Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα United Nations. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων
Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα United Nations. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων

Δευτέρα, Φεβρουαρίου 23, 2015

As Malawi reels from devastating floods, UN food agency delivers vital supplies

 UN, 23 February 2015 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has announced the delivery of a first round of emergency supplies to more than 288,000 people in flood-affected Malawi, providing much needed relief amid continuing rains.

The UN food agency explained in a press release that it had distributed more than 2,700 metric tons of food to 12 districts late last week and delivered more than 200 metric tons of relief items by air to thousands of people cut-off by flood waters.

Incessant rains have severely affected the African country as flood waters have destroyed roads and rendered some areas entirely inaccessible by land.

Malawi is regularly hit by floods and droughts, requiring emergency responses of varying size each year. This year, flooding has caused displacement of over 170,000 people, while an estimated 116,000 households have lost their crops and livestock. In Nsanje district alone, 79 people are confirmed dead with another 153 people still missing.

Moreover, this year’s rains have come ahead of their usual schedule, repeatedly bursting the banks along the Shire and Ruo rivers, and warnings of flash floods remain in place, with more rain forecast for the country's North. With 86 per cent of the population living in rural areas and engaged in farming and livestock rearing, long-term watershed management infrastructures are urgently needed so that even intense flooding is less damaging than this year.

In addition, the press release noted, WFP is currently participating in a joint rapid food security assessment “in order to understand the latest needs on the ground and the required duration of the emergency response” while also providing recommendations on the duration of the ongoing lean season food insecurity response which has already identified nearly 700,000 people in need of food assistance.

Despite the United Nations’ intensive efforts to reach those affected by the devastating flood waters, the WFP continues to face a funding gap of $3.3 million to cover the outstanding food requirements and logistics services to support the entire humanitarian community.

  [un.org]
23/2/15
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Παρασκευή, Φεβρουαρίου 13, 2015

States agree key document on route to climate change agreement (UN)

 UN, 13 February 2015 – A key milestone on the route to a new, universal agreement on climate change was reached today in Geneva, with a week of United Nations-facilitated discussions among over 190 States ending with successful conclusion of the negotiating text for a binding treaty expected to be adopted in Paris at the end of this year.

“This fulfils the internationally-accepted timetable for reaching a possible treaty because it alerts capitals to the fact that a legal instrument could be adopted in Paris,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in a press release.

“It does not, however, set this possibility in stone – it merely opens the door for this possibility. As for the legal nature of the agreement, this will only be clarified later in the year.”

Successful construction of the negotiating text kick-starts a year of intense negotiations towards the new agreement, expected to be finalized at a Paris Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in December. The Geneva talks gave 194 countries a chance to follow-up on the work done at the Lima Climate Change Conference held at the end of last year, which produced elements for the negotiating text, known as the Lima Call for Climate Action.

The text agrees today covers the substantive content of the new agreement including mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building. Countries worked hard to identify the main choices, put their views forward and add more sharpened options to the text.

“The text was constructed in full transparency. This means that although it has become longer, countries are now fully aware of each other’s positions,” Ms. Figueres said. “I am extremely encouraged by the constructive spirit and the speed at which negotiators have worked during the past week.”

The next step is for negotiators to narrow down options and reach consensus on the content. Formal work and negotiations on the text will continue at the Climate Change Conference in Bonn in June with two further formal sessions planned for later in the year, as well as ministerial-level meetings that will take place throughout 2015.

“These opportunities will help to ensure that countries have opportunities to work with each other at several political levels–what is needed now is vertical integration so that the views of heads of state, through ministers and to negotiators reflects a seamless and consistent view of ambition, common ground and ultimately success in December,” Ms. Figueres said.

The negotiating text is available on the UNFCCC’s website and will be edited and translated into the UN’s official languages. After this, the text will be communicated to the world’s capitals by the UNFCCC secretariat in the first quarter of 2015.

 [un.org]
13/2/15
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Climate pact blueprint adopted in Geneva

Negotiators in Geneva adopted a climate blueprint on Friday (Feb 13), a symbolic milestone in the fraught UN process that must culminate in a universal pact in Paris in December.
Assembled over the past six days, the 86-page draft plan for limiting man-made global warming was gavelled through at the close of six days of talks, prompting applause from delegates.

"The task of this session has been achieved," UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told reporters ahead of the closing. "We have a text today ..., the formal negotiating text that will be the basis for negotiations for the next few months until we get to Paris", where the final pact will be adopted.

Ever since the 2009 Copenhagen conference failed to deliver a world agreement, the 195 nations gathered under the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been working on a new project for adoption by the end of this year.

Set to be signed at the November 30-December 11 UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris, the pact must enter into force by 2020 to further the UN goal of limiting warming to 2°C (3.6°F) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Scientists warn that at current greenhouse gas emission trends, Earth is on track for double that, or more - a recipe for catastrophic droughts, storms, floods and rising sea levels.

Negotiators emerged from the last COP in Lima last December, with a hard-fought framework text that remained hotly contested.

The February 8-13 Geneva talks, one of three special sessions added to this year's official UN climate agenda, was tasked with "streamlining" the Lima document. Instead, the meeting's mandate was changed early on to seeking universal endorsement of the text, which more than doubled since Sunday until all countries were satisfied their views were included.

The process was widely hailed for creating a sense of common purpose and goodwill in a text with universal buy-in. But it also yielded a vast document listing a variety of alternative approaches on most issues - often reflecting country positions that diametrically oppose one another.

And that means hard choices will have to be made in the months to come, starting with the next negotiating round in Bonn in June. "We have now agreed on a negotiating text. It provides us with the basis for moving forward," Elina Bardram, head of the EU delegation, told AFP.

But she added: "We would have wished for more advancement. The introduction of missing elements in the text is an achievement, but it does mean that the tough negotiations lie ahead of us and we are running out of time. We need a step change between now and Paris."

OPTIONS FROM A TO Z

"All the crunch issues are still on the table," added to Climate Action Network spokeswoman Alix Mazounie. "We have options going from A to Z".

At the very core of the pact, countries remain deeply divided on the issue of "differentiation" - how to share responsibility for emissions cuts between rich and poor nations. Developing countries also want their developed counterparts to commit to long-term climate financing, and insist on compensation for climate-change induced losses and damage suffered.

"I don't think there's any doubt that the negotiations are going to get more difficult," said veteran observer Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The first step before you can get to addressing those is to have a common picture of what the agreement is going to look like in terms of what the outline is, what the elements are in it. They have it now."
- AFP/ec

channelnewsasia.com
13/2/15

Δευτέρα, Φεβρουαρίου 02, 2015

21st century ‘hottest’ on record as global warming continues, UN agency warns

UN, 2 February 2015 – Devastating weather patterns and increasing temperatures will last into the foreseeable future as global warming is expected to continue, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed today as it explained that 2014’s ranking as the “hottest year on record” is part of a larger climate trend.

“The overall warming trend is more important than the ranking of an individual year,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud clarified today in a press release. “Analysis of the datasets indicates that 2014 was nominally the warmest on record, although there is very little difference between the three hottest years.”

High sea temperatures, the UN agency has said, have contributed to exceptionally heavy rainfall and floods in many countries and extreme drought in others. Twelve major Atlantic storms battered the United Kingdom in early months of 2014, while floods devastated much of the Balkans throughout May. The monthly precipitation over the Pacific side of western Japan for August 2014, meanwhile, was 301 per cent above normal – the highest since area-averaged statistics began in 1946.

At the same time, crippling droughts have struck large swathes of the continental United States while Northeast China and parts of the Yellow River basin did not reach half of the summer average, causing severe drought.

The diverse climate impact which afflicted nations around the planet throughout 2014 were, in fact, consistent with the expectation of a changing climate, Mr. Jarraud continued.
In addition, he warned that 14 of the 15 hottest years recorded have all been in the 21st century, adding the UN agency’s expectation that global warming would continue “given that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the increasing heat content of the oceans are committing us to a warmer future.”

Around 93 per cent of the excess energy trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and other human activities ends up in the oceans, the WMO press release noted, as it pointed out that global sea-surface temperatures had reached “record levels” in 2014, even in the absence of a “fully developed El Niño” weather pattern. 

High temperatures in 1998 – the hottest year before the 21st century – occurred during a strong El Niño year.

The WMO has released its latest findings regarding its global temperature analysis in advance of climate change negotiations scheduled to be held in Geneva from 8 to 13 February. 

These talks are expected to help pave the way towards the December 2015 conference scheduled in Paris, France, where a new universal UN-backed treaty on climate change will be adopted.
  [un.org]
2/2/15

Σάββατο, Ιανουαρίου 24, 2015

Australia bans waste dumping on Great Barrier Reef

Australia has ordered a ban on dumping dredge waste on most of the Great Barrier Reef, the environment minister said on Saturday (Jan 24), as part of a push to stop the UN declaring the site in danger.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he had ordered the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to develop regulations to stop waste from capital dredging being dumped in the park "once and for all". "We are ending a century-old practice of dumping in the marine park," he said, referring to waste created by enlarging shipping channels, berths and marinas.

Conservationists say dumping waste in reef waters damages it by smothering corals and sea grasses and exposing them to poisons and high levels of nutrients.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has threatened to put the reef, which is a World Heritage area, on its danger list. The body has given Australia until Feb 1 to act and Hunt said he would travel to Europe next week to consult on long-term plans for the natural wonder.

Hunt said the government had put together "a strong defence of the management of the Great Barrier Reef ... concluding that it should not be listed as in danger".
The reef also faces threats from climate change, nutrients washing into the sea and the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish, and the government was working on each of them, he added in a statement. But he said water quality was improving, coral-eating starfish were being culled and stricter management regimes have been put in place for shipping and developments, including ports.

"Australians are proud of the reef and it remains one of the great natural wonders of the world," he said. "We are determined to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef not just for the coming decades, but for coming centuries."

The park where the ban will apply almost totally overlaps with an expanse designated as a World Heritage Area, but it does not include most islands and ports, as well as lakes and other waterways in the heritage area.

Environmental groups have urged the minister to go a step further and prohibit the dumping of dredge soil throughout the World Heritage Area, not just within the marine park.
The ban will now be subject to public consultation, with final approval expected by mid-March.

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Τετάρτη, Ιανουαρίου 21, 2015

UN: Madagascar needs money to continue battle against locust plague


UN, 21 January 2015 – The battle against a plague of locusts in Madagascar is in danger of being lost, as funding to continue efforts against widespread infestations runs out, putting 13 million people at risk of food insecurity, the United Nations agricultural agency said today.

A three-year anti-locust programme was launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) alongside the Madagascan Government in 2013 in response to a plague that swept the country the previous year. It successfully halted the spread but the risks of relapse are high in the rainy season, which provides ideal breeding conditions, an FAO press release said. 

“Taking action now is critical to ensure the significant efforts made so far, financially and technically, are built upon rather than lost,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Division. “The current campaign is essential to reinforce the decline of the current plague, avoiding any relapse, and then continue towards a full-fledged locust recession.”

The first quarter of the year is especially important because it corresponds to the second phase of breeding. Most locusts present at this time are wingless 'hoppers', which are easier to combat because they are more sensitive to pesticides and slower moving than winged adults. After last year's successes, the FAO warns that hoppers will gather in smaller groups, making them harder to find and requiring more ground and aerial surveys to do so.

Failure to carry out in full the 2013-2016 FAO-Government joint programme would waste the $28.8 million so far mobilised and could trigger a large-scale food-security crisis in the country. A further $10.6 million is needed to complete the campaign, paying for monitoring and spraying operations to the end of the rainy season in May 2015.

The FAO cautions that even a relatively short interruption to monitoring and spraying operations of about two months could significantly erase progress made so far, which includes the surveying of about 30 million hectares - an area almost as large as Japan - and the tackling of locust infestations over more than 1.3 million hectares.

“The costs that will result from ceasing locust control activities will be far greater than the amount spent so far, so it is critical for the international community stay the course and complete the Locust Emergency Response Programme,” said Patrice Takoukam Talla, FAO's Representative in Madagascar.
About 40 per cent of crops in southern Madagascar are at risk from locusts and more than three quarters of the population in the Atsimo Andrefana and Androy regions, where maize and cassava production have declined sharply and rice output remains well below trend, currently face food insecurity, up notably from a year earlier.

Resources raised so far as part of the $39.4 million needed have come from several Governments, a World Bank loan, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund and the International Fund for Agriculture Development. 
 un.org
21/1/15
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Τετάρτη, Ιανουαρίου 07, 2015

Shell to Pay Approximately $83Mln for Niger Delta Oil Spills

Amnesty International and the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) has welcomed an offer by oil giant Shell to pay the Nigerian Bodo community 55 million pounds ($83 million) in compensation for its oil spills in the Niger Delta in 2008, according to a statement issued by Amnesty on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Shell agreed to make an out-of-court settlement of 35 million pounds to 15,600 fishermen and 20 million pounds to the Bodo community for the environmental damage caused by the oil spills, according to the statement.

"While the pay-out is a long awaited victory for the thousands of people who lost their livelihoods in Bodo, it shouldn't have taken six years to get anything close to fair compensation," Amnesty global issues director Audrey Gaughran said in a statement.

Amnesty International and CEHRD have been supporting Nigeria on the spills case since 2008, but court proceedings against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria only began in 2011.

"The compensation is a step towards justice for the people of Bodo, but justice will be fully achieved when Shell properly cleans up the heavily polluted creeks and swamps so that those who rely on fishing and farming for their income can begin to rebuild their livelihoods," Styvn Obodoekwe of CEHRD said.

Shell has accepted responsibility for the oil spills occurred in the Niger Delta in August and December 2008 but seriously underestimated the volume of oil split. During three-year long legal battle, the company revealed that some of its pipelines were old, contained "major risk and hazard" and needed to be replaced. According to Amnesty, the company did not act on this knowledge to prevent the oil leaks.

Environmental restoration of the area where the oil spills occurred is possible but may take 25 to 30 years, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

 [sputniknews.com]
7/1/15
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Τετάρτη, Δεκεμβρίου 31, 2014

UN Security Council action on Palestinian statehood blocked

UN, 30 December 2014 – Falling short of the required number of positive votes and faced with a veto from one of its permanent members, the United Nations Security Council today failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have affirmed the “urgent need” to reach within 12 months a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East and would have paved the way to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The draft also outlined several parameters for the proposed solution – with a one-year deadline for negotiations with Israel and a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli forces” from the West Bank by the end of 2017 – and would have looked forward to welcoming Palestine as a full UN Member State within the 12-month timeframe, urging both parties to build trust and negotiate in good faith.
Eight of the Council's 15 members voted in favour, one fewer than the nine members needed to pass a resolution in the absence of a veto by any of the Council's five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom or the United States.
While the resolution failed to receive the required majority among members, the United States also opposed the text, a move that would have seen the draft fail to pass.
Following the vote, Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the US to the UN, stressed her country’s support for new ways to constructively support both parties in achieving a negotiated settlement.
“This resolution is not one of those constructive steps,” she said, adding that the draft set the stage for “more division, not compromise.”
The vote set-up a “staged confrontation” that did not contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question, especially as the text was “deeply imbalanced”, establishing “unconstructive deadlines.” Five Council members abstained from the vote, including the United Kingdom, whose representative, Mark Lyall Grant, said he supported much of the draft’s content but was disappointed by the lack of negotiation and had therefore abstained.
“The Security Council has once again failed to uphold its Charter duties,” said Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, who said the draft was tabled in the face of a political impasse caused by “Israeli intransigence.”
Israel’s representative said the opposite was true, with the Palestinians having “every chance to negotiate.” Having refused to engage, they had now tabled their “preposterous unilateral proposal,” and he warned his Palestinian counterpart that he could not “agitate and provoke” his way to a State.
The representative of France voted in favour, calling on the Council to be a positive actor, “not a theatre,” and noting his support for a “clear timetable” on peace negotiations. The other remaining permanent members also voted in favour of the draft, with Russia’s representative, Vitaly Churkin, regretting the Council’s failure to adopt, and China’s representative, also stating his deep regret.
María Cristina Perceval, the representative of Argentina, said explanation of her affirmative vote was “unnecessary” and lamented the Council’s failure to adopt the text, while Chad’s representative, Mahamat Zene Cherif, current Council President, said the draft was “balanced and moderate” adding that the Council had “once more missed a date with history”, sending a negative message that encouraged continuation of occupation, injustice and oppression. The Council, he said, had missed an opportunity give the Palestinians “a ray of hope” after direct talks yielded almost nothing.
 [un.org]
30/12/14
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Παρασκευή, Δεκεμβρίου 26, 2014

Asia Marks 10th Anniversary of Tsunami (UN says world better prepared for natural disasters)

Beach side memorials, moments of silence, and religious services are planned across Asia on Friday to mark the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed at least 220,000 people in 2004.
The gigantic wave stuck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean rim. It destroyed entire coastal communities, wiped out families and crashed over tourist-filled beaches the morning after Christmas.

The disaster was triggered by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake, the region's most powerful in 40 years, that sent waves roaring across the Indian Ocean at jetliner speeds as far away as East Africa. It was so powerful that it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters.

The tsunami led separatist rebels in Indonesia's Aceh province to lay down their arms in order to rebuild their lives. The three-decade rebellion against Indonesia ended in 2005, after having claimed 15,000 lives.

Indonesia was hardest hit by the tsunami, with more than 160,000 dead. Thousands more were killed in Thailand and Sri Lanka.
   [ voanews.com]
   26/12/14 
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  • Marking 10 years since Indian Ocean tsunami, UN says world better prepared for natural disasters...

It has been ten years since a massive tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean killing more than 200,000 people and devastating coastline communities from Indonesia to Somalia, and yet the world today is much better prepared to mitigate such disasters, senior United Nations officials have declared.

“Ten years after the Indian Ocean tsunami, the world has taken significant measures to make the world a safer place against disasters,” confirmed Margareta Wahlström, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), in a press release issued today to mark the anniversary.

“We now have more efficient early warning systems and better evacuation procedures in place,” she added. “There is also greater understanding and awareness globally of the broad damage that disasters can inflict on our societies.”

The world's worst recorded natural disaster hit the Asia Pacific region in December 2004, claiming the lives of 227,000 people and leaving the livelihoods of some 1.4 million survivors in tatters. While the immediate economic loss caused by the event was estimated at $9.9 billion, the tsunami has also inflicted long-term environmental and development harm as salt water contaminated the land, wiping out agriculture and damaging forests and ecosystems...................http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49691#.VJ3GZcw7I
26/12/14

Τετάρτη, Νοεμβρίου 19, 2014

UN condemns N.Korea ‘rights abuses’ (Resolution is symbolic, faces possible veto in Security Council)

The United Nations on Tuesday adopted a resolution condemning North Korean rights abuses and called for the Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity.

The resolution was passed by a resounding vote of 111 to 19 with 55 abstentions in a General Assembly human rights committee.

Both China and Russia voted against the resolution on Tuesday along with countries like Cuba, Iran and Syria, who complained that the measure unfairly targeted North Korea.

  • North Korea reacted angrily to the vote and announced that it was breaking off talks on improving human rights with the European Union, which drafted the resolution with Japan.
  • Since the UN Security Council is not a proper platform to discuss the human rights issue and the referral to ICC will not help solve problems, China voted against the resolution, Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, said on Wednesday.

Hong said that China consistently advocates for "constructive" dialogues and cooperation to settle disputes on the human rights issue, and opposes politicizing it and pressuring other countries with the issue.

Raising the human rights issue against North Korea to defame it is a method of the Western countries, especially the US, to make an excuse for not improving the bilateral relationship with Pyongyang, Li Dunqiu, a Korean studies scholar with Zhejiang University, told the Global Times.

North Korea resorted to various channels to improve ties with the US, including releasing American citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller on November 8, but the US does not wish to reciprocate as friendlier relations that contradict its strategies in Northeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, said Li.

  • The non-binding measure will go to the full General Assembly for a vote next month.
  • Li said the resolution is symbolic as China and Russia are likely to veto the measure at the Security Council.

This developed, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin met with a special North Korean envoy on Tuesday, Putin's office said.

Choe Ryong-hae, a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the ruling Workers' Party, delivered a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but no further details were provided.

In response to the frequent visits between Moscow and Pyongyang, Hong said on November 14 that China has always encouraged North Korea to cooperate with other countries.

However, Jin Qiangyi, the director of the Asia Studies Center at Yanbian University, said this exchange will not generate significant results as Russia has always been prudent about its ties with North Korea. "Even if Kim visits Russia, their ties will not be further improved. The nuclear issue cannot be bypassed," Jin told the Global Times.

Agencies contributed to this story

By Chen Heying Source:Global Times
19/11/14

Κυριακή, Νοεμβρίου 02, 2014

'Leaders must act', urges Ban, as new UN report warns man's impact on climate may soon be 'irreversible'

UN, 2 November 2014 – Citing “clear and growing” human influence on the climate system, a United Nations report issued today has warned that if left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

Echoing that dire warning, UN Secretary-General Ban-moon said that if the world maintains its “business as usual” attitude about climate change, the opportunity to keep temperature rise below the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius, “will slip away within the next decade.”

 
 “With this latest report, science has spoken yet again and with much more clarity. Time is not on our side…leaders must act,” declared the UN chief, in Copenhagen, Denmark on an official visit that included a press conference to launch the final installment of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

According to a press release from the panel, the so-called “Synthesis Report” confirms that climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.

“Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, which participated in the compilation of the final report along with two other expert working groups.

Calling the report the “most comprehensive assessment of climate change” ever carried out, the Secretary-General urged worldwide action in light of its stark findings, saying that “even if emissions stopped tomorrow, we will be living with climate change for some time to come.”

Yet, the “good news is that if we act now, we have the means to build a more sustainable world,” he said, explaining that quick and decisive action that draws on many readily available tools and technologies can put the world on the right track. It was a myth that climate action would be costly, he said, stressing that in fact, inaction “will cost much, much more.”

R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, underscored that the means to limit climate change are at had. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.” 

[un.org]
2/11/14
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Παρασκευή, Οκτωβρίου 31, 2014

UN Report: Thousands of Foreign Fighters Joining Extremist Groups

According to a U.N. report, an estimated 15,000 fighters from around the world have left their homes to join extremist groups operating in Iraq and Syria. It adds that actual numbers could be even higher...

The report, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council by a panel that monitors al Qaeda and the Taliban, states that foreign fighters are joining the Islamic State and other extremist groups on "an unprecedented scale." They are coming mainly from the Middle East, Western Europe and North Africa, although there are also some Asians and a smaller number of Americans.
The report warns that if radicalization of foreign fighters continues when they return to their homes or even third states, the threat of extremist violence "could swiftly increase in areas as diverse as Europe, the Maghreb, Asia and Africa."

The numbers of fighters are now many times the numbers of all foreign extremist fighters from the previous decade, and growing, the U.N. says.

Nationals or residents from more than 80 countries have joined these extremist groups. The report does not list the specific countries.

The U.N. states that in 2014, the foreign fighters included networks of ethnic Chechens — as well as individuals from France, Russia, Britain and Northern Ireland operating together.

Many of the senior commanders of al Qaeda and the Islamic State are now veterans of other conflicts — bringing a range of skills, capabilities and social networks "that enhance the terrorist threat," the report says.

The United Nations in September adopted a resolution compelling countries to work to prevent their citizens from traveling to join terrorist organizations.
Sharon Behn
  [voanews.com]
31/10/14
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Τετάρτη, Οκτωβρίου 29, 2014

Ukraine: Ban deplores planned holding of November ‘elections’ by rebel groups


UN, 29 October 2014 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today deplored the planned holding by armed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine of their own “elections” on 2 November, calling the potential polls a “breach of the constitution and national law.”

“These ‘elections’ will seriously undermine the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, which need to be urgently implemented in full,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York.
Reiterating the importance of restoring stability and safeguarding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Secretary-General through the statement urged all sides to uphold all parts of the Protocol, an agreement signed in the Belarussian capital in September by representatives of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and opposition groups.

Tensions in Ukraine came to a head after months of political unrest led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February. This was followed by increased political pressures in the country’s autonomous region of Crimea, where Russian military were subsequently deployed and a secession referendum was held in mid-March, in which the majority of the region’s people voted to join Russia.
 un.org
29/10/14

Πέμπτη, Οκτωβρίου 23, 2014

Mediterranean, North Atlantic prepares for UN-backed tsunami warning system test -- (Simulations will be carried out between 28 and 30 October)

UN, 23 October 2014 – Some 20 nations with coastlines on the North Atlantic, and Mediterranean and Black Seas are set to participate in a United Nations-supervised tsunami warning exercise to improve their ability to respond to an alert and enhance regional coordination in the event of a disaster.

In a press statement released today, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – the body coordinating the warning test since its first implementation in 2005 – reported that four tsunami simulations will be carried out between 28 and 30 October in an effort to assess the overall reactivity of countries participating in the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas (NEAMTWS).

Although tsunamis are not as frequent an occurrence in this area of the globe as they are in the Pacific Ocean, the shores of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic are densely populated prompting concern that tsunami shockwaves could strike and cause widespread damage and fatalities. In 1755, for instance, a tsunami caused by an earthquake in the Azores-Gibraltar Fault Zone destroyed Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. 

Another devastating tsunami swept over Messina, Italy in 1908, claiming tens of thousands of lives. And, more recently, in 2003, an earthquake in Algeria set off a tsunami that struck the shores of Spain's Balearic Islands and the southern coast of France. 

UNESCO noted that due to the short distances they travel in small bodies of water such as the Mediterranean, tsunami occurrences there strike shores with “great speed.”
According to the UN body, the upcoming exercise, named NEAMWave14, is based on a scenario in which four earthquakes unleash two tsunami events in the Mediterranean, one in the Atlantic Ocean, and one in the Black Sea. 

The Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute in Turkey, the National Tsunami Alert Centre in France, the National Observatory of Athens in Greece and the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute, will send out the alerts, kick-starting the exercise, which set to involve a wide range of countries, including Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. 

“The exercise will be an opportunity to test the efficiency of the communication systems in charge of transmitting tsunami alerts and, in some countries, to ensure that the authorities in charge of public safety are prepared to face such a threat,” UNESCO explained in its press release. 

NEAMTWS is one of four regional systems which are coordinated by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) globally. Similar systems already exist for the Pacific and Indian oceans and for the Caribbean.
un.org
23/10/14
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Τετάρτη, Οκτωβρίου 22, 2014

In fight against hunger, UN launches initiative targeting threat of desertification

 UN, 22 October 2014 – The growing menace of desertification poses a distinct threat to the world’s agriculture and eco-systems, the United Nations agriculture agency warned today, as it announced a new initiative aimed at curbing the spread of land degradation and building resilience to climate change.

The programme, named Action Against Desertification and launched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in partnership with the European Union and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP), will devote some €41million to bolstering sustainable land management across the world’s most vulnerable areas in an effort to fight hunger and poverty.


“Desertification and land degradation are very serious challenges. They lead to hunger and poverty, themselves at the root of many conflicts,” FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, said in a press release marking the programme’s launch.

“But recent successes show that these problems are not insurmountable. We can boost food security, improve livelihoods and help people adapt to climate change.”

The FAO reports that more than 70 per cent of people living in drylands and other fragile ecosystems across Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific derive their livelihoods from natural resources. At the same time, an uptick in population growth and climate change has placed increasing pressure on these ecosystems, intensifying degradation and desertification and putting millions of lives at risk.

In an effort to thwart the costly effects of desertification in Africa, the Action Against Desertification will build on an already existing “flagship programme” – the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative – which supports local communities, Government and civil society in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal with the sustainable management and restoration of their dryland forests and rangelands.

Two-thirds of the African continent is classified as desert or drylands and climate change has led to prolonged periods of drought; over-intensive farming and over-grazing have caused land degradation; and deforestation has turned once fertile land into desert in many areas.

On that note, the FAO-backed programme it will support agro-forestry while also incentivizing the creation of farmer field schools where farmers can learn about the causes of desertification and the best ways to combat and prevent it.

Meanwhile, in both the Caribbean and the Pacific, the new initiative will target the problems of soil loss and degraded natural habitats by helping local communities adopt improved sustainable land and forest management practices. 

un.org
22/10/14
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Δευτέρα, Οκτωβρίου 20, 2014

UN agency ramps up for Gaza reconstruction push. (UNRWA has consistently called for the lifting of the blockade)

UN, 19 October 2014 – A week after a major conference in Cairo on the reconstruction of war-ravaged Gaza, and in the wake of recent visits to Gaza by the Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah and United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, the key UN agency on the ground there has begun scaling up its response to meet critical needs of people in the Strip.
In a press release, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced today that it is now focusing on providing food, water and sanitation services to over 40,000 displaced people in 18 of its installations, psycho-social support particularly for children, cash grants to the homeless for rent, as well as urgent repairs to 118 UNRWA installations, so that we can bring our services to full capacity.


“Our immediate aim is to help ensure that some of the most seriously affected families are able to improve their situation rapidly,” said UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness, who added that the critical priority remains urgently needed reconstruction for large numbers of people. 

As assessments continue, the agency has revised upwards figures of homes destroyed and people affected. “We now estimate that over 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, affecting more than 600,000 people. These are the latest figures and are likely to rise as UNRWA social workers and engineers continue their homes visits and inspections.” 

One week ago today, at an international conference in Egypt, donors pledged some $5.4 billion in aid for Gaza reconstruction. Two day's later Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the war-ravaged enclave, where he viewed destruction wrought by the most recent conflict that was “beyond description”, and also met with the ministers of the National Consensus Government calling on them to focus all efforts on “building one Palestine.”

Today, UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl said that the enormity of the task ahead is becoming clear and the agency's increased pace of recovery and emergency work reflects this. 

“Cairo saw important commitments made, which we welcome. On the ground we are confronted with high expectations by thousands of families in critical need. We therefore urge that pledges be rapidly transformed into actual contributions that will allow us to start the process of rebuilding,” he declared. 

  • Access for building materials is critical and UNRWA has consistently called for the lifting of the blockade and again stressed that this is an essential parameter to enable Gaza to emerge from years of suffering, joblessness and a lack of prospects. 

In the immediate weeks ahead, access for material must be facilitated by the recently negotiated temporary mechanism. As the UN Secretary General indicated, if applied in good faith it could make an important difference in terms of enabling reconstruction to take place, the agency says, underscoring that the people of Gaza need attention and support in this critical phase, especially with the winter approaching. 

“They also need a paradigm shift, with an end to aid dependency, an end to the restrictions on movement, trade and employment imposed by the blockade. Further, freedom to travel, to import and export, to attain self-sufficiency remains a critical imperative,” UNRWA says. 
un.org
19/10/14
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Τρίτη, Οκτωβρίου 07, 2014

Benefits of investing in protection of biodiversity outweigh financial costs, says UN-backed report

UN, 7 October 2014 – Implementing measures that promote the sustainable use of biodiversity is a worthwhile investment that will bring multiple economic and environmental benefits to countries, according to a United Nations-backed report released today.
The report, released at the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-12) in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, found that there is a gap across all countries and regions between investments needed to meet the 20 global biodiversity goals known as the Aichi targets, and the resources currently allocated to this endeavour.

“Even though political commitment is there, we don’t have a good financial investment plan behind it,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Chair of the High-Level Panel on Global Assessment of Resources for Implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, which authored the report.
“The report will help parties understand how we can develop these financial investment plans.”

The report also highlights benefits in areas such as health and well-being and food security that would benefit from higher investments in biodiversity initiatives. 

Mr. Rodriguez, who is also the Vice President for conservation policy at Conservation International, stressed that countries should not simply think of higher expenditures, but they need to look for innovative ways in which development investments also take into account biodiversity.

“Political coherence is urgently needed at the country level,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “If we see how governments behave it’s quite contradictory. On the one hand, we see agencies promoting development with a high environmental cost, and on the other hand we see environmental agencies trying to repair the damage that development agencies have created. We need governments who are able to break down this kind of silo effect.”
Recommendations in the report include diversifying sources of finance for biodiversity; investing in protecting marine and land ecosystems with the view that this will tackle not just biodiversity issues but also wider development issues such as climate change; and strengthening dialogue between governments, the private sector and civil society on biodiversity initiatives.

“We hope that this report will allow parties to move forward actions at the national level as well as the Convention level that are consistent with the political commitment of the Aichi targets,” Mr. Rodriquez added.
un.org
7/10/14

Δευτέρα, Οκτωβρίου 06, 2014

Major conference on biodiversity warns against 'business as usual' behaviour, consumption

 UN, 6 October 2014 – The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity began meeting today as a new United Nations report on the status of biodiversity warned that much more efficient use of land, water, energy and materials are needed to meet globally-agreed targets by 2020.

“Bold and innovative action is urgently required if governments are to meet the globally-agreed Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its Aichi Targets by 2020,” the Montreal-based Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) said referring to the 20 biodiversity goals agreed upon in 2010 in the Japanese city of Nagoya in Aichi prefecture.


“The challenge of achievement of many of these targets stem from the reality that based on current trends, pressures on biodiversity will continue to increase at least until 2020 and that the status of biodiversity will continue to decline,” according to this latest progress report by the CBD.

The report, Global Diversity Outlook 4 was released today at the start of the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, known as COP-12, in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.

The report tracked progress made to date on the 20 targets and drew attention to the implications on broader sustainable development this century.

It also cautioned “that continuing with 'business as usual' in our present patterns of behaviour, consumption, production and economic incentives will not allow us to realize the vision of a world with ecosystems capable of meeting human needs into the future.”

Creating a strategy to substantially increase the resources available for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use is one of the key outcomes expected from the COP, expected to be part of a collection of decisions referred to as the “Pyeongchang Road Map”.

At the COP-12 opening, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner called for increased financial investment and policy action to protect biodiversity.

“Studies show that it will be difficult to reach the full set of the Aichi targets if we remain within the current trajectory, due to accumulated and increased pressures on the natural world,” he noted.

This meeting “provides a critical opportunity to inject renewed impetus into our commitment to the Aichi Targets - which remain within reach - and to shape the Sustainable Development Goals by revisiting national strategies and plans,” Mr. Steiner said in a UN interview on the sidelines of the meeting.

“We need to do more - and do it fast - to protect the very fabric of the natural world,” he added.

Mr. Steiner is one of about 20,000 representatives from 194 countries attending the conference, which through 17 October, will focus on “Biodiversity for sustainable development.” The participants will address agenda items that include a midterm evaluation of the 2011-2020 strategic plan for biodiversity and the application of the biodiversity goals to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets contributes significantly to broader global priorities addressed by the post-2015 development agenda, the report has said, namely, reducing hunger and poverty, improving human heath, and ensuring a sustainably supply of energy, good and clean water.

In the report's forward, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underlined the link between biodiversity and sustainable development, urging Members States and stakeholders everywhere to take the report's conclusions into account in their planning and “redouble efforts” to achieve the targets.

The Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, said: “Our efforts can and must be strengthened by combining actions that address multiple drivers of biodiversity loss and multiple targets.”

“Measures required to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets also support the goals of greater food security, healthier populations and improved access to clean waters,” he added.

While the report shows “significant progress” towards meeting some components of the Aichi targets, the report notes that “reaching these joint objectives requires changes in society, including much more efficient use of land, water, energy and materials, rethinking our consumption habits and, in particular, major transformations of food production systems.”

According to the report, progress is reported in targets 11 (protected areas), 16 (Access and Benefit sharing of Genetic Resources) and 17 (Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan).

“Where more effort is required” were identified to reach targets 5 (Halving the Rate of Loss of All Natural Habitats including Forests), 8 (Reduction of Pollution), 10 (Reduction of Multiple Pressures on Ecosystems Vulnerable to Climate Change, Ocean Acidification such as Coral Reefs), 12 (Seeking to Prevent Extinction of Known Threatened Species) and 15 (Ecosytem Restoration and Development Resilience).

The report concluded that “with progress achieved to date, plausible pathways exist for realizing an end to biodiversity loss, along with achieving global goals relating to addressing climate change, land degradation and sustainable development.”

un.org
 6/10/14

Τετάρτη, Οκτωβρίου 01, 2014

With its mandate completed, OPCW-UN mission draws down in Syria


UN, 1 October 2014 – The joint United Nations mission to oversee the destruction of Syria’s stockpiles and production facilities has completed its mission and been shut down.
The Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN (OPCW-UN) drew to a close yesterday.
“The work of the Joint Mission has been vital to the success of international efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme,” said OPCW Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü.

He called the Joint Mission “an excellent example of how practical cooperation between international organizations can achieve tangible results in disarmament.”

The UN Security Council formally approved the mission in October 2013. The removal of the most critical material for destruction began in early January, in line with an agreement brokered by Russia and the United States, by which Syria renounced its chemical weapons material and joined 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons.

The removal of the chemical agents out of the country involved transporting them to the port of Latakia, where they were shipped on commercial vessels provided by some Member States. They were then loaded onto a United States ship and destroyed at sea using hydrolysis.

The Joint Mission was headed by Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag, whose “extraordinary efforts and leadership” were praised by Mr. Üzümcü. 

The OPCW mission in Syria will continue to deal with the destruction of chemical weapon production facilities and clarification of certain aspects of the Syrian initial declaration.
The provision of safety, security and logistical support for the OPCW has transitioned to the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which has signed an agreement with the organization. 
un.org
1/10/14
 

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