UN Newsletter
Published Weekly by the United Nations Information Centre
55 Lodi Estate, New Delhi 110003, India
 

                                                                    19 February 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS
  1. UNCTAD X
  2. UN Peacekeeping: S-G Urges Creation of Rapid Response Capacity
  3. East Timor Update
  4. Disarmament
  5. S-G: Unity in Diversity is Best Motto
  6. SC Recommends Admission of Tuvalu
  7. Central African Republic
  8. Chechnya
  9. Kosovo Update
  10. Iraq
  11. Task Force to Integrate Trade and Environment
  12. Cyanide Spill
  13. Smoking
  14. Drug Control
  15. Influenza
  16. Geneva Graduate Study Programm; Prevention: UN Strategies to meet the challenges of the millennium

 

UNCTAD X Bookmark1

Noting that the main losers in today's economy suffered not so much from overexposure to globalization as from exclusion, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a United Nations trade conference in Bangkok that spreading global economic benefits to all peoples was the overriding goal of the international community.

"For that to happen, we need common standards, defined and enforced by States working together in multilateral institutions and, above all, rooted in shared values," the Secretary-General said in his address on 12 February to the tenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD X).

Highlighting some of the key issues facing the conference, Mr. Annan pointed to the need to ensure that more countries were able to enjoy export-led recoveries, and that within countries the benefits of trade are fairly and widely spread. No less important, he said, was to ensure that all developing countries, especially poor people within them, benefit from the growth of private investment and could borrow at affordable rates.

Another vital aspect was to make new technologies more widely available, and ensure that they were better used, Mr. Annan said. "How can we enable developing countries to benefit from advances in technology and medicine, which patents currently place beyond their reach, without reducing the incentive to those in industrialized countries who achieve such advances?"

Pointing to the need to develop new partnerships, reaching beyond old-fashioned intergovernmental cooperation, the Secretary-General said the proposal he had made a year ago of a Global Compact between business and the United Nations was already yielding results. The recent initiatives included Netaid — a partnership between the UN Development Programme, Cisco Systems and the entertainment community to raise consciousness about extreme poverty in the world and money to fight it — and GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

As for making sure that the voice of developing countries was not only heard, but listened to, in future discussions on international trade rules, Mr. Annan stressed that UNCTAD, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and donor governments acting bilaterally were all seeking to help developing countries prepare better for international negotiations, and to implement agreements once reached.

* * *

Consensus is emerging on a number of key issues between the 180 rich and poor countries gathered in Bangkok for the week-long tenth UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD X), although a number of outstanding issues remain.

UNCTAD X spokesman, Habib Ouane said earlier on 17 February that he was confident of progress towards consensus on a "Plan of Action," one

of two "outcome documents" from the conference, while the text of the other, the "Bangkok Declaration," was expected to be presented for final negotiations shortly.

In regard to the discussions under way in Bangkok, Mr Ouane said that although there was progress towards consensus on a Plan of Action, divisions remained on a number of points. These included agreement on special trade measures for the least-developed countries. Agreement had still to be reached on wording to remove all tariffs and duties on "essentially all" products from the world's poorest countries.

Also in dispute was language in the section on the harmful effects of farm subsidies in rich countries on the agricultural sectors of developing nations, Mr. Ouane said. Agriculture is an especially sensitive issue, and it was disagreement in this area that delivered the final blow to the talks in Seattle.

The Declaration is expected to focus on three themes. One was an overarching analysis of globalization and its impact. Second, there would be an expression of a "new spirit" emerging from Bangkok, characterized by consensus on the importance of coherence between internal and external national policies and domestic and international economic structures, solidarity with poorer countries, and a balanced world trading system. Finally, it would set out UNCTAD's role in shaping globalization to work for the benefit of development.

 

UN Peacekeeping: S-G Urges Creation of Rapid Response Capacity Bookmark2

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told an audience in Bangkok on 11 February that the speedy deployment of UN peacekeepers was an "absolute necessity" if conflicts were to be contained.

"At present it is as if when a fire breaks out we must first build a fire station in order to respond," he said, urging the creation of a UN rapid response capacity. At present, the average time from decision to deployment can be three to four months, Mr. Annan said in his speech at

Thammasat University, where he received an honorary degree.

In practice, the current "stand-by arrangements," under which Member States identified troops who could be deployed immediately after the Security Council's decision to establish an operation, had not been enough to meet the challenge of rapid deployment.

"Rapid deployment can prevent enormous agony, and we must continue to work with Member States to reduce the time it takes to put UN peacekeepers in the field," the Secretary-General said.

Mr. Annan also said the Security Council must provide mandates that are realistic, credible, and backed by sufficient resources. "The means must be commensurate with the mandate, and the Security Council must always be ready to adapt the one to suit the other, as the evolution of the situation demands."

 

East Timor Update Bookmark4

The United Nations mission in East Timor and the Australian Government have signed a memorandum of understanding to continue the terms of the 1989 treaty that divided oil resources in the sea between Timor island and northern Australia.

The memorandum, signed on 10 February in Dili by the head of the UN mission, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, and the Australian representative in East Timor, Mr. James Batley, lays the groundwork for a legal arrangement between East Timor and Australia, based on the original Timor Gap Treaty signed by Indonesia and Australia.

Under the memorandum, both parties agree that all existing production- sharing contracts will continue to apply and that the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) will exercise its obligations under the treaty in close consultation with representatives of East Timor.

* * *

United Nations peacekeepers on 14 February assumed command of the central section of East Timor from the multinational force that had overseen security in the area since September 1999.

Two hundred troops from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the International Forces in East Timor (INTERFET) participated in a ceremony in Dili that included the change of flags and berets, symbolizing the transfer of authority. The Central Sector, which reaches from Dili to the town of Same, will be under Portuguese responsibility.

* * *

S-G Visits Indonesia: Stressing that it was "absolutely essential" that the perpetrators of post-referendum violence in East Timor be brought to justice, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 16 February he supported the Indonesian government's recent steps in that direction.

Following his meetings in Jakarta with President Abdurrahman Wahid and Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono, Mr. Annan told the press that it was important to send out the message that impunity would not be allowed to stand, which could also serve as a deterrent for others.

"If the Government puts [the perpetrators] on trial, and justice is done," Mr. Annan said, "I do not believe that the Security Council would insist on setting up an international tribunal. Of course if that doesn't happen, the Council has a right to revert to it."

The Secretary-General also said that Defence Minister Sudarsono had agreed to work with the UN to ensure that the unruly militia elements who are intimidating East Timorese refugees in West Timor would be brought under control. As for those East Timorese who may wish to remain in Indonesia, in West Timor or elsewhere, they should be free to exercise that choice, Mr. Annan said.

* * *

S-G Visits East Timor: On his first visit to East Timor after it was racked by post-referendum violence, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 17 February told the people of the troubled territory that the UN was working hard to rebuild their land and bring law and order to it.

"We are here as your partners," Mr. Annan stressed in his remarks to a swelling crowd of 5,000 in Liquica. "Together we can weather the current crisis and usher in a new era for East Timor — an era in which East Timor takes its place in the family of nations, and in which its men, women and children can live in dignity and peace."

He added that the international community had pledged $500 million towards reconstruction work to restore basic services and rebuild infrastructure. "That money is now beginning to flow," he said, "meaning that reconstruction will begin in earnest and jobs will be created."

 

Disarmament Bookmark3

An international conference on critical international security issues ended its work in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 17 February amid warnings that global disarmament efforts were entering "a dangerous new era."

The three-day Regional Disarmament Meeting in the Asia-Pacific Region was the 12th in a series of annual meetings known as the "Kathmandu process."

Outlining a global picture of recent disarmament efforts, UN Under- Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, stressed in his opening statement that States possessing nuclear weapons did not appear to be in a hurry to give them up, despite the unpopularity of such weapons among the general public elsewhere. "Their leaders talk about ultimate disarmament goals," he said, "but balk at negotiating concrete measures to achieve such goals."

As for the situation in Asia, Mr. Dhanapala cited recent findings that while military expenditures globally declined during the 1990s, Asia was the only region where there had been "unabated rapid growth" in military expenditures which had increased by 27% in real terms over the past decade.

"The Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998 have set back progress in nuclear disarmament and nuclear non- proliferation," Mr. Dhanapala said. He added that of the 44 countries whose ratifications were needed to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, the only three that had not yet even signed the treaty were in Asia — India, Pakistan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

However, there were also positive developments in the region, Mr. Dhanapala noted. Kazakhstan had joined the non-proliferation treaty after closing its nuclear test site and returning former Soviet nuclear weapons to the Russian Federation. China had stopped testing nuclear weapons, signed the CTBT, reaffirmed its long-standing no-first-use policy, and pledged never to provide any assistance to any insecure nuclear facility. And Japan had continued its "unrelenting efforts" on behalf of global nuclear disarmament goals.

"In this light, it is certain that Asia can and must play a crucial role in building support for the global norm of nuclear disarmament," Mr. Dhanapala said. "In many respects, the future of the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regimes can undoubtedly be influenced by developments in Asia."

 

S-G: Unity in Diversity is Best Motto Bookmark5

Breaking up large States into small ones is often a "wasteful and unimaginative way" of solving political difficulties, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told an audience in Indonesia on 16 February.

"But those who oppose separatism have got to show that their solution is less wasteful and more imaginative. Minorities have got to be convinced that the state really belongs to them, as well as to the majority," Mr. Annan said in a speech to the Indonesian Council of World Affairs on the theme `Unity in Diversity,' the country's official motto.

"I cannot think of a better motto for the world as a whole — and particularly for our United Nations," the Secretary-General added.

 

SC Recommends Admission of Tuvalu Bookmark6

The Security Council at a formal meeting on 17 February recommended to the General Assembly that the Pacific island chain of Tuvalu be admitted to membership of the United Nations.

By a vote of 14 to none with China abstaining, the Council decided to approve Tuvalu's application to become the Organization's 189th member. The final decision on the granting of UN membership rests with the General Assembly.

Tuvalu became independent in 1978 and has a population of 10,000.

 

Central African Republic Bookmark7

Marking the successful completion of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA), Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the mission showed the potential of UN peacekeeping in Africa and other parts of the world.

A statement released on 15 February by Mr. Annan's spokesman stressed that MINURCA "has done much to restore peace and security in the CAR, and to create conditions for the successful conduct of national elections, the restructuring of the security forces, and the launching of major economic and social reforms."

"The success of the UN mission in the CAR once again demonstrates how much can be achieved by peacekeeping in Africa and elsewhere with the cooperation and political will of the parties, their commitments to peace and national reconciliation, a clear mandate, appropriate resources and the strong and consistent support of the international community," the statement said.

The Secretary-General also expressed his "deep appreciation" to those Member States who provided personnel to the mission.

With the UN's Peace-Building Support Office (BONUCA) now taking over from MINURCA, Mr. Annan urged all parties in the Central African Republic to work together to complete ongoing reforms. Those reforms, he stressed, "should continue to aim at consolidating peace, democratic institutions and socio-economic recovery and be based on the respect for human rights and the rule of law."

 

Chechnya Bookmark8

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson on 16 February called on the Russian Government to allow human rights monitoring of the situation in Chechnya and to act on mounting evidence of serious human rights violations during and after the assault on Grozny and other parts of the territory.

In a statement released in Geneva, Mrs. Robinson expressed deep regret that the Russian Government had not agreed to her request to visit Moscow and the areas affected by the conflict, or to her earlier offer to send a personal envoy to the region. She said the failure of the Russian authorities to respond to legitimate worries "leads to heightened concern that allegations of human rights violations may be well- founded."

 

Kosovo Update Bookmark9

The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) continued to be preoccupied by the harassment, eviction and murder of minorities, a senior UN peacekeeping official told the Security Council on 16 February.

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi was briefing the Council on the latest developments in Kosovo. The briefing took place in a private meeting — an informal session that is closed to the press and the public to which Council non-members may be invited to attend without the right to speak.

According to a UN spokeswoman, Mr. Annabi told the Council that even though the security situation in Kosovo had deteriorated in early February, UNMIK had made gradual progress in restoring the rule of law, including the first round of appointments of judges and prosecutors. By 11 February, there were 2,052 UN police in Kosovo.

 

Iraq Bookmark10

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 14 February said the United Nations was doing its best to implement the humanitarian programme for Iraq and to improve its effectiveness in alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Mr. Annan made his comments in Singapore in response to journalists' questions about the resignation of the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck. Accepting the resignation "with regret," the Secretary-General said Mr. Sponeck had "served the UN well" for some 36 years.

Asked by reporters about the future of the UN programme in Iraq, the Secretary-General said, "the Council resolutions are clear."

"The Council itself realizes that sanctions are a blunt instrument," Mr. Annan went on, "and that is the reason why they established the oil-for-food scheme to get assistance to the Iraqi people. I hope in time Iraq will cooperate with the Council, and implement its resolutions so that the sanctions will be lifted."

 

Task Force to Integrate Trade and Environment Bookmark11

Two United Nations agencies have launched a capacity-building task force to assist developing countries integrate trade, environment and development policies.

The task force, which is a joint effort by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), will use the technical expertise of the two agencies and their networks of experts and national research institutions. The launch was announced in a joint statement released on 15 February in Bangkok.

The main objectives of the task force are to help developing countries and countries with economies in transition to better understand the linkages between trade, environment and development and to assess the environmental, economic and social effects of trade liberalization.

The task force will also help developing nations to implement beneficial trade expansion policies and to participate effectively in trade and environment deliberations at the international level.

 

Cyanide Spill Bookmark12

In an emergency response to the cyanide spill that has affected wildlife and water supplies along the Danube River in Europe, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has redirected its scientists already in the area to help in assessing the risks to human health and the environment.

The scientists who are currently working in Yugoslavia as part of a task force set up last year to gauge the impact of the Balkans conflict on the environment in the region, would take water quality samples from the river Danube. The Balkans Task Force scientists have brought with them a mobile laboratory that will be available for use in other affected countries, if needed, said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer.

The initiative, which was welcomed by the Vienna-based International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, is the first step in addressing the industrial disaster that occurred two weeks ago when a gold mine in northwest Romania accidentally dumped 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide into the Tisza and Danube rivers.

The poison has since wiped out fish stocks and threatened water supplies in several countries downstream from the spill.

Meanwhile, the UN Economic Commission for Europe said on 15 February in Geneva that broader ratification of the UN's conventions on industrial accidents and international waterways could have prevented some of the damage caused in the recent disaster.

 

Smoking Bookmark13

A UN report released on 11 February in New York concluded that increased levels of smoking among women had led to higher rates of tobacco-related mortality among this group.

The report, prepared for next month's annual session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, found that women nevertheless continued to have higher life expectancy than men, and that there were twice as many women than men over the age of 80 worldwide.

The Commission, which will meet in New York from 27 to 31 March, will focus on gender issues.

 

Drug Control Bookmark14

The critical need for international cooperation in the fight against drugs and the essential role of the United Nations in the effort were among the key themes at the International Drug Summit that concluded its work in Washington, D.C. on 10 February.

The summit, co-sponsored by the US Congress and the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, also agreed that greater transparency in global financial activities should become a shared international value, and that demand reduction should cover all areas of prevention.

The three-day forum recognized the particular need to increase international assistance to deal with the problem of drugs coming from Colombia and Afghanistan.

After discussing a new initiative on money laundering, Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the UN Drug Control Programme, announced a meeting to be held in the Cayman Islands next month that would ask offshore financial centres to adopt common global standards to deal with criminal money.

 

Influenza Bookmark15

The United Nations health organization has approved a vaccine against a potentially fatal strain of influenza due to hit the northern hemisphere later this year.

At an annual meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Switzerland last week, researchers and scientists agreed on the vaccine's contents, which were then communicated to vaccine manufacturers around the world, according to a WHO statement released in Geneva.

Bookmark16

Geneva Graduate Study Programm; Prevention: UN Strategies to meet the challenges of the millennium

 

Each year, as part of the educational activities undertaken by the United Nations, the Information Service at Geneva organizes a Graduate Study Programme. This seminar provides an opportunity for outstanding young postgraduates from all over the world to deepen their understanding of the principles, purposes and activities of the United Nations and its related agencies through first-hand observation and study at the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The 38th Graduate Study Programme will be held at the Palais des Nations from Monday 3 July to Friday 21 July 2000, and will be conducted in English and French without interpretation.

The programme will include lectures by senior members of the United Nations and other related agencies. Participants will form working groups to study issues related to human rights, development, environment and humanitarian affairs under the guidance of United Nations experts. At the end of the Study Programme, they will present a common document. Participants will be provided with selected documents and publications on the themes under discussion.

The graduate students invited to attend this Study Programme will be selected on the basis of their scholastic experience and motivation, with due regard to equitable geographical distribution.

Graduates interested in the 2000 Study Programme must submit their application before the deadline date of 14 April 2000. Application forms can be obtained from:

The Director, UN Information Centre, 55 Lodi Estate, New Delhi-110003.