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

  • 18 August 2018 |

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’

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

  • 15 August 2018 |

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

  • 09 August 2018 |

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

  • 03 August 2018 |

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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Progress has been made, but 'not at a sufficient speed to realize the SDGs': UN ECOSOC President

  • 16 July 2018 |
One week after zeroing-in on how to build sustainable, resilient societies, key players from around the world debated on Monday at United Nations Headquarters in New York, how to keep up the momentum to turn the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into a reality.

 Speaking at the opening of the major ministerial meeting of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) as well as the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC President, Marie Chatardová, cited progress that, at first glimpse, looked positive.

She pointed to extreme poverty, saying that even at one-third of the 1990 value, it was still imprisoning 10.9 per cent of world’s population. Moreover, while 71 per cent have access to electricity - a 10 per cent jump - a billion people still remain in the dark.

“There is progress, but generally not at a sufficient speed to realize the SDGs by 2030,” Ms. Chatardová said.

Despite that backdrop, Ms. Chatardová argued that the 2030 Agenda was being translated into concrete policies and measures: “It seems new ways of making policies are taking root, with many examples of more inclusive and evidence-based approaches,” she said.

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UN forum spotlights cities, where struggle for sustainability ‘will be won or lost’

  • 12 July 2018 |
Although cities are often characterized by stark socioeconomic inequalities and poor environmental conditions, they also offer growth and development potential – making them central to the 2030 Agendafor Sustainable Development and a main focus of the third day of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Wednesday.
 

Through the inherently integrated nature of urban development, the 11th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) impacts a wide range of 2030 Agenda issues from sustainable consumption and production to affordable and clean energy along with health, sustainable transportation, clean water and sanitation. Basically, life on land.

According to the UN, cities are where the struggle for global sustainability “will either be won or lost.”

“Urbanization is one of the most important issues when it comes to sustainable development,” Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.  “We must make sure we do it right if we are to achieve the SDGs and move towards a world where we see an end to poverty, the protection of our planet and everyone enjoying peace and prosperity,” she added.

While SDG 11 pledges to make cities and human settlements safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable by 2030, local and national authorities are making uneven progress towards achieving that goal, according to the UN.  A new report by UN-Habitat and partners tracking SDG progress since their 2015 adoption coincides with the first review of SDG 11 at the HLPF.

At the current rate of expansion, over 700 cities will have populations of more than one million by 2030.

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Poorer countries set to be 'increasingly dependent' on food imports, says UN food agency report

  • 04 July 2018 |
Poorer countries with rising populations and scarce natural resources are likely to be “increasingly dependent” on imports to feed their people, according to an annual report jointly compiled by the United Nations food agency, launched on Tuesday.

Although overall exports from countries and regions with plenty of agricultural land are forecast to increase, the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2018-2027 stressed that because agricultural trade plays an important role in food security, there needs to be an enabling trade policy environment.

According to the Agricultural Outlook, undernourishment is concentrated in conflict-riddled and politically-unstable countries – with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) facing simultaneous challenges of food insecurity, rising malnutrition and managing limited natural resources.

The report forecasts strong growth in agriculture and fishing in developing regions whose populations are rising fast, including Sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia and MENA. These areas are facing the challenge of limited land and water resources as well as extreme-weather related issues of climate-change, resulting in high dependence on food imports.

By contrast, this growth is predicted to be significantly lower in developed countries, particularly across Western Europe.

"The Green Revolution of the last century largely increased the world's capacity to feed itself but now we need asustainability revolution," said José Graziano da Silva, Director General, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), presenting the report with Angel Gurría,  Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

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Nearly three million more displaced year-on-year, warns refugee agency chief, but solutions are within reach

  • 19 June 2018 |

The number of people forced to flee their homes last year rose by nearly three million to 68.5 million, the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday, warning that the world’s displacement hotspots “are becoming hotter”.

Citing ongoing, protracted violence around the globe and a lack of solutions to conflicts as reasons for the increase, Filippo Grandi said that “continuous pressure on civilians” caught up in fighting, had pushed them to leave their homes.

More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide originated from only a handful of countries, the High Commissioner told journalists in Geneva.

Top of the list is Syria, where seven years of brutal fighting have forced more than 6 million people to seek shelter abroad, followed by Afghanistan (2.6 million) and South Sudan (2.4 million).

Responding to a question about ongoing concerns over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring host countries, including Lebanon, the High Commissioner stressed that “it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’” they will return to Syria — once conditions allow.

New disputes in 2017 were also significant contributors to global displacement.

These include the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh last year, the UNHCR chief said, adding that it is still not safe for them to return, as well as 1.5 million Venezuelans who had sought shelter in neighbouring countries in Latin America.

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UN rights chief slams ‘unconscionable’ US border policy of separating migrant children from parents

  • 19 June 2018 |

As part of his final global update, the United Nations human rights chief on Monday voiced his deep concern over recently-adopted United States border protection policies that have seen hundreds of migrant children forcibly separated from their parents.

“In the past six weeks, nearly two thousand children have been forcibly separated from their parents,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in his opening remarks to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva – the last session before his four-year term expires in August. 

Mr. Zeid said that the American Association of Pediatrics in the US, had called it a cruel practice of “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm” with “lifelong consequences”.

“The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” he said, calling on the United States to immediately put a stop to the policy, and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In a statement issued on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres defended the rights of migrant and refugee children, but did not single out the US.

As a matter of principle, the Secretary-General believes that refugees and migrants should always be treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with existing international law,” said a statement issued by his Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

“Children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents. Family unity must be preserved,” said the statement.

The human rights situation in the US was one of the many topics to be discussed at the latest Human Rights Council session, which runs through 6 July.

Mr. Zeid also expressed his deep concern about a bill presented to Parliament in Hungary last month which, if adopted, would effectively criminalize human rights monitoring at borders and within border zones, as well as criminalizing the provision of information, legal aid and assistance to migrants.

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Countries back ‘ambitious and comprehensive’ reform of UN development system

  • 04 June 2018 |

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday gave the green light to a bold new plan to make sustainable development a reality, described by UN chief António Guterres as “the most ambitious and comprehensive transformation of the UN development system in decades.”

The UN Secretary-General said the reform package paved the way for a new era of “national ownership” of development, supported by the whole UN system, in a tailored fashion, allowing countries to pursue sustainable economic and social development.

“It sets the foundations to reposition sustainable development at the heart of the United Nations,” he said, after the 193-member intergovernmental body adopted the reform resolution by consensus.

“And it gives practical meaning to our collective promise to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for everyone, everywhere – with poverty eradication as its first goal, leaving no one behind,” he explained. “In the end, reform is about putting in place the mechanisms to make a real difference in the lives of people.”

The reform process will mean significant changes to the setup, leadership, accountability mechanisms and capacities of the whole UN development system; ensuring it meets national needs not only for implementing the SDGs, but also in meeting the climate change commitments made through the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Otherwise known as the Global Goals, the SDGs are a universal call to action, to end poverty and hunger; to protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

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SDGs17 Goals to Transform Our World

In 2015, countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, addressing the need to limit the rise of global temperatures.

 

 

 

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