Annan embarks on 10day trip to Central America

According to a UN spokesperson, Mr. Annan was scheduled to arrive this afternoon in Managua, where he will receive the keys to the City of Managua from Mayor Herty Lewites. Afterward, the Secretary-General will go on to a private meeting with President Enrique Bolanos Geyer. Later today, Mr. Annan will receive the Grand Cross of the Jose Dolores Estrada and attend a dinner hosted by the President.

Middle East UN envoy continues contact with Israeli Palestinian officials

Mr. Roed-Larsen met on Tuesday with senior members of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the country’s Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, according to a UN spokesman. The envoy also spoke by phone with several Palestinian officials. In addition, Mr. Roed-Larsen represented the UN at a meeting of the “Quartet,” which brings together the UN, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States. Washington’s envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni also attended. “This was the latest in a series of intense and continuing discussion among the members of the Quartet,” spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York. In subsequent remarks to the press, Mr. Roed-Larsen said during those talks he had addressed the growing tension along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel. The envoy also emphasized that the Security Council had confirmed Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied lands in southern Lebanon, and that all parties must fully respect the Blue Line.Mr. Roed-Larsen said the Palestinian-Israeli military crisis grew out of feelings by both parties that their very existence was under threat. On the humanitarian side, he appealed to the Israeli Government to ensure that relief agencies had full of access to populations in need. He also called on the donor community to ensure that humanitarian agencies, particularly the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), had adequate funding. Meanwhile, in New York, the Security Council scheduled separate private meetings with Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Yehuda Lancry, and the Permanent Observer for Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa. In addition, Council members held their monthly working lunch with the Secretary-General, who briefed members on his recent trip to the Arab League Summit in Beirut. They also discussed the general situation in the Middle East, according to a UN spokesman.Late on Monday afternoon, the Council met in consultations to discuss a request from the Arab Group to hold an urgent public meeting on the Middle East. read more

Burundi Security Council members urge warring parties to reach ceasefire

Council members “called on all belligerents to cease hostilities immediately and urged the armed groups to enter into ceasefire negotiations without further delay with a view to concluding a ceasefire agreement,” said the current President of the 15-member security body, Ambassador Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation, in a statement to the press following consultations.The members also encouraged cooperation among the Burundian parties “in order to ensure the smooth running of transitional institutions and the resolution of pending issues,” Ambassador Lavrov said. “They also strongly support the efforts of the facilitation and regional initiative to expedite ceasefire negotiations.”The President’s statement commended South African troops in the country “for their important contribution to the effort to help bring comprehensive peace to Burundi” and encouraged them to continue their mission in the country. Council members also commended efforts to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of refugees “at a measured pace to ensure the safety of returning refugees in the current security situation.”Looking to the broader global context, the members called on the international community to support the process in the framework of the Arusha Agreement and urged the donor community to increase economic, humanitarian and development assistance to Burundi.During their closed-door meeting, Council members were also briefed on sanctions against Liberia. Ambassador Lavrov said they “took note” of the Security Council sanctions committee’s intention to have further discussions on recommendations produced by a Panel of Experts on those measures.The Chairman of the sanctions committee will brief the Council on the outcome of those discussions sometime before 6 May, according to Ambassador Lavrov. read more

Amid fighting in Liberia hundreds of refugees return to Côte dIvoire UN

Saying the desperate refugees are “caught between a rock and a hard place,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported this development after a “protection team” returned from a visit to the frontier area between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, which had been out of reach in recent weeks.At one small frontier post at Nero village – west of the southern Ivoirian town of Tabou – an estimated 50 to 60 civilians were crossing back into Côte d’Ivoire each day. UNHCR said those on the move are a mixture of Ivoirian civilians, Liberian refugees who fled the Ivoirian crisis in recent months, and guest workers from Mali and Burkina Faso.Liberian border officials told the UN agency that in recent days, several hundred civilians had passed through the frontier checkpoint, and that similar numbers were crossing at other border posts into southern Côte d’Ivoire. UNHCR has also been trying to verify reports that a group of some 2,000 people in eastern Liberia could be heading towards the border opposite Tabou.Recent arrivals in Côte d’Ivoire said they decided to return because of a breakdown of law and order and widespread food shortages in Liberia, according to UNHCR. The agency’s team interviewed one 26-year-old Liberian refugee who had just made the gruelling, three-day journey to Côte d’Ivoire on foot with only wild bananas to share with her four-year old daughter, because, she said, “there is no food to be had anywhere in Liberia.”But the situation is hardly better in Côte d’Ivoire, where the UN refugee agency has been negotiating for the relocation of the remaining 35,000 Liberian refugees to alternative sites within Côte d’Ivoire or in the region. Some of those refugees – including children – have been exposed to recruitment as fighters by both the rebels and government forces.Although UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have withdrawn the majority of their staff following an upsurge of fighting along the frontier, discussions are ongoing with the Liberian Government on ways to reach the desperate populations. Meanwhile, a new rebel movement, reportedly calling itself the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), is staging a fierce battle in Ganta, near the Guinean border, which has displaced thousands of civilians, including Liberians, Ivoirians and other West Africans. read more

Trafficking in women and children focus of UN crime commission session

The 40-member Commission, which formulates international policies and recommends activities in the field of crime control, is expected to spotlight the phenomenon of trafficking just as the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) has confirmed that the majority of victims of human trafficking are women and children, and sexual exploitation is the most common form of such abuse.While there is a dearth of reliable statistics worldwide on human trafficking, UNODC’s newly established global database focusing on such trends has revealed that victims are typically recruited from moderately poor countries, transported through countries which provide safe routes, and end up in more affluent parts of the world.In addition, Asia, the former Soviet Republics and Africa are the major regions of origin, while Central Asia and Eastern Europe currently act mainly as a transit area for trafficked persons. Asia, excluding Japan, is now as much a source as a destination, and the main destination regions can be found in the industrialized world.During its current session – set to run through 22 May – the Commission will discuss trends in trafficking in human beings; investigating and prosecuting such cases, including national and international law enforcement cooperation and assistance; and awareness-raising and social intervention, including victim support and the role of civil society.A workshop on “Trafficking in Human Beings, Especially in Women and Children: Lessons Learned and Policy Implications” is scheduled for Thursday. The event is being organized by the institutes of the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme (CICP) network and coordinated by the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). read more

Annan pays tribute to former envoy to Sierra Leone

A statement issued by a spokesman for the Secretary-General said Mr. Annan was “very pleased” to receive news about the appointment of Oluyemi Adeniji as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria.Until his appointment, Mr. Adeniji had served since December 1999 as Mr. Annan’s Special Representative and the chief of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Under Mr. Adeniji’s stewardship, the Mission recovered from the crisis of May 2000, supported a massive disarmament exercise, as well as national elections, and facilitated the restoration of the Government’s authority throughout the territory of Sierra Leone.”The Secretary-General congratulates Mr. Adeniji wholeheartedly on his important new functions and wishes to thank him for the effective leadership” he provided to the Mission, the statement said.”As Mr. Adeniji departs, UNAMSIL, as well as the whole UN family, will continue to assist the people of Sierra Leone to consolidate peace in their country,” the statement added.Pending the appointment of Mr. Adeniji’s successor, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative, Alan Doss, will serve as Officer-in-Charge of UNAMSIL. read more

Annan to name Canadian Justice Louise Arbour as top UN human rights

The General Assembly is expected to act shortly on Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s intention to appoint Ms. Arbour to a four-year term heading the Geneva-based UN human rights office, according to a UN spokesman. Spokesman Fred Eckhard said that if approved, she would be expected to retire from Canada’s Supreme Court, where she has been working since 1999, to take up her new assignment. Ms. Arbour was the Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda from October, 1996 to September, 1999 – a period of intense activity for both courts. The 57-year old Justice was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1971 and the Bar of Ontario in 1977. She served for 13 years as Associate Professor of Law and later Associate Dean at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Fluent in both English and French, she became a member of the bench in December 1987, first as a trial judge on the Supreme Court of Ontario and, in 1990, at the Ontario Court of Appeal. In April 1995, she was chosen to lead an official investigation into the operation of the correctional service of Canada, based on allegations by female inmates at a women’s prison in Kingston (Ontario). Until her appointment to the bench, she served as vice-president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Throughout her career, Justice Arbour has published extensively, in both English and French, in the fields of criminal procedure, human rights, civil liberties and gender issues. The General Assembly established the post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in December, 1993, with a wide-ranging mandate to oversee the world body’s complex and multifaceted activities in that field. The first person to hold the post was José Ayala Lasso, a former Foreign Minister from Ecuador, who was succeeded by Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland. Mr. Vieira de Mello assumed the job on 12 September 2002 before being asked to take what was supposed to be a temporary leave to serve as UN envoy to Iraq, where he was killed in a terrorist bombing that also took the lives of 21 others. read more

Security Council reaffirms arms embargo in new resolution on DR of Congo

In its resolution, approved unanimously after a closed meeting, the Council said that the embargo would be lifted if its demands were satisfied.The Council text re-affirmed the demands listed in a July 2003 resolution, which included allowing the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) freedom of movement to carry out its mandate, especially in North and South Kivu and Ituri provinces.It enjoined DRC’s neighbours to provide “no direct or indirect assistance, especially military or financial assistance” to the movements and armed groups opposing the multi-party transitional government.MONUC’s monitoring mandate included inspecting any transport vehicle using the sea and airports, airfields, military bases and border crossings in the three troubled provinces.The Council also re-affirmed its March 2004 resolution which “urges all States, and especially those in the region, to take the appropriate steps,” such as judicial means, to end such illegal activities as exploiting DRC’s natural resources.UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked to re-establish within 30 days the Group of Experts referred to in the March resolution and requested that the panel report to it before 15 December.Last week the Group of Experts submitted a report to the Council saying it had found evidence of direct and indirect embargo violations by at least one of DRC’s neighbours. read more

Reacting to recent deaths Annan asks Israel to ensure Palestinian civilians safety

“The Secretary-General and his representatives in the region have repeatedly called on the Government of Israel to respect the inviolability of UN institutions and installations, and in particular, to refrain from any activities that endanger the lives and safety of those who are lawfully on the premises, especially children,” spokesman Fred Eckhard said in a statement.Yesterday 55-year-old Said al-Madhoun was shot and killed on the grounds of a Preparatory School in Khan Younis run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In addition, an UNRWA contractor was also shot and seriously wounded Monday while working in a UN warehouse in Rafah.Last week a 10-year-old girl died from injuries suffered earlier this month when a bullet from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) struck her in the head while she was at her desk at a UNRWA-run school in Gaza. read more

With Arafats passing Israelis and Palestinians must advance peace UN envoy

Video of Council meeting [53mins] “Now that he has gone, Israelis and Palestinians, and friends of both peoples throughout the world, must make even greater efforts to bring about the peaceful realization of the Palestinian right to self-determination,” Terje Roed-Larsen told the Council in his final briefing as Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, a position he assumed in 1999.The envoy hailed the Palestinian leadership for taking “the first firm steps toward instituting a smooth transition of power” and for preventing internal unrest. He also praised Israel for allowing Palestinian security forces to bear arms. “The extent and success of coordination in recent days is reminiscent of earlier, happier days, and might herald a new beginning – a new beginning that would come not because of President Arafat’s passing, but in spite of the very difficult situation,” he said.Mr. Roed-Larsen called for the Palestinians to organize and conduct free and fair elections for the presidency within 60 days and to undertake “visible, sustained, targeted and effective action on the ground to halt violence and terrorist activity.”Israel, he said, must “refrain from all actions undermining trust, including settlement activity, facilitate the preparations and conduct of elections, and take steps to significantly improve the humanitarian situation by lifting curfews and easing restrictions on the movement of persons and goods.”Mr. Roed-Larsen emphasized that “all these steps have to be taken in parallel.”Striking a personal note as he delivered his final briefing as the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative, Mr. Roed-Larsen paid tribute to his staff and all others working for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, especially Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, as well as the representatives of the Palestinian people.The 56-year old Norwegian diplomat was named as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on 21 September 1999.In 1992, Mr. Roed-Larsen, then the Director of the Oslo-based Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science, was asked to help establish a secret channel for talks between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel. Those negotiations concluded with the historic signing of the Declaration of Principles at the White House on 13 September 1993. read more