Security Council discusses situation in DR of Congo

Presenting the Secretary-General’s eighth report on MONUC, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, said the proposed extension of the Mission was also designed to facilitate the recruitment of civilian staff of the necessary high quality by ensuring greater continuity.The function of many of the proposed civilian staff would be to gather as much information as possible on the situation in the DRC, Mr. Guéhenno said. At the same time, through its public information operations, MONUC would explain to the Congolese parties and people what it and the broader international community were doing in the country. The human rights, humanitarian and child protection personnel would also have a great deal to do in terms of helping to improve the quality of life of the Congolese people, he stressed.The plight of children in the DRC was also highlighted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, who briefed the Council on his recent trip to the DRC. Mr. Otunnu said that the massive use of children as soldiers in the DRC had become “a plague,” and proposed a complete stop to all participation in armed forces of young persons under 18; the establishment of a mechanism to monitor the application of the above commitment and the organization of a major public awareness campaign to sensitize the military, civil society and local communities.The Special Representative also proposed that joint visits by MONUC, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and military authorities be undertaken to military camps and barracks, and that the necessary structures be established for demobilization, rehabilitation, reception and reintegration of child soldiers. These recommendations, he said, had been accepted by all political and military leaders in the country.For his part, Leonard She Okitundu, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the DRC, said there had been delays to disengagement because of the continuing refusal of one party to the Lusaka process to act in compliance with the Kampala plans and the Harare sub-plan. He noted that if the relevant provisions of Council resolution 1341 (2001) were not heeded, the Council had the duty to respond vigorously.During the day-long debate, in which representatives of more than 20 States took part, speakers acknowledged the cautious optimism about developments in the country as expressed in the report of the Secretary-General. They noted, however, that the improvements seen were far from irreversible and that all efforts should be made by the parties to fully comply with the Lusaka Agreements. read more

Annan reappoints Lakhdar Brahimi his special envoy to Afghanistan

In a letter to the President of the Security Council, Mr. Annan expressed his strong belief that the time has come for Mr. Brahimi to resume his role, which had been put on hold in 1999. At that time, Mr. Annan had reported to the Council that “given the lack of progress achieved so far, [the Special Envoy’s] activities should be ‘frozen’ until circumstances change to justify his renewed intervention.” In the letter released today, the Secretary-General said that Mr. Brahimi would be in charge of the UN’s overall humanitarian and political work in Afghanistan. “He will also initiate preparations for the development of plans for the rehabilitation of that shattered country,” the Secretary-General said. The Special Representative will oversee negotiations with all concerned parties for safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all populations in need, while advocating for the rights and protection of affected populations. In addition to working on the humanitarian front, Mr. Brahimi will manage peacemaking activities involving the warring parties and others concerned, with a view to facilitating a fully representative, multiethnic and broad-based government. The Special Representative is also charged with ensuring that the humanitarian and human rights dimensions of the evolving situation are central to political and security discussions.In carrying out his work, Mr. Brahimi will oversee the activities of – and be supported by – the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. read more

In a first under new accord UN refugee agency helps Iranians repatriate

In a first under a new accord brokered last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun repatriating Iranians from Iraq, a UNHCR spokesman announced today. The first group of 125 refugees returning to Iran under the agency’s auspices went home on Saturday, according to Rupert Colville. “UNHCR is very pleased to see this repatriation finally underway,” he said. “We expect a second convoy in the coming days.” Of the approximately 8,000 individuals who have applied to repatriate from Iraq under UNHCR’s voluntary programme, Iran has approved the applications of 480 families. Describing the journey of the first group of returnees, Mr. Colville said they spent the night in the southern Iraqi city of Basra before proceeding to the Al Shalamshah/Khosravi border crossing on Saturday morning. “Once inside Iran, they were met by officials of Iran’s Bureau for Alien and Foreign Immigrant Affairs and transported to a nearby transit camp,” he said, noting that those with no property or relatives in the country would be able to stay at the camp until they found a more permanent destination. UNHCR estimates that some 23,000 Iranian refugees have been in Iraq since the 1980-1988 Iran/Iraq War, including about 16,000 ethnic Kurds living either in the Al-Tash refugee camp or close to the northern Iraqi city of Erbil. A further 7,000 Iranian Arabs live in southern Iraq. “Most have been living in well-equipped camps, which have become de facto ‘villages,’” Mr. Colville explained. Voluntary repatriation from Iran to Iraq has been underway for several years now. Between 1994 and the end of this June, some 27,000 Iraqi Arabs returned to Iraq from Iran, while from 1999 until the present, over 16,000 Iraqi Kurds returned. According to Iranian government figures, there are approximately 220,000 Iraqis in Iran. “Although no official amnesty for the Iraq caseload has been announced, the Iranian authorities have verbally assured both the returnees – during meetings with them in Iraq – and UNHCR that, except for breaches of the common law, no legal action will be taken against any returnees,” Mr. Colville said. read more

Angola UNbacked Joint Commission holds second reconciliation meeting

Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Angola and the Chairman of the Joint Commission, informed the government officials and representatives for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) at the meeting of his various contacts since the Commission’s last meeting and assured them he would extend his contacts to various parties, including civil society.The Commission is composed of the United Nations, UNITA and the Government of Angola, and is responsible for implementing the pending tasks of the 1994 Lusaka Protocol, which forms the basis of the Angola peace process.On Monday, the Commission mandated Mr. Gambari to work out a programme for the rest of the body’s work, with due consultations with the Angolan Government, UNITA representatives and the observer States.That meeting also authorized the UN to hold consultations with a wide segment of Angolan society, soliciting views on the issue of national reconciliation. read more

UN to launch over 3 billion humanitarian appeal to help 50 million

The United Nations today announced plans to ask donors for more than $3 billion to help some 50 million people with humanitarian needs in 2003.The money will be used to assist hungry, displaced and otherwise vulnerable people living in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Chechnya and neighbouring republics in the Russian Federation, Cote d’Ivoire and its region, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.Other countries and region slated to receive aid include Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Guinea, Indonesia, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territory, the Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Southern Africa Region, the Sudan, Tajikistan and Uganda.The launch of the “consolidated appeals” – so named because they cover the combined requirements of all concerned UN agencies – will be held on 19 and 20 November in eight cities around the world: Bern, Washington, D.C., Brussels, Luxembourg, New York, the Hague, Tokyo and Canberra.The event is being held under the theme “Hope for the Future,” highlighting the need to support countries in or emerging from crisis or conflict, including during the critical transition period leading to durable peace and sustainable development.Aiming to bring food to the hungry, medical assistance to the sick, shelter to displaced populations, and to provide for other basic needs, the consolidated appeals process is a tool created a decade ago by the UN General Assembly to plan a common humanitarian strategy and maximize resources. read more

Iraq UN supervises destruction of 3 more missiles

Since the 1 March deadline set for starting the process, Iraq has destroyed 55 Al Samoud 2 missiles, banned because they can exceed the 150-kilometre range imposed by Security Council resolutions. UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) teams also supervised the destruction of nine warheads, a launcher, some propellant tanks and small components for the missile. UNMOVIC sought a private interview with an Iraqi researcher in the chemical field today but the researcher insisted the questioning be tape-recorded. It therefore, did not proceed – the fifth case since 28 February in which a private interview did not take place due to a condition insisted upon by the interviewee. Nine private interviews have taken place since 28 February. A biological team inspected the Canning Foods Co. Ltd, which produces tomato products, date syrup, cheese, vinegar, and watermelon jam, in Kerbala, about 100 kilometres southeast of Baghdad, while a chemical team checked three factories belonging to the State Company for Battery Manufacturing. A multidisciplinary team inspected the Mosul branch of the Mesopotamia Seed Company.A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspected the Ur General Establishment, which manufactures aluminium products for the construction industry and a variety of copper wire products for the power and communications industries. read more

Former UN refugee agency chief Sadruddin Aga Khan dies

“All in UNHCR and the entire humanitarian community are deeply saddened by the passing away of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. He left an indelible print on UNHCR’s history – leading the agency through some of the most challenging moments. Sadruddin’s name became synonymous with UNHCR,” said High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers, who received the news of the Prince’s death while on mission in West Africa.A statement issued by a UN spokesman said Secretary-General Kofi Annan was saddened to learn of the death of Prince Sadruddin, who was described as a “philanthropist and lifelong friend” of the United Nations. “He joins the Prince’s many friends around the world in giving thanks for the life of this remarkable and deeply generous human being,” the statement said.Prince Sadruddin became High Commissioner in January of 1966 at the age of 33 – the youngest person ever to lead UNHCR. Prior to becoming High Commissioner, he served for three years as Deputy High Commissioner. He was at the helm of the UN refugee agency during one of its most difficult periods, including the 1971 Bangladesh crisis, which uprooted 10 million people, the 1972 exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hutus from Burundi to Tanzania and the Indochinese boat people tragedy of the mid-1970s. In 1972, Prince Sadruddin played a key role in finding new homes for tens of thousands of South Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin.After leaving UNHCR at the end of 1977 at his own request, he served in various capacities dealing with humanitarian situations in many parts of the world on behalf of the United Nations. These included Afghanistan and Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War. He was also a trustee of a number of charity organizations. He published several books and received numerous national and international decorations, including the French Legion d’Honeur and the UN Human Rights Award.Prince Sadruddin is the uncle of Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of 12 million Ismaili Muslims. He is survived by his wife, Princess Catherine Aleya Aga Khan. read more

Annan names Bangladeshi general to lead UN military liaisons in Côte dIvoire

The Secretary-General informed the President of the Security Council of his intention to appoint Gen. Abdul Hafiz to the post of Chief Military Liaison Officer of MINUCI, effective today, in a letter that was released today at UN Headquarters in New York.He also informs the Council President that Austria, Bangladesh, Benin, Ghana, India, Ireland, Jordan, Kenya, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, the Republic of Moldova, Senegal, Tunisia and Uruguay have agreed to provide military liaison officers for the initial group of 26 officers.MINUCI was established last month to help guide efforts to implement the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, a French-brokered peace accord reached in January that calls on the government, rebels and political opposition to share power in a transitional government until elections in 2005.The new Mission includes a military component to complement the operations of the French and the forces of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The tasks of the military liaison group include advising the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Albert Tevoedjre, on military matters; monitoring the military situation, including the security of Liberian refugees; and establishing links with the French and ECOWAS forces, as well as with the Forces armees nationales de Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI) and the forces nouvelle, in order to build confidence and trust between the armed groups. read more

Twothirds of all countries have banned landmines since 1999 Annan

“I call on those states that have not yet accepted the Convention to become part of this process without delay” and to do their utmost to clear mine-ridden areas, Mr. Annan said in a message to the Fifth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personal Mines and on Their Destruction, being held in Bangkok.”The multilateral commitment embodied in the Convention to renounce an entire category of indiscriminate weapons has been achieved through the combined efforts of many actors,” Mr. Annan said in the message, delivered on his behalf by Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.Mr. Annan noted that the UN, governments, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and civil society as a whole have all contributed to the rapid emergence of an international norm banning anti-personnel mines.The Secretary-General also expressed hope that the delegates would agree to hold the Convention’s First Review Conference in Nairobi, Kenya – “a decision that would highlight both the terrible impact of mines in Africa, and the progress that has been made towards eliminating the threat of mines on the continent.” read more

UN food programme appeals for 8 million to cover funding shortfall for

WFP Executive Director James T. Morris said, “Haiti urgently needs support from the international community now. Poor people cannot wait for a return to stability before receiving their daily food rations. Unless we get additional funding quickly, we will begin to see malnutrition rates, especially among children and poor families headed by women, rise in the next few months.”For an emergency eight-month humanitarian programme costing $11.2 million, WFP says it has received $1.5 million from France, $356,295 from Italy, $458,000 from Japan, $912,000 from Norway and $373,000 from Spain.The food in the new programme goes to 140,000 expectant and nursing mothers, children under 3, people affected by HIV/AIDS, and orphans. Another 373,000 Haitians are being fed by other WFP programmes, the agency said.Despite a singular history of ending slavery by a military victory and helping to fund Simón Bolívar’s independence struggle in Latin America, Haiti has become the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the poorest in the developing world.About 80 per cent of its population lives in poverty and it has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS outside Africa. One out of every three children is chronically malnourished, while 8 per cent suffer from acute malnutrition.”Just as quickly as it rose, Haiti has fallen from the radar of the world media. But the troubles continue, once more in silence,” Mr. Morris said. read more

UNICEF deeply concerned over increased violence against children in Sudans Darfur

Executive Director Carol Bellamy said reports of aid agency monitors “strongly dispute claims that the situation is under control” in the vast western region where nearly 1.7 million people have been forced from their homes and Janjaweed militias stand accused of killing and raping thousands of villagers after rebel groups took up arms against the Government last year.The stark assessment, which included new reports of rape and of children being separated from their parents, came as the UN Security Council held an extraordinary meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in an effort to end wars in both the south and west of Sudan and ensure the protection of civilians throughout Africa’s largest country.”The only party capable of securing the lives of these people is the Government itself,” Ms. Bellamy said. “For as long as we continue to hear of the violence and insecurity faced by Sudanese children, we will continue to call for those responsible to be brought to account for their actions.”Children are not just being driven from the lands of their ancestors. They are witness to and victims of violent terror. They suffer deprivation and sickness in their bid to escape. And they seek asylum along with their families in camps in which their security cannot be guaranteed.”Aid agencies working in the troubled region have expressed dismay at the steadily increasing number of people arriving in the camps, as well as a surge in violent incidents in and around the camps themselves, UNICEF said.Children are said to have been loaded on to trucks and transported to a new camp without their parents, and injured in Government attempts to relocate camps. This forced relocation is in clear violation of international humanitarian law and existing agreements recently signed by the Government of Sudan, it added.Armed militia are raping girls and women in Darfur as a tactic to terrorize and humiliate individuals as well as their entire families and communities, the UN agency said. To date there are few reports of attackers being punished. Many girls and women walk six to eight hours a day to get firewood for their basic survival – terrified of harassment and rape.Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that while the attention of the media had focused heavily on the continuing humanitarian emergency in Darfur, the food outlook for southern Sudan in 2005 looked fairly bleak.It said the situation could worsen when peace is achieved between the north and south, since there would most likely be an influx of southerners returning to their homes. read more

IsraeliPalestinian relations bedevilled by lack of framework UN envoy says

“The unease, suspicion and cynicism that bedevil Israeli-Palestinian relations can be attributed in large part to the fact that the disengagement is not taking place within an unequivocally agreed framework for the next steps toward the overall solution to which both sides claim adherence, i.e., two states living alongside each other in peace,” the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Alvaro de Soto, said in the monthly briefing – his first – on the situation.Israelis need to be assured of their security and, besides an improvement in the daily lives of Palestinians, the Palestinians need to be provided with hope for the future, he said.The Palestinian Authority must be empowered to counter militancy and extremism as “an element of central significance in the preparations to take control over the areas that Israel is withdrawing from,” Mr. de Soto, who has been on the job for six weeks, said.With a win for one side seen by some as a loss for the other, satisfying Israel’s interest in withdrawing settlers from Gaza may be seen by Palestinians as their loss, “judging from their efforts to jeopardize it,” but the pull-out is an important step which defies that judgement, he said.“How could the dismantling of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory the first ever – be anything but a gain for the Palestinian side,” Mr. de Soto said, given that it offers a tangible improvement in the daily lives of Palestinians and a return to the Road Map for peace supported by the Quartet – the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russian Federation.He noted that Israel is determined to proceed with disengagement despite the activities of Israeli extremists and he welcomed the Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ forceful address to his people late last week.“Hope was also provided by the report only two days ago that the ceasefire has been renewed and that the Palestinian factions are committed to end internal fighting,” Mr. de Soto said.Israel can and should do more to support the PA in countering militancy and extremism and should take the initiative in meeting its side of the parallel obligations under the Road Map, dismantling all settlements built since March 2001, while the PA must continue to exert control and authority, he said. read more

Afghanistan UNICEFs bird flu public information campaign gains pace

Cases of the deadly H5N1 strain have been detected in Kapisa, Kabul, Logar and Nangahar, UN spokesman Adrian Edwards told a press briefing in Kabul.The Government has identified 20 priority provinces for immediate community-based communication activities, including seven – Kabul, Kapisa, Parwan, Wardak, Logar, Nangarhar and Laghman – considered highest risk. Those will receive a full range of interpersonal communication materials this week, including flip charts, posters and leaflets, according to Mr. Edwards.“The interpersonal communication approach is considered vital to ensuring that the preventative messages on avian influenza are fully understood,” he said. National television and radio are continuing regular information broadcasts, Mr. Edwards added. “In the coming weeks, the next phase of the communication strategy will get under way, reaching the remaining 14 provinces, involving private sector media, and looking at more vehicles for community outreach,” he said. Globally, more than 200 million domestic birds have died from the virus or through culling in the current outbreak that began over two years ago. There have been 192 human cases, 109 of them fatal, ascribed to contact with infected birds, but experts fear H5N1 could mutate, gaining the ability to pass from person to person and in a worst case scenario unleashing a deadly human pandemic. read more

Burundi UN welcomes talks between Government and rebel holdouts

The UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) welcomed the talks between the Government and the Palipehutu-National Liberation Forces (Palipehutu-FNL) which have just opened in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, under South African sponsorship.“ONUB hails the threshold crossed by the two sides and encourages them to continue on this path which, with good will on both sides, will lead then to an agreement ending the conflict and allowing the Burundian people to enjoy fully the dividends of a peace won at such a high price,” the mission said in a statement.Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s interim Special Representative for Burundi, Nureldin Satti, attended the opening of the negotiations. Palipehutu-FNL is the last hold-out against a four-year transition process which concluded last August with the election of President Pierre Nkurunziza after decades of ethnic conflict pitting the Hutu majority against the Tutsi minority. read more

UN agricultural agency seeks greater efficiency in West Africa

The Office, which will be operational by the end of October, will host a multidisciplinary team of international FAO technical experts complemented by junior Ghanaian professionals in the fields of animal health/production, plant production/protection, fisheries, land and water, forestry, policy and investment.The agreement for opening the Sub-regional Office was signed by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and Ghanaian Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.