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Delhi quake drill good example for other high-risk cities to follow

The head of the United Nations office for disaster risk reduction has welcomed the mass earthquake drill organized by Indian authorities in Delhi yesterday and encouraged all high seismic cities to follow the city’s example to better prepare for possible catastrophes.

More than 40,000 people took part in the drill to check the alertness and preparedness of the 16.7 million people living in the Indian capital in the event of 7.2-magnitude quake, according to a news release issued by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, welcomed the drill, which was the culmination of the country’s first-ever State-wide earthquake preparedness exercise which got underway last December.

“I encourage all high risk seismic cities to follow the example of Delhi and to be better prepared against any catastrophic event,” she stated.

“Mock drills are a good opportunity to identify gaps in preparedness planning. More than 370 million people live in earthquake-prone cities around the world and there are mass casualties on a regular basis from earthquakes.”

UNISDR noted that experts have long questioned Delhi’s ability to withstand a major earthquake due to lack of safety standards, illegal buildings and poor enforcement of building codes. The city is classified as a high-risk seismic zone, ranking four on a five-point scale by the United States Geological Survey.

The Delhi government estimates that nine out of every 10 buildings in the city are at risk of moderate or significant quake damage. Every year, tens of thousands of housing units are built without any earthquake safety checks, stated UNISDR.

Yesterday’s two-hour disaster simulation, organized by the National Disaster Management Authority and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, was conducted across hundreds of schools, hospitals, cinemas, resident welfare associations, government office buildings, markets, and petrol pumps.

A total of 276 “deaths” were enacted, while around 828 people were assumed to have suffered major injuries, and 1,897 others suffered minor injuries.

The exercise brought together the police, fire officials, ambulances and volunteers. Six metro stations were closed for over 30 minutes and road traffic in many areas of the city was diverted as part of the exercise.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41263&Cr=disaster+reduction&Cr1=

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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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