DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
2 July 2002
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
We’re going to have a guest at the briefing today. It will be Peter Hansen, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and he will be discussing the agency’s appeal for $55 million in extra aid for humanitarian assistance in the West Bank.
**Annan to Depart for Vienna
The Secretary-General is leaving this afternoon for Vienna, where the next round of UN-Iraq talks are scheduled to begin on Thursday and to conclude on Friday of this week. And then on Saturday he leaves for Durban, South Africa, where he will attend the Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on 8 and 9 July.
The Security Council held consultations this morning on its programme of work for July and on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Security Council, in a Sunday evening vote, extended the mandate of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina by 72 hours, as you know. That is up midnight Wednesday. Further consultations are expected tomorrow.
At 12:45, the Council President for the month of July, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, will come here to brief you on the Council’s work for the month.
Concerning the Middle East Quartet meeting, as I mentioned to you yesterday, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed Larsen, is in London today for a meeting with his counterparts from the Russian Federation, the United States and the European Union. That meeting is scheduled to get under way shortly. And we’ll let you know if there is any read-out once it’s over.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has offered the Afghan authorities any assistance that may be required to the victims of the tragic bombing of yesterday in Uruzgan province. It has helped to arrange a government convoy to Uruzgan with medical supplies provided by UN agencies.
The UN Mission expressed deep condolences to the families of the victims and said that it expected that the joint investigation by the Transitional
Administration and the United States forces would provide full clarification on the circumstances of the incident.
Last Friday, we briefed you on the explosions at the ammunition compound in Spin Boldak in Afghanistan. The United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (MACA) has dispatched several teams to the area for technical assessments, along with supporting capacity from the Swiss Demining Federation.
The ammunition compound itself will take up to one month to clear. With approximately 60 skilled Mine Action personnel on the site, working on extended shifts of 8 hours, the Mine Action Centre expects that the surrounding area will be cleared within the next 10 days.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has suspended the return of internally displaced persons in some provinces of Afghanistan due to the precarious security situation. UNHCR says it is extremely concerned about the escalating violence and the worsening human rights situation in northern and central Afghanistan. Scores of attacks and intense fighting have caused deaths of civilians –- especially women and children. There is also an upsurge in criminal activities –- robberies, rapes and murders.
Still on Afghanistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a press statement today regarding a $2.2 million rehabilitation programme for the Afghan health care system. This is a programme that is designed primarily to bring medical services to women. One of the most important issues is psycho-social trauma among women. WHO estimates that 40 per cent of the Afghan population suffer from psycho-social distress due to the conflict in the country.
A new report released today finds that the majority of the world’s young people have no idea how HIV/AIDS is transmitted or how to protect themselves.
The report, “Young People and HIV/AIDS: Opportunity in Crisis”, was jointly produced by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS). It stresses that young people are the group the hardest hit by the disease and are also the key to overcoming it. Surveys of 60 countries indicate that more than 50 per cent of the 15 to 24 age group have serious misconceptions about how the disease is transmitted and as few as 20 per cent know how to protect themselves. The Executive Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy, and Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, will launch the report in a press conference at UNICEF House at 2:30 this afternoon. We have copies of the report and a press release available upstairs.
And then a short while ago, Peter Piot launched another report on AIDS, the “Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic”. That’s in advance of the fourteenth International AIDS Conference that will take place in Barcelona, Spain, beginning on Sunday.
Southern African Relief Mission
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kenzo Oshima, has just completed a mission to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. The purpose was to assess the humanitarian situation in southern Africa to ensure that the UN country teams were prepared to deal with the situation and to secure the full cooperation of governments in meeting the emergency needs in the region. The effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic have been devastating throughout the region and have increased vulnerabilities and weakened coping abilities. This is a new dimension that has not been part of previous food shortages in the area.
The mission further concluded that there is an opportunity to avert a famine in southern Africa, but that this window of opportunity is closing quickly.
Mr. Oshima will brief donors on 10 July in Geneva and then launch the Regional Appeal, which includes five national appeals, at the ECOSOC humanitarian segment in New York on 18 July.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that the daily number of those arriving in Sierra Leone from Liberia had fallen to 500 to 700 persons from an average of 1,300 a day last week. But, while the numbers had gone down, aid workers reported an increase in vulnerable cases. Elderly, ill and handicapped people, as well as pregnant women and newborn babies and unaccompanied children, accounted for about one tenth of those leaving.
The Arab Human Development Report, commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and detailing the human development achieved in the 22 Arab States, was issued in Cairo today. It notes that life expectancy in the region has increased by 15 years over the past three decades, while adult literacy has almost doubled.
The report, however, warns that over the past two decades, growth in per capita income in the Arab world was lower than any other region, except sub-Saharan Africa, with an average annual growth rate of 0.5 per cent for the region. Labour productivity in Arab nations is low, and has been declining; productivity had been 32 per cent that of the North American level in 1960, and has actually fallen to 19 per cent of the North American level in 1990.
The way forward, the report says, involves promoting good governance, based on expanding human capabilities, choices, opportunities and freedoms, and empowering women and those most marginalized in society. We have an executive summary of the report upstairs, and the full report is now available online from UNDP.
The governing Council of the UN Compensation Commission concluded its 44th session today and approved almost $4.9 billion in compensation. That meeting took place in Geneva. Although the bulk of the work was done between 18 and 20 June, the session was extended to continue one agenda item. The Commission has the same membership as the Security Council and is presided over by Ambassador Sverre Bergh Johansen of Norway. We have a press release with background information upstairs.
Also on Iraq, the figures released by the Office of the Iraq Programme in its weekly update show that oil exports remained almost unchanged from the previous week’s total, standing at 8 million barrels in the week ending 28 June. The week’s exports netted an estimated $185 million in revenue.
Owing to a revenue shortfall, 991 humanitarian supply contracts, worth about $2.2 billion, while approved by the UN, are currently lacking the funds and cannot be further processed. Almost all the sectors of the programme continue to be affected by this shortfall in funds to some degree. The full text of the OIP weekly update is available upstairs.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson yesterday afternoon signed an agreement in Mexico with Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda, providing for her agency to open an office in Mexico to help draw up an inclusive national human rights programme. Among the issues the new office will address are torture, the work of the national human rights commission, indigenous rights and the administration of justice.
Robinson said after the signing, in describing Mexico’s efforts, “The commitment is there, but there will have to be implementation if we are to make a real difference in the lives of ordinary Mexicans”. We have a press release on that.
I’ve mentioned Sir Jeremy Greenstock, due here about 12:45. And then tomorrow, Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, will address these two AIDS reports that we mentioned to you today, and their relationship to the G-8 Summit, and he will be doing that at 12:30 tomorrow, in this room.
Any questions before we go to Peter Hansen? Okay. Very quiet.
Peter, welcome to the briefing.
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