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Disaster risk reduction ‘core development priority’ of Asia and the Pacific – UN regional body


30 October 2015 – Building resilience in the face of natural disasters is “not a choice, but rather a collective imperative,” the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) declared today, as it called on all government agencies to take on disaster risk reduction as a priority and make it an integral part of sustainable development in the region.

ESCAP convened a meeting of senior government officials and experts from 33 countries in Bangkok, Thailand, this week to discuss how to make the Asia-Pacific region more resilient to disasters and endorsed a set of collective recommendations and initiatives.

The backdrop for the fourth session of the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction was the continued, severe impact of natural disasters, which threatens to roll back hard-won development gains across the region, ESCAP said in a press release.

According to ESCAP’s newly released Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2015, the region bears the brunt of disasters worldwide, accounting for almost 60 per cent of lives lost and 45 per cent of economic losses between 2005 and 2014.

“Ours is the most disaster-prone region, so building resilience is not a choice, but rather a collective imperative,” ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar said. “Disaster risk reduction is a core development priority of Asia and the Pacific.”

All government agencies were called on to take on disaster risk reduction as a priority.

Countries in the region also agreed to work more closely together to strengthen technical areas such as drought monitoring and early warning, to enhance the use of space applications, and to promote risk-sensitive development strategies.

The Committee also requested ESCAP to build greater coherence among UN actors in their work on disaster risk reduction through the UN’s Regional Coordination Mechanism in Asia and the Pacific.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52423

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Global response ‘keeps door open’ to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius – UN


30 October 2015 – An unprecedented worldwide effort is underway to combat climate change, building confidence that nations can cost effectively meet their stated objective of keeping global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius, the United Nations said today.

A new report issued today by the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) assesses the collective impact of over 140 national climate action plans, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs, and says that together, they can dramatically slow global emissions into the atmosphere.

INDCs will form the basis of the agreement expected to be reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21), to be held in Paris, France starting at the end of November.

“These INDCs – or national climate action plans – represent a clear and determined down payment on a new era of climate ambition from the global community of nations,” said Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, in a press release.

“Governments from all corners of the Earth have signalled through their INDCs that they are determined to play their part according to their national circumstances and capabilities,” she continued.

Ms. Figueres highlighted that if countries fully implement their INDCs, these plans together will begin to make a significant dent in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

“As a floor they provide a foundation upon which ever higher ambition can be built. I am confident that these INDCs are not the final word in what countries are ready to do and achieve over time – the journey to a climate-safe future is underway,” she noted, adding that the agreement to be inked in Paris can catalyze that transition.

The report captures the overall impact of national climate plans covering 146 countries as of 1 October. This comprises 119 separate INDCs from 147 Parties to the UNFCCC, including the EU, a single Party representing 28 countries. In the past month, more INDCs have been submitted, and UNFCC says submissions are likely to continue.

Meanwhile, the 146 plans include all developed nations and three quarters of developing countries under the UNFCCC, covering 86 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – almost four times the level of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first international emission reduction treaty that required emissions cuts from industrialized countries.

One of the key findings is that the INDCs will bring global average emissions per capita down by as much as 8 per cent by 2025 and 9 per cent by 2030.

“The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs,” said Ms. Figueres.

According to UNFCCC, the report does not directly assess implications for temperature change by the end of the century under the INDCs because information on emissions beyond 2030 is required. But other independent analyses have, based on a range of assumptions, methodologies and data sources, attempted to estimate the impact of the INDCs on temperature leading to a range of average estimates below, at or above 3 degrees Celsius.

In addition, UNFCCC noted that all analyses deliver more or less similar emission levels in 2025 and 2030 and all confirm that the INDCs, if fully implemented, are an important advance on previous scenarios.

“These plans set a determined course, clearly recognizing that successful climate action achieves not only low emissions but a host of other economic and social benefits for governments, citizens and business,” Ms. Figueres stressed.

“Backed by financial support for developing countries, a clear long-term destination of climate neutrality in the second half of the century and a ratcheting up of ambition in a structured, transparent and timely way, the INDCs provide an inspiring part of what will become the Paris package,” she added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52425

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UN officials say good urban design key to ensuring sustainable, inclusive cities


30 October 2015 – On the occasion of World Cities Day, top United Nations officials are highlighting the key role of urban design in building sustainable, socially integrated and prosperous cities and human settlements.

“Good design can help tackle climate change. It reduces the impacts of disaster. It can help make our cities safer, cleaner, and more equal and integrative. It promotes equal access to services, jobs and opportunities, and fosters contentment,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, observed annually on 31 October.

The theme of this year’s observance – the first following the adoption by Member States in September of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – is “Designed to Live Together.”

The Secretary-General noted that the challenges of rapid urbanization figure prominently in the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 11 embodies a commitment to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

“And as part of an integrated agenda, cities and human settlements have an important role to play across the 17-goal spectrum,” he said.

Mr. Ban added that the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), to be held in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016, will be an opportunity to discuss a New Urban Agenda that can harness the power and forces behind urbanization and mobilize them for the common good.

In his statement, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos, said that urban form is the combination of streets, building typologies and networks of public spaces. “They form the underlying structure of the city, a skeleton around which people’s lives are built and activities carried out.”

Cities are one of “the most complex human creations,” he said, adding that good design contributes to social integration, equality and diversity; fosters sustainable use of shared resources; inspires lively neighbourhoods; and can make cities safer.

It can also foster proximity to jobs and services; help to create clean, healthy cities; and anticipate climate change and reduce the impacts of disasters.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52427

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Achieving sustainable development difficult in Asia-Pacific without tackling disaster risks, warns UN report


27 October 2015 – Asia and the Pacific, the most disaster-prone region of the world, has been struck by 1,625 disasters during the last 10 years amounting to over 40 per cent of the global total, thereby calling for a collective political commitment from the regions’ leaders to mitigate risks posed by disasters, according to a new United Nations report.

The 2015 Asia-Pacific Disaster Report – ‘Disasters without borders: regional resilience for sustainable development’, compiled by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) also found that nearly 1.4 billion people from the region have been affected by these natural disasters, constituting 80 per cent of those affected globally.

“It is a grave concern that disasters are becoming more frequent, much larger and more intense. As the report highlights, the majority of the disasters in our region are cross-border in nature. This is clearly demonstrated by the earthquake that struck the Alpine-Himalayan belt yesterday, affecting Afghanistan, Pakistan parts of India and Tajikistan,” said Ms. Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of ESCAP in a press release.

The report presents a framework for integrating disaster risk reduction into sustainable development plans, policies, sectoral programs and budgets. It further observes that even as every sector can be affected by earthquakes, floods or cyclones, it is important that they consider how to make itself disaster resilient.

According to the report, Asia and the Pacific have incurred substantial economic damage for more than half a trillion dollars over the past decade, which accounts to nearly half the global total.

Additionally, the report clarifies that the figures indicated are “gross underestimates” as there are no standardised methodology for collecting disaster statistics, which may result in many unreported disasters.

The report also found that the region’s existing risks are exacerbated and new risks are created, by rapid economic growth, rising population, burgeoning cities, and the subsequent impact these interrelated processes have on environmental buffers.

Further, the report points out those regions that work together by sharing technology, information and expertise for disaster preparedness have been far more successful in tackling disaster risks. It also identified the areas that lack strong cooperation, especially cross-border floods and landslides.

“Only by coming together in the spirit of cooperation can the Asia-Pacific region hope to become truly disaster resilient,” said Ms. Akhtar.

Although investing in disaster risk reduction is proved to be cost effective, the report observed that neglecting disaster management of risks such as drought could put people, cities, infrastructure and economies at risk.

The report notes that impact from such neglected or “forgotten disasters”, which pushes vast number of people into debt, poverty and, sometimes suicide, can be diminished if it is treated as a long-term recurring risk.

Additionally, the report highlights the importance of multi-hazard early warning systems and maps out the way to provide right information to right people at the right time.

“A fundamental rethink is needed as many governments still follow a short-sighted approach to disasters- with the focus on response, and paying less attention to adaptation, mitigation and preparedness,” said Ms. Akhtar.

The report will be launched today at the ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction which will be held between 27th to 29th October in Bangkok. Senior policy makers from across Asia and the Pacific will discuss how to build regional resilience in the context of newly agreed sustainable development goals.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52381

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Ethiopia experiencing ‘worst drought in 30 years’ due to El Niño conditions – UN report


27 October 2015 – Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in 30 years according to the United Nations, with levels of acute need across all humanitarian sectors having already exceeded levels seen in the Horn of Africa drought of 2011, and which are projected to become far more severe in 2016.

A recent report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that the impact of the failed spring rains was compounded by the arrival of the El Niño weather conditions that weakened summer rains, which feed 80 to 85 per cent of the country.

“This greatly expanded food insecurity, malnutrition and devastated livelihoods across six affected regions of the country,” OCHA indicated.

Meanwhile, the water level of Wabishabelle River, in Somali region, has reportedly been rising since the past week following El Niño-caused heavy rains in the surrounding highlands, and in East and West Imy woredas of Shabelle zone.

OCHA recalled that last week, the river broke its banks in East Imy woreda causing communities along the river bank to be engulfed by water. According to the Somali region Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau, 700 households from Diray kebele, East Imy woreda are taking refuge in East Imy town. The Government and partners are monitoring the situation to identify intervention needs.

At the same time, local authorities in Mustahil and Kelafo woredas of Shabelle zone, which are administrative divisions affected by recurrent drought, were alerted about the rising river level. OCHA said mass community awareness will be conducted ahead of the floods in order to mitigate their impact. In addition, the National Flood Taskforce is currently preparing flood contingency plans for all at-risk areas in the country.

The UN is further highlighting that its humanitarian team in Ethiopia and the Government have held a series of briefings with donor partners – separately and together – to raise the alarm on the on-going El Niño caused drought emergency and to warn about what is coming ahead.

“The active and consistent communication with donors is bearing fruit in terms of triggering donor interest and few pledges, although still insignificant in relation to the need,” OCHA stated.

“Sweden, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have or will step-in with contributions in response to the emergency. Others are looking to re-program development budgets for emergency response or activate a crisis modifier,” it added.

Given the expected increase in relief food needs following a recent assessment, the Government has also urged donor support to ensure a healthy food pipeline for the coming months. During the 2002 El Niño year, much of the required food aid was reportedly not delivered until late February 2003, leading to a doubling of moderate and severe acute malnutrition rates, which is three times more expensive than prevention.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52382

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Strong El Niño will ‘test’ disaster resilience in hazard-prone Pacific region, UN warns


26 October 2015 – Amid growing fears that the irregular climatic activities of El Niño will result in severe weather events across the hazard-prone region of small islands and atolls in the Pacific, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) today addressed a gathering in Suva, Fiji, of disaster reduction and humanitarian response partners from across the region at a joint programme of events around regional resilience to disasters and emergency management.

“These coming months have the potential to be the most testing period in the history of the Pacific Islands. The region’s vulnerability was exposed during the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March when Cyclone Pam inflicted heavy losses on Vanuatu. Warming waters and rising sea levels resulting from climate change threaten the viability of life in many places in the region,” said Margareta Wahlström, Head of UNISDR.

Addressing the 2015 Pacific Regional Disaster Resilience Meeting she added that the event is the first in the region since the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and will provide a platform for discussions ranging from the measures still required to ensure that the general public are risk informed and have access to early warnings and cyclone shelters.

Further, the event will include discussions on strengthening risk governance, investing in disaster resilient infrastructure and having plans in place to build back better after disaster strikes.

In a press release, Timothy Wilcox, Head of the Pacific Office for UNISDR, also reiterated that the region is a challenging environment for disaster risk management as it is exposed to extreme weather events.

“Parts of the region are now suffering drought and water shortages because of El Niño while others are preparing for the strong likelihood that they will be hit by high winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall in the months ahead,’ said Mr. Wilcox.

He also noted that the event will provide an opportunity for the region to examine how to implement the Sendai Framework, which was adopted as a global blueprint for reducing disaster losses earlier this year.

The event will be attended by representatives from government, local government, the private sector, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, UN agencies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and several non-governmental organizations.

“The Pacific region is well-placed to take a lead on showing the importance of being able to manage disaster risk as opposed to simply focusing on disaster response. A lot of good solutions will be shared this week,” said Mr. Wilcox.

OCHA is also responding to the climatic threats of El Niño by hosting the annual Pacific Humanitarian Partnership Meeting between 28th and 29th October to strengthen relationships between actors working in disaster response, resilience and recovery, as well as make preparations for the season ahead.

“Humanitarian needs are on the rise across the world. In the Pacific, countries are acutely vulnerable to a range of increasing natural hazards and the emerging impacts of climate change. It has never been more important for those working across development, humanitarian response and risk reduction to be synchronized,” Sune Gudnitz, Head of the OCHA, Regional Office for the Pacific said.

According to OCHA, approximately 4.5 million people across 11 countries in the Pacific are under the threat of El Niño.

The OCHA event aims to bring development and humanitarian actors together to commit to auctioning some of the outcomes from the World Humanitarian Summit regional consultations earlier this year.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52371

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First nine months of 2015 are hottest on record, UN agency reports


26 October 2015 – Earth has just had the hottest January-September on record, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today, adding that the average air and sea temperatures in September logged the greatest rise above monthly average in the 136-year historical record.

According to a press release from WMO, the Global Climate Report from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the globally averaged air temperature over land and sea surface temperature for September was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average temperature. Record warmth was observed across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

The year-to-date globally averaged combined temperature of the air over land and ocean surface temperature was 0.85°C (1.53°F) above the 20th century average, said in the report. This was the highest for January–September in the 1880? record, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F), according to NOAA.

With strong El Niño conditions in place, the September globally averaged sea surface temperature was 0.81°C (1.46°F) above the 20th century average of 16.2°C (61.1°F). The highest departure for September on record, which beat the record in 2014 by 0.07°C (0.13°F), was 0.25°C (0.45°F) higher than the global ocean temperature for September 1997, preceding the peaking up of the last strong El Niño of 1998.

Earlier this year, WMO reported that the globally averaged temperature for the first half of 2015 was 0.85°C (1.53°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C, the hottest for such period on record.

An annual Statement on the Status of Global Climate will be released by WMO in November 2015, the UN climate change conference in Paris, COP-21, analyzing the combination of data. A summary of the global climate in 2011-2015 will be released at the same time, said in the WMO’s statement.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52374

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UN agencies ready to support Government-led relief efforts in quake-hit South Asia


26 October 2015 – United Nations agencies are mobilizing and stand ready to support Government-led relief operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, adding that his thoughts are with the people of the two countries after a powerful earthquake struck Badakshan province in Afghanistan.

“The Secretary-General sends his deepest condolences to the people and Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan and to everyone affected, particularly those who have lost family members and friends. He wishes a speedy recovery to those injured,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York.

The statement also said that early reports suggest that there has been loss of life and serious damage to infrastructure in both countries.

“United Nations agencies are mobilizing and stand ready to support Government-led relief operations in both countries, if requested,” the statement concluded.

During the daily press briefing at UN Headquarters, Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that thus far, there are reports of damage across the northeast part of Afghanistan and in Kabul. Scattered reports at this stage indicate damage across the Northeast and in Kabul. The Government and UN are both hampered by the lack of phone service.

Early indications are that the impact of the initial shock may be relatively light, given the low density of population. Afghan disaster response mechanisms at the national and provincial levels have been mobilised, and the UN stands ready to provide assistance if requested, he explained.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the National Disaster Management Authority says that 148 people have been killed and 815 injured by the quake. [Hospitals] are on alert around the main impacted region – around the Khyber region, Mr. Dujarric continued.

He said that UN agencies are mobilizing emergency stocks as a preparatory measure in case support is required. The UN and its humanitarian partners stand ready to support the Pakistani Government’s ongoing relief effort for the people affected by the earthquake and mobilize any support, if requested.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52375

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New UN health agency report cites measures to reduce risks from climate pollutants


22 October 2015 – The World Health Organization (WHO) today spotlighted the need to reduce short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon, ozone, methane and carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change and lead to more than 7 million deaths linked to air pollution each year.

“Every day, these pollutants threaten the health of men, women and children,” said WHO Assistant Director-General Dr. Flavia Bustreo upon release of the report, Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants.

“For the first time, this report recommends actions that countries, health and environment ministries, and cities can take right now to reduce emissions, protect health and avoid illness and premature deaths, which often take the greatest toll on the most vulnerable,” Dr. Bustreo said.

WHO said it rated more than 20 available and affordable measures to mitigate short-lived climate pollutants, including vehicle emissions standards, capturing landfill gas, switching from fossil fuels to renewables, reducing food waste and improving household cooking fuels, to see which have the greatest potential to improve health, reduce emission of these short-lived climate pollutants and prevent climate change.

The report highlights four key interventions to reduce climate pollutants to relieve the pressures on climate change and human health:

  • Reducing vehicle emissions by implementing higher emissions and efficiency standards could reduce black carbon and other co-pollutants from fossil fuels, improve air quality and reduce the disease burden attributable to outdoor air pollution;
  • Policies and investments that prioritize dedicated rapid transit such as buses and trains and foster safe pedestrian and cycle networks can promote multiple benefits, including: safer active travel and reduced health risks from air and noise pollution, physical inactivity, and road traffic injuries;
  • Providing cleaner and more efficient stove and fuel alternatives to the approximately 2.8 billion low-income households worldwide dependent on primarily wood, dung and other solid fuels for heating and cooking, could reduce air pollution-related diseases and reduce the health risks and time invested in fuel-gathering;
  • Encouraging high and middle-income populations to increase their consumption of nutritious plant-based foods could reduce heart disease and some cancers, and slow methane emissions associated with some animal-sourced foods.

    Evidence from previous WHO studies on healthy transport already suggest that shifts to mass transport and the introduction of safe walking and cycling networks are relatively inexpensive when compared with the loss of life and costs of treating people for air-pollution related illnesses, traffic injuries and diseases related to physical inactivity.

    “The release of today’s report is a significant step in WHO’s ongoing work to prevent diseases and deaths related to air pollution – and towards achieving the new global health goal,” the health agency said.

    In May 2015, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to address the health impacts of air pollution, which stresses the need for strong cooperation between different sectors and integration of health concerns into national, regional and local air-pollution-related policies.

    Today’s report was produced in collaboration of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, a voluntary global partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society.

    It comes ahead of the launch of WHO’s first climate change and health country profiles, a number of which will be released in advance of the UN climate conference, known as COP21, which will be held in Paris at the end of the year.

  • Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52343

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    UN expert on right to housing challenges governments to end homelessness


    22 October 2015 – Saying human rights have been largely absent from discussions of urban development at a time when more than half the world’s population lives in cities, the UN independent expert on adequate housing today challenged governments to end homelessness and improve living conditions for all.

    “I am convinced we can end the scourge of homelessness and improve living conditions for over a billion people worldwide,” Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing said as she presented her latest report to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee – the Organization’s main body dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

    Her report describes how urban centres are facing a future where vast inequalities are growing, segregating those who have resources from those who do not.
    “On its current path, urbanization is simply unsustainable,” Ms Farha said.

    With the right to adequate housing as a pillar, the report notes, a human rights framework can provide the coherence and consistency sorely needed in the so-called ‘New Urban Agenda’ to achieve sustainable, inclusive cities for all – a goal also of the just-adopted A HREF=”http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/”Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    “Human rights have been largely absent from discussions of urban development,” Ms. Farha said as she launched a yearlong campaign to ensure that a human rights framework is included in all aspects of the New Urban Agenda.

    In the wake of the adoption of the SDGs and in the lead up to Habitat III, the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development scheduled for October 2016, the human rights expert said “we have an exceptional opportunity to change the way we think about cities, not only as engines of development but also as places where human rights are realized and celebrated.”

    Habitat III will be the first global summit of the 21st century where housing and urban challenges will be in the spotlight.

    “Major housing issues confronting cities such as the wild growth of informal settlements, social exclusion and increasing homelessness will only be solved if the right to adequate housing is properly understood and incorporated into all aspects of urban development,” she said.

    She also said she was “firmly committed to working closely with local and national governments, UN agencies, civil society and private actors to ensure a strong human rights outcome in Habitat III.”

    Ms. Farha took her function as the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing in June 2014. As an independent expert in the UN Human Rights system, she works on a voluntary basis, is not UN staff and does not receive a salary for her work.

    Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52345

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    UN report calls for urgent response to harness Asia-Pacific’s rapid urban transformation


    19 October 2015 – Warning of unprecedented shifts in population in urban areas of the Asia and Pacific – already home to 17 of the world’s megacities, with populations exceeding 10 million – the United Nations today launched a new report that highlights the region’s urban transformation progress and underscores the urgent need to make it more sustainable.

    “Urban demographics will magnify our challenges, as they accompany steeper growth in national outputs, which already outpace population growth. Growing demand will increase policy and resource pressures, as our cities will be home to a middle class of 2 billion people by 2050, said Shamshad Akhtar, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

    The report, State of Asian and Pacific Cities 2015: Urban Transformations’ shifting from quantity to quality, compiled by ESCAP and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT), highlights growing gaps between current urbanization patterns and what is needed to shift to a more inclusive and sustainable urban future, in which the role of the region’s cities is unquestionably tied to national, regional and global development prospects.

    Launched during the Sixth Asian Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-6), taking place in Jakarta, Indonesia, the report states that in 2018 the region will have more than half of its population is expected to then be living in urban agglomerations. Additionally, a further one billion people will be added to the region’s cities by 2040 and by 2050 the urban population in Asia and the Pacific will reach 3.2 billion.

    Currently, the region is home to 17 megacities, each of which exceeds 10 million inhabitants. According to the report, the region will have 22 megacities by 2030.

    The report states that the current economic dynamism in the region’s urban areas that has spurred a rise in the size of middle classes still witnesses widening gaps and growing inequalities.

    Youth employments, rising number of urban poor, lack of rights, rising urban living costs, lack of access to adequate services and housing are some of the challenges facing the urban population.

    Widening disparities threaten to undermine social cohesion, and affordability is at a crisis point in many of the region’s larger cities.

    The report also highlights the environmental challenges facing the urban cities of Asia-Pacific where an increasing number of cities face liveability crises, evidenced by deteriorating air standards and water pollution. They are also highly vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change activities with poor and disadvantaged communities being more at risk.

    “Our region has demonstrated, in a range of cities, how sound leadership, sustainability and financial capacity can catalyse the essential change that we need. We must address the power-sharing gaps between local and central government; the financing gaps in local government budgets and investment; and the capacity gaps of local governments in promoting strategic and future-oriented urban planning,” said Ms. Akhtar.

    The report also stressed that the recently adopted 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the world leaders at the UN General Assembly provides a broad architecture to tackle these challenges as it includes a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal and several other Goals that supports sustainable urban transformation.

    “The need for strong leadership and political commitment, both at the national and subnational levels, to gear up responses, learn and adapt from the region’s successful stories of urban transformations, and deploy innovation and newer technologies, strengthening local governance institutions and working more closely with private sector to manage urbanization,” said Ms. Akhtar.

    Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52299

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    UN atomic energy chief encourages States to improve global emergency preparedness and response


    19 October 2015 – Opening a week-long conference in Vienna, Austria, on strengthening national systems in dealing with nuclear and radiological emergencies, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told delegates today that national-level response plans in preparedness need to be in line with international safety standards and best practices.

    “We provide guidance to Member States that covers all areas of emergency preparedness and response. This includes support in understanding and mastering the latest IAEA concepts, principles and safety standards.” IAEA Director General Yukio Amano said today in opening remarks opening remarks to the IAEA International Conference on Global Emergency Preparedness and Response.

    “We assist in the design, conduct and evaluation of emergency exercises. We provide technical support to national and regional capacity-building projects,” he added.

    In addition, the IAEA plays the central role in responding and establishing response framework to international nuclear or radiological emergency, according to the Director General.

    “I encourage all countries to use the many services provided by the IAEA, including our emergency preparedness review missions,” he noted, adding: “I also encourage all countries to test their existing operational arrangements, including through international exercises such as ConvEx, to identify areas that may require further improvement.”

    Mr. Amano went on to note the weaknesses of the emergency preparedness and response arrangements in 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident, which had been highlighted in his recent report.

    Acting quickly and responding properly requires extensive preparation, said Elena Buglova, Head of the IAEA Incident Emergency Centre (IEC). “Emergency response begins with preparedness,” she added. As the global focal point for coordinating international communication, assistance, and response to nuclear and radiological emergencies, the IEC helps Member States to improve their emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

    Mr. Yukiya also indicated that Japan and other users of nuclear power had taken important steps to address these and other nuclear safety issues in the years following the accident.

    “I have seen major improvements in safety in every nuclear power plant that I have visited since the accident. I believe the key message – that complacency about safety must be avoided at all costs – is fully understood.”

    More than 470 experts in emergency preparedness and response from 85 States and 19 international organizations are gathered for the conference, which runs through Friday.

    The Director-General concluded his statement emphasizing that despite the best safety efforts, the possibility of radiation-related emergencies cannot be totally excluded. “This makes an efficient emergency preparedness and response system essential.”

    Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52306

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