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UN disaster reduction office launches initiative to help cities manage risk

The United Nations office for disaster risk reduction today launched a new initiative to help cities across the world manage risk following the worst year on record for economic losses caused by disasters.

The initiative – the ‘Local Government Self-Assessment Tool’ – is part of the campaign to help cities establish baselines, identify planning and investment gaps for risk reduction and climate change adaptation, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) said in a press release.

“Cities and towns are on the frontline of disaster risk reduction and bore the brunt of insured economic losses from disasters last year of $380 billion,” said Helena Molin Valdés, the Director of the ‘Making Cities Resilient’ campaign, which aims to reduce urban risks from climate-related disasters.

Ms. Valdés said the new tool would greatly enrich understanding of the challenges ahead as the world considers a new blueprint for disaster risk reduction once the existing plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action, expires in 2015. The Framework – a global blueprint for disaster risk reduction efforts – was adopted by governments in 2005 and aims to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015.

Some 133 countries have been reporting at the national level on their progress on disaster risk reduction priorities agreed on in the Hyogo Framework. The new local government tool would enable municipalities to submit data for national progress reports for the first time. The tool has been tested in over 20 cities around the world.

UNISDR also announced that over 1,000 cities have now joined the ‘Making Cities Resilient’ campaign, which is creating a widening network of alliances for disaster risk reduction. There are currently 25 partners working with UNISDR to support the campaign, including the Local Governments for Sustainability, which has a membership of over 1,200 cities, towns, counties, and their associations worldwide.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41809&Cr=disaster+risk&Cr1=

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Ban welcomes European Union’s energy access initiative for developing countries

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed a new European Union (EU) initiative designed to assist developing countries in providing access to sustainable energy to their populations.

Under its Energizing for Development Initiative, the European Commission – the EU’s executive body – aims to support the provision of sustainable energy services to 500 million people in poorer countries by 2030.

“I commend the European Union for making energy central to its development policies, and for advancing the issue of energy access, along with renewable and energy efficiency, to the forefront of the global development agenda,” said Mr. Ban, addressing the EU Sustainable Energy for All Summit in Brussels.

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, announced that the initiative will also create a Technical Assistance Facility worth €50 million, drawing on EU experts, to develop technical expertise in developing countries.

The initiative will also focus on refining, expanding and improving energy-related innovative financial instruments and risk guarantee schemes in developing countries to unlock greater private investment.

In the lead up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June, the EU and its Member States will seek to mobilize additional resources to support new investments in sustainable energy in developing countries, with the goal of leveraging even greater flows of investment from the private sector.

“Without energy access, we simply will not meet the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” said Mr. Barroso. “That’s why we’ve organised today’s summit – we are committed to the aim of providing universal access to sustainable energy for all by 2030,” he said.

Mr. Ban said the EU’s strong political commitment to access to sustainable energy will “enable developing countries to leapfrog over the energy systems of the past and build the resilient, competitive, clean energy economies of the future.”

The Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative is designed to catalyze global action in support of three, interlinked and complimentary objectives, all to be achieved by 2030 – ensure universal access to modern energy services, double the global rate of improvement of energy efficiency, and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

The International Energy Agency estimates that 1.3 billion people – one in five globally – lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business. Twice that number – nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population – rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook food, resulting in toxic smoke that causes lung disease and death.

On the sidelines of the summit, the Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, signed a partnership agreement designed to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations on their work on empowering women and gender equality.

Cooperation under the new UN Women-EU Memorandum of Understanding will primarily focus on ensuring women’s representation in decision-making in the fields of economics, politics and justice worldwide, as well as better access for women to work and social opportunities.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, Mr. Ban described the EU as “a key strategic partner” of the UN on issues that range from peace and security to development and human rights.

“The UN receives first-rate political and financial backing from the European Union for conflict prevention initiatives and for our peacekeeping operations around the world,” said the Secretary-General.

He said that in the course of his separate meetings with Mr. Van Rompuy, Mr. Barroso and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, discussions touched on situations of mutual concern, including Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan and South Sudan, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cyprus and sustainable development.

Mr. Ban said that Mr. Van Rompuy had also explained to him how EU Member States have been working together to overcome the economic and financial crisis.

“I sincerely hope that, under the leadership of President Van Rompuy and other members of the European Union, Europe will be able to address and overcome the current economic and financial crisis, which will be mutually beneficial for all around the world,” the Secretary-General added.

Mr. Ban is now in Luxembourg, the last stop on his three-country European trip, which also took him to Switzerland.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41789&Cr=sustainable+energy&Cr1=

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UN agency to help 12 Eastern European countries get rid of obsolete pesticides

The United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will support efforts by 12 countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia to manage their vast stocks of obsolete pesticides.

An estimated 200,000 tons of obsolete pesticides – nearly half the world’s stockpiles – can be found in 12 former Soviet Union republics, according to FAO, which has formed a partnership with the European Union (EU) to invest €7 million to assist Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan to manage the chemicals.

Stored in tens of thousands of unprotected sites, the obsolete pesticides pose a serious threat to the health of the people around them and to the environment, FAO said in a press release yesterday.

“In the past decades, we were able to increase food production significantly, but at a huge toll on the environment,” said Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva. “One of the consequences of this chemical-input, intensive agriculture we adopted are the barrels of obsolete pesticides lying abandoned around the world.”

“Pesticides may be an important input for farming, but they need to be used responsibly while protecting human health and the environment from their adverse effects,” he added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41777&Cr=agriculture&Cr1=

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