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New UN study links trees in drylands with sustainable development

Larch trees in Mongolia’s Altansumber forest. Photo: FAO/Sean Gallagher

19 July 2016 – For the first time, a new United Nations report details the number of trees, forests and how the land is used in the world’s drylands, and the findings could be used to track progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and help fight climate change.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today issued in Rome the preliminary findings of the first ever statistical sampling-based assessment of land use in the world’s drylands, amid its World Forest Week.

Using freely available satellite images and a newly developed survey method, FAO found that drylands cover about 41 per cent of the world’s land surface – an area twice the size of Africa. Of that land, 1.1 billion hectares are forest, accounting for more than one-quarter of the global forest area.

The leaves and fruit of trees are sources of food for people and fodder for animals; their wood provides fuel for cooking and heating and can be a source of income for poor households; trees protect soils, crops and animals from the sun and winds, while forests are often rich in biodiversity.

The UN agency cites recent studies which point to the need to restore drylands to better cope with the effects of drought, desertification and land degradation.

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UN condemns killings in USA

8 July 2016 – United Nations officials today spoke out against recent violence in the United States which has left several people dead, expressing both outrage and condemnation over the killings, and highlighting the need for more to be done to fight discrimination.

Earlier this week, two African-American men were shot dead by US police in the states of Minnesota and Louisiana. On Thursday, five police officers were killed in the Texan city of Dallas at a rally over the earlier killings.

“The Working Group [of Experts on People of African Descent] is outraged and strongly condemns the new police killings of two African-American men,” the Group’s Chairman, Ricardo A. Sunga III, said in a statement today, in which he also noted that the incidents demonstrate “a high level of structural and institutional racism.”

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Rapid response vital to eliminating cholera in Haiti - interview

8 July 2016 – A rapid response mechanism is crucial to tackling an endemic disease such as cholera and eliminating it in Haiti, the deputy head of the UN mission there said today, emphasizing that the effectiveness of such efforts requires predictable financing.

“If we cannot have it [funding] in a predictable nature over the next five years, I believe that we are not having the best rapid response,” Mourad Wahba, Deputy Special Representative for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) told the UN News Service.

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