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&#39Journey towards bold climate action is at a critical moment,&#39 UN General Assembly told

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29 June 2015 – Development cannot be sustainable if it does not address the challenge of climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Member States today as he opened a High-Level Event on Climate Change convened in New York by the President of the UN General Assembly, Sam Kutesa.

“Let us always remember that climate change and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin, with two mutually reinforcing agendas,” the UN chief explained to delegations gathered for the event.

Just months ahead of the next Conference of the PartiesOnly by acting now and standing together can we achieve the results we need in the time we have left. Only by acting now and standing together can we tip the scales and change the course of history. (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will take place in Paris, today’s event has been convened in support to the process that will ultimately result in an agreement intended to succeed to the landmark Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Among the participants, Academy Award-winning actor and long-time conservationist Robert Redford, and 15-year-old indigenous climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, are expected to join the broad call for action to energize multilateral cooperation on climate change. Raised in the Aztec tradition, Mr. Roske-Martinez is Youth Director of a non-profit organization called Earth Guardians.

Keynote speakers are expected to include, Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, Mogens Lykketoft, Speaker of the Parliament of Denmark and President- elect of the 70th session of the General Assembly, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of the Environment of Peru, President of COP20, and Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, President of COP21.

“Adoption of a transformative post-2015 development agenda in September, achieving a successful outcome from the upcoming Third International Conference on Financing for Development and concluding a global climate change agreement will be monumental milestones towards improving the livelihoods of people around the world,” Assembly President Kutesa summarized.

Participants at the General Assembly President’s High-Level Event on Climate Change. UN Photo/Evan Schneider/Devra Berkowitz


But a climate change agreement in Paris will not be the end point, observed the Secretary-General: “it must be a turning point in how the world collectively responds to the defining challenge of our time,” he stressed.

“Today, we have come together to take stock of what we have pledged, what we have delivered, and what else we must do to ensure that world leaders and their governments adopt an ambitious, universal agreement in December.”

Journey towards bold climate action is therefore at a “critical moment”, he stated.

The Secretary-General welcomed a number of recent achievements, such as the fact that the world’s three biggest economies – China, the European Union and the United States – have “placed their bets” on low-carbon, climate-resilient growth, while the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases announced ambitious climate actions. And other major economies in the G7 and G20 made clear their intention to act, he rejoiced.

“Nevertheless, these pledges cover only a portion of total global emissions. We must seize today’s opportunity to make a strong call to all Parties to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS), bearing in mind the urgent need for concrete actions by all,” advised the President of the General Assembly.

Another cause for satisfaction, pointed out the Secretary-General, is the dramatic fall in prices of renewable energy sources, which in some places has reached parity with fossil fuels. “The world is now using more renewable electric power each year than it is from coal, natural gas and oil put together,” Member States were told.

Moreover, he went on to say, investors and insurers are starting to integrate climate risk into their decision-making, while citizens, civil society and faith leaders, most recently Pope Francis, are pushing for action.

However, the pace of the UNFCCC negotiations is far too slow, said Mr. Ban, underscoring that the key political issues are still on the table. “With only ten negotiating days remaining before Paris, governments must accelerate their efforts.”

That recommendation was echoed by the President of the General Assembly, who emphasized how much negotiations launched earlier this month in Bonn must make “substantive progress.”

Highlighting what a “meaningful” agreement in Paris should include, the Secretary-General said that first, it “must” provide a strong signal to governments and markets that the world is committed to building a low-carbon future, “and that there is no going back.”

“Second, an agreement must be durable so that it provides the private sector with the predictability and policy frameworks it needs to invest in clean energy and climate-resilient approaches.”

Third, Mr. Ban continued, it must be flexible so that it can incentivize and incorporate more ambitious, “science-based nationally determined targets over time.” While urging countries that did not submit yet their INDCs to do so as soon as possible, he reminded delegations that these targets “will not be sufficient to place us on a less-than-2-degree pathway.”

“An agreement must therefore enable countries to regularly review progress towards this goal, and encourage more ambitious, nationally determined targets to meet it.”

Such agreement must also uphold the principle of equity, support the adaptation needs of developing countries, and demonstrate solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable countries through a focused package of assistance. Finally, “it must have clear mechanisms for measuring, monitoring and reporting progress on a full range of actions.”

Noting that credible climate financing is essential, the Secretary-General urged developed countries to provide a politically credible trajectory for “mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020” to support developing countries in curbing emissions and strengthening their resilience.

“It is also important to ensure that effective platforms for developing and sharing technologies and innovative research are enhanced”, added the Assembly President in his remarks. “Barriers” to the transfer of green technologies, including intellectual property protection issues, need to be urgently addressed, he said.

“I will proactively engage with leaders from both the global north and south to make sure this goal is met and is considered credible by all,” the Secretary-General assured. “I pledge to you that I will spare no effort to ensure that the world leaders who are responsible for an ambitious agreement in Paris – and the financing needed to implement it – are directly engaged.”

Echoing Mr. Ban’s sense of urgency during a high-level panel held in the afternoon, Oscar-winner and renowned climate activist Robert Redford warned that for the international community “the time for half measures and climate denial is over.”

“We see the effects all around us – from drought and famine in Africa, and heat waves in South Asia, to wildfires across North America, devastating hurricanes and crippling floods here in New York,” the actor told those gathered. “We must be a movement that includes every single nation on Earth, because climate change affects every nation on Earth.”

He added: “Only by acting now and standing together behind a universal climate agreement can we live up to the UN’s founding promise. Only by acting now and standing together can we achieve the results we need in the time we have left. Only by acting now and standing together can we tip the scales and change the course of history.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51283

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Sustainable soil management key to curbing climate change and ensuring food security – UN agency

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23 June 2015 – Mountain soils are of great importance to ecosystem and food security, according to a newly released United Nations-backed publication, which also highlights technical insights and human activities of a sustainable soil management approach with special attention to mountain peoples.

“Mountain soils are particularly susceptible to climate change, deforestation, unsustainable farming practices and resource extraction methods that affect their fertility, trigger land degradation, desertification and disasters … leading to poverty,” Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), writes in the preface to the volume.

As a contribution to the 2015 International Year of Soils, the book, Understanding Mountain Soils, aims to raise global awareness of the importance of mountain soils, the need for their sustainable management and the harsh reality faced by the often-marginalized mountain peoples.

Citing environmental, economic and social values of mountain soils, the new publication showcases solutions, techniques and best practices worldwide of the sustainable soil management approach for protecting ecosystem.

Indigenous practices and local knowledge, highlights the book, are the backbones for essential ecosystem functions. Contouring, terracing and mixed farming are some good examples of landscape approach developed by mountain peoples to manage their lands sustainably.

However, threats and challenges, caused by both climate change and human actions, remain for the fragile mountain soils.

The book therefore calls for global efforts to empower mountain farmers and indigenous people, support rural women as well as a landscape approach for better safeguard.

‘Understanding Mountain Soils’ was launched at the beginning of annual meeting of the Global Soils Partnership, which took place in Rome on 22 June and runs through 24 June.

International Year of Soils 2015 aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51236

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UN chief hails Papal Encyclical spotlighting climate change as critical ‘moral issue’

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18 June 2015 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the release of Pope Francis’ Papal Encyclical in which the leader of the Catholic Church deplored climate change as one of the principal challenges facing humanity and called for a ‘new dialogue’ about shaping the future of our planet.

“The Secretary-General reaffirms that humanity has a significant obligation to care for and protect our common home, the planet Earth, and to show solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable members of society who are suffering most from climate impacts,” declared a statement issued earlier today by a UN spokesperson.

“The Secretary-General therefore urges governments to place the global common good above national interests and to adopt an ambitious, universal climate agreement in Paris this year.”

According to the statement, the encyclical’s findings acknowledge the “very solid scientific consensus” showing significant warming of the planet’s climate system and that such warming is “mainly a result of human activity.”

In addition, the Papal declaration describes climate change as a critical moral issue requiring respectful dialogue with all parts of society.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the contributions of all religious leaders and people of influence in responding to the climate challenge and in strengthening sustainable development,” the statement says.

“He looks forward to welcoming Pope Francis at the United Nations in September to address the UN General Assembly,” the statement concludes looking ahead to the Pontiff’s visit to the UN during the high-level opening of the world body’s 70th anniversary session.

Speaking to reporters in New York after the statement was issued, the Secretary-General said that he and Pope Francis agree that climate change is a moral issue that requires collective urgent actions.

“It is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics,” continued the UN chief, urging the international community to “do far more to help the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, who are suffering most from climate impacts yet had least to do with causing the problem.”

Mr. Ban deeply thanked Pope Francis for taking such a “strong stand” on the need for urgent global action. His moral voice is part of a growing chorus of people from all faiths and all sectors of society speaking out for climate action.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51186

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On Day to Combat Desertification, UN urges action to protect ‘every hectare’ of arable land

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17 June 2015 – Land is a renewable resource, but only if investments are made in land degradation neutrality, which has been proposed as an element of the post-2015 development agenda, today said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

“We need to change course and start securing every hectare of land that can provide food or freshwater and rehabilitate all the degraded land that we can,” urged Mr. Ban, who assured that by doing so, the international community will be able to make rapid steps towards controlling climate change.

With No such thing as a free lunch: Investing in healthy soils as the theme, this year’s Day is intended to promote public awareness of the issues of desertification and drought, and the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

“Our lives and civilizations depend on the land. Let us invest in healthy soils to secure our rights to food and freshwater,” Mr. Ban added.

When a plate of food is served in front of you, what comes to mind? Few of us actually think about it, but it is the endpoint of a long and complex process…Without the land, there is only an empty plate,” underscored Monique Barbut, who is the UNCCD Executive Secretary.

Noting that 70 per cent of the Earth’s grasslands, 50 per cent of the savannahs and 45 per cent of its temperate forests have been cleared to feed generations gone by, she expressed her deep concern that resources are treated like disposable goods.

“We degrade the land through unsustainable farming and walk away when it cannot produce anymore. Today, one third of previously fertile farmland lies abandoned. With a population of 9.6 billion expected by 2050, we will need to clear 3 million hectares of new land every year, on average,” she explained, warning that “we are heading towards a tipping point.”

“If we do not change how we use our land, we will have to convert an area the size of Norway into new farmland every year to meet future needs for food, freshwater, biofuels and urban growth,” underscored Mr. Ban.

A number of organizations from the UN system are involved in the fight against desertification, as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which has established a number of regional Drought Monitoring Centres in Africa, for example.

Over the last four decades, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Director-General Irina Bokova said, has contributed to global efforts to combat desertification through such scientific programmes as its Man and the Biosphere Programme and International Hydrological Programme.

For his part, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio F. de Souza Dias, said the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 offers solutions, “in particular Aichi Biodiversity Target 5, which aims to at least halve and bring as close to zero as possible the rate of loss of natural habitats, and Aichi Target 15 which aims to restore at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems, seek to reverse the negative trend of land degradation.”

In addition, he expanded on the proposed sustainable development goal on land for the post-2015 agenda, which is based on three simultaneous actions: avoid degrading additional land, recover as much as we can of that which is already degraded, and, for every hectare of land we degrade, to rehabilitate a hectare of degraded land in the same ecosystem and the same timeframe.

“A world where all rights to food, water and human security are guaranteed is possible,” the UN Secretary-General assured.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51174

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UN environment agency urges ban of microplastics in cosmetics and personal care products

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16 June 2015 – Next time you are in the shower using a refreshing exfoliating shower gel, take a moment to check what the scrubbing agents are made of. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), chances are pretty high they are made of tiny plastic beads, and by the time the container is empty, you will have used and poured down the drain as much plastic as the packaging the gel came in.

This alarming fact is contained in a UNEP report Plastic in Cosmetics: Are We Polluting the Environment Through Our Personal Care?, which is a compilation of currently available knowledge on the linkages between cosmetics and plastic pollution in the oceans.

According to the study, “for the last 50 years, microparticles of plastic, or microplastics, have been used in personal care products and cosmetics, replacing natural options in a large number of cosmetic and personal care formulations.”

“Microbeads and other plastic ingredients are present in products ranging from toothpaste and shower gel to eye shadows and nail polish,” it said. “Their proportions vary in different products, from less than 1 per cent to more than 90 per cent of the content. In a typical shower gel analyzed in laboratory, there was roughly as much plastic material in the gel itself as in its packaging.”

And “washed down the drain, those particles cannot be collected for recycling, nor do they decompose in wastewater treatment facilities, inevitably ending up in the global ocean, where it fragments and remains” and “these plastics may take hundreds of years to completely degrade,” according to UNEP’s research.

The report, which was released earlier this month on the occasion of World Oceans Day, recommends a precautionary approach toward microplastic management, with an eventual phase-out and ban of their use in personal care products and cosmetics.

Currently, in the United States, Illinois became the first state to enact legislation banning the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads. This two-part ban will enter into effect in 2018 and 2019.

And UNEP has announced the development of an app – ‘Beat the Microbead’ – in seven languages that allow customers to check whether personal care products contain microbeads by scanning a products barcode. UNEP said the app has been very popular, convincing a number of large multinationals such as Unilever, Johnson Johnson and the Body Shop to announce their intent to stop using microbeads.

And the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium and Sweden have issued a joint call to ban the microplastics used in personal care products, saying the measure will protect marine ecosystems – and seafood such as mussels – from contamination.

The UNEP study reports that “a typical exfoliating shower gel can contain roughly as much microplastic in the cosmetic formulation as is used to make the plastic packaging it comes in,” which translates into more than 4,300 tonnes of microplastic beads used in 2012 across all European Union countries.

It goes to say that plastic ingredients in these products are poured down the drain after use, cannot be collected for recycling, and do not decompose in wastewater treatment systems.

“More than 299 million tonnes of plastic was produced worldwide in 2013 some of which made its way to our oceans, costing approximately $13 billion per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems,” according to UNEP. “Once in the ocean, plastic does not go away: it fragments, eventually breaking down into smaller pieces known as secondary microplastics.”

The UNEP report makes several recommendations for producers and consumers, as well as for researchers and policymakers.

It asks producers to take the potential impact of product ingredients on the natural environment into account during the design phase, consumers to “look in your bathroom – what contains microbeads – download the Beat the microbead app and avoid buying products that contain these plastics,” governments to promote phase out of microplastics in personal care and cosmetic products and researchers to look more into the implications of nano- and micro-sized plastics on human and marine ecosystem health, especially through ingestion and chemical transfer through the food chain.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51169

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At Conference, UN agriculture agency chief highlights need to ‘do more and better with less’

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13 June 2015 – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) closed its week-long governing Conference today with a billion-dollar budgetary boost and a call to renew its efforts towards geographical decentralization – a step that will bring the United Nations agency in closer contact with those populations it is mandated to support.

“If FAO’s main mission is to end hunger and malnutrition, then FAO needs to offer holistic support, needs to support sustainable production and management of natural resources, needs to be able to offer support in social protection to reduce rural poverty, needs to improve access to markets by family farmers and needs to help build resilience in rural populations,” declared FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his closing remarks.

Mr. Graziano da Silva’s words came as he greeted the Conference’s decision to approve a regular budget of just over $1 billion for the delivery of FAO’s programme of work over the 2016-2017 period in which the UN agency is expected to continue in its fight against the eradication of hunger, for raising levels of nutrition and for addressing climate change.

At the same time, the Director-General reassured the 1,700 delegates attending the Conference regarding the Organization’s plans to decentralize on a region-specific basis.

This, he added, would include reinforcing FAO’s sub-regional offices and see the improvement of the agency’s support in regions such as West Africa, Central Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean.

“I want to assure you that we will continue to do this without weakening the technical and normative capacity at Headquarters,” he continued.

“This is not magic. It is the result of streamlining administrative procedures, of cutting red tape so that we can do more and better with less.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51147

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At Conference, UN agriculture agency chief highlights need to &#39do more and better with less&#39

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13 June 2015 – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) closed its week-long governing Conference today with a billion-dollar budgetary boost and a call to renew its efforts towards geographical decentralization – a step that will bring the United Nations agency in closer contact with those populations it is mandated to support.

“If FAO’s main mission is to end hunger and malnutrition, then FAO needs to offer holistic support, needs to support sustainable production and management of natural resources, needs to be able to offer support in social protection to reduce rural poverty, needs to improve access to markets by family farmers and needs to help build resilience in rural populations,” declared FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his closing remarks.

Mr. Graziano da Silva’s words came as he greeted the Conference’s decision to approve a regular budget of just over $1 billion for the delivery of FAO’s programme of work over the 2016-2017 period in which the UN agency is expected to continue in its fight against the eradication of hunger, for raising levels of nutrition and for addressing climate change.

At the same time, the Director-General reassured the 1,700 delegates attending the Conference regarding the Organization’s plans to decentralize on a region-specific basis.

This, he added, would include reinforcing FAO’s sub-regional offices and see the improvement of the agency’s support in regions such as West Africa, Central Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean.

“I want to assure you that we will continue to do this without weakening the technical and normative capacity at Headquarters,” he continued.

“This is not magic. It is the result of streamlining administrative procedures, of cutting red tape so that we can do more and better with less.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51147

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‘Inaction on climate change now will cost us all in the future,’ UN labour chief warns work summit

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11 June 2015 – The head of the International Labour Organization today opened a summit meeting devoted to tackling climate change as a unique opportunity for job creation and economic growth, saying that up to 60 million jobs can be created in a greener, low carbon economy if the right policies are adopted.

“Inaction on climate change now will cost us all in the future,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in his keynote address to the World of Work Summit taking place during the International Labour Conference, bringing together the agency’s member States at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mr. Ryder underlined both the challenges and opportunities presented by a transition to greener economies, and kicked off this year’s summit that focused on climate change, ahead of a UN conference on the issue this December in Paris.

“We are beginning to witness very clearly how the effects of climate change ripple through enterprises and labour markets,” he said. “We also see that this is different from one region to the other, across segments of the labour force, indeed from one occupation to another.”

While some countries are struggling with persistent droughts, he said, others simply witness changes in the timing and rhythm of their agricultural and even their fishing seasons, affecting food production and security, and peoples’ incomes.

“But we now also know that there is much potential for more and better jobs if we work towards sustainable development – so this is a debate about opportunity as well,” he said.

The ILO chief kicked off a high-level panel on ‘Climate Change and the World of Work’ that discussed how governments, workers and employers can help build resilience and create solutions in pursuit of social justice, productive employment and sustainable enterprises, and ensure a just transition for all.

“Young people expect us to leave behind a viable planet where they can enjoy a decent life and decent work,” he said.

Addressing the younger generation, frequent UN collaborator Pharrell Mr. Williams, the Grammy-winning American singer and songwriter of, among others, the global hit Happy, called on the international community to tackle the dual challenges of climate change and youth unemployment.

“I believe that climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, one that threatens our very existence on Earth,” said Williams in a video address at the Summit. “We’ve also got another serious problem on our hands: millions of young people who don’t have jobs, and don’t have access to the education and skills they need to get them.”

Williams called on the key players of the world of work ? governments, employers and workers ? to ensure that green, decent jobs are right at the top of the agenda when the world meets at the climate change conference at the end of the year.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51122

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At annual meeting, UN committee on space issues renews focus on sustainability and climate change

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10 June 2015 – The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space opened its annual session in Vienna today with the role of sustainability and climate change in outer space activities taking centre stage, the United Nations space agency has reported.

In a press release issued by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the UN agency confirmed that, for the first time in its history, the Committee would address transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities and how they relate to the safety of space operations and the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

According to UNOOSA, the Committee will also engage in “a preparatory exploration” of the topics set to be covered during a joint ad hoc meeting of the First and Fourth Committees of the General Assembly in late October which will, in turn, place the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-building Measures in Outer Space Activities at the centre of all considerations.

In addition, a side event hosted on 11 June by the Government of France will see experts address delegations on the role played by satellites in confronting climate change as well as how space can contribute to understanding global warming and how to help societies mitigate its consequences.

Consideration of space and development at the current session of the Committee builds upon the outcome of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, widely known as ‘Rio+20,’ in which Governments recognized the importance of space-derived data.

To that point, the Committee’s Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Affairs will continue to negotiate a set of voluntary guidelines, which, when finalized, is expected to provide a foundation for national and international practices and safety frameworks for conducting outer space activities.

The Committee’s session, which runs through 17 June, will also host Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his historic mission as the first human to walk in space.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51117

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In Tajikistan, Ban highlights importance of safe water, sanitation and human rights

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9 June 2015 – Kicking off a high-level event on water in Tajikistan today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged nations in the region and beyond to renew their commitment to safe water and sanitation as the international community forges ahead with the post-2015 development agenda and climate change intensifies the need to act.

“Access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene represent some of the highest development priorities of countries worldwide. These are also important human rights issues,” Mr. Ban said in his opening remarks at the Dushanbe conference.

“Water is life. Water is health. Water is dignity. Water is a Water is life. Water is health. Water is dignity. Water is a human right.human right,” he emphasized.

The water challenge garners most attention at the extremes – in times of drought or flood. But humanity cannot forget that water is essential every day and in almost every way for basic development activities. Bringing people together around a precious resource opens the door to bringing them together around wider issues of peace and security, the UN chief also said.

Today’s meeting takes stock of progress made during the International Decade of Water for Life (2005-2015), initiated by Tajikistan to raise awareness and galvanize action around access to safe water. And over the past ten years much has been achieved, Mr. Ban said. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for safe and sustainable drinking water was realized five years ahead of schedule. In the course of one generation, 2.3 billion people have gained access to drinking water and more than 1.9 billion people gained access to sanitation.

However, some 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation and another billion still practice open defecation. Nearly 1,000 children under the age of five are killed each day by a toxic mix of unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and hygiene. And the United Nations estimates that ten years from now, 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two out of three people around the world could live under water stress conditions.

On a regional level, Mr. Ban said it was crucial to reach consensus over the management of trans-boundary water resources in Central Asia. Further ratification by countries of Central Asia of the water conventions will create a solid framework for this.

Water’s place in the Sustainable Development Goals go well beyond access – taking into account critical issues such as integrated water resources management, efficiency of use, water quality, transboundary cooperation, water-related ecosystems, and water-related disasters, he said.

Mr. Ban pointed out that the burden of gathering drinking water falls largely on women and girls. They spend 200 million hours every day collecting it. Inadequate sanitation facilities also affect the education, economic productivity, dignity and personal safety of women and girls.

“As we forge ahead with the post-2015 development agenda, it is crucial to involve women in decision making at all levels to ensure access and sustainable management of water and sanitation,” the UN chief emphasized.

Later in the day at a press conference with President Rahmon, the Secretary-General drew attention to his remarks to the ‘Water for Life’ conference and also highlighted, what he referred to as ‘the vital issue of human rights’ and underscored support for the Government’s continued engagement with the UN on human rights mechanisms – particularly to address key human rights challenges.

“Strengthening national coordination mechanisms and implementing UN human rights recommendations holistically and in cooperation with civil society will be important as Tajikistan’s prepares for the second round of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review,” he said, adding that adoption of a comprehensive national human rights action plan could streamline these efforts.

In addition, he expressed gratitude for the Government’s support to humanitarian efforts and for hosting the World Humanitarian Summit regional consultations for Central and South Asia in Dushanbe next month.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51096

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The way cities are planned, run and managed is crucial for development – UN deputy chief

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9 June 2015 – In his address to the World Cities Summit in New York today, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson called on global leaders to best adapt to the demographic and cultural shift that is taking place in cities worldwide in order to make them economically viable, environmentally sustainable and socially vibrant.

“Urbanization can be a transformative force for the sustainable development goals by making cities and human settlements safe, resilient and sustainable,” Mr. Eliasson said in his opening remarks to city mayors gathered at the Summit whose main theme this year focuses on innovation.

In 2050, around 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Cities are where 80 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) is generated. Cities also account for just over half of global greenhouse gas emissions and 75 per cent of global energy consumption.

Close to one billion of the world’s urban dwellers still live in dire, even life-threatening, slum conditions – this figure is projected to rise to 1.6 billion by 2030. Some 2.5 billion people in the world lack access to improved sanitation, not least in urban areas.

“Rising inequality is today a universal concern and very much a reality in cities. Poverty is increasingly concentrated in urban areas,” Mr. Eliasson said.

There are also growing difficulties in integrating migrants, creating ethnically and socially fragmented areas of cities. Insensitive planning and inaccessible infrastructure and public services also build barriers which prevent women, persons with disabilities and senior citizens from benefitting from urban development.

“If cities join forces with governments, the private sector, civil society and urban planners, they can become the hubs for climate and development solutions,” Mr. Eliasson said, emphasising that well-planned and well-managed cities reduce poverty, protect citizens from climate impacts and stimulate sustainable economic growth.

But there is no one-size-fits-all approach. And that is why it is important for countries and cities to develop urban policies that capture their own unique circumstances and aspirations.

On sustainable urban planning and design, the Deputy Secretary-General said that human rights and the rule of law, not least strong institutions, must be promoted and protected. Equitable urban development and inclusive growth must be ensured. Civil society and democratic participation must be expanded. Environmental sustainability must be pursued.

Mayors will continue to play a critical role in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda and the Paris climate change agreement, when global goals will need to be integrated into local realities and communicated to local communities.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51109

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On World Day, UN urges global resolve to ‘appreciate, protect and restore’ Earth’s oceans

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8 June 2015 – Although the world’s oceans are vast, their capacity to withstand damage caused by human activity is limited, compromising their critical contribution to the future of sustainable development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today as the United Nations kicked-off its celebrations for the 2015 edition of World Oceans Day.

“Oceans are an essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem, and healthy oceans are critical to sustaining a healthy planet,” the Secretary-General affirmed in his message for the Day.

“Given how critical oceans are to the health of our planet and the prosperity of people, they are an essential element in our emerging vision for sustainable development, including the new set of sustainable development goals now being prepared to guide the global fight against poverty for the next 15 years.”

Two out of every five people live relatively close to a shore and three out of seven depend on marine and coastal resources to survive, according to Mr. Ban, who added that the world’s oceans also help regulate the climate, process nutrients through natural cycles and provide a wide range of services, including natural resources, food and jobs that benefit billions of people.

The growing threat of climate change, however, has posed an increasing challenge to their health and productivity, particularly as oceans absorb a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions and are becoming more acidic as a result.

“Ocean ecosystems are degrading. Corals, which sustain so much of marine life, are vulnerable to bleaching and even death caused by warmer temperatures,” the UN chief affirmed. “The science is clear: humans have caused changes to the climate system that are linked to the warming of oceans. Sea-levels are rising, with devastating effects on vulnerable communities, especially people living in small island developing States.”

The UN General Assembly has recognized oceans and seas as an important part of sustainable development – as envisioned by the Millennium Declaration and its landmark anti-poverty goals (MDGs). Looking now to craft a successor post-2015 sustainable development agenda, Member States have identified protecting oceans as one of the keys to creating a better, cleaner future for the planet.

Since 2009, the UN family has come together each year, urging communities to ensure that our oceans remain clean and healthy. This year’s theme Healthy oceans, healthy planet spotlights the damage oceans sustain due to human pressures including overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, alien species, and climate change.

As Member States prepare for a crucial year of landmark agreements on climate change and ending poverty, success, Mr. Ban explained, “will demand that they look at the essential role of world’s oceans.”

“World Oceans Day is a chance to strengthen our resolve to appreciate, protect and restore our oceans and their resources,” he concluded. “In this potentially pivotal year, we must commit to using the gifts of the oceans peacefully, equitably and sustainably for generations to come.”

Echoing this message, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that a sustainable planet cannot exist without a healthy ocean and with a few months to go before the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) and the shaping of a new global sustainable development agenda, “this message has never been so important.”

Whether landlocked or coastal, every country and every form of life depends on the health and function of the world’s oceans, which are at the centre of the global climate system, regulating weather and climate, the concentration of gases in the atmosphere – including the oxygen we breathe, the cycling of nutrients, and providing important food resources.

To better assess the impact of human activity and to propose alternatives, UNESCO works to nurture the power of education, culture, sciences, and communication as development multipliers, to share knowledge with all societies on sustainable development and climate change.

“Through our Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, we are leading ocean observation systems of unique value for climate research – mobilizing experts to discuss new findings and trends on ocean warming and acidification and exploring the role of the ocean in mitigating climate change,” Ms. Bokova said.

On the occasion of World Oceans Day 2015, UNESCO with the support of partners, is organizing a major event at its headquarters in Paris on the role of the ocean in the climate system ahead of the global climate change negotiations.

“On this World Oceans Day, I call on Members States, civil society and the private sector to join forces to raise awareness and to promote global action on the importance of the ocean in the global climate system – our future depends on it,” she declared.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51083

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