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Posted: Jan 5 2007, 05:36 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
DARFUR SPECIAL ENVOY CONCLUDES NEW YORK CONSULTATIONS,
DEPARTS FOR ETHIOPIA, SUDAN FOR FURTHER TALKS
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, concluded initial consultations at United Nations Headquarters in New York today. In addition to meeting with the Secretary-General and United Nations officials, he also joined the Secretary-General for in-depth discussions with the African Union Special Envoy for Darfur, Salim Ahmed Salim, and carried out separate consultations with the permanent members of the Security Council, representatives of other Member States, including the Sudan, and a group of non-governmental organizations who are carrying out humanitarian work in Darfur.
Mr. Eliasson will proceed this evening to African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa for two days of meetings with the Chairperson of the African Union, other senior African Union officials and senior members of the Ethiopian Government, before travelling to the Sudan for meetings with the Government of National Unity and all other relevant parties, to discuss steps required to arrive at a durable solution to the situation in Darfur on the basis of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
Posted: Jan 6 2007, 12:31 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, all.
**Deputy Secretary-General - Appointment
First, I have a statement by the Secretary-General on the appointment of Deputy Secretary-General.
“I have decided to appoint Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, as Deputy Secretary-General. Minister Migiro served previously as Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania for five years. In her academic career, she rose to the rank of a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Dar-es-Salaam.
“She is a highly respected leader who has championed the cause of developing countries over the years. Through her distinguished service in diverse areas, she has displayed outstanding management skills with wide experience and expertise in socio-economic affairs and development issues.
“I have deep confidence in and respect for her, and intend to delegate much of the management and administrative work of the Secretariat, as well as socio-economic affairs and development issues, under a clear line of authority to ensure that the Secretariat will function in a more effective and efficient manner.”
We have her CV available upstairs.
The Secretary-General spoke this morning, for your information, to Dr. Migiro and with President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. She is presently… Dr. Migiro is presently in Lesotho, where she is chairing a conference. She will try to be in New York in the next few days.
**Formation of New Team
Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on the formation of the new team:
“In continuing the process he began a few days ago regarding the formation of his new team of senior Secretariat officials, the Secretary-General, yesterday, requested all Assistant and Under-Secretaries-General, except those whose appointments are subject to action/consultation by or with the appropriate intergovernmental bodies, to voluntarily offer their resignation from the appointments they are holding. This would allow the Secretary-General the flexibility he needs in forming his new team. He will review the offers of resignation and may decide to retain the experience of some senior officials to assist him in the discharge of his responsibilities.”
For your information, about 60 USGs and ASGs under the Secretary-General’s direct authority have received that letter. All those officials who turn in their resignations will continue to serve in their current positions until the Secretary-General has completed his review and has taken a decision on each specific case.
**Financial Disclosure Forms
Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:
“The Secretary-General voluntarily submitted his financial disclosure statement to the Ethics Office on his first day in office. His statement will be reviewed, like those of all staff members required to file such statements, by the external financial firm -- Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Upon completion of the review, the Secretary-General has also decided to publicly disclose the statement.”
Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on Fiji:
“The Secretary-General has noted the recent changes in Fiji, by which President Iloilo has been restored and the leader of the military takeover, Commodore Bainimarama, has become Prime Minister. The Secretary-General reiterates the previous call of the United Nations for the immediate reinstatement of the legitimate authority in Fiji and its return to constitutional rule and full democracy.”
On the Sudan, as part of the Secretary-General’s focus on efforts to seek a peaceful solution in Darfur, he is meeting now with his Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, the African Union’s Mediator on Darfur. Jan Eliasson will brief you at the Secretariat lobby stakeout immediately after that meeting. That is expected to be at around 12:45 p.m.
**Chad/Central African Republic
On Chad and the Central African Republic, available today is the report of the Secretary-General on the multidisciplinary technical assessment mission to Chad and the Central African Republic. As you would recall, the technical mission team has a mandate from the Security Council to study the potential threat to regional peace and security posed by the situation in Darfur and its possible impact on the protection of refugees on the Chad-Sudan border. Among the mission’s preliminary findings, the Secretary-General notes, is the confirmation of a clear threat to regional peace and security due to cross-border activities by rebel groups and a persisting humanitarian crisis affecting more than 2.3 million people.
And the Security Council has scheduled consultations on 10 January to consider the recommendations of the report.
The UN refugee agency said Friday that the deteriorating security situation in eastern Chad had resulted in the displacement of up to 20,000 Chadians over the past two weeks and was posing a direct threat to refugee camps housing thousands of Sudanese from neighbouring Darfur. At least 100,000 Chadians are now displaced within their own country, which already hosts some 230,000 Darfur refugees, most of them in 12 UNHCR camps spread across the east of Chad.
On the Security Council, the Security Council will meet for the first time with Ban Ki-moon in his capacity as the new Secretary-General, in a formal meeting next Monday morning. The meeting, on threats to international peace and security, offers Council members an opportunity to hear from the Secretary-General about his plans during his time in office.
This afternoon, at 4, the Security Council has scheduled consultations so that it can discuss arrangements for next Monday’s meeting, as well as consider the text of a possible presidential statement that it could adopt on that day.
On Somalia, the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, took part in the meeting in Nairobi today of the International Contact Group for Somalia, which issued a communiqué calling the current moment “a historic opportunity” for Somalia. The Contact Group, which includes the United Nations as a member, also welcomed a commitment made by President Abdullahi Yusuf to inclusive governance and to preventing a resurgence of “warlordism” in the country. It stressed the importance of launching without delay an inclusive process of political dialogue and reconciliation, while emphasizing the urgent need for the deployment of a stabilization force based on Security Council resolution 1725.
I have one correction for you. Yesterday I told you that Under-Secretary-General for Management, Alicia Bárcena, had met with the Staff Council. What I meant to say was that she had met informally with the President of the Staff Union. And that was on Wednesday evening.
**Secretary-General’s Press Conference
For your planning purposes, the Secretary-General is planning his first press conference on Wednesday, January 10th. We will come back to you with the place and time as soon as they are finalized.
And we have upstairs the Week Ahead at the United Nations.
That’s all from me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: The Secretary-General, when he spoke to staff, said that his criteria for appointments would include “meritocracy”, with due regard to geographical distribution and gender balance. Now, I understand that Ms. Migiro is an African and there needs to be Africans in the senior ranks at the UN, and that she is a woman, and there needs to be women in the senior ranks at the UN, but I don’t quite understand what her qualifications are as a manager. Can you point to her achievements, or any concrete achievements on her record, as a manager, so we can describe why she should be the person to run the UN?
Spokesperson: Well, we have her CV upstairs and we have quite a few details there about why she is qualified. And, in fact, the Secretary-General underlined to me that he has worked with her and he underlined the fact that she was named not because she is an African and because she is a woman, but essentially, because of her qualifications.
Question: The way you described her record, she seems to be an academic, who spent five years as the Community Development Minister. It does not seem that she has ever -– beyond the Community Development Ministry in Tanzania –- had to manage a large organization.
Spokesperson: Well, she was the Chairman, until about a few weeks ago, of a regional conference for the Great Lakes Region in Africa, and I think, she has shown definitely that she has the ability to manage.
Question: Just as a follow-up to James’ question: are you saying that the Secretary-General thinks that [inaudible] that since the other two criteria that you mentioned, that you ruled out somehow?
Spokesperson: I did not.
Question: But you mentioned that they are, on the secondary point –- from the secondary point of view -- that there is no better person to run -– to be first to take care of the management here at the UN?
Spokesperson: This is the way the Secretary-General feels, and he has studied a number of candidacies, and he has gone through a long process, as you know, before making a decision, and I think, his decision is based on her abilities to do the job.
Question: You said that he worked with her, and I may have missed it at the top -– where did he work with her, how often have they met? And you stated at the top, the Secretary-General is saying he will delegate much of the administrative work of the Secretariat –- does this mean he does not see himself now as what the US said they want –- a CEO? That she is running the shop and he is going to be free to be a diplomat and travel the world?
Spokesperson: No, this is not what he said. But he said that there will be clear lines of responsibility. That is what he is saying.
Question: But he is also making it public that he will delegate much of the administrative work in the Secretariat…
Spokesperson: Yes, indeed. That is because he feels that …
Question: So he does not see himself as the CEO then…
Spokesperson: Well, he is definitely going to have an overview of the whole thing.
Question: What about how often have they worked together where?
Spokesperson: He did mention to me today that he had worked with her. I don’t… They have met several times at international conferences and they have worked together when he was Foreign Minister and she was Foreign Minister. I will ask for you how often they met and, you know, additional information, if you need them.
Question: On the working together -– she has only been Foreign Minister since January 2006, so this would mean that they only met as Foreign Ministers in the last year. Did they meet when Mr. Ban went to Tanzania to lobby for support for his own candidacy for the Secretary-Generalship?
Spokesperson: I do not know. I assume he did.
Question: I guess, still the question is: it would be one thing if the UN had some clear blue skies the last 5, 10, 20 years, but the Organization faces massive problems, staff morale being down, Capital Master Plan –- the building being renovated, questions about corruption in procurement… It’s a huge job. Why is someone who has spent years as Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children’s Affairs remotely the best candidate for this?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you should probably give her a chance to show it. And, you know, you have … you know, it was the Secretary-General’s opinion that she is a highly qualified person and among the people he was choosing from, she is the best qualified.
Question: I just wondered if you could specify more clearly -- when he intends to delegate much of the management and administrative work of the Secretariat, as well as socio-economic affairs and development issues –- could you flush out what that actually means?
Spokesperson: Well, I am waiting first for the Secretary-General to meet with Dr. Migiro, before I can give you a clear line on that. In the next few days -- she is right now in Lesotho, so I don’t know how soon she will be able to come here.
Question: Is that when she will be taking up her duties?
Spokesperson: If she can make it this early, yes. Not immediately next week, at the beginning of the week –- definitely not. But within the next ten days, she probably will try to come to New York within that time. But we have absolutely no date set yet, because –- you know -- she gave her agreement today and we don’t have a clear line on when she can make it, when she can leave what she is doing right now, to make it to New York.
Question: What role did the head of the Group of 77 play in lobbying for this job?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think that role was very important, because they were only recently informed.
Question: About the financial statement, if I can. What will be on it -– will there be –- obviously, all of his holdings, his contributions to charities? Religious organizations? Will that be stated?
Spokesperson: He is planning to state everything, to be transparent.
Question: A lot of public officials put their holdings in a trust, a blind trust, so there is no conflict of interest. Is that something the Secretary-General is considering doing?
Spokesperson: I don’t have the details right now. I do know that he wants to make his statement public. That’s all I can say.
Question: How would you feel about making Kofi Annan’s statement public, in the interest of transparency for the Organization?
Spokesperson: How can we put someone else’s statement out?
Question: Well, he is the boss, he controls the documents, he could do that, couldn’t he?
Spokesperson: This was a voluntary choice on his part.
Question: Actually, I feel that this choice for Deputy Secretary-General and the choice for management may be good choices, because they point in the direction of sustainable development. Now, my question is a follow-up to the questions of yesterday. And I found materials that, in this room on 20 December, Professor Jeffrey Sachs presented to us. Among the things he said to us at the time -- there are important treaties, real treaties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. By and large, those treaties are not being fulfilled right now; they are not being implemented. Then he also said: “So I think this is a huge challenge the incoming UN SG will have to face. This challenge is very serious in a very serious way.” The commitments are already there, they need to be fulfilled. If they are not, the world will suffer large consequences as a result. Now, Professor Jeffrey Sachs is a gentleman who is Adviser to the Secretary-General who was able to take the MDGs and to make them into something that can become a reality. My question is, if the Secretary-General is ready to look into this material from Jeffrey Sachs…
Spokesperson: Well, he has met with Jeffrey Sachs and definitely, they are talking.
Question: Now, he has met with Jeffrey Sachs on MDGs. Now, this is about global warming and sustainable development -– has he discussed those subjects with Jeffrey Sachs?
Spokesperson: I don’t have the information right now. I will try to get it for you, what was exactly the subject of his discussion with Jeffrey Sachs.
Question: We were expecting a statement by the Secretary-General on the situation in the Palestinian Territory yesterday. Is there any reason why it has not come out?
Spokesperson: Actually, I can say that, recently, there have been some positive developments, such as the long-awaited Olmert-Abbas meeting, the Israeli decision to release some Palestinian VAT funds, and the meeting today in Sharm el-Sheikh, hosted by President Mubarak. We will hope that all parties will act with restraint to encourage the small steps back towards dialogue and away from violence such as the Israeli military incursion into Ramallah yesterday. This is what I have.
Question: I was looking on the Web for a picture of the Tanzanian Foreign Minister and noticed you had interviewed her recently. Is that when the Secretary-General met her, two weeks ago?
Spokesperson: No, actually, which picture are you referring to?
Question: You had interviewed her for UN Radio.
Spokesperson: Oh no, that’s because she was… I am sorry, she was interviewed by me. It was at the Great Lakes Conference in Nairobi. It was in her capacity as Chairman of the Great Lakes Region Conference. That’s why. It was not because we had any inkling then that she would be named Deputy Secretary-General.
Question: Did the Secretary-General interview her in person since he was appointed Secretary-General, for this job, or he just appointed her on the basis of what he already knew about her?
Spokesperson: He appointed her on the basis of what he knew about her.
Question: Have they met?
Spokesperson: Well, they met before.
Question: I know, but they have not met since Mr. Ban became Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: No, no.
Question: Is the Secretary-General going to encourage or require the people that he is appointing at the level of DSG and USG to also disclose their financial disclosures?
Spokesperson: Well, those who want to can do it. However, I would underline the fact that the General Assembly specifically decided that financial statements should remain confidential, and they may only be used for the limited purpose of –- you know, in case the Secretary-General requires financial disclosure in the interests of the Organization. So, if they voluntarily want to do it, I guess, they could do it. However, they are not in any way forced to do it. The Secretary-General said he wanted to give an example. He has disclosed his statement and he will make it available, so he is just encouraging people to be as transparent as possible. However, as you know, there are restrictions within the house itself on disclosures.
Question: Just one thing: the President of Serbia has now called on the UN system not to release its status proposals for Kosovo after 21 January, but to wait until a new Government is in place in Serbia. Is there any response from the Secretary-General to that?
Spokesperson: Well, nothing has changed from Ahtisaari’s last statement in November. It is still his intention to present his Kosovo status proposal to the parties without delay after the parliamentary elections in Serbia. I don’t know when the Security Council will take up Kosovo. Actually, it is not currently on the Council’s programme of work.
Question: Just a point of clarification on the formation of the new team. He asked all the Assistant and Under-Secretaries-General to voluntarily offer their resignation. Does that mean if they don’t want to offer their resignation, they can stay in the job?
Spokesperson: No. That’s one way to approach it. This is a new way of approaching it.
Question: So they have to voluntarily offer their resignation.
Spokesperson: A number of them have already submitted their resignations.
Question: I made a question two days ago about the United Nations cooperation with Israel on nuclear issues. I am still waiting for a response on that. Do you have it?
Spokesperson: We have put your question through, and we are still…
Question: Why is it taking so long? Two days!
Spokesperson: You are right, you are right.
Question: It was even published in the Israeli press.
Spokesperson: I will check on that.
Question: Another thing: Mr. Walid Jumblatt made a call very openly, publicly, the Lebanese Druze leader, calling for the assassination of President Bashar al-Assad. Does the United Nations continue to make contacts with your envoy in Beirut, dies he continue to make contact with Jumblatt after his calls for assassination of Bashar al-Assad?
Spokesperson: I am not aware of this and I’ll find out.
Question: Picking up on that same train James and I are on -- and I know we can ask him that on Wednesday -– but you would think with the importance of the Organization, that the person who would be running things, that Ban Ki-moon would meet with this person face to face before selecting the person for the job. Because they could not have met that much, since she has only been the Foreign Minister for a year, on the other side of the ocean, two oceans. How is that possible?
Spokesperson: I can tell you what he has told me, that he has a deep respect for Dr. Midiro. He has been in contact with her for a long time, and he knows her. The fact that they have not met since the decision was taken to appoint her, I don’t think that’s…
Question: Before. Before the decision was taken…
Spokesperson: Before the decision… as I said, they have met several times. I don’t know how many times, and I can check for you on how many times they met, but he feels that he knows her and he has the deepest respect for her.
Question: Was he sounding her out while he was campaigning? Do we know?
Spokesperson: I don’t want to interrupt this, but I was just informed that Mr. Eliasson is on his way to the stakeout at the Secretariat entrance, so those of you who …
Question: So when was that decision made to appoint her -– was it before he came here?
Spokesperson: No, no. It was done within the last ten days.
Question: After 1 January he decided this
Spokesperson: Well, no, no –- it was … the decision was taken after 1 January.
Question: Did he have a phone interview?
Spokesperson: Yes, he did. He did speak to her on the phone.
Question: Michèle, you pointed to her work with the Great Lakes Conference. Forgive my ignorance, but is the Great Lakes Conference –- does it have any staff, does it have any bureaucracy, and is it known as a very well managed organization?
Spokesperson: Well, it was a regional conference. I don’t know about the number of staff, but she was dealing with a number of countries in the region.
Question: Was that a management post, or was that a diplomatic post? It sounds to me that managing a regional conference –- that it’s a diplomatic post.
Spokesperson: Yes, indeed, but she had management experience within her own ministry.
Correspondent: I see.
Question: I won’t be around to ask him this question, but again, he had three months at least, he knew he would be in the job -– so why wouldn’t you have a Deputy Secretary-General appointed, so you’d start fresh 1 January, hit the ground running?
Spokesperson: Because he said he wanted to consult… to have additional consultations, which he did this week.
Question: Why is he announcing her today, when she is in Lesotho? Why didn’t he wait several days for her to come from Lesotho, so she could actually be here, make her own explanations to these difficult questions we are asking you?
Spokesperson: Well, they are not that difficult. I think, she has…
Question: But you have trouble, Michèle, explaining what management experience she has. She might have a better way of answering…
Spokesperson: Well, she will be here, definitely, to answer your questions, whenever she comes here.
Question: So why was the appointment made today, when she is apparently going to be in New York in several days, and we could have asked her all these questions ourselves…
Spokesperson: I must say, most of you have been insisting that that appointment be disclosed as soon as possible. So, I mean, he is pleasing you by doing so, isn’t he?
Question: Any news on Ms. Bárcena appearing here?
Spokesperson: Yes, yes, she is willing to come, and she will be coming, probably next week. We’ll try to find a suitable date for her, because, as you know, she has just started her new job. She is very willing to come and talk to you.
Question: How long was the shortlist? Were they all Africans on the list?
Spokesperson: No. There were several countries on the list and they were not all women.
Question: Do these resignation letters apply to Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, as well?
Spokesperson: No, they do not.
Question: What is going to be done with them? Do they just go on?
Spokesperson: Well, for the time being, yes. For the time being, what is being aimed at is restructuring the Secretariat, and decisions are going to be made first on the Secretariat.
Question: I noticed on his schedule that he met with Kemal Derviş today at 10:00. Do you have any readout on that meeting? What was the purpose of the meeting?
Spokesperson: Not yet.
Question: Was he planning to keep Kemal Derviş in his post?
Spokesperson: I don’t know.
Question: A follow-up on the Middle East, please. Is the Secretary-General worried about this latest incursion?
Spokesperson: He is very concerned.
Question: What is he calling on the Israelis to do?
Spokesperson: Well, for the time being, he expressed his concern. That’s, you know, what he could do at this point, since we are expecting further discussions on the situation in the Middle East.
Question: We haven’t heard anything about the humanitarian situation in Somalia after the Ethiopian invasion -- uninvited invasion? What is the Secretary-General’s follow up on that? Are we expecting any reports on the humanitarian situation there?
Spokesperson: We should have one shortly. In fact, we could ask the people over there what they can send us. We just have the political situation today.
Question: We do not yet have any condemnation of this attack. I mean, Ethiopia is taking liberties; they are invading a country, and this is the country that is supposed to be protected, or security and safety of the country should be safeguarded by the United Nations. We don’t hear any criticism of that -– why?
Spokesperson: Well, you know, the Secretary-General is discussing these issues with the African Union, and we…
Question: People are dying here. We need a clear statement on that.
Spokesperson: Well, his statement will certainly be forthcoming.
Question: And still, you have no idea how many people have perished as a result of that attack?
Question: I think, you might have partially answered Matthew’s question on this, but are you saying that the one dollar year salaried Special Envoy group -- will they still keep their jobs?
Spokesperson: For the time being, yes.
Question: And then…
Spokesperson: This is a process that will take some time. Right now, we are dealing with the USGs and ASGs, who are most of them here in the building, right here in the Secretariat. And it’s a process that will take some time. As you know, there are more than a hundred USGs and ASGs, and it will take some time.
Question: But why wouldn’t they fall under the same category as the USGs?
Spokesperson: Because you have missions in the field that have to continue functioning, and you have a number of things that have to continue to function in the field. It’s one step at a time.
Thank you very much.
Posted: Jan 8 2007, 02:49 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
SECRETARY-GENERAL STRONGLY URGES GOVERNMENT TO STAY EXECUTION
OF DEATH SENTENCES IMPOSED BY IRAQI HIGH TRIBUNAL
The following statement was issued on 6 January by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General strongly urged the Government of Iraq to grant a stay of execution to those whose death sentences may be carried out in the near future.
His Chef de Cabinet, in a letter to the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations, today reiterated the Secretary-General’s endorsement of the call made on 3 January 2007 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, for restraint by the Government of Iraq in the execution of death sentences imposed by the Iraqi High Tribunal.
The letter also refers to the Secretary-General’s view that all members of the international community should pay due regard to all aspects of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
Posted: Jan 9 2007, 02:18 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Security Council President for January, VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation), said that a new page had been turned in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of the changes had been made possible thanks to the international community, the European Union and various regional organizations. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had made an important contribution to the success of the operations, with the joint efforts of the European Union under a mandate of the Security Council. All of those actors had assisted the Government in ensuring safety and security and law and order in the country. Today’s meeting would hear three briefings.
Statement by European Union
On behalf of the European Union and candidate countries, Turkey and Croatia, THOMAS MATUSSEK ( Germany) reported on implementation of the mandate of “EUFOR RD Congo”. A year ago, in late December 2005, the United Nations had requested the European Union to provide additional security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while the country went through the election process. The Union, after close consultation with the country’s Government, had agreed to support MONUC and assist in ensuring security in the interest of a successful transition. In April 2006, the Security Council had adopted resolution 1671 (2006), which had authorized the European force. In July, EUFOR RD Congo had been launched as an autonomous European Union-led operation within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy, with a total of 21 member States. As envisaged in resolution 1671, EUFOR RD Congo had been concluded after four months, at the end of November.
He said that operation “Artemis” in Bunia in the summer of 2003 had proved to be another milestone of cooperation between the Union and the United Nations in the field of peacekeeping in Africa. The two, both at the level of headquarters and country missions, had worked together intensively before and during the operation to provide stability, defuse tensions and deter potential spoilers during critical stages of the election process. The lessons drawn from that experience would be important for their future partnership in the field of crisis management, which was growing ever more intensive. That increasing cooperation must be accompanied by appropriate mechanisms of dialogue and exchange, issues that should be explored in the coming months.
The Union warmly welcomed the success of the first democratic elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in more than 40 years and congratulated the Congolese people on that major step, he said. It called on all political players to engage constructively in the post-transition process. Future cooperation should be based on the new authorities’ strong commitment to good governance and to strengthening the rule of law. Appropriate flexible mechanisms should be developed with the new Congolese Government to ensure effective coordination of support and political dialogue. He thanked the people, the Government and the political actors for their confidence in the European force. He was also grateful to the Government of Gabon, which had allowed the force to use that country as an important base of operation. Hopefully, the successful elections would be the first step towards a brighter future for the Congolese people and the entire Great Lakes region.
JAVIER SOLANA, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, said that the United Nations request of almost a year ago for military support had come at a crucial time, namely the transition period in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as it entered its final phase. It had been essential at that point to create the necessary conditions and security environment to ensure a successful outcome. The European Union had worked very hard for several years to facilitate a democratic transition, for which elections were key to a final success. “We could not fail, and we answered positively to the UN request to put soldiers on the ground,” he said. Specifically, Europe had deployed a military force with operational headquarters provided by Germany, with a European Union presence based in Kinshasa and force elements in Gabon ready to be deployed as necessary.
He said that the deterrent effect of EUFOR had been a significant factor in limiting the number of incidents. Reinforcement by additional force elements from over the “horizon component” in Gabon had been undertaken on several occasions. In addition, a number of deployment operations to the geographically agreed points of application had been undertaken. That had also increased the geographic spread of the force’s deterrent effect. The incident with the greatest destabilizing potential had occurred on 21 August, with an attack on Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s residence. EUFOR intervention, in close cooperation with MONUC, had been decisive in containing the potential spread of violence at a particularly sensitive moment in the election process. In addition, EUFOR had confirmed its position of neutrality in the eyes of the Congolese population and had reinforced its credibility.
The mission had been a success, both in the way it had been conducted and in its contribution to the overall positive conclusion of the country’s transition, he said. Although a proper “lessons learned” review was under way, some key elements for its success could already be identified. Those included the definition of a clear mandate, both in scope and time frame, highly professional troops, a very high degree of interaction with MONUC and an active communication policy, both towards the Congolese population and to key actors in the electoral process. In a wider context, transparency and information sharing with African partners, with the African Union and with other African regional organizations invited to deploy liaison officers, had also facilitated the process.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, reiterated his deep appreciation to the European Union for the assistance provided by EUFOR to MONUC and to the 21 member States and Turkey contributing to the operation. EUFOR had carried out its activities in support of the Congolese people, to ensure a secure environment for the elections held in July and October 2006, in accordance with Council resolution 1671 of 25 April 2006. EUFOR’s presence had been of great value during the critical period of the elections, at which time MONUC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with international partners, had worked with the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission in organizing and conducting the complex endeavour; the largest electoral exercise the United Nations had ever supported.
He said EUFOR had complemented MONUC’s massive effort by adding its extra capacity and flexibility and by helping to address security challenges and any potential escalation of tension. That cooperation had been particularly effective following the violent incidents in Kinshasa in August. EUFOR’s presence had also been an important element in the overall deterrent provided by the United Nations military and police forces on the ground, which, in turn, supported the Congolese National Police. Over 40,000 of them had been trained by MONUC to help create a secure environment for the electoral process.
While acknowledging the European Union’s overall effort, he noted with appreciation the generous assistance of the German Government, which had provided the operational headquarters of EUFOR in Potsdam. He also noted the sizable number of troops deployed by the Governments of Germany and France. The outstanding collaboration between EUFOR and MONUC and between the United Nations Secretariat and the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union served as an example for future collaboration efforts. That collaboration included operational military aspects, as well as the logistical support provided by MONUC to EUFOR in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The deployment of EUFOR was a further demonstration of the Union’s strong support to the international community’s collective efforts in Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. The joint implementation of Council resolution 1671 had produced many positive lessons, including the importance of early coordination at the technical level and of mutual understanding of each organization’s concepts and procedures. The Secretariat was keen to fully exploit the potential of strategic and operational partnerships with various multilateral organizations, including in the pressing area of security sector reform. In that regard, he welcomed the continued support of the European Union Security Reform Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the European Union Police Mission, which continued to provide valuable services in the areas of security sector reform and police planning and training.
He said it was difficult to overemphasize the significance of the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to which the United Nations and the European Union, together with many other Member States, had contributed. Only a few years ago, few observers had believed that the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be able to rise to the challenge of ending the conflict and holding its first democratic elections since 1960. “The credit for these elections goes to the Congolese people, who conducted themselves throughout with patience, courage, great dignity and determination. Their desire for change has been the main driving force of the electoral process.” Credit was also due to the Independent Electoral Commission, which had operated in a war-torn country with little or no infrastructure, poor communications and limited transportation. Despite criticism, pressure and occasional threats from different quarters, the Independent Electoral Commission had carried out in full its historic mission. All international partners should take great pride in having supported the Congolese people and its institutions in successfully passing that milestone.
“MONUC has been the largest and most expensive United Nations peacekeeping operation in the world, with thousands of troops and over 100 aircraft, he said. Five peace accords involving African countries, more than 35 Security Council resolutions, African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) involvement, $500 million in international electoral funding and strong support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had all contributed to the success of the peace process. The European Union had played a crucial role at several critical electoral junctures over the last several years, also deploying operation Artemis in response to a crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003.
The events of the last few months had produced a new positive dynamic in the country, he added. On 30 December, President Joseph Kabila had appointed Antoine Gizenga, former presidential candidate in the first round of the elections, as Prime Minister. He was currently consulting on the formation of a Government, which was expected to be completed by this month. At the end of December, the National Assembly had elected Vital Kamerhe as President of the National Assembly, along with six other members of the National Assembly bureau. All seven were members of president Kabila’s Alliance for the Presidential Majority, the AMP.
In the meantime, in North Kivu, fighting between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the renegade forces of Laurent Nkunda had subsided over the last few days, and discussions -- with United Nations assistance -- were being held between representatives of both sides. While the situation was still volatile, Rwanda’s Government had reported that it was facilitating discussions between representatives of FARDC and the Nkunda group in Kigali. On 4 January, an agreement had been reached in principle to form mixed FARDC brigades by merging the Nkunda forces with other soldiers presently deployed in North Kivu. MONUC continued to encourage the Government to find a peaceful and comprehensive solution to address the causes of the still simmering conflict in the eastern part of the country and, in that connection, had facilitated the establishment of working groups to implement the agreements reached, with a view to resolving the underlying issues.
In Ituri, a new ceasefire between FARDC and the National Integrationist Front, the FNI, led by Peter Karim, had been agreed upon on 2 January after fighting had broken out near the town of Fataki at the end of December. The situation remained very tense, with the United Nations conducting robust operations in support of Government troops.
He said MONUC stood ready to support the newly elected Government as it began to address the many challenges facing the country, including completing the transitional agenda and implementing the provisions of the new Constitution, particularly in regard to strengthening national unity, fostering the democratic process and embarking on a comprehensive governance reform agenda. The Government would continue to be assisted in rebuilding a State free from corruption that ensured the rule of law and good governance, protected human rights and civil liberties, encouraged participation and pluralism, conducted a major security sector reform and was committed to reducing poverty. The continued engagement of the international community was also required to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo complete a comprehensive electoral process, with local elections due in the second half of the year.
He added that the country’s achievements would be at risk if the international community, or the Congolese people, repeated some of their past mistakes. Early disengagement following elections elsewhere had resulted in the resumption of conflict a few years later, requiring a new, costlier international intervention.
“The [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] is the natural, yet still developing, pole of stability in the troubled region of Central Africa,” he concluded. The resolution of the crisis in the country would benefit Africa more than solving any other of the continent’s current conflicts. Moreover, if Africa’s worst conflict could be overcome, then other conflicts could be, too. The United Nations partnership with the European Union and other stakeholders would serve that strategic goal. He was also grateful of the Council’s support for a settlement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had been demonstrated, among other measures, by the Council’s numerous visits to the country.
IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the successful holding of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo towards the end of 2006 was now a matter of historical record. Although elections were never an end by themselves, they were, when credible, a critical part of any democratic process. Holding successful and credible elections was a testimony to what could be achieved when there was collective effort. Charged by the General Assembly with coordinating and supporting all United Nations electoral activity, the Department of Political Affairs, through its Electoral Assistance Division, had been involved with the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2003, when it had conducted the initial needs assessment, which had preceded the establishment of the MONUC Electoral Division.
The role of the United Nations electoral team, which included the UNDP-supported APEC (Project d’appui au processus electoral en RDC), had been to support the Independent Electoral Commission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the Independent Electoral Commission headquarters, as well as in field offices nationwide. On 18 and 19 December 2005, the Independent Electoral Commission, with MONUC’s support, had organized the constitutional referendum, in which the Congolese had voted overwhelmingly to adopt the Constitution that had been promulgated on 18 February 2006. The voter registration exercise conducted between June and December 2005 had resulted in lists containing the names of 25.5 million eligible voters.
The first round of presidential and the national assembly elections had been held on 30 July 2006, he said. The Department of Political Affairs had also conducted several field missions to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006 to assist the MONUC Electoral Division with the operational planning for the 30 July and 29 October elections. In his capacity as United Nations Focal Point for Electoral Assistance Activities, he had visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo in early October, meeting with major stakeholders to encourage an environment of calm, tolerance and national reconciliation during and after the electoral process. In light of the disturbances following the first round of results, he had stressed the need for positive and constructive campaigning and had urged the acceptance of the results by all parties and avoidance of a “winner-takes-all attitude” by the successful candidates.
The presidential run-off and the provincial assembly elections had been subsequently held on 29 October, he said. The conduct of the elections by the Independent Electoral Commission, including the transparency of the count and tabulation process, had been generally praised by international observers, the press and several world leaders. Observers had noted that the elections had reflected the lessons learnt from the first round of elections, including more efficient collection of results from 50,000 polling stations in 12,000 locations and improved training of 250,000 polling workers, in spite of the massive logistical challenges.
The elections had resulted in the establishment of the first democratically elected national institutions in over four decades, “and of this we can be justly proud”, he said. Much still remained to be done, however. The 2002 Global and All Inclusive Agreement called for free and transparent elections to be held “at all levels”, including local elections. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was now in a post-transitional period, but that was by no means a post-electoral period. Indirect elections for senators, governors and vice-governors by the provincial assemblies were expected to take place by the end of the month.
Local elections for municipal and rural councils were expected to be conducted in the latter half of 2007, he said. Several legislative prerequisites were required for that to take place. The organic law establishing the post-transition National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) -- mandated under the Constitution to organize and conduct elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- needed to be passed. Similarly, the law on decentralization that would define the new provinces, as well as the local constituencies for administrative and electoral purposes, must be adopted. Following the passing of the legislative instruments, the Electoral Assistance Division would continue to assist the MONUC Electoral Division to provide capacity-building and support to the new election commission. That effort could take anywhere from 13 to 18 months, depending on the modalities chosen. The actual elections would not be expected to begin before September 2007.
The establishment of local structures and institutions that had been freely chosen by their constituents was essential for the legitimate extension of State authority, improved governance and the building of durable peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He encouraged the Council and other partners to continue to provide the generous assistance rendered during the 2006 electoral process. The logistical challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained, and continued support to the electoral process would be critical in that regard.
OLIVIER LACROIX ( France) said France was pleased at having participated in the force at the end of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s transition. At the end of 2003, France had assumed a leading role in the operation, and the deployment in 2006 of a new European Union-led force had been a major development for the Union in securing its defence policy. He was pleased that it was taking place on the African continent. The success of the country’s transitional process was crucial for Africa as a whole. Beyond the transition period, it would be important for the international community to continue its support, and the European Union and the United Nations would have a role to play in that new period.
He said that the deployment of the EUFOR RD Congo operation had also been a demonstration of cooperation between the Union and the United Nations, cooperation that should deepen, especially in the area of conflict prevention and peacekeeping. He also welcomed the sense of responsibility of the Congolese people that had made the successful elections possible in a generally peaceful climate. That, in turn, had made it possible for the Congolese to take their future into their own hands. Continuing that path would be key to the nation’s successful future.
JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said that the briefing by Mr. Solana had once again reaffirmed that the Security Council had correctly paid attention to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Like previous speakers, he welcomed EUFOR RD Congo, in which Belgium had taken an active part in connection with information capacity. The mission in support of MONUC had made a great contribution in the country, especially in terms of its deterrent effect and for the proper conduct of the electoral process. The force’s intervention in the August events in Kinshasa had showed its ability and impartiality. There had also been excellent cooperation between the Union and the United Nations, and the lessons learned in that regard would prove useful to future collaborations.
He said that the commitment of the European Union in the country should continue in the post-transition period, through a strengthened commitment to security sector reform. At the European Union Council’s meeting on 15 December, members had confirmed the need to continue a coordinating role in that regard, in close cooperation with the United Nations and in support of the Congolese authorities. Belgium duly appreciated the crucial role played by MONUC, and the Security Council should soon deal with the question of the Mission’s revision and extension. He still remained concerned about the eastern part of the country, especially the fighting in East Kivu. Efforts should intensity towards lasting stabilization of that fragile part of the country, built on a political approach.
JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said that, as everyone agreed, the Council would remain closely involved in the situation, even though the elections had already been crowned with success. He earnestly hoped that the new President would be able to complete formation of the new Government and be able to fully discharge his responsibilities. Hopefully, Council members could agree before mid-February on the reconfiguration of MONUC. He, meanwhile, greatly appreciated the role played by the European Union forces in assisting MONUC during the elections. That had helped to stabilize the enormous country. Nevertheless, turmoil continued to beset the nation, especially in the east. Hopefully, that situation would be stabilized by the time the European Union forces withdrew and, hopefully, the new Government would be able to work together with all parties.
In terms of reintegration, he said he welcomed the talks among the three factions in Ituri on the path to disarmament and reconstruction. That would make possible the reintegration of more than 8,000 combatants. He greatly appreciated MONUC’s efforts in those negotiations and hoped that agreements concluded with the militias thus far could be consolidated. He was still terribly concerned about the humanitarian situation. Help was needed for tens of thousands of people displaced from villages throughout the country. Hopefully, the assistance of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and donor countries would continue. Relieving the humanitarian crisis would also help boost national development and prosperity.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said the successful conduct of the elections reflected the people’s desire for peace and development. The consolidation of peace for socio-economic development required enormous efforts to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions. He welcomed the nomination of the Prime Minister and hoped that he would engage in a process of wide consultations in order to enable him to form a Government of national unity. He also welcomed the nomination of Vital Kamerhe as President of the National Assembly.
He expressed concern, however, about the security situation in the eastern part of the country where FARDC and FNI were engaged in conflict. The conflict there had led to, among other things, a large number of internally displaced persons and frequent human rights violations. Widespread impunity was also a source of great concern. He urged both parties to rise above personal interest and allow peace and stability to return to the region.
While commending the United Nations, the European Union and other partners, he said he also complimented the countries of the Great Lakes region for signing a pact that would pave the way for stability in the region. Its implementation would require financial support and follow-up. He reiterated the crucial role of the country’s security and judiciary segments and urged efforts to reform those areas, which would require the assistance of partners.
BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) said he was grateful for the valuable support given to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and pleased with the smooth functioning of the elections in the country. Credit was due not only to the Congolese people, but also to the entire international community. Africa itself had played an active role in the process, including South Africa’s important role in organizing the country’s political dialogue. Africa’s involvement could also be seen through the continent’s presence within the International Committee in Support of the Transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He appreciated the European Union’s commitment to continue its efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as later developments would depend on the international community’s continued vigilance.
While the elections had been an important stage, they were just a stage, and most of the challenges facing the country, including security sector reform, remained ahead, he said. It was necessary to look at the entire process in the framework of the conclusions of the second summit of the Great Lakes Region Conference in Nairobi. It was also important to take into account the regional dimension that the question of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would evoke in the days ahead. He thanked all partners for the great interest they had shown in the development of the country’s electoral process, inviting them to continue their efforts.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) congratulated the country for holding its elections and expressed appreciation to EUFOR for completing its mandate. Although its mandate had expired, he hoped the European Union would continue to support the democratic process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and help the new Government in carrying out security sector reform. At present, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was in the active process of forming a new Government. The international community should give the country the attention it needed. China supported the need for MONUC to continue to play an important role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to maintain the very fragile peace there, and it would continue to assist the country.
EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) said he had heard today a very good example of cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations, and he welcomed the progress made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, it was crucial to build on that and maintain strong support for the new Congolese authorities in what would be a crucial stage in reconciliation and peace consolidation. That was not unqualified support, however, and the Under-Secretary-General had set out what was expected of the Congolese authorities. The Council looked forward to the Secretary-General’s recommendations as to how the United Nations should carry forward its support of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the next phase, in terms of following up its mandate there, which expired on 15 February. The principal role should be to maintain stability, allow the new institutions to take root and redirect resources to priorities, namely tackling the armed groups in the eastern part of the country, which were undermining the chances for lasting peace.
He said that the operation had demonstration the “real world” contribution of European Union policy to tackle international issues in support of and in partnership with the United Nations. As far as the United Kingdom was concerned, a major objective of European security and defence policy was to project a foreign policy and, as appropriate, a military dimension in support of operations out there that conformed to the Union’s own policy. As it was developing, the Union hoped to be able to deploy forces rapidly and efficiently, as it had done in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in “stark contrast” to what it tended not to do in United Nations peacekeeping. Whereas the European Union member States were less active in United Nations peacekeeping, they hoped to be able to build the capacity to rapidly deploy when necessary, thereby contributing strongly to international efforts when needed. The European Union’s battleground concept took that forward and was aimed at deployment within 15 days. The world needed that, but it had rarely been available.
He asked Mr. Solana to comment on whether any lessons could be learned from the European Union on how the United Nations could work with other organizations, including in the setting up of an African Union-United Nations force in Darfur. He also asked whether the Union could be more active in helping to tackle the many different and difficult situations being confronted in Africa.
Like previous speakers, JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) commended the decisive contribution made by MONUC and the significant security, diplomatic and economic presence of the European Union. There was little doubt about the strategic clout of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the African continent. It was important now to plan the next stage and to support the country’s authorities towards the election of provincial and deputy governors. It was up to the international community, development agencies and other countries to shape the future of international cooperation, in order to help the nascent Government in building peace and continue the transition towards an integrated society, leading to development. He was also pleased at the supporting role played by South Africa, and was optimistic that internal security, the rule of law and respect for human rights would be the focus of constant attention of the new Government. Peru would follow the processes of dialogue and peacemaking.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) said that the Congolese people deserved credit for the progress made in their country, and he paid tribute to them for having achieved what they had so far. He looked forward to the new Government taking shape, and he would take its lead in terms of the way forward. He hoped for continued support of the European Union, because the Congo still had a difficult road to travel. As had been said today, there were still critical elections ahead. South Africa pledged its continued assistance to the Congolese. Mr. Guéhenno had cautioned in his briefing about too early disengagement from the country, which he seconded.
ATOKI ILEKA ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) noted that EUFOR RD Congo had been the European Union’s second military intervention in his country. The 2003 Artemis operation had managed to stabilize the security situation in Bunia and made it possible to implement the Global and All Inclusive Agreement. EUFOR, a military force authorized by the Council under its resolution 1671, had been set up by the Union to support MONUC in assisting in the country’s electoral process.
EUFOR’s record was largely a positive one, he said. The elections had taken place and the Congolese people had expressed themselves in freedom, voting in massive numbers. The transitional period had been completed with the inauguration of President Kabila, the first Congolese President elected by direct universal suffrage. The Prime Minister had also been appointed, the National Assembly was being set up and the existing provincial assemblies were ready to get down to work. The elections for governors and senators would take place by the end of the month. The structure of the third republic was slowly being set up. With the success of that endeavour, the United Nations and the European Union had made possible the establishment of a truly democratic space in his country. Several European States were also helping the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the bilateral level in close collaboration with the Union and the United Nations.
It was necessary to point out, however, that the human, material and financial mobilization by the United Nations and the European Union in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ran the risk of being wiped out as long as there were dictatorial States in the Great Lakes region. For its part, his country would play its role as a central and pivotal State in international strategies aimed at stabilizing the region. With the establishment of new institutions, the Congolese people were counting on the international community’s continued support and the future Congolese Government would begin a discussion with the United Nations on that partnership. The international community was invited to continue to provide assistance, including in such areas as security sector reform, the continuation of disarmament programmes, good governance and development, in order for the people to fully benefit from the peace dividends.
He said he was encouraged by the Union’s renewed commitment in that respect. The international community should also continue to help the country in tackling the challenges facing the country, including the illegal exploitation of natural resources and illicit arms trafficking in the region. He paid tribute to the EUFOR personnel for their professionalism. EUFOR’s military officials had returned home at the scheduled time with the confidence of having completed their mission. The Democratic Republic of the Congo today was beginning a new phase with the establishment of democratically elected institutions. Challenges remained, however, and the international community’s continued support was crucial. The international community had not only the opportunity but also the duty not to commit errors of the past, namely a hasty withdrawal. Building on the momentum achieved, the international community should consider the future of his country -- the spearhead of the African renaissance, where peace, justice and stability would prevail.
Briefly responding to questions and comments, Mr. SOLANA said it was true that the vocation of the European Union was to act in accordance with others. Of course, sometimes it had to act alone. It had acted in concert with the African Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations.
To another question, he said that the battleground force was well prepared for rapid and efficient operations, which could open the way for others to follow. He felt that good lessons could be drawn from the way the European Union force had been structured and organized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and more would be learned in the future, which could serve other parts of Africa, particularly Darfur.
Posted: Jan 10 2007, 03:21 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
5617th Meeting (PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS UNITED NATIONS OPERATION, SUPPORTING FRENCH FORCES
IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE UNTIL 30 JUNE, UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1739 (2007)
Seriously concerned about the persistent crisis and deteriorating situation in Côte d’Ivoire, including the large-scale civilian suffering and displacement, the Security Council today extended until 30 June the mandates of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French forces which support it, and expressed its intention to review their mandates by that date, including their length and troop levels, in light of progress achieved towards peace.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1739 (2007) under Chapter VII, the Council, having taken note of the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation, in which he said that some of the Ivorian parties were pursuing actions that could lead to widespread violence, decided to adjust certain terms of UNOCI’s mandate from the date of adoption of today’s text. (For background, see Press Release SC/8903 of 15 December 2006.)
Under the terms of the resolution, UNOCI would monitor the cessation of hostilities and movements of armed groups. In particular, it would observe and monitor the implementation of the joint declaration of the end of the war of 6 April 2005 and the comprehensive ceasefire agreement of 3 May 2003, to prevent, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, any hostile action and investigate violations of the ceasefire.
Among its other tasks, UNOCI would liaise with the National Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire and the Forces Nouvelles, in order to promote the re-establishment of trust among all the Ivorian forces, and assist the Government in monitoring the borders, with particular attention to the situation of Liberian refugees and any cross-border movement of combatants. It would also assist the Government in regrouping all the Ivorian forces involved and assist in ensuring the security of their disarmament, cantonment and demobilization sites.
UNOCI would also coordinate closely with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in the implementation of a voluntary repatriation and resettlement programme for foreign ex-combatants, paying special attention to the specific needs of women and children. It would secure, neutralize or destroy any weapons, ammunition or any other military materiel surrendered by the former combatants.
Its tasks would also involve, among other things, security sector reform; protection of United Nations personnel and institutions; provision of security for members of the Ivorian Government; monitoring of the arms embargo; support for humanitarian assistance; support for the redeployment of State administration; support for the organization of open, free, fair and transparent elections; assistance in the field of human rights; public information; and law and order.
The meeting began at 12:56 p.m. and adjourned at 1 p.m.
The full text of resolution 1739 (2007) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling its previous resolutions and the statements of its President relating to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, in particular its resolution 1721 (2006) on the transition period leading to the holding of free, open, fair and transparent elections in Côte d’Ivoire by 31 October 2007,
“Recalling also its resolution 1712 (2006) relating to the situation in Liberia,
“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of Côte d’Ivoire, and recalling the importance of the principles of good-neighbourliness, non-interference and regional cooperation,
“Having taken note of the report of the Secretary-General dated 4 December 2006 (S/2006/939),
“Reaffirming its support to the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French forces which support it,
“Expressing its serious concern at the persistence of the crisis and the deterioration of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, including its grave humanitarian consequences causing large-scale civilian suffering and displacement,
“Determining that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire continues to pose a threat to international peace and security in the region,
“Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
“1. Decides that the mandates of UNOCI and of the French forces which support it, determined respectively in paragraphs 2 and 8 below, shall be extended until 30 June 2007, and expresses its intention to review by this date their mandates, including their length, and UNOCI’s level of troops, in the light of the progress achieved in the implementation of the peace process as referred to in resolution 1721 (2006);
“2. Decides that UNOCI shall have the following mandate from the date of adoption of this resolution:
a) Monitoring of the cessation of hostilities and movements of armed groups
- To observe and monitor the implementation of the joint declaration of the end of the war of 6 April 2005 and of the comprehensive ceasefire agreement of 3 May 2003, to prevent, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, any hostile action, and to investigate violations of the ceasefire,
- To liaise with the National Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI) and the military elements of the Forces Nouvelles in order to promote, in coordination with the French forces, the re-establishment of trust among all the Ivorian forces involved,
- To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in monitoring the borders, with particular attention to the situation of Liberian refugees and to any cross-border movement of combatants,
B) Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement
- To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in undertaking the regrouping of all the Ivorian forces involved and to assist in ensuring the security of their disarmament, cantonment and demobilization sites,
- To support the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, within UNOCI’s current capacities, in the implementation of the national programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, including through logistical support, in particular for the preparation of cantonment sites, paying special attention to the specific needs of women and children,
- To coordinate closely with the United Nations mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in the implementation of a voluntary repatriation and resettlement programme for foreign ex-combatants, paying special attention to the specific needs of women and children, in support of the efforts of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and in cooperation with the Governments concerned, relevant international financial institutions, international development organizations and donor nations,
- To ensure that the national programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants and that the voluntary repatriation and resettlement programme for foreign ex-combatants take into account the need for a coordinated regional approach,
- To secure, neutralize or destroy any weapons, ammunition or any other military materiel surrendered by the former combatants,
c) Disarmament and dismantling of militias
- To assist the Prime Minister in formulating and implementing the programme for the immediate disarmament and dismantling of militias consistent with paragraph 12 of resolution 1721 (2006), and to monitor its implementation,
- To secure, neutralize or destroy all weapons, ammunition and other military materiel surrendered by militias,
d) Operations of identification of the population and registration of voters
- To contribute, in close liaison with the working group mentioned in paragraph 17 of resolution 1721 (2006), to the security of the operations of identification of the population and registration of voters, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment,
e) Reform of the security sector
- To assist, in close liaison with the working group mentioned in paragraph 15 of resolution 1721 (2006), in formulating a plan on the restructuring of the Defence and Security Forces and in preparing possible seminars on security sector reform to be organized by the African Union and ECOWAS,
f) Protection of United Nations personnel, institutions and civilians
- To protect United Nations personnel, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment,
- To support, in coordination with the Prime Minister, the provision of security for members of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire,
g) Monitoring of the arms embargo
- To monitor the implementation of the measures imposed by paragraph 7 of resolution 1572 (2004), in cooperation with the Group of Experts established under resolution 1584 (2005) and, as appropriate, with UNMIL and Governments concerned, including by inspecting, as they deem it necessary and without notice, the cargo of aircraft and of any transport vehicle using the ports, airports, airfields, military bases and border crossings of Côte d’Ivoire,
- To collect, as appropriate, arms and any related materiel brought into Côte d’Ivoire in violation of the measures imposed by paragraph 7 of resolution 1572 (2004), and to dispose of such arms and related materiel as appropriate,
h) Support for humanitarian assistance
- To facilitate the free flow of people, goods and humanitarian assistance, inter alia, by helping to establish the necessary security conditions and taking into account the special needs of vulnerable groups, especially women, children and elderly people,
i) Support for the redeployment of State administration
- To facilitate, with the assistance of the African Union, ECOWAS and other international partners, the re-establishment by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire of the authority of the State throughout Côte d’Ivoire and of the institutions and public services essential for the social and economic recovery of the country,
j) Support for the organization of open, free, fair and transparent elections
- To provide all necessary technical assistance to the Prime Minister, his Government, the Independent Electoral Commission and other relevant agencies or institutes, with the support of the African Union, ECOWAS and other international partners, for the organization of open, free, fair and transparent elections, presidential and legislative, by 31 October 2007 at the latest, as referred to in resolution 1721 (2006),
- To provide technical information, advice and assistance as appropriate to the High Representative for the Elections,
- To contribute, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, to the security of the areas where voting is to take place,
- To provide as necessary, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, in close cooperation with the United Nations Programme for Development, logistical support for the Independent Electoral Commission, in particular for the transportation of electoral material,
k) Assistance in the field of human rights
- To contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, with special attention to violence committed against children and women, to monitor and help investigate human rights violations with a view to ending impunity, and to keep the Security Council Committee established pursuant to paragraph 14 of resolution 1572 (2004) (the Committee) regularly informed of developments in this regard,
l) Public information
- To promote the peace process as referred to in resolution 1721 (2006) throughout the territory of Côte d’Ivoire, through the Mission’s public information capacity, in particular its radio broadcasting capability through ONUCI FM,
- To monitor the Ivorian mass media, in particular with regard to any incidents of incitement by the media to hatred, intolerance and violence, and to keep the Committee regularly informed of the situation in this regard,
m) Law and order
- To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in conjunction with the African Union, ECOWAS and other international organizations in restoring a civilian policing presence throughout Côte d’Ivoire, and to advise the Government of Côte d’Ivoire on the restructuring of the internal security services,
- To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in conjunction with the African Union, ECOWAS and other international organizations in re-establishing the authority of the judiciary and the rule of law throughout Côte d’Ivoire,
- To support the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in ensuring the neutrality and impartiality of public media by providing, as necessary, security of the premises of the Radio Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI);
“3. Decides to extend the provisions of paragraph 3 of resolution 1609 (2005) and of paragraph 2 of resolution 1682 (2006) for the period specified in paragraph 1 above;
“4. Reaffirms its intention to authorize the Secretary-General to redeploy on a temporary basis troops between UNMIL and UNOCIas may be needed, in consultation with the Governments concerned and relevant troop-contributing countries, in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1609 (2005);
“5. Authorizes UNOCI to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment;
“6. Requests UNOCI to carry out its mandate in close liaison with UNMIL, including especially in the prevention of movements of arms and combatants across shared borders and the implementation of disarmament and demobilization programmes;
“7. Urges UNOCI to take into accountthe rights of women and of gender considerations as set out in Security Council resolution 1325 as a cross-cutting issue, including through consultation with local and international women's group, and requests the Secretary-General, where appropriate, to include in his reporting to the Security Council progress on gender mainstreaming throughout UNOCI and all other aspects relating to the situation of women and girls, especially in relation to the need to protect them from gender-based violence;
“8. Authorizes from the date of adoption of this resolution the French forces to use all necessary means in order to support UNOCI in accordance with the agreement reached between UNOCI and the French authorities, and in particular to:
a) Contribute to the general security of the area of activity of the impartial forces,
B) Intervene at the request of UNOCI in support of its elements whose security may be threatened,
c) In consultation with UNOCI, intervene against belligerent actions, if the security conditions so require, outside UNOCI’s areas of deployment,
d) Help to protect civilians, in the deployment areas of their units,
e) Contribute to monitoring the arms embargo established by resolution 1572 (2004),
f) Contribute to the drawing up ofa plan on the restructuring of the Defence and Security Forces and to the preparation of possible seminars on security sector reform to be organized by the African Union and ECOWAS;
“9. Calls upon all parties to cooperate fully in the deployment and operations of UNOCI and of the French forces which support it, in particular by guaranteeing their safety, security and freedom of movement with unhindered and immediate access, as well as associated personnel, throughout the territory of Côte d’Ivoire, to enable them to carry out fully their mandates;
“10. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”
Posted: Jan 24 2007, 02:24 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, all.
As you already know, the Secretary-General leaves later today on a seven-nation trip to Europe and Africa.
To recap, he has meetings lined up with European Union, European Parliament and European Commission officials in Brussels as well as senior representatives of NATO and the Belgian government, as well as the King.
Then in Paris, he participates in the International Conference on Support for reconstruction and development of Lebanon, hosted by President Jacques Chirac.
During his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), he will meet with President Joseph Kabila and other senior government officials, address the National Assembly, and meet with peacekeepers and staff of the UN’s largest mission. A trip to Kisangani is scheduled, as is a brief visit across the river to Brazzaville to meet with President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.
From DRC, he travels to Addis Ababa for the African Union Summit where he will address the opening session and hold a series of bilateral meetings. He ends his Africa visit with a stop in Nairobi, where he will meet with the Kenyan President and the staff of UN headquarters on the continent.
From Kenya, the Secretary-General travels to the Netherlands, where he will visit the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in The Hague. He will meet with Queen Beatrix as well as the Dutch Prime Minister and senior officials.
From The Hague, he flies to Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the Middle East Quartet. That’s it for the trip.
**Statement on Lebanon
Now a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:
“The Secretary-General is following closely current developments in Lebanon. He is greatly concerned that the political dispute in Lebanon has resulted in confrontation in the streets, reportedly leading to injuries and loss of life.
“On the eve of his departure to the Paris III conference on Lebanon, the Secretary-General reiterates the support of the United Nations for the stability, sovereignty, security and independence of Lebanon. It is essential that all parties within Lebanon work through the democratic process and return to dialogue as a means of addressing their political differences.”
** Lebanon Update
Some other information on Lebanon, the Office of Geir Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon, reports that the Beirut airport has been cut off during the recent demonstrations and for the moment is effectively closed. Many roads -- within and around Beirut and in other parts of Lebanon -- have been cut off by blockades, including those involving burning tires and old cars. The office also is monitoring reports of clashes between different factions, mostly north of Beirut.
I’ve been asked in recent days, meanwhile, about the Israeli overflights of Lebanon. In accordance with its standard procedures, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon protests each overflight to the Israeli authorities as a violation of the Blue Line. There were seven such flights recorded yesterday.
Sill on Lebanon, serious environmental challenges are confronting Lebanon as a result of the recent conflict there, according to a report launched today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
For example, many bombed and burnt-out factories and industrial complexes are contaminated with a variety of toxic substances, such as ash and leaked chemicals. Urgent action is needed to remove and safely dispose of such substances amid concerns that they are threatening water supplies and public health.
The Security Council began its work today by holding consultations on peacebuilding, with a briefing by the head of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, Carolyn McAskie. The Council intends to hold a public meeting to discuss peace-building issues further on 31 January.
Once consultations end, the Security Council expects to hold a formal meeting to vote on a draft resolution concerning the establishment, for 12 months, of a UN political mission in Nepal. Council members discussed the draft text of the Nepal resolution in consultations yesterday afternoon.
The members of the Security Council will also hold their first monthly luncheon with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today.
Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, condemned in the strongest terms the two bombings at the Bab al-Shargi district in Baghdad on Monday. He said that the bombings, which caused the death and injury of more than 200 innocent civilians, were shocking.
These deplorable outrages again underscore the urgent need for all Iraqis to reject violence and together choose the path of peace and reconciliation, Qazi said. We have his full statement upstairs.
Many of you have been asking about Kosovo, and about when Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s status proposal will be presented.
We’ve just been told that, as a first step, Ahtisaari will share his proposal this Friday with the Kosovo Contact Group in Vienna. You’ll recall that the Contact Group includes representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that it is discussing with Iran its request for withdrawing the designation of certain safeguards inspectors.
It should be noted however, that there are a sufficient number of inspectors designated for Iran, and the IAEA is able to perform its inspection activities in accordance with Iran's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. It issued a statement on this yesterday.
**UN Refugee Agency
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reports that, early this morning, 17 Palestinian men living in Baghdad were taken away by men dressed in Iraqi security force uniforms and driving security vehicles. UNHCR is very concerned and is seeking further information.
Meanwhile, in western Algeria today, UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) started a 12-day mission to Sahrawi refugee camps to assess the dire food and nutrition situation there, in view of a recent disruption in the food pipeline. You can read more on these items in UNHCR’s briefing Notes, which we have upstairs.
The first of four installments of a major scientific assessment on climate change will be released next Friday, 2 February, in Paris, by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The first part of the report, which is based on the contributions of more than 2,500 scientists from 130 countries, will look at the current science behind climate change, provide data on observed changes, and offer predictions for the future. The report is the fourth such assessment by the Panel and its first in six years. More information is available in a media advisory available in my office.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today expressed concern about new flare-ups of bird flu in China, Egypt, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam. But it stressed that the number of outbreaks in the first weeks of 2007 had been significantly lower than the epidemic waves of last year. We have a press release on that also in my Office.
**International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice today gave its decision on the request for provisional measures submitted by Uruguay against Argentina in the case concerning the pulp mills on the River Uruguay.
In their ruling, a majority of ICJ judges found that the circumstances, as they now present themselves to the Court, do not require the exercise of its power.
** Sierra Leone Court
The Special Court for Sierra Leone has scheduled a status conference in its case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor for January 26th on the premises of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
And to update you on the preparations for the start of the Taylor trial, Stephen Rapp, the Court’s newly-appointed Chief Prosecutor, will be our guest at the noon briefing on January 30.
David Morrison from UNDP took your questions outside of the room yesterday but some of our correspondents did not have an opportunity to hear his statements on UNTV. He will be available again a little later in the week, here on the podium, to take your questions if you have them.
And in response to your request for further details on the Secretary-General’s initiative to review the activities of UN funds and programmes, we have arranged for a senior UN official to brief you on Friday.
That’s all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I assume now that the Secretary-General will not meet with Mr. Ahtisaari as was previously announced?
Spokesperson: Yes, he will.
Question: Where? When?
Spokesperson: He will meet him in Paris.
Question: So, Mr. Ahtisaari will first fly to Paris and then go to Vienna?
Question: Number two. I also assume that the Secretary-General will meet with Ms. Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY. In that light, what is his position on her request not to close the Tribunal’s doors before the so-called “big fish” –- namely Karadzic and Mladic – stand trial in The Hague? What is his position on the [completion] strategy?
Spokesperson: Well, at this point, as you know, the Tribunal has until 2008. We are not there yet, so we don’t know who will come in front of the Tribunal. We’ll have more on that certainly…you’ll have more information about it soon. About your first question, concerning Mr. Ahtisaari, he plans to travel on February 2nd to Belgrade and Pristina to officially present his proposal to both sides. He will then wait for feedback from both parties before sending the proposal on to the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General will then transmit the report to the Security Council, and then it will be up to the Council to decide when it wants to consider Kosovo. So that, more or less, is the road map.
Question: Does that mean that some type of open ended conference in Vienna will be running during that time – starting this Friday and continuing until sometime after February 2nd – waiting for the results from Pristina and Belgrade?
Spokesperson: No, there won’t be a conference. But Mr. Ahtisaari will be getting the feedback and feeding it through…
Question: Will that be in Vienna?
Spokesperson: I don’t know where yet. I don’t know where he will go from there.
Question: During his meeting with Lebanese leader [Fouad] Sinora, will Ban Ki-moon discuss a tribunal or a new expanded mandate for UNIFIL? What kind of discussions will be on the table?
Spokesperson: We expect all these issues to be discussed in bilaterals, but as you know, the conference itself, which will be presided over by President Jacques Chirac, is on the reconstruction of Lebanon, with a specific project on the table for the donors. But I’m sure all those issues will be evoked in the different meetings that the Secretary-General will have during the bilaterals at that conference.
Question: Will Ban Ki-moon raise with Mr. Sinora the question of why most of the aid that has been pumped into Lebanon has not reached the people most affected by the recent conflict? Up to now, billions of dollars have been pumped into the country but none of it has reached the people in the villages and towns of the south, where most of the aggression took place.
Spokesperson: He will be raising as many issues as he can on Lebanon.
Question: You brought up the UNHCR trip to western Algeria to look at the break in the food pipeline. Are they going to issue a statement or report at some point?
Spokesperson: Most probably, yes.
Question: Is it going to be issued here, or..?
Spokesperson: Well, as soon as we get it, we’ll tell you about it.
Question: Is the Secretary-General still hoping to meet with the Sudanese President on the sideline of the AU Summit? Does he expect significant progress on the peacekeeping mission in Darfur on this trip – or perhaps even a breakthrough?
Spokesperson: Yes, he is going to meet with President Al-Bashir. He has already spoken to him on the phone. So they will be meeting in a bilateral meeting at the AU Summit. I cannot say what progress will be announced, but the Secretary-General is hoping to see the whole Darfur issue move forward.
Question: On Lebanon, in previous statements, the Secretary-General had been keen to mention his support for the Lebanese Government. In this statement, the Government is not mentioned. Can you elaborate on that? Was this for any particular reason?
Spokesperson: Well, Prime Minister Sinora’s Government is the democratically elected Government of the country, and the Secretary-General supports the democratic process in Lebanon. We think it is important that on Lebanon, we have all agreed, several times, that all Lebanese communities need to be represented and feel represented in the Government. We continue to call on all parties to return to the table of national dialogue and work toward national reconciliation. That would be the statement.
Question: Does the Secretary-General see a direct link between the timing of the pre-planned donor meeting and the demonstrations, strikes and unrest right now in Lebanon?
Spokesperson: Well, all I can tell you is that the Secretary-General is going to the meeting, and we hope that the people who are now in Lebanon will be able to make it to the meeting.
Question: You mean…
Spokesperson: Prime Minister Sinora and Geir Pedersen are both in Beirut right now and cannot get out at this point.
Question: Does he expect to also meet with members of the opposition who don’t recognize the legitimacy of the Sinora Government?
Spokesperson: This is what Geir Pedersen, who is the Special Representative, is doing. And Mr. Pedersen will meet with the Secretary-General, and he will be at the reconstruction conference, so I’m sure he will be relaying to Secretary-General Ban, the results of his contacts.
Question: But does he see a direct link between the timing of those two events?
Spokesperson: He has expressed no opinion on this.
Question: A follow-up on Darfur: the Secretary-General has said that it’s one of his top priorities. What will he specifically be taking to President Al-Bashir?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, there is a UN-AU plan – clearly expressed in phases – for Darfur. This is still on the table and being discussed. And I think what we’re going to see is how fast the different phases can be implemented.
Question: Secondly, Sudan is a candidate for the Presidency of the AU, and some are suggesting that that should be opposed with the conflict going on. Is that something that the Secretary-General would take a position on?
Spokesperson: No. That is something the AU members will take a decision on.
Question: Michèle, do you have a day-by-day itinerary for the Secretary-General’s trip? In particular, what are the exact dates of the Lebanon reconstruction conference in Paris?
Spokesperson: The reconstruction conference is on Thursday in Paris. The Secretary-General will first go to Brussels to meet different officials there…
Question: Yes, but do you have it in writing, or in the form of a bulletin that we can have?
Spokesperson: We’ll try to get you more details.
Question: The Doha Round of World Trade discussions have been at an impasse for a long time now over the issue of agricultural subsidies, and there are indications that they may resume. Is the Secretary-General encouraging their speedy resumption?
Spokesperson: Oh, definitely. He has talked about the Doha Round and he has spoken in favour of the resumption of those talks, yes, he has.
Question: The Lebanese Government now does not represent 50 per cent of the population. How can the donor countries -- with the United Nations encouraging them -– entrust this Government with additional loans, when, at the end of the day, the debts would be incurred by the Lebanese people, who, based on past experience, will not benefit? They have just accumulated more than $45 billion in debt – over 220 per cent of GDP -– and still they are giving them more loans. Is it for the United Nations to support meetings such as the Paris III conference?
Spokesperson: Well, the United Nations is dealing with an elected Government.
Comment: But you said yourself that it does not represent a large portion of Lebanese society.
Spokesperson: Did I say that?
Comment: That was what was extracted…
Spokesperson: I don’t think I said that.
Question: You said that all sects had to “feel represented”.
Spokesperson: Yes, I said that.
Question: So obviously, these people who are in the streets, more than 50 per cent of the Lebanese people, don’t feel they are represented there. So why would the United Nations support such a Government, which has a long history of corruption, evidently from the debt it has incurred? Do you support corrupt Governments?
Spokesperson: We are dealing with the Government that is there. If the Lebanese people want to change Governments, that’s an internal matter for the Lebanese themselves.
Question: Can we go back to Darfur? Are there any new ideas? It’s clear that the Sudanese are definitely hesitating on anything other than a little bit of logistic help. And so far, the Secretary-General/ [Jan] Eliasson plan looks like the “ Darfur light”. Is there any plan at the African Union to put pressure on Sudan’s Arab neighbours, who have been very, very silent on this peacekeeping issue?
Spokesperson: I have to say that the Secretary-General is having very wide-ranging contacts on this, Evelyn. A number of bilaterals will take place during the AU Summit and he is hoping for progress on Darfur. Now, how much progress will we have? Well, we don’t know at this point. I think you will find out as soon as we get some conclusion…he has already stated to make contacts, as I said. He spoke with President Al-Bashir. He also spoke with [African Union Commission] Chairman Konare today, and there will be a number of contacts initiated around the AU meeting and we should have more on this pretty soon.
Question: So it’s not just the Darfur light plan, but also the peace negotiations?
Question: I don’t know if anything was formally decided while I was away. On the monthly lunch today, why is there no television stakeout? There used to be. Is it that the Secretary-General doesn’t want to talk today?
Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has a number of press briefings scheduled for the next few days, practically on an everyday basis. He is on a very tight schedule today and that’s what it is…
Question: Well, I know there’ll be briefings when he’s on the road, but…
Spokesperson: Yes. But he will certainly give a briefing when he comes back…
Question: So, it is going to be policy that he will not be doing luncheon stakeouts?
Spokesperson: No, no. It’s not policy, Richard. This is just today, which happens to be very busy for the Secretary-General.
Comment: Well, there are a lot of issues that are going on in the UN and the large-and-getting-larger UN press corps has not seen him for a while and it would not be a bad day for him to stop and talk about those issues…
Spokesperson: Yes, well, we talked a lot about those issues while you were away, and I’m sure the Secretary-General will keep on talking about them. Even if I am not here, you will have someone who will relay to you all the information we get on the road.
Question: Well, there’s a big difference between the Secretary-General and these other people. We’re talking about today. The other thing is that he had talked about the fact that he had selected a Deputy Secretary-General -– while she was interviewing him, he was interviewing her without her knowing it. I am curious: in choosing you as his Spokeswoman, when you were at UN Radio, how many times, if ever, did you interview him over the years?
Spokesperson: (laughter) No. I met with his team.
Question: But you never interviewed him?
Spokesperson: As a journalist? Yes.
Question: You did?
Question: Several times?
Question: On Darfur, you were talking before about the country donations – or lack thereof – to the second phase of the Darfur package. Is there anything new on that? Are there any new contributions?
Spokesperson: No. We don’t have anything new on this.
Question: Is it basically that there is no contribution whatsoever outside the Bangladeshi contingent?
Spokesperson: No, we don’t have anything new at this point. We’ll let you know as more comes in. I just wanted to let you know that the Security Council has adjourned and the resolution on Nepal has passed. And the President of the Security Council will be at the Security Council stakeout following this briefing.
Question: In terms of new appointments or reappointments under Ban Ki-moon, has anything been done about the post of Special Envoy on UN Reform, held by Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga under Secretary-General Kofi Annan?
Spokesperson: No. There have been no appointments announced for the different SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] posts, or the USG [Under-Secretary-General], ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] posts. As you know the restructuring project is now in front of different members of the General Assembly. As long as this has not passed, there won’t be any further appointments, I don’t think. We might have some, but at this point. I don’t think we’ll have any major appointments right now.
Question: How many journalists are accompanying the Secretary-General on his trip, and how was it paid for? By the UN or through their agencies?
Spokesperson: Their agencies pay for the trip. The only thing the UN is paying for is their transportation from Paris through Africa and back to Amsterdam. And there are 22 journalists going with the Secretary-General.
Question: And the UN pays for that?
Spokesperson: No, the UN does not pay for that.
Question: Well, the UN pays for their travel from Paris through…
Spokesperson: It’s a UN plane. They pay for their hotels and all other incidentals.
Any other questions? Thank you very much.
Posted: Jan 25 2007, 03:54 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
5624th Meeting* (AM)
world community cannot afford another year like 2006 in middle east,
Says Under-Secretary-General, briefing Security Council
Ibrahim Gambari Says Recent Months Marked by Instability, Suffering,
Combined with Renewed International Urgency to Find Political Way Forward
Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council this morning, saying, “None of us can afford another year like the last one in Lebanon and the Middle East.”
The period since the former Secretary-General’s final report to the Council in early December, he continued, had been marked by heightened levels of instability and suffering, combined with a renewed sense of international urgency to find a political way ahead. Underscoring the “clear priority” of a resumed political process between Israel and the Palestinians, he said solutions were urgently needed also to the political impasses among the Palestinians and in Lebanon. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had encouraged leaders in both contexts to overcome their difficulties and move forward in the best interests of their people.
For many Lebanese, ugly spectres of the past had again begun to emerge, he said, stressing the shared responsibility of all sides to resolve their political differences peacefully through the democratic process in order to spare their populations further anxiety, insecurity and turmoil. The Secretary-General was attending today’s “Paris III” Conference, where he would reiterate strong support for Lebanon and urge redoubled efforts by all sides to return to dialogue and break the paralysing political impasse.
Noting that the demonstrations starting in Beirut on 1 December had been largely peaceful until 23 January, he said events two days ago had shown how easily political tensions could spill over into violence. There was great concern regarding those risks and their effect on Lebanon’s stability and security. The United Nations remained in contact with all parties encouraging an early return to dialogue and supported continuing efforts, including those of the League of Arab States, to bring the leaders to compromise and consensus.
General stability had returned to southern Lebanon due to the deployment of the enhanced United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces, which continued to enjoy a high level of cooperation, he said. The Lebanese Army was playing a crucial role in the south, in Beirut and elsewhere in the country, which underscored the importance of timely support for the army, as promised by the international community.
While UNIFIL also continued to maintain good relations with the Israel Defense Forces, that country’s violations of Lebanese airspace continued, he said. Civilians continued to be killed and injured by the cluster munitions dropped on Lebanon during last year’s conflict. The United Nations was continuing to identify and remove unexploded ordnance in the south, and at least 840 individual cluster strike locations had been identified to date, each containing up to hundreds of individual bomblets or sub-munitions.
Turning to Israeli-Palestinian developments, he said both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been working hard to ease tensions and move towards resuming political dialogue. The ceasefire in Gaza, agreed to at the end of November, remained in place, although militants had fired more than 104 rockets into southern Israel in the past two months, according to Israeli officials. To its credit, the Israeli Government had shown considerable restraint in the face of those attacks.
However, the ceasefire had not been extended to the West Bank and operations to arrest or kill wanted Palestinians continued regularly, he said. During the reporting period, 28 Palestinians had been killed and more than 130 injured in Israeli military operations, while 10 Israelis had been injured by Palestinian militants. Egypt continued to lead efforts for the release of the Israeli corporal captured last summer and of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, but they had yet to yield results.
Nevertheless, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert had met on 23 December and agreed to revive the joint committees established in the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, he said. The Prime Minister had also undertaken to transfer to the President’s office $100 million of the more than half a billion dollars withheld by Israel; to intensify the upgrading of crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel; and to ease checkpoint procedures in the West Bank while removing a number of roadblocks. However, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had reported only a modest easing in the operation of a few West Bank checkpoints and the anticipated removal of roadblocks had yet to be observed.
Furthermore, the Government of Israel had approved the repopulation of a settlement deep in the Jordan Valley, in violation of the Road Map, he said. While that decision had been put on hold after international protests, settlement activity continued, and the number of West Bank settlers, excluding those in East Jerusalem, had increased by nearly 6 per cent since 2005. Moreover, the Government’s pledges to remove outposts remained unfulfilled, and the construction of the barrier on the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.
He said the evolving Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was complicated by the internal political situation in both the Occupied Palestinian Territory, where factional tensions had risen to acute levels in mid-December and early January, and Israel. A total of 43 people had been killed in Palestinian-on-Palestinian conflict during the reporting period, nearly double the number killed by Israeli military operations. In Israel, political scandals and other developments underscored the coalition Government’s difficulties in forging and implementing a clear agenda. The Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff had resigned and an official inquiry into the conduct of last summer’s conflict with Hizbollah continued.
Reporting on regional and international engagement in the region, he noted that the United States Secretary of State had recently announced her commitment to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the importance of a revitalized Quartet. The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy had visited the region last week and the Secretary-General would attend a meeting of the Quartet Principals ( United Nations, United States, European Union and the Russian Federation) on 2 February in Washington, D.C. In addition, the Government of Syria had called publicly for resumed negotiations with Israel, while, on 16 January, the Israeli press had published understandings for a peace agreement between the two countries, arrived at through a private initiative. However, both Governments had strongly denied any official connection.
Prospects for a wider regional dialogue must be cautiously monitored and the door should remain open to discussions that might lead towards a wider, regional and comprehensive peace, he stressed. The Secretary-General had discussed with many interlocutors both the existing opportunities to make genuine strides towards peace and the very real obstacles that must be overcome. He considered next week’s Quartet meeting as an important opportunity to chart a way towards revitalizing the peace process and implementing all relevant Security Council resolutions.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.
Briefing the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, since former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s briefing in December 2006, there had been a period of heightened levels of instability and suffering, combined with a renewed sense of international urgency to find a political way ahead. In addition to senior-level contacts at the international level and the proposed meeting of the Quartet for 2 February in Washington, D.C., as well as a possible tripartite meeting of President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he was also encouraged by reports that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would be meeting President Abbas in Davos. The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council had also been engaged in the search for a renewed and credible dialogue towards a resolution of that intractable conflict.
He said that both President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert had been working hard to try to ease tensions and move towards a resumption of political dialogue. The ceasefire agreed at the end of November in Gaza remained in place, although, according to Israeli officials, militants had fired more than 104 rockets into southern Israel during the past two months. In the face of those attacks, the Israeli Government, to its credit, had shown considerable restraint. Despite its flaws, the ceasefire had significantly reduced violence, and he encouraged the parties to build on it. However, it had not extended to the West Bank, where operations to arrest or kill wanted Palestinians continued on a regular basis in West Bank population centres. During the reporting period, 28 Palestinians were killed and more than 130 had been injured in Israeli military operations, while 10 Israelis had been injured by Palestinian militants.
Efforts led by Egypt were continuing on an arrangement to secure the release of the Israeli corporal captured last summer and of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, but those had yet to yield results, he noted. Nevertheless, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert had met on 23 December 2006 in Jerusalem, where they had agreed to revive the joint committees established in the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings and to resume the work of the quadripartite security committee between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the United States. Prime Minister Olmert had also undertaken to transfer to the Office of President Abbas $100 million of the more than a half billion dollars of Palestinian clearance revenues being withheld by Israel; to intensify efforts to upgrade the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel; and to ease procedures at a number of checkpoints in the West Bank and remove several roadblocks.
He said that implementation of those understandings had proceeded slowly. Israel, in the past few days, had transferred the $100 million. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had reported a modest easing of the operation of a few West Bank checkpoints, but the anticipated removal of roadblocks had yet to be observed. Access and movement should be improved. During the first 16 days of 2007, the average exports out of Karni stood at approximately 46 trucks a day. That represented an improving trend, but still reflected only 11 per cent of the target of 400 per day. He encouraged further progress in the regard. In the same period, Rafah had been opened primarily for pilgrims for only 32 per cent of the scheduled opening hours. Finally, there had been no discernable improvement in movement for Palestinians in the West Bank. According to OCHA, the number of barriers currently on the ground -- 527 -- represented a 25 per cent increase over the course of 2006.
The Government of Israel had approved the repopulation of a settlement deep in the Jordan Valley by 30 families evacuated from Gaza in 2005; such a relocation was in violation of the Road Map, he said. The decision was to put that on hold after international protests, but settlement activity continued, and the number of West Bank settlers, excluding in East Jerusalem, had increased by nearly 6 per cent since 2005. Moreover, the Government’s pledges to remove outposts remained unfulfilled, and the construction of the barrier on the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued, despite the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The evolving Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was complicated by the internal political situation in both the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.
In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said, the pendulum had swung between worsening civil conflict and renewed efforts to forge national unity. Factional tension had risen to acute levels in mid-December and again in early January. Deplorable incidents had included: the killing of three children as they were being taken to school; a shootout between gunmen at the Rafah terminal as Prime Minister Haniyeh returned from a regional tour; and a siege on the home of an official in Gaza, killing the official and several others. In total, 43 had been killed in Palestinian-on-Palestinian internal conflict during the reporting period -- nearly double the number killed by Israeli military operations.
He said that internal violence had been accompanied by heightened and negative political rhetoric and threats, and strengthening of factional forces. President Abbas had announced that the Hamas-affiliated Executive Special Force, under the Ministry of Interior, was illegal unless immediately integrated into existing security services. Tensions had also flared in late December, and the President had called for early presidential and parliamentary elections unless agreement was reached on a National Unity Government. Nevertheless, each time factional fighting had threatened to spin out of control, President Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had reached understandings to de-escalate tensions.
Efforts to form a Palestinian National Unity Government had resumed, involving dialogue in Gaza, as well as in Damascus, he continued. It appeared the main issues of disagreement were over control of the interior ministry and the strength of the language concerning the commitment to Arab and international resolutions. While refusing to countenance recognition of Israel, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashal recently told news outlets that Israel’s existence was a reality and that, with the formation of a Palestinian State on the 4 June 1967 borders, “‘there will remain a State called Israel, this is a matter of fact’”.
He said that President Abbas had recently met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and subsequently met Khaled Mashal. A joint statement issued after that meeting had stated that progress had been made towards a National Unity Government; the leaders had called for an end to internal fighting. The statement had also rejected the concept of an interim Palestinian State with provisional borders. President Abbas had subsequently reaffirmed that early elections remained on the table if a National Unity Government was not formed.
On the Israeli side, he said that several political scandals and other developments had underscored the difficulties the Coalition Government was facing in forging and implementing a clear agenda. The Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Dan Halutz, resigned, and an official inquiry into the conduct of last summer’s war with Hizbollah continued. The campaign for Labour Party Chairman, the junior coalition partner, was under way in preparation for primaries in May. Several senior ministers had discussed publicly their views and plans on how to carry forward a political process. That had highlighted both a growing Israeli interest in addressing the conflict through negotiations and internal divisions over how to do so.
He reported that regional and international leaders had intensified their engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. There had been consultations among several countries in the region, and the Syrian Government had publicly called in recent months for a resumption of talks with Israel. On 16 January, the Israeli press published understandings for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria, which had been arrived at through a private initiative. However, both Governments had strongly denied any official connection with that initiative.
It was exactly one year today since Palestinian legislative elections had brought the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to power, leading to a reassessment of donor programmes and the cessation of financial transfers by Israel. However, international aid to the Palestinians had actually increased, except that it was mostly bypassing the Palestinian Government. Total assistance to Palestinians last year -- not including funds channelled to the Palestinian Authority Government or Hamas by regional donors -- had been some $1.2 billion, which represented a nearly 10 per cent increase over 2005. Humanitarian assistance alone had doubled since 2004, taking mainly the form of food aid and cash-for-work programmes. However, real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita had declined by at least 8 per cent in the past year, and poverty levels had increased by 30 per cent. Public institutions built up by the international community had been severely weakened by a lack of operational funds, energy shortages and military damage.
The worsening situation on the ground had underscored the limits of what international assistance could accomplish, he said. Without greater freedom of access and movement, and without a political process that was carrying the parties towards a two-State solution, the most aid could do was contain, for a limited time, the spread of grievances and instability. The experience of the past year showed that that type of investment brought rapidly diminishing returns.
Turning to Lebanon, he said that the Secretary-General was today attending the “Paris III” Conference, where he would be reiterating the United Nations strong support for Lebanon and urging redoubled efforts by all sides to return to dialogue and break the paralysing political impasse. The demonstrations that had started in Beirut on 1 December 2006 had been largely peaceful until last Tuesday, 23 January. Following a call from the opposition for a general strike, thousands of Lebanese from opposing political factions had faced each other, often violently, on the streets. Few regions of the country had been spared by the unrest that had led to at least three dead and more than 100 injured -- some very seriously. Major roads throughout the country had been effectively blocked by burning tyres and earth barriers. A tense calm had returned to Beirut yesterday, following the decision by the opposition to suspend the strike, but tensions remained high. However, the opposition had stated that further escalation would occur unless the Government acceded to its demands.
He said that general stability had returned to southern Lebanon due to the deployment of the enhanced United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces, which continued to have a high level of cooperation. Civilians continued to be killed and injured, however, by the cluster munitions dropped on Lebanon during last year’s conflict. In December 2006, incidents led to the death of three people and the injury of 21 others, including five children and two Belgian peacekeepers. The United Nations was continuing its programme to identify and remove unexploded ordnance in southern Lebanon. As of today, at least 840 individual cluster strike locations had been identified, each strike location containing up to hundreds of individual bomblets or sub-munitions.
The Secretary-General had designated Major General Claudio Graziano of Italy as UNIFIL Force Commander to succeed Major General Alain Pellegrini, he noted. The handover ceremony was scheduled for 2 February.
“None of us can afford another year like the last one in Lebanon and the Middle East,” he stressed. Therefore, a resumed political process between Israel and the Palestinians was a clear priority. The Secretary-General encouraged the two leaders to build on their progress to date by implementing agreements and by starting to address the fundamental issues of the conflict. Solutions were urgently needed to the political impasses, both among the Palestinians and in Lebanon. The Secretary-General encouraged leaders in both contexts to overcome their differences and find a way to move forward, which served the best interests of their people. Lebanon, as its people knew all too well, could ill afford any further deterioration. For many Lebanese, ugly spectres of the past had begun to emerge. All sides had a shared responsibility to resolve their political differences through the democratic process and in a peaceful manner, in order to spare their populations further anxiety, insecurity and turmoil.
He said that prospects for a wider regional dialogue must also be cautiously monitored, and the door should remain open to discussions that might lead to a wider, regional and comprehensive peace. The Secretary-General had discussed with many interlocutors both the opportunities that now existed to make genuine strides towards peace and the very real obstacles. He considered next week’s Quartet meeting an important opportunity to chart a way forward to re-energizing the peace process and implementing all relevant Security Council resolutions.
Posted: Jan 26 2007, 04:07 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
Secretary-General welcomes adoption of General Assembly resolution,
Says Denial of historical facts, such as holocaust, unacceptable
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General welcomes the adoption by the General Assembly today of a resolution unequivocally condemning any denial of the Holocaust. This reflects the prevailing view of the international community. The Secretary-General reiterates his conviction that the denial of historical facts such as the Holocaust is unacceptable. He expresses his strong desire to see this fundamental principle respected both in rhetoric and in practice.
Posted: Jan 26 2007, 04:09 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
Secretary-General condemns killing of Indian peacekeeper in sudan,
Demands swift investigation
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General condemns the killing earlier today of an UNMIS Indian peacekeeper, who was shot dead by unidentified attackers when the demining team he was escorting came under fire near Magwe in Southern Sudan. Two other UNMIS Indian peacekeepers were injured in the incident.
The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the Government of India and to the family of the deceased soldier and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured. He demands a swift investigation into this incident and calls on all Sudanese parties to fully cooperate with the United Nations.
Posted: Jan 29 2007, 05:23 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
SECRETARY-GENERAL DESCRIBES ‘USEFUL AND CONSTRUCTIVE’ DISCUSSION WITH SUDAN’S
PRESIDENT, STRESSES URGENCY OF RE-ENERGIZED POLITICAL PROCESS IN DARFUR
The following statement by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was issued today by his Spokesperson:
I met with President Omer Al-Bashir of the Sudan for about one and half hours to discuss in a useful and constructive manner political and security developments in the Sudan and in particular in Darfur.
We agreed to accelerate joint African Union-United Nations efforts for the political process and the preparation for a peacekeeping mission, based on the Abuja and Addis Ababa agreements. He reiterated his Government’s commitment to implement these agreements.
I reiterated the UN’s strong commitment to the political process in the Sudan, emphasizing the centrality of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the importance of its timely and effective implementation.
I expressed my deep concerns over the continuing violence and deteriorating human rights situation in Darfur, which afflicts millions of people. I urged President Al-Bashir, as I urge all parties, to cease hostilities, as an essential foundation for a successful peace process and humanitarian access. President Al-Bashir agreed to facilitate such access and expressed willingness to cooperate with international efforts towards that end.
I stressed the urgency of a re-energized political process in Darfur. In that context, I informed President Al-Bashir that I had agreed with Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare on a joint mission of my Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and African Union Envoy Salim A. Salim to Khartoum and Darfur in early February to support peacemaking efforts. President Al-Bashir welcomed this mission.
I recalled my letter of 24 January, presenting the heavy support package for peacekeeping agreed with the African Union. I look forward to a prompt and positive answer to this joint proposal. This will pave the way for the early deployment of a hybrid mission.
Posted: Jan 30 2007, 06:42 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
5626th Meeting* (AM)
Security Council extends Ethiopia and Eritrea mission until 31 July 2007,
Unanimously adopting resolution 1741 (2007)
Demands: Ethiopia Accept Boundary Decision; Eritrea Withdraw Troops
From Temporary Security Zone, Lift Restrictions on United Nations Movement
The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) for six months, until 31 July 2007.
It took that action by its unanimous adoption of resolution 1741 (2007), by which it also approved the reconfiguration of UNMEE’s military component, from the current 2,300 to 1,700 military personnel, including 230 military observers. The Council decided also to maintain the Mission’s current mandate and maximum authorized force levels and stressed the need to preserve sufficient military capacity for UNMEE to implement its mandate.
The Council reiterated its demand that Ethiopia accept fully and without delay the final and binding decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, and take immediate concrete steps to enable, without preconditions, the complete demarcation of the border between the two countries. It demanded also that Eritrea immediately withdraw its troops and equipment from the Temporary Security Zone, and reiterated its demand that it reverse, without further delay or preconditions, all restrictions on UNMEE’s movement and operations, including those of the Secretary-General’s acting Special Representative, and provide the Mission with the access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties.
Reiterating its call that the parties show maximum restraint and refrain from any threat or use of force against each other, the Council called upon them to cooperate fully with the Boundary Commission, stressing their primary responsibility for implementing the Algiers Agreements. It called again upon them to implement without further delay or preconditions the Boundary Commission’s decision and to take concrete steps to complete the demarcation process.
The Council demanded that the parties provide UNMEE with the necessary access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties, including its mandated task to assist the Boundary Commission in the expeditious and orderly implementation of the Delimitation Decision, in accordance with resolutions 1430 (2002) and 1466 (2003), and demanded the immediate lifting of any restrictions.
Calling upon the Secretary-General and the international community to help Eritrea and Ethiopia normalize their relations, to promote stability between them, and to lay the foundation for sustainable peace in the region, the Council called also upon Member States to provide contributions to the Trust Fund established pursuant to resolution 1177 (1998) in order to support the demarcation process.
This morning’s meeting began at10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:15 a.m.
The full text of resolution 1741 (2007) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Reaffirming all its previous resolutions and statements pertaining to the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea (hereinafter referred to as “the parties”) and the requirements contained therein, including in particular resolutions 1320 (2000), 1430 (2002), 1466 (2003), 1640 (2005), 1681 (2006) and 1710 (2006),
“Stressing its unwavering commitment to the peace process, and to the full and expeditious implementation of the Algiers Agreements, and the importance of prompt implementation of the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (S/2002/423) as a basis for peaceful and cooperative relations between the parties,
“Reaffirming the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) as provided for in the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities of 18 June 2000 (S/2000/601) and recalling the objectives of its establishment and the commitment of the parties to respect the TSZ,
“Commending the efforts made by the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and its military and civilian personnel to accomplish its duties, despite the difficult circumstances,
“Stressing further that the full demarcation of the border between the two parties is vital to lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as in the region, recalling that both parties have agreed to accept the delimitation and demarcation determinations of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) as final and binding, commending the efforts of the EEBC to resume demarcation, and expressing its regret that the EEBC, for reasons beyond its control as explained in the Annexes of the report of the Secretary-General of 22 January 2007 (S/2007/33), has so far been unable to complete demarcation of the boundary as planned,
“Expressing its full support for the work of the EEBC and acknowledging the Statement of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) of 27 November 2006,
“Having considered the Special report of the Secretary-General of 15 December 2006 (S/2006/992) and the options on the future of UNMEE contained therein, and taking note of the report of the Secretary-General of 22 January 2007 (S/2007/33),
“Recalling paragraph 7 of resolution 1710 (2006),
“1. Decides to extend the mandate of UNMEE for a period of six months, until 31 July 2007;
“2. Approves the reconfiguration of UNMEE’s military component, from the current 2,300 to 1,700 military personnel, including 230 military observers, in accordance with option I, as described in paragraphs 24 and 25 of the Special report of the Secretary-General (S/2006/992), decides to maintain the current mandate and maximum authorized force levels, as stipulated in resolution 1320 (2000) and further adjusted in resolutions 1430 (2002) and 1681 (2006), and stresses the need to preserve sufficient military capacity for UNMEE to implement its mandate;
“3. Reiterates its demand expressed in paragraph 5 of resolution 1640 (2005) that Ethiopia accept fully and without delay the final and binding decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission and take immediately concrete steps to enable, without preconditions, the Commission to demarcate the border completely and promptly;
“4. Demands that Eritrea immediately withdraw its troops and equipment from the Temporary Security Zone;
“5. Reiterates its demand expressed in paragraph 1 of resolution 1640 (2005) that Eritrea reverse, without further delay or preconditions, all restrictions on UNMEE’s movement and operations, noting that these include the movement and operations of the acting SRSG, and provide UNMEE with the access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties;
“6. Reiterates its call expressed in paragraph 2 of resolution 1640 (2005) that the parties show maximum restraint and refrain from any threat or use of force against each other;
“7. Regrets the lack of progress on demarcation, calls upon both parties to cooperate fully with the EEBC, stresses that the parties have primary responsibility for the implementation of the Algiers Agreements, and calls again upon the parties to implement completely and without further delay or preconditions the decision of the EEBC and to take concrete steps to resume and complete the demarcation process;
“8. Demands that the parties provide UNMEE with the necessary access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties, including its mandated task to assist the EEBC in the expeditious and orderly implementation of the Delimitation Decision, in accordance with resolutions 1430 (2002) and 1466 (2003) and demands that any restrictions be lifted immediately;
“9. Calls upon the Secretary-General and the international community to engage with Eritrea and Ethiopia to help them to normalize their relations, to promote stability between the parties, and to lay the foundation for sustainable peace in the region;
“10. Expresses its willingness to reconsider any changes to UNMEE in light of subsequent progress toward demarcation, and its readiness to take further decisions to ensure that UNMEE will be able to facilitate demarcation as progress becomes possible;
“11. Calls on Member States to provide contributions to the Trust Fund, established pursuant to resolution 1177 (1998) and referred to in article 4 (17) of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea on 12 December 2000, in order to support the demarcation process;
“12. Expresses its deep appreciation for the contribution and dedication of the troop-contributing countries to the work of UNMEE;
“13. Requests the Secretary-General to include in his next progress report due by the end of April 2007, details of the progress made towards the implementation of this resolution and the implementation of the EEBC decision;
“14. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”
Before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea (document S/2007/33) dated 22 January 2007, in which he recommends a further six-month extension of UNMEE, noting that the “ongoing and dangerous” stalemate in the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process remains a source of “deep concern”. The impasse has the potential to not only lead to renewed hostilities between the two nations, but to destabilize the wider region, especially given the recent developments in neighbouring Somalia.
He observes that neither side has indicated any willingness to break the stalemate, with Ethiopia continuing to refuse to implement the binding decisions of the Boundary Commission, and Eritrea maintaining its troop presence in the Temporary Security Zone along the border and its restrictions on UNMEE’s operations. Ethiopia’s refusal to implement, fully and without preconditions, the Boundary Commission’s demarcation of the border contradicts the terms of the Algiers Agreement signed by both parties following their two-year border war in the late 1990s. In addition, at least 2,000 Eritrean troops are positioned inside the Temporary Security Zone with tanks, rocket launchers and guns, while the Eritrean Government maintains a ban on United Nations helicopter flights.
While strongly urging the Eritrean Government to withdraw its troops and military equipment from the Temporary Security Zone, the Secretary-General warns that both parties need to do much more than settle their border issue if they are to establish sustainable peace and reconciliation. While the establishment of an internationally recognized border is essential, it is not sufficient to create sustainable peace and reconciliation between the two countries. “The two Governments need to take the political decision to put the conflict behind them, for the sake of their own people, and move forward in a number of other areas that would help them to normalize relations.”
Also before the Council was the special report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea (document S/2006/992) dated 15 December 2006, in which he notes that it has been more than six years since the establishment of UNMEE by resolution 1320 (2000) and more than five years since the Temporary Security Zone was set up in April 2001. On 13 April 2002, the Boundary Commission rendered its delimitation decision, mandating it to proceed to the expeditious and full demarcation of the border.
Noting that the commitment to the peace process demonstrated by the parties at the time gave hope for a definitive resolution of their border dispute within a relatively short time, the special report says the parties’ cooperation with the Commission was not only assumed, but essential to the implementation of the delimitation decision. However, that cooperation has progressively waned since 2003.
The report notes that, in that year Ethiopia, in response to the Commission’s decision, emphasized “the necessity of conducting the demarcation in a manner that takes into account the human and physical geography through the study of facts on the ground”. With respect to Eritrea, cooperation began to deteriorate as harsh, humiliating impediments were placed on the work of UNMEE and its staff, which also affected the Boundary Commission’s work on the ground.
Despite the engagement and efforts of the international community, the parties have demonstrated no political will for compromise, the special report states. Ethiopia’s refusal to implement the Boundary Commission’s award fully, and without precondition, is contrary to widely accepted principles of international law. At the same time, in the absence of dialogue between the parties, and their failure to cooperate with the Commission, Eritrea’s refusal to avail itself of the recent diplomatic initiatives and the massive incursion of its troops into the Temporary Security Zone, tension on the ground has remained very high. That country’s imposition of deliberately humiliating restrictions on UNMEE’s operations have called into question the Mission’s continued relevance and exacerbated the tension in the border area.
At the same time, the report says, the combined effect of the crippling Eritrean restriction represents a serious challenge to several core principles of United Nations peacekeeping, particularly the safety of its personnel and the need for freedom of movement, the exclusively international character of the personnel working under the Organization’s flag and the Secretary-General’s prerogative to appoint the required staff. UNMEE has had to operate under unacceptable conditions for far too long and to continue to do so could have potentially serious implications for the wider concept of peacekeeping.
In the very precarious circumstances, UNMEE can regrettably ensure only a very limited observation of the security arrangements in the Temporary Security Zone and other commitments under the Algiers Agreement, according to the report. The Mission can observe only 40 per cent of the Zone and is no longer in a position to monitor the Eritrean forces in their redeployed positions. At the same time, despite the deliberately negative attitude towards the United Nations operation and individual peacekeepers, their presence and determination remain a political, operational and psychological obstacle to any precipitous action from either army.
This factor remains an impediment for those who would want the situation to escalate even further, with possible consequences for both countries and overall security in the region, the report notes, adding that the Secretary-General welcomes the Boundary Commission’s decision of 27 November to give the parties an additional 12 months to reflect on their respective positions and try to reach the necessary agreement on the emplacement of the border pillars. If there is no progress in the coming months towards the carrying out of the Commission’s recommendation, the Council could then consider converting the United Nations operation into an observer or liaison mission.
Posted: Feb 1 2007, 06:58 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN KENYA, 30-31 JANUARY
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by his wife Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Nairobi, Kenya from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday afternoon, 30 January. They immediately visited Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa.
He was escorted by UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Anna Tibaijuka, through a section of the crowded Kibera slum named Soweto East -- after the well-known township in South Africa -- and witnessed first-hand extreme urban poverty in Africa.
He told the inhabitants that he felt “very much humbled” by what he saw.
The Secretary-General said he would work towards improving living conditions, education, water and sanitation and housing, adding, “All these are challenges that we must overcome.”
“This is not the only place, I know. There are many other billions of people suffering from lack of affordable housing -- all the facilities which make our life decent,” he said. Referring to the Millennium Development Goals, he said that “we must work together and generate political will to have a smooth implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and I will work very closely, and harder than before”.
On Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki at the Statehouse. They discussed the partnership between the United Nations and Kenya, the Sudan, the Great Lakes region and the situation faced by Somali refugees.
After that, he went to the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi and addressed a closed meeting of the Staff Management Consultative Committee, which brings together representatives of about 38,000 staff from all duty stations. He also spoke to a packed Town Hall meeting with hundreds of United Nations staff in Nairobi.
The Secretary-General left Nairobi that night for The Hague, the last leg of his trip to Europe and Africa.
Posted: Feb 2 2007, 03:12 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES FINDINGS OF WORKING GROUP ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General welcomes the important findings of the Working Group 1 contribution of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released today in Paris. The report highlights the scientific consensus regarding the quickening and threatening pace of human-induced climate change. The global response therefore needs to move much more rapidly as well, and with more determination. The Secretary-General congratulates the panel of independent climate scientists and experts, who have deepened our understanding of the changes that are affecting the global environment and the human causes at their root.
Today’s study, and the follow-up reports of the IPCC during 2007, will be critical guides for the United Nations response to anthropogenic climate change, and undoubtedly will assist many other stakeholders in taking actions at the global, national and local levels.
Posted: Feb 5 2007, 05:11 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
Note to Correspondents
CONFERENCE AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS ON 9 FEBRUARY TO ASSESS
HOW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IMPROVES OUR LIVES
The way information technology can improve the lives of all generations will be the theme of an international conference to be held at the United Nations (Conference Room 3) on Friday, 9 February.
The meeting, on “Age of Connectivity: Cities, Magnets of Hope”, will showcase how virtual communities and social networking can enhance the quality of life in cities. It will explore the way information and communication technology can boost economic development and permit lifelong learning and employment in our “age of longevity”. Participants include experts on urban planning and development, information and communication technology, finance, government, business and health.
The morning keynote speaker, Liston D. Bochette, Secretary-General of the World Olympians Association and five-time Olympic athlete, will examine how information and communication technology tools can address the complexities of city environments. Motto Kusakabe of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will speak about the Open City Portal -- the online tool on information about the services provided by a city or municipality. Peter Mathias, Managing Director of the United-Kingdom-based organization Bridge Research and Development, will examine online self-evaluation as a human development tool. Wojciech Zablocki, professor of architecture, President of Poland’s National Olympians Association and three-time Olympic medallist, will address the impact of the Olympic Games on urban planning.
The afternoon keynote speaker, Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa al Jaber, will examine how connectivity can promote human capacity building. Mr. Al Jaber is UNESCO Special Envoy for Education, Human Rights, Tolerance and Cultures, as well as founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Saudi-based conglomerate MBI International. Ralph Schonenback, Chief Executive Officer of the Swiss global sourcing Trestle Group, will illustrate the pilot project “Empower Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries”, carried out by the Trestle Foundation in cooperation with Microsoft.
Other participants include Andrew Young, former Mayor of Atlanta and co-Chairman of the 1996 Olympic Games; Solomon Boit, Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Local Government; Economic and Social Council President Dalius Cekuolis (Lithuania); Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT); and Dianne Davis, Founding President of the International Council for Caring Communities.
The co-Chairs of the meeting are Professor Dennis Anderson, School of Computer Science and Information Systems, Pace University, and Ramu Damodaran, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information.
The event, held during the annual session of the Commission on Social Development, is part of a series of congresses addressing the “Age of Longevity” held in cities around the globe. It is organized by the International Council for Caring Communities with participants from the World Olympians Association, UN-HABITAT, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Department of Public Information, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
For further information, please visit www.un.org/events/agingcf.htm, or contact Edoardo Bellando at the Department of Public Information, tel. (212) 963 8275, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Feb 7 2007, 02:48 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
The Commission for Social Development met this morning to begin its forty-fifth regular session, which is expected to take up the issues of employment, ageing, disability and youth among its issues of discussion, under the main theme of “Promoting full employment and decent work for all” (for background information, see Press Release SOC/4722 of 1 February).
Commission Chairman MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI ( Iran), in his opening statement, said that social development was not merely a desirable option -- it was a necessity. Social development was considered critical to ensure that people, not economic interests, remained the central focus of overall development efforts. Concern continued to emerge, however, about the costs to society when integral links between poverty eradication, promotion of full employment and fostering of social integration were ignored. Failed efforts to advance those inclusive goals led to inequality of opportunity and made one generation after another fall into poverty.
The commitments made at Copenhagen in 1995 -- reaffirmed at the 10-year review in 2005 -- had charted a course to reverse continued marginalization of major parts of the world’s population. Yet still today, young people without privilege and wealth struggled to get a foothold in the labour market, he stated, and older persons enjoyed less and less security for a lifetime of work. In some countries, 80 per cent of persons with disabilities were without work, and indigenous peoples and migrants continued to face discriminatory treatment in the labour market.
He said that, on a broader level, in today’s increasingly interdependent world, many societies, instead of reaping the benefits of progress, were experiencing alarming increases in the discrepancies between the rich and the poor. That was reflected in the number of the unemployed, which globally stood at around 195 million and climbing. Another aspect was the share of capital in total income, which was on the rise, while wages and worker benefits were on the decline. The gap between rich and poor was also reflected in the “casualization” of the workforce, the abundance of labour supply and even greater mobility of capital. Clearly, those were not isolated trends, and it was important not only to review them, but also to address their root causes.
The priority theme for this and next year’s session of the Commission, “Promoting full employment and decent work for all”, had received a boost from the World Summit Outcome, he said. The Commission’s work had been also enhanced by the Ministerial Declaration adopted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which acknowledged that opportunities for men and women to obtain productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity were essential to eradiate poverty and improve social and economic well-being. During the session, the Commission would also commemorate the adoption five years ago of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. He also wanted to give special recognition to the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Assembly.
“Let us continue, together with our partners in civil society and the wider United Nations system, to strengthen the basic pillars of Copenhagen and the principle of shared social and economic prosperity,” he said. “Let us strive to address the alarming realities of powerlessness that shape the lives of ordinary people by ensuring that they are at the centre of development efforts.”
Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, said that the 2005 World Summit had put full and productive employment and decent work for all at the forefront of the United Nations development agenda. Last July, the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council had also focused on that critical objective and had produced an action-oriented Ministerial Declaration. And, of course, a decade ago, the World Summit for Social Development at Copenhagen had made a major conceptual contribution in stressing the central role of employment in achieving both poverty eradication and social integration. It was thus fitting that the Commission for Social Development, an integral part of the ECOSOC family, would devote its first two-year “implementation cycle” to promoting full employment and decent work for all.
Global performance in promoting employment continued to be disappointing, he continued. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the number of people unemployed worldwide had increased from 140 million to 195 million over the last decade. The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects 2007, launched last month, showed that strong economic growth in 2006 had not led to substantial reductions in unemployment rates. Employment growth had been disappointing in developing countries, even in light of their strong economic performance over the past three years. Unemployment not only remained persistent, but was growing in many, if not most, developing countries. While present in the agricultural sector, where most people worked in the poorest countries, underemployment had also been growing rapidly in the urban sector, in both low- and middle-income countries. For millions of workers, that meant that new jobs, mainly in the informal sector, lay far below any adequate measure of productive work. A total of 1.4 billion people still did not earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the $2-a-day poverty line.
Women and youth continued to suffer higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, he said. Older workers, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants also faced increasing insecurity in the workplace and shrinking opportunities for decent work. The world saw increasing income inequalities, including those between skilled and unskilled workers, as well as regional and urban-rural gaps. There was slow progress in closing the gender gap in employment, wages and working conditions. Labour market changes and adjustments due to intense global competition were taking place worldwide. With the diminishing bargaining power of labour, the declining role of organized labour alongside growing informality, and still weak or weakening social protection systems, the labour market environment had become increasingly insecure. Half the world’s population still did not have access to social protection.
First and foremost, it was necessary to make the full and productive employment and decent work for all a central objective of international policies and national development strategies, he said. It was also important to create an enabling environment at the international and national levels. At the international level, globalization had increased the interdependence among countries, leaving countries limited policy space to increase employment on their own through more expansionary macroeconomic policies. Better coordination of macroeconomic policy among countries was, therefore, needed. In developing countries that had managed to become part of global production systems, through off-shoring and outsourcing, it was important to arrest any “race to the bottom” in labour standards. At the same time, participation in those systems was, for many countries, an important way to attract investment and employment and to increase technological capacities.
At the national level, policies that supported investment, growth and entrepreneurship were also essential, he said. Measures to remove any policy discrimination against the agricultural sector were needed, as well as programmes to enable small agricultural producers to take advantage of opportunities provided by growth. Measures to promote the small-enterprise sector, including cooperatives, were likely to raise employment growth and improve distribution of income. Active labour market policies were needed, including re-training for displaced workers, job search assistance and other measures to facilitate labour mobility. Such programmes could be enhanced by strengthening social dialogue on economic reform and on measures to improve the functioning of labour markets, while preserving essential protection for workers.
Improved social security systems were key elements of a comprehensive approach to eradicating poverty and improving equity. It was also necessary to address the differential impact of such schemes on the family and particularly on women. Given that the majority of the poor in developing countries relied on the informal economy for their employment and survival, policies on formalization should weigh the advantages and disadvantages, as well as the degree of intervention. Finally, the social orientation of employment and poverty reduction strategies should be strengthened to target marginalized and vulnerable groups. The challenges to promoting full employment and decent work for all were daunting, but not insurmountable, and he was confident that the Commission’s deliberations would contribute to the efforts to reach that key development goal.
Turning to the review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action, he said that the fifth anniversary of the Second World Assembly on Ageing, which had taken place in Madrid in 2002, coincided with the beginning of the first cycle of the review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action. That appraisal was expected to reveal, through a “bottom-up” participatory exercise, as well as other methods, the first-hand results of national efforts to address the challenges and opportunities of ageing. That first cycle, in 2007-2008, would also help to determine priorities and concrete measures for its further implementation.
The report of the Secretary-General on the follow-up to the World Programme of Action for Youth addressed the progress achieved and the constraints that young people faced in relation to their participation in the world economy, as well as the progress achieved by the Youth Employment Network and an update on the status of national action plans for youth employment. The report, with its focus on “Youth in the global economy”, bore directly on the session’s priority theme. He also highlighted the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the General Assembly last December -- the first major human rights treaty of the twenty-first century.
Introducing the Commission’s agenda item on follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, JOHAN SCHÖLVINCK, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said three reports had been submitted for the item, including one on the priority theme, “Promoting full employment and decent work for all” (document E/CN.5/2007/2), which focused on key developments and trends in employment and decent work over the past decade and their impact on poverty eradication and social integration.
Highlighting some important facets of the report, he noted that, despite growing economic trends, overall unemployment had increased during the past 10 years, with notable jumps in sub-Saharan Africa and Asian countries still experiencing consequences of that region’s 1997 financial crisis. The relative size of various economic sectors had also shifted during the 1990s. While the industrial sector remained about the same, agriculture had declined and the service sector had grown. He added that another important trend revealed in the report was the movement of people and jobs, both internally and between borders. In all, employment had become less secure -- there was more informal employment, self-employment and short-term contractual employment, and a competitive global marketplace had left even the formal employment workplaces with fewer benefits.
On links to poverty eradication, he said the report found that some of the major economic trends were actually creating roadblocks for poverty reduction initiatives. There was mounting evidence that economic growth was less effective at reducing poverty when inequality was on the rise. Also, trade liberalization, in the absence of other policies, did not necessarily lead to higher growth, and might in fact decrease welfare in the short term. He added that, even though Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) had become key national poverty reduction road maps in many countries, few of those strategies addressed employment and social protection policies directly.
On links to social integration, he said, among other things, that the report had found that, in many respects, the world was less integrated today than it was in 1995. Older persons, youth, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities suffered disproportionately from negative trends in employment such as flexible labour markets, short-term contractual agreements and overall employment insecurity. And despite the attention given to women’s employment status, women’s earnings were substantially lower than men’s, and men and women remained largely segregated in the workplace.
He went on to highlight some of the important features of the other reports before the Commission, including, among others, on the major developments in the area of ageing in the nearly five years since the Second World Assembly on Ageing. That report (document E/CN.5/2007/7) noted the tremendous challenges facing the world’s rapidly ageing populations and observed that the active participation of older persons in society was impossible without protecting their rights and fighting against age-based discrimination and making concerted efforts to empower them.
Regarding “follow-up to the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond,” he said the relevant report (document A/62/62-E/2007/7) covered not only employment but also highlighted pertinent issues such as globalization, education, poverty and hunger -- all critical determinants of the availability of work and sustained livelihoods for youth. He noted that, in response to the Assembly’s call two years ago, the Secretariat, in collaboration with relevant United Nations programmes and agencies, had established a broad set of indicators for measuring progress towards implementation of the Programme of Action for Youth. That had been a first step on the long road to establish data on a set of quantifiable core indicators that could enable stakeholders to measure youth development over time and compare progress within and between countries.
Reporting on yesterday’s Civil Society Forum, “Employment Working for All: Partners in Innovation”, Sister BURKE, Chairperson of the NGO Committee on Social Development, said that the Forum’s participants had decided to use much of the coming intersessional period between this year’s and next year’s meetings to identify effective practices in the priority area of full and productive employment and decent work that could be presented as recommendations for policy consideration during the Commission’s forty-sixth session.
She went on to emphasize civil society’s deep concern about the increasing pattern of jobless growth and poverty. “This is a situation in every part of the globe which cries out to be addressed,” she declared, adding that, without decent work, people lived in great poverty without the ability to provide for the basic needs of those they loved -- their families and children. They also experienced a greater impoverishment -- the dehumanizing experience of being without dignity or a sense of worth. Sighting recent figures from the ILO, she said that some 195 million men and women were unsuccessfully looking for work in 2006, and some 1.4 billion -- half the global workforce -- worked without earning enough to lift themselves above the $2-a-day poverty line.
“It is due time to integrate full and productive employment and decent work throughout the international agenda,” she said, telling the Commission that grass-roots organizations working daily with the jobless poor wanted to join the United Nations efforts to alleviate poverty by promoting decent work. With that in mind, she said that a comprehensive development strategy for poverty reduction should encompass employment and income-generating policies; social dialogue and the participation of people living in poverty, unemployed or living on subsistence wages; protection from the risks associated with the loss of income; and efforts to ensure the right to organize and bargain collectively for decent wages and working conditions.
She introduced the NGO Committee’s current Survey of Effective Practices in Employment and Decent Work, which underlined the long-term nature of effective efforts for people to reintegrate into their respective societies and labour markets in different regions and among varied populations within regions. Expressing disappointment that the Commission’s previous session had not ended with a negotiated outcome text, she said that the community of non-governmental organizations wanted to see the Commission’s forty-sixth session produce a strong, negotiated outcome backing the key themes from Copenhagen, particularly addressing employment and decent work as a means of alleviating poverty and promoting social integration.
LES KETTLEDAS, Deputy Director-General in the Department of labour of South Africa, said that the world was facing various decent-work “deficits”, characterized by high and exploding numbers of unemployment and underemployment, poor quality and unproductive jobs, unsafe work and insecure income, rights that were denied, and gender inequality. Economic growth was failing to translate into new and better jobs that would lead to a reduction in poverty.
He said the 2004 Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, had observed that employment played a critical role in the full realization of individuals and societies. Whilst employment could further social integration, it could also lead to exclusion by limiting access to jobs. Income too low to satisfy basic human and social needs created marginalization and submission, creating individuals who became “rich in poverty”. Many people in South Africa fell in that category. The ILO report “Working out of Poverty” had observed that poverty was a vicious circle of poor health, reduced working capacity, low productivity and shortened life expectancy. Poverty was a trap, and for society it was a curse.
The South African economy had been going through structural change, with a decline in the gross domestic product (GDP) share of agriculture and mining and increase in services, with parallel developments in employment. Since 2004, growth had exceeded 4 per cent per year, and the economy had been creating employment. However, employment growth was not keeping pace with the growth in the labour force. Other problems included the casual and short-term nature of most jobs created, low wages and poor working conditions. There was also migration from neighbouring countries, some of them economic refugees with the necessary skills. Like other countries in the developing world, South Africa had implemented various measures to alleviate poverty, promote full and productive employment and realize decent work, guided by the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty and unemployment by 2015.
As a member of the ILO, South Africa had strongly advocated the decent work agenda, he continued. Decent work went hand in hand with productivity growth -- the engine of economic growth -- that enabled working men and women to earn enough to lift themselves out of poverty. The decent work agenda was guided by important strategic objectives, which included the rights to work, employment, social protection and social dialogue. Attainment of those objectives would result in a more balanced and sustainable growth for the countries involved and betterment of the lives of the people.
South Africa’s labour legislation since 1994 had encompassed all the objectives outlined in that agenda, he said. Following a review of the country’s labour laws, amendments to the Labour Relations and the Basic Conditions of Employment Acts had been introduced, making the laws more sensitive to job creation and addressing unintended consequences of the earlier legislation. From 1999 to 2004, the Government had vastly improved the position of workers in the country, trying to balance security in the workplace with flexibility, to ensure that the overall performance of the economy in terms of job creation and investment was not negatively affected.
Sectoral determinations had been introduced to improve the position of vulnerable workers, covering workers in the private security sector, domestic workers, farm workers and workers in the wholesale and retail sectors. A national programme of action was also being developed to address the challenges of child labour. Good practices and technical assistance guidelines had been promulgated for the employment of people with disabilities and for the management of key aspects of HIV/AIDS in the workplace. The country had not only introduced new legislation and institutions to protect workers’ rights and seek to empower them with skills, but also continued to promote social dialogue and create true consensus with all social partners. In October 1998, a Presidential Jobs Summit Agreement had been launched to address the socio-economic challenges facing the country. The constituencies in the National Economic Development and Labour Council had resolved to act in concert to create jobs, stable and fair industrial relations, respect for worker rights, and sustainable development.
In June 2003, the Growth and Development Summit Agreement had been launched, seeking to address the investment challenge, create more jobs and decent work for all, advance equity, develop skills, create opportunities, extend services, and promote local action. He added that the Government had also launched the National Skills Development Strategy in an attempt to radically transform education and training. Many young men and women had been trained, and some of them had been placed through the programme.
While the situation had improved, those initiatives had not made a drastic impact on poverty and unemployment, he continued. To address that situation, the Government had launched an Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative, whose main objective was to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014. The project had identified the main constraints -- some of them also identified in the Secretary-General’s report -- including the shortage of skilled labour, lack of information and communication technology infrastructure, barriers to entry and limited investments. To provide further impetus to the skills development strategy, a Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition had been launched, seeking to identify urgent skills needs and quick and effective solutions.
Realization of full employment and decent work would require a closer relationship between social and economic policies, he said. That would require “a rethink of the macroeconomic stabilization targets, so that we create fiscal space to finance development, foster investment and employment growth.” Macroeconomic policies must take into consideration not only financial targets, but also their social impact. For Governments and countries, it meant rethinking and refocusing their macroeconomic policies to ensure that they recognized employment creation as one of their core objectives and set targets for job creation. That did not call for a new commitment from States. During the Geneva special session of the Assembly, a commitment had been made “to ensure that macroeconomic policies reflect and fully integrate, inter alia, employment growth and poverty reduction goals”. The session also recognized that countries would need to “reassess, as appropriate, their macroeconomic policies with the aim of greater employment generations and reduction in poverty levels, while striving for and maintaining low inflation rates”.
“We have not done well since these commitments -- the challenges still remain daunting,” he said, adding that a recommitment was needed. The labour market policy framework should, in support of the macroeconomic framework, be able to facilitate the matching of supply of and demand for labour, in the face of the changing market trends and work restructuring. He could not overemphasize the importance of full employment and decent work for all and was encouraged that the issues of employment and decent work were now being taken seriously by such institutions as the United Nations and ILO. There were many other multilateral institutions, however, that still needed some convincing, and it was necessary to explore how to bring them on board.
Commenting on the keynote address, the representative of Germany (on behalf of the European Union) emphasized the importance of the information presented by Mr. Kettledas for future discussions on social development issues within the European Union, both at the regional and national levels.
Also stressing the relevance of questions raised, the representative of the Dominican Republic highlighted agricultural reforms and transfer of knowledge among the problems that needed to be addressed to generate opportunities for decent work.
Posted: Feb 8 2007, 03:49 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
The Commission for Social Development met this morning to begin its general debate on the priority theme of its forty-fifth session: promoting full employment and decent work for all. In the afternoon, it was scheduled to hold a panel discussion on labour mobility, youth and families.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that there had been no greater challenge to humanity, nor greater threat to world peace, than the failure to realize the United Nations Charter’s vision of promoting better standards of life and larger freedoms. The close nexus between security and development, in the increasingly interconnected world, clearly demonstrated that prosperity could not be sustained, while poverty afflicted many. That presented an urgent imperative: tackle poverty and address development by focusing on employment-generating strategies on a priority basis. The Secretary-General’s report before the Commission presented a grim picture on the realization of commitments to eradicate poverty, and suggested that achievement of full employment and decent work remained a global concern. The concept of decent work -- the provision of a sufficient level of income, security, personal dignity and good working conditions -- had yet to become a reality for more than a billion people and one third of the global work force.
Globalization and interdependence were opening new opportunities, but, at the same time, serious challenges remained, including serious financial crises, insecurity, poverty, exclusion and inequality within and among societies, he continued. Unless the benefits of social and economic development were extended to all countries in an equitable manner, a growing number of people in all countries and even entire regions would remain marginalized from the global economy. There was increasing recognition in the Group of 77 that promotion of good governance, sound economic policies, solid democratic institutions and improved infrastructure were the basis for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation. Investing in human capital, with emphasis on effective delivery of basic social services, and bringing the poor, vulnerable and backward segments of society into the mainstream of development, were crucial to achieving the ambitious goal of poverty eradiation.
The struggle to promote full employment and decent work for all transcended national frontiers, he said. It rested upon the promotion of an enabling overall macroeconomic environment based on the implementation of an integrated and coherent set of policies at both the national and international levels. It was imperative that macroeconomic policies must endeavour to incorporate employment creation as an integral component. It was also essential to eliminate the asymmetries in globalization and its uneven costs and benefits. That required adoption of specific measures to incorporate the informal sector in social protection programmes, and establishment of incentive structures that would promote employment creation through directing investment to productive and labour-intensive sectors, with a special view to promoting small- and medium-sized enterprises.
In evolving macroeconomic policies, he said the international community must allow more space for policy autonomy in developing countries, so that policies and institutional arrangements were adopted that were best suited to the level of development and specific circumstances of the countries concerned. International organizations and donor countries must also shift more decisively away from external conditionality to national ownership of policies. Negotiations in the multilateral frameworks should particularly address the issues of agricultural trade, market access, reduction of trade barriers and fluctuations in commodity prices and terms of trade for agricultural commodities. Also important were increases in official development assistance (ODA) and debt cancellation, as well as fair rules for trade and capital flows, which needed to be complemented by fair rules for the cross-border movement of people. There was a growing recognition that labour-migration strategies should become more effective and responsible to the exigencies of the situations in countries of origin and destination. Cooperation between countries of origin and destination on key labour migration decisions should be enhanced, and some degree of harmonization of labour policies should be introduced.
He also said that the Group of 77 welcomed the continued focus on various social groups, including family, youth, elderly and persons with disabilities. He also welcomed the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Population ageing required concerted, well-focused and forward-looking policies at all levels. There was an urgent need to enhance the efforts to integrate older persons into the mainstream of development policies and overcome barriers to hiring and retaining older workers. The Group of 77 was equally concerned about the global job crisis that had hit young people the hardest. It supported the supplementary five themes to the World Programme of Action for Youth. When discussing youth, the relevant issues where the impact of globalization; the use of information technology; the increase of HIV/AIDS; armed conflicts; and intergenerational relations.
HERMANN KUES, Parliamentary State Secretary, Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that all the member States of the Union sought to improve living and working conditions in there respective countries, and in the Union as a whole. The European Lisbon Strategy aimed to create more and better jobs and to promote social inclusion. The overall Union work programme was currently focused on, among other things, promoting fair wages, protection against health risks at work, workers rights and family-friendly working arrangements.
He said a global decent work agenda had made great headway and had been strongly supported at the European level. For example, he said, the recent European Consensus, a joint statement by the European Union Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the European Commission, on a new Union development policy, primarily aimed at poverty eradication, which included a commitment to advance policy coherence for development, including decent work. At the same time, he stressed that the Union was aware that the list of challenges in that area was long, and an inappropriate or delayed response could set off damaging downward economic, social and political spirals.
To that end, he next highlighted several thematic reflections on future challenges that the Commission should consider for strengthening the social development perspective in its discussions about decent work. Among others, he said there was a need to address decent work and poverty eradication, particularly since, over the past decade, it had been clearly proved that economic growth did not automatically create jobs. Indeed, the world was not creating enough decent jobs to keep pace with the estimated 40 million person yearly increase in the global workforce. Worse, there were now about 1.4 billion “working poor” on the planet.
With that in mind, he said the international community needed to find better instruments to support to create full employment and decent work. He also called for more focus on decent work and youth unemployment, stressing that the German European Union presidency had put the European Youth Pact on the agenda of the next two meetings of the European Youth Ministers later this year, and had asked the young representatives to consider a common priority framework for the next decade.
On gender equality and the impact of female migration on the European -- and the world’s -- labour force, he said that, while reliable social, health and educational services were enabling a better and more balanced worklife for working men, as well as women, there was still an international tendency to reduce budgets for such services. The European Union had declared 2007 the “European Year of Opportunities for All”, which was based on the 2000 Equality Laws that made it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, or because of sexual orientation, religious belief, disability or age.
ÖZHAN ÜZÜMCÜOÐLU (Turkey) supported the position of the European Union and said that the Secretary-General’s report on the priority theme of the session clearly indicated that, although more than a decade had elapsed since the Copenhagen Summit, full employment and decent work for all still remained a global challenge. The achievement of that goal rested upon the promotion of an enabling macroeconomic environment, based upon the implementation of an integrated and coherent set of policies, both at the national and international levels. Thus, full employment and decent work should be a central goal in national economic and social policy-making. They should also be considered as global objectives, to be pursued through a more balanced and coordinated strategy.
Turning to his national situation, he said that Turkey was beginning to implement its ninth development plan, covering the period of 2007-2013. Following a crisis in 2001, the Turkish economy had grown at an average rate of 7.5 per cent in 2002-2005. Yet, the impact of economic growth on employment still remained limited. Beyond doubt, employment should be considered together with the notion of decent conditions of work. Thus, the country’s ninth development plan focused on increasing employment and improving the conditions in the labour market; increasing the sensitivity of education to labour demands; developing active labour policies; improving income distribution, social inclusion and the fight against poverty; and increasing the effectiveness of the social security system. Turkey was now aiming to create the skilled human resources required by a competitive economy and the information society, reduce unemployment and create a more efficient labour market.
Equal opportunities would be created for women, young people, long-term unemployed and persons with disabilities, he added. In particular, women’s access to childcare and other services would be facilitated. Programmes would be developed to provide youth with experience in the labour market. The country also intended to strengthen interaction between the education system and labour markets, revise vocational training programmes and introduce a more flexible system of vocational and technical education. The Government sought to ensure that vulnerable groups, particularly the disabled, elderly, women, children and migrants, participated in economic, social and political life. The social security system would cover the entire population and meet changing needs of society, with financial sustainability and an effective audit mechanism.
S.V. KALASHNIKOV, Director of the Department for Social Development of the Russian Federation, said the Copenhagen Plan of Action and the outcome of the relevant special session of the General Assembly had remained important signposts for his Government, particularly the call included within those important initiatives to ensure people-centred development and full employment for all. He said that, after walking a difficult path, the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin, had actively begun to implement measures and initiatives towards the resolution of the most urgent social problems.
There were also programmes in place to improve education and health care, as well as towards the training of youth, so that they could become more competitive in the ever-changing work environment of today. He said much effort had gone into creating new jobs in line with economic growth, particularly in such areas as agriculture. He stressed that the Russian Federation, like many countries, was struggling to find ways to reverse the situation of youth unemployment.
Currently, statistics showed that the Russian Federation hosted nearly 1 million out-of-work youngsters, he said. The Government had responded with campaigns to create more and better jobs for youth and increase counselling and other social endeavours to ease the burdens for first-time workers or youth that had recently entered the job market or labour force. Overall, he said that the Russian Federation would continue to focus its relevant policies on social development, decent work and full employment.
YASUSHI TAKASE (Japan) said that, while globalization and the information technology boom had created new job opportunities, improved productivity and promoted economic growth, many people, especially vulnerable groups such as women and youth, “had not received the blessings of this new world” and, to some extent, had been left behind. With that in mind, he said it was essential that the benefits of globalization and the information revolution be shared broadly by all. Therefore, ensuring productive employment was not only significant as a means to provide income, but also had a direct bearing on vulnerability and dignity.
He said that full employment should be achieved through high-level sustainable development. That meant more than avoiding unemployment: it meant ensuring decent work for all -- productive employment under conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Turning to the situation of youth, he said that youth employment in Japan had been improving of late, largely because of the broad economic recovery in the country, as well as because families were having fewer children. But youth unemployment remained high and there were large numbers of children that were falling into a category that Japan had labelled “NEET” -- Not in Education, Employment or Training.
Young people could not find jobs and that instability was disrupting their lives at the very time when they should be developing vocational skills, he continued. As a result, it had become difficult for many Japanese youth to plan their careers, he said, adding that older workers in the country had recently been experiencing similar problems. But the young were naturally creative and flexible, and Japan had been drawing on those traits to find solutions that could establish the foundations for a system that provided more fulfilling work and helped revitalize the economy. Japan had launched an “Action Plan for Young People’s Independence and Challenge” in 2003, which included innovative plans and programmes, such as “one-stop” job placement service centres called “job cafes”.
He said that local governments, in cooperation with local schools, educational institutions and public agencies were trying to help young people seeking jobs by providing them with opportunities to gain workplace experience and by offering placement services. Turning to overall employment, he said that Japan, which was struggling to overcome some of its own domestic problems, had been engaging in international cooperation, directed especially at women and vulnerable groups. For example, Japan provided support for basic, higher and technical vocational education and training and it accepted foreign students at its higher educational institutions.
BARLYBAY SADYKOV ( Kazakhstan) noted that the International Labour Organization (ILO) had pointed out that, despite a robust economic growth in the previous year, global unemployment remained at the highest level. Youth unemployment had reached unacceptably high levels around the world, and women were “big losers” in the labour market. His delegation shared the view of the Secretary-General that the goal of full employment and decent work for all rested upon the promotion of an enabling overall macroeconomic environment based upon the implementation of an integrated and coherent set of policies at the national and international levels. Welcoming proposed indicators for assessing implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and beyond, Kazakhstan found it necessary to study in greater detail youth migration phenomena at both national and international levels. Those indicators should reflect youth migration flows, its effect on countries of origin and destination, legal and illegal youth migration, remittances, challenges faces by youth, decent employment and disaggregated data.
Kazakhstan had been consistently implementing the decisions taken at Copenhagen, Madrid and other international conferences, he continued. The 2005 second national report on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals indicated that the country had already achieved or was on the way to achieving several of those goals. The task of improving the living standards of the population was a priority of the Government, which was increasing social spending in the areas of health, education and employment. One of the aspects of the country’s social policy was to ensure sustainable employment of the population through a complex of measures to stimulate employment, improve legislation and provide assistance to the unemployed. The level of unemployment in Kazakhstan had stood at 7.8 per cent in 2006, compared to 12.8 in 2000. A national programme of decent work for the years 2007-2009 had recently been launched.
Poverty alleviation remained one of the most acute challenges, however, and it was extremely important to put in focus social equity in economic policies and ensure the quality of growth, as well as the distribution of its benefits. Through its national poverty eradication programme, Kazakhstan had been able to halve the proportion of people with income below the subsistence minimum in the last five years. He added that the Government paid particular attention to the development of the private sector and microfinancing.
Among other measures, he described the development of small enterprises by women through improved access to resources, technology and training; measures to improve access to financing; the national youth programme and the efforts to improve the quality of education. The draft Labour Code was currently under discussion in the Parliament. As an ageing society, Kazakhstan also paid attention to address that trend, and a pension system reform was under way. In order to ensure fruitful and effective implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing, relevant United Nations institutions should establish close collaboration with Member States by providing them with required technical and advisory support in their efforts to develop national plans of action on ageing.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), expressing his delegation’s support for the statement by the Group of 77, said unemployment prevented qualified and able people, no matter their education level, from supporting themselves with dignity and led to other challenges, such as increasing poverty, spreading violence, extremism and crime. It was impossible to deal with unemployment without looking into such other global challenges as poverty, debt, illness, low education standards, lack of skills and low productivity, all of which ran in an endless cycle.
Noting that the Secretary-General’s report showed the reality of the challenge facing the international community, he said the African continent had been among the first to try and deal with labour and unemployment issues. The 2004 African Union Summit in Ouagadougou had come up with a declaration, a plan of action and a mechanism to follow-up on implementation, monitoring and assessment of unemployment. Yet, despite the region’s efforts, the international community still had a pivotal role to play in boosting African capabilities and efforts to create more job opportunities, overcome poverty and implement the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
To accomplish that, he said, assistance must be extended through active policy planning for the labour market, including the provision of access to relevant information, the upgrading of qualifications and experiences and the closing of the gap between supply and demand. All that required national and international financial resources, as well as assistance to small projects and enterprises, which were considered to be among the primary sources of job creation. Serious partnerships were needed among Governments, the private sector and labour organizations.
He said his own country had exerted enormous efforts to combat unemployment through comprehensive policies based on raising the quality of education to international standards and organizing training programmes in such vital fields as technology. Egypt had also accomplished a great deal in gender equality, supporting small enterprises, promoting partnerships and improving working conditions. Great steps had also been achieved in health, social care and the establishment of a comprehensive database on the labour market.
ADRIANA GONZALEZ-FURLONG, Director of the National Institute for Older People of Mexico, said that the rampant poverty and exclusion affecting many parts of the world today was a challenge for all States, particularly in light of the commitments made in Copenhagen to eradicate those problems. Decent employment was essential to achieving that goal, she said, calling on the international community to redouble its efforts in that regard, particularly in light of recent statistics that had shown that there were currently 195 million people looking for work worldwide, most of them youth, since, unfortunately, 93 per cent of all the jobs available to them in developing countries were in the informal sector. Further, women still lacked the same decent work opportunities as men, and broad segments of populations that were able to work lacked the proper training for jobs available to them.
For its part, Mexico was trying to tackle the youth unemployment issue through a comprehensive strategy aimed at people under 18 years old. It monitored the situations of those young people in areas such as family, housing, environment, education, health and poverty levels. The programme provided funds to enhance social and productive welfare, which could, in turn, help improve the situations of people living in extreme poverty or in remote areas. She said that, overall, Mexico considered it vitally important to set out and provide access to transparent, reliable and useful information when it elaborated job policies. One of the country’s most important accomplishments had been the creation of a national database of employment statistics, which was updated every three months.
She went on to acknowledge that Mexico still needed to make more progress in the area of full employment, and that it was still necessary to promote the use of statistical data in that field. At the same time, the country’s decade-old human development plan “Oportunidades” had proven to be a powerful tool in the fight against child labour, given its focus on two priority objectives: alleviation of extreme poverty and capacity development in the country’s poorest homes. On ageing, she said that the fast approaching fifth anniversary of Madrid provided an opportunity for possible regional or international reviews to assess the situation of that often marginalized group. For its part, Mexico had, among other things, implemented a programme to support the elderly that suffered from poverty or lived in hard-to-reach areas.
ENRIQUE DEIBE ( Argentina), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said good governance, sound economic policies, solid democratic institutions and improved infrastructure were the basis for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation. Over the past four years, his Government had focused on human development, based on a human rights approach. Consequently, his Government had distanced itself from the orthodox economy and had placed quality employment at the core of its development strategy. It had reoriented its social and employment policies, establishing such programmes as the “Family Programme for Social Inclusion” and the “Training and Employment Insurance”.
He said another pillar of its strategy was a policy geared towards the recuperation of the purchasing power of salaries. The Government had increased the value of the minimum wage, which had been stalled for a decade, by 300 per cent, and that of the minimum pension by 253 per cent. Average salaries had increased by 82 per cent in three years through the revitalization of collective bargaining. Thus, the generalized reduction of unemployment had been 10.2 per cent in the third trimester of 2006 and had affected all sectors of the population. The fundamental axis of economic growth in Argentina was decent work, which translated into concrete policies geared towards jobs with dignified working conditions and fair pay. In that spirit, Argentina had hosted the Summit of the Americas on “Creating jobs to face poverty and strengthen democratic governance”, in November 2005.
He described his Government’s efforts to address specific social groups, including through the National Advisory Committee for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities, the Programme for the Inclusion of Youth, and the national funds for training in trades and the continuing professional training programme. He added that his country was also proud to have a public and universal health system, accessible to any person, regardless of citizenship status. He extended an invitation to participate in the International Conference on Health for Development with its theme “Rights, facts and realities: strengthening primary health care and health systems to achieve the Millennium Goals”, which would take place in Buenos Aires from 13 to 18 August 2007.
TERTTU SAVOLAINEN, State Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, associated herself with the position of the European Union and said that, since Copenhagen, attention had been focusing on poverty reduction. While the goal was right, the agenda had been too narrow, so far. Finland emphasized that the concept of decent work was a key element that broadened the agenda of social development and poverty reduction in a very realistic and constructive way. Sustainable development would result only from a coherent policy mix of economic, employment, education and social policies. Target-oriented, comprehensive social and decent work policies were needed for economic growth to benefit all. Governments had a key role to play in designing and implementing such policies. In a globalized world, the decent work agenda –- employment, rights, social protection and social dialogue -– should be incorporated in national development strategies. That had been also a conclusion of the round table of experts that had gathered in Finland last November to deliberate on the role of social policies for development.
Better employment and higher productivity went hand in hand in the global economy, she continued. Decent work was not only socially, but also economically, beneficial. It was necessary to carry out equitable and employment-oriented macroeconomic policies that could facilitate sustainable economic growth. Investment in basic education and lifelong learning was a critical factor in facilitating access to decent work for all. All countries must invest in active labour market policies that would enable people to transfer from declining and informal sectors to better and more productive jobs.
There seemed to be ample evidence of the positive impact of equity policies, social protection and essential social services on poverty reduction and on the accumulation of human and social capital, she added. Furthermore, such policies prevented exclusion in the labour market and facilitated employability. During its history, Finland had also experienced the importance of full employment, education, health and social protection for all in nation-building. In order to make that possible in developing countries, as well, the international community must support capacity-building and the voices of those ministries and institutions that were directly responsible for designing and implementing comprehensive social and employment policies. Also needed were multi-stakeholder partnerships and joint efforts by Governments, citizens, trade unions, ecologically and socially responsible business organizations, donors and intergovernmental organizations. The Economic and Social Council had a central role in setting and monitoring the social development goals and standards.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DÍAZ (Cuba), supporting the Group of 77 and China, said that, despite the economic growth in some countries, world unemployment in 2006 had reached an alarming 192.5 million people, 44 per cent of whom were youths. There were 852 million hungry people in the world, 842 million illiterates, 766 million without health services and 120 million without drinking water. All that was the result of an unjust international order by which the rich countries failed to fulfil the commitments they had made at major United Nations conferences and summits.
The Secretary-General’s report recognized that, in some countries, trade liberalization had had a negative impact on full employment and that globalization had increased the vulnerability of workers. In Cuba, the strengthening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States notwithstanding, nobody had left of their own volition. Social expenditure continued to grow, which demonstrated an all-round development strategy that, since the triumph of the revolution, had harmonized economic growth with social strategies. In 2006, Cuba had achieved 1.9 per cent unemployment, the lowest rate ever, with 12.5 per cent economic growth. In Cuba, more than 4 million workers were employed, of whom 45 per cent were women earning the same salaries as men for doing the same work.
The entire population enjoyed universal social protection and, in 2005, salaries, pensions and retirement schemes had been raised to the benefit of more than 5 million citizens, he said. More than 200 social programmes had prioritized the training and employment of nurses, art instructors, computer teachers, social workers and primary and secondary school teachers, among other professionals. The employment programme for the physically or mentally challenged had gained remarkable momentum. Every year more than 83,600 working mothers enjoyed 60 per cent of their salaries during their 18-month maternity leave, while mothers with severely challenged children continued to receive their salaries even when not working. Furthermore, Cuba provided supportive assistance to fellow developing countries, including through the training of human resources in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
SERGEI A. RACHKOV ( Belarus) said his country had carried out more than 10 years of “social-focused” economic policy, with the promotion of higher and decent employment being a key element. The policies had resulted in achievement of the lowest unemployment rate in Eastern Europe, measuring at 1.2 per cent. Still, more emphasis was needed to meet the challenge of providing stronger social protection for women, youth, persons with disabilities and older people. To that end, an international conference on trafficking in women and girls would take place in March at United Nations Headquarters, since promoting higher employment among that demographic was seen to be linked to the prevention of human trafficking. All Member States were invited to attend.
Even so, he said, the unemployment rate among women had fallen from 68.9 to 65.8 per cent since the Commission’s last session, while unemployment among youth had fallen from 48.8 to 41.7 per cent. The country had a professional education scheme to ensure that the unemployed obtained skills specifically requested by employers, accessible to 30 per cent of all unemployed people. To better integrate people with disabilities into the workforce, compensation was offered to employers to purchase equipment to be used by people with disabilities. Public employment services also paid for training, accommodation and transportation for people with disabilities undergoing advanced professional education. Finally, “agratowns” were being constructed in Belarus, housing well-trained specialists in rural areas lacking labour resources.
GHANEM ABU RABE’ and NIDAL AL-ABADI, Members of Parliament of Jordan, presented a joint statement, emphasizing the important role of public servants and their commitment to the good of their countries. Regrettably, however, some public servants abused their positions, and corruption in the executive branches of many countries was still high. There was a strong relationship between corruption and poverty. Security of the public servant was, thus, of great importance, and States should work together to bring about a secure legal and legislative environment for investment.
They also highlighted a number of social, economic and political challenges, including the negative impact of globalization on some countries’ development and employment situation. Under current conditions, the public sector could not provide more jobs, and economic reforms were needed to promote the economy. Economic growth in many countries was modest, and there was an unjust distribution of wealth, with 93 per cent of the world population possessing only 7 per cent of global wealth. Current economic international relations exacerbated poverty.
Poor countries believed that World Trade Organization regulations should become more conducive to economies in development, in order to improve performance at the global level, they said. It was necessary to make those regulations appropriate for economic and social changes in the world and encourage investment, while also promoting partnerships between the private and public sectors. Parliaments were called upon to establish good social protection systems to develop the capabilities of people. It was also important to strengthen freedom and give people the right to representation. It was necessary to address the issues of compulsory work and discrimination in the labour market, strengthen oversight, increase transparency and combat corruption. The international community and super-Powers should also bring about the changes that were needed to make the human being the centre of social and economic policies.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that Governments should make full use of their comparative advantages to develop their economies in a focused manner and create more employment opportunities. It was necessary to increase investment in human resources and provide better education and training to workers in order to improve their skills. Also needed were improvements in the service system for the labour market and a favourable environment for employment and entrepreneurship. A social security system tailored to a country’s specific situation was the guarantee for the promotion of full employment and decent work. While developing the economy, Governments must not neglect the principle of social justice and fairness. They should ensure that vulnerable social groups got their share of the benefits of development. While providing decent work was the common goal of the international community, it was necessary to respect diversity due to national conditions and levels of development of various countries. Also, although Governments bore the primary responsibility of safeguarding the rights and interests of workers, transnational corporations must also shoulder their social responsibilities.
Employment of the rural population was an indispensable component of efforts to promote full employment and decent work, he continued. About half of the world’s population lived in rural areas, and Governments should increase their contribution to rural and agricultural development. Efforts should also be made to create more employment opportunities during the urbanization process, to accommodate the surplus labour in rural areas. Governments should also provide taxation and policy support to small and medium enterprises, which constitute the most dynamic and innovative part of economic development. Developed countries should take a more positive approach to helping the developing countries in their efforts to eradicate poverty and generate employment. He called on those countries to abandon trade protectionism, which was “unwise and unfair”. In particular, he called for the dismantling of the trade barriers against labour intensive products from developing countries. The developed countries should also adopt positive policies on transfer of technologies, especially those related to clean production, low emission and high energy efficiency.
Regarding China’s national experience, he said that, as a developing country with the largest population in the world, it faced a more complex problem of employment than any other country. The Government was implementing active employment policies to promote economic development, create opportunities, adjust economic structures and develop small enterprises. Employment services and vocational training were provided to laid-off and unemployed workers. The Government was also coordinating employment in urban and rural areas, seeking to establish a system of equal employment. Despite those efforts, however, owing to its large population, the country was going to be confronted with the problem of labour oversupply for an extended period of time. China was also burdened with the heavy task of economic transition and structural adjustment. In the field of employment, it needed to address the challenges of additional labour in towns and cities, surplus labour in rural areas and re-employment of laid-off and unemployed workers. The road towards the realization of full employment and decent work for all in China would be long and arduous, but the country was willing to join the efforts of the international community in striving for the realization of those goals.
Mr. HOUIALAMI ( Morocco) said that encouraging full employment and providing decent work touched on a complex issue: the intersection of financial and social sectors of society. Therefore, there was a need to focus on people living in dignity while at the same time boosting job opportunities and economies. Social protection should be a focus, particularly for least developed countries, as well as vocational and other training so that populations were ready to avail themselves of new job opportunities when they arose.
For its part, Morocco had elaborated a national labour law that had proved a useful tool in improving the livelihoods of its people and had integrated job creation into overall development plans. Among other things, Morocco had opened health coverage to all sectors of the population, and now allocated more than 50 per cent of its budget to social sectors. The Government had also begun to work closely with civil society and labour unions to craft relevant policies and programmes. His country had realized that the key to providing decent work and full employment for all was cooperation, dialogue -- particularly with civil society actors -- and acute attention to social inclusion and integration.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the creation of a balance between economic development and social justice that protected workers and promoted their rights must be a constant policy goal at national and international levels. The 1998 International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration was still the cornerstone for creating such a balance. Many workers would benefit from a fair outcome in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round. A farsighted breakthrough could still be made, in particular regarding agricultural trade rules. The consequences of such a shift for Northern economies would have to be mitigated by the deployment of that region’s much greater resources to assist those affected.
He said equal pay for equal work seemed obvious, but women were still too often undervalued. Working parents, both women and men, should be assisted, if necessary by law, to bring their irreplaceable contribution to the upbringing of their children. Another category that deserved the Commission’s special attention was that of the very poor, present in every country without exception. No Government should tolerate extreme poverty. Access to decent, safe and fulfilling work for the extreme poor was fundamental to the achievement of social development. Given the dramatic shift in the population pyramid, Governments would also do well to find ways to encourage older people to remain in the job market. Migrants too deserved equal pay and equal protection under law. Work itself should be decent. Work was dignified by the people who did it, but it must also be dignified in itself.
RICHARD T. MILLER ( United States) said that the foundation of development was built with jobs, good jobs, as the most valuable bricks. Increasing the productivity of individuals through improving their employment prospects was the very essence of development. The United States supported the promotion of decent work, defined by ILO Director-General Juan Somavia as the convergence of ILO’s four strategic objectives: promotion of rights at work, employment, social protection and social dialogue. There was a critical need for job creation and decent work around the world. ILO’s Decent Work Country Programme provided a valuable contribution to broader development frameworks. His country believed that the role of Governments was to create and maintain conditions for economic growth.
In every part of the world, in countries at all levels of development, it was the private sector, not the Government, that created jobs that were truly sustainable and productive, he stressed. A vibrant and healthy private sector was a key element of a free and open society. Of course, job creation, whether public or private, must go hand in hand with respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation. The United States Millennium Challenge Corporation had outlined three criteria -- the rule of law, investment in health and in education and economic freedom -- as key factors in the expansion of employment. Transparent economies, free of burdensome regulation were the real engines for new jobs.
Job creation was also very important to solving the demographic challenges faced by societies with ageing populations, he continued. By 2030, almost 20 per cent of all Americans would be 65 or older. As the “baby-boom” generation aged, the number of people 85 and older was also expected to increase. The country’s policies were aimed at helping senior citizens and persons with disabilities. As had been made clear during the recently concluded negotiations for the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the United States was firmly committed to the equal and full integration of persons with disabilities of all ages within communities and the workplace, and to ensuring that all men and women had an opportunity to enjoy human rights and freedoms without discrimination.
Regarding international migration, he said that, in the face of that reality, it was important to keep in mind that migration alone could never solve the challenge of creating employment for millions of new workers emerging in the world. Each country was responsible for fostering the conditions that favoured growth within its borders. Policies that encouraged job creation, transparency, accountability and rule of law were the best ways to ensure that the benefits of a globalized economy would be shared by all. In the efforts to ensure that today’s youth had the opportunity to become healthy, productive adults, he recognized the important role of the family. Every country needed to promote healthy families and ensure that youth were able to obtain the education and training they needed to be successful contributors to their communities.
MAKMUR SUNUSI ( Indonesia) said it was a concern that global economic growth had been strong in 2006, but that unemployment had remained at a historic high. With three quarters of the world’s poor living in rural and agricultural regions, mostly in developing countries, productivity and incomes in rural farm and non-farm sectors needed to be urgently raised. That should go hand in hand with measures aimed at improving market access, phasing out all forms of export subsidies and increasing foreign direct investment. Regarding the vital role of small and medium enterprises, promotion of access to resources, including microfinance and microcredit, particularly among poor women, was essential.
Addressing the situation in his country, he said job creation, especially decent work for all, was the main focus of a national plan to reduce the unemployment rates from its high of 9.5 per cent in 2003 to a low of 5.1 per cent in 2008. Close attention had been paid to the need for poverty alleviation, social inclusion and gender mainstreaming, through capacity-building of regional and local government and through raising awareness through the media. Young people faced high levels of unemployment and were mostly concentrated in the informal sector. His Government was making resources available to promote small and medium enterprises, as they were venues for the entrepreneurial talents of women and youth. After all, following the 1997-1998 financial crisis, such enterprises had created an effective cushion for countless families.
TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said that his delegation continued to closely follow the troubling increase in unemployment worldwide, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Republic of Tanzania believed that concerted efforts were, therefore, necessary to ensure full employment and decent work for all, and that national and international polices to that end were urgently considered and adopted. His own Government had recognized employment’s central role in promoting national prosperity, poverty eradication and social inclusion, as well as in enhancing peace, stability and social harmony.
Creating decent jobs and self-employment was, thus, fundamental to the realization of the right to work, as well as a means for sustained economic growth and the attainment of international goals and commitments, including the Millennium Development Goals. His Government had set for itself the goal of creating 1 million decent jobs by 2010, he said, noting that provisions to facilitate that had been provided for in the country’s current budget. As a part of its strategy, the Government had also committed itself to providing a conducive environment for promoting full employment and decent work by incorporating employment issues in its national poverty reduction strategy.
He acknowledged that, despite all the Government’s efforts, the United Republic of Tanzania’s employment rate remained high. The country also faced underemployment compounded by the fact that some job opportunities in the informal and agricultural sectors were not productive. Women and youth were particularly impacted by that trend, as well as by lack of marketable skills and training and lagging support to transition from school to employment.
The Government also faced other challenges, including low levels of economic growth, an underdeveloped agricultural sector –- particularly troubling since that sector employed nearly 80 per cent of the country’s work force -- rapid population growth and a low technology/skills base. With all that in mind, he emphasized the importance of international cooperation in realizing the goals of productive employment and decent work. While the Government recognized its primary responsibility for creating a conducive environment for employment opportunities, it also recognized the important role the international community had to play by providing resources to developing countries and assisting national initiatives. Transfer of appropriate technologies, including information and communication technology was also vital, he added.
Posted: Feb 9 2007, 03:21 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
The Commission for Sustainable Development continued its forty-fifth session today, holding a panel discussion on good practices for promoting full employment in the morning. It was expected to continue its general debate in the afternoon.
Opening the dialogue, the moderator of the panel discussion, JOSE MANUEL SALAZAR, Executive Director of the International Labour Organization’s Employment Sector, said that there was a wide consensus in the Commission on the need to promote full employment and decent work for all. The challenge now related to operationalizing the economic and social policies to achieve that goal. In terms of policymaking, existing good practices demonstrated the need to consider employment and decent work issues in an integrated manner, with the involvement of all key ministries and departments, as well as industries and the private sector. Policy integration and coherence posed major challenges in that regard. Employment should also be taken into consideration in the development strategies. For its part, the ILO had been working with social partners towards inclusion of decent work in countries’ Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers.
On the macroeconomic level, the employment content of growth had diminished, he continued. The increase in unemployment and adverse impact of globalization on job creation should be addressed through specific strategies to improve job growth. Effective employment strategies should lead to the adoption of sectoral approaches, interventions and incentives across labour-intensive and high-productivity sectors. As a recent World Economic and Social Survey stressed, the ability to sustain economic and productivity growth was associated with the capacity to diversify, attract new activities, strengthen linkages within the countries and capacity to create domestic technological capabilities. Trade policies and the investment climate were to be treated wisely. The quality of countries’ export portfolios was of great importance.
The main challenge for Governments was to create a favourable environment for industries to create jobs, he said. Good practices in the workplace, including good labour relations, needed to be promoted. International labour guidelines provided a good basis in that regard. Nokia in Finland was a good example, where success was achieved not only due to good engineering, but also through the creation of good working conditions. It was also important to target particular groups, including women, persons with disabilities, youth, indigenous people and other vulnerable segments of the population; assess progress; and avoid fragmentation. Some of the most successful youth employment programmes provided training and job-placement services, in some cases combined with fiscal incentives to companies to hire young workers. Some countries were channelling their efforts towards industries that could provide youth employment, for example companies involved in technology and tourism.
Education made people employable, and skills training and lifelong learning were at the centre of all high-productivity sectors, he said. Investment in human capital and training systems in response to new competence requirements should be promoted.
Panellist Bishop ZEPHANIA KAMEETA, Evangelical Lutheran Church , Namibia, who had been a leader in the establishment of a basic income grant in the country, said that there would be no need for anyone to be here if indeed there was a good practice model for promoting employment and decent work “for all”. Still, even though the international community was struggling to find the answer to that important question, today’s discussion provided a perfect opportunity for everyone to share their experiences, proposals -- and failures. Further, it was clear that stakeholders “were on the road” towards a good practice model.
For Namibia, “good/best practice” was not the story of the poor young dishwasher who worked hard and became a millionaire. And while the country had its share of such stories of individual achievement, it was important to emphasize the “for all” phrase tacked on to the end of the title of today’s panel discussion. That was what made the difference. It meant asking for and demanding what politicians called a “turn-around strategy.” It also meant taking a hard look at current socio-economic and employment indicators on the ground. With that in mind, he said that decent employment was a matter of survival for the people of Namibia.
According to the latest Social Development report, Namibia held the sad distinction of being the most “unequal” society in the world, he said. Despite Namibia’s classification as a “lower-middle-income” country, about two thirds of the people lived below the poverty line, so having a job was a matter of “being or not being” since there were scarcely any safety nets and virtually no possibilities of making a decent living outside the formal sector. Worse, he said, was that, despite calls from across the political spectrum for large-scale job creation initiatives, no relief was in sight. According to the most recent available labour statistics, 36.7 per cent of the population was unemployed.
The figures were even more dramatic and distressing for younger people and women, he said, noting that the unemployment rate among teenagers and young adults 15 to 19 years old was 64.6 per cent, and among 20- to 25-year-olds, at 57.4 per cent. In fact, for most young Namibians, there was basically no chance for employment. For most of the poor and unemployed, the daily quest to just survive took up time and energy collecting water and firewood. Some other survival activities -- commercial sex work, criminal activity, foraging for food in dumps -- posed serious dangers and risked future productivity.
If the international community was searching for employment solutions “for all,” or at least for a large portion of the poverty-stricken masses, it would be necessary to remedy structural injustices, which perpetuated the ever-increasing unemployment and poverty rates. After highlighting the Namibian Government’s efforts to turn things around, including through the creation of public/private partnerships and the creation of Economic Processing Zones to attract foreign investment, he said civil society was now backing a Basic Income Grant for Namibia. The scheme, which had been first proposed by the national tax commission, included a monthly cash grant of no less than $14 United States paid to every citizen up to pension age, at which point he or she would then be eligible for existing universal State assistance.
He said that the Income Grant was more than an income support programme: it provided security that reinforced human dignity and empowerment, and had the capacity to become the most significant poverty-reduction programme in the country, while supporting economic growth, household development and job creation at the same time. He said that, among other things, the Income Grant provided necessary funds to help people enter the job market and was a tool to help rectify market distortions towards the realization of decent work.
SONIA ROCHA, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Studies on Labour and Society in Brazil, spoke about that country’s “Bolsa-Familia”, or Family Stipend, which had been created in 2003. The programme had two basic goals: in the short run, it sought to reduce poverty immediately through small, but regular cash transfers to poor families. Since the transfer was conditioned on vaccination and school attendance by children, it was expected that the programme would reduce poverty in the long run, as well. Today, it was the largest cash transfer programme targeting the poor in the world, with monthly benefits paid to some 11 million in December last year. The programme considered the woman in the family as the reference person. The stipend was credited to a bank account and withdrawn with a magnetic card.
The Family Stipend was the heir of federal transfer programmes that had been in place in Brazil since the 1990s, including the Scholarship Programme and the Food Stipend Programme, she continued. Compared with its predecessors, it had lowered the selection criterion from $82 to under $48 in family per capita monthly income. The value of the benefit now ranged from $20 to $45 per family per month. All families that met the income criterion -- and not just families with children -- were eligible to receive the benefits. The advantages of having a single integrated cash transfer programme allowed the Government to avoid overlapping of beneficiaries in different programmes, reduce costs, and create a basis for an articulated and multidimensional social assistance system for the poor.
Despite the achievements, there was still much room for improving the targeting of families, she said. There were still almost 5 million families that qualified for the programme according to the income criterion, but were not receiving the transfer. Selection and listing of families by local authorities was done hastily and with very limited means, which led to problems in the data basis for follow-up and evaluation. There was also much overlapping.
Panellist SYLVIA BEALS, Policy Development Manager of HelpAge International, a global network working with and for disadvantaged older women and men to make sustainable change, said the Decent Work Agenda was critical to older people, particularly as the number of people over 60 was set to explode in the next 20 years. And since as much as 80 per cent of the workforce was in the developing world -– dominated by work in the informal sector -- that meant that huge numbers of elderly people would soon be working in “poor quality” or insecure jobs.
So the Decent Work Agenda should take a very clear line on support for the elderly, just as it did with women and youth, all of whom made up the bulk of the informal economy, had low incomes and lacked social protection. She went on to say that the social protection/ social transfer pillar of the Decent Work Agenda also deserved more attention because such focus could reduce poverty gaps for many of the world’s elderly people by supporting post-employment or retirement services or benefits, as well as support for the staggering numbers of elderly people that would be caring for sick and dying relatives in countries that had been ravaged by the AIDS pandemic.
She said that social security was a universal right and implementing transfers was a clear indication of political intent to address vulnerability and support the poorest. Social transfers also delivered rapid impacts, or “quick wins” for poverty reduction. She stressed that investment in social security was a political process, not an unaffordable dream. Indeed, political will existed, but real action was needed to ensure that social protection/social security was included and resourced via national development programmes with the support of development partners, Governments and civil society.
SANTOSH MEHROTRA, Adviser, Rural Development, Planning Commission of India, focused on India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee programme, which had been enacted in September 2005. India was one of the fast-developing countries in Asia, with one of the largest populations in the world and a large surplus labour force in rural areas. The previous Government’s “India Shining” campaign had failed to win votes in May 2004 elections, and the current Government had come to power on a rural/agricultural development vote. The work employment programmes that had been put in place prior to the current one had been characterized by low coverage and bureaucracy-dominated planning. Over 50 per cent of their beneficiaries had not belonged to the neediest group, and only 16 to 29 days of employment were provided per household.
Under the new programme, for 2006-2007, some 200 poorest districts of India’s 619 districts had been identified for the implementation of the first phase of the project, and in 2007-2008, another 132 backward districts would be added, he continued. During the initial stages, pre-existing programmes would continue in the rest of the country. The Rural Employment Guarantee was expected to provide a social safety net for the vulnerable groups; eliminate distress migration through local employment; generate employment in the most deprived areas; provide opportunity to combine growth with equity; and enhance livelihood security in rural areas by work that developed the infrastructure base of the areas involved. The programme would provide work for 100 days in a financial year to one member of a household, who would volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Employment was to be provided within 15 days of application for work, and if that was not done a daily unemployment allowance would be paid. At least one third of the beneficiaries had to be women. Drinking water, emergency health care, crèches and a child “minder” were to be provided at work sites.
In connection with the programme, the tasks at the central level included the need to formulate the guidelines and funding arrangements for the programme and to ensure efficient delivery and monitoring of the scheme. At the district level, authorities would need to estimate demand for work; initiate participatory planning, giving a principal role to the village assemblies; and ensure professional support for planning. The central Government would bear the entire wage cost of unskilled manual workers, 75 per cent of the material costs and wages of skilled or semi-skilled workers, expenses of the National Employment Guarantee Council and administrative expenses. The state governments would bear 25 per cent of the material costs and wages of skilled and semi-skilled workers, as well as unemployment allowances and administrative expenses at the state level. The work to be undertaken under the programme included water conservation and harvesting, irrigation, land development, flood control and construction of roads.
When delegations and civil society representatives took the floor, one speaker stressed that some employers, particularly small business owners, often discriminated against elderly and disabled people. Was there any way the international community, particularly civil society, could put pressure on the private sector to make room for so-called vulnerable groups? Disabled and elderly people certainly had much to offer, he added.
Another speaker said that, while there was no such thing as a “one size fits all” job creation strategy, there was a need for a consistent international approach. She asked if any of the panellists had considered such an approach to improve conditions and social security in the informal sector.
On income transfers to the poor, one speaker said that such schemes should not be permanent. They must be complimentary to job creation initiatives, and alleviate some of the constraints poor people faced as they searched for jobs or when they entered the labour force for the first time. Such measures must be slowly removed over time. He asked what strategies were being considered to end such income support programmes and move towards the creation of more and better jobs. Similarly, another speaker asked if the panellist saw such transfer schemes as permanent or as temporary ways to jump-start employment creation services.
A civil society representative expressed concern that youth did not have the same access to full and decent employment and were often left out of decision-making on job creation measures. A delegate from the Caribbean region asked if the income transfer programmes that had been mentioned actually led to “decent” work or just “made up a job”. Another wondered what regional impediments were the biggest obstacles to the South solving its own job creation problems.
Several speakers expressed concern about the term “decent work”. Some felt it should be applied to businesses and companies, who often treated workers as mere placeholders or “numbers”, not to people seeking employment. Others were more comfortable with the more people-centred term “respectable employment”, which they felt took into account social concerns.
Responding to comments from the floor, Mr. KAMEETA highlighted the importance of skill improvement, which went hand in hand with job creation. Although the critics of basic income grants said that they taught people to be lazy, he believed they were an important tool in breaking the scandalous circle of poverty. Scepticism did not discourage the proponents of such measures, who intended to continue their efforts to combat poverty.
Ms. ROCHA said that the Family Stipend programme did not intend to eliminate poverty, but sought to alleviate the situation, improving the income level in the country. Once enrolled in the programme, the families could stay as long necessary. The Government intended to also increase incomes through economic development and job creation measures. As for monitoring, with 11 million families participating in the current programme, it was more difficult to monitor than the School Scholarship and Food Stipend programmes, which had been implemented through schools, health clinics and nursing stations. To address the problem, the Government was introducing family questionnaires, among other things.
Ms. BEALS said that, to overcome negative stereotypes, it was important to have a clear view of the contributions that disadvantaged groups, including disabled people, brought to society. All people had a right to be included. Partnerships among the disadvantaged groups -- for example; elderly and people with disabilities -- could be an effective tool in ensuring decent work for all. To better reach people, it was necessary to prioritize various groups in social security provisions at the state level.
Regarding the affordability of old-age pensions, she said that the cost of social protection was not impractical, and Governments needed to have political will to promote it. It was important to ensure that the poor did not fall below a certain standard. A recent meeting in Bangkok had looked at old-age provisions in terms of population ageing in Asia. The existence of pension schemes in such countries as Nepal and India showed that important shifts were taking place there, which, she hoped, international partners would support.
Mr. MEHROTRA said that, if one adult member of rural families was given 100 days of employment on a guaranteed basis every year, many families would be lifted above the poverty line in India. While some questions about the implementation of the programme remained, it was clear that it was important to include local communities in the planning of the programme, letting them identify the main priorities. The programme was intended to be “employment of last resort” -- it was not a solution to all employment issues.
He said that some 93 per cent of workers in India were involved in the informal sector, and it was the Government’s duty to provide protection to those people. The Parliament was currently looking at the possibility of providing social insurance for the informal sector, including pensions and maternity and disability benefits. Industrialized countries had some responsibilities in that respect, as well. Many companies from developed countries were now cutting costs through transfer of work and contracts to developing countries, and there should be some expectation of their Governments that their companies would take upon themselves some degree of social protection for workers.
Regarding development of skills, he said that for some years, the World Bank had insisted that general secondary education was better than vocational training. The trouble was that vast numbers of generally educated young people could not find jobs. For that reason, it was important to “vocationalize” the secondary school education. It was also necessary to upgrade skills of those people who only had primary education, or were illiterate. Local resource centres at village level could be important in that regard.
Wrapping up the dialogue, the moderator mentioned skills development, organization of workers in the informal economy, social protection and legal empowerment among the issues discussed today. All those could become components of an integrated strategy for employment creation. Environmental and labour standards needed to be applied. Socially responsible investments by companies should be encouraged.
Posted: Feb 12 2007, 05:10 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
The Commission for Social Development met today to continue its forty-fifth session, with delegations expected to conclude their general debate on the agenda item “promoting full employment and decent work for all”. It was also expected to hold an expert panel discussion entitled “Ageing”, and, in the afternoon, hear the presentation of the World Youth Report 2007.
N. AHMED AL-YASSIN ( Iraq) said it was critical that the plans and programmes promoted by the United Nations and its functional commissions be fully implemented, particularly in the area of employment. The Organization should encourage and assist national Governments to that end, particularly in ensuring employment for women and youth.
While the Government of Iraq had worked hard to ensure full employment, the dire security situation and foreign intervention were severely hampering those efforts, he said. Men and women were fleeing the country in large numbers, leaving the labour force, as well as the local knowledge base, severely depleted. As for the wider objectives of the Decent Work Agenda, Iraq called on all Governments to implement its economic and social pillars, which were key elements of the effort to generate more and better jobs while promoting sustainable development.
SAUL WEISLEDER (Costa Rica), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the ever-increasing global economy with new production patterns presented new challenges to the international community. Although there was growing agreement that employment and decent work were a priority, it was still necessary to translate that understanding into practice. Even though there had been progress, it was unequal and traditional recipes were not working. “We cannot have a frenetic race to attract investment and neither should we ignore the realities of the markets and liberalization.”
Noting that his country’s priorities included combating poverty, he said it had doubled pensions for non-contributing persons so as to give a full and dignified life to older people. Among Costa Rica’s other initiatives were free, almost universal health coverage and improvements in education. It was important for the creation of quality jobs to diversify markets and fight barriers to free trade, efforts which required certain exceptions, especially in the markets of developed countries. To achieve full employment and decent work, developing countries must improve their integration into the world economy. “Intelligent integration” must be built on respective strengths and adequate allocation of resources.
The next step was an in-depth reform of the public education system to create opportunities for all Costa Ricans, he said. It was important to find concrete solutions for the achievement of full employment and decent work for all, in particular defining the role of national and foreign investment. Poor countries could not be excluded from cooperation for development. The Costa Rican Government sought to focus on education, health and housing rather than on soldiers.
In conclusion, he addressed the Secretary-General’s report before the Commission, the Spanish text of which referred to “the disabled” rather than “persons with disabilities”, as well as “physical, intellectual and mental handicaps”. That was an inexcusable mistake, which must be corrected as those terms were alien to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
ANA RADU ( Republic of Moldova) recalled that the 1995 World Summit on Social Development at Copenhagen had presented the international community with an opportunity to promote human-centred development in the wider effort to ensure coordinated social and economic advancements for sustainable development. It was important to ensure greater and better collaboration between international organizations and those with “social mandates” in order to meet Copenhagen’s aims for social protection and full and decent employment for all. The Government of the Republic of Moldova had worked hard to translate plans and programmes in the social sphere into concrete social policies in areas such as child welfare, social security and labour reforms.
However, the country still faced serious challenges in effecting the full implementation of the Copenhagen Programme of Action, she said. Even as the Republic of Moldova’s economy became more stable, many people migrated to other areas to find work. Indeed, its dependence on remittances was the second highest in the world and some 80 per cent of Moldovan citizens living outside the country sent funds home. The country continued to seek the help of the international community to address the issue of labour migration, particularly in the area of best practices. In the meantime, the Government would continue to work towards the implementation of the Copenhagen goals.
ANDA FILIP, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said that organization’s interest in the current debate stemmed from the fact that, in April, it would hold a discussion on job creation and employment security in the era of globalization. Because of their experience with distressed constituents who were either unemployed or feared losing their jobs, parliamentarians saw employment creation as a key political issue that brought the tension between the haves and the have-nots to the fore. It forced tough parliamentary debates and was often used as an electoral litmus test.
She said that, all too often, employment and decent work did not occupy centre stage in national economic and social policymaking, and most countries lacked a mechanism to assess the impact of policy decision on employment and decent work. With a view to the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s upcoming debate, two members -– Elizabeth Salquero Carrillo ( Bolivia) and Osamah Abu Ghararah ( Saudi Arabia) -– had prepared a report that found, in essence, that today’s complex societies lacked a single solution to the problem and that an intricate web of social and economic policies must work in unison. Education and training, reconstitution of safety nets and more effective labour market policies, in addition to legislation, were therefore essential ingredients of any national employment creation plan.
Though still a preliminary text, the draft IPU Assembly resolution contained a number of concrete points, she said. For example, it recommended that priority in public and foreign investment in developing countries be given to the more labour-intensive infrastructure projects in poor areas. The draft also stressed the need to ensure adequate financing of self-employment, as well as medium, small and micro enterprises in informal sectors. Beyond that, the draft resolution drew attention to the role that social dialogue must play.
TOSHIHIKO MURATA, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that, in implementing the goal of promoting full employment and decent work for all, it was important to shift the emphasis towards rural areas, where the majority of the world’s poor lived, and rural employment. Priority should be given to the rural landless and near-landless, such marginalized groups as women, youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and herders. The importance of rural employment could not be under-emphasized, given that agricultural workers amounted to 450 million people, or 40 per cent of the world’s labour force. Successful poverty reduction required paying considerably more attention to both small farmers and workers as distinct groups.
He said agriculture was one of the sectors in which the highest number of workers faced health and safety risks, in which the highest number of child labourers and women were employed, and in which employment was based on informal arrangements and labour laws were not enforced. A primary policy objective should be to build the capacity of rural workers to produce good, safe, quality food in a sustainable way; support education and training, knowledge and skills; and promote technologies that provided fairer conditions of employment. Policies should support the identification, assessment, up-scaling and replication of good practices that promoted decent work, including in rural, farm and off-farm employment.
Partnerships should be established among United Nations specialized agencies, workers’ unions and civil society organizations, he said, adding that strengthening workers’ organizations was a key to enabling their participation in policy dialogue so as to represent their interests and identify ways to respond to new challenges and opportunities. It must be recognized that waged agricultural workers and their trade unions already played an important role, and could play an even greater one in the future. Given the peculiar way in which production was organized in rural areas and its impact on labour, it was also essential to identify alternative means to strengthen workers’ organizations in order to broaden their membership base to include casual, contract and informal workers while reinforcing their action as development institutions at the community level. Only through the empowerment of the poorest, enabling them to participate in the policy dialogue, could the goal of full employment and decent work for all truly contribute to equity.
BERTRAND DE LOOZ KARAGEORGIADES, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said his delegation had closely studied the report of the Secretary-General, which noted that economic growth did not effectively lead to a reduction in poverty or increased employment. Worse, unemployed people often became marginalized or were labelled pariahs in their communities. But the Sovereign Military Order of Malta had always been at the service of the poor and needy, and was working hard in many social areas, including the medical field.
While the Sovereign Military Order could not claim to be experts in international labour, it believed in and understood the real importance of decent work and full employment to social integration and human dignity, he said. Its mission was a humanitarian one that was neutral, impartial and a-political. Because of that, it could immediately gear up and provide speedy assistance and other services that could serve as a bridge between emergency and humanitarian efforts. Above all, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta stressed assistance to each individual, each sick or poor person, in order to help them find their dignity.
Mr. GREENE, International Chamber of Commerce and International Organization of Employers, said employment growth required regulatory frameworks that supported innovation and promoted competition. The main components of the broad policy framework required to create wealth and productive employment and tackle persistent poverty included entrepreneurship, sound macroeconomic policies, open trade and investment policies, investment in education, continuous skill development, policies to create an inclusive labour market, sustainable social security systems, quality infrastructure and good public governance. Governments had already committed themselves to such a framework in the 2005 World Summit Outcome and the recent Economic and Social Council Ministerial Declaration.
The business community welcomed the importance attached to public-private partnerships noted in those documents, he said. Partnerships with the private sector could take a number of forms, including linkages between multinational enterprises and local companies, which could help the development of local economies and lead to new business opportunities and job creation. Representative business organizations also had a crucial role to play and it was important to create an enabling environment for enterprises to create and develop productive employment across all groups of society. As global representative organizations of large and small businesses around the world, the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers were working with intergovernmental organizations to mobilize business collectively around those policy challenges.
BARBARA BAUDOT, Coordinator, TRIGLAV Circle, said her organization sought to promote an approach to international relations and public policy that was grounded in the moral and spiritual values expressed in ethical norms and behaviour. A founding objective of the Circle was to realize the core messages of Copenhagen, largely towards ensuring people-centred development as well as an integrated political, economic, ethical and spiritual vision for social development. The Decent Work Agenda responded to humankind’s inherent need to be occupied and to achieve something. “Decent work” also fulfilled a social yearning in most people to be a productive part of society.
She went on to say that, while it was clearly against the prevailing current thinking, progress in labour and work-related areas required revisiting the role of technology in the evolution of societies. The international community must strive for more frugal lifestyles that employed the innate gifts of every human being as opposed to the increasing concentration of financial and economic power that benefited only a few while dehumanizing the planet by promoting a division of labour that favoured machines and exhausted natural resources.
Panel Discussion on Ageing
JOHAN SCHOLVINCK, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Moderator of the panel discussion, emphasized the timeliness of the discussion five years after the Madrid Conference on Ageing. The panel would be devoted to outlining and debating major achievements and obstacles in implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, with the aim of contributing to the debate on issues related to the review and appraisal of the Plan.
In that connection, he recalled that the Commission, in its resolution 44/1 on modalities for the first review and appraisal of the Madrid Plan, had decided to start the first global cycle of review and appraisal in 2007 during the current session and to conclude it in 2008 for its forty-sixth session. Member States had been requested to identify specific areas for in-depth participatory inquiries, using a bottom-up approach, so that each country could establish for itself the activities it intended to review. The Secretary-General’s report on major developments in the area of ageing since the Second World Assembly would be made available to delegates at the Commission’s forthcoming session.
SHEILABAI BAPPOO, Minister for Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare and Reform Institutions of Mauritius, focused on the issue of older persons and development, saying that the number of pensioners aged 60 and above would double between 2000 and 2050. Ageing would have an impact on Government and civil society, health and institutional care, employment and labour markets, social protection systems and economic growth.
Turning to her country’s national experience, the policy of the Government of Mauritius towards the elderly bore the headline “Dignity, Respect and Ageing with a Smile” and focused on productive, participatory and meaningful ageing, as well as ageing with dignity and self-fulfilment. The country had a network of 54 social welfare centres, 125 community centres and nine day-care centres for the elderly. Consultations for policy decision were conducted with the Senior Citizen Council and some 610 senior citizens’ organizations.
There were a wide variety of training, education and recreational programmes for the elderly and persons with disabilities, she said. The Government also focused on issues relating to the ageing labour force, in particular, through the development of small and medium enterprises, the creation of an Empowerment Fund and the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 65 years of age. Social protection was available to all older people and a non-contributory universal pension plan covered all those aged 60 and above. Additional pensions were paid to people aged 90 and above.
Intergenerational solidarity was also a matter of attention and efforts were being made to transmit values, culture and traditions from one generation to the next, she continued. Home visits to those who were bedridden as well as residents of charitable institutions had been organized and preventive care for the elderly had been incorporated into the country’s health system. All senior citizens were entitled to free transportation, and wheelchairs, hearing aids, dentures and spectacles were provided free of charge.
FREDERICK FENCK, geriatrics specialist, and Director, International Institute on Ageing, Malta, said Madrid had highlighted the need to ensure an integrated approach to strategies for ageing in the framework of overall sustainable development. Today, two thirds of all older persons –- some 375 million people worldwide -– lived in developing countries. Indeed, ageing and urbanization were the two major demographic trends in developing and transitional countries.
He also noted that developing countries were undergoing a rapid epidemiological transition from infectious diseases to chronic ones, while African countries also bore the double burden of large numbers of people suffering from infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS as well as chronic ones. All those demographic changes were occurring against the backdrop of a global information and communication technology explosion.
Recalling that Economic and Social Council resolution 1987/41 recommended the establishment of the International Institute on Ageing, he said that, on 9 October 1987, the United Nations had signed an official agreement with the Government of Malta to establish the International Institute on Ageing as an autonomous body under the Organization’s auspices. Inaugurated on 15 April 1988 by then Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, the Institute’s main objective, under its United Nations mandate, was to facilitate the education and training of personnel from developing countries in the various fields of ageing. It focused on training and capacity-building, networking, publication and convening international meetings.
He went on to highlight the serious problems facing older people in developing countries, stressing the specific need for poverty reduction strategies to outline ways to deal with ageing. Public health education and the promotion of healthy lifestyles were also important in rapidly ageing developing countries, but such efforts were often hampered because those very countries suffered from the greatest shortages of health-care workers, nurses and from overall “brain drain” in other health- and medical-related fields as African nationals sought employment and livelihoods in the West. Some of the Institute’s activities, undertaken with such partners as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), helped the mainstreaming of ageing into gender issues and humanitarian responses.
The foremost challenges for the international community lay in supporting older persons as they sought to integrate themselves into society, he said. All stakeholders must promote that social integration process in a manner that avoided inert-generational stress and “ageism” sparked by fears of dwindling health-care funds and services. Everyone must also work to ensure that older persons were not seen as passive and helpless, but rather as valuable resources that could benefit society as a whole. In order to reach that noble goal, it was critically important to implement all relevant international agreements and development initiatives on behalf of the world’s elderly.
MARTHA B. PELAEZ, international expert in ageing and health, said older people all over the world needed enough money to live on as well as health and freedom to continue doing what they valued in an environment free of discrimination. Active ageing was the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people aged. However, health and social systems were having trouble keeping up with changing demographics. A concerted effort was needed to ensure health maintenance and chronic disease management, prevent disabilities and introduce community-based long-term care programmes. The changing demographic situation required health-care systems to switch from acute care to care of multiple chronic conditions with possible consequences in functional capacity.
Long-term care options were needed for persons with physical, mental and cognitive disabilities from all socio-economic levels, she said, adding that it would be a mistake to believe that ageing populations related mostly to developed countries. While some 52 per cent of older people lived in the North today, that situation would change by 2050, when some 180 million older people would be living in developing countries. The main challenges for geriatric health services included health-care coverage, lack of trained providers and lack of information about ageing and health access for the elderly. Other problems included medication mismanagement, overlooked health problems, lack of prevention services and functional decline.
It was therefore necessary to implement educational programmes in geriatrics and gerontology for physicians, nurses and other health and social care providers, she said. It was also important to develop national and regional initiatives to implement practice-improvement programmes. It was also necessary to recognize the role and value of family caregivers, build regular assessments of their needs into primary health-care practice, develop experience, review legislation regarding family caregivers and build the capacity for homecare services. Programmes should be designed to meet the needs of the “older family”. Health security for older adults related to effective prevention, early detection and chronic care management with protocols adjusted to their needs. National targets should be established to improve health security for older people. It was also necessary to elaborate indicators for monitoring success.
MARY ANN TSAO, President and CEO of the Singapore-based Tsao Foundation, spoke about creating and ensuring enabling and supportive environments, saying the Foundation was a regionally-oriented non-profit organization dedicated to caring for the aged and other ageing-related issues. As older persons were now living longer but with more disabilities, they required more support and assistance, even as the capacity of nuclear families to care for them decreased. With that in mind, Governments and community-level actors were becoming increasingly aware that families could no longer be the sole supporters of their elderly relatives in terms of health care, financial and psycho-social support.
To help address that trend, she said, stakeholders were looking at a number of innovative options, including the provision of social pensions, engaging seniors’ groups with Government organizations on alternatives, and expanded home care and caregiver support for disabled older people. On social pensions, an elderly man had recounted during a recent trip to China how there was nothing more empowering than “having money in my pocket”. To that end, the Foundation saw such schemes as “win-win” initiatives that helped reduce older people’s poverty and raised their status, material security and access to services.
Research had shown that older persons regularly contributed portions of their pensions to their families, which helped improve household living conditions, she said. In developing countries, where such schemes were in place, pensions also eased the financial burden of older persons caring for relatives living with HIV/AIDS. It had become clear that even small pensions made a huge difference in the lives of older persons. Regarding efforts to engage seniors’ groups with Governments, such groups of older people were usually social or faith-based. But recent initiatives by non-governmental organizations supported the formation of associations structured around specific issues and linked with local governments. Such associations had been highly effective in raising awareness among older people about entitlements and pension services, and encouraging them to participate in policy dialogue and other decision-making areas. On care-giving, particularly for frail or disabled elderly people, such services as help with grocery shopping, housekeeping or yard work were critical for the dignity and overall survival of older persons.
After the Moderator opened an interactive dialogue on ageing, speakers reaffirmed their commitment to the Madrid Plan of Action and shared their national and regional experiences in its implementation. They also pointed out that ageing created both challenges and opportunities, which must be recognized, studied and addressed. A link between ageing and national development policies was emphasized, with one speaker pointing out that one aspect of ageing manifested itself in the erosion of traditional family care systems, while new political frameworks at the State level had not yet been fully developed.
Speakers also highlighted the situation of older people working in the informal sector who required coverage by pension and social security systems, with some noting that Governments encountered financial difficulties in that regard and others raising questions about the role of international cooperation in tackling the difficulties relating to older people’s needs. One speaker also pointed out that there should be a more explicit link between the Madrid Plan of Action and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Decent Work Agenda.
Ms. BAPPOO, responding to questions, said retired and elderly people in Mauritius could participate in income-generating initiatives within the larger development framework through, among others, an Empowerment Fund that targeted retired persons wishing to start up small- or medium-sized enterprises.
Mr. FENCK said that, rather than asking what could be done for older persons, it was more important to stress empowering them to participate in development. They had unique gifts to share, from volunteering and counselling –- in elder care centres or working with youth groups -– to more regularized employment. Governments could make it easier for older persons to go on working as one way to ensure they were invested in the development of their local communities and national societies.
Ms. PELAEZ said there was a direct link between “the amount of money in your pocket and your health”. There were very good examples of social pension schemes in Brazil and throughout South America that were improving the dignity of older people -- often by increasing their savings -- the empowerment of women and wider development.
Ms. TSAO said social pension schemes were really an investment in social development because they helped lift families out of poverty. The small dollar amounts that older persons received reaped huge benefits, by, among other things, opening up possibilities to increase savings and encouraging older persons to contribute to the efforts of younger members of their immediate families to find work.
Posted: Feb 13 2007, 03:54 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS IN STRONGEST TERMS CONTINUING VIOLENCE IN IRAQ
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the continuing violence in Iraq, which was accentuated yesterday by the death of more than 100 people throughout the country, including in the coordinated bombing of a crowded market in Baghdad. These brutal crimes came on the anniversary of the heinous bombing of the Holy Shrine in Samarra, which was also aimed at escalating sectarian violence.
The Secretary-General calls on the Iraqi authorities and the Iraqi people to resist attempts to foment sectarian violence.
Posted: Feb 13 2007, 03:58 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
The Security Council met today for an open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The Council was last briefed on the situation on 25 January by Ibrahim Gambari, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs (see Press Release SC/8943). For an overview of last year’s debates on the issue, see the Security Council Round-up 2006 (Press Release SC/8940 of 12 January 2007).
Briefing by Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process
ALVARO DE SOTO, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that, when the Quartet had met in Washington, D.C., it had underscored the critical need to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Last week, a very important step forward had been taken in the cause of stability and unity among Palestinians, with the agreement reached in Mecca to form a national unity Government. Next week, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the first Israel-Palestinian discussions in six years.
He said a newly active Quartet, a more closely involved Arab world, a Palestinian national unity Government, and the beginning of political dialogue between the parties had, when taken together, the potential to help restore calm and re-energize efforts to achieve a two-State solution. However, as violence and tension during the last few weeks had attested, many immediate and longer-term dangers and challenges to stability and peace would have to be overcome.
On the Mecca agreement, he said the process of forming a new Palestinian Government, as such, had yet to begin, although some names of ministers had been agreed upon, including for foreign affairs and finance. The agreement incorporates the text of the commissioning letter President Abbas would send to Ismail Hannieh to initiate the process of Government formation, which would call upon him “to respect … the agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization” and also to “respect international legitimacy resolutions”. The letter also includes a Government commitment to work to achieve Palestinian national goals “as ratified by the resolutions of the Palestine National Council and the Basic Law articles and the National Conciliation Document and the Arab Summits resolutions”. Those references showed the potential of the agreement.
He said the Quartet will meet in Berlin on 21 February to give full consideration to developments, two days after the trilateral meeting convened by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The goal of the meeting, as stated by Secretary Rice, was “to have discussions about the broad issues on the horizon so that we can work on the Road Map and try to accelerate the Road Map and move toward the establishment of a Palestinian State.” Quartet partners were determined to follow up on that and any subsequent trilateral meetings, as well as on the continued efforts being pursued bilaterally between Israel and the Palestinians.
Warning about challenges, Mr. de Soto said the first challenge was to curb violence. This year alone, 137 Palestinians had been killed by fellow Palestinians in internal clashes. Rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and other heavy weapons had been used by both sides. That violence had taken a terrible toll in civilian lives, living standards, social fabric and psychological well-being. It was equally important to calm Israeli-Palestinian violence. In Eilat, a Palestinian suicide bomber had killed three Israelis and at least 36 rockets had been fired from Gaza since 25 January. Israel had shown commendable restraint in Gaza, but the number of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) search and detention campaigns in the West Bank had jumped by 58 per cent since the start of 2007. This year, 19 Palestinians, including 5 children, had been killed by the IDF.
He was also deeply concerned at continuing tensions over Israeli construction work on a new walkway to restore a broken bridge leading to the Mughrabi Gate of the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount, and accompanying archaeological digging. Israel had stated that its work was purely for safety and access reasons, but there had been a strong reaction in the Arab and Muslim world. Clashes had broken out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the site and in other places in Jerusalem.
A second set of challenges, he continued, was to preserve and build the capacity of the institutions of Palestinian governance, as well as the development of the Palestinian economy. The economy could not be developed without major steps from both parties to implement all aspects of the Agreement on Movement and Access. Implementation, however, had remained very patchy. Exports through the Karni crossing had seen a fourfold increase since 1 January, as compared to November 2006, but was still only 11 per cent of the target. Ninety per cent of Gaza residents relied to some extent on food aid. Closures in the West Bank now stood at 529 -- an increase of 25 per cent over last year. Without greater movement and access, trade would continue to drop and reliance on aid would continue to increase.
He said Palestinian institutions, including schools, hospitals and ministries, had been badly harmed over the last 12 months. An extended strike over non-payment of salaries had taken its toll. The Authority’s financial management system had been degraded and the security sector remained oversized, factionalized, unevenly trained and under split command. Any new Government would face a budget deficit of about 30 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Israel would need to consistently hand over the clearance revenues that it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. During the past year, the programme of the Government had hampered the ability of donors to help to address the issues. Interventions had largely been through parallel mechanisms, which had gradually undermined the very institutions intended to serve as the foundation of a Palestinian State. To facilitate recovery, a resumption of direct support and a more holistic approach were needed.
A third set of challenges, he said, related to the continued lack of any positive Israeli action to remove settlement outposts, and the continued settlement activity and barrier construction on occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank. It was vital that action be taken to ensure that final status issues were not further prejudiced by the creation of facts on the ground.
He noted that at least three people had been killed and many others wounded today in a double bus bombing near the mainly Christian town of Bikfaya, north-east of Beirut. The bombings occurred at a time of acute political tension in Lebanon, with domestic political parties at an impasse.
He said that the general calm that had been prevailing in southern Lebanon since the cessation of hostilities last August was disrupted temporarily on 7 February. The Israel Defense Forces had signalled to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that it intended to cross the Israeli technical fence to clear a number of mines that it claimed to have identified north of the fence on Israeli territory. UNIFIL urged the IDF to suspend its action and to resolve the matter through UNIFIL’s liaison channels and through an urgent tripartite meeting, so as to avoid an increase in tension along the Blue Line.
Despite those appeals, the Israel Defense Forces proceeded with the operation later that night. The Lebanese Army fired on the IDF after it made an opening in the technical fence, but while it was still on the Israeli side of the Blue Line. The IDF responded with at least one missile. No casualties were reported. Subsequently, an IDF bulldozer and excavator carried out earthworks to clear the area of mines and violated the Blue Line in the process. Two days earlier, and at the same location, the IDF had shot at and destroyed four improvised explosive devices on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line. The firing by the Lebanese Army constituted a violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and a breach of the cessation of hostilities agreement. The IDF also violated resolution 1701 by crossing the Blue Line, and the exchange of fire posed a threat to the lives of UNIFIL troops patrolling in the area.
He said that such incidents illustrated the continued volatility of the situation in southern Lebanon and the need for all sides to fully respect the resolution and continue to act with restraint at all times. In that regard, addressing concerns through the tripartite mechanism chaired by UNIFIL was of paramount importance.
He said that, on 6 February, the United Nations had signed the Agreement with the Lebanese Republic on the establishment of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The United Nations remained hopeful that the Lebanese institutions would be able to perform their tasks and responsibilities on the way towards the establishment of the Tribunal.
He said that the goal must now be to foster a dynamic in which positive developments were mutually reinforcing. The Mecca agreement signalled a rejection by Palestinians of internal violence and marked a renewed commitment by the Arab world to supporting Palestinian unity and moderation. Hopefully, that would lead to a Government that donors could support. Only if the security forces worked cohesively, rather than facing off in the streets, could the terrible violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory be tackled and security reform be durable. Further delay in supporting Palestinian institutions and reviving economic life could have devastating consequences. While negotiations with Israel remained the province of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and in the hands of President Abbas, the institutions of the Palestinian Authority also had responsibilities to ensure that Palestinian obligations were met under existing agreements.
He said that action by Israel to address the long-standing issue of prisoners, and by the Palestinian side to secure release of the Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza, would be crucial to achieving lasting progress. Excessive expectations should not be placed on next week’s trilateral meeting, but hopefully it would be the beginning of a genuine dialogue. The goal was clear -- to end the occupation that began in 1967 and achieve an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State, living side by side in peace with Israel. The overall goal of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbours must also not be neglected. It was important to act with the right mixture of firmness and flexibility with all parties to ensure that they moved decisively down that path.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar), associating himself with the statement of the Arab Group, said the Palestinian territories had seen a different kind of escalation when Israeli authorities had violated the sanctity of the Al Aqsa compound, allowing for demolitions and excavations. Those excavations were part of a pattern of actions by Israel to change the legal status of occupied Jerusalem and its historic and religious landmarks. Those actions were illegal and invalid.
He said the dialogue between Hamas and Fatah in Mecca had positive results. The step towards a Government of national unity was basic for the resumption of the peace process. He hoped that the establishment of the Government would be positively used by Palestinians and the Israeli Government. The ability of the Palestinian Authority to provide security and basic services would serve the interests of all stakeholders, and all stakeholders should, therefore, support the agreement. He called on the Israeli Government to lift the siege imposed on the Palestinian people.
Ever since adoption of resolution 1701 (2006), the borderline between Lebanon and Israel had been calm, if not for the recent events when an Israeli bulldozer violated the border line claiming it was clearing explosives. In a volatile situation such as that, the two parties should hold themselves to the provisions of the cessation of hostilities. He, therefore, called on the Council to seriously deal with the Israeli violations of Lebanese borders and airspace. He hoped that the upcoming Quartet meeting in Berlin would provide an incentive to revive the peace process in the Middle East. The Council must undertake an active and robust role to arrive at a just and permanent settlement of the Palestinian question.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa), like previous speakers, welcomed the decision by Fatah and Hamas to form a Government of national unity in Palestine. The significance of the Mecca accord lay in its provision of clear evidence that the Palestinians were both capable and willing to settle their internal differences. The Palestinian leaders had also demonstrated their aim to forge a united and peaceful front to address the urgent task of ending the illegal occupation of their country, which remained the key to peace and development throughout the region. Furthermore, both Fatah and Hamas had made significant concessions that he hoped were sufficient to break the international siege on the Palestinian people. The opportunity presented by the accord, therefore, should not be squandered, and direct talks on final status issues should commence without delay. Hopefully, a new dialogue would be followed up by the establishment of confidence-building measures, such as the extension of the ceasefire to the West Bank and the release of prisoners on both sides.
He urged the international community to ease its financial blockade against the Palestinian Authority. He particularly urged Israel to release all Palestinian tax revenues, which belonged to the Palestinian people and were neither development assistance nor generosity. Those funds were urgently required to alleviate socio-economic hardships, including the deteriorating Palestinian institutions. The vision of a two-State solution and the principle of land for peace must underpin any permanent settlement of the Middle East conflict. Hopefully, the upcoming trilateral meeting, followed by the Quartet’s meeting, would reinvigorate the peace process. Regarding the situation on the ground, he reiterated that Israel should refrain from taking unilateral action, which would predetermine final status negotiations, such as the building of settlements and the separation wall. The building of new settlements in the West Bank was contrary to international law. He was particularly concerned about the excavation work being carried out by Israel beneath the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the demolition of the historic road connecting Al-Maghariba with the compound. The compound was revered by millions of Muslims throughout the world and any damage to it would likely have serious repercussions.
The Middle East situation, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had been on the Council’s agenda since the United Nations’ creation, he said. However, there had been a consistent failure by the parties and the international community to seriously address the challenges facing the region. A regional solution must address the plight of the millions of Palestinians. Also, the international community, particularly Israel, could no longer “pretend” that those living in appalling conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon and elsewhere did not exist. Peace in the region also hinged on ending the occupation of the Shebaa Farms and the Syrian Golan Heights. As President Thabo Mbeki recently wrote, “… the question can no longer be avoided -- is it not time that the United Nations, genuinely representing all nations, assumes its rightful position and lead a global process to address all the interconnected challenges facing the peoples of the Middle East and West Asia?”
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana) said that, before the unfortunate confrontation between the IDF and the Lebanese Armed Forces on 7 February, it had been expected that the cessation of hostilities would hold, ensuring the stabilization of the security and military situation along the Blue Line. He commended UNIFIL for its quick response to the crisis and hoped the two armies would continue to exercise maximum restraint. Israel and Lebanon did not need to be reminded of the need to commit themselves further to implementing a permanent ceasefire on the full acceptance of the Taif Accords and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) and intensifying efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process. Hopefully, the Quartet’s efforts to launch meaningful negotiations would lead initially to the consolidation of the ceasefire within an international framework, with a definition of its parameters and rules and its extension to the West Bank.
He welcomed the Mecca accord with cautious optimism and hoped there would be an immediate end to factional violence and the stabilization of the political and security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It was expedient for the Palestinian Government of national unity to commit itself to the Quartet principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations. Because the stifling of international aid and the financial boycott imposed by Israel had led to severe disruptions to Palestinian basic services and impacted negatively an already fragile economy, he again appealed to all concerned to release such withheld funds. He also condemned Israel’s demolition of the historic road connecting Al-Maghariba with the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in addition to two rooms adjacent to the Al Buraq Wall. He further expressed concern over construction work initiated by Israel in the old city of Jerusalem.
He said that there could be no military solution to the Palestinian question and the vision of an independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security would be achieved only through compromises and negotiations in good faith.
VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said, over recent weeks, significant events had taken place, such as the talks in Mecca that had led to agreements on the creation of a Palestinian national unity Government. He hoped the future Government, set up in line with the demands of the Quartet, would become an important factor in relaunching peace talks. Implementation of the agreement should be accompanied by the removing of roadblocks in the Palestinian territories. There had been a pained response in the Arab world to the construction work near the Al-Aqsa mosque. Defining the status of Jerusalem was an issue that must be resolved in direct Palestinian Israeli negotiations on final status issues. Parties should not, through unilateral steps, try to predetermine the final status. Stopping the work on the Temple Mount had been a step in the right direction.
He said the Quartet had recently met in Washington, D.C., and would meet in Berlin. During that meeting, the need to define a framework for the settlement of Palestine, without losing sight of the Lebanon and Syria track, would be discussed. Such a comprehensive approach might best be accomplished through an international conference. Unrest continued in Lebanon. He called on the Lebanese parties to seek political compromises and to refrain from violence. He was concerned at today’s explosions in the country.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia), associating himself with the upcoming statements on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the intractability of the conflict in the Middle East was a matter of deep concern. He reaffirmed Indonesia’s support for a peaceful solution that would fulfil the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination and Statehood, to independently conduct its foreign relations, to live in peace, and for every Palestinian refugee to return home.
He welcomed the Mecca declaration. There was an urgent need for the Palestinians to establish a unity Government. That would require not only moral support, but material assistance from the international community. Peace could not be obtained by diplomacy alone, but required the parties concerned to cease the use of force and develop collaboration. He deeply deplored the excavation in the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and urged Israel to stop such activities, which threatened to increase tensions and complicate efforts to revive the peace process.
Regarding the situation in Lebanon, he noted with great concern the continuing Israeli air violations and recent crossing by the Israeli military of the Blue Line, which were a blatant violation of resolution 1701 (2006). As for the security situation, sustainable peace depended not only on deployment of an international peace mission, but on the presence of political unity and national cohesion. All parties in Lebanon must have a strong commitment to national reconciliation and the creation of a united and stable Lebanon.
He said that peace would only come to the region when the Israeli Government was willing to comply with Security Council resolutions, the Road Map, the Madrid terms of reference and the principle of land for peace, and when all Arab neighbours accepted Israel’s right to live in peace.
MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) said he was deeply concerned about the news coming from Lebanon. He condemned in the strongest possible terms today’s attacks in Bikfaya, as well as any resort to violence, and he expressed his heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the victims. He, meanwhile, welcomed the agreement reached in Mecca by the Palestinians as an important step towards the start of reconciliation between the various Palestinian political forces. He particularly appreciated the role played by the Saudi King, who, with patience and cleverness, created the necessary conditions. It was necessary now to carefully assess the new Government’s programme, which should reflect the Quartet principles as an essential condition for normalizing relations with the international community. He now awaited the terms of the agreement to set a Palestinian national unity Government, and he stood ready, together with other European Union member States, to work with a legitimate Palestinian Government.
While keeping to the results-based sequential approach of the Road Map, he underlined the urgent need to elaborate new strategies, which offered the parties a clear negotiating prospect. It was crucial that Israel, at the present delicate moment, refrain from any action that could be misunderstood by the Palestinians, particularly regarding Jerusalem’s status. Equally important was a cessation of all forms of provocation by the Palestinians. It was time for negotiations to start on the basis of effective mutual confidence-building measures, including full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access, particularly in Rafah, whose opening should be routine rather than exception, as well as the implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh agreements, the release of prisoners and the complete transfer of customs revenues to the Palestinian Presidency. Above all, the truce currently in force in Gaza should be rapidly extended to the West Bank. Once direct talks had begun, a creative effort should be made to involve all regional actors.
He expressed deep concern over the recent incident between the Israeli and Lebanese armies, and he commended UNIFIL’s prompt and effective intervention, which prevented a deterioration of the situation. He was concerned by the discovery of a weapons cache, promptly seized by the Lebanese authorities. Hopefully, any attempts to rearm irregular militias would be stopped. Full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), particularly the freeing of the two Israeli soldiers, was fundamental. He called on the Lebanese forces to renounce violence and to immediately resume the dialogue. He urged all the Lebanese political forces to seek a compromise on the way forward, something that, as the tragic events of the day showed, could no longer be put off.
JUSTIN BIABAROH-IBORO ( Congo) said that he regretted the continued suffering of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, who were deprived of access to basic social services. Sanctions imposed by Israel since April 2006, which resulted in the suspension of direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, and Israel’s retention of its customs duties had worsened an already precarious humanitarian situation and undoubtedly contributed to the escalation of the fratricidal war among the Palestinians.
He expressed concern about the violence following the construction undertaken by Israel at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but did welcome recent initiatives to relaunch the peace process, as well as the Mecca agreement. That effort should be encouraged, particularly by lifting the financial blockade on the Palestinian Authority.
Regarding Lebanon, he expressed concern about the violence that could lead to a civil war there and he condemned today’s bomb attack near Beirut. War between Israel and Hizbollah had accelerated the country’s political, financial and economic crisis. He called upon the Lebanese to continue dialogue to find solutions to the various challenges. He deplored the unilateral steps that had caused conflict between Israeli and Lebanese forces on the Blue Line on 7 February. Both parties had the obligation to respect the Blue Line, and must refrain from any act of provocation. To create a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, all players concerned, including regional actors such as Syria, Iran and others, must be included. They could help stabilize situation and ensure a lasting end to hostilities.
JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said the ceasefire in Gaza agreed on between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, as well as the 23 December meeting between the two leaders, had generated hope. He hoped those initial steps might be consolidated and lead to a new phase in the peace process. As the Quartet had pointed out, the parties must fully implement the measures on which they had agreed and abstain from any action counter to the Road Map. He welcomed the Mecca agreement. In order to be effective, the new Palestinian Government must align itself with the three basic requirements of the Quartet. The Trilateral Meeting on 19 February should firm up the political momentum. It was essential to adopt measures that would create a favourable environment for a process designed to create a Palestinian State living side by side in peace next to Israel.
Addressing the situation in Lebanon, he said resolution 1701 (2006) must remain the context for the Lebanese Government gaining sovereign control of its territory. Border activities could heighten tensions. He condemned the terrorist attack in Lebanon this morning. He urged the countries in the region to maintain a constructive attitude that promoted dialogue in Lebanon. The conflict in the Middle East could only be resolved through political negotiations, and the Quartet remained the most relevant mechanism in that regard. The Road Map was the inescapable reference point on which peace must be based.
RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said that he wished to pay tribute to the leadership of Saudi Arabia, which had led to the Mecca Agreement. Implementation of that agreement would create the conditions for a better future for the Palestinian people. Hopefully, the new Government would be accompanied by decision-making in the political realm that would lead to the lifting of financial restrictions that affected the Palestinian people.
He said that the formation of a Palestinian Government of national unity was meaningful, but for progress to be achieved, all political forces in Palestine must commit to dialogue, reject violence and accept earlier agreements. He expressed concern about Israel’s work on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Even if such work was fully within the scope of law, it was not necessarily wise. The present moment should be taken advantage of to promote peace; for that reason, he urged suspension of the construction work.
He further deplored terror attacks by non-State actors on civil targets within Israel. The Palestinian Authority would not be credible until it could prevent such acts. Actions by Israeli forces in violation of international law were not acceptable. He appealed to leaders not to lose sight of the opportunity to move towards a lasting peace. The basic principles of the peace agreement were known to all -- two democratic States living side by side in security. The international community must waste no opportunity to favourably influence that process.
Regarding Lebanon, he deplored recent acts of violence, as well as events along the border with Israel. He appealed to all political and social actors to resolve such conflicts through dialogue.
ALEJANDRO D. WOLFF ( United States) said there had been a number of significant developments. Secretary of State Rice had held meetings with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert during her January trip to the region. Washington had hosted a Quartet meeting on 2 February, after which the United States, European Union, Russian Federation and the United Nations had issued a statement that reaffirmed the Quartet principles and support for efforts aimed at realizing the two-State vision. The Quartet would meet again in Berlin on 21 February to assess the situation. Prior to that meeting, Secretary Rice would travel to Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories and Amman, where she would meet with Prime Minister Olmert, President Abbas and King Abdullah.
He said the United States strongly supported the bilateral dialogue between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. The upcoming discussions would focus on advancing the shared goal of a two-State solution to the conflict, in accordance with the sequence of the Road Map. His country would continue to assess the outcome of the meetings in Mecca. While those developments were encouraging, the situation in the region remained delicate, as seen in the strong reaction to the construction of the ramp at the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif. He urged all parties to exercise great care when deciding whether and how to engage in any activity near sensitive religious sites. It was a delicate issue that required moderation and a clear understanding of the facts. There was no justification for the use of violence by protestors.
He said the 7 February incident along the Blue Line had underscored the need for the parties to exercise restraint, to cooperate with UNIFIL and to avoid actions that could further exacerbate tensions, in particular by the initiation of the use of force. It remained critically important that all those involved in the terrorist attacks in Lebanon since October 2004, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri and most recently Minister Pierre Gemayel, were held accountable. He supported the efforts of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission and looked forward to the timely establishment of a tribunal of international character. Concerned about reports of continued shipments of arms to Hizbollah and other armed groups, he said the Council must be united in insisting that Syria and Iran abide by their obligations under Council resolutions to respect Lebanese sovereignty and end their support for the armed militias.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that there had been positive signs of late in Middle East peace efforts, including the Mecca agreement. He sincerely hoped all Palestinians, regardless of factions, could join together to effectively implement that agreement, to establish a unity Government and resume peace talks with Israel. Nonetheless, there were some worrisome trends in the region. Israel’s construction at the Al-Aqsa Mosque had given rise to strong reaction among Arab countries. What happened there six years ago triggered large-scale violence and conflict, leading to a serious setback to the peace process. He hoped that all sides could learn the relevant lessons and respect religious and holy sites of both sides.
Regarding Lebanon, he called for calm on both sides, as well as a commitment to implementing resolution 1701. He hoped that those responsible for the killing of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could be found and brought to justice. He strongly condemned today’s bombing in Beirut and expressed the hope that Lebanese people could unite and seek peaceful means to resolve internal differences.
He said that the Middle East situation had affected the peace and development of the entire world. Relevant resolutions, the principle of land for peace, the Road Map and the peace initiatives of various Arab countries remained the basis for settlement. An independent Palestine living side by side with Israel was the only approach to settling the Palestinian question. He hoped that the Quartet could find a way to implement the Road Map as soon as possible.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said the Conference of Support for Lebanon held in Paris had been a major success, with pledges of $7.5 billion. However, tragedy had once again hit Lebanon. The two bomb attacks on buses in Beirut was a reminder of the cost the Lebanese people were paying in affirming their sovereignty. France had condemned the cowardly attack on the eve of the commemoration of the attack on Hariri two years ago. It was more than ever essential that the Lebanese people come together in dialogue, he said, and called on all parties to preserve unity in the country. Regarding the south of Lebanon, he recalled the importance of full respect of the Blue Line and the need to reach a ceasefire soon.
As for Israel and Palestine, a number of events had generated hope, he said, and hoped that the peace process could once again be on track. Welcoming the Mecca agreement, he said the formation of a national unity Government would provide an opportunity for Palestine to overcome internal disagreements. The agreement represented a step in the right direction. The rapid creation of such a Government should be encouraged by the international community. He also welcomed the relaunch of dialogue between the parties. The 23 December meeting, and the visit made to the region by Ms. Rice and Javier Solana, had created political momentum. He hoped that the upcoming Summit meeting on 19 February and the Berlin meeting of the Quartet on 21 February would enhance the momentum. An international conference would be helpful in the peace process. There were many obstacles to overcome, but he counted upon the political will of the parties to meet the challenges.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), aligning herself with the statement to be given later by Germany, on behalf to the European Union, welcomed the Mecca agreement and expressed hope that the formation of a Palestinian unity Government would end factional violence. She condemned the 29 January suicide attack. Such attacks only further escalated tension in the region. Rocket attacks into Israel and Israel’s construction work at the Al-Aqsa Mosque were also matters of concern. The international community must continue providing assistance to help the Palestinian economy develop. Economic reform went hand in hand with political reform. She expressed the hope for a lasting solution of two States living side by side in peace and security.
Regarding Lebanon, she condemned today’s bus bombings, for which there was no justification. The United Kingdom continued to support the democratically elected Government of Lebanon and urged all parties to participate in dialogue. The United Nations had a central role to play in peace and stability in the region. Resolution 1701 was the best framework for solving Lebanon’s problems. She urged regional States to avoid destabilizing the situation there. It was critical to make progress on the Shebaa Farms issue, on securing the release of captured Israeli prisoners and the implementation of an arms embargo. In the wake of the 7 February incident on the Blue Line, it was important for both sides to act with restraint. The United Nations had an essential role to play in investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri. She hoped that Lebanese officials could find an agreed way forward and that the tribunal could proceed.
JOHAN VERBEKE (Belgium), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that, on the question of the Middle East, one could not afford another lost year. The role of the international community was to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of direct negotiations between the parties. He welcomed the recent meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas and the initiative for a trilateral meeting. The resumption of dialogue should not be at the mercy of events. The responsibility of the parties was to demonstrate their commitments through negotiations. The Quartet was the guarantor and catalyst for different initiatives.
He welcomed the active part of the Arab countries and welcomed the Mecca agreement. If 2007 was to be different from previous years, one must rely on the actions of the parties. Belgium would be prepared to cooperate with a legitimate Palestinian Government. He condemned the firing of rockets into Israel, as well as the blind terrorist attack on the population in Eilat, and welcomed Israel restraint in that regard. He called upon Palestinian leaders to end the violations, and upon the Israeli Government to end activities involving settlements and the building of the Wall within Palestinian occupied territories. As a participant in UNIFIL, his country hoped that the political parts of resolution 1701, particular in regard to the Shebaa Farms, would be implemented. He condemned this morning’s “serious, odious and tragic” events in Lebanon.
Council President PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia), in his national capacity, said that, despite the many challenges, there was a window of opportunity to reinvigorate the peace process. The meeting at the end of last year between the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian Authority President had created a positive momentum, which should be further developed by concrete and immediate actions. The views expressed by the parties and regional leaders during the latest visit of the United States Secretary of State to the region had also been positive. He welcomed the upcoming trilateral high-level meeting; the Quartet meeting of 2 February had also been welcome. He also supported the idea of regular Quartet meetings at the level of principals and envoys. Like previous speakers, he said that the resumption of transfers by Israel of tax and customs revenues was desperately needed. He also hoped the recent agreement among the Palestinians would end the deadly internal strife and allow for early engagement and a continuation of dialogue towards a solution to the Middle East conflict.
Turning to developments on the ground, he expressed deep concern over the recent deterioration and condemned the suicide bombing in Eilat on 29 January. He also reiterated his country’s call for an immediate end to violence by Palestinian factions, as well as attacks on Israel, notably the launching of rockets against Israeli population centres, and for the release of the abducted Israeli soldier. He supported the efforts of President Abbas in that regard. He expected Israel and the Palestinians to exercise the utmost restraint and to sustain and further consolidate the mutually agreed ceasefire in Gaza. At the present critical time, it was paramount not to jeopardize further possible progress and promising prospects for peace in the region. He called for a sensitive approach in dealing with religious sites in Jerusalem. The Israeli Government should continue its commitment to peace based on the Road Map, and he repeated his call for the immediate release of Palestinian Ministers and legislators in Israeli custody.
Noting that tomorrow was the second anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, he said it was high time to put an end to politically motivated violence in Lebanon. Proper investigation of that case and bringing the perpetrators to justice would contribute to reconciliation. The signing of the agreement between the United Nations and the Lebanese Government to set up a special tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers was a welcome development, and hopefully that Government would take the necessary measures to complete the ratification process without delay. He had been following with great concern the recent developments in Lebanon, including the clashes in the streets. Only through the united efforts of all Lebanese could a solution for many outstanding issues be found. Resolution 1701 (2006) provided a good basis for the stabilization of the situation. It was crucial that the resolution and other relevant Council texts were fully respected and implemented by all relevant actors in all aspects. The constructive role of Lebanon’s neighbours, as well as others in the region, was crucial, he said.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that, based on the initiative of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, a dialogue on Palestine National Conciliation had been held last week, which had culminated in an agreement between the leaders of the Palestinian people. That agreement endorsed the cessation of any and all strife among the Palestinian people and the approval of the speedy formation of a national unity Government. Peaceful dialogue would now serve as the sole basis for solving political differences among the Palestinian people. Key issues, such as Occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, the prisoners and the continuation of the illegal construction and building of the Wall and settlements would be given top priority.
He said that President Abbas would commission Prime Minister Ismail Hannieh to form the next Palestinian Government in the next couple of days. The President would call on the Premier of the next Government, among other things, to abide by the interests of the Palestinian people, to work towards achieving their national goals as ratified by the resolutions of the Palestine National Council, the Basic Law, the National Conciliation Document and the resolutions of Arab Summits, as well as to respect Arab and international agreements signed by the PLO. The formation of such a Government should provide for the lifting of the financial blockade.
The agreement produced a constructive environment for the upcoming meeting on 19 February between President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, he said. That meeting would address practical issues, such as the release of prisoners, the release of taxes, implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access and lifting of restrictions on the movement of persons and goods in the West Bank. It would also address the overall political process. President Abbas would reiterate the readiness of the Palestinian side for talks on final status issues to commence at once. If that meeting proved to be a success, it would greatly influence the success of future meetings, including the Quartet meeting in Berlin. In order to arrive at two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and with secure borders, a specific timeline had to be established, with a mechanism of monitoring. An international conference could provide a way for accomplishing those objectives.
He said the Palestinian side had spoken. Now the question was whether Israel was ready for real and genuine talks to commence, which would forever terminate its occupation of the territories occupied since 1967. However, recent developments had dashed hopes for peace among the Palestinian people. Those included the decision by Israel to continue with the politically motivated and extremely explosive construction and so-called excavation under the Al-Buraq Wall in the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. That illegal action had sparked serious alarms that the intentions of the Israeli Government were not to promote peace, but rather to agitate the Muslims and Christians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
In a scene reminiscent of the September 2000 intifada, Israeli occupying forces had stormed the compound on 9 February, using excessive force against Palestinian worshippers and wounding dozens of them. The Old City of Jerusalem and its walls were protected by the United Nations Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972). Moreover, the Israeli action had been in violation of the 1994 Fourth Geneva Convention, The Hague Regulations of 1907, and in blatant defiance of relevant Council resolutions. The Council had repeatedly reaffirmed that actions taken by Israel aimed at changing the legal status, demographic composition and character of the city were null and void and without any legal validity whatsoever.
He said that if the Council were to succeed in halting and reversing Israeli actions, it would have played an extremely crucial role, not only in upholding international law, but also in creating the necessary environment favourable for enabling the peace process to move forward. He sincerely hoped that that would be achieved. The rest of the international community also had an obligation to ensure that no unilateral measures were taken that endangered the fragile prospect of peace. Illegal actions taken by Israel, including continued settlement activity and construction of its wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, could prove to be a catalyst for the historic moment to slip away. “The time has now come to offer real and genuine proposals that promise a just and lasting peace -- one in which a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, will be established.”
DAN GILLERMAN ( Israel) said that the international community had clearly determined that any Palestinian Government must recognize the State of Israel, halt and disavow terrorist activities, and accept and implement agreements previously signed with Israel, including the Road Map. Those were non-negotiable principles, prerequisites for peace that could not be circumvented. As such, the published agreement on a so-called “unity Government” did not address the reality on the ground. Palestinian terror, including the firing of Qassam rockets and the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, continued. Israel was respecting the November ceasefire agreement, while the Palestinians were consistently violating it. Meanwhile, Hamas had yet to release abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
Two weeks ago, a 21-year-old Palestinian from the Gaza Strip blew himself up inside a bakery in the southern city of Eilat, killing three Israelis. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for and praised the attack. Such action was the continuation of the Palestinian leadership’s policy to wage a war of terror against Israel, rather than put its people on the road to Statehood. The only reason Hamas had sought a so-called unity Government was because of international pressure. Hamas must be made to understand that it could not bypass the world’s demands by creating a façade of unity. There could not be a peace process so long as one side refused to acknowledge the existence of the other. Further, the Mecca agreement did not condemn violence and terrorism. Previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians must be fulfilled before the unity Government could be addressed. “The previous agreements are not part of a menu from which Hamas can pick or choose only those elements it wants to fulfil.”
He said that the reality of the situation in Jerusalem had been completely distorted and blown out of proportion. Since 1967, the Mugrabi gate had been the access bridge to the Temple Mount for all non-Muslims. Only Muslims could enter through the other gates. Israel had consistently respected the sanctity of the area, and showed the utmost sensitivity when dealing with the various religious authorities. During the winter of 2004, part of the ramp leading up to the Mugrabi Gate collapsed, due to erosion caused by a snowstorm and an earthquake. A temporary wooden bridge was constructed, but by law the debris must be removed or the collapsed part rebuilt.
He said that the salvage works under way in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park were for the sole purpose of erecting support pillars for a permanent access ramp, to replace a pre-existing ramp. The bridge was for the benefit and safety of visitors to the area. He asked the Council to imagine the outcry, from Muslims and others, if the bridge were allowed to collapse. The works were taking place in sovereign Israeli territory and outside the very sensitive area of the Temple Mount. The digging was being conducted with full transparency, in accordance with antiquities laws and under the auspices of leading experts and professionals, in coordination with the various religious authorities. Israel had no intention of affecting the Temple Mount during the repair works or causing any damage to it.
He said that the situation in Lebanon, by contrast, was one of pressing concern. Last week, Israeli soldiers discovered explosive devices in a situation that reminded many of the incident that provoked last summer’s war with Hizbollah. Later in the week, Israeli soldiers were shot at by the Lebanese Army while looking for similar devices in the same area, north of the technical fence and south of the Blue Line, all in sovereign Israeli territory.
The real violations, however, were seen on Friday, when the Lebanese Army confiscated a truckload of arms on its way to Hizbollah, which was rearming through the trafficking of arms and munitions across the Syria-Lebanese border. The Council should have addressed that incident, which shed light on the violation of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006). Meanwhile, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped seven months ago, still had not been released and there had not even been signs they were alive. He urged the Council to follow through with the commitment in resolution 1701 for their unconditional release.
Hizbollah’s rearming and the killing of innocent people in public bus bombings were the real situation in the Middle East. A disturbing trend was emerging where some within the international community wished to advocate concessions, coddle the extremists and prematurely declare success. Those pronouncements only emboldened the extremists. The international community must send an unequivocal message to the forces of extremism -- to Hamas and Hizbollah and to their puppet masters Iran and Syria, whose tentacles exerted a destabilizing influence -- that it would no longer permit their villainous meddling in the region.
He said that, in order to lay the groundwork for peace, Israel was willing to work with moderates, strengthening their ability to fight terror, assisting them in meeting economic and humanitarian needs, and helping with the development of their political agenda. For those endeavours to be successful, Israel’s neighbours needed to make the right choices. Moderation must prevail over extremism. If they did make the right choices, they would be surprised to learn how far Israel was willing to go to secure the reality of a peaceful Middle East.
CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon) said that today, her country had been subjected to “a heinous terrorist attack that took the lives of innocent civilians and is emblematic of the instability our region is experiencing”. The bombs had killed three people and injured 22. The act aimed to intimidate the people of Lebanon, to cause panic and to destabilize the country. The Prime Minister had requested technical assistance from the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission in investigating the act of terror. Recently, Israel had begun construction and excavation work beneath the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. It had dealt heavy-handedly with civilians attending Friday prayers and peaceful protesters. Those actions not only seriously threatened the foundations of the Mosque, it also threatened the foundations for any other possible peace or goodwill in the region.
As for the events along the Blue Line on 7 February, Israel had claimed it was conducting demining activities, by night in an area where the Blue Line was not clearly demarcated. The Lebanese Armed Forces had conveyed a message to Israel through UNIFIL that Israel postpone its activities until the morning and that the matter be resolved through regular liaison channels. The Israeli Armed Forces persisted and their bulldozer crossed the technical fence despite warning shots, crossing into the Lebanese side by a width of 50 metres and a depth of 30 metres. It was clear that the Israeli Armed Forces had provoked the incidents. Her Government strongly protested the ongoing Israeli violations of the Blue Line, in breach of resolution 1701 (2006). It also looked forward to a prompt settlement of the Shebaa Farms issue.
She said Israel’s July war on Lebanon continued today with over 1.2 million cluster bombs that continued to kill and maim innocent civilians. Israel dropped those bombs in blatant defiance of international humanitarian law. She thanked all countries that were helping in the demining efforts and asked the Council to press Israel to provide maps of where it had laid those bomblets, as well as all the maps of mines planted during the occupation of South Lebanon. On 25 January in Paris, the international community had demonstrated its support for Lebanon, with total pledges of $7.6 billion after the Lebanese Government had presented a reform plan. The political message was clear: Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability were vital and the Lebanese deserved and required international assistance to achieve those goals. The Lebanese Government had undertaken all necessary measures within its capacity to ensure security along its borders. The Lebanese army was doing its utmost to combat arms smuggling across the border.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) thanked Mr. De Soto, even though he had failed to refer to the occupied Syrian Golan while describing the “situation in the Middle East”. Israeli occupation authorities continued to detain scores of Syrian nationals in detention camps and continued to build settlements in the Syrian Golan, in violation of Security Council resolution 497 (1981). Associating himself with the statements to be delivered by Kuwait, on behalf of the Arab group; Azerbaijan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, he said that one of surprising ironies in the annals of the United Nations, without which Israel would not have seen the light of day, was the fact that Israel had continued its racist settler occupation of Arab lands, as well as its suppression and acts of aggression against the Palestinians. It had become one of staunchest adversaries of peace, stubbornly spoiling the will of the international community. Meanwhile, those with influence, stood in the way of holding Israel accountable.
Given that Israel had violated all conditions of United Nations membership and reneged on its Charter commitments, it was legally legitimate to question the burden that resolution 273 (1949), by which Israel was admitted as a United Nations Member State, placed on the international community. Israel continued to desecrate all international laws and ethical norms. Its latest series of terror began on 6 February, with its excavations that threatened the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In 1969, Israel had tried to burn the Mosque. In 1996, it had built a tunnel close to the Mosque, and in 2000, Ariel Sharon, then the head of the right-wing opposition, had visited the Mosque compound, leading to the second intifada and obstructing the peace process.
Since 1967, Israel had also taken deliberate steps to change the demographic map of Jerusalem, confiscating territory and building illegal settlements, all in violation of United Nations and international instruments against building in international territories. A just and comprehensive peace required a genuine commitment by both parties. It was not about buying time, and providing Israel with everything in exchange for nothing in return. It required the effective withdrawal from the occupied Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 and withdrawal from other territories, including Jerusalem. Peace was not elusive, if the will was available on the Israeli side. More than 30 initiatives had been presented so far, all of them rejected by Israel, which was supported by the use of the veto of a super-Power. Until the Israeli Government took responsibility and stopped hiding behind military might, the region would lack peace and stability.
ABDULLAH AL MURAD ( Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the attacks in Lebanon were a criminal act of terror that must be condemned. The question of Palestine was the quintessence and core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The resolution of the question represented the essence of the comprehensive and just solution to the conflict. He commended the agreement reached in Mecca between the Palestinian factions and hoped that a national unified Palestinian Government would soon be formed. Recently, the Occupied Palestinian Territory had witnessed a serious escalation in the acts of demolition and excavation in the perimeters of the Noble Sanctuary. It was a flagrant violation of the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as a threat to its infrastructure. Condemning those hostile Israeli actions, he called on the Council to intervene immediately. The Council had emphasized in numerous resolutions that such measures aiming at altering the legal status of Al-Quds were null and void.
He said Israel’s continued work in the perimeters of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, its military incursions in the areas of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as the imposition of an economic siege and the illegal construction of the separation wall and new settlements, were all unlawful and illegal practices. Not only had those practices had a dire effect on the security and stability of the region and the world, they also undermined the international efforts that were being exerted to revive the peace process led by the Quartet. The just, durable and comprehensive solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict would never materialize if Israel continued its unilateral measures, aiming at imposing a fait accompli and influence the outcome of the final settlement negotiations.
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