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SAMOA: Ahead of upcoming conference, iTunes, UN team up to showcase music from small island nations

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25 August 2014 – Ahead of a major United Nations conference in Samoa on small island developing countries, iTunes has teamed up with the UN to create a dedicated page on the popular site – launched today – featuring music from artists born and raised in some of the world’s smallest islands.

The “Island Voices” initiative (iTunes.com/islandvoices) showcases the eclectic range of works of 57 musicians from the world’s small island nations and features their songs, which can be easily accessed and purchased from the online iTunes Store.

Drawing attention to the Third United Nations Conference on the Small IslandEvery day, island voices are heard all across the planet through music. They represent the spirit and aspiration of the people Developing States , scheduled to take place from 1 to 5 September in the Samoan capital, Apia, the iTunes partnership also coincides with the 2014 International Year of Small Island Developing States , which has been designated by the UN to celebrate the remarkable diversity, culture and heritage of small islands throughout the world.

The dedicated page on iTunes aims to promote the diversity of music from the islands and its contribution to international music, and will feature the best works from the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean islands, celebrate many of gifted singers and songwriters and promote music across multiple genres, from reggae to calypso, and from hip-hop to jazz and dance.


Traditional dancers in Solomon Islands. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Among the well-known icons included on the iTunes page are Bob Marley (Jamaica), Rihanna (Barbados), Cèsaria Evoria (Cape Verde) and Ibrahim Ferrer (Cuba).

‘Island Voices’ will also spotlight lesser known musicians, such as Vanessa Quai from the Republic of Vanuatu, Dilli Allstars from Timor-Leste, Rosalia from Fiji and Imany Mladja, from Comoros.

In a video-message on the iTunes page, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasizes that artists from the small island developing States are among the “giants in musical history.”

“Every day, island voices are heard all across the planet through music. They represent the spirit and aspiration of the people” said Mr. Ban. “Music helps connect these beautiful islands to the wilder world, influencing global popular culture” he added.

The partnership was initiated by the UN Office for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), which worked with Permanent Missions of small island States and iTunes’ specialist music curators to create a list of songs and artists that reflect the variety and the quality of these 57 islands and their culture.

“One of the chief challenges that all islands face is remoteness, and as such, connectivity to the wider world is a key challenge. iTunes is arguably the largest megaphone in the world, and what better opportunity to showcase the extraordinary and vibrant musical heritage from the small islands” said Ricardo Dunn, Advocacy and Outreach Officer for UN-OHRLLS.


Tokelau has no airstrip or harbour. The Atafu atoll’s workforce ferry in goods, and carry them ashore. UN Photo/Ariane Rummery (file photo)

Two days before the official conference on the Small Island Developing States next week, UN-OHRLLS has organized a Private Sector Partnership Forum in Samoa, and hopes that this will be the first of many innovative initiatives to be announced that will benefit small island nations.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48558

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Ahead of Samoa conference, iTunes, UN team up to showcase music from small island nations

Print

25 August 2014 – Ahead of a major United Nations conference in Samoa on small island developing countries, iTunes has teamed up with the UN to create a dedicated page on the popular site – launched today – featuring music from artists born and raised in some of the world’s smallest islands.

The “Island Voices” initiative (www.iTunes.com/islandvoices) showcases the eclectic range of works of 57 musicians from the world’s small island nations and features their songs, which can be easily accessed and purchased from the online iTunes Store.

Drawing attention to the Third United Nations Conference on the Small Island Developing States , scheduled to take place from 1 to 5 September in the Samoan capital, Apia, the iTunes partnership also coincides with the 2014 International Year of Small Island Developing States , which has been designated by the UN to celebrate the remarkable diversity, culture and heritage of small islands throughout the world.

The dedicated page on iTunes aims to promote the diversity of music from the islands and its contribution to international music, and will feature the best works from the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean islands, celebrate many of gifted singers and songwriters and promote music across multiple genres, from reggae to calypso, and from hip-hop to jazz and dance.

Among the well-known icons included on the iTunes page are Bob Marley (Jamaica), Rihanna (Barbados), Cèsaria Evoria (Cape Verde) and Ibrahim Ferrer (Cuba).

‘Island Voices’ will also spotlight lesser known musicians, such as Vanessa Quai from the Republic of Vanuatu, Dilli Allstars from Timor-Leste, Rosalia from Fiji and Imany Mladja, from Comoros.

In a video-message on the iTunes page, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasizes that artists from the small island developing States are among the “giants in musical history.”

“Every day, island voices are heard all across the planet through music. They represent the spirit and aspiration of the people” said Mr. Ban. “Music helps connect these beautiful islands to the wilder world, influencing global popular culture” he added.

The partnership was initiated by the UN Office for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), which worked with Permanent Missions of small island States and iTunes’ specialist music curators to create a list of songs and artists that reflect the variety and the quality of these 57 islands and their culture.

“One of the chief challenges that all islands face is remoteness, and as such, connectivity to the wider world is a key challenge. iTunes is arguably the largest megaphone in the world, and what better opportunity to showcase the extraordinary and vibrant musical heritage from the small islands” said Ricardo Dunn, Advocacy and Outreach Officer for UN-OHRLLS.

Two days before the official conference on the Small Island Developing States next week, UN-OHRLLS has organized a Private Sector Partnership Forum in Samoa, and hopes that this will be the first of many innovative initiatives to be announced that will benefit small island nations.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48558

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UN-backed disaster resilience campaign tops 2,000 participating cities

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14 August 2014 – With the addition of Aguas da Prata, Brazil, two thousand cities worldwide are now enrolled in a United Nations global campaign engaging as many local governments as possible to take on the challenge of integrating disaster risk management into their development processes.

The global campaign, Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready!, launched in 2010 for a period of five years until 2015, is promoted by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). As it stands now, about 25 per cent of the participating cities are located in the Americas, and approximately 11 per cent (or 226) of all cities are situated in Brazil.

“This growth is due to all sectors, and particularly to the increased prioritization by local governments of disaster risk reduction and resilience building issues,” Ricardo Mena, Head of the Regional Office of UNISDR in the Americas, said in a press release.

The latest city to join the campaign, Aguas da Prata, a municipality of 7,500 people in the state of São Paulo, may be described as a “typical example” of a small community in Brazil where periodic flooding and occasional landslides pose a risk to its inhabitants and development.

Through a programme called “Municipio Verde Azul” (Green Blue Municipality) the state of São Paulo provides financial support, equipment and other benefits to municipalities enrolled in the campaign. Additional support also comes from the city’s administrative region of Campinas, where the Director of the Civil Defence team, Sidnei Furtado is a staunch supporter of the campaign.

“The campaign is a great opportunity to change paradigms and contribute to the reorganization of the National System of Protection and Civil Defence. It allows for greater scope and national coordination and strengthens prevention as key to strategic planning in disaster risk reduction,” said Mr. Sidnei Furtado, Director of the Campinas.

Local governments as well as citizens are instrumental in promoting the campaign, Mr. Furtado added, emphasizing that the mayor of Campinas played a “key role in the realization of this work,” but that overall “everyone has played a part to accomplish the final result.”

The worldwide campaign is based on 10 essentials for developing local resilience, which in turn build on the 5 priorities for action of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), adopted by UN Member States for the period 2005-2015.

A post-2015 framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is expected to be approved at a follow-up conference in March 2015, in Sendai, Japan, emphasizing the need to continue to work to strengthen community resilience, particularly in municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48484

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Climate change adaptation can help promote sub-Saharan African livelihoods – UN report

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13 August 2014 – Investing in ways to adapt to climate change will promote the livelihood of 65 per cent of Africans, the United Nations environmental agency reported, warning also that failing to address the phenomenon could reverse decades of development progress on the continent.

Africa’s population is set to double to 2 billion by 2050, the majority of whom will continue to depend on agriculture to make a living, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“With 94 per cent of agriculture dependent on rainfall, the future impacts of climate change – including increased droughts, flooding, and seal-level rise – may reduce crop yields in some parts of Africa by 15 – 20 per cent,” UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

“Such a scenario, if unaddressed, could have grave implications for Africa’s most vulnerable states,” he added.

In a new graphical report, Keeping Track of Adaptation Actions in Africa (KTAA) – Targeted Fiscal Stimulus Actions Making a Difference, UNEP details the implications of climate change, and provides examples of adaptation projects that range from forest ecosystem management to aquatics and agriculture.

The report describes sustainable examples of how countries in sub-Saharan Africa enhanced environmental and ecosystem resilience through the use of native plants and natural infrastructure, land plans and rainwater harvesting, among other examples.

The projects are integrated into national development policies which can strengthen and enhance the resilience communities against the impacts of climate change, while also contributing to the realization of the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to the report authors.

“By integrating climate change adaptation strategies in national development policies Governments can provide transitional pathways to green growth and protect and improve the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Africans,” Mr. Steiner noted.

The projects also highlight the urgency to act now in adapting to challenges, especially in developing countries where capabilities to respond to the magnitude of the problem are limited.

This year’s Africa Environment Day, marked annually on 3 March, focused on combating desertification on the continent and enhancing its agriculture and food security. The continent has lost 65 per cent of its agricultural land since 1950 due to land degradation, according to figures cited by UNEP. Up to 12 per cent of its agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) is lost due to deteriorating conditions and 135 million people are at risk of having to move from their land by 2020 due to desertification.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48475

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FEATURE: As climate talks heat up, experts debate if natural gas, fracking will turn ‘brown’ economies ‘green’

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1 August 2014 – The world faces a looming energy problem. There’s not enough of it. It also faces a looming climate change problem. Too much of it. Could natural gas and fracking technology be part of the solution to both challenges?

The answer to this question is especially relevant for developing countries. Nearly half the world’s population lacks reliable access to modern energy services and more than 20 per cent of the global population – 1.4 billion people – remains without access to electricity, according to a recent UN Development Programme (UNDP) report. Household air pollution from the use of biomass fuel is expected to cause more than 1.5 million deaths a year by 2030.

Could natural gas, whose production is boosted by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside – be a bridge to greener economies and to new, more-efficient energy technologies?

“Is fracking, by providing natural gas, giving us a cleaner energy source? The answer is yes, perhaps, if you regard natural gas as a cleaner energy source,” said Elizabeth Thompson, senior advisor for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. She spoke at a panel organized by the UN Academic Impact. “However, if the methodologies used are dirty, or environmentally harmful, then some of the beneficial impacts are significantly eroded.”


Schematic representation of infrastructures and potential impacts. Source: UNEP/GRID-Geneva, 2012

In the fight against climate change, natural gas is increasingly being eyed as a potential ‘bridge’ fuel to a carbon-free economy. It is believed to be less harmful to the environment than coal or oil because it emits less carbon dioxide. What’s more, it is abundant, especially when fracking provides access to unconventional reserves of gas, particularly in the United States, where the technology has been developed and where it has created about 1.7 million jobs.

Opposition around the world to the environmental and health risks associated with fracking has been loud but hardly unanimous. South Africa is currently debating the practice. In a reversal of a ban earlier this year, the European Union approved some fracking activities. China and Russia are supporters, so much so that recent media reports actually accuse Russia of funding anti-fracking campaigns in Europe in order to undercut the competition. Argentina is keen but lacks resources and technology, according to media reports, and in the United States, policies on fracking vary state to state.

Given these divides, the UN is proposing to use its reach to develop expertise and literature to educate decision makers.

“The UN does not intervene in State or country business. We will wait for countries to make decisions, supporting them in making the correct policy decisions,” Ms. Thomas stressed.

Michael Levi, an expert on energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, who also participated in the panel discussion, said the UN’s role could be to facilitate the spread of technical understanding and regulatory experience, building networks among regulators, rather than promoting its own set of rules.

“The best way the UN can play a role here is in helping countries set a direction that allows them to take advantage of a variety of low-carbon energy sources, including natural gas, if that’s what they think is appropriate,” he told the UN News Centre. “And in facilitating the relationships and the connections that allow regulators and planners to better handle development.”

The UN is pushing to finalize by next year an international treaty to tackle climate change, in time for a meeting in Paris of States parties to the world body’s framework Convention on climate change. Ahead of those talks, Mr. Ban is hosting a summit this September, and has asked participating world leaders to come with concrete action plans. Could fracking for natural gas be included in those plans?

“I don’t think fracking should be the focus of the climate talks, just like nuclear energy or solar power isn’t the focus,” Mr. Levi said. “The focus is on reducing emissions and for a long time, it’s been on setting the right direction, putting the right framework in place and then letting countries figure out the best way to cut emissions.”

“So it strikes me that a good outcome to the climate negotiations can help set countries in a lower-carbon direction, which many might decide includes a substantial role for natural gas.”


Technically recoverable shale gas reserves in trillion cubic metres (tcm) in the top 18 countries. Data source: Royal Society, 2012; cartography by UNEP/GRID-Geneva.

In April, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a long-anticipated report stating that global greenhouse gas emissions are on trajectory to continue rising.

To keep global mean temperatures within two degrees Celsius – the benchmark determined in the mid-1990s of what would constitute “dangerous” climate change impacts – the world would need to lower by mid-century global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent compared with 2010 levels. The goal is to achieve near-zero increases by the end of this century, according to the report, which featured input from more than 1,100 leading scientists and economists.

According to the reportClimate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, to aim for that goal, the use of fossil fuels, which is currently at more than 80 per cent, would need to be cut to as little as one-third.

“Greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal-fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants, provided that natural gas is available and the fugitive emissions associated with extraction and supply are low or mitigated,” according to the report.

Unconventional natural gas reserves, the authors added in Chapter 7, are estimated to be larger than conventional reserves and resources combined.

The IPCC working group that compiled the survey was not endorsing a fracking boom, as some media sources claimed, but rather highlighting that that it would be possible to limit current warming, through political will and the use of existing technologies.

In the same report, the authors noted that there is international opposition to fracking, and expressed concern about its potential risks to local water quality and public health.

Fracking technology has developed over the past three decades or so, but moved to commercial scale in the last several years. It involves drilling – vertically and then horizontally – to create a well, then pumping millions of liters of chemically-infused water, and then sand, through the horizontal well to break fractures in the shale rock layers to release the embedded gas and force it to the surface. The combination of this mixture is considered a trade secret.

In 2012, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) compiled a literature review of 353 commonly used chemicals, of which “more than 75 per cent of [which] could affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately, 40-50 per cent could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37 per cent could affect the endocrine system; and 25 per cent could cause cancer and mutations.”

On average, Ms. Thomas said, each well that is “fracked” uses up to 8 million gallons of water, and a fracking fluid of 40,000 gallons that uses some 600 volatile organized compounds. The concern is that the concoction can seep into under-ground water supplies, as well as water that is at the surface level when the brine is not properly disposed of.

There are also worries about deteriorating air quality because of how technologies are used and managed. The sudden shift underground, sometimes caused by explosives, has also been found to cause earthquakes.

In addition to disposal of waste water from the wells and air quality, communities can have a negative reaction to the sudden, intensive industrial development.


A utility pole supporting electrical wires in Bac Ha, Viet Nam. According to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report, 1.6 billion people the world over, or a quarter of humanity, live without electricity. UN Photo/Kibae Park

“It happens most often in places that have not had that before and are not used to it, which has more to do with urban planning, education, and proper infrastructure, than with making sure people have the right valves and are monitoring the air quality properly,” Mr. Levi said.

Mr. Levi pointed to evidence that many of the technical claims offered by Ms. Thomas were incorrect.

“The telegenic risks are not necessarily the ones for policy makers to confront,” he said, referring to popular videos showing television reporters lighting fire to tap water contaminated by methane gas. Methane is believed to be found in the same area as natural gas and brought to surface in the extraction process.

There is one more set of UN talks on the climate scheduled for this year. In early September, the UN will hold in Apia, Samoa, a conference on the challenges and opportunities of partnering with small islands. These sea-locked nations are among the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate-change, and also face unique energy challenges. Could fracking be an option for energy production there?

“Fracking is not yet at the stage where it is being looked at by small island Governments,” said Ms. Thompson, is the former Minister for Energy and Environment in Barbados.

“But it is exactly in places like that and in Africa where I would be very concerned about a raise and a demand or the use or spread of fracking simply because of a lack of capacity to oversee, regulate and supervise, and to deal with the technologies.

“Can you imagine a small island developing State like Trinidad and Tobago using fracking? That huge volume of toxic chemicals just being flushed into the water – on the aquiferous, on the ground? It is very high risk for developing countries, particularly for small island developing States, so I would not support it. Not at all.”

Yet, while fracking may not have a role in energy production in those countries, the senior UN official interviewed noted that natural gas does hold important possibilities for the future of energy production.

Ms. Thomas represents the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. Its three goals are to ensure universal access to modern energy services, and double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030.

“If fracking and natural gas are being used as an end in themselves, then clearly there will be no transition to greener fuels,” said Ms. Thomas. Companies will maintain the status quo, using technology to access larger amounts of natural gas, using it alongside coal.

“If, however, the larger policy roulette frames the issue in the context of the need to transition to a greener fuels as alternative technologies because fossil fuels, no matter what technologies we use, are finite,” she added, “then it could be potentially the bridge between the ‘brown’ economy we have now and the green economy of the future.

“But we would have to go to the point where the UN is interested in seeing this – increased innovation, new technologies and greater efficiencies that allow energy to reach all people, become empowered, and enjoy an improved quality of life.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48389

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