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UN spotlights need for policies to increase countries’ resilience against drought

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8 March 2013 – The United Nations today stressed the need to implement policies to combat drought, one of the world’s most destructive natural hazards, which causes more deaths and displacement than cyclones, floods and earthquakes combined.

“Despite being predictable, drought is the most costly and the deadliest disaster of our time,” said the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Luc Gnacadja, adding that the decision to mitigate drought is ultimately political.

“Governments of all drought-prone countries need to adopt, mainstream and operationalize national drought policies, based on the principles of early warning, preparedness and risk management.”

Since the 1970s, the land area affected by drought has doubled. Most recently, droughts have affected the Greater Horn of Africa and the Sahel region, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, parts of China and India, Russia and South-east Europe. In addition, 168 countries claim to be affected by desertification, a process of land degradation in the drylands that affects food production and is exacerbated by drought.

The effects of drought can last long after the rains return, with food remaining scarce and expensive and depleted water resources, eroded soils, weakened livestock, and legal and social conflicts lingering for years. Often, droughts are broken by major flood events, so they catch communities when they are most vulnerable, and add to the damages experienced.

“The frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts are expected to rise in several parts of the world as a result of climate change, with an increasing human and economic toll,” said the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud. “We simply cannot afford to continue in a piecemeal, crisis-driven mode. We have the knowledge and experience to reduce the impact of drought. What we need now is the policy framework and action on the ground.”

To address this issue, WMO, UNCCD and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will hold a High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy next week in Geneva to focus on drought preparedness and management policies.

The five-day meeting will bring together policymakers, development agencies and leading scientists and researchers, and will seek to encourage countries to move from crisis management to disaster risk reduction.

“More extreme and frequent droughts resulting from climate change are having devastating food security impacts, especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “To buck this trend, we must build resilient, ‘drought-resistant’ communities. This means not simply reacting after the rains fail, but investing over the long-term, so that when drought does hit, people and food systems can weather the blow.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44321&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Elephants under threat as trade in illegal ivory triples over past decade, UN report says

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6 March 2013 – The future of African elephants remains uncertain as illegal ivory trade continues to grow, according to a United Nations report released today, which calls for enhanced law enforcement to protect the majestic creatures and their environment.

The report, “Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis”, found that elephant poaching doubled and illegal ivory trade tripled in the last decade, endangering already fragile populations in Central Africa, as well as previously secure populations in West, Southern and Eastern Africa.

“The surge in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other listed species globally threatens not only wildlife populations but the livelihoods of millions who depend on tourism for a living and the lives of those wardens and wildlife staff who are attempting to stem the illegal tide,” said the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

The report warns that criminal networks are increasingly involved and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia, where demand is high, particularly in countries with a growing economy such as China.

Data gathered by the programme known as MIKE, or Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants, led by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), shows that an estimated 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011.

Data for 2012 shows the situation did not improve, and actual figures for last year may be much higher.

“CITES must re-engage on illegal wildlife crime with a renewed sense of purpose, commitment, creativity, cooperation and energy involving range States and transit countries to consuming nations of products such as ivory,” Mr. Steiner said.

Elephants’ survival is also threatened by the increasing loss of habitat in about 29 per cent of their range as a result of rapid human population growth and large-scale land conversion for agriculture. Currently, some models suggest this figure may increase to 63 per cent by 2050, which represents a major additional threat to the survival of the elephant in the long term.

“This report provides clear evidence that adequate human and financial resources, the sharing of know-how, raising public awareness in consumer countries, and strong law enforcement must all be in place if we are to curb the disturbing rise in poaching and illegal trade,” said the Secretary-General of CITES, John Scanlon.

The report recommends improving law enforcement across the entire illegal ivory supply chain, and increasing collaboration among transit and consumer countries through international organizations such as CITES, the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol and the World Bank. It also highlights the need to combat corruption and reduce demand for ivory.

The report was jointly produced by UNEP, CITES, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) and released at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CITES convention in Bangkok, Thailand.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44295&Cr=poaching&Cr1=

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Illicit trade in great apes increasingly linked to organized crime, UN report finds

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4 March 2013 – Almost 3,000 live great apes are stolen annually from the forests of Africa and South-east Asia in an illicit trade increasingly linked to organized crime and trans-boundary networks that move the animals in the same ways as drugs, arms and laundered money, according to a new United Nations report released today.

“Stolen Apes: The Illicit Trade in Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos and Orangutans,” produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) through the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), estimates that at least 22,218 great apes have been lost from the wild since 2005 – either sold, killed during the hunt, or dying in captivity – with chimpanzees comprising 64 per cent of that number.

“The current scale outlined in this report underlines how important it is that the international community and the organizations responsible for conserving endangered species remain vigilant, keeping a step ahead of those seeking to profit from such illegal activities,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a press release.

The report shows that the cause of this illegal trade shifted from traditional conservation threats such as deforestation, mining and bush-meat hunting, to a more sophisticated business driven by demand from international markets.

According to figures cited in the report, a poacher may sell a live chimpanzee for $50, whereas the middleman will resell that same chimpanzee at a mark-up of as much as 400 per cent. Orangutans can fetch $1,000 at re-sale, and gorillas illegally sold to a zoo in Malaysia in 2002 reportedly went for $400,000 each.

“It is important to establish baseline figures for the illegal trade in great apes, even if these numbers only hint at the devastation,” said the coordinator of GRASP, Doug Cress.

“Great apes are extremely important for the health of forests in Africa and Asia, and even the loss of 10 or 20 at a time can have a deep impact on biodiversity.”

The UN General Assembly declared the period 2011-2020 as the UN Decade on Biodiversity to promote the implementation of a strategic plan on biodiversity and its overall vision of preserving and properly managing the different types of animals and plants.

The loss of natural habitats further drives the illegal trade, pitting people against the animals, according to the report. Great ape habitat is being lost at the rate of 2-5 per cent annually. By 2030, less than 10 per cent of the current range will remain on current trends.

Among its recommendations, the report urges increased enforcement of protected areas, to both reduce illegal trade in great apes and to protect their habitat.

According to the report, law enforcement for crimes related to illicit great ape trade is lagging.

Only 27 arrests were made in Africa and Asia in connection with great ape trade between 2005 and 2011, and one-fourth of the arrests were never prosecuted.

“Stolen Apes” is the first report to analyze the scale and scope of the illegal trade and highlight the growing links to sophisticated trans-boundary crime networks, which law enforcement networks are struggling to contain.

Its release today coincides with the conference of the UN-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) now underway in Bangkok, Thailand.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44271&Cr=wildlife&Cr1=

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UN-backed conference seeks to improve measures to halt wildlife poaching

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3 March 2013 – Some 2,000 representatives from 150 governments, indigenous groups, businesses and civil society today gathered at a United Nations-backed conference in Bangkok, Thailand, which aims to find ways to stop wildlife poaching and illegal trading.

At the conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), delegates will examine some 70 proposals to amend the current wildlife trade system, which has been in place for 40 years.

“CITES is known for taking meaningful decisions that have an impact ‘on-the-ground,’” said the Secretary-General of the Convention, John E.Scanlon, adding that 2013 “will be of great significance to the future of many species of plants and animals.”

With 176 Member States, CITES is one of the world’s most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation, regulating international trade in close to 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.

Throughout the conference, which ends on 14 March, governments will consider 70 proposals submitted by 55 countries from across the world seek to improve the conservation and sustainable use of marine species – including several shark species – the vicuña population of Ecuador, polar bears, African elephants, white rhinos, freshwater turtles, frogs, crocodiles, ornamental and medicinal plants and many other species.

Delegates will also discuss how CITES can further enhance efforts to combat the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn; the potential impacts of the Convention’s measures on the livelihoods of the rural poor, who are often on the frontlines of using and managing wildlife; and whether the Convention should request the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to serve as its financial mechanism for CITES, among other measures.

“As over-exploitation of the world’s critical natural resource base puts countries on an unsustainable path, ever more pressure is being exerted on species,” said the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

“Yet CITES, alongside many other international agreements, provides a wealth of examples where countries are seizing opportunities to pursue much more resource-efficient development pathways,” he added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44269&Cr=wildlife&Cr1=

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Global demand for medicinal plants can boost green jobs growth in Nepal, says UN

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28 February 2013 – The growing global demand for medicinal and aromatic plants could help drive Nepal’s green economy, particularly in poor communities where many types of such plants are harvested, says a new study released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the Government of Nepal.

More than 100 types of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) are harvested in Nepal and traded in international markets. They were exported at a value of $9.8 million in 2009, up from $3 million in 2008, according to figures cited by UNEP.

“By harvesting these plants sustainably, and improving their value-added activity so collectors receive a fair share of the profits, the trade could contribute to social equity, environmental conservation and economic prosperity,” said UNEP Programme Officer Asad Naqvi.

Mr. Naqvi oversaw the report, “BioTrade: Harnessing the potential for transitioning to a green economy – The Case of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in Nepal,” which states that despite the opportunities for sustainable trade in MAPs inside the country, most of the value-added activity and quality control mechanisms are done outside.

In addition, trade is further hampered by limited access to electricity, transportation and other gaps in infrastructure.

Among the recommendations in the report is a regularly updated inventory system that provides information on available stock and how much can be sustainably harvested.

Creation of a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication were among the themes endorsed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) last June.

As part of turning those themes into action, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders earlier this month to implement policies that protect the environment, stressing that this will also benefit their economic growth and prosperity.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44256&Cr=green+economy&Cr1=

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