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UN forum seeks to improve access to organic products from developing world

A United Nations-backed conference addressing the future of access to markets for organic products began today with delegates and experts gathered to examine the impact that trade standards are having on organic farmers in the developing world.

The two-day forum, held in the German city of Nuremberg, will examine issues related to organic agriculture in emerging economies as well as the possible barriers that international organic standards pose to their development.

In 2002, a partnership between the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International FederaAccording to UNCTAD, there are currently an estimated two million certified organic farmers worldwide, 80 per cent of which are in developing countries.tion of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) first established a joint effort to promote access to the global organic market.

Over the next two days, delegates will discuss the progress made in helping developing-country farmers expand their international market reach and the practical means for overcoming technical barriers to the marketing of organic products.

Once products are certified as organic, they can typically fetch higher prices than their conventional counterparts and be traded internationally in robust markets. Already, the organic product sector accounts for sales of $60 billion annually.

Minor differences in organic standards, however, can often hinder this trade.

According to UNCTAD, there are currently an estimated two million certified organic farmers worldwide, 80 per cent of which are in developing countries. In addition, developing countries account for 73 per cent of land certified for organic beekeeping and the collection of plant products grown in the wild.

In a nod to sustainable agriculture, organic farming relies on healthy soils and active agro-ecological management rather than the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers, which can often have adverse effects on the environment, agricultural workers, and consumers.

The benefits include higher incomes for agricultural workers, more stable and nutritious diets for consumers, and environmental improvements such as higher soil fertility, reduced soil erosion, and better resilience to climate extremes such as drought and heavy rainfall.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41223&Cr=sustainability&Cr1=

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UN chief urges more companies to embrace business sustainability ideals

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today encouraged more businesses to embrace the principle of sustainability in their strategies, noting that with the most of the world’s ecosystems in decline, widening social inequality and climate change, global prosperity, productivity and stability was at stake.

“We need corporate sustainability to be in the DNA of business culture and operations,” said Mr. Ban in his address to a gathering in New York entitled ‘KPMG Summit: Business Perspective for Sustainable Growth.’

Mr. Ban pointed out that corporate sustainability is currently not properly valued, noting that many proven innovations and solutions – from energy efficiency to emissions reductions – are not supported with the right incentives.

“In fact, incentive structures still tend to encourage unsustainable behaviour. As a result, too many companies limit their sustainability efforts to pilot programmes that never take off. Even worse, sustainability becomes more a matter of public relations than how companies operate,” he added.

He lauded the nearly 7,000 corporations in 140 countries that had joined the United Nations Global Compact initiative that seeks to foster responsible business practices.

Stressing the UN’s commitment to supporting companies to carry out their businesses in a sustainable way, Mr. Ban cited the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment that been embraced by more than 900 institutional investors representing at least $30 trillion in assets.

Through the UN-backed “Principles for Responsible Management Education,” over 400 business schools and related institutions are integrating sustainability into curriculum and research, he said, adding that the recently issued report of his Global Sustainability Panel also provided a blueprint for mainstreaming sustainability.

Mr. Ban also highlighted the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative that is mobilizing the private sector towards a more accessible, efficient and clean energy economy, and the fact that more than 400 business leaders had pledged their support for the Caring for Climate initiative designed to advance low-carbon solutions and help make the green economy a reality, he said.

He urged business leaders gathered at the conference to five steps to advance sustainability:

  • Join the Corporate Sustainability Forum to be held on the sidelines of the UN Conference on Sustainable development in Brazil in June;
  • Heed the call of a new generation of investors by publicly reporting on sustainability performance;
  • Engage in responsible lobbying and advocacy to affirm their belief in free and fair trade;
  • Work with governments to adopt smart regulatory frameworks and incentives that reward environmental and social performance;
  • Work with the UN in its platforms and initiatives on sustainable business practices.

  • Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41233&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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    Green economy key to overcoming resource constraints in Asia-Pacific

    Countries in the Asia-Pacific region could overcome the constraints of limited resources by making the transition from dependence on traditional means of production to a more sustainable green economy, according to a joint report unveiled today by the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

    The region utilizes three times as much resources to produce $1 of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the rest of the world, and resource use in the region grew by 50 per cent between 1995 and 2005, says the report, entitled Green Growth, Resources and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific.

    Produced by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and ADB ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in Brazil in June, the report emphasizes that the challenges of resource constraints are more serious in the Asia-Pacific region than anywhere else.

    It rejects the assumption that technology advances will be able to solve the problems of resource constraints and proposes specific strategies for changing economic incentives to promote a green economy which uses resources much more efficiently.

    “Countries of Asia and the Pacific have been at the forefront of implementing initiatives to green their economic growth and will reap the benefits of such investments economically, socially and environmentally,” said Young Woo Park, UNEP’s regional director.

    With the global market for green goods and services expanding rapidly and the right policies and investments, the Asia-Pacific region could lead the world towards a more sustainable future, according to Nessim Ahmad, director of ADB’s Environment and Social Safeguards Division.

    The report stresses that economic incentives to promote investments in resource efficiency and natural resource protection are key, but action on other fronts is also needed, including an integrated policy framework and approaches.

    Governance must be more adaptive and inclusive and become more adept at harnessing knowledge from different sources and incorporating information from various stakeholders, the report stresses.

    For developing countries, the massive investments in infrastructure, as well as the unmet needs for energy, water, transportation and housing, offer a window of opportunity to change the way that energy and other resources are used, it states.

    The report addresses the two main Rio+20 themes – green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and institutional framework for sustainable development.

    “Business as usual is no longer a feasible option, but many governments and other stakeholders still do not recognize the urgency of the challenge of improving the resource efficiency of economic growth,” said Rae Kwon Chung, director of ESCAP’s environment and development division.

    The Asia-Pacific region’s resource and pollution-intensive growth trends means the region is at risk of not being able to sustain the growth needed to reduce poverty in the long term, the report points out.

    Optimistic growth projections for the region do not factor in resource constraints sufficiently, Mr. Chung added. Green growth, he underlined, is a strategy to achieve sustainable development, addressing both resource constraints and the climate crisis.

    Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41261&Cr=Sustainable+Development&Cr1=

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