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18 Aug

A ‘charismatic leader’ dedicated to peace; UN officials pay tribute

The flag at United Nations Headquarters in New York is flying at half-mast this Saturday as the Organization marks the death of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Officials from across the UN system have been paying tribute to the man who led the global body for a decade, starting in January 1997.  He was Secretary-General during what has been described as one of the darkest days in the organization's history: the 19 August 2003 bombing of the UN premises in Baghdad, Iraq.

For Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Annan is simply “irreplaceable”.

“Kofi was humanity’s best example, the epitome, of human decency and grace.  In a world now filled with leaders who are anything but that, our loss, the world’s loss becomes even more painful,” said in a statement.

Mr. Annan was the seventh of nine men appointed Secretary-General since the UN was established in 1945.  He was the first to emerge from the ranks of UN staff and the second to come from the African continent.

Before taking the reins of the organization, he held various senior level positions at Headquarters and in the field. At one point he was Zeid’s immediate boss. 

The UN rights chief recalled a man who was ever courageous and though direct in speech, never discourteous. 

“Later, when I was an ambassador at the UN he inspired us, by being a dynamic and charismatic leader in his capacity as Secretary-General,” Zeid continued.

 “And most of all, he was a friend and counsel — to me and to so many others.  Whenever — as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, I felt isolated and alone politically (which, in the last four years, was often) I would go for long walks with him around Geneva — and listen.”

Mr. Annan and the UN were jointly awarded the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.

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UN mourns death of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, ‘a guiding force for good’

photo of Kofi Annan

 

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15 Aug

To beat hunger and combat climate change, world must ‘scale-up’ soil health

Healthy soils are essential to achieve ‘Zero Hunger’ – and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – peace and prosperity, the United Nations agriculture agency chief underscored in Brazil at the World Congress of Soil Science.

 

On Sunday, more than 2,000 scientists gathered in Rio de Janeiro under the theme “Soil Science: Beyond food and fuel,” for a week of exploring the increasingly complex, diverse role of soils; grappling with resilient agriculture practices to address environmental and climatic changes; and confronting threats to food security and sovereignty.

“Soil degradation affects food production, causing hunger and malnutrition, amplifying food-price volatility, forcing land abandonment and involuntary migration-leading millions into poverty,” said José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organizaation (FAO), in a video message noting that approximately one-third of the Earth’s soil is degraded

The FAO The Status of the World's Soil Resources report had identified 10 major threats to soil functions, including soil erosion, nutrient imbalance, acidification and contamination.

Mr. Graziano da Silva stressed the importance of sustainable soil management as an “essential part of the Zero Hunger equation” in a world where more than 815 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

Soils and climate change

“Although soils are hidden and frequently forgotten, we rely on them for our daily activities and for the future of the planet,” the FAO chief said, underscoring the important support role they play in mitigating or adapting to a changing climate.

Mr. Graziano da Silva specifically pointed to the potential of soils for carbon sequestration and storage – documented in FAO’s global soil organic carbon map.

“Maintaining and increasing soil carbon stock should become a priority,” asserted the UN agriculture chief.

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09 Aug

Nagasaki is ‘a global inspiration’ for peace, UN chief says marking 73rd anniversary of atomic bombing

The survivors of the atomic bombings, known in Japanese as the hibakusha, have become global “leaders for peace and disarmament”, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at Thursday’s Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony in Japan, commemorating the 73rd anniversary of that devastating day.

“Nagasaki is not just an international city with a long and fascinating history. It is a global inspiration for all those who seek to create a safer and more secure world,” Mr. Guterres said.

“I am humbled”, he told those assembled, “to be here with you to commemorate the women, men and children killed by the nuclear attack on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945,” he said conveying his “deepest respect and condolences to everyone here today, and to all the victims and survivors of the atomic bombs”.

Calling the city “a beacon of hope and strength, and a monument to the resilience of its people,” the UN chief underscored that while the atomic bomb killed and injured tens of thousands, it “could not crush your spirit”.

“From the other side of the apocalypse, the hibakusha have raised their voices on behalf of the entire human family. We must listen,” he asserted. “There can be no more Hiroshimas, no more Nagasakis, and so no more hibakusha.”

Mr. Guterres noted that 73 years on, fear of nuclear war still prevails, as States are spending vast sums to modernize their nuclear weapon arsenals.

“More than $1.7 trillion was spent in 2017 on arms and armies — the highest level since the end of the cold war and around 80 times the amount needed for global humanitarian aid,” the Secretary-General pointed out.

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THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REMARKS AT THE PEACE MEMORIAL CEREMONY 

Nagasaki, Japan, 9 August 2018 [AS DELIVERED]

Nagasaki no minasama, konnichi wa. [Hello, everyone.]

Minasama-ni ome-ni kakarete, kouei desu. [It is an honour to meet you.]

I am humbled, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to be here with you to commemorate the women, men and children killed by the nuclear attack on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

I convey my deepest respect and condolences to everyone here today, and to all the victims and survivors of the atomic bombs. It is a great personal pleasure to be here in Nagasaki.

My country, Portugal, has deep political, cultural and religious ties with this city, going back nearly five centuries.

But Nagasaki is not just an international city with a long and fascinating history. It is a global inspiration for all those who seek to create a safer and more secure world.

This city, your city, is a beacon of hope and strength, and a monument to the resilience of its people. The atomic bomb that killed and injured tens of thousands of people in the immediate aftermath of the blast, and in the years and decades that followed, could not crush your spirit.

The survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the Hibakusha, have become leaders for peace and disarmament here in Japan and around the world. They are defined not by the cities that were destroyed, but by the peace that the world needs and they seek to build.

From the other side of the apocalypse, the Hibakusha have raised their voices on behalf of the entire human family. We must listen.

There can be no more Hiroshimas, no more Nagasakis, and so no more Hibakusha.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, and dear children, Sadly, 73 years on, fears of nuclear war are still with us. Millions of people, including here in Japan, live in a shadow cast by the dread of unthinkable carnage. States in possession of nuclear weapons are spending vast sums to modernize their arsenals.

More than $1.7 trillion dollars was spent in 2017 on arms and armies – the highest level since the end of the Cold War and around 80 times the amount needed for global humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, disarmament processes have slowed and even come to a halt. Many states demonstrated their frustration by adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year. Let us also recognize the persistent peril of other deadly weapons.

Chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, and those being developed for cyberwarfare, pose a grave threat. And conflicts fought with conventional weapons are lasting longer and are becoming more deadly for civilians. There is an urgent need for disarmament of all kinds, but especially nuclear disarmament. This is the backdrop of the global disarmament initiative that I launched in May.

Disarmament is a driving force for maintaining international peace and security. It is a tool for ensuring national security. It helps to uphold the principles of humanity, promote sustainable development and protect civilians.

My agenda for disarmament is based on concrete measures that will lower the risk of nuclear annihilation, prevent conflict of all kinds, and reduce the suffering that the proliferation and use of arms causes to civilians.

The agenda makes clear that nuclear weapons undermine global, national and human security. The total elimination of nuclear weapons remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.

Here in Nagasaki, I call on all countries to commit to nuclear disarmament and to start making visible progress as a matter of urgency.

Nuclear-weapon States have a special responsibility to lead. Let Nagasaki and Hiroshima remind us to put peace first every day; to work on conflict prevention and resolution, reconciliation and dialogue, and to tackle the roots of conflict and violence.

Peace is not an abstract concept and it does not come about by chance.

Peace is tangible, and it can be built by hard work, solidarity, compassion and respect. Out of the horror of the atomic bomb, we can reach a deeper understanding of our irreducible bonds of responsibility to each other.

Let us all commit to making Nagasaki the last place on earth to suffer nuclear devastation.

I will work with you to that end.

Thank you.

Arigato gozaimasu

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03 Aug

Haiti: UN agricultural development fund supports hurricane-affected farmers with $11 million

With many rural areas in Haiti still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced on Thursday that it is investing $10.8 million help restore agricultural productivity in some the worst affected areas of the island nation.

The funds will be distributed through the Agricultural and Agroforestry Technological Innovation Programme, known by its French acronym PITAG, extending its reach to eight additional municipalities in Haiti’s South Department, and spreading sustainable agricultural practices and technologies.

"Haiti's rural population suffers from a vicious circle of low agricultural productivity, high environmental degradation and poor nutrition,” said Lars Anwandter, who leads IFAD's programme in Haiti.

Weak agricultural practices in Haiti have been compounded by a series of natural disasters. The most recent, Hurricane Matthew, which struck the south-western part of the tiny island nation on 4 October 2016, left 2.1 million people severely affected, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

As of February 2018, some 622,100 are reportedly still in need of food security assistance.

While the situation in Haiti has improved since the hurricane hit, deep-seated vulnerabilities persist. Over the past few decades, Haiti has seen its soils, water reservoirs and woods severely degraded. World Bank data shows that 59 per cent of the total population lives below the poverty line and the figure rises to 75 per cent in rural areas.

Today, Haiti produces only 45 per cent of the food that Haitians need.

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Feature photos

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  • parent an students who attended in 2nd Climate Change workshop, with UNIC Director, Costa Rican Abassador, ASPnet Coordinator and guest presenter
  • MUN 2019 youth leaders and Lara Quantrall Thomas from Rotary
  • Climate Change Academy students and organisers
  • UNFPA staff Ella presents a gift to a visitor at the UN booth on International Women's Day 2018