UN-backed initiative to address electronic waste problem in Africa adopted
The United Nations, 18 African countries, as well as non-governmental organizations, the private sector and academia today agreed on priority measures to reduce the environmental and health impacts of electrical and electronic waste on the continent.
Meeting at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, the Pan-African Forum on E-Waste also stressed that the electrical and electronic sectors have the potential to create green jobs and facilitate economic development.
Organized by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and UNEP, with support from the Kenyan Government and private sector companies, including Dell, HP, Nokia and Philips, the Forum was the first event of its kind in Africa.
It focused on long-term solutions to the rising levels of obsolete mobile phones, refrigerators, televisions and other e-products in the continent.
Increasing domestic consumption of electronic products, as well as the ongoing import of waste electronics, such as used mobile phones, into Africa from other regions, means that the continent could generate a higher volume of e-waste than Europe by 2017, according to UNEP.
The Forum adopted a “Call to Action” initiative, which outlines eight priority areas to improve the environmentally-sound management of e-waste in Africa. They include the development of national systems to improve the collection, recycling, transport, storage and disposal of e-waste.Back to Top
New UN agreement seeks to protect environment from hazardous electronic waste
A new United Nations agreement seeks to diminish the damage caused by electronic waste through the collection and recycling of hazardous materials, as well as by introducing measures to improve the ways in which this equipment is managed.
According to the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), electronic waste is expected to grow exponentially, particularly in developing countries, yet only 13 per cent of electronic waste is recycled, many times without safety procedures in place.
The agreement, which was signed between the ITU and the Secretariat of the Basel Convention (SBC), intends to strengthen collaboration between information and communications technology (ICT) and environmental policymakers to address this issue.
“The ICT sector is already making significant progress in improving its environmental performance and reducing e-waste through improved best practices and standards,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré.
“The collaboration with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention will allow the global community to address this ever-increasing problem through a holistic approach, involving the recycling industry as well as environmental policy makers.”
Electronic waste, which contains toxic materials used in the manufacturing process, can cause widespread damage to the environment and human health. Through the agreement, which was signed yesterday, ITU and SBC will exchange information and practices and will work on joint projects and programmes to set ICT standards and raise awareness among countries about electronic waste management.
“ICT equipment has to be dealt with in view of its entire life-cycle, and this includes the time when the equipment comes to its end-of-life and becomes e-waste,” said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention.
“Collaboration between ITU and SBC will further our shared objectives in support of sustainable development that essentially includes environmentally sound management of waste.”Back to Top
Increasing demand and climate change threaten global water supplies
An unprecedented rise in the demand for food, rapid urbanization and climate change are significantly threatening global water supplies, according to a United Nations report released today, which stresses that a radical new approach to managing this essential resource is needed to be able to sustain future consumption levels.
The UN World Water Development Report, which will be launched at the World Water Forum in Marseille, estimates that there will be a 70 per cent increase in demand for food by the year 2050, leading to a 19 per cent surge in water used for agriculture. At the moment, 70 per cent of freshwater is already being used for agricultural purposes.
“Freshwater is not being used sustainably, according to needs and demands,” states the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, in the report’s foreword. “Accurate information remains disparate, and management is fragmented. In this context, the future is increasingly uncertain and risks are set to deepen.”
The report, entitled “Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk,” notes that to respond to growing demand, countries have tapped into underground water sources, with water extraction tripling over the past 50 years. However, in some underground basins, water cannot be replenished and is now at critically low levels.
In addition, climate change will also have a growing impact on water resources as it alters rainfall patterns and soil humidity, melts glaciers and causes water-related disasters such as floods and droughts, which impact food production. The report estimates that by 2070, this impact will affect up to 44 million people all over the world.
The Chair of UN-Water, Michel Jarraud, stressed that “a collective response by the whole international community” will be needed to tackle the issue. The report emphasizes that without drastic action, water pressure will exacerbate economic disparities within and between countries, hitting the poor particularly hard.
“Unless water becomes a more central consideration in development planning, billions of people, mostly in developing countries, could face reduced livelihoods and life chances,” UNESCO said in a news release. “Better governance of water resources is required, including investments in infrastructure from both private and public sectors.”
The report also shows that despite projected increases in water demand, there are still nearly one billion people without such access, and this number is growing in cities.
“We have much to do before all people have the access to the water and sanitation they need to lead lives of dignity and well-being,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a video message to the World Water Forum.
According to the report, sanitation infrastructure is not keeping pace with the world’s urban population, and more than 80 per cent of the world’s waste water is neither collected nor treated.Back to Top