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UN relief chief highlights cooperation with South-east Asia on disaster management

The United Nations relief chief today highlighted the importance of working with South-east Asian countries to implement measures to manage and reduce the risk of disasters, which affected more than 176 million people in the region last year.

During her visit to Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, met with government officials and national disaster response agencies to discuss their recent experiences in disaster management.

Both Thailand and Cambodia were affected last year by floods, and Ms. Amos stressed that the international community can learn from their experiences.

“I was encouraged by the response of the national authorities in Cambodia and Thailand and I have asked if we can be part of their lessons learned process so that the international humanitarian system can improve its support in future large scale disasters,” said Ms. Amos.

She also underlined the leading role Indonesia and Singapore have played as supporters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in disaster management.

“Indonesia and Singapore have been instrumental in driving forward an ASEAN regional agenda for disaster response to support national governments in their increasingly active and central role,” she said.

During her tour, Ms. Amos met with senior ASEAN officials and visited the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA) in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she emphasized the importance of UN-ASEAN cooperation in responding to disasters.

“We are keen to support the new AHA centre so it can be up and running as soon as possible. We have offered our knowledge and expertise to help support its initiatives, which will ultimately ensure the most effective response when the next disaster strikes,” she said.

In 2011, there were 107 natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific, almost half of the worldwide total, with regional economic losses amounting to $296 billion.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41618&Cr=Disaster&Cr1=Risk

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UN spotlights role of weather and water services in addressing climate change challenges

The role of weather, climate and water services to help countries achieve sustainable development is being highlighted today by the United Nations during this year’s World Meteorological Day.

“Knowledge about our weather, climate and water has made great strides in recent years and is fundamental to food security, disaster risk reduction, water management, energy supplies and health, to name but a few examples,” said the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud, in a press release.

World Meteorological Day, observed on 23 March, celebrates the creation of WMO in 1950 to promote international cooperation in the field of weather, climate, water and other related sciences. This year’s theme, “Powering our Future with Weather, Climate and Water,” focuses on the importance of investing in national meteorological and hydrological services to address challenges that have risen as a result of climate change.

“We need to strengthen the international knowledge base and ensure that the information reaches all socio-economic levels, from government decision makers and captains of industry to farmers and local community leaders,” said Mr. Jarraud.

“There has been great progress in improving the accuracy and usefulness of weather forecasts. We now need to improve the performance of climate predictions, for seasons, years and even decades ahead, and to increase our knowledge about how global climate is changing at regional, national and local level,” he added.

WMO is developing a Global Framework for Climate Services with its partners that will focus on 70 countries that currently lack or have few weather services. The framework will seek to ensure that weather and climate information reaches all levels of decision-making to influence choices like the construction of dams and the use of land.

As part of World Meteorological Day, WMO also released its annual statement on the status of global climate which reveals that last year was the eleventh warmest year on record, and the warmest with a La Niña phenomenon, which is supposed to have a cooling effect on the Earth.

“This 2011 annual assessment confirms the findings of the previous WMO annual statements that climate change is happening now and is not some distant future threat,” Mr. Jarraud said. “The world is warming because of human activities and this is resulting in far-reaching and potentially irreversible impacts on our Earth, atmosphere and oceans.”

WMO will also release preliminary findings of a global climate assessment for 2001-2010, providing information on temperatures, precipitation, sea ice and extreme events over this period.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41619&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Sustainable development efforts of 25 grassroots groups win UN-backed prize

Twenty-five local community projects – ranging from a wildlife sanctuary in Bangladesh to a medicinal plants farm in Brazil, a land and water conservation group in Morocco to a reforestation and farming initiative in Ethiopia – are the winners of a United Nations-backed partnership prize for promoting local sustainable development solutions.

Awarded by the Equator Initiative, a partnership that brings together the UN, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to advance sustainable development solutions at the local level, the Equator Prize is awarded biennially to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The 2012 prize will be presented to the 25 winners at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, in Brazil in June.

The winning projects, announced on Thursday, were selected from 812 nominations submitted by communities in 113 countries across the developing world. They will receive a monetary award and participate in a “community summit” that will run parallel to the main conference.

“We wanted to make this a truly global award, so expanded eligibility to all countries receiving support from UNDP,” said the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, Helen Clark. “The overwhelming response from 113 countries in 13 languages tells us there is a world of community-based innovation out there, and that demand for a better future transcends borders.”

“These community efforts are heroic and inspiring. That is what the Equator Prize is all about – shining a spotlight on the women and men on the front lines of sustainable development,” she added.

Many of the issues to be discussed at Rio+20 are represented in the pool of winners, including food security, sustainable jobs, freshwater access, sustainable energy and oceans, among others.

The winning projects were selected from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Middle East and North Africa.

Current partners of the Equator Initiative are Conservation International; Convention on Biological Diversity; Ecoagriculture Partners; Fordham University; Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development; International Union for Conservation of Nature; The Nature Conservancy; Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Rare; Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA); UN Environment Programme (UNEP); UNDP; and UN Foundation.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41622&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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