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Smuggling of elephant ivory and rhino horn on agenda of UN-backed forum

The massive smuggling of elephant ivory and rhino horn, tiger conservation and the illegal trade in great apes are among the issues on the agenda of a United Nations-backed meeting taking place in Geneva this week.

Some 350 participants are participating in the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which began in Geneva yesterday.

The Committee oversees the implementation of rules for the international trade in protected wildlife on behalf of the Conference of the 175 member countries of CITES.

Elephant issues, including rising levels in the illegal killing of elephants and ivory smuggling, features high on the agenda of the week-long meeting, as does the drivers behind the “exploding” demand in rhino horn, according to a news release issued by the CITES secretariat, which is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“With elephant and rhino poaching and smuggling levels being the worst in a decade, it is clear that strong additional measures are required,” said the Chairman of the Committee, Øysten Størkersen, adding that 2013 will be a critical year to adopt enhanced measures to protect the planet’s biodiversity and ensure effective implementation on the ground.

“The present meeting will help set the priorities and to ensure the long-term survival of key species we would like to leave to future generations,” he stated.

The meeting will also review the progress made in the implementation of measures to reduce the over-exploitation of freshwater turtles and tortoises, as well as some frogs and plants from Madagascar, in addition to discussing the sourcing of Asian snakes used in the leather industry. Also on the agenda are tiger conservation initiatives and the illegal trade in great apes.

This week’s gathering will also decide on the agenda of the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will take place in Bangkok in March 2013, and will coincide with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Convention.

CITES regulates international trade in close to 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42548&Cr=endangered+species&Cr1=

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UN rights expert urges international community to not turn its back on Tuvalu

A United Nations independent expert today called on the international community to not turn its back on the small island State of Tuvalu, where communities are being seriously affected by climate change.

“Climate change is an everyday reality for people in Tuvalu, and is slowly but steadily impacting their human rights to water and sanitation,” warned the Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water, Catarina de Albuquerque, at the end of her first mission to the country. “Climate change will exacerbate water scarcity, saltwater intrusions, sea level rise and frequency of extreme weather events.”

As of 2010, 98 per cent of the population in Tuvalu had access to an improved source of water and 85 per cent had access to improved sanitation facilities, according to a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

However, Ms. de Albuquerque noted, “these figures do not portray an accurate picture of the country’s situation and mask severe challenges currently faced by its population.” She noted that people cannot actually drink directly from the water storage tanks and have to boil it, despite previous efforts to improve the situation.

“People are still suffering from a lack of water in sufficient quantities on a continuous basis. Several people told me that they have no confidence in the sustainability of the water supply,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur called on authorities to ensure that the country’s water harvesting system is used to its maximum potential in old and new buildings, and urged the Government to immediately adopt and implement a national water strategy and plan of action covering the entire population.

“Access to water and sanitation must be affordable to all, in particular to those who have a lower income. The price paid for water, sanitation and hygiene must not compromise access to other human rights such as food, housing or education,” Ms. de Albuquerque said. “I call on the Government to bear this in mind when discussing and adopting new water tariffs or when advancing the use of composting toilets.”

Tuvalu is currently developing a draft Water Act as well as a Sustainable and Integrated Water and Sanitation Policy.

During her three-day visit, Ms. de Albuquerque met with various Government departments, and visited a settlement. She also visited a school to discuss the pupils’ access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

The Special Rapporteur will present a report on her mission to a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. After her visit to Tuvalu, Ms. de Albuquerque will travel to Kiribati, also in the Pacific Ocean, on a similar fact-finding mission from 23 to 26 July.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42519&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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UNESCO adds 20 new sites to global network of biosphere reserves

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today added 20 new sites to its global list of biosphere reserves, bringing the total to 599 in 117 countries.

The International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), meeting in Paris, France, added sites in Haiti, Kazakhstan and Sao Tome and Principe for the first time to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Biosphere reserves are places recognized by MAB where local communities are actively involved in governance and management, research, education, training and monitoring at the service of both socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation.

They are “sites for experimenting with and learning about sustainable development,” UNESCO said in a news release.

The new additions to the list include the West Polesie Transboundary Biosphere Reserve, which crosses Belarus, Poland and Ukraine; the Sheka reserve in Ethiopia; the four islands that make up the Wakatobi reserve in Indonesia; and the Ferlo reserve in Senegal, which has been threatened by droughts due to human activities, among others.

There were also extensions to four reserves: the Fray Jorge Biosphere Reserve in Chile; the Réserve de biosphère des Iles et de la Mer d’Iroise in France; and the Doñana and Sierra Nevada Biosphere Reserves, both located in Spain.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42451&Cr=biodiversity&Cr1=

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