Published Weekly by the United Nations Information Centre New Delhi

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10 April, 2004

 

Table Of Contents

Secretary-General Unveils Action Plan To Prevent Genocide 1

Ten years after more than 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by their fellow countrymen, Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 7 April unveiled a five-point plan for the United Nations to prevent future genocides while calling particular attention to the crisis unfolding now in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Addressing the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Annan voiced his "grave concern" over reported human rights abuses in Darfur, citing a recent warning by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator of "ethnic cleansing" in the area.

"Such reports leave me with a deep sense of foreboding," said the Secretary-General. "Whatever terms it uses to describe the situation, the international community cannot stand idle."

With the backing of the Sudanese Government, he proposed sending a high-level team to Darfur to examine the crisis, and to seek improved access to those in need of help and protection. "It is vital that international humanitarian workers and human rights experts be given full access to the region, and to the victims, without further delay," he said. "If that is denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action," he warned.

The Secretary-General shared his personal reflections on the issue of genocide, and said decisive action in response would be "the only fitting memorial" the UN can offer to those who perished in the hundred-day frenzy of ethnic violence that overtook Rwanda in 1994.

"If there is one legacy I would most wish to leave to my successors, it is an Organization both better equipped to prevent genocide, and able to act decisively to stop it when prevention fails," said Mr. Annan, who headed the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in 1994 and said his thoughts since then had been "dominated" by questions about what more could have been done to stop the bloodshed.

His speech was just one of many events planned by the UN around the globe to commemorate the mass killings, including the observance of a minute of silence at noon throughout the world's time zones and a special meeting in New York of the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

In outlining his Action Plan to Prevent Genocide, Mr. Annan said the first step must be to prevent armed conflict by addressing the issues that cause it. "We must attack the roots of violence and genocide: hatred, intolerance, racism, tyranny, and the dehumanizing public discourse that denies whole groups of people their dignity and their rights," he said.

Protecting civilians during war is a second step in thwarting potential genocides, the Secretary-General said. He noted that in more and more conflicts non-combatants, including women and children, are no longer just "caught in the crossfire" but have become the direct targets of violence and rape.

"Wherever civilians are deliberately targeted because they belong to a particular community, we are in the presence of potential, if not actual, genocide," he said, warning the international community that it could no longer afford to be blind to this grim dynamic.

A third step, the Secretary-General said, is to end impunity for those who have committed such crimes. He recalled the work of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the landmark verdicts it has handed down _ the first conviction for genocide of a former head of government, the first to determine that rape was used as an act of genocide, and the first to find that journalists who incite the population to genocide are themselves guilty of that crime.

He said his plan calls for greater efforts to achieve wide ratification of the Rome Statute, so that the new International Criminal Court "can deal effectively with crimes against humanity, whenever national courts are unable or unwilling to do so."

In an attempt to establish a mechanism for an "early and clear warning" about potential genocides, the Secretary-General noted his decision to appoint a Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, who will report through him to the Security Council and the General Assembly, as well as the Commission.

The adviser will work closely with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to collect information on potential or existing situations or threats of genocide, he said, serve as an early-warning mechanism to the Security Council and other parts of the UN system, and make recommendations to the Council on actions to be taken to prevent or halt genocide.

As for the fifth pillar of his plan, the Secretary-General called for "swift and decisive action" in response to warnings of genocide. "Anyone who embarks on genocide commits a crime against humanity. Humanity must respond by taking action in its own defence. Humanity's instrument for that purpose must be the United Nations, and specifically the Security Council," he said, adding that military action should be used as an extreme measure.

"Let us not wait until the worst has happened, or is already happening," the Secretary-General concluded. "Let us not wait until the only alternatives to military action are futile hand-wringing or callous indifference. Let us be serious about preventing genocide. Only so can we honour the victims whom we remember today. Only so can we save those who might be victims tomorrow."

 

International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda 2

In New Delhi, the UN Information Centre organized the observance of International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.

Speakers were (seen observing a minute of silence): Mr. Feodor Starcevic, Director, UN Information Centre, Mrs. Charlotte Mukankusi, Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda, Mr. B.S. Prakash, Joint Secretary (UN), Ministry of External Affairs, GOI, and Dr. Maxine Olson, UN Resident Coordinator.

 

Brahimi Discusses Elections, Power Transfer, With Iraqi Governing Council 3

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, held talks with the Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad on 5 April as part of the United Nations mission to help form an administration to take over from the United States-led occupation forces on 1 July and prepare for elections early next year.

Wishing him every success in his mission, current Governing Council President Massud Barzani pledged close cooperation between the Council's specialized committees and Mr. Brahimi's delegation.

Asked whether security issues were discussed following the recent flare-up in violence, Mr. Barzani said the talks focused on the elections and the transfer of power. 

"This was an initial meeting," he added. "Mr. Brahimi will need some time to conduct consultations with all the parties both in the Governing Council and outside the Governing Council."

Mr. Brahimi was asked if he would be meeting with personalities like Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who, according to press reports, had concerns over UN involvement.

"We will meet all the personalities that wish to contribute to this effort and wish to meet with us," the envoy replied. "We are the United Nations and the doors of the United Nations are open to all."

Mr. Brahimi and his aides, who arrived in Baghdad on 4 April, join a UN technical team, headed by Carina Perelli, already in Iraq to assess what needs to be done to hold credible elections by 31 January 2005.

The mission will also identify what mechanisms and electoral modalities will make implementing these tasks feasible by that date, and determine the appropriateness and degree to which the UN can facilitate the process.

 

Future Of Cyprus Now In Hands Of Its People, Security Council Members Say 4

After hearing a briefing on United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan to reunite Cyprus before its entry into the European Union on 1 May, Security Council members said on 2 April that the future of the island nation is now up to its people.

Speaking through its President for April, Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, Council members thanked the Secretary-General and his Special Adviser, Alvaro de Soto, for their efforts and their commitment to finding a solution to the Cyprus question.

"They noted that it is now for the Cypriots to decide their future at this important juncture," Ambassador Pleuger said in a press statement.

In his briefing to the Council, Mr. de Soto described the blueprint for a United Cyprus Republic as "inevitably a compromise." While it does not meet all the demands of each side, "the Secretary-General believes it is a fair and balanced plan, and he hopes that, as they consider it, the people on each side will agree," he added. 

In addition to outlining some of the final version's provisions, Mr. de Soto said the Secretary-General would soon be submitting a proposal to the Council for a revised UN operation in Cyprus. The current UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and since 1974 has been supervising ceasefire lines, maintaining a buffer zone and undertaking humanitarian activities.

Under the plan, the UN would supervise activities relating to the transfer of areas subject to territorial adjustment. The mandate of the UN operation would be strengthened "not only to provide for the assumption of territorial responsibility for agreed areas and time periods prior to transfer of territory, without prejudice to local administration of the population, but also to provide for the UN to monitor political developments and provide advice and good offices as required," Mr. de Soto explained.

He added that the Secretary-General hopes the Council will act before the referenda, conditional upon their approval of the plan.

 

Sudan 5

Nearly 20,000 Sudanese in Darfur have flooded the region's towns over the past week, reporting a campaign of systematic torture and rape by militia groups, which a senior United Nations official recently linked to ethnic cleansing.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on 7 April that 4,000 people have taken shelter at the Kalma camp in recent days, raising its population to 12,000.

Truckloads of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Dinka ethnic community are also entering Nyala itself on a daily basis, OCHA reported. In the town of Kass, 15,000 people have arrived in the last week.

New arrivals at Kalma told OCHA staff that Janjaweed militias committed "major atrocities" in the Shetaya and Kailiek areas of Darfur, killing and torturing up to 200 men and systematically raping women. IDPs fleeing Kailiek said they were forced to pay the militias simply to leave the area.

A separate group of thousands of IDPs who fled a Janjaweed attack on Abu Adjura on 4 April said the militia attacked two of their four convoys, looting the goods and then raping some of the women.

On 2 April, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said the Janjaweed and other militias allied to the Sudanese Government were conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign in Darfur.

Mr. Egeland said "a coordinated, scorched earth" plan was targeting the region's black African population, including the Fur, Zaghawas and Massalit ethnic groups.

Eight UN experts also issued a statement last month voicing alarm at reported atrocities by the Janjaweed and other government-allied militias against civilians in Darfur.

In an address to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva marking the 10th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Secretary-General Kofi Annan echoed mounting concerns about rights abuses in Darfur.

 

Iran Agrees To Speed Up Cooperation With IAEA 6

Iran has agreed to accelerate its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog told reporters on 6 April in Teheran.

The comment by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei came after a meeting with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. He was scheduled to meet President Mohammad Khatami later that day.

Mr. ElBaradei said that a team of five IAEA inspectors would visit Iran on 12 April to verify that the country has met its commitment to suspend enrichment of uranium.

 

UNICEF: Rwandan Children Still Suffer Consequences Of 1994 Genocide 7

The Rwandan genocide of 10 years ago, which orphaned 95,000 children and left the majority of rape victims HIV positive, has rendered the country home to one of the world's largest proportions of child-headed households.

For these children "the genocide is not just a historical event, but an inescapable part of daily life today and tomorrow," the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy said.

An estimated 101,000 children live in some 42,000 child-headed households, either because their parents were killed in the genocide, died from AIDS or have been imprisoned for genocide-related crimes, UNICEF said. Meanwhile, some 400,000 children are not in school and 20 per cent die before the age of 5.

Of the 2,000 women tested up to 1999 _ many of them rape survivors _ 80 per cent were HIV-positive, even though many had not been sexually active before the genocide. By 2010, an estimated 350,000 children are expected to be orphaned by AIDS, UNICEF said.

The 10th anniversary must be marked with renewed concern for those continuing to suffer from the genocide, Ms. Bellamy emphasized. "We are all still accountable for supporting reconciliation and healing, and for ensuring that atrocities never happen again," she said, stressing the need to hold perpetrators accountable and restore the dignity of victims by alleviating their suffering.

The UN declared 7 April "the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda" to remember the mostly Tutsi and moderate Hutu Rwandans killed by their Hutu countrymen during a 100-day rampage.

 

UNICEF And Partners Announce Deal To Make Available Cheap AIDS Drugs 8

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, the Global Fund and the Clinton Foundation on 6 April unveiled agreements that will allow dozens of developing nations to buy high-quality AIDS medicines and diagnostic tests at the cheapest possible prices.

The deal _ which means many countries will pay less than half of what they currently pay for anti-AIDS drugs _ effectively expands the Clinton Foundation programme that has been available to 16 Caribbean and African countries since October.

In a statement issued on 6 April, UNICEF said governments would now have access to lower prices negotiated recently by the Clinton Foundation, a United States-based non-governmental organization (NGO), with five manufacturers of anti-retroviral medicines and five makers of HIV/AIDS diagnostic tests.

The drugs involved include formulations or are part of combinations approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for their quality and effectiveness. UNICEF, the World Bank and the Global Fund only give support to medicines that meet this standard.

The countries will have to provide guarantees of payment, ensure that drug distribution is secure and conduct long-term tender processes to benefit from the agreement. As part of their existing work, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Global Fund will help countries meet those criteria.

UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy said the initiative will save lives and offer hope to millions of children and families around the world.

Former US President Bill Clinton said he is grateful for the "collective effort" to strike an agreement on cheaper medicines and diagnostic tests. "With these agreements, we are one step closer to making sure future generations can live without the scourge of AIDS," he said. 

The Global Fund, a public-private partnership dedicated to fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, has contributed more than 60 per cent of $2.1 billion allocated to 122 countries over the next two years to help them tackle the AIDS pandemic, while the World Bank has committed to giving $1.6 billion in a separate initiative. Last year UNICEF spent $111 million on the issue.

 

FAO: As Cereal Stocks Fall, World Production To Rise Next Year 9

Driven mostly by wheat and rice, global cereal production is forecast to increase next year to deal with falling stocks and rising export prices, the United Nations food agency said in a report issued on 6 April.

According to Food Outlook, prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), cereal production in 2004 is expected to rise to 2,130 million tonnes _ or 2 per cent more than last year and 3 per cent up on the average of the past five years.

Most of the increase will come from wheat, although the FAO forecasts that rice production will also jump substantially. Production of coarse grains may fall slightly, it added in the report, which offers tentative estimates assuming normal weather conditions.

The FAO expects export prices for wheat could start to fall in the coming months with the approach of the harvest in the northern hemisphere. It does not anticipate, however, an immediate slide in prices for rice or coarse grains.

The FAO described the overall increase in production as "a very welcome development for [the] global food supply." Since the 1999-2000 season, cereal stocks have diminished every year, forcing up the prices of such grains as wheat, maize and rice.

This year, global stocks are tipped to drop by 18 per cent, or 89 million tonnes, led by substantial reductions in China, India, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the European Union.

Strong demand for cereal grains for feed and industrial use, particularly in the United States, has been helping to push demand ahead of existing production. The FAO said this has occurred despite sharply rising cereal prices and major outbreaks of animal disease in the latter half of the 2003-04 season.

 

Drugs Remain Serious Threat To Stability In Afghanistan, Security Council Warns 10

Stressing its fears that opium poppy cultivation could undermine the rule of law, security and economic development in Afghanistan, the United Nations Security Council on 6 April called for greater international efforts to combat the illicit drug industry as it endorsed the results of last week's reconstruction conference in Berlin.

In a presidential statement read out by Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, this month's holder of the rotating presidency, the Council said it backed the Berlin Declaration, which outlines Afghanistan's priorities over the short term. These include disarming and demobilizing armed factional groups and successfully holding national
presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled for September.

The Council said it welcomed pledges during the Berlin Conference by international donors of $8.2 billion _ to cover the period between last month and March 2007 _ towards Afghanistan's reconstruction.

But it identified narcotics as one of the greatest threats to the stability of Afghanistan, which is by far the world's biggest producer of opium poppies.

Mr. Pleuger said the Council wanted economic alternatives to be developed so that farmers do not turn to drug production to make a living. Neighbouring States should also cooperate more to hamper and eliminate drug trafficking routes, he added.

 

WHO Speeds Up Access To Latest Data In Battle Against Disease 11

In a bid to speed up the war on disease, especially among the poor and marginalized populations of developing countries, the United Nations health agency on 2 April announced a new initiative to facilitate free Internet access to the latest data on clinical trials aimed at prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

As of 2 April all randomized controlled trials approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) ethics review board will be assigned an International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN), making it easier for the scientific community to keep up-to-date with current research.

The initiative is a joint effort by the Geneva-based WHO and an independent publishing house called Current Controlled Trials (CCT) which is committed to providing immediate free access to peer reviewed biomedical research.

An ISRCTN is a unique number providing a means of identifying and unambiguously tracking a trial throughout its life cycle. Information about trials that have received this number can be obtained from an online register maintained by CCT.

"The ISRCTN Register is an important first step within a wider context of the new emphasis on the need to increase international access to and utilization of health-related knowledge," said the Director of WHO's Department of Research Policy and Cooperation, Tikki Pang.

Randomized controlled trials are considered the best way to compare _ in an unbiased manner _ the effects of particular treatments and are one of the main sources of medical knowledge, but information about these trials is difficult to find because several trials may have the same title, one trial may be reported in several places under different titles, and many trials are never reported at all.

Information is even more difficult to find about neglected diseases that disproportionately affect poor and marginalized populations where WHO supports and funds much of the research. But until now there had been no mechanism to make such data easily available to researchers, particularly those in developing countries most affected.

In the first phase, all trials involving human reproduction have now been included in the ISRCTN Register. Randomised trials in the other major research areas that the WHO supports, such as infectious diseases, childhood diseases, vaccines, will be added shortly.

 

WHO Urges Steps To Prevent Millions Of Deaths And Injuries In Road Accidents 12

With road accidents worldwide causing one death, 43 injuries and a loss of nearly $500,000 every 30 seconds, the United Nations health agency on 7 April called for immediate action to improve road safety and prevent a projected 80 per cent increase in traffic fatalities in low- and middle-income countries alone by 2020.

"We are not talking about random events or `accidents'. We are talking about road crashes. The risks can be understood and therefore can be prevented," World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Lee Jong-wook said in a message on World Health Day, dedicated this year for the first time in the agency's history to traffic safety.

Events are being held worldwide to mark the Day, which coincides with the release of a report by WHO and the World Bank with concrete recommendations to governments, industry, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international agencies and individuals for improving safety and reducing the toll of deaths and injuries.

Measures proposed in the World report on road traffic injury prevention range from setting up a lead agency in every country to coordinate road safety action plans and taking proven steps to prevent crashes and minimize injuries and their consequences.

Road crashes are the second leading cause of death globally among young people aged 5 to 29 and the third leading cause of death among people aged 30 to 44 years. They kill 1.2 million people every year and injure or disable as many as 50 million more, with injuries costing countries between 1 and 2 per cent of gross national product (GNP), or $518 billion annually.

Unlike high-income countries where those most at risk are car drivers and passengers, people most in danger in low- and middle-income countries are pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and users of informal modes of public transport.