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Shrinking biodiversity poses major risk to the future of global food and agriculture, landmark UN report shows

With the biodiversity of plants cultivated for food shrinking, the global population’s health, livelihoods and environment are under severe threat. This warning from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) comes as the UN agency releases a new report – the first of its kind – on the state of the world’s biodiversity in food and agriculture.

The study, released on 22 February 2019, delivers a stark message: that there is a real risk of the plant and animal species that provide our food, fuel and fibre (as well as the many animals, insects and micro-organisms that make up crucial parts of the food chain) disappearing for good.

The FAO received a large amount of information from 91 countries, provided specifically for the report, and the analysis of the latest global data to compile the report, which was prepared under the guidance of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the only permanent intergovernmental body that specifically addresses biological diversity for food and agriculture.

Plants and livestock under threat

While 6,000 plant species are cultivated for food, just nine of them account for two-thirds of all crop production. When it comes to livestock, around a quarter of breeds are at risk of extinction: just a handful provide the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs. And more than half of fish stocks are at risk of extinction.

Wild food species are also rapidly disappearing, with just under a quarter of known wild food species are decreasing. However, the true proportion is believed to be much higher as more than half of reported wild food species is unknown. In addition, species that contribute to the food ecosystem, such as pollinators, soil organisms and natural enemies of pests, are under sever threat. Examples include bees, butterflies, bats and birds.

FAO chief José Graziano da Silva, quoted in a statement published on Friday, described biodiversity as “critical” for safeguarding global food security, and called for food to be produced in a way that doesn’t harm the environment: “Less biodiversity means that plants and animals are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Compounded by our reliance on fewer and fewer species to feed ourselves, the increasing loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture puts food security and nutrition at risk.”

How countries are bringing back biodiversity

  • USA: Californian farmers allow rice fields to flood in winter instead of burning them after growing season. This provides 111,000 hectares of wetlands for bird species at risk of extinction, leading to increased numbers,
  • France: about 300,000 hectares of land are managed using agroecological principles.
  • Kiribati, integrated farming of milkfish,
  • sandfish, sea cucumber and seaweed ensures regular food and income despite changing weather conditions.

 Video: FAO- Without biodiversity we wouldn’t have the food we eat today! But it's disappearing before our eyes

full story on UN News ]

Venezuelan refugees now number 3.4 million; humanitarian implications massive, UN warns

As the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela continues to rise – hitting the 3.4 million mark this month – United Nations agencies sounded the alarm on Friday over the humanitarian needs these women, children and men face, and the strain this represents for communities hosting them.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the UN migration agency (IOM) issued statements based on data from national immigration authorities and other sources, showing that, on average, in 2018, 5,000 people left Venezuela every day in search of protection or a better life. The vast majority of them – 2.7 million – are hosted in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Currently, Colombia hosts the highest number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, with over 1.1 million. It is followed by Peru, with 506,000, Chile 288,000, Ecuador 221,000, Argentina 130,000, and Brazil 96,000. Mexico and other countries in Central America and the Caribbean are also hosting significant numbers of refugees and migrants from Venezuela.

“The countries of the region have shown tremendous solidarity with refugees and migrants from Venezuela, and implemented resourceful solutions to help them,”

“But these figures underscore the strain on host communities and the continued need for support from the international community, at a time when the world’s attention is on political developments inside Venezuela,” 

Eduardo Stein" title="joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants

 To date, Latin American countries have granted about 1.3 million residence permits and other forms of regular status to Venezuelans. Asylum systems have also been reinforced in order to process an unprecedented number of applications. Since 2014, over 390,000 asylum claims have been lodged by Venezuelans – close to 60 per cent (232,000) happened in 2018 alone.

[ full story on UN News ]

Young Champions of the Earth competition - now open

  • 15 February 2019 |
  • Published in Notices

UN Environment and Covestro are calling on 18-30-year-old innovators to submit their creative solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

Representing every global region, seven applicants with the most promising solutions will be recognized as Young Champions of the Earth – the world’s preeminent environmental honour for young people. Each winner will receive USD 15,000 in seed funding, customized training, participation in a high-level UN meeting and global publicity.

Global warming is forcing our societies, our economies and our world to change. Our ways of doing business; careers and job opportunities need to change too. 

With this change comes unprecedented opportunity to take action. For brave entrepreneurs and trend-setting role-models to carve their place in a new and greener economy; to pioneer revolutionary technology and radical innovations - to lead a new wave of green careers.

video: 2019 launch

 

[ learn more  and to apply ]

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‘New tech’ business model threatens decent work conditions, warns UN

13 February - Unemployment is down globally but workers’ conditions have not improved, the UN said on Wednesday, warning that some businesses driven by new technology “threaten to undermine” hard-won social gains of recent decades.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), most of the 3.3 billion people employed worldwide in 2018 did not enjoy adequate levels of economic security, and lacked sufficient material well-being as well as too few opportunities for advancement.

In total, 172 million people were jobless last year – one in 20 individuals of working age - ILO’s Trends in Global Employment 2019 report shows.

This unemployment rate, which has only just returned to levels last seen before the 2008-9 financial crisis, is not expected to change this year or next, assuming stable global economic conditions; although current uncertainty is “already having a negative effect on the labour market” in upper middle-income countries, it says.

Nonetheless, “being in employment does not always guarantee a decent living,” said Damian Grimshaw, ILO Director of Research. “A full 700 million people are living in extreme or moderate poverty despite having employment.”

Fewer working-poor…in middle-income countries

On a positive note, the ILO report highlights that working poverty has decreased in middle-income countries over the past three decades, although poorer nations are likely to see a rise in the number of working poor.

This is because the pace of poverty reduction is not expected to keep up with employment growth in these emerging economies, despite China’s major contribution in reducing the working poor levels as a result of strong economic growth since 1993.

The ILO data also shows that 360 million people in 2018 worked in a family business and 1.1 billion worked for themselves - often in subsistence activities because of an absence of job opportunities in the formal sector and/or the lack of a social protection system.

Workers ‘unable to find more work or too discouraged to look’

Linked to the challenge of bringing down unemployment, the UN report identifies a lack of opportunity for those who want to work.

This includes those who would like to make the jump from part-time to full-time work and the long-term jobless, who become so discouraged that they stop looking.

Taken together, poor workplace conditions, unemployment and gender inequality have contributed to slower-than-anticipated progress in achieving the key development goal of sustainable work for all, as set out in the 2030 Agenda.

Under 48 per cent of women work, versus 75 per cent of men

Among the most striking labour issues in the report is the continued lack of progress made in closing the gender gap at work, with less than 50 per cent of women in the labour force in 2018, compared with three quarters of men.

This problem is universal, ILO maintains, although the gender gap is widest in the Arab States, Northern Africa and Southern Asia.

Another challenge is the size of the informal sector - a “staggering” two billion workers, or 61 per cent of the world’s workforce. “Informal employment is the reality for the majority of workers worldwide,” ILO notes.

Also of concern is the fact that more than one in five people under 25 years old are not in employment, education or training; part of 15 per cent decline between 1993 and 2018 that is set to continue.

[ full story on UN News ]

UN announces roadmap to Climate Summit in 2019, a ‘critical year’ for climate action

2019 is a critical year, the “last chance” for the international community to take effective action on climate change, General Assembly President Maria Espinosa said on Thursday, during a briefing to announce the UN’s roadmap to the Climate Summit in September.

Ms. Espinosa was speaking alongside the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on the Climate Summit, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, at UN Headquarters in New York.

Ms. Espinosa said that, with the deadline for achieving the first targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development fast approaching, described by Secretary-General António Guterres as “the UN’s blueprint for peace, justice and prosperity on a healthy planet”, the world stood at a crossroads.

Two-thirds of these targets, she said, depend on climate and environment goals, and a five-fold increase in commitments from their current levels is needed in order to meet the targets set at the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance, due to come into force in 2020.

The General Assembly President walked the representatives of Member States through some of the key events of 2019, leading up to, and following, the Climate Summit. All of the events, she said, share two goals: a doubling of commitments and ambition at a national level, and ensuring the inclusion of diverse groups in the process of climate action. 

March will see the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development for All, which is intended to build on the success of COP24, the 2018 climate conference in Katowice, Poland, which led to the establishment of a “rulebook” for the reporting of emissions and the progress made in cutting them, every year from 2024.

The March meeting will welcome representatives of the private sector, civil society and young people, and look to harness the enthusiasm of the latter group, who, said Ms. Espinosa, will be most affected by a warming world.

On the 30th of June, in the build up to the Climate Summit, a “stocktaking” event will take place in Abu Dhabi, followed by a High Level Political Forum under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council in July, which will see a review of the progress made in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 13 (“urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”).

The Climate Summit will be followed by the first-ever High Level Political Forum on Climate Action, sponsored by the General Assembly on September 24. The year will be rounded off by the 2019 Climate Conference COP25, which will take place in Chile.

[ full story on UN News ]

 

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