Rogelio Pfirter, a lawyer and career diplomat who served most recently as Argentina’s Under-Secretary for Foreign Policy, was named the new Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Thursday. He thanked delegates for their unanimous support and said the OPCW “serves as a model for the global disarmament of weapons of mass destruction.”Mr. Pfirter replaces José Bustani, whose term as Director-General was cut short in April by a vote in a special session of the States Parties. The incoming OPCW chief, who will serve a four-year term, pledged to put the Organization “firmly back on its feet” following what he termed “one of the most complicated periods in its brief history.””This is time for healing,” he told the OPCW staff. “Time for regrouping.”Looking to the tasks ahead, Mr. Pfirter emphasized the need for collective wisdom, joint action and consensus decision-making in tackling global problems. “The task of ridding the world of chemical weapons and ensuring that these do not threaten human lives again demands no less than the participation of all member States,” he said.The new Director-General pledged to be guided by the principles of transparency and even-handedness. “For me confidence requires that implementation of the Convention be carried out in a balanced and non-discriminatory manner,” he stressed. He also pledged to secure the necessary financial resources for OPCW to carry out its mandate.Stressing that chemical weapons arsenals and former chemical weapon production facilities must be destroyed as soon as possible, he noted that “there is still a way to go before the Convention becomes truly universal.”The OPCW aims to achieve a number of key objectives, including the elimination of chemical weapons and the capacity to develop them as well as the verification of non-proliferation, international assistance and protection in the event of the use or threat of use of those deadly arms.
According to the Mission, a Bosnian district court last week found three individuals guilty of having trafficked three women, but sentenced them only to suspended prison terms of one to one-and-a-half years.”This mild sentencing is appalling and an insult to the women who had become victims of severe human rights violations,” said Kirsten Haupt, UNMIBH spokesperson. “Such inconsequential sentencing is belittling the efforts of the police and other institutions in their fight against the hideous crime of human trafficking.”UNMIBH noted there were some signs of progress in the fight against human trafficking. In the first six months of this year, there have been eight cases successfully prosecuted, double the figure for all of 2001. Since June, there have been another 10 cases where traffickers have been successfully tried and sentenced.
According to Ambassador Murari Raj Sharma of Nepal, who launched the report at UN Headquarters in New York, the survey, especially forecasts for 2003, was based on data for the first three quarters of 2002. By early March of this year, neither the war in Iraq nor the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) had occurred.”The impact of these events on the forecast made in the survey is still a subject of considerable debate and uncertainty,” he told a press briefing on the launch of the “Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2003,” which was compiled by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The report highlights the performance of regional economies in the past year, provides a brief trend analysis and some projections for 2003.The report states that despite the weakening of the global economy, the region performed surprisingly well in 2002 – 2 per cent higher than the previous year – largely due to surging intra-regional trade, fiscal stimulus and low interest rates.While the survey had projected the 5 per cent growth to continue prior to the new domestic and global developments, it is now unclear how the economy will fare this year as it is tied to the intensity and duration of military action in Iraq and its ripple effects, particularly on energy prices. Asia-Pacific imports 40 per cent of its energy.Compounding matters further is the recent outbreak of SARS. In addition to the health challenges it is posing in the region, the illness is undermining the tourism and travel industry. Ambassador Sharma said there were fears that a prolonged outbreak could extend the damage beyond those two industries.How well Asia-Pacific withstands these stormy conditions also hinges heavily on how the economies of developed countries perform, especially the United States, Japan and the European Union, which together import half of the regions export products, Ambassador Sharma said. He also stressed that there was “no consensus on how the regional economy might be affected.”
Video of plenary meeting Listen to UN Radio report President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni told an Assembly meeting on commodities and raw materials that the only way for African nations to stop donating to the richer countries was to process their raw materials and add value to them through a “transformation” of their economies.”African countries including mine are big donors but they are donors in ignorance,” he said.Taking the example of raw cotton that is grown in Uganda, and tracing the process through which it became a suit like the one he was wearing, he said that Uganda winds up donating money taxes and jobs to the developed countries.He said Uganda gets about $1.30 a kilogram for the raw cotton, “but if I do the spinning the value goes up three times. If you weave that cotton the value goes up six times. If you produce the garment the value goes up ten times.””So if I export it as lint (cotton) I am a donor, I am a ‘mega-donor.’ I am donating three or four things. I am donating $9 or $10 out of every kilogram I export. I am donating it to the ones who are doing the value addition. I get one-tenth of the value of my product. I am a donor of money.”Uganda is donating more than money,” he added. “Who will do the spinning, who will do the weaving? Somebody else. Who will do the tailoring? Somebody else. So we are donors of jobs. That’s why there are no jobs in Uganda.”President Museveni said that the lost jobs meant lost taxes, too, as the incomes would be taxed.”Having work means taxes and having work means buying shampoo, which also would be taxed,” he said.He said the price for raw materials will always go down, because of changing demand, oversupply, and “because of the subsidies of United States, Europe and Japan.”He said one solution is diversification, but “the real answer is transformation.””Instead of just diversification, diversify the problem,” President Museveni said. “Transform the economy, so that it becomes an economy that adds value to this material and goes and links with the consumer.”Such transformation, he said would also aid the developed West since Africa, with 800 million people as potential customers, is a large potential market.”We have the stomach; we don’t have the money. We don’t have the money because there are no jobs. But remember the jobs were donated. If you donated a job, you don’t have a job. If you don’t have a job, you have no money. If you have no money you don’t consume,” he said.
“In the hardest-hit place in the Gaza Strip there are few places to turn for assistance,” UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said yesterday.“Rafah was always a poor place. It is now a devastated place,” he added. “Hundreds of destitute families are relying on UNRWA and the international community to come forward and help them cope with a very grave humanitarian crisis.” UNRWA needs $15.84 million to help hundreds of families who have lost their homes, had a breadwinner killed or wounded, or who are in need of ongoing medical care. The agency said 3,500 people lost their residence through demolition or because they were rendered uninhabitable in May alone. Since the latest Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation started in September 2000, more than 21,000 people have been left homeless in the Gaza Strip. To rehouse all of those still needing shelter in Gaza, UNRWA would need $38.5 million.
In a pre-dawn operation, Khartoum reportedly moved hundreds of IDPs from El Geer village near Nyala in South Darfur. A spokesman for Mr. Annan issued a statement calling the action a violation of international humanitarian law and saying it directly contravenes commitments made by the Government. Mr. Annan strongly urged the Government to immediately halt all relocation operations and to facilitate the return of the affected people from the “inappropriate sites” to which they have been taken. “This should be done in accordance with the principles noted above and in consultation with the international agencies present on the ground in Darfur,” he said.The Secretary-General voiced concern about the overall deterioration of the situation in Darfur, where 18 people were recently kidnapped by the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) while and thousands of Arab militias mobilized in areas of West and South Darfur.“The SLA and the militias risk sparking a new round of violence that could claim the lives of thousands of civilians,” he warned.Mr. Annan urged the parties to the conflict to fully respect the N’Djamena ceasefire, the SLA to release the hostages, and the militias to stand down.He also reminded the Government of Sudan that under international humanitarian law it must prevent any attacks against civilians.
Rising divorce rates, increased budget deficits and people living longer overall should spur countries with pension programmes to reform them by diversifying their investments and taking into account real budgetary costs, the World Bank says in a new report.”This report shows us that while pension reforms in most countries initially are driven by the short-term budgetary woes of keeping costly public systems afloat, the more important longer-term problems of worldwide aging and social change, along with changes in our global economy, are equally important to the debate,” the Bank’s Robert Holzmann says.The report, “Old-Age Income Support in the 21st Century: An International Perspective on Pensions and Reform,” provides a “multi-pillar” framework of solutions, such as diversifying pension systems into public elements that would maintain minimum living standards and adding privately managed and funded components.Actual budget costs must be calculated in a comprehensive and transparent manner, it says, and those who create pension schemes must understand the standard actuarial principles of longevity involved.Most public pension schemes have not been designed to deliver current benefit levels when confronted with present major demographic and economic changes, the report says.To keep existing systems afloat many governments have chosen to cut public spending on keeping people healthy and educated, or to reduce pensions drastically for the succeeding generations of elderly, it says.Current problems include having to cover more single elderly people who have been affected by higher divorce rates and who are getting lower pension payments, as well as more women with interrupted careers earning both lower wages and lower pensions.With competition from globalization, workers have been moving in and out of formal, full-time employment to work part-time, temporarily, or to be self-employed, and have not qualified for full pensions, the report says.If problems like these are not solved, falling economic growth and greater poverty may be the end result, it says.
“The international solidarity to confront these threats is clear,” UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Lee Jong-wook told the final session at his agency’s headquarters in Geneva, ahead of a donors’ conference in Beijing in January.”The urgency of acting now is felt by us all. Precise recommendations for action have emerged. Equally, precise offers of help and support have been put forward, by both developing and industrialized countries,” he added. “We have plans on paper, but we must now test them. Once a pandemic virus appears, it will be too late.”Although the current H5N1 virus, linked to widespread poultry outbreaks beginning nearly two years ago in Viet Nam and Thailand, has only infected 125 humans so far, killing 64 of them, health experts have warned that the virus could evolve into a global human influenza pandemic if it mutates into a form which could transmit easily among people. The so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920 is estimated to have killed from 20 million to 40 million people worldwide.The global plan seeks to control avian influenza in animals and simultaneously limit the threat of a human pandemic. Participants stressed the urgent need for financial and other resources for countries already affected as well as those most at risk from the virus, currently circulating in animals in Asia and parts of Europe. Key components are:Control at Source in Birds – improving veterinary services, emergency preparedness and control, including culling, vaccination and compensation, and helping countries to curb avian influenza in animals.Surveillance – strengthening early detection and rapid response systems for animal and human flu, and enhancing laboratory capacity.Rapid Containment – training for investigation of animal and human cases and clusters, and planning and testing of rapid containment activities.Pandemic Preparedness – building and testing national pandemic preparedness plans, conducting a global pandemic response exercise, enhancing health systems, training clinicians and health managers.Integrated Country Plans – developing national plans across all sectors to provide the basis for coordinated technical and financial support.Communications – factual and transparent communications, in particular risk communication, which is vital to support the other elements. “We must use all our assets and skills to the best effect, avoid duplication, share expertise, learn from our experiences and tune-up our ways of working,” Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza David Nabarro said. “We must focus on support for existing country mechanisms and provide integrated global joint plans, programmes and monitoring.”The meeting discussed financing needs for countries in the short-, medium- and long-term. According to an analysis presented by the World Bank, the needs of affected countries could reach $1 billion over the next three years. The overall figure would be substantially higher, since this does not include financing for human or animal vaccine development, for antiviral medicines or for compensating farmers for loss of income due to animals which have been culled.”Many countries where the disease is endemic have already taken action but they are overwhelmed by the situation and require urgent assistance,” UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Assistant Director-General Louise Fresco said. “Fighting the disease in animals is key to our success in limiting the threat of a human pandemic.”The meeting supported an urgent resource request for $35 million to fund high-priority actions by WHO, FAO, and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) over the next six months. Additionally, surveillance, control and preparedness work in countries requires urgent funding.”Time is of the essence,” Margaret Chan, Representative of the WHO Director-General for Pandemic Influenza, said. “We must act now if we are to have the maximum possible opportunity to contain a pandemic.””The minute there are more regions or countries with animal outbreaks or human-to-human transmission, the funding needs will increase hugely,” the Vice-President of the World Bank for Operations and Head of the Bank’s Avian Flu Task force, James Adams, said. “Based on our work here in Geneva over the past three days, we now have a strong business plan to take to the donors’ financial conference in Beijing in mid-January.”
It is critical for African countries to limit the spread of bird flu in animals and the concurrent opportunities for the virus to mutate into a potentially deadly human pandemic on a continent where veterinary and human health services are weaker than elsewhere, the head of the United Nations health agency said today.“Countries on this continent must be equipped to take many important actions,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Lee Jong-wook declared in Nairobi, Kenya, listing three imperatives: to quickly confirm the H5N1 virus in birds, to find and treat people who may fall ill with it, and to track its mutations.“Almost $2 billion were pledged at the Beijing meeting in January, and this funding is needed here, now, to strengthen health and veterinary services,” he told a news conference at the end of a three-country visit that also took him to Madagascar and Mauritius.“At the same time, African governments need to finalize avian influenza and pandemic influenza plans. They need to allocate their own resources to turn these plans into action. This includes simulation exercises, so that plans can be tested and improved. As part of this, it will be vitally important to have disease containment plans in place.”Dr. Lee’s warning came as WHO reported that only a month after Nigeria’s first case of bird flu was confirmed on a single farm, it had now spread to more than 130 farms in 11 of the 37 states of Africa’s most populous country.He noted that at the moment H5N1 is rarely deadly to humans and that globally only 175 people had fallen ill, 96 of them fatally, in the two-year-old outbreak, with almost all infections caused by very close contact with sick or dead birds. But the great worry is that the virus could change into a type that spreads easily from person to person.Although there is no evidence now of sustained human-to-human transmission of H5N1, or any other potential influenza pandemic virus, “we must use this time nature is giving us to prepare,” he warned. “This would be a virus against which none of us is immune.”He called for every country to have an avian influenza and human pandemic preparedness plan. “In practice these require surveillance and laboratory capacity for animals and for people; early warning systems and virus tracking; strong coordination between the animal and human health sectors; and very importantly, immediate and transparent reporting of animal outbreaks and of human cases,” he said.As part of these efforts, 70 public health experts concluded three-day meeting at WHO’s Geneva headquarters yesterday to draw up an operational plan to contain an initial outbreak of human pandemic flu. Although containing a pandemic at its source has never been tried before, evidence that it may be possible has been mounting.“It may be that containment efforts would only slow the spread of a pandemic,” WHO Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases Margaret Chan said. “But even that will buy us time so that countries can begin activating their pandemic preparedness plans and companies can begin on the lengthy process of manufacturing an effective human pandemic vaccine.”The so-called Spanish flu pandemic that broke out in 1918 is estimated to have killed from 20 million to 40 million people worldwide by the time it had run its course two years later.
At the same time, the UN mission there hailed what it called “the successful holding of elections” even as it condemned isolated incidents of voter intimidation and “irresponsible” actions by certain local media outlets.According to the UN mission, known as MONUC, ballot counting has been completed at the majority of 50,000 polling stations, and results continue to reach the 62 computation centres throughout the vast country. It may take up to three weeks to complete the final tabulation.The process is experiencing some delays, due to poor road conditions and lack of necessary equipment at computation centres in the capital Kinshasa and in the provinces of Bas-Congo, Ituri, and southern Katanga, MONUC said. The mission hailed Sunday’s largely peaceful elections, in which millions of voters chose from among 32 candidates for president and more than 9,000 candidates for the National Assembly. It said the Congolese people deserved the most credit for the successful outcome.At the same time, however, the mission condemned “the intimidations and threats exerted on certain voters by the boycotting of the elections, as well as all the attempts and other irregularities deliberately made by certain candidates or political party militants.” It also deplored “the attitude of certain media based in Kinshasa who, through the contempt of the rules and objectives of the profession, behaved in an irresponsible way.”MONUC encouraged all concerned to allow the electoral process to continue “in the best possible way,” particularly in relation to the verification and acceptance of the results. Meanwhile, the International Committee for Support to the Transition, known as CIAT, held a special session today to examine whether some media outlets and political actors were exploiting the incomplete election results for their own benefit.CIAT also joined in today’s declaration of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Congolese Government authority on media, reiterating that publication of provisional election results was the exclusive responsibility of the IEC. It encouraged the IEC to keep the Congolese public informed regarding progress in consolidating the election results.The CIAT is composed of the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, USA, France, Great Britain and Russia), Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Angola, Gabon, Zambia, the European Union (Commission and Presidency), the African Union (Commission and Presidency) and MONUC.