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Published Weekly by the United Nations Information Centre New Delhi

55 Lodhi Estate, New Delhi 110003

11 September, 2004

 

Table of Contents

 

Hailing India-Pakistan Progress, Secretary-General Urges Compromise On Kashmir Issue 1

Welcoming recent talks between senior Indian and Pakistani officials, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 8 September urged further dialogue to resolve outstanding issues, including the question of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr. Annan's reaction followed a meeting this weekend between the External Affairs Minister of India, K. Natwar Singh, and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Khurshid Mohammed Kasuri. The two South Asian officials reviewed the process of the composite dialogue between their countries.

In a statement released by his spokesman, the Secretary-General also welcomed the announcement that President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York later this month.

"He is heartened that the two sides continue to make steady progress towards resolving outstanding issues and improving their bilateral relations," the spokesman said, emphasizing that success would benefit not only on the lives of the peoples of the two countries but also regional and global stability.

The Secretary-General encouraged the leaders of India and Pakistan to pursue their efforts "with patience and a spirit of compromise in addressing the various issues, including the question of Jammu and Kashmir."

Kashmir has been split between the two countries since they won independence from the United Kingdom more than 50 years ago. UN observers have been deployed there for over five decades.

 

Secretary-General Sees Major Challenges To Reaching Millennium Development Goals 2

Violence in Iraq, massive human rights violations in Sudan, escalating demands for United Nations peace missions, and the inability of African countries to provide a social safety net for their citizens pose major challenges to achieving the aspirations of the UN Millennium Declaration, according to Secretary-General Kofi Annan's latest report.

Noting the Declaration, adopted by a summit of world leaders meeting at the UN in 2000, spoke of a world striving for peace and decent living standards for all, Mr. Annan stresses that despite progress in resolving differences "one of the most distressing features" of the past 12 months is the very large number of victims of terrorism.

This is not just true in Iraq but in many other countries. "Major attacks targeting civilians in Istanbul, Madrid, Riyadh and Haifa and Moscow are grim reminders of the scope and severity of the challenge we face," he declares.

He says that the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, where fighting among the army, rebel groups and militias, has led to extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and other massive human rights abuses resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands and the displacement of more than a million others, strikes at the very heart of the UN Charter and the Declaration.

"If we fail to act here, we lose not only lives but also all credibility," he states.

Mr. Annan calls the jump in demand for UN peace operations a welcome signal of new opportunities for the world community to help resolve conflicts peacefully, but one that will also stretch the world body's capacities to the limit and beyond. "Those opportunities can only be truly seized if the necessary commitments of political, financial and human resources are made and if each peace process is seen through to its completion," he warns.

Mr. Annan paints a mixed picture of progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the Summit for transforming the world's social fabric by 2015, finding success in some areas and a major shortfall in others, especially sub-Saharan Africa.

Dividing developing countries into three groups, he notes that the first, comprising most of Asia and Northern Africa, is largely on track for halving extreme poverty by 2015 and achieving other key goals. The second group, mainly in West Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, has been making good progress towards some individual targets such as achieving universal primary education, but has been less successful in reducing poverty. The third group, sub-Saharan Africa and least developed countries in other regions, is far from making adequate progress on most of the goals.

On the goal of reducing child mortality, he notes that sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the highest level of under-five deaths at 174 per 1,000 live births, nearly twice the rate of the next highest region, Southern Asia, and more than 20 times that of developed regions.

With respect to improving women's health, recent estimates indicate "appallingly high rates" of maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Of the 529,000 women who died in labour worldwide in 2000, 445,000 occurred in those two regions. On HIV/AIDS Mr. Annan notes that new infections in the last calendar year were higher than ever before, "raising serious concerns about the development prospects for whole regions of the world in which hundreds of millions of people reside."

On the goal of forming a global partnership for development, he stresses that the collapse of trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, last year _ when developing countries sought to eliminate the subsidies and tariffs used by the developed world _ was "a serious setback in efforts to create a level playing field" for the developing nations.

"With only 11 years to go until the 2015 deadline, 2005 will be a critical year, particularly in Africa," he reports. "The Millennium Development Goals are still technically feasible in even the poorest countries, but the window of opportunity is rapidly narrowing and the political will remains largely absent."

The Secretary-General calls on all countries _ rich and poor _ to play their part. Developing States will need to continue integrating the MDGs into their national strategies, while donor nations should incorporate them into bilateral programmes. For its part, the UN "must also prove that it can be agile," he writes.

"New realities call for new solutions," he says. "This coming year will be crucial."

 

S-G: Civic Groups Key To Achieving Millennium Development Goals 3

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a vital role to play in achieving the ambitious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of overhauling the world's social fabric by 2015, from slashing extreme poverty and hunger to cutting infant mortality to curbing major diseases, a United Nations conference was told on 8 September.

If the Goals are not met, "we all will be poorer," Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the opening session of the 57th Annual conference of the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) and NGOs which has brought together at UN Headquarters in New York 2,700 representatives from more than 700 NGOs.

The Goals are different from the unmet bold pledges of the past, Mr. Annan said in a video message. First they are measurable; second, they have unprecedented political support, with all world leaders having signed on to them and NGOs having a key role to play in sustaining that political will; and third, with requisite national action and international support, almost every country can reach the Goals by the target date.

This year's three-day conference is devoted to the theme Millennium Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action.

 

Sec-Gen Calls For International Support To Expand African Force In Darfur, Sudan  4

The Security Council could take action on the crisis engulfing the Darfur region of Sudan within the next week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 7 September, stressing that "more can and should be done" to improve security in the war-torn region and urging international support for the African monitors deployed there.

Mr. Annan made his comments to reporters on arrival at UN Headquarters, where he had separate meetings with a former Sudanese Prime Minister and a rebel leader.

While recalling that in a report to the Council the previous week he had noted an improvement on granting humanitarian access to Darfur, he warned that security problems persist. Khartoum "must re-double its efforts to protect the population" of an estimated 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), he said.

"Obviously the situation on the ground could be better. We are not satisfied with the security front. We believe that more can and should be done," he added.

Mr. Annan said the Council should expand the size of the force of African Union monitors (AU) from its original "woefully inadequate" number to better protect the IDPs and to restore security.

"I hope the international community will support them [the AU monitoring force] financially, logistically and also in other ways."

In his report to the Council, he said the notorious Janjaweed militias have conducted a "scorched-earth policy" against Darfur's civilians since conflict began there early last year when two rebel groups took up arms against the Government.

Mr. Annan said most of the militias have not been disarmed and continue to carry out attacks, killing, raping and assaulting villagers and generally traumatizing the inhabitants.

 

United States Introduces Draft Resolution On Sudan Crisis In Security Council 5

The United States said it has received a "very positive" response in the Security Council on 9 September after circulating a draft resolution aimed at ameliorating the security and humanitarian crises engulfing the Darfur region of Sudan.

US Ambassador John Danforth, speaking to reporters after the Council held closed consultations on the issue, said he was hopeful that the body could pass a resolution on the issue by next week.

He said the 15 members recognized that Council action was necessary, and stressed the need for the African Union (AU) - which has a force of monitors in place in the war-torn region - to play a vital role.

"The importance of getting an outside presence into Darfur to monitor the situation is something that's impossible to overstate. That provides the most immediate assurance to the people of that region that they will have some protection," Mr. Danforth said.

At least 1.2 million people in Darfur are internally displaced and another 200,000 have fled over the border into neighbouring Chad because of attacks by militias allied to the Sudanese Government, and because of fighting between Government forces and two rebel groups.

UN human rights reports have found that the militias, mainly known as Janjaweed, have carried out murders, rapes and assaults against thousands of civilians, and also destroyed or damaged villagers' homes and cropland.

Asked whether the draft resolution's threat of sanctions against Khartoum was a stumbling block, Washington's most senior representative at the UN said the provision was essential.

"The Government of Sudan is not going to respond if there is no pressure. And nobody wants to impose sanctions just for the pleasure of imposing sanctions. The Government of Sudan must act in an appropriate way to save the lives of these people."

 

Without Offers Of Protection, S-G Warns That UN Workers In Iraq Remain In Peril 6

International staff working for the United Nations in Iraq are "operating at the outer limit of acceptable and prudent risk," Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report which warns that the UN presence on the ground there is limited because of insecurity until further notice.

While pledging to "do everything possible, as circumstances permit, to support Iraqi efforts in the political and economic reconstruction of their country," the Secretary-General points out that no country has yet committed to providing any security staff for UN workers there.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters on 9 September that the world body has conducted "an exhausting and exhaustive search" for security units, adding that there have been "some promising leads."

The UN has restricted the number of its foreign staff in Iraq to 35 until there is "a qualitative improvement in the overall security environment," Mr. Annan says.

Just over a year ago, the UN suffered a devastating terrorist attack which killed 22 people at its Baghdad headquarters. And the new report notes that the last few months have been marked by continuing violent attacks, including assassinations and kidnappings, with many targeting foreign workers. Armed militias are still active and are connected to politically influential parties and individuals.

The volatile security situation is also playing havoc with Iraqis' confidence in their political future, especially the electoral process as it heads towards polls scheduled for January next year.

Mr. Annan says the only solution to the insecurity and violence is a political process that is not based on threats or armed force, but instead a genuine willingness to tackle political, economic, social and cultural grievances peacefully.

He gives prime responsibility for this to Iraq's Interim Government, arguing it must be as inclusive as possible as it shapes the political process ahead of the scheduled elections.

Mr. Annan stresses the importance of establishing the rule of law as paramount in Iraq and calls for reform of the country's police, judicial and penal systems. He also calls on political parties to avoid moves which could inflame tensions.

 

UNICEF Report Finds Stalled Peace Talks In Sri Lanka Blocking Aid To Children 7

Delayed peace talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are a significant obstacle to assisting children affected by the country's two-decade-long war, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on 9 September.

A new report by the agency on progress made in the Action Plan for Children Affected By War - the only human rights agreement signed between the Government and the LTTE on the issue - found that the rebel group's failure to stop the recruitment of children and continued inter-factional violence are hindering assistance to youngsters in the country.

Under the Plan, 7,000 children re-enrolled in school and 43,000 children received catch-up education classes. However, the LTTE recruited 488 children during the first half of this year. While the group released 449 other children, 1,300 still remain in its ranks.  Among its recommendations, the report called for the Government of Sri Lanka to amend its Prevention of Terrorism Act to ensure that it does not apply to children under the age of 18. LTTE should immediately stop all recruitment of children who are under 18, verify the age of all young people who wish to join, and halt all forcible recruitment and abductions. For its part, the international community should increase support and other resources for children affected by war, the report said.

 

UN Treaty On Rights Of Persons With Disabilities 8

A treaty protecting and promoting the rights of the estimated global population of 600 million people with disabilities has the potential to transform public understanding about the issue, the Chairman of a United Nations committee drafting the convention said on 3 September.

Briefing reporters in New York following a two-week negotiating session involving more than 100 countries, Ambassador Luis Gallegos of Ecuador said the proposed pact _ which could be ready for countries to sign as early as September 2005 _ will highlight the daily obstacles that disabled people must face and their ability to overcome them.

"I think it is time that we seize the opportunity of having a revolutionary change in society's view on how people have disabilities," he said.

Mr. Gallegos said negotiations over the last fortnight focused on several fronts, including the right to life, the promotion of positive attitudes and the need for equality and non-discrimination.

Voicing optimism about the progress of the negotiations, he said he was particularly pleased that recent talks have been able to integrate the concerns of disabled rights' advocates as well as the concerns of governments.

Two or three more negotiating sessions are planned for next year to try to iron out remaining differences so that a text can be prepared ready for signature by next September.

It is estimated that one in 10 of the world's population, or about 600 million people, have some form of mental or physical disability. Up to three quarters live in the developing world.

In a response to a journalist's question, Mr. Gallegos said the United States had already made clear that it would not ratify or sign the convention, but that it would also help with the current process of drafting and negotiations.

The treaty protecting persons with disabilities was one of the "Ten Stories the World Should Know More About," compiled by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).

 

WHO Launches New Plan To Help Elderly People 9

With more than 1 billion people projected to be over 60 years old by 2025, the World Health Organization (WHO) on 7 September launched a new set of principles aimed at providing better care for the elderly.

Released during the International Federation on Ageing's Seventh Global Conference in Singapore, the strategy,  called "Towards Age-Friendly Primary Health Care," aims to tackle problems associated with getting older, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and musculoskeletal problems by strengthening community health centres.

"WHO has recognized the critical role these centres play in the health of older people worldwide and the need for these centres to be accessible and adapted to the needs of the older population," said WHO's Dr. Catherine Le Galès-Camus. "Supporting older people to remain healthy and ensure a good quality of life in their later years is one of the greatest challenges of the health sector in all countries."

 

WHO Seeks To Curb Problem Of Suicide 10

With nearly 1 million people dying from suicide every year, more than from all homicides and wars combined, the United Nations health agency on 8 September called for concerted global action to curb what it termed "a huge but largely preventable public health problem."

"Suicide is a tragic global public health problem," World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant-Director General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Catherine Le Galès-Camus said ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day being marked on 10 September. "There is an urgent need for coordinated and intensified global action to prevent this needless toll."

The agency has produced a series of guidelines for different audiences that have a critical role in suicide prevention, including health workers, teachers, prison officers, media professionals and survivors of suicide. It stressed early identification and treatment of mental disorders as an important preventive strategy.

The Director of WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Benedetto Saraceno, underlined the role played by the media, citing evidence that coverage can encourage imitation suicides and urging sensitivity in reporting on "these tragic and frequently avoidable deaths."

"The media can also play a major role in reducing stigma and discrimination associated with suicidal behaviours and mental disorders," he added.

Suicidal behaviour has a large number of complex underlying causes, including poverty, unemployment, loss of loved ones, arguments, breakdown in relationships and legal or work-related problems.

The most common methods are pesticides, firearms and medication, such as painkillers, according to WHO, which emphasized that availability of these means plays an important role in the phenomenon. "Having access to the means of suicide is both an important risk factor and determinant of suicide," said Professor Lars Mehlum, President of International Association for Suicide Prevention, a non-governmental organization collaborating with WHO on the issue.

One recent breakthrough was the move by many pharmaceutical companies to market painkillers in blister packs rather than more easily accessible bottles, which had a significant impact on their use as a suicide method, the agency said. Currently attention is focused on encouraging a reduction in access to pesticides, including safer storage and proper dilutions.