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On first official visit, Ban hails Costa Rica as ‘model’ for development, peace


30 July 2014 – On his first official visit, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lauded Costa Rica as a “model country” in sustainable development and protecting human rights.

Speaking to reporters ahead of his address to Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Mr. Ban said that Costa Rica led by example on many international issues including environmental sustainability, and highlighted its clean air and preserved forests. The Central American nation is also a trail blazer in peace and security due to its disarmament policy, he said.

“You are one of the few countries which does not maintain an army. You are one of the few countries in the region where people can freely walk around without feeling any fear of danger or threats,” Mr. Ban added, emphasizing how essential political stability is for development.

“You have also shown strong leadership in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and you have shown your leadership in shaping the future development agenda, post-2015 development agenda for the sustainable future of our world -social, economic and environmental dimensions.”

He welcomed UN efforts on climate change led by a fellow Costa Rican citizen, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Costa Rica must send a strong and ambitious message during the climate change summit meeting on 23 September.

On other matters, Mr. Ban condemned the attack in Gaza on yet another UN school sheltering thousands of Palestinian families saying that “nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.” At least 16 civilians were killed in that attack. The total human toll in Gaza now stands at almost 1,300 people, and almost 6,000 people have been wounded.

The precise location of this Jabalia Elementary Girls School had been communicated to the Israeli military authorities 17 times – as recently as last night, just a few hours before the attack. Israeli forces were aware of the coordinates and exact locations where these people are being sheltered, Ban said. The UN is currently hosting 140,000 displaced persons in its facilities.

Later in the day, at a joint press conference with Manuel Gonzalez Sanz, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ban told reporters that he had also met with President Luis Guillermo Solís. The officials discussed security in Central America, the Millennium Development Goals, the post-2015 development agenda, climate change, and many other issues relating to disarmament and peace and security.

“We also discussed the plight of migrants, especially unaccompanied children. Beyond Costa Rica, tens of thousands of Central American children are vulnerable and suffering at the hands of traffickers, said the UN chief, adding: “On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, I repeat my call on countries of origin, transit and destination to urgently protect the lives and safety of migrant children.”

He went on to laud the Government’s recent efforts to end discrimination and welcomed steps taken to promote intercultural dialogue with indigenous peoples.

“I praise moves towards recognizing the equal rights of all people regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or other differences,” said the Secretary-General, adding that he was also pleased to learn that recently, President Solís raised the diversity flag for the first time in the Presidential House.

“I also encourage a stronger push to end violence against women – building on the impressive successes in ensuring their equal participation in decision-making.”

Mr. B also noted that he would meet with indigenous representatives today. “Their full participation in decision-making is essential. The United Nations is working closely with Costa Rica for greater progress,” he added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48374

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Ban lauds Nicaragua’s ‘forward-looking’ energy policy during day-long visit


29 July 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed Nicaragua’s “forward-looking” energy policy as he arrived on an official visit to discuss how the United Nations and the Central American nation can work together in promoting peace and sustainable development.

“Renewable energy is important to promoting sustainable development – this is the golden thread in achieving sustainable development in the social, economic and environmental areas,” Mr. Ban noted in remarks at a press encounter with President Daniel Ortega in the capital, Managua.

During his meeting with the President, Mr. Ban praised Nicaragua’s commitment to renewable energy, taking note of the country’s goal of having 97 per cent of its energy come from renewable sources by the year 2028.

The Secretary-General and Mr. Ortega visited the Camilo Ortega Wind Park in Rivas, a project that represents almost one quarter of Nicaragua’s capacity to generate wind power. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions – at least 100,000 tons of CO2 each year.

“Modern energy really is the key to changing people’s lives,” Mr. Ban said during his visit to the wind farm. “It can enhance the quality of life and it can effectively be used to promote human dignity. And it can also contribute to stemming violence.

“First of all, clinics and hospitals can be much more effective in saving lives. When the streets are lit, fully lit during the night, it can reduce violence against women. Children can study at night.”

The Secretary-General recalled his Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. Launched in 2011, the initiative has three goals: attain universal access by 2030; improve efficiency of energy and cut waste; and increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

In addition to the country’s efforts in the area of sustainable development, Mr. Ban noted that Nicaragua is an important Member State of the UN and has been playing a vital role for peace and development in several regional and global organizations.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48366

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Ban lauds Nicaragua&#39s &#39forward-looking&#39 energy policy during day-long visit


29 July 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed Nicaragua’s “forward-looking” energy policy as he arrived on an official visit to discuss how the United Nations and the Central American nation can work together in promoting peace and sustainable development.

“Renewable energy is important to promoting sustainable development – this is the golden thread in achieving sustainable development in the social, economic and environmental areas,” Mr. Ban noted in remarks at a press encounter with President Daniel Ortega in the capital, Managua.

“The United Nations is working very hard with Member States to promote sustainable development and also to achieve a climate change agreement by next year,” he added.

While in Nicaragua, the Secretary-General and Mr. Ortega will visit a wind farm in the Department of Rivas called Parque Eólico Camilo Ortega Saavedra.

In addition to the country’s efforts in the area of sustainable development, he noted that Nicaragua is an important Member State of the UN and has been playing a vital role for peace and development in several regional and global organizations.

The UN, Mr. Ban said, is dealing with many crisis issues. “I am just coming from my intensive negotiations for peace and stability in the Middle East. And we have many other crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Libya and Ukraine.

“These are all important priorities of the United Nations, and with all these common visions, I am looking forward to having a very good discussion with President Ortega,” the UN chief said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48366

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UN agency calls for urgent action to protect global soil from depletion, degradation


24 July 2014 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is calling for urgent action to improve the health of the world’s limited soil resources to ensure that future generations have enough supplies of food, water and energy.

“Soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fibre production,” Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, said in a news release issued today.

“Without soils we cannot sustain life on earth and where soil is lost it cannot be renewed on a human timeline. The current escalating rate of soil degradation threatens the capacity of future generations to meet their needs.”

GoverWithout soils we cannot sustain life on earth and where soil is lost it cannot be renewed on a human timeline. The current escalating rate of soil degradation threatens the capacity of future generations to meet their needs.nment officials and experts are meeting today in Rome for a three-day meeting of the Global Soil Partnership – which brings together a broad range of stakeholders stressing the need for governments to preserve soil. Under its Global Plans of Action, leaders have endorsed a series of measures to safeguard soil resources through strong regulation and investment.

“We need commitments from countries and civil society to put the plan into reality. This requires political will and investments to save the precious soil resources our food production systems depend on,” Ms. Semedo said.

Experts at the conference warn that some 33 per cent of world soil is already moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, urbanization, and chemical pollution.

And the growing global population – which is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, resulting in a 60 per cent increase in the demand for food, feed and fibre – will put an even greater strain on land resources.

Soil represents at least a quarter of global biodiversity, and plays a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and drought. Plant and animal life depend on primary nutrient recycling through soil processes.

Some parts of Africa and South America do offer a scope of agriculture expansion. In that regard, innovative technologies and inclusive policies must empower local communities to protect their land resources, FAO says. The sustainable management of soil will also have positive impact on climate change through carbon sequestration and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Progress is in the works, FAO noted. A global soil information system is planned to measure progress made and the status of soil resources. Considering that awareness-raising and education on soil is much needed, a special programme for capacity development is also being implemented.

In addition, the first ever Status of World Soil Resources Report is set to be launched on 5 December 2015 – recently designated UN World Soil Day. The UN has also declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils to shine the international spotlight on the challenges.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48342

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UN labour agency declares world of work essential to greening the economy


17 July 2014 – The world does not have to choose between job creation and preserving the environment, the head of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) declared today at the first-ever joint meeting of European Union ministers of the environment and labour.

“The transition to a green economy is only possible with the active engagement of the world of work,” Director-General Guy Ryder said, calling on world leaders to align policies for sustainable development.

Europe has historically focused on improving labour productivity while neglecting energy and resource productivity, according to Mr. Ryder. Over the past 50 years, labour productivity has increased nearly four-fold while energy productivity grew by less than 25 per cent.

More green jobs will lead to a more sustainable footprint in Europe, where currently per capita greenhouse gas emissions are at least three times the admissible level, if the world is to not exceed global warming of 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the ILO said in a news release.

Contributing to challenges is the persistent problem of unemployment throughout the continent, where the 2008 economic crisis caused the loss of nearly 10 million jobs. The ILO forecasts that there will still be 25 million people out of work in 2019. The situation is particularly tough for young job-seekers between the ages of 16 and 25, who often face an unemployment rate of 20 to 30 per cent.

“The poor unemployment forecast is linked to all-time low levels of investment. However, a more deliberate shift to a greener economy could change this dire outlook for jobs and climate change,” Mr. Ryder said.

A shift to a greener economy coupled with the right policies will trigger substantial investment, reduce emissions and generate millions of jobs, he said. According to the ILO, for every percentage point of increased efficiency, between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs are gained. As well, the world market for environmental technologies, led by the field of energy and energy efficiency, would be worth a total of 4.4 billion euros by 2025 and a significant job creator.

Green technology is predominately “in the hands” of small and medium-sized enterprises, Mr. Ryder said, referring to the European Commission’s Green Action Plan for such businesses. These companies along with larger firms are grappling with the problem of finding workers with the right skillset. The EU-supported Build Up Skills initiative estimates that by 2020 up to 4.4 million workers will require training on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48289

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Ban appoints former Irish President Mary Robinson as special envoy for climate change


14 July 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed former Irish President Mary Robinson as his Special Envoy for Climate Change to mobilize political will and action ahead of the climate summit that the United Nations chief will convene in September.

Mrs. Robinson, who will continue to serve as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, will work closely with Special Envoys John Kufuor and Michael Bloomberg in her new role.

“Building on her work on climate justice she will engage Heads of State and Government around the world in order to mobilize political will and action, and raise ambition in advance of the 2014 Climate Summit that the Secretary-General is hosting in New York on 23 September 2014,” said the announcement from Mr. Ban’s office.

“The Summit will be an important milestone to mobilize political commitment for the conclusion of a global agreement by 2015, as well as to spur enhanced action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilient communities.”

In asking Mrs. Robinson to take on this mandate, the Secretary-General commended her for her work as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, in particular for her efforts in bringing cohesion and international awareness to the challenges in the region.

He particularly noted her ability to galvanize the international community to support the efforts of the Great Lakes region in conflict resolution, socio-economic development and mainstreaming of marginalized groups, including women.

Mrs. Robinson also served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48265

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‘Time is not on our side’, says Ban, hailing new report on curbing carbon emissions


8 July 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, introducing a new United Nations-backed report outlining pathways major industrial economies can use to cut their carbon emissions by mid-century, called today for broad cooperation and “bold” action or the world will face dangerous and irreversible climate disruption.

“We know that we are not on track, and time is not on our side,” Mr. Ban warned during a Headquarters press conference to launch the Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project report, produced byPeople need to understand why decarbonisation is necessary. They need to know it is possible. And they need to see that cutting emissions can benefit economics and people’s well-being. leading research institutes in 15 countries, is the first global cooperative program to identify practical pathways to a low-carbon economy by 2050.

The report compiled by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, established by the UN chief in 2012, emphasizes three key pillars: energy efficiency, low-carbon electricity and fuel switching. It also outlines steps countries can take to meet internationally agreed target of limiting the increase in global mean surface temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

“I expect countries to adopt different combinations according to their needs, resources and priorities. But all countries need to embark on the same journey,” said the Secretary-General, stressing that deep decarbonisation is feasible, but requires global commitment to advancing key low-carbon energy technologies.

He highlighted the importance of leaders from Governments, business, finance and civil society to come together at his climate summit in September and the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held three months later in Lima, Peru.

“By seeing what is possible, others can take inspiration and follow suit,” he said, adding that, media participation in getting the word out is critical, as is conducting workshops and roundtables around the world following the climate summit to foster discussions in every city and country.

“People need to understand why decarbonisation is necessary. They need to know it is possible. And they need to see that cutting emissions can benefit economics and people’s well-being,” he said.

The Project does exactly that by listening to feedback and continuing to refine its pathways, Mr. Ban said, calling it exactly the kind of problem-solving needed to tackle climate change and achieve sustainable development.

Also speaking at the press conference was Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Laurence Tubiana, the French Ambassador for climate change.

Mr. Sachs said the report shows there is a path to climate safety and keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius limit “which researchers and scientists say we must respect.” What is concerning about the report is that “we are way off track and to get on track would require major cooperative efforts that are not currently in place,” he continued.

A “business as usual” path would be “an absolutely reckless and unforgivable gamble” to the planet and all people, he said. While there is an overarching responsibility for UN Member States, what each country will choose to do is different and based on history, structure, political attitudes and resources.

Ms. Tubiana called the report a “transformational milestone” for coordinated global action. “No country can afford to diverge,” she said, stressing the need for international cooperation, policy, economic signals, and sharing technology and research.

Cities must be organized to respond, she continued, emphasizing the need for a viable balance between energy conservation and energy efficiency. It would also be important to compare national progress between countries, as this will help them better understand relative experiences.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48225

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FEATURE: Should international refugee law accommodate climate change?


3 July 2014 – Can the United Nations help to protect people seeking safety abroad if their homes and jobs are destroyed by prolonged drought, rising sea levels or other climate change-related phenomena in the same way as if they were displaced by war or human rights abuses? The short answer, today anyway, is no.

The more considered – and thus far, thorny – response challenges the legal notion of what it is to be a refugee, and raises questions about how much political will there is to even begin a global discussion on an issue that UN experts say was unimaginable a few decades ago.

Ioane Teitiota, a Kiribati national, lost his asylum appeal in New Zealand this past May in a case In the case of cross-border movement, we’re looking at a gaping legal holethat would have made him the world’s first-ever “climate change refugee.” Mr. Teitiota moved there in 2007 with his family, claiming his island home was sinking and becoming too dangerous to live on. His lawyers argued that Mr. Teitiota was being “persecuted passively by the circumstances in which he’s living, which the Kiribati Government has no ability to ameliorate.”

New Zealand’s Court of Appeal ruled that while climate change is a major and growing concern for the international community, the phenomenon “and its effect on countries like Kiribati is not appropriately addressed under the Refugee Convention.” That 1951 treaty defines a refugee as a person who “has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

“The Baths”, unusual rock formations at a tourist resort in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. UN Photo/Marvin Weill

“We don’t have, in international law, or any kind of mechanisms to allow people to enter a State against the will of the State, unless they’re refugees. And even then, they don’t technically have the right to enter, but they cannot be punished for entering,” the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, told the UN News Centre. His mandate has been awarded by the Human Rights Council and his work is supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Therefore, people like Mr. Teitiota do not find any solutions in international law as it presently stands. The solution for especially slow onset environmental issues, such as sinking islands, or low lying coastal lands that are being slowly eroded and overcome because of climate change-induced factors, don’t have a framework,” he added. “The only thing that can happen is negotiations with neighbouring States for transfer of populations.”

José Riera, Senior Advisor in the UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) Division of International Protection, concurred, “In the case of cross-border movement, we’re looking at a gaping legal hole.”

Except in contexts of conflicts and persecution, there is no lead UN agency that has at its core the protection of people forced to flee owing to disasters, including those triggered by climate change, and which could coordinate an international response.

Villagers of Okau in Wely Municipality meet with the Magistrate of Weloy and the Assistant Anthropologist of Yap District. The large doughnut-shaped stone money is a mark of village prestige. UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

“The truth is there is no one agency in the system because no one could have imagined this situation 60 years ago,” Mr. Riera told the UN News Centre. “But there are massive protection challenges raised by climate and environment-related migration, displacement and planned relocation.”

“We need States to at least come to an agreement that [climate change-related displacement] is a phenomenon that has to be dealt with, and also for them to come up with the solutions.”

They are not going to make commitments at the UN in official fora which could backfire in the next election campaign

The UN agency coordinates the Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility, which also includes OHCHR, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), UN University (UNU), and non-UN partners, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Among the targeted recipients of the Group are climate negotiators at the UN climate change convention talks, the last of which will be in Paris in 2015.

“We see our role not as [leading and waving] the institutional flag, but to make available to State Parties [to the Convention] the research that is coming on board as it relates to migration, displacement and planned relocation,” Mr. Riera added.

A young boy in Malaita, Solomon Islands, plays with his homemade wooden truck. UN Photo/W Stone

“And to be the little pebble in their shoe; serving as a reminder that if we really want to make progress on addressing some of these issues, if we’re really keen on sustainable development and if the post-2015 sustainable development agenda is to be the wise and forward-looking [framework] everyone wants it to be, then the issues surrounding human mobility cannot be swept under the rug.”

UNHCR is also a standing invitee to the Nansen Initiative, launched in October 2012 by the Governments of Switzerland and Norway, and which aims to build consensus on a protection agenda to address the needs of people displaced across international borders by natural hazards, including the effects of climate change.

“We are very encouraged by the Nansen Initiative,” Mr. Riera said, describing it as a “State-led conversation on how to protect affected populations.”

The effects of climate change are already being felt in all continents and across the oceans, the UN reported earlier this year, and warned that the world, for the most part, is ill-prepared for the risks. The report, ‘Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability’, from Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks.

“Climate change over the 21st century is projected to increase displacement of people. Displacement risk increases when populations that lack the resources for planned migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, in both rural and urban areas, particularly in developing countries with low income,” the report’s authors wrote, noting also the indirect impact climate change has on increased risk of violent conflicts, such as civil war and inter-group violence.

By the end of 2013, an estimated 51.2 million people worldwide were considered to be forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations, according to UNHCR. The majority of them concentrated in “climate change hotspots” around the world.

Satellite image of the Turks and Caicos Islands in the northern Caribbean. UN Photo/USGS/NASA

In the Secretary-General’s 2012 report to the UN General Assembly on human rights and migration, Mr. Crépeau cited research which predicts that up to 250 million people might be displaced by climate change by the year 2050.

He wrote that while it is hard to predict precisely the patterns of where climate-change induced migrants will move, current research indicates that much climate related displacement is likely to take place within national borders and that those most acutely vulnerable will often not be in a position to migrate internationally, or will travel only as far as their resources will allow. As a result, he calls for planned and facilitated migration policies, and the strong involvement of all partners, including civil society.

For people living in low-lying island States, the situation is particularly urgent, the Special Rapporteur wrote, as there is scientific evidence that the islands will become uninhabitable as a result of inadequate supply of potable water, along with other environmental concerns.

Mr. Crépeau questions whether a country can legally even exist if it is absorbed, merged and voluntarily or involuntarily dissolved, concluding that the situation of a State abandoned by its population due to the effects of climate change is simply so new “that no clear international legal framework appears to apply.”

“It’s going to take a lot of imagination and political will to be able to negotiate transfers of populations which would be on the massive scale,” Mr. Crépeau told the UN News Centre. “If you wanted to transfer a population of one small island with a few thousand people – that can be negotiated. But I don’t think we’re yet at the level of destination States accepting hundreds of thousands or millions of people.”

“The political climate in most countries in the global North is such that discussing migration is actually very toxic. They are not going to make commitments at the UN in official fora which could backfire in the next election campaign, which is one, two, three, or four years from now.”

A view of the ravaged village of Vilufushi, on the southeastern Kolhumadulu Atoll, where 17 have died and 28 are still missing after the tsunami swept across their island.UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Yet for some small islands, these issues are already on the table and will likely get more attention in the coming months. Preparations are well under way for the Third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in the Samoan capital, Apia, starting 1 September. The week-long meeting is meant to give countries an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity and partnership with small island developing nations. It is also expected to launch new and concrete partnerships, such as in areas of sustainable tourism and disaster risk reduction.

“It will also allow those small island States that feel that they least contributed to climate change, to try to take a principled stand in the climate change negotiations, and play up this notion of common but differentiated responsibilities,” Mr. Riera said, referring to the common goal of curbing emission gases through different roles among the richer and less economically developed Governments.

The UN is also preparing for a final round of climate change talks in Paris next year to hammer out a legally-binding climate treaty. Ahead of the talks, Mr. Ban will convene a climate summit at UN Headquarters this September, during the high-level opening of the General Assembly.

Ultimately, the outcomes of these conferences depend solely on the Governments of UN Member States.

“The important word in the United Nations is ‘nations’. The UN in itself is nothing more than an international cooperation forum. It’s the nations that can get together and do something,” said Mr. Crépeau. “States can use the vessel to do something, but the vessel in itself can do nothing if the States are opposed to it. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is constantly urging the States to do something on a number of issues. Sometimes they do it, sometimes they don’t.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48201

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UN initiative strengthens drought monitoring and early warning in Asia-Pacific


1 July 2014 – Although drought is a “silent killer” in Asia and the Pacific, access to scientific information and knowledge remain a challenge for many countries in the region, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said today at a milestone forum on drought monitoring and early warning.

“Over the past three decades, it is estimated that droughts in the region have affected more than 1.3 billion people and caused damages of over $53 billion,” Shamika Sirimanne, Director of ESCAP’s Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division, said today in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The meeting, organized by ESCAP and the Sri Lanka Ministry of Technology and Research, drew senior Government representatives, regional experts and UN agencies to exchange good practices and discuss strategies to reduce the impacts of agricultural drought and help save lives.

Ms. Sirimanne emphasized that efforts to reduce the impacts of drought require timely access to satellite-derived data. “Signs of drought can be observed from space long before they are visible to the human eye. Advances in space technology allow us to monitor the condition of crops, or the availability of water, from satellite images, and sharing this information through regional cooperation will save lives and protect livelihoods.”

However, despite significant progress in monitoring agricultural drought, access to satellite-derived data and knowledge for improving early warning remains a challenge for many countries in Asia and the Pacific.

In 2013, ESCAP launched the Regional Drought Mechanism – a platform providing timely and free satellite-based data; products; and training to regional drought-prone countries – to enhance the capacity of Governments for agricultural monitoring and early warning. When combined with information collected on the ground, the data leads to more effective detection of potential drought conditions.

“For example, satellite images can detect the onset of drought in specific areas or provinces, allowing time for local authorities to take immediate action, such as informing farmers to switch to more drought-resistant crops or implementing water management strategies,” Ms. Sirimanne elaborated.

The Sri Lankan Minister of Technology and Research, Patali Champika Ranawaka warned, “This year may witness the beginning of another El Niño period affecting Sri Lanka – possibly with serious implications for agriculture, one of the most important sectors for the country.”

“We have great hope that ESCAP’s Regional Drought Mechanism will help Sri Lanka address this issue by expanding our options for monitoring and responding to agricultural drought, in the meantime effectively harnessing the potential of space technology applications towards this end,” he added

Currently, the Mechanism is being piloted in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Its initial work in Mongolia and Sri Lanka – supported by two regional service nodes – demonstrates clearly the efficiency and effectiveness of the initiative.

Supported by China and India, the regional service nodes were established under the Regional Drought Mechanism to provide the pilot countries with satellite imagery, services, expert training and capacity development.

Though several of the pilot countries already experience severe drought conditions due to regular climate oscillations, including El Niño and La Niña, climate change projections indicate that drought is likely to become more frequent and severe in the future.

Given these challenges, forum participants recognized the importance of coordination and cooperation across the relevant ministries and initiatives in the region and looked at practical ways to improve early warning through enhanced integration with climate change trends, and new scientific modelling techniques.

Recommendations from the forum will provide guidance for strengthening the effectiveness of the Regional Cooperative Mechanism and will feed into the national disaster management plans of the pilot countries.

Participating countries benefit from: enhanced access to space-based data; capacity building in preparedness and response; strengthened institutional coordination and policies at the country level; and Regional and South-South cooperation and support networks.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48182

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UN reports on new roadmap to boost small-scale, family forest producers


30 June 2014 – If small-scale forest and farm producers joined to form producer organizations, they could increase forest productivity and improve livelihoods of local communities, the United Nations agricultural agency and its partners today reported.

In two separate co-publications, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) wrote that indigenous peoples, local communities and private smallholders own or manage a growing proportion of the world’s forests and can play a significant role in tackling deforestation and reducing poverty if they band together.

“Coming together in forest and farm producer organizations can help overcome their isolation as well as other very real constraints such as a lack of secure forest tenure and financial and business development instruments,” said FAO Forestry Officer Jeffrey Campbell.

Two policy papers, published by the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), a partnership between FAO, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), argue that a better policy environment, coupled with targeted support to help small-scale forest and farm producers organize could overcome some of the challenges these groups face.

A crucial constraint is their isolation from each other, from markets, information, business services, policymakers, financing and investment opportunities.

“They must compete with large-scale businesses that often receive preferential treatment, access to markets, financing and resources,” Mr. Campbell explained.

According to the report authors, there are six ways to help forest and farm producer organizations become more effective.

These are summarized as increasing the visibility of forest and farm producer organizations in policymaking; helping forests and farm producers build capacity; creating an enabling environment; clearing a path for increased finance; connecting forest and farm producers with services; and encouraging a global coalition.

The release of the reports comes one week after the 22nd Session of the FAO Committee on Forestry was held in Rome during World Forest Week. One of the main themes of the session was shifting the focus from data collection and policymaking in respect to forests, to the people who are managing the forests – in other words, from trees to people.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48170

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