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25 May

UN chief launches new disarmament agenda ‘to secure our world and our future’

“The United Nations was created with the goal of eliminating war as an instrument of foreign policy,” Secretary-General António Guterres said, unveiling his new agenda, entitled, Securing Our Common Future, at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland.

“But seven decades on, our world is as dangerous as it has ever been,” he warned.

“Disarmament prevents and ends violence. Disarmament supports sustainable development. And disarmament is true to our values and principles,” he explained.

The launch comes at a time when “arms control has been in the news every day, sometimes in relation to Iran and Syria, sometimes the Korean Peninsula,” said the UN chief.

The new Agenda focuses on three priorities – weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, and new battlefield technologies.

First, he stressed that disarmament of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons could “save humanity,” noting that some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain stockpiled around the world and hundreds are ready to be launched within minutes.

“We are one mechanical, electronic or human error away from a catastrophe that could eradicate entire cities from the map,” he warned.

Mr. Guterres said the States that possess nuclear weapons have the primary responsibility for avoiding catastrophe. In that regard, he appealed to Russia and the US to resolve their dispute over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to extend the New START treaty on strategic offensive arms, which is due to expire in just three years; and to take new steps towards reducing nuclear stockpiles.

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21 May

UN officials call for strong, people-focused health systems

 Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right at the opening of the seventy-first session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The World Health Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization, WHO. It determines the agency’s polices, supervises financial policies, and reviews and approves the proposed programme budget.

“We need strong resilient systems that place people at the centre,” said Mr. Guterres.

“Universal health coverage provides the foundation to help us overcome the inequities that continue to leave so many behind.”

Ensuring that everyone, everywhere has access to quality health care and services, is also vital for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), stressed the UN chief.

In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3), which has specific targets to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all stages in life. In addition, health improvements feature prominently in many of the other ambitious Goals.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, also addressed the Assembly, emphasizing the importance of universal health coverage, as illustrated by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The WHO chief outlined a number of initiatives at the UN health agency to advance universal coverage and urged greater political commitment: “It’s clear that the twin messages of health security and universal health coverage resonate loudly with world leaders,” he said.

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14 May

UN chief hopes Latin America and the Caribbean region will play a central role in ensuring “fair globalization”

Addressing a session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which opened in Cuba on Monday, Secretary-General António Guterres said the forum “is central to supporting the countries of the region in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The meeting brings together representatives from ECLAC’s 46 member States and 13 associate members to debate the main challenges for implementing the 2030 Agenda in the region.

Mr. Guterres noted that globalization has brought many benefits, but it has left too many behind. 

Women are still far less likely to participate in the labour market – and the gender pay gap remains a global concern. Youth unemployment is alarmingly high in many countries across the world, he said.

The UN chief commended ECLAC for having been “a progressive and authoritative champion” for social justice in the global economy and “a pioneer” in integrating the economic, social and environmental development.

ECLAC has also “consistently and courageously put forward a development vision with equality as a driver of growth” he said, and focused on what he called the  “deeper meaning” of equality: looking beyond income as a measure of well-being and the main litmus test for development cooperation. 

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08 May

UN forum to coordinate global efforts to address worsening water shortages

With extreme weather costing hundreds of billions a year and fears that by 2050, one in four people will be living in a country affected by severe water shortages, a global conference got underway on Monday convened by the United Nations meteorological agency to manage the precious resource more sustainably.

The problem has been further complicated by a lack of comprehensive water supply data and monitoring systems which is making it harder to respond to the growing crisis.

We cannot manage what we do not measure,” said Harry Lins, the President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission for Hydrology.

“And yet the systems and data collection which underpin these vital services to society are under real pressure,” he added, underscoring that informed decision-making must be based on comprehensive facts and figures.

This sums up the key challenge underlying the agency’s HydroConference, taking place in Geneva from 7-9 May, is seeking to address.

It brings together the full gamut of so-called “water stakeholders” – decision makers, meteorological and hydrological services; the private and academic sector; non-governmental organizations, and UN entities – around the same table to coordinate efforts as well as leverage individual knowledge and collective expertise to maximum effect.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said it was important for all actors to cope with the scale of the challenges that lie ahead, citing the two extremes of droughts and floods.

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 Water Facts:

World Water Decade Logo Horizontal

 

The General Assembly resolution 71/222 states that the objectives of the Decade should be a greater focus on:

  • the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives;
  • the implementation and promotion of related programmes and projects; and
  • the furtherance of cooperation and partnerships at all levels to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Source: United Nations Secretary-General’s Plan: Water Action Decade 2018-2028

WAD 1 safe drinking water EN    WAD 3 water conservation EN    WAD 4 water rivers seas pollution EN
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04 May

Mental health ‘neglected issue’ but key to achieving Global Goals, say UN chiefs

“One in four people experience a mental health episode in their lifetime, but the issue remains largely neglected,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his opening remarks to a roundtable discussion on mental health, co-organized by his office,  the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Wellcome Trust, a charitable foundation that supports scientists and researchers.

“The UN is committed to working with partners to promote full mental health and wellbeing for all,” Mr. Guterres added.

The roundtable discussion, held Wednesday evening, included Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore, and some 20 others from academia, government and civil society.

A main message coming out of the discussion was growing support for the notion that there can be “no health without mental health” and there is a need to look beyond the health sector, for creative solutions to tackle the root causes of deteriorating mental health.

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03 May

Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth, UN Secretary-General

"Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth, " says the Secretary-General in his message for World Press Freedom Day (3 May) 2018. "Journalists and media workers shine a light on local and global challenges and tell the stories that need to be told. Their service to the public is invaluable.”

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. It is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The theme of the 2018 celebration, “Keeping power in check: media, justice and the rule of law”, highlights the importance of an enabling legal environment for press freedom, and gives special attention to the role of an independent judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists. Journalism has become a increasingly dangerous activity.

In 2017, 79 journalists were assassinated worldwide in the exercise of their profession. UNESCO is committed to defending the safety of journalists and fighting against impunity for crimes committed against them. It also contributes to their training and helps the authorities in different countries to adapt their laws on freedom of expression to international standards.

The theme for 2018 also addresses the role of the media in sustainable development, especially during elections - as a watchdog fostering transparency, accountability and the rule of law. The theme also aims to explore legislative gaps with regard to freedom of expression and information online, and the risks of regulating online speech.

According to Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, “Freedom of the press, like any other freedom, is never completely secure. The development of a knowledge and information-based society via digital channels implies heightened vigilance, to ensure the essential criteria of transparency, free access and quality”.

Quality information requires working to check sources and select pertinent subjects; it calls for ethics and an independence of mind. It thus depends entirely on the work of journalists." World Press Freedom Day is also an opportunity to highlight the crucial role played by this profession in defending and preserving the democratic rule of law.

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