ASSEMBLY CONTINUES DISCUSSING WAYS TO BETTER COORDINATE UNITED NATIONS HUMANITARIAN AND DISASTER RELIEF ASSISTANCE19981116 Urges International Assistance to Address Needs In Nicaragua, Niger, Comoros, Mozambique, Kazakhstan and Liberia
The General Assembly stressed the need for the international community to continue to provide Nicaragua with needed financial resources -- consistently and under favourable conditions -- for economic growth and development, the conservation of its natural resources and the strengthening of its democracy.
The Assembly took that action this afternoon by adopting one of six resolutions on international assistance to specific countries, all without votes.
As part of its discussion on strengthening coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations, the Assembly adopted the resolution on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Nicaragua by which it invited creditor countries and funding institutions to support Nicaragua in addressing its external debt problem and join the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative as soon as possible. The Assembly also encouraged the Nicaraguan Government to support the development of national programmes and strategies aimed at consolidating a stable democracy.
In other action this afternoon, the Assembly called upon all Member States, the United Nations, as well as financial institutions and non- governmental organizations, to extend generous assistance to Niger in support of the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction operations to deal with the disastrous floods. The Secretary-General was asked to mobilize and coordinate international humanitarian assistance to support the Government of Niger.
The Assembly also urged the international community to grant necessary assistance to the Comoros to address its budget deficits, including gifts in cash and in kind and debt forgiveness. Member States, donor bodies and the United Nations were asked to give all necessary financial, economic and technical assistance to enable it to achieve national reconstruction and sustainable development.
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In other action, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the Government of Mozambique, to continue efforts to mobilize international assistance for the national reconstruction and development of Mozambique, and to coordinating the United Nations response to the development needs of Mozambique. The Assembly stressed that substantial international assistance was still needed to address Mozambique's development needs.
The Assembly stressed the need for greater international attention and extra efforts in solving the problems of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan affected by nuclear testing. The Assembly invited States and financial organizations with experience in dealing with nuclear consequences to support rehabilitation and economic development in the region. The Secretary-General was invited to pursue a consultative process, with States and the United Nations, on modalities for solutions to the problems of the region.
Finally, States, non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental bodies were urged to support the implementation of Liberia's National Reconstruction Programmes. The Assembly urged the Government of Liberia to provide an enabling environment for the promotion of socio-economic development and a culture of sustained peace in the country, including a commitment to upholding the rule of law, national reconciliation and human rights.
During this afternoon's discussion, statement were made by the representatives of Belarus, Brazil, Russian Federation, Australia (speaking also for Canada and New Zealand), United States, Norway, Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Cuba, Tajikistan, Ecuador (for the Latin American and Caribbean States), Liberia and Israel. The observers for Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke. The Representative of Kazakhstan spoke after adoption of the resolutions.
The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to consider assistance in mine clearance and to take action on related draft resolutions.
Assembly Work Programme
When the General Assembly meets this afternoon it will continue discussion of strengthening coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance.
As part of that review, the Assembly will consider: safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel; emergency international assistance for Afghanistan; and assistance to the Palestinian people. The Assembly will also debate aspects of economic assistance to individual countries and regions. (For background information relating to those matters, see Press Release GA/9503, of today.)
The Assembly was also expected to take action on several draft resolutions relating to assistance to specific countries and regions.
By the terms of a draft resolution on international assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Nicaragua (document A/53/L.26/Rev.2), the Assembly would stress the need for the international community to continue cooperation with Nicaragua to supplement its national efforts and provide it with the necessary financial resources consistently and under favourable conditions, with a view to the effective promotion of its economic growth and development, the conservation of its natural resources and the strengthening of its democracy.
The Assembly would invite creditor countries and funding institutions to continue supporting Nicaragua in negotiations in order to come to an effective and equitable solution to the external debt problem and to support the country so that it may join the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative as soon as possible. The Assembly would also encourage the Government of Nicaragua to support the development of medium- and long-term national programmes and strategies, particularly those related to poverty alleviation and economic and social development with a view to the consolidation of a stable democracy.
The draft's co-sponsors are: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Spain, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
By terms of the draft resolution on assistance to Niger (document A/53/L.27), the Assembly would call upon all Member States, the United Nations system, as well as the financial institutions and non-governmental organizations, to extend generous assistance to Niger in support of the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction operations and programmes that country is undertaking to deal with the disastrous consequences of the floods.
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The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to make all the arrangements for the mobilization and coordination of humanitarian assistance of the international institutions and specialized agencies in the United Nations system in order to support the Government of Niger.
The draft is co-sponsored by: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Libya, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, and all other members of the African Group.
By the terms of the draft resolution on special emergency economic assistance to the Comoros (document A/53/L.29), the Assembly would urge the international community to respond generously to the needs for urgent assistance identified in annexes I and II to the Secretary-General's report, and to grant to that country all necessary assistance to enable it to cope with its budget deficits, including gifts in cash and in kind and debt forgiveness. It would request all Member States and donor bodies, and United Nations specialized agencies and organizations to grant the Comoros all necessary financial, economic and technical assistance, to enable it to achieve national reconstruction and sustainable development. The Assembly would also stress that the financial resources available remain nonetheless insufficient vis-à-vis the basic needs to ensure the country's recovery.
The co-sponsors of the draft are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, India, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen and all other African Group members.
By the terms of the draft resolution on assistance to Mozambique (document A/53/L.30/Rev.1), the Assembly would request the Secretary-General, in close cooperation with the Government of Mozambique, to: continue his efforts to mobilize international assistance for the national reconstruction and development of Mozambique; continue coordinating the work of the United Nations system for adequate response to the development needs of Mozambique; and prepare a report on the implementation of the present resolution for the Assembly's fifty-fifth session.
The Assembly would stress that Mozambique has made significant progress in mitigating the consequences of a devastating war and that continued substantial coordinated international assistance is required to assist the
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country in addressing its development needs. It would also stress the significant progress made by Mozambique in extending essential social services and in establishing an operating environment for poverty reduction and sustainable human development.
The co-sponsors of the draft are: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Senegal, Sudan, Swaziland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe and all the African Group members.
By the terms of the draft resolution assistance for humanitarian relief and the economic and social rehabilitation of Somalia (document A/53/L.31), the Assembly would urge all States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations concerned to continue the further implementation of its resolution 47/160 so as to assist the Somali people to embark on the rehabilitation of basic social and economic services, and institution-building aimed at the restoration of civil administration at the local level in all those parts of the country where peace and security prevail.
The Assembly would call on all parties, movements and factions in Somalia to respect fully the security and safety of personnel of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and of non-governmental organizations, and to guarantee their complete freedom of movement throughout the country. It would also call on the Secretary-General to continue to mobilize international humanitarian, rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance for Somalia. Further, it would call on the international community to provide continuing and increased assistance in response to the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance for Somalia covering the period from October 1998 to December 1999.
The draft is sponsored by: Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
By the terms of the draft resolution on the international cooperation and coordination for the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan (document A/53/L.32) the Assembly would stress the need for greater international attention and extra efforts in solving the problems of that region and its population. The Assembly would invite States and financial organizations to share their knowledge and experience to contribute to the rehabilitation and economic development of the region. Member States, particularly donor States, and the United Nations system would be invited to participate in the rehabilitation effort. The Assembly would also invite the Secretary-General to pursue a consultative process, with the participation of interested States and United Nations agencies, on modalities for mobilizing the necessary support to seek solutions to the problems and needs of the region.
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Co-sponsoring the draft are: Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.
By the terms of the draft resolution on assistance for the reconstruction and development of Djibouti (document A/53/L.33), the Assembly would declare its solidarity with Djibouti and welcome the implementation of the structural adjustment programme by the Government of that country. It would also appeal to all governments, international financial institutions, specialized agencies of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations to respond urgently to the financial and material needs of that country.
The draft is co-sponsored by Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam and Yemen.
By the terms of the draft resolution on assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Liberia (document A/53/L.36), sponsored by India and the Sudan, the Assembly would call upon all States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations for their assistance to Liberia to facilitate the implementation of its National Reconstruction Programmes submitted at the Donors' Conference.
The Assembly would further urge the Government of Liberia to provide an enabling environment for the promotion of socio-economic development and a culture of sustained peace in the country, including a commitment to upholding the rule of law, national reconciliation and human rights. The text would also request the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its fifty- fifth session, through the Economic and Social Council at the humanitarian affairs segment of its substantive session of 2000, on the implementation of the present resolution.
ALYAKSANDR SEMESHKO (Belarus) said the dependency on financial resources of the donor community was the essential weakness of the United Nations humanitarian sector. The Organization faced two important problems. On the one hand, required was an increase in the efficiency of the United Nations humanitarian sector and an improvement in the distribution and utilization of the resources available. On the other hand, it was necessary to perfect the
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mechanism of interaction with the donor community and to search for additional sources of financing of humanitarian operations. Current increasing difficulties in financing operations within the framework of consolidated appeals and United Nations inter-agency programmes could be overcome through improvement of interaction and mutual understanding between the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, other United Nations system agencies and donor countries.
A shortage of financial resources was the main problem in overcoming the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, he said. Financial support by the international community appeared to be an important stipulation of the implementation of the Chernobyl related projects and programmes. In that context, the implementation of the inter-agency programmes should be considered as the key element in intensification of the international Chernobyl-related cooperation. The successful implementation of the programmes would raise the authority of the Organization among the international community, and especially in those countries affected by the Chernobyl disaster.
ENIO CORDEIRO (Brazil) said the work of the Organization in the humanitarian field could be further enhanced and greatly benefit from increased interaction between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, both in conflict and post-conflict situations. The establishment of the Economic and Social Council segment on humanitarian affairs was one of the most important and visible elements of the reform approved by the Assembly.
The very concept of the donor community in humanitarian affairs needed to be reviewed, he said. A balanced approach to the humanitarian agenda must correct the misconception that developing countries were the only recipients of assistance. Broader participation of developing countries in decision- making and policy supervision of humanitarian affairs had to be provided for. Also, it was a matter of great concern that the international response to appeals for humanitarian assistance had been declining, both in absolute and relative terms. The response to international appeals had to be commensurate to needs. The principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality had to always guide international response to all emergency situations. Staff security and humanitarian consequences of economic sanctions were also of great concern.
NIKOLAI V. CHULKOV (Russian Federation) noted with concern the downward trend in donor response to humanitarian appeals; the growing obstacles in access to populations in need; and the escalating violence against humanitarian personnel. While there was a need to ensure safety and security of those personnel, it was also necessary to be very careful when considering discontinuing the urgently needed humanitarian assistance on the basis of violence against personnel. In that context, there was a need to strictly adhere to key principles of neutrality, impartiality and humanity.
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In promoting interaction between Member States and the Secretariat, it would be useful if the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, held briefings on the situation in countries where humanitarian operations were conducted and on measures undertaken by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to coordinate those operations. Russia attached particular importance to "humanitarian limits" being placed on sanctions and advocated a maximum clarity of criteria for imposing sanctions. The time had come to consider exemption of international humanitarian organizations from sanctions restrictions. Food, medicine and medical equipment should be exempted from sanction regimes.
In March 1998, an international donor meeting on Chernobyl was held in Geneva, he continued, but the donor response was muted. In that regard, Russia attached great importance to the visit of Under-Secretary-General Vieira de Mello to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine last October. Russia also attached great importance to the implementation of the United Nations emergency relief programme for 200,000 internally displaced persons from Chechnya, presently settled in the adjacent regions of the Russian Federation.
Contributions to humanitarian programmes for Tajikistan were investments in national reconciliation, and the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan deserved support, he said. The need to resume humanitarian operations in Afghanistan was acute. The series of devastating natural disasters in different parts of the world called for further strengthening of the United Nations potential to respond to them. On its part, Russia was actively participating in the United Nations relief operations.
JOHN H. CRIGHTON (Australia), speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said that in order for humanitarian efforts to have maximum impact, they had to be consistent with actions taken by political, human rights and development actors. Australia, Canada and New Zealand pledged to explore ways the humanitarian segment of the Economic and Social Council might be enhanced and its role strengthened.
The increase in the number of security incidents involving the Organization's personnel was a major concern, he said. As civilian deaths exceeded those of the military among United Nations workers, immediate attention and action was demanded to improve security measures for humanitarian personnel, including local employees. He called for follow-up in regard to proper training, investigation of assaults committed against United Nations and other personnel and resources to implement security measures. Furthermore, State and non-State entities must be held accountable for the protection of aid workers operating in their territories. By demonstrating international intent to hold individuals accountable for the atrocities they commit, the International Criminal Court would help to deter some of the most serious violations.
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Rather than focusing on the simplistic linkage between media coverage and funding, attention should be given to correcting the decline in budgets for humanitarian assistance, he said. He called for adequate funding for the basic functions directed by the Emergency Humanitarian Relief Coordinator. Without predictable resources, it would be impossible to undertake long-term initiatives effectively. Member States had a responsibility to provide the necessary political and material support to enable the Emergency Humanitarian Relief Coordinator and the humanitarian agencies to fulfil their tasks.
REGINA MONTOYA (United States) said that her Government welcomed the conclusions of the humanitarian segment of the Economic and Social Council in July and believed that the Council could serve effectively as the oversight body for humanitarian affairs. The Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs was an effective and robust institution, which should continue its innovative approaches towards coordinating the policies and priorities of humanitarian affairs. Although its core functions should be fully financed through the regular budget, her delegation encouraged the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to continue to broaden its donor base for voluntary contributions for its non-core activities.
Deploring the increased level of violence against humanitarian workers, she said the culture of impunity must end. The international community must turn words into concrete steps to protect those who provided aid and assistance.
The strategy of recovering from Hurricane Mitch in Central America raised the broad issue referred to as "relief-to-development", she continued. Every situation required an assessment of priorities and the longer-term question of rebuilding or development. Too often, relief organizations were caught with the task of beginning to rebuild an area which they had rescued from crisis. That was not an efficient use of resources and abilities. The humanitarian community and Member States must think in strategic terms about the scope of a problem and how best to tackle it. For that reason, her delegation supported the establishment of the executive committee for humanitarian affairs. It was incumbent on all parts of the United Nations system, and on all Member States, to bear in mind the linkages between humanitarian and political, peacekeeping, development and human rights strategies.
Improvements in information and communications technology had made disaster response quicker and more effective, she added, citing the Humanitarian Early Warning System, Relief-Web and the Integrated Regional Information Networks. Furthermore, the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations would be open tomorrow for signature at Headquarters. The Convention would help move telecommunications personnel and equipment into disaster areas. Parties to it would end excessive import duties and minimize administrative and political barriers across national borders of emergency
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telecommunications. The signatories would also agree, for the first time, to protect relief workers engaged in emergency telecommunications and their equipment. The United States would sign the Convention tomorrow morning and urged all other States to join them.
OLE KOLBY (Norway) said that a more integrated approach towards crisis management linking humanitarian considerations, respect for human rights and development policies in a coherent framework was necessary to make humanitarian assistance more effective. The relief phase must be followed by long-term development efforts. The approach must be flexible and "bottom up". It should be based on the specific requirements of the situation and the agencies perceived needs. A coordinated approach at country level, through common humanitarian coordinators, would better enable the international community to bridge the gap between the relief phase and long-term development.
Concerned about the decline in international response to appeals for humanitarian assistance, he said that the right to humanitarian aid must be reaffirmed. The international community must send clear and unambiguous messages in that regard by ensuring sufficient and predictable funding for the Organization's humanitarian agencies. The overriding goal must be to secure and sustain peoples' livelihoods based on respect for human rights. Assistance and development strategies should be designed to meet that goal so that local capacity could be strengthened. The United Nations should, therefore, include a stronger component of local capacity-building in the consolidated appeals.
Integrating human rights into reconstruction plans in post-conflict situations was also important, he continued, adding that gender perspectives should also be a priority. Norway was further concerned by the abduction of children and the recruitment of child soldiers. The enhanced dialogue between the humanitarian and political parts of the multilateral system, such as the dialogue between the High Commissioner for Refugees and the Security Council, was welcomed. In conclusion, he said that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' financial basis urgently needed to be broadened. The situation of voluntary contributions to humanitarian emergency operations continuing to come from a handful of donor countries was unsustainable.
PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the combined onslaught of Hurricanes Georges and Mitch in the last two months had devastated the Caribbean and Central America, affecting a total of some 10 States and territories. The response to those hurricanes had proved two things. First, that national governments could respond, often quite heroically, to natural disasters and emergencies. Second, that in the wake of a disaster of sheer catastrophic magnitude, national governments were often physically unable to respond adequately.
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While it was clear that there had been increased coordination among United Nations and international agencies, combined with local efforts, in responding to humanitarian emergencies, more needed to be done, she said. She noted that amidst so much human suffering, the hard work being done by many to ease that suffering was increasingly under threat from increasing denial of access to persons in need and by deliberate violence against civilians and aid workers, including United Nations personnel. The CARICOM called on the international community to unequivocally condemn those acts and to actively begin to reverse that trend. The Caribbean Community called on the parties guilty of those cowardly acts to cease them and to reflect on their long-term consequences, not only for internal relations, but also for future relations with the international community.
Countries must reduce their vulnerability to natural disasters, she said. While disasters were unavoidable, much of their destruction was assisted by a country's actions or non-actions. Governments had to act to mitigate the effects of natural disasters, through action in areas such as infrastructure. The last point was that particular efforts should be made to enhance local capacity in disaster response, and to utilize capacities already existing in developing countries which may be available closer to the site of a disaster.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said his delegation attached special importance to the consideration of the item under discussion because of the number and magnitude of emergencies and natural disasters in different parts of the world. Hurricanes Georges and Mitch had taken thousands of lives in the Caribbean and in Central America and caused incalculable damage. Immediate large-scale activities were needed to deal with those catastrophes.
He noted that those disasters confirmed the effect of climate change resulting in adverse and irreversible ecological changes, which were provoked by irrational patterns of consumption in the North and had a negative effect on the development of the South. It was necessary to create mechanisms for early alert for the developing countries on the basis of the necessary transfers of technology and finances from the industrialized world.
The people of Cuba were doing their utmost to provide assistance to its Caribbean neighbours, he said. It was providing assistance to the Dominican Republic and had offered its medical and paramedical staff to other Caribbean countries, including Haiti. Assistance had also been offered to the countries affected by Hurricane Mitch. In response to the joint declaration of the countries of the Caribbean, Cuba had cancelled its Nicaraguan debt and stood ready to provide additional help.
RASHID ALIMOV (Tajikistan), said his delegation continued to believe that consolidated inter-agency appeals were sufficient to provide humanitarian assistance under the umbrella of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It was important for international humanitarian action
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to ensure the relationship between recovery and development. Special work must be done in conflict recovery and peace-building, and in the coordination of development efforts. Such work must include humanitarian agencies, the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions. He also stressed the importance of continued cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations.
He said it was important for Tajikistan to continue cooperation with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He noted that, over the last five years, the collective peacekeeping forces had promoted the stabilization of the situation in his country. The United Nations agencies had taken the difficulties of the Tajik people to heart and had endeavoured to help them. His delegation agreed with the Secretary-General that the humanitarian situation in Tajikistan continued to be unstable. That was a special requirement for recovery and development. He acknowledged fully, however, that major responsibility for peace and normalcy lay with the Government and the United Tajik Opposition. His Government had also undertaken measures to address the tragic deaths of United Nations personnel this year. His delegation was concerned that the Afghanistan situation could contribute to destabilization in the region, coupled with the spread of terrorism, drugs and weapons, he added.
EMILIO IZQUIERDO (Ecuador), on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, said the desire of the world community to provide assistance to Nicaragua had found fertile ground. As seen in various reports on Nicaragua, that Government had adopted the necessary measures to achieve sustainable development. It had demonstrated a long-term vision for dealing with the aftermath of internal war and the negative effects of natural disasters. While he welcomed the work of the Organization in Nicaragua, the international community had to redouble efforts to deal with the new emergency of Hurricane Mitch. Honduras and Nicaragua had received the most impact from the Hurricane. Those areas needed assistance by the international community for rehabilitation. Media reports said it would take about 30 years to recover losses in those areas.
As seen in the Secretary-General's report on Nicaragua, the number and magnitude of environmental emergencies had grown, he said. Concrete measures, such as those for closer cooperation within the system, needed to be adopted. It was vital for the international community to have an early-warning system, which would be key to reducing natural disasters in the next millennium. He endorsed the joint declaration adopted at the meeting of Central American presidents on 9 November, appealing for the international community to assist the broad areas affected by the Hurricane. He hoped that the Assembly would adopt the draft by consensus.
FAMATTA ROSE OSODE (Liberia) said her country's political and administrative environment was not as volatile and fragmented as might be perceived. She appealed to the international community to provide technical
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assistance to the Government in its efforts to rebuild the country, notwithstanding the expertise of Liberians themselves. She made a few observations about the Secretary-General's report on Liberia. First, omitted from the report was the month-long National Reconciliation Conference, held in July. The discourse at the Conference was not restrained and provided the basis for decisions and recommendations which the Government had pledged to implement as an integral component of its overall strategy to rebuild the country. Another omission, crucial to her Government, was the demobilization of former combatants.
Liberia thanked the various organizations who contributed to designing the multifaceted National Recovery Programme, she said. It also remained grateful to those donors that offered pledges of assistance to fund the first phase of the two-year Programme. Her country appealed to those who had not honoured their commitments, to do so prior to the commencement of the second phase. It also looked forward to receiving the multi-donors mission to conduct an assessment of the requirements for the second phase. While reiterating the unwavering commitment of Liberia to national reconciliation and economic recovery through strict observance of the rule of law, and the promotion and protection of human rights, she appealed to the international community to show a greater understanding of the post-conflict circumstances prevailing in Liberia and lend every support to it in its mission to consolidate peace and democracy in the country.
AARON JACOB (Israel) said that a significant improvement had recently taken place in the Palestinian economy. The economic growth could be due, among other factors, to the relative calm which had prevailed during that time. In the first half of 1998, a growth of 33 per cent had occurred in the number of Palestinian employees working in Israel. That was accompanied by a decrease of 20.6 per cent in the Palestinian rate of unemployment. Israel had also taken a number of steps to strengthen the Palestinian private sector and to build a number of industrial zones to create employment along the seam-line between Israel and the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. The recently signed Wye River Memorandum contained key provisions to promote the continued strengthening of the Palestinian economy.
He said that Israel continued to invest much effort in improving the state of the Palestinian economy, recognizing it as an important mutual Israeli-Palestinian interest. Still, it was clear that progress was dependent, first and foremost, on a stable security situation, as well as cooperation with the Palestinians and the international community. In that context, it was fitting that all parties acted in a manner which would advance cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in the economic sphere and not sacrifice important economic interests to political considerations. Economic activity in the Gaza and the West Bank was increasing, and it was hoped that a stable security situation, a joint effort to encourage investments, the creation of jobs and an increase in trade would augment the current upward trend of the Palestinian economy. Economic improvement would form an
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important foundation for a stable, comprehensive and lasting reconciliation for the entire region.
JENO C.A. STAEHELIN, the Observer for Switzerland, said that during the first humanitarian segment of the Economic and Social Council, Switzerland had proposed to compare different types of coordination in the field, and to analyse comparative advantages in the circumstances of particular crises. The security of humanitarian staff in the field remained a matter of concern. The responsibility for preventing those grave violations of international humanitarian law belonged, first and foremost, to the States on whose territory the humanitarian action took place. Options for reducing the risk, studied in the recent debate in the Security Council, were a step in the right direction. They were directed at drawing up a code of conduct and setting the standards of neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian action.
Effects of landmines and assistance to their victims continued to be a matter of concern for his country, he continued. He welcomed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti- Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention), but noted its implementation would take time. Switzerland had established an international centre for demining in Geneva. It had also proposed a conceptual framework -- the Bern Manifesto -- for providing assistance to mine victims, which took into account all the components of the problem. The Manifesto sought to integrate assistance to landmine victims into the global health policy, and called for a global approach to the problem. He called on the States, intergovernmental agencies and non-governmental organization to join in the process, which should serve as preparation for a symposium to be held in Switzerland next year to identify better ways to provide assistance to mine victims.
SYLVIE JUNOD, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that humanitarian coordination was paramount if the international community was to harmonize its efforts, avoid duplication and carefully orchestrate different types of activities over time. Two aspects of the coordination effort merited closer consideration: coordination and consultation mechanisms; and the harmonization of humanitarian approaches.
She said that the ICRC welcomed the establishment of permanent and field-based ad hoc coordination mechanisms. At the field level, the ICRC contributed actively to United Nations-led inter-agency coordination efforts and supported ad hoc arrangements designed to take into account rapidly changing circumstances. Its participation was designed to achieve the greatest complementarity between its own efforts and those of the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations. In clarifying its own objectives within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, the adoption last year of the Seville Agreement served to define the respective roles on the movement's components in different types of situations.
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Humanitarian action, she continued, remained one of the least regulated domains of activity in the world. It required proper planning and professional management, as well as the constant evaluation and impact assessment. Organizations involved in emergency response needed to recognize their interdependence. The ICRC had adopted quality control measures for its activities to allow for a more accurate evaluation of its operational achievements. Coordination in the protection of vulnerable groups further formed a common front providing increased leverage when warring factions endangered the safety of humanitarian workers. Also, common standards and principles applicable to specific types of humanitarian activity needed to be defined. Difficulties had arisen, for example, in the unaccompanied minors programme in the African Great Lakes region, where humanitarian organizations had different definitions of which children qualified and which did not.
In many instances, the gains made while stabilizing an emergency situation were not accompanied by the impetus needed to support a recovery process, she added. The "building bridges" aspect of coordination required the integration of the "rehabilitation dimension" early on and link-ups with development players. Reconstruction often involved innovative solutions on a local basis. In regard to the "assistance strategy" in Afghanistan, it remained unclear to what extent it was linked to the project's overall political framework. Though the ICRC supported the principled common programming approach, it remained weary of attempts to make humanitarian aid conditional on political objectives.
EIGIL PEDERSEN, observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, said "we seem to have forgotten that humanitarian work is not confined to war victims, refugees and internally displaced persons, nor is it the exclusive prerogative of international northern-based agencies". Humanitarianism was about enabling and providing service to all those caught up in disaster, he said. That included 65.8 million flood victims and the 59.3 million victims of drought-induced famine in any average year. Victims of flood and drought accounted for nearly 19 million beneficiaries that the Federation was assisting this year. Globally, victims of natural disasters accounted for nearly 80 per cent of all those affected by disasters.
States needed to rethink how they coped with being disaster prone, he said. No institution, no State, could plan for all contingencies. Mechanisms needed to be found which allowed for unplanned action, so as to address the harmful consequences of change. That meant an increasing reliance on local, non-State bodies to provide immediate and attuned assistance in times of local and national disaster. Internationally, there was a need to reassess "how we respond to disasters". In particular, the issue of secure funding needed to be addressed. International disaster response was kept afloat on a relatively narrow funding base. What was needed was a much more radical look at how international humanitarian assistance was financed.
General Assembly Plenary - 15 - Press Release GA/9504 59th Meeting (PM) 16 November 1998
Action on Drafts
PERCY METSING MANGOAELA (Lesotho), Acting President of the Assembly, said that the following countries had joined as co-sponsors to the draft resolution on international assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Nicaragua: aftermath of the war and natural disasters, since the introduction of the draft this morning: Brazil, Denmark, Eritrea, Greece, Ireland and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Assembly adopted the draft without a vote.
Mr. MANGOAELA said that Eritrea had joined as a co-sponsor to the draft resolution on assistance to Niger.
The Assembly adopted the draft without a vote.
The Acting PRESIDENT said that Eritrea had joined as a co-sponsor to the draft resolution on special emergency assistance to the Comoros.
The Assembly adopted the draft without a vote.
Mr. MANGOAELA said that Brazil, Eritrea, New Zealand and Yemen had joined as co-sponsors to the draft resolution on assistance to Mozambique.
The Assembly adopted the draft without a vote.
The Acting PRESIDENT said that Canada and Liechtenstein had joined as co-sponsors of the draft resolution on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan.
The Assembly adopted the draft without a vote.
Mr. MANGOAELA said that Greece had joined as a co-sponsor to the draft resolution on assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Liberia.
The Assembly adopted the draft without a vote.
AKMARAL KH. ARYSTANBEKOVA (Kazakhstan) expressed her delegation's gratitude to Japan for the assistance it had already provided, and for its offer to host a conference on the rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region, as indicated by the representative of Japan this morning. She also thanked the Russian Federation and Tajikistan for their support and efforts to develop international cooperation to solve the problems Kazakhstan faced.
Mr. MANGOAELA said that action on the draft resolution on assistance to Somalia and the draft text on assistance to Djibouti would be taken at a later date and that further draft resolutions on the item would be submitted to the Secretariat also at a later date.
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