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UN highlights risk reduction, mitigation to combat El Niño’s impact in Central America’s Dry Corridor

30 June 2016 – The international community must take urgent action to help build resilience, food security, and restore livelihoods in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which are impacted by drought and other extreme-weather effects of the El Niño phenomenon, senior United Nations officials today said.

“We need to a focus on resilience, inclusive sustainable development, and climate change adaptation,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at a high-level meeting at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy.

He called for changing the traditional response strategy from mounting a humanitarian response to each emergency, to tackling the structural causes of poverty and food insecurity.

The focus of the meeting is Central America’s Dry Corridor, where El Niño has led to one of the worst droughts in decades with 3.5 million people food insecure. Of that figure, 1.6 million is moderately or severely food insecure. The situation is also putting at risk the livelihoods of millions of small-scale family farmers in the Dry Corridor, many of whom are heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture.

Organized by FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the The Dry Corridor: Impacts and Priorities for Long Term Action to Build Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition event emphasized building resilience for food security and nutrition for the most vulnerable populations in the affected countries, and included a round-table session with ministers from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.

In his remarks, Mr. Graziano da Silva noted that the strategic alliance between the three Rome-based UN organizations as well as South-South cooperation efforts will be fundamental to eradicating hunger and poverty in the Dry Corridor, adding that the scale of the challenge requires the support of the entire international community.

Also speaking at the event was IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze, who highlighted the importance of responding to the immediate needs of people suffering as a result of El Niño.

Small-scale family farmers and rural communities are highly vulnerable to extreme weather events. Photo: WFP/Francisco Fion

“Climate change will continue to exacerbate these extreme weather events. The only way to ensure future food security in the region is to invest in long-term development to help people be more resilient to shocks so that they can continue to feed their families,” he emphasized.

El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.

WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin highlighted that coordinated action between agencies and partners to build resilience among the vulnerable people of the Dry Corridor will save lives while working to eliminate food insecurity.

“Data and experience clearly demonstrate that the costs of emergency response and rehabilitation after a disaster occurs substantially exceed the price tag for risk reduction and mitigation action taken before disaster strikes,” she said stressed the need to pre-emptively address the social, economic and environmental susceptibility of vulnerable groups.

Some 10.5 million people, about 60 per cent of whom are in poverty, live in the Dry Corridor, a region characterized by extensive deforestation, soil degradation and water scarcity.

The meeting concluded with a communiqué that stresses common challenges within the Dry Corridor, including adaptation of the production systems of small-scale family farmers to climate change; and expanding efforts to reduce poverty, inequality and the socio-economic and environmental vulnerability of the region.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54366

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UN agencies to meet on El Niño’s ‘devastating impact’ in Central America’s Dry Corridor

28 June 2016 – With the El Niño climate event devastating Central America’s so-called Dry Corridor, where one of the worst droughts in decades has left 3.5 million people food insecure, United Nations agencies will gather this week to discuss ways to improve the long-term response to the weather developments in the region.

In a news release, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said it will convene a high-level meeting in Rome on 30 June, along with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), “to focus on the urgent need for long-term action to address the impact of El Niño, including building resilience for food security and nutrition for the most vulnerable populations in the affected countries.”

“The aim of the high-level meeting is to increase awareness of, and the response to, this protracted and recurrent crisis, and to mobilize the international community to support the efforts of governments, UN agencies and other partners,” FAO added.

El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.

While El Niño, and its counterpart La Niña, occur cyclically, in recent years, mainly due to the effects of global climate change, extreme weather events associated with these phenomena – such as droughts and floods – have increased in frequency and severity, FAO noted.

In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the most affected countries, approximately 2.8 million people are dependent on food aid, according to the UN agency, which also flagged that that the situation is putting at risk the livelihoods of millions of small-scale family farmers in the Dry Corridor, many of whom are heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture.

The term Dry Corridor defines a group of ecosystems in the eco-region of dry tropical forests in Central America covering the lowlands of the Pacific coastal area, and most of central pre-mountain region of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and parts of Costa Rica and Panama. Climate risks in the Dry Corridor are mainly represented by recurrent droughts, excessive rains and severe flooding affecting agricultural production, with greater intensity in degraded areas.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54342

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El Niño puts more than 26 million children at risk in Eastern and Southern Africa &#8211 UNICEF

27 June 2016 – One of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded has placed the lives of 26.5 million children at risk of malnutrition, water shortages and disease in ten countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported.

“Children face protection risks as families and communities move in search of work, food, water and grazing land for animals. Children are also finding it difficult to stay in school, due to hunger and/or lack of water,” UNICEF noted in a study on the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

UNICEF added that it found that more than one million children are in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Moreover, water shortages remain a key concern, with many health facilities and schools in critical need of improved water supplies and sanitation facilities to enable the continuity of services.

El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.

In Southern Africa in particular, drought is making life even more precarious for children affected by HIV, according to the UNICEF study.

The UN children’s agency found that governments and partners have been responding since 2015, but the scale of the crisis has outstripped the coping capacities of communities and the resources of the governments in the region, putting decades of development gains at risk.

Urgent investment is still required because the crisis is likely to continue well into 2017, UNICEF said. It could also be further compounded by the coming La Niña, which would bring more erratic weather conditions.

In the first months of 2016, UNICEF said it has reached 155,000 children with treatment for severe acute malnutrition; 2.69 million people with clean water; 82,000 children with protection services; and 100,000 people with HIV education and services.

To provide a comprehensive emergency response, however, UNICEF still needs $127 million of its $226 million goal.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 60 million people are expected to be impacted by El Niño’s extreme weather. The humanitarian fallout in certain areas will include increased food insecurity due to low crop yields and rising prices; higher malnutrition rates; devastated livelihoods; and forced displacement.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54330

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UN deputy chief highlights benefits from and challenges confronting oceans

27 June 2016 – Addressing a gathering on laws affecting the world’s oceans, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson today underscored that healthy oceans are critical to maintaining life on the planet, while also noting their connection to broader sustainable development aims.

In his remarks to the opening of the 40th annual Conference of the Centre for Oceans Law and Policy, the UN official also emphasized that oceans are fundamental to meeting many of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as fighting hunger, providing clean energy and countering climate change.

“They regulate the climate and provide an incredible range of natural resources, nutritious food, and jobs that benefit billions of people,” he said, while cautioning that humans’ impact on oceans and seas is taking a heavy toll. “Many marine species are at serious risk from ocean warming and over-fishing.”

Mr. Eliasson drew attention to the threats posed by rising sea levels to small island nations, which “bear so little responsibility for climate change but are on the frontlines of its imprint on their nations and people.”

The Conference, organized in cooperation with the UN Office of Legal Affairs, focuses on the legal order for the world’s oceans and the regime under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It is also the first annual conference since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement.

A close-up of a conference document during the Fortieth Annual Conference of the Centre for Oceans Law and Policy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Noting the importance of oceans in the 2030 Agenda, as reflected in the 14th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which focuses on the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources, Mr. Eliasson asked everyone to reflect on the intersections between the rule of law and the SDGs.

He also welcomed the international conference to be held in Fiji in June 2017 on oceans and SDG 14.

The Deputy Secretary-General further noted the importance of rule of law in sustainable development and said that “the right balance” must be struck between rights and responsibilities. He while taking benefits from natural resources, they should also be taken care of so that these resources can provide for the future generations.

“The decisions we make now on the sustainable use of ocean resources stand to benefit millions of people, for generations to come,” he said, adding, “We must renew our efforts to protect our oceans and use their resources peacefully, equitably and sustainably for generations to come.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54332

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Caribbean region must boost efforts to prepare for increased drought – UN report

22 June 2016 – Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of droughts in the Caribbean, so countries in the region must enhance their capabilities to deal with this and other extreme weather-related challenges to ensure food security and hunger eradication, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said in a new report.

The report, Drought Characteristics and Management in the Caribbean, found that the Caribbean region faces significant challenges in terms of drought, FAO said.

“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, so this is a key issue for Caribbean food security,” said Deep Ford, FAO Regional Coordinator in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean region already experiences drought-like events every year, with low water availability often impacting on agriculture and water resources, and a significant number of bush fires, FAO noted.

The region also experiences intense dry seasons, particularly in years when El Niño climate events are present. FAO said that the impacts of this are usually offset by the next wet season, but wet seasons often end early and dry seasons last longer, with the result that annual rainfall is less than expected.

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, while one of them – Barbados – is in the top 10, according to FAO.

Impacts of drought on agriculture and food security

With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region, agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences, FAO emphasized.

Crops at the periurban agriculture cooperative Vivero Alamar, Cuba. Photo: FAO photo

This is particularly important because most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed. With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region, countries’ fresh-water supply will become an increasingly important resource, FAO said.

Small-scale, family farmers, are particularly vulnerable to drought – low rainfall threatens rainfed crops and low water levels result in increased production costs due to increased irrigation.

Extensive droughts also cause increased vulnerability in livestock as grazing areas change in nutritional value, with more low quality, drought tolerant species dominating during such dry spells. In addition, the potential for livestock disease outbreaks also increases, FAO said.

Drought also often results in food price increases. Expensive, desalinated water resources are becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 per cent in Antigua and Barbuda, and this can impact significantly on the ability of poor households to afford food.

Rural communities can also face a greater scarcity of drinking water during droughts. In such cases, children are at the highest risk from inadequate water supplies during drought.

New challenges posed by climate change

The most frequently occurring natural hazards in the Caribbean are climate-related, and their impacts may increase due to climate change, FAO said. The region’s vulnerability to climate related hazards is manifested in loss of life and annual economic and financial losses that result from strong winds, flooding and drought.

Between 1970 and 2000, the Caribbean region suffered direct and indirect losses estimated at between $700 million and $3.3 billion due to natural disasters associated with weather and climate events.

So far, the region has focused mainly on floods and storms, and it currently lacks effective governance, expertise, and financial resources to deal effectively with drought issues, FAO stressed.

It also has poor national coordination, policy-making, and planning in place. While many regional and national programmes have developed responses to build resilience against the impacts of drought, the report found that too many of these are still only in a drafting phase, or are poorly implemented and in need of review.

Regional frameworks provide a necessary first step

The FAO report noted that the severity of the 2009-2010 drought – the worst in more than 40 years – served as an alarm bell for the Caribbean region.

The event forced the region to consider, particularly in light of climate change projections, the need to introduce more strategic planning and management measures to avert the potential disaster that would result by end of the century from a drier Caribbean region, according to the report.

FAO stressed, however, that the most pressing need is for countries to develop strong national initiatives. According to the report, policy-making and planning related to drought is hindered by weak governance, lack of finance and poorly coordinated land management.

“These can be overcome by strong political will that encourages participation in policy and planning processes by all actors in the social strata, enabling the sustainable development of water supplies to face the upcoming challenges,” Mr. Ford said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54293

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UN report finds Caribbean region must boost efforts to prepare for increased drought

22 June 2016 – Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of droughts in the Caribbean, so countries in the region must enhance their capabilities to deal with this and other extreme weather-related challenges to ensure food security and hunger eradication, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said in a new report.

The report, Drought Characteristics and Management in the Caribbean, found that the Caribbean region faces significant challenges in terms of drought, FAO said.

“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, so this is a key issue for Caribbean food security,” said Deep Ford, FAO Regional Coordinator in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean region already experiences drought-like events every year, with low water availability often impacting on agriculture and water resources, and a significant number of bush fires, FAO noted.

The region also experiences intense dry seasons, particularly in years when El Niño climate events are present. FAO said that the impacts of this are usually offset by the next wet season, but wet seasons often end early and dry seasons last longer, with the result that annual rainfall is less than expected.

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, while one of them – Barbados – is in the top 10, according to FAO.

Impacts of drought on agriculture and food security

With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region, agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences, FAO emphasized.

Crops at the periurban agriculture cooperative Vivero Alamar, Cuba. Photo: FAO photo

This is particularly important because most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed. With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region, countries’ fresh-water supply will become an increasingly important resource, FAO said.

Small-scale, family farmers, are particularly vulnerable to drought – low rainfall threatens rainfed crops and low water levels result in increased production costs due to increased irrigation.

Extensive droughts also cause increased vulnerability in livestock as grazing areas change in nutritional value, with more low quality, drought tolerant species dominating during such dry spells. In addition, the potential for livestock disease outbreaks also increases, FAO said.

Drought also often results in food price increases. Expensive, desalinated water resources are becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 per cent in Antigua and Barbuda, and this can impact significantly on the ability of poor households to afford food.

Rural communities can also face a greater scarcity of drinking water during droughts. In such cases, children are at the highest risk from inadequate water supplies during drought.

New challenges posed by climate change

The most frequently occurring natural hazards in the Caribbean are climate-related, and their impacts may increase due to climate change, FAO said. The region’s vulnerability to climate related hazards is manifested in loss of life and annual economic and financial losses that result from strong winds, flooding and drought.

Between 1970 and 2000, the Caribbean region suffered direct and indirect losses estimated at between $700 million and $3.3 billion due to natural disasters associated with weather and climate events.

So far, the region has focused mainly on floods and storms, and it currently lacks effective governance, expertise, and financial resources to deal effectively with drought issues, FAO stressed.

It also has poor national coordination, policy-making, and planning in place. While many regional and national programmes have developed responses to build resilience against the impacts of drought, the report found that too many of these are still only in a drafting phase, or are poorly implemented and in need of review.

Regional frameworks provide a necessary first step

The FAO report noted that the severity of the 2009-2010 drought – the worst in more than 40 years – served as an alarm bell for the Caribbean region.

The event forced the region to consider, particularly in light of climate change projections, the need to introduce more strategic planning and management measures to avert the potential disaster that would result by end of the century from a drier Caribbean region, according to the report.

FAO stressed, however, that the most pressing need is for countries to develop strong national initiatives. According to the report, policy-making and planning related to drought is hindered by weak governance, lack of finance and poorly coordinated land management.

“These can be overcome by strong political will that encourages participation in policy and planning processes by all actors in the social strata, enabling the sustainable development of water supplies to face the upcoming challenges,” Mr. Ford said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54293

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On Day to Combat Desertification, UN calls for action to restore land resources

17 June 2016 – Nearly 800 million people are chronically undernourished as a direct consequence of land degradation, declining soil, fertility, unsustainable water use, drought and biodiversity loss, requiring long-term solutions to help communities increase resilience to climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today.

“The livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of millions of people are at stake,” the Secretary-General said in his message to mark the
World Day to Combat Desertification, whose theme this year is ‘Protect Earth. Restore land. Engage people.’

“Over the next 25 years, land degradation could reduce global food productivity by as much as 12 per cent, leading to a 30 per cent increase in world food prices,” he added.

Ranking among the greatest environmental challenges of our time, desertification is a phenomenon that refers to the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by human activities – including unsustainable farming, mining, overgazing and clear-cutting of land – and by climate change.

The Day – which is observed annually on 17 June – 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.

Many children can no longer go to school because they are forced to look for water. To escape the heat, they begin their search at night usually coming home the next day in the sfternoon. Photo/UNICEF

In his message, the Secretary-General emphasized that more than 50 per cent of agricultural land is moderately or severely degraded, with 12 million hectares lost to production each year.

“Desertification, land degradation, drought and climate change are interconnected. As a result of land degradation and climate change, the severity and frequency of droughts have been increasing, along with floods and extreme temperatures,” he said.

The Secretary-General emphasized that without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increased migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions.

“This is why world leaders made land degradation neutrality one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. That means rehabilitating at least 12 million hectares of degraded land a year,” he said.

One important approach towards achieving that goal is sustainable, climate-smart agriculture, Mr. Ban said. That will help communities build resilience to climate change, while also supporting mitigation by taking carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back in the soil.

“The transition to sustainable agriculture will also alleviate poverty and generate employment, especially among the world’s poorest. By 2050, it could create some 200 million jobs across the entire food production system,” the UN chief said.

“On this Day, I urge cooperation among all actors to help achieve land degradation neutrality as part of a broader effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a future of dignity and opportunity for all,” he added.

In another message to mark the Day, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), underscored that desertification is a threat to both arid and non-arid regions, where land over-exploitation, including intensive farming, forest exploitation for fuel and timber and overgrazing have turned fertile soils into sterile land.

“Extreme weather events – like droughts, winds, floods and climate disruptions – are amplifying the effects and adding new causes to the degradation cycle,” said Ms. Bokova.

“The stakes are high – this is why the goal of achieving land degradation neutrality is so important. This is set out in Target 15.3 of the new Sustainable Development Goals, to maintain and even improve the amount of healthy and productive land resources,” she added.

The Director-General highlighted that the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme, International Hydrological Programme and Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development are working to engage people in sustainable land management practices and agro-forestry, in developing green economies, in consuming responsibly, and in restoring ecosystems.

“Desertification is not always irreversible. Land restoration is the ultimate tool, and UNESCO is determined to do everything to restore our ecosystems, as was featured during the World Congress of Biosphere Reserves, held in Lima, in March 2016,” Ms. Bokova said.

“Desertification is a global threat that requires global action – this must start with each of us, with our deeper engagement to protecting our planet for all to share,” she added.

The drought in the province of Jowzjan, north of Afghanistan, became unproductive land. UNHCR/ V.Tan

For her part, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut emphasized that land degradation neutrality should be a top policy goal for every nation that values freedom and choice.

“Conserving land and restoring that which is degraded back to health is not a benefit that only flows to the billions of people who eke out a living directly from the land,” Ms. Barbut said.

“It is a vote to safeguard our own freedoms of choice, and those of our children. It is also a moral standard against which we may well be judged by history,” she added.

The Executive Secretary also noted that the inclination to degrade new land instead of fixing and re-using the land that is already degraded means that future generations cannot benefit from the same resources.

“The rights we claim to enjoy these land resources come with a heavy moral obligation to manage them well. More so, as we may be, literally, the last generation that can significantly slow down the accelerated loss of the land resources left,” Ms. Barbut said.

“This generation – our generation – has the time, human, knowledge and financial means to reverse these trends, and restore a vast amount of the degraded lands. But we must work together,” she stressed.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54255

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UN-backed fund expands wildlife protection plan to 19 countries in Africa and Asia

10 June 2016 – A United Nations-backed partnership fun has approved an additional $40 million to expand its support of a global programme fighting against illegal trafficking to a total of 19 countries in Africa and Asia.

The expansion for the Global Wildlife Program was approved by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and includes contributions from the Asian Development Bank, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank Group and the World Wildlife Fund.

“The victims of wildlife crime are not only the animals and ecosystems that are devastated by poaching and trafficking, they are people as well. The human cost of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife is measured in lives lost to the criminal networks involved and livelihoods destroyed by the erosion of a natural economic foundation,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Ending the illegal trade in wildlife requires a concerted and cooperative effort between all sectors. These new projects will further these efforts and help bring us closer to ending wildlife crime once and for all,” he added.

Specifically, the Global Wildlife Program was established to address the growing poaching crisis and an international call to action. The value of illegal trade has been estimated at between $10 and $23 billion per year, making wildlife crime the fourth most lucrative illegal business after narcotics, human trafficking and weapons, UNEP said.

The new $131 million agenda is expected to leverage $704 million in additional co-financing over seven years. The national projects aim to promote wildlife conservation, wildlife crime prevention, and sustainable development in order to reduce adverse impacts to known threatened species from poaching and illegal trade.

Additionally, a global coordination grant from the GEF will strengthen cooperation and facilitate knowledge exchange between national governments, development agency partners and leading practitioners, UNEP said.

“Poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking are reaching unprecedented levels, robbing the livelihoods of local communities and eroding the global commons,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson. “In response, the GEF has launched a major international effort to help tackle the supply, trade and demand for wildlife products. Importantly, the project is not only about stopping the slaughter of animals in the forests and savannas of Africa; it also aims at reducing the demand in Asia.”

This past month, at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi, GEF joined other partners to support the launch of the Go Wild for Life campaign, a UN-led campaign that urges politicians, celebrities and business leaders to help bring global attention to the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

“Wildlife poaching and the illicit trade of wildlife and forest products are abhorrent. This multi-billion dollar worldwide trade is a security issue, an environmental issue, and a development issue,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

“It is pushing vulnerable and endangered species toward extinction. The illicit trade is also fuelling corruption and conflict, destroying lives, and deepening poverty and inequality. If not addressed decisively, illicit poaching and wildlife trade will have significant national economic impacts,” she added.

In June 2015, the GEF approved 10 national projects from Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia. Today’s announcement expands that program to strengthen the capacity of Governments to combat poaching and trafficking of wildlife, and wildlife products in key range and transit countries that are in the front lines of combatting wildlife crime.

The nine additional countries include Afghanistan, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Activities in the Global Wildlife Program in the source countries will include enhancing anti-poaching tracking and intelligence operations, increasing the size of conservation areas and improving their management, and providing opportunities for development through nature-based tourism and other agriculture, forestry and natural resource projects that benefit local communities.

In transit countries, the Global Wildlife Program will support anti-smuggling and customs controls, while in demand countries, it will initiate targeted awareness-raising campaigns to help increase legal deterrents for purchase of wildlife and wildlife products.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54193

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Greater cooperation needed to tackle poor air quality and other health threats in pan-European region: UN

8 June 2016 – Air pollution, climate change, unhealthy lifestyles and disconnection between people and the environment are increasingly affecting human health in the pan-European region, according to the latest report by the UN environment agency and the UN economic commission in Europe.

The report calls for greater cooperation and a more integrated approach to tackle the transboundary challenges in the pan-European region, which comprises the 53 countries spanning Europe, the Caucuses and Central Asia, and Israel.

Of these challenges, air pollution is the greatest threat with more than 95 per cent of the EU urban population exposed to levels above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, according to latest Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) assessment released today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Over 500,000 premature deaths in the region were attributed to outdoor air quality and 100,000 to indoor air quality in 2012, according to the assessment.

According to UNEP and UNECE, an urgent shift from incremental to transformational change will help to reverse some of these indicators.

“The GEO-6 assessment for the pan-European region highlights how the transition to an inclusive green economy in the region must be built on resilient ecosystems, sound management of chemicals and clean production systems, and on healthy consumption choices,” Jan Dusik, Head of UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe, said in a press release.

The report also finds that environmental challenges in the region have become more systemic and complex, while resilience to these will be affected by megatrends largely outside the region’s control.

“This report provides fresh information on the region’s emerging environmental issues and it will help governments shape their future policy,” said UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach.

Other challenges discussed in the assessment include climate change, considered one of the largest threats to human and ecosystem health, and to achieving sustainable development in the pan-European region.

“It is also an accelerator for most other environmental risks, with impacts affecting health through floods, heat waves, droughts, reduced agricultural productivity, exacerbated air pollution and allergies and vector, food and water-borne diseases,” according to the press release.

Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation is continuing in the region and is mainly caused by increased land-use change, particularly agricultural intensification, urbanization and habitat fragmentation. On-going biodiversity decline and loss is said to be particularly high in Eastern and Western Europe, with lower rates in Central Europe, the Russian Federation and Central Asian countries.

The UN further noted that greater investments are needed in environmental accounting systems to ensure external costs are addressed.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54173

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Nearly two years on, Secretary-General reunites with Hokule’a crew for World Oceans Day

8 June 2016 – Warning that we are dangerously close to breaking the limit of how we should use oceans, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reunited with a Polynesian voyaging canoe crew who are using traditional methods to circumvent the world and highlight the importance of protecting our bodies of water.

“Your voyage was a testament to the power of island people. You showed the resilience of island culture – and the timeless value of island wisdom,” the Secretary-General told the Hokule’a Worldwide Voyage on a rainy morning in New York.

The journey, which started in Hawaii this May, is known as Malama Honua, meaning “to care for our island earth.” Organized by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, the crew is planning to cover 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports and 26 countries, by the time the canoe docks in June 2017.

Mr. Ban met with the crew in the Samoan capital of Apia in September 2014, during the Third Small Island Developing State Conference. He boarded the canoe, along with senior UN officials and President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr., and gave the crew a message in a bottle that read: “I am inspired by its global mission. As you tour the globe, I will work and rally more leaders to our common cause of ushering in a more sustainable future and a life of dignity for all.”

The bottle was returned to Mr. Ban today, along with ocean protection declarations collected from people around the world. Below, watch highlights of today’s event at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54177

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On World Day, UN urges meaningful action to protect future health of oceans

8 June 2016 – Healthy oceans are critical to sustaining life on Earth, by regulating the climate and providing a wide range of services, including natural resources, nutritious food and jobs that benefit billions of people, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, as the UN kicked off its celebrations to mark World Oceans Day.

“Healthy oceans are essential for a healthy planet and a healthy future for us all,” the Secretary-General affirmed in his message for the Day, which is observed annually on 8 June.

This year’s theme, Healthy oceans, healthy planet, spotlights the threat of plastic pollution, which degrades very slowly, polluting waterways and impacting the health of aquatic animals, which mistake the microbeads for food, as well as the health of humans.

In his message, the Secretary-General underscored that in order to protect the health of oceans, it is crucial to know their current state, and also understand the impact that human activities and climate change are having on them.

He recalled that this past December, the UN General Assembly had welcomed the First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, a global scientific evaluation of the state of the world’s oceans.

“We now know that although the oceans are seemingly endless, their capacity to withstand human activities is limited, particularly as they also cope with the threats posed by climate change,” Mr. Ban said.

“Urgent action on a global scale is needed to alleviate the world’s oceans from the many pressures they face, and to protect them from future dangers that may tip them beyond the limits of their carrying capacity,” he added.

Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Photo: FAO

The Secretary-General also recalled that this past year, in adopting the landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Member States underscored that healthy and productive oceans will play a crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Healthy oceans will also play an essential role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, as we strive to implement the Paris Agreement,” Mr. Ban said.

Echoing those remarks, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that 2016 is the year when the world starts to implement the promises made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“UNESCO’s message on World Oceans Day is clear – the ocean is essential to moving forward,” she stressed.

Ms. Bokova highlighted that despite the increasing impacts of human activities on the marine environment, the ocean remains an important driver in eradicating the greatest global challenge facing the world today: extreme poverty.

“The ocean is an integral part of our planet, and an absolutely essential component of human lives, livelihoods and the environment that sustains us. From fisheries and tourism to transportation and climate regulation, the ocean is key to implementing the new global agenda,” she said.

Especially for developing countries, coasts and the ocean provide multiple economic opportunities to ensure that no one will be left behind in the pursuit of a more equitable, sustainable development, the Director-General said.

“Whether on the coast or in the high seas far away from all, safeguarding biodiverse marine sites is vital for ensuring the sustainable long-term use of precious natural resources,” Ms. Bokova said.

For its part, UNESCO, through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, is working to support its Member States in implementing
SDG 14 on oceans, and all other relevant objectives and targets, in ways that are inclusive and based on an integrated scientific approach.

She emphasized that the development of national capacities in marine scientific research is a precondition for understanding and preserving the ocean, its environment and the many resources it provides.

A school of Moorish Idols cruise over the coral reef, Ha’apai, Tonga. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Glenn Edney

“Our message is that a healthy ocean is a healthy planet, and a healthy planet is absolutely vital for the well-being of generations to come. Whether in eradicating poverty or regulating the climate, the bottom line is that the ocean matters,” Ms. Bokova said.

“World Oceans Day is our opportunity – as decision-makers, industry, civil society, science, and you and me – to tip the balance and move from agreement to meaningful action,” she added.

Among the events that will be held to mark World Oceans Day 2016 include “He Lei Holo Puni Honua,” a ceremonial presentation of declarations and sail of friendship in Long Island City, New York, during which the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe from the Pacific, Hokule‘a, will arrive at the UN for the first time in history.

As part of this event, Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Master Navigator, will present Mr. Ban and Gyan Chandra Acharya, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and the President of Palau, Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., with ocean protection declarations that Hokule?a voyagers have collected from the public on their worldwide journey promoting sustainable oceans.

At UN Headquarters in New York, an event on “Voyaging to a Sustainable Planet: A Talk Story Uniting Leadership on Oceans” will be held in the afternoon to discuss the UN’s Ocean Agenda and link the voyage of the Hokule?a with SDG 14.

In the evening, a reception will be held at the UN General Assembly hall, where the winners of this year’s World Oceans Day Oceanic Photo Competition will be announced. That event will also feature several musical performances.

In addition, the Empire State Building in New York will be lit in the evening in white, blue and purple, representing the different layers of the ocean. White at the top represents the most shallow, sunlit waters and also the polar ice cap. Blue represents the slightly deeper ocean waters, and purple is for even deeper waters. The unlit portions, or black, represent those parts of the ocean where the sun does not reach.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54164

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Ban commends India and United States for supporting early entry into force of Paris Agreement

8 June 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended a joint statement on climate change made by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Barack Obama announcing their support for early entry into force of the Paris Agreement, and encouraged all countries to accelerate their domestic processes to join or ratify it.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the domestic steps being undertaken by both countries to join the Paris Agreement as soon as possible, including in 2016, and their collaborative efforts to address climate change,” indicated a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

The Paris Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the UN climate change conference in Paris last December, where all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

On 22 April, 175 countries signed the Agreement, which according to the UN was by far the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement in one single day. For it to enter into force, 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse emissions need to implement the accord at the national level. As of today, 177 Parties have signed, and 17 have ratified it.

“[The UN chief] is further encouraged by the resolve of India and the United States to pursue low greenhouse gas emission development strategies and successful outcomes this year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Montreal Protocol, the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly, and the G20,” the statement added, noting that the joint announcement by India and the United States also follows on the heels of the G7 Ise-Shima Leaders’ Declaration.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54165

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