HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BRIEFING
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes today
traveled to Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka on the second day of his visit to
that country. He was accompanied by Basil Rajapakse, Senior Advisor to the
President of Sri Lanka.
In Vavuniya, Holmes met local authorities, visited two
sites for internally displaced persons and met with humanitarian agencies
working on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special
Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said
the protection of civilians, especially children, must be the first priority
in the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka and both sides must act accordingly.
Reiterating that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
must release civilians to safety, especially the children, Coomaraswamy
urged the Government to be more circumspect with regard to artillery fire
and aerial bombardment to avoid civilian casualties.
She stressed that the international community has a
duty to work with the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that the treatment of
internally displaced children meets international standards.
Asked about the latest reports of violence in Sri
Lanka, the Spokeswoman said that Holmes is continuing to monitor the
situation on the ground and is expected to return this weekend to New York
before traveling onward next week to Colombia.
Asked about protests by Sri Lankans at the Palais
des Nations in Geneva, the Spokeswoman confirmed that some protests had
taken place today and that UN staff had been released early. She noted the
right to conduct peaceful protest.
ENCOURAGES MYANMAR TO RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS
Security Council this morning held consultations on
Myanmar. Council members received a briefing from the
Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, on his recent trip to
Myanmar, as well as to other key countries.
Gambari spoke to reporters after those consultations,
saying that he had told the Council that his programme on his latest visit
was more balanced than on his previous one. He said that, so far, he has not
seen tangible outcomes from his visit. He noted that all his interlocutors,
including the Government of Myanmar and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, appreciated
the Secretary-General’s continued good offices role.
Asked about the UN reaction to the reported
amnesty being offered in Myanmar, the Spokeswoman said that Gambari was
informed today that the Government of Myanmar has granted amnesty to more
than 6,000 prisoners, although it remains unclear whether and how many
political prisoners this may include.
This is a positive step, Montas said, adding, “We
encourage the Government of Myanmar to release all political prisoners,
including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Asked whether the Secretary-General will travel
to Myanmar, the Spokeswoman said no decision has been made for such a trip
CRISIS HURTING MOST VULNERABLE GROUPS, HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF SAYS
In Geneva this morning, the Human Rights Council
opened its tenth Special Session. The focus of today’s Special Session
is the impact of the global economic and financial crises on human rights.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
said that the economic and financial crises are having a
disproportionate impact on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable and
She also stressed that States are not relieved of their
human rights obligations in times of crisis. In fact, States must ensure
that domestic policy adjustments, particularly those in fiscal spending, are
not taken at the expense of the poor, through cutbacks in basic services and
social protection mechanisms.
The Human Rights Council Special Session will resume on
Monday, 23 February, at which time the Council will take action on a draft
AGREE ON PORTIONS OF OUTCOME DOCUMENT FOR DURBAN REVIEW CONFERENCE
Durban Review Conference, which is a follow-up to the 2001 World
Conference against Racism, will be held this April in Geneva. In the
meantime, negotiations are continuing on the Review Conference’s outcome
The latest round of informal consultations by the
working group that is negotiating that outcome document wrapped up yesterday
in Geneva. The working group’s meetings were held under the chairmanship of
the Russian Federation. For the first time, the United States and Australia
actively participated in the discussions.
So far, 35 paragraphs out of a total of 250 have been
fully agreed upon and adopted by the working group. Further sessions of the
informal consultations will take place next week in Geneva.
Asked about the discussions
on the outcome document, the Spokeswoman said that it is standard practice
at international conferences to negotiate outcome documents months in
advance of the holding of the conference.
SENEGAL TO COURT OVER STATUS OF FORMER CHADIAN PRESIDENT
International Court of Justice says that Belgium instituted proceedings
yesterday against Senegal at the Court, concerning what Belgium described as
a dispute between those two countries regarding Senegal’s compliance with
the obligation to prosecute, or otherwise extradite, the former President of
Chad, Hissène Habré.
Belgium, the Court says, has requested provisional
measures, citing its concerns that Habré could “leave Senegal and avoid any
APPEALS ONCE MORE FOR RELEASE OF KIDNAPPED U.N. OFFICIAL
A press release issued today in Islamabad reiterated
the UN’s appeal to those holding John Solecki, representative of the Office
of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
in Quetta, to release him immediately without harm. The UN is aware of the
message received Wednesday evening through the media, and takes it
seriously. The UN is again grateful for the support of the leaders of
Balochistan for the safe release of John, and acknowledges the concerns of
the Balochistan community.
The United Nations is working on appropriate ways to
address the concerns, including sharing information with the relevant
authorities such as the newly established Federal Ministry of Human Rights.
The United Nations signed an agreement earlier this year with the Ministry
of Human Rights, in support of strengthening the promotion of human rights
HAITI CAN MAKE BROADER REGION MORE SECURE
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for
Haiti, Hédi Annabi, on Thursday addressed a ministerial conference in
the Dominican Republic dealing with drug trafficking, transnational
organized crime and terrorism. He warned that those cross-border threats can
have a devastating impact on a state such as Haiti, which is still emerging
Annabi stressed the main elements in the current
multi-faceted strategy to stabilize Haiti, including: the provision of
operational support for Haiti’s security, institution-building and
socio-economic development. He emphasized that using such a strategy to
make Haiti more stable can feed back into security in the broader region, by
helping Haiti to avoid becoming a base for such threats.
SIGNED ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN NEPAL
In Nepal today, the Office of the UN High Commissioner
on Human Rights in Nepal and Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission
signed Guidelines for Cooperation, recognizing that the strengthening of
human rights in Nepal benefits greatly from the complementary relationship
between the two organizations.
Key areas of collaboration will
include the promotion of human rights through the dissemination of
information and educational materials and the organization of joint training
for law enforcement officials and representatives of the Government and
CHOLERA CASES PASS 80,000 MARK
The World Health Organization (WHO)
reports today that the latest number of suspected cholera cases in
Zimbabwe has surpassed 80,000, including 3,759 deaths. All 10 provinces of
the country are affected.
High numbers of cases have also been reported in
neighbouring countries, especially South Africa. But the relative strength
of the health care system there has enabled the Case Fatality Rate to remain
below one percent.
Other countries where cholera has been reported include
Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, but it has to be noted that cholera is
endemic in these countries, according to WHO.
The World Health Organization, together with its
partners, has set up a Cholera Command and Control Centre in the capital,
Harare. The role of the Centre is to coordinate the response to the cholera
outbreak and provide technical coordination for partners in the areas of
epidemiological and laboratory surveillance, case management, social
mobilization, logistics and infection control of water and sanitation in
U.N. BODY TO
START TALKS ON MERCURY POLLUTION TREATY
The UN Environment Programme’s Governing Council
wrapped up today in Nairobi, with more than 140 countries unanimously
launch negotiations on an international treaty covering mercury
While the treaty is being finalized, governments agreed
to step up action on a voluntary Global Mercury Partnership. Such a
partnership would pursue several measures, including boosting storage
capacity for stockpiled mercury and reducing mercury in thermometers and
Also at this week’s session, environment ministers
backed a decision requesting UNEP to spearhead an environmental assessment
mission to Gaza to assess the impacts of recent hostilities. In addition,
they agreed to establish a special group of ministers to improve the way the
world’s environmental architecture is run, and also decided to hold an
international meeting on biodiversity loss later this year.
DEVELOPMENT AGENCY GETS NEW DEPUTY CHIEF
The Secretary-General, in consultation with the
Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
has decided to appoint Petko Draganov of Bulgaria as Deputy
Secretary-General of UNCTAD. Draganov is expected to assume his functions
in May 2009. He will replace the late Dirk J.Bruinsma.
Draganov is currently serving a second term as the
Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the United Nations and other
international organizations in Geneva.
BAN KI-MOON MARKS WORLD DAY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE: Today
is the first World Day of Social Justice. In his
message, the Secretary-General stresses that global stability and prosperity
depends on equal opportunities for people. He adds that justice is still an
elusive dream for many people who suffer from extreme poverty, hunger,
discrimination and the denial of human rights. The global financial crisis
threatens to make the situation even worse. He calls for a renewed commitment to
the principles of social justice and the vigorous pursuit of strategies and
policies that will achieve it.
UNICEF OPENS 200TH SCHOOL IN TSUNAMI-HIT
INDONESIAN REGION: UNICEF
reports that it has opened its two hundredth school in Indonesia’s Aceh-Nias
region since the 2004 tsunami. The school has 22 classrooms and will house more
than a thousand students. UNICEF and its partners are planning to open nearly
150 more such schools in Indonesia by September.
IRAN, SYRIA REPORTS TO BE PRESENTED TO IAEA BOARD:
Asked about recent reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
on Iran and Syria, the Spokeswoman said no comment would be made on those
reports until they are presented to the IAEA Board of Governors, which is
scheduled for 2 March.
SEARCH FOR NEW SECURITY CHIEF STILL GOING ON:
Asked about the effort to find a replacement for Under-Secretary-General for
Security and Safety David Veness, the Spokeswoman said that process is ongoing.
THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS
21 February – 27 February
Saturday, 21 February
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and
Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes is scheduled to wrap up his visit to
Sri Lanka (visit began 19 February).
Through 25 February, Assistant Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg is on an official visit to Zimbabwe.
Today is International Mother Language Day.
Monday, 23 February
12.45 p.m. in Room S-226, there will be a press conference on the occasion of
the Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) special meeting on advancing progress
in maternal and girls’ health and neglected tropical diseases. That meeting
takes place from 3 to 6 p.m. in the ECOSOC and Trusteeship Council Chambers.
The Secretary-General and former U.S. President Bill Clinton are among the
20 March, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations holds its 2009
substantive session. Today’s opening meeting is at 10 a.m. in the Trusteeship
this week in Conference Room 4, the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for
the seventeenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development takes
Geneva, the Human Rights Council is schedule to resume its tenth special
session, on the global economic and financial crisis, at which time the Council
will take action on a draft resolution.
this week in Geneva, the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation
Negotiating Group takes place.
this week in Geneva, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
holds its first session.
From today through Wednesday, Under-Secretary-General
for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes is on his first official visit to Colombia,
to assess the humanitarian situation there.
Tuesday, 24 February
today through Friday, the 40th session of the Statistical Commission takes place
in Conference Room 3.
to 2.30 p.m. in Conference Room 6, there will be a presentation and panel
discussion on “Self-determination: International law and politics”.
Wednesday, 25 February
The Secretary-General is in South Africa, where he is
scheduled to meet with President Motlanthe and the Ministers for Finance and
In Geneva, the World Meteorological Organization and
the International Council for Science release the “State of Polar Research”
report, which contains preliminary findings of the International Polar Year.
There will be a meeting today in the U.N. Protected
Area in Nicosia between Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish
Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
In Freetown, the Special Court for Sierra Leone is
scheduled to give its trial judgment in the case of The Prosecutor vs. Issa
Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao (the Revolutionary United
Thursday, 26 February
Secretary-General is in Tanzania, where he is scheduled to hold discussions with
President Kikwete and address the diplomatic and academic community in Dar es
morning, the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution on the U.N.
Mission in Timor-Leste, then hold a debate on the U.N. Assistance Mission for
a.m. in Room S-226, the U.N. Global Compact Office briefs on current
anti-corruption efforts by its corporate participants.
Friday, 27 February
Secretary-General is scheduled to inaugurate the One UN Office in Zanzibar. He
is also due to fly over the receding ice cap of Mount Kilimanjaro on his way to
Arusha to visit the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
morning, the Security Council is scheduled to hear a briefing from the
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Chairperson-in-Office.
Hague, The Special Court for Sierra Leone is scheduled to hold a status
conference in the trial of The Prosecutor vs. Charles Taylor.
document is for planning purposes only and is current as of 1 p.m. on
DATE \@ "dddd, dd MMMM, yyyy" \* MERGEFORMAT Friday, 20 February,
Office of the
Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
United Nations, S-378
New York, NY 10017