEAM AHEAD WITH PROCUREMENT REFORM
Asked about findings of corruption made by the UN Procurement Task Force, the Spokeswoman noted that the United Nations initiated the Task Forces work and is well aware that there have been problems in procurement in the United Nations.
That is why, she said, on the one hand, the United Nations is moving full steam ahead with procurement reform in order to have a system that is much tighter and transparent, leaving less room for abuse.
On the other track, the Secretary-General is committed to ridding the United Nations of any corrupt practices. That is why he has proposed to the General Assembly an extension of the Procurement Task Force as a temporary measure, Montas said.
But this is not enough, the Spokeswoman added, saying that the Secretary-General would like to take a holistic approach and examine how the Organization's investigative capacity can be strengthened. He will be presenting a proposal to Member States next year.
The United Nations does not want to sweep anything under the rug, Montas said.
She said that the cases of the staff members accused of wrongdoing in connection with procurement exercises in the UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are under consideration in the internal justice system, in accordance with established procedures. The cases are being accorded the highest priority. The Spokeswoman added that she is not in a position to comment further on the cases at this stage of the process.
As part of the overall system for handling cases of wrongdoing, Montas said, the Secretariat hopes the new justice system that the Member States are on the point of approving will ensure swift, fair and professional settlement of disputes. This goes hand-in-hand with strengthening investigative capacity and procurement systems.
She stressed the Secretary-Generals full support for the Procurement Task Force and for a strengthened investigations arm of the Office of Internal Oversight Services.
BAN KI-MOON TO PARTICIPATE IN KOSOVO MEETING: Asked about the Secretary-Generals position on the final status report on Kosovo prepared by Martti Ahtisaari, the Spokesperson said that, when the Security Council meets on Kosovo on Wednesday, the Secretary-General would participate in the meeting and would listen to what the other participants have to say. He would share his views on Kosovo with the press at a later time.
U.N.S MYANMAR ENVOY BRIEFS GENERAL ASSEMBLY: From 3:00 to 4:00 this afternoon, Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-Generals Special Adviser, provided an informal briefing to the General Assembly about the Secretary-Generals good offices for Myanmar; those good offices derive from a General Assembly mandate. This briefing is at the invitation of the President of the General Assembly, pursuant to requests from interested Member States.
EMERGENCY PLAN FOR KOREA OIL SPILL GOES INTO EFFECT: Regarding the UNs efforts to mitigate the effects of the worst oil spill in the history of the Republic of Korea, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) now
reports that it has activated an emergency response plan, through which the Republic of Koreas neighbors have already sent chemicals to disperse the oil. Additional experts have also been sent. The plan, developed by UNEP and the International Maritime Organization, was adopted in 2004 by China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation to deal with large oil spill emergencies.
SANTA CLAUS MOST POPULAR LETTER RECIPIENT: Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and other similar figures are the most popular recipients of personalized letters worldwide, according to the Universal Postal Union (UPU). The UPU found that Santa received more than six million letters last year. Some 20 countries employ elves, or postal operators, to respond to those messages. Canada Post replies in 26 languages and Deutsche Post in 16. In Canada, Santa even has his own postcode H0H 0H0.
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