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With drought intensifying worldwide, UN calls for integrated climate policies

More consolidated efforts to combat the threat of climate change and counter its ripple effects on global food security are needed amid an intensifying global drought and increasing temperatures worldwide, the United Nations declared today.

“Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, and energy,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release. “We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies,” he added.

According to the news release, the WMO and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), along with other UN agencies, are intensifying efforts to establish a more coordinated and proactive strategy for managing drought risk to fill existing policy vacuums in countries around the world. As a result, a High Level Meeting on National Drought Policy has been scheduled from 11 to 15 March 2013.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva earlier today, Dr. Mannava Sivakumar, Director of the WMO Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch underlined the severity and reach of the current drought and its potential impact on global food prices.

He noted that one quarter of the United States was experiencing exceptional drought while the entire country was facing its longest 12 month period in a drought since 1895. Dr. Sivakumar also emphasized that the effects of the drought on the United States’ soybean and corn harvests was having “a major impact on food prices.”

Meanwhile, pointing to the situation in India, he told reporters that the Asian country was similarly experiencing very serious droughts with countrywide rainfall 17 per cent below normal. In Punjab, India’s breadbasket, rainfall was 70 per cent below normal, he said.

According to the WMO, severe drought also developed in parts of East Africa in late 2010 and continued through most of 2011 with the most severely affected areas encompassing the semi-arid regions eastern and northern Kenya, western Somalia, and southern border areas of Ethiopia.

“The 2010 drought-induced famine in the Greater Horn of Africa, the ongoing crisis in the Sahel region and the extensive drought in the USA show that developing and developed countries alike are vulnerable,” said Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD. “Effective long-term solutions to mitigate the effects of drought, and address desertification and land degradation urgently need to be mainstreamed in national development plans and policies,” he added.

In 2009, international climate experts gathered at the International Workshop on Drought and Extreme Temperatures in Beijing released their climate projections for the 21st century, forecasting an increase in the frequency of severe droughts in the continental USA and Mexico, the Mediterranean Basin, parts of northern China, across southern Africa and Australia and in parts of South America.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42716&Cr=climate&Cr1=drought

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UN warns of risk of African swine fever in Caucasus region

Following the first-ever detection of African swine fever (ASF)in Ukraine, the United Nations is warning that while control measures appear to have temporarily halted the disease’s spread, it has established a firm foothold in the Caucasus and poses an ongoing risk to neighbouring areas.

“National and local authorities in the entire region should scale up their prevention measures and be ready to respond in case of further outbreaks,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Chief Veterinary Officer, Juan Lubroth, said in a news release. “This could be the first of more outbreaks to come, according to our disease analyses.”

In addition to some other parts of Ukraine, nearby countries like Moldova, Kazakhstan and Latvia – which have large pig populations raised on household or family farms, and oftentimes weak bio-security protocols – are also now at high risk of the disease’s introduction, according to FAO.

ASF does not affect humans, but mortalities in domestic pigs can be extremely high. In 2011, up to 300,000 pigs died or were culled as a result of ASF outbreaks in the Russian Federation, incurring an estimated $240 million in economic losses.

Mr. Lubroth noted that Ukraine has responded quickly, implementing sanitary measures, destroying affected pigs and imposing a quarantine zone around the village where the outbreaks occurred.

Most importantly, he added, Ukraine has paid farmers compensation for pigs that were slaughtered and properly disposed of, so that poor families that depend on pig-raising for food and income are not left ruined by the loss of their pigs.

All countries at risk should stand ready to detect any ASF outbreaks as soon as they occur and respond in a similarly proactive fashion, according to FAO.

Prior to being introduced to the Caucasus in 2007, ASF had been confined for several decades to the African continent and the Italian island of Sardinia. Today, however, it is considered endemic in parts of the Russian Federation and some countries in the Caucasus region, including Georgia and Armenia.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42713&Cr=Ukraine&Cr1=

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Secretary-General launches new initiative to protect world’s oceans

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a new initiative to protect the oceans and the people whose livelihoods depend on it, and called on countries to work together to achieve a more sustainable management of this precious resource and address the threats it is currently facing.

“The seas and oceans host some of the most vulnerable and important ecosystems on Earth, but the diversity of life they host is under ever-increasing strain,” Mr. Ban said at an event in the city of Yeosu in the Republic of Korea (ROK), to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Convention, also known as the “constitution of the oceans,” governs all aspects of ocean space, from delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues. It was first opened for signature in 1982 and entered into force in 1994; there are 162 parties to it – 161 States and the European Union.

Mr. Ban praised the achievements of the Convention in helping countries establish a legal framework to guide the management of the oceans, the settlement of disputes, and the administration of the international seabed.

“Among its principles, the Law of the Sea recognizes that all ocean issues are related and that they need to be addressed as a whole,” Mr. Ban said, adding that this is in line with the development framework put forward at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

However, Mr. Ban also emphasized the need to address multiple issues that threaten the marine environment. To do this, he announced the launch of the Oceans Compact, which will seek to support and strengthen the implementation of the Law of the Sea.

“What we need is to create new momentum for ocean sustainability,” Mr. Ban said. “The Oceans Compact sets out a strategic vision for the UN System to deliver more coherently and effectively on its oceans-related mandates, consistent with the Rio+20 outcome.”

The Compact, Mr. Ban added, will provide a platform to help countries protect the ocean’s natural resources, restore their full food production to help people’s whose livelihoods depend on the sea, and increase awareness and knowledge about the management of the oceans.

To achieve the objectives of the Compact, Mr. Ban proposed a results-oriented Action Plan along with the creation of an Ocean Advisory Group made up of high-level policymakers, scientists and experts, as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society.

During his visit, Mr. Ban also spoke to young people at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) youth forum, where he asked participants to practice solidarity among generations and lead the way in implementing sustainable measures in all aspects of society.

“From public squares to cyberspace, youth are a transformative force; you are creative, resourceful and enthusiastic agents of change,” Mr. Ban said. “A sustainable future can be ours. The work starts now, and it starts with you. This is a generational imperative… a generational opportunity… that your generation must seize.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42668&Cr=ocean&Cr1=

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