23 January 2004
Preview on 2004 Activities of the United Nations in Vienna
VIENNA, 23 January (UN Information Service) -- Spokespersons and Public Information Officers of the Vienna-based United Nations organizations and offices updated journalists, permanent missions and NGOs on key events and plans for the year at a press briefing, organized by UNIS Vienna, held at the Vienna International Centre on 22 January 2004. The speakers included Mr. Kemal Kurspahic, Spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ms. Daniela Rozgonova, Spokesperson and Chief of Public Information of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Mr. Mark Gwozdecky, Chief Spokesperson and Director of Public Information of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Mr. Roland Schoenbauer, Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR in Vienna, Austria). Information on 2004 highlights for the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) was also made available at the briefing.
Christian Strohmann, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Vienna, reiterated a recent statement of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who urged world Governments to focus their attention on fighting poverty, starvation, unemployment and deadly diseases and not be monopolized by events in Iraq. Mr. Strohmann also reminded that the year 2004 would coincide with the commemoration of the International Year of Rice and the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition (2004).
Ms. Rozgonova referred to the current status of signatures and ratifications of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. At present, 170 of 191 Member States have signed the Treaty, and 109 States have ratified it. Out of a list of 44 countries whose ratifications are needed for the Treaty to enter into force, Ms. Rozgonova stressed that twelve have not ratified it yet. So far, the implementation of the Treaty has been verified through 337 monitoring and verification stations. The general trend in the technical work of the organisation focuses on building new stations, maintaining the existing ones, as well as adding new activities such as system-wide testing. Ms. Rozgonova also mentioned the 2003 Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, also known as the Article XIV Conference, where participating States stressed that the CTBTO has an essential role to play in strengthening global peace and security. The next session of the Article XIV Conference is expected to be held in 2005. For the year 2004, two meetings of the Preparatory Commission are envisaged, respectively in June and November.
Mr. Kurspahic outlined the intended activities of UNODC for 2004. A priority of the Office throughout the year will be the intensification of efforts to have Member States ratify the UN Convention against Corruption, signed in Merida, Mexico, in December 2003. He stressed that 30 ratifications are needed for the Convention to enter into force. Other events will include: a mission of the UNODC Executive Director to Afghanistan (February); a special meeting of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee to be held in Vienna, the launch of a consolidated Andean Region Coca Survey, a regular session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs that will focus on Amphetamine-Type-Stimulants (ATS) (March); the launch of a public service announcement on corruption (April); a regular session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the launch of the Myanmar and Laos Opium Surveys (May); the celebration of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking -- which this year will focus on drug demand reduction strategies --, the launch of the World Drug Report and of the Global Illicit Drug Trends Report (June); the assumption of leadership of the UN joint effort against HIV/AIDS by the UNODC Executive Director (July); and the launch of the Afghanistan Opium Survey (October).
Mr. Schoenbauer sketched the forthcoming work of UNHCR along three lines: UNHCR vis-à-vis Austria, vis-à-vis the European Union (EU), and vis-à-vis repatriation issues. He expressed concern over a bill designed to tighten procedures for asylum seekers, which has been recently approved by the Austrian Parliament. He pointed out that the Austrian Constitutional Court, which is ruling on the legitimacy of the bill, had taken the unprecedented step of seeking the opinion of UNHCR on the matter. On European issues, Mr. Schoenbauer stressed that the European Union enlargement, due to take place on 1 May 2004, will impact on UNHCR work. The High Commissioner for Refugees will strengthen its efforts to harmonize asylum procedure and regulation among EU members. On repatriation issues, Mr. Schoenbauer commended last years achievements and said that UNHCR will provide further humanitarian aid to a greater number of refugees. Emphasis will be placed on newly displaced people crossing into Chad, refugees prepared to return to Afghanistan and Iraq and refugees prepared to return to Rwanda from neighbouring countries.
At the outset of his presentation, Mr. Gwozdecky expressed the hope that in 2004 the press would devote as much attention to other dimensions of IAEA work beside weapons inspections. In this respect, he stressed the importance of the Technical Cooperation Department and the Nuclear Safety and Security Department. The former, with an annual budget of US$ 80 million, mainly spent in developing countries, is designed to expand the availability of radiation therapies -- 34.000 cancer patients are treated every day with this technology. The Technical Cooperation Department will further focus on nuclear applications in the fields of agriculture and water supply in developing countries. As far as verifications are concerned, Mr. Gwozdecky pointed out that the IAEA would continue its work in such countries as Iran and Libya. He also expressed the hope the IAEA inspectors would return to Iraq to complete their mandate and that the six-party talks on DPRK would achieve success. The IAEA Board of Governors is expected to launch reports on Iran and Libya over the course of the year.
In response to a question about the role of the IAEA in combating nuclear terrorism and addressing concerns in the Middle East, Mr. Gwozdecky said that the Nuclear Safety and Security Department -- with a fund established after 11 September 2001 -- attaches great importance to anti-nuclear terrorism activities and that the Middle East is the region where nuclear proliferation concerns are the greatest. IAEA will foster further dialogue and cooperation in the region, he said.
Asked about nuclear inspections conducted in South Africa under the apartheid regime and the chances to replicate that success in, e.g. Libya, Mr. Gwozdecky said that South Africa was a good example of what the IAEA can achieve when it is given the tools. He stressed that for an inspection to be successful a Protocol needs to be signed with the host country and that the results of an investigation depend largely on the extent of cooperation of the host country.
Answering a question about the list of countries who have not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Ms. Rozgonova mentioned India, Pakistan, DPRK, China, the United States, Vietnam, the DRC, Colombia, Israel and Iraq, specifying that China and the United States have signed but not ratified the Treaty. Asked about the envisaged span of time for the Treaty to enter into force and whether CTBTO PrepCom fears that the United States may conduct nuclear weapon tests, Ms. Rozgonova responded that CTBTO PrepCom is convinced that the Treaty will enter into force but is not in a position to draw a time-line. In response to the second point, she stressed that the system of monitoring and verification stations is such that nobody can make a nuclear test without the knowledge of the CTBTO PrepCom.
* *** *