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21st August, 2004

 

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UN Secretary-General Appoints Shalini Dewan As Director Of The United Nations Information Centre In New Delhi 1

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed Shalini Dewan as the Director of the United Nations Information Centre in New Delhi, covering India and Bhutan. Ms. Dewan, who took up her duties on 16 August, succeeds Feodor Starcevic,
who has retired from the service of the Organization. 

Ms. Dewan, a citizen of the United States, was formerly Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Rome, until December 2003. Subsequently, she was assigned to Brussels where she assisted in the establishment of the new Regional United Nations Information Centre for Western Europe.

Ms. Dewan has more than 30 years of experience in the field of information, including 26 years in the United Nations system. From 1998 to 2001, as Chief of Publishing and Multimedia with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, she was responsible for the conceptualization and editorial management of a wide range of print and electronic products and spearheaded a project on the development of a corporate visual identity for the organization.

From 1992 to 1998, Ms. Dewan was Chief of Editorial and Publications with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in New York and also served as UNICEF's Media Spokesperson at several major international conferences, including the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993), the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995) and the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).

Ms. Dewan began her career with the United Nations in 1978 as an Information Officer in the Department of Public Information in New York. In 1981, she served as New York correspondent for the Inter Press Service. In 1986, she moved to the United Nations Information Service in Vienna, where she was responsible for all media and communication activities and managed the press coverage of numerous United Nations meetings worldwide. While based in Vienna, Ms. Dewan undertook a seven-month mission assignment as Deputy Regional Director with the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia in 1989.

Prior to joining the United Nations, Ms. Dewan worked as a journalist for The Hindustan Times and as an editor at Children's Book Trust in New Delhi.

Ms. Dewan holds a master's degree in Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature (honours), French and psychology, from Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. Born in India, Ms. Dewan became a citizen of the United States in 1983.

 

In Worldwide Ceremonies, UN Mourns Baghdad Terror Victims On First Anniversary 2

With solemn words and mournful music, black ribbons and a silent march, the lighting of candles and the unveiling of plaques, the entire United Nations system on 19 August marked the first anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad, one of the darkest days in the world body's history.

From Baghdad itself to UN Headquarters in New York, from Geneva to New Delhi and in other far-flung outposts of its worldwide operations, staff observed a minute's silence, top officials and local representatives paid homage and relatives mourned the 22 people who perished in the blast of 19 August 2003.

In Baghdad, almost within site of the ruins of the Canal Hotel where top UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and many of his colleagues died, dozens of women and men, both Iraqi and international UN staff members, gathered in the Diwan School in the International Zone.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Qazi delivered a message from Mr. Annan and paid tribute to the victims, survivors, those injured and their families for their determination to press on with their mission in serving the Iraqis and other peoples around the world.

The attackers "will not deter us from going ahead with the UN," the Officer-in-Charge of the UN Administration in Baghdad, Anas Darwash, said in re-pledging the commitment of Iraqi UN staff to pursue their work with dedication in helping the country to emerge from successive wars and build a secure future. A multi-religious service was held.

At the UN's European headquarters in Geneva, Mr. Annan himself led the commemoration ceremonies, pledging to do all in his power to reinforce security in the face of the "new and more intimidating" form of danger that faces the world body as it goes about its global peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

At the UN's world Headquarters in New York Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette presided over ceremonies attended by representatives of the bereaved families as well as colleagues who were injured in the bombing.

The Security Council issued a press statement mourning the "irreparable loss" in the attack on people whose only mission was to help Iraq "build a better future of peace, justice, sovereignty and full independence," and it strongly condemned the continuing terrorist attacks on representatives of the international community.

At three ceremonies joined by video-link in New York, Geneva and Amman _ the Jordanian capital where many international staff relocated after the attack _ UN flags on the stage were dipped in salute and a minute of silence was observed after Mr. Annan's address.

Members of the bereaved families or their representatives were led to the podium where they lit candles for each of the fallen, their images projected on a screen, and identical commemorative plaques were unveiled.

Similar ceremonies were held in many of the world's current hotspots where the UN is on the front line with peacekeeping or humanitarian missions in the field. 

 

S-G: Violence, Drugs And Factionalism Remain Threats To Afghanistan 3

Extremist violence, factionalism and the illicit drug industry are on the rise in Afghanistan, threatening lasting peace as the country prepares for elections, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report on the country released on 17 August.

Noting that violent attacks and cross-border infiltrations have increased, especially in Afghanistan's south, he says these activities are effectively depriving many communities of the benefits of economic and political reconstruction.

Violence _ both terrorist and criminal _ is carried out "with seeming impunity," resulting in "the loss of too many Afghan lives and increasingly of those of international assistance workers," he says.

But he says the high rate of voter registrations _ more than 9.9 million people have now enrolled, with 41 per cent of them female _ shows that the groups responsible for the violence are politically isolated ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls.

The voter registrations are "a clear response to the efforts of the Taliban and other extremist groups to derail the elections and to exclude women from public life," he says in his report to the Security Council.

But he notes that registration remains uneven in some provinces because potential voters and electoral workers have been deterred by the threat of violence.

The Secretary-General says Afghanistan's illicit drug trade is burgeoning, with at least one initiative by the country's authorities to eradicate opium poppy fields "largely ineffective." Corruption caused by the drug trade is also on the rise. 

More anti-drug officials and greater determination to tackle the problem is necessary if Afghan farmers are going to stop production and turn to legal crops, he adds.

The report says increased security assistance from the international community is essential if Afghanistan is to successfully conduct presidential elections on 9 October, and then national and local parliamentary polls next April.

He says he is encouraged by the decision of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members at their recent summit in Istanbul to commit more troops to stabilizing Afghanistan. But the slower than expected pace of disarmament and the lack of credible, accurate population figures is hampering political reform and development, he adds.

 

Sec-Gen: Myanmar Democratization Will Not Be Credible Without Opposition Role 4

Myanmar's transition to democracy and national reconciliation will lack credibility if its ruling council does not engage in meaningful dialogue with opposition political parties and release the Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 17 August.

Mr. Annan believes the National Convention, a body set up by Myanmar's leaders to help achieve peace and democracy, "does not currently adhere to" successive General Assembly resolutions, according to a statement released by his spokesman. 

He called on the ruling State and Peace Development Council (SPDC) to take advantage of last month's adjournment of the National Convention and seek the views of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other opposition groups.

If not, he warned, Myanmar's seven-stage roadmap for democracy and reconciliation "will be incomplete, lacking in credibility" and without the support of the country's neighbours or the rest of the world.

The Secretary-General said Myanmar's rulers should immediately release Ms. Suu Kyi, the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and the General Secretary of the NLD, from house arrest. She has been confined to her home since last year.

"It also remains essential for a mutually acceptable agreement to be reached with the ethnic nationality ceasefire groups," Mr. Annan said, praising recent statements by some of these coalitions about how rights and powers could be distributed between the nation and regions.

Mr. Annan also urged the SPDC to allow his Special Envoy, Razali Ismail, to return to the country as soon as possible to help promote reconciliation.

 

Qazi: Iraq's National Conference Must Elect Credible Interim Council 5

A credible political transition in Iraq is the best solution to ongoing violence there, the senior United Nations envoy told the country's National Conference meeting in Baghdad on 15 August.

"The current strife and instability, as demonstrated by recent events in Najaf and elsewhere, cannot be addressed through security measures alone," Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Iraq, told the gathering. "They require political consensus building, rehabilitation measures, and the promotion of the rule of law."

Voicing deep regret over the loss of life and casualties suffered by the Iraqi people, he emphasized the importance of a broad and inclusive political process and moderation in advancing the political transition. 

The most immediate goal, he said, is the election of a "credible and inclusive" Interim Council to ensure successful elections by the end of January 2005 and the transition of Iraq to a constitutional democracy by the end of that year.

He hailed Iraq as the birthplace of society's first laws, and voiced confidence that now it could build a civil society that shuns lawlessness and violence. "All of you present here today have the opportunity to be recognized by history as the founders of a modern Iraq that will be the pride of your children and grandchildren and theirs," he said. "If you keep in mind the interests of your great country and countrymen who will be keenly watching your proceedings, discussions and conclusions you will surely achieve success."

 

UN-Backed Maritime Identification To Go Into Force To Fight Terrorism 6

In the ongoing battle against the threat of terrorism on the high seas and in the world's ports, a new and more rigorous biometric identity verification system which could potentially be used by 1.2 million global maritime workers has received the necessary ratifications to go into force by February, the United Nations labour agency has announced.

Just two ratifications are needed for the entry into force of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 185 aimed at bolstering international security in the global sea shipping industry, and Jordan has followed France with its endorsement, the 176-member Geneva-based agency said on 17 August.

The Convention, adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2003, seeks to balance the imperatives of security with the rights and freedoms of maritime workers and facilitate mobility in the exercise of their profession, for example when they board their ships to work, take shore leave or return home.

"The tragic consequences of terrorism can be aggravated by security measures resulting in hardship for the world's seafarers, including work under detrimental conditions or loss of jobs, and for world shipping in general," said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO programme that promotes the new instrument.

"This convention provides an unprecedented international system for identification freely agreed to on behalf of governments, ship owners and seafarers," she added of the new "biometric template" which turns two fingerprints of a seafarer into an internationally standardized 2-D barcode on the Seafarer's Identity Document (SID).

Employers' groups, workers' groups and governments represented on ILO's Governing Body supported the approval of a new standard as a matter of urgency to meet new security measures already being imposed on seafarers worldwide. Until now there have been no mandatory specifications for international identity documents.

 

Sec-Gen Offers UN Help To End Fighting In Iraqi Holy City Of Najaf 7

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 13 August offered the world body's help to end the current fighting in Iraq, particularly in the holy Shiite Muslim city of Najaf.

"The Secretary-General reiterates his appeal to all concerned to show the utmost restraint in these difficult circumstances," a statement issued by his spokesman said. "The Secretary-General has made clear his position that force should always be a last resort. The United Nations is dedicated to the principle of the peaceful settlement of disputes."

It added that Mr. Annan continued to attach great importance to the establishment of the widest possible consensus among Iraqis in support of a peaceful political transition. 

"The United Nations remains committed to doing everything possible to assist the Iraqi people to that end, and stands ready to extend its facilitating role in helping to resolve the current crisis, if this would be helpful," the statement declared.

It said Mr. Annan was "deeply saddened" by the violence and "especially concerned" about reports on the condition of Said Moqtada Al-Sadr _ a Shiite Muslim cleric leading his militia in the fight against United States and Iraqi interim Government forces in Najaf, who was wounded according to some reports.

"The Secretary-General believes that all of us want to see Iraq become a civil society, based on the rule of law. The dismantling of all militias would be an important step in that direction," it concluded.

 

Sudan Unveils Steps And Timetable For Action In Darfur 8

Sudan has presented the United Nations a set of measures to meet the Security Council timetable to improve the dire situation in the Darfur region, the focal point of fighting between rebels and Government forces leading to what some UN officials have described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail presented the plan on 12 August in the capital Khartoum during the third meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), co-chaired by Jan Pronk, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, and attended for the first time by diplomats from some Arab States _ Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

The measures presented by Mr. Ismail included a list of areas that the Sudanese Government proposed could be made safe and secure within 30 days, with the UN and its partners responding to the proposal with some suggestions.

Mr. Pronk indicated that the 30-day Darfur Plan of Action _ which he and Mr. Ismail agreed last week and which called for the Government to take "detailed steps" _ could be seen as consisting of three phases of 10 days each. In the first, the Government would decide on policies to meet the requirements, and then ensure that its policies would be implemented by all regional and local authorities in Darfur.

The impact of the process _ in terms of a verifiable, substantial and irreversible improvement of the security situation _ should be demonstrated ultimately during the remaining 10 days.

 

Hak-Su: Asia-Pacific Not Living Up To Its Potential In Battles Against Hunger, Disease 9

The "enormous challenge" facing the Asia-Pacific region is not a lack of food and other resources but ensuring that the abundance that is readily available reaches everybody, especially those most in need, a senior United Nations official said on 18 August.

"The region as a whole, for example, produces more food than it needs, yet millions of people go hungry and malnourished," Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), told an audience of young people attending a Model UN conference in Beijing this week. 

Child and maternal mortality rates, the prevailing lack of education and health problems such as HIV/AIDS are a "sad testimony" to a region's failure to live up to its potential as the dynamic segment of the world economy, he said.

"The root cause of the failure I believe lies in our inability to ensure that the fruits of economic growth reach those that need them most - the poor, children, women and the marginalized," he added.

While some 200 million Asia-Pacific people came out of poverty in the late 1990s, there is growing evidence to suggest that the entrenched poor form a difficult target to reach, Mr. Kim said.

"We are learning that we have to work along a broad front, as enunciated by the Millennium Declaration, to go beyond income poverty and meet the challenges of human poverty," said Mr. Kim. "As we delve more deeply a disturbing picture emerges reminding us that there is an enormous challenge ahead."

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted at the 2000 UN Millennium summit, set an ambitious list of eight targets, including halving extreme poverty and hunger and slashing child and maternal mortality rates, all by 2015.

 

FAO Unveils New Aid Model That Lets Local Organizations Take Project Lead 10

In an effort to help countries expand their own technical and managerial potential, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has signed agreements with three Indian organizations that would allow them to take the lead in improving land and water management for poor farmers in drought-prone areas.

Under the agreements, FAO will provide technical and management support to three projects funded with €13.9 million (euros) from the Netherlands, while the plans will be implemented by two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and a state agricultural university in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, states that have been hit hard by drought and declining agricultural productivity due to unsustainable land and water use.

The plans are based on an innovative development assistance model that makes national institutions responsible for project management, the first time FAO has projects based on this scheme. The agency recently reconsidered its method of technical assistance because many countries wish to expand their own technical and administrative capabilities. As a result, FAO's role in these projects has decreased so that project management responsibility rests with governments and other national institutions.

In the first project, FAO will join the AME Foundation, a local NGO, to improve water management and promote alternative farming practices to strengthen food security in the Deccan Plateau region of southern India.

The other two proposals will be managed by the Bharathi Integrated Rural Development Society and the Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University and will address water management issues and encourage more sustainable agricultural practices. 

"These projects will provide a number of important lessons and insights on how to improve food security through better land and water management, using participatory, community-driven approaches," said Daniel Gustafson, FAO Representative in India. "The programme represents a two-way flow of expertise between the partners and FAO."

 

UNAIDS Concerned About Detention Of AIDS Activists In Nepal 11

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on 16 August voiced concern about the recent detention and reported mistreatment of nearly 40 people in Nepal working for an organization that helps sexual minorities to deal with the disease.

The Nepalese police arrested 39 members of the Blue Diamond Society on 9 August and none have since been released.

In a statement issued on 16 August, UNAIDS said it "fully supports" the work of the Blue Diamond Society _ a non-governmental organization (NGO) _ with sexual minorities on HIV prevention, care and support as well as human rights issues.

UNAIDS has conveyed its concern over the detentions to the Government of Nepal and has called on the authorities to ensure that NGOs in the country continue to provide much-needed HIV services in an atmosphere free from fear and intimidation where the human rights of all are respected.

 

Malloch Brown Visits Bangladesh To Spotlight Flood Relief Efforts 12

The top United Nations development official warned on 19 August that money is urgently needed for the "very expensive" next stage of rehabilitating Bangladesh's health facilities, schools and economy after recent flooding killed 600 people and left 20 million more in need of food assistance for the coming year.

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Mark Malloch Brown praised government efforts to overcome the losses, which prompted the UN to appeal for $210 million from international donors to help 5 million people in the hardest-hit areas.

To bolster the efforts, UNDP and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) are distributing food, hygiene kits, soap and clothes through national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with funding from the British Department for International Development.

Floods during April knocked out over 80 per cent of the rice crop in certain areas of Bangladesh. A second set of floods in July wiped out household food stocks and removed other sources of nutrition and income such as livestock rearing and agricultural day labour. Approximately 3 million homes were damaged or destroyed and the government estimates the cost at $7 billion.