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30 May

National Emergency Preparedness and Response in Focus for the Caribbean

  • 30 May 2019 |

An effective response plan to a radiological incident or emergency establishes control of the situation quickly and mitigates its harmful effects. Without the appropriate resources, training and exercises, these efforts may be compromised. The IAEA organized a regional training course from 13 to 17 May on the development of national radiological emergency plans in line with the IAEA safety standards, to support Caribbean countries in preparing for emergencies.

Organized under an ongoing, regional technical cooperation (TC) project[1], eighteen decision-makers and experts from nine countries, working in the fields of public safety, environmental health and disaster management, attended the course. The course began by exploring the key elements of an emergency response plan. Lecturers guided trainees on the development of emergency preparedness and response (EPR) arrangements in their respective countries. The students completed practical exercises on existing EPR digital platforms and studied historical examples of radiological emergency responses.  

“Belize has a legislative framework for emergency preparedness and has an established National Coordinating Mechanism, the National Emergency Management Organization. However, while Belize is very effective and experienced in addressing natural disaster emergencies, such as hurricanes, there is no emergency plan at the national level to address radiological emergencies,” said Jorge Franco, Environmental Officer at the Department of Environment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development. “It is envisioned that the Department of the Environment will spearhead the development of Belize’s National Radiological Emergency Plan in collaboration with key stakeholders.”

Saul Perez Pijuan, Section Head in the Technical Cooperation Division of Latin American and the Caribbean, noted the high level of commitment in the region to prepare for radiological emergencies. “In 2017 the IAEA developed and signed a Practical Arrangement with the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency,” Mr Pijuan said. “Subsequently, the IAEA sponsored two very successful activities: a Regional Training Course for First Responders to a Radiological Emergencies in Barbados and the first IAEA School of Radiation Emergency Management for the Caribbean, held in partnership with Texas A&M University, both held in 2018.” This latest course builds on these activities and is specifically aimed at strengthening capacities among English-speaking countries in the Caribbean.  

full story on IAEA website

28 May

Social, cultural diversity ‘an enormous richness, not a threat’ Guterres declares calling on investment for a harmonious future

  • 28 May 2019 |

Like a well-tuned orchestra, successful modern societies have a balance of diversity and culture, that is a source of “enormous richness, not a threat” said the UN chief on Monday, speaking alongside UN Messenger of Peace, acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma in the Austrian capital, Vienna. 

He was speaking against the backdrop of European Parliamentary elections in recent days, which showed a surge in support away from political parties in the centre ground, towards those espousing more nationalist and anti-immigrant policy platforms. 

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told those gathered for the Day of Action that it was particularly important “in the present debate in Europe” to adopt “a universal perspective for peace, for human dignity, for human rights” and the values enshrined in the UN Charter

“Societies today are multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural. And that is a richness, not a threat”. Like an orchestra featuring musicians from around the world, they need to practice to play harmoniously: “It is the with society” he added. 

“Diversity requires investment. Social, cultural, political, religious; sometimes investment in social cohesion – to make sure that in a diverse society, every community feels that their identity is being respected – like the identity of the violinist needs to be respected, together with each instrumentalist. 

Hailing music as a fundamental tool to promote UN values, he said the Day of Action was fundamental to the future of the Organization “especially when we are also discussing the dramatic situation of human mobility”. 

Migration too, needs investment, instead of letting people smugglers and traffickers profit from it, and letting fear of migrants fester, “we need to invest in international cooperation, we need to invest in adequate forms of migration”, he said. 

The Swedish teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg, meets the UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the United Nations in Vienna. (27 May 2019)

The Swedish teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg, meets the UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the United Nations in Vienna. (27 May 2019) . Photo credit : UN Photo/Nikoleta Hafar

Guterres lauds 40 years of UN in Vienna, Austrian World Summit 

Speaking after meeting Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen, Mr. Guterres praised the nation for its support for the UN Office at Vienna over the past 40 years, home to many key agencies and bodies. 

As one of the main headquarters, he said he was convinced the work done in Vienna would help preserve peace and security for the world, during trying times. 

He looked ahead to Tuesday’s Austrian World Summit on climate, saying that taking part was essential to him, having convened the Climate Action Summit this coming September. 

Fresh from a major fact-finding visit to the South Pacific, Mr. Guterres said that to rescue an island State such as Tuvalu – parts of which are already sinking below the waves due to rising sea levels – was “to rescue the planet”. 

“The climate crisis is something that will have an impact on the lives of everybody everywhere”, said the UN chief. “And to reverse the present trend in which climate change is running faster than we are is an absolute must. And for that, we need in 2020, countries to assume engagements much stronger than the ones that were assumed in Paris. 
He said nations had to commit “to a much more ambitious set of measures in mitigation in adaptation, mitigation and in finance. And I must tell you that I consider absurd that we are taxing salaries, we are taxing income, and not taxing carbon”. 

21 May

Declining bee populations pose threat to global food security and nutrition

  • 21 May 2019 |

20 May 2019, Rome - The global decline in bee populations poses a serious threat to a wide variety of plants critical to human well-being and livelihoods, and countries should do more to safeguard our key allies in the fight against hunger and malnutrition,  FAO stressed today as it marked UN World Bee Day.

Bees and other pollinators are declining in abundance in many parts of the world largely due to intensive farming practices, mono-cropping, excessive use of agricultural chemicals and higher temperatures associated with climate change, affecting not only crop yields but also nutrition. If this trend continues, nutritious crops such as fruits, nuts, and many vegetables will be substituted increasingly by staple crops like rice, corn, and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet.

"Bees are under great threat from the combined effects of climate change, intensive agriculture, pesticides use, biodiversity loss and pollution," said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva in a video message recorded for this year's World Bee Day. "The absence of bees and other pollinators would wipe out coffee, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa to name just a few of the crops that rely on pollination. Countries need to shift to more pollinator-friendly and sustainable food policies and systems."

In his message, Graziano da Silva urged every single person to make pollinator-friendly choices. "Even growing flowers at home to feed bees contributes to this effort," he added.

The World Bee Day ceremony at FAO headquarters in Rome saw the participation of Slovenia's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Aleksandra Pivec, President of the Slovenian Beekeepers' Association Boštjan Noč, and Vice President of Apimondia Peter Kozmus.

Slovenia, together with FAO, was instrumental in establishing the international day through a UN General Assembly resolution in 2017, with support from Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations.     

Small creatures, huge benefits  

Bees are among the hardest working creatures on the planet providing the important ecosystem service of ensuring pollination and thus reproduction of many cultivated and wild plants, which is crucial for food production, human livelihoods and biodiversity.

Bees and other pollinators such as birds and bats, affect 35 percent of the world's crop production, increasing outputs of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, plus many plant-derived medicines.

About two-thirds of the crop plants that feed the world rely on pollination by insects or other animals to produce healthy fruits and seeds for human consumption. Pollination benefits human nutrition - enabling not only the production of an abundance of fruits, nuts and seeds, but also more variety and better quality.

FAO carries out various activities to encourage pollinator-friendly practices in agricultural management, including the Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture and the International Pollinators Initiative.

 read the full story at FAO

20 May

Caribbean Governments Focus on Repositioning Countries Towards Achieving Sustainable Development

  • 20 May 2019 |

17 May 2019- Ministers and senior government officials from across the Caribbean have called for repositioning vulnerable, indebted Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on the path to sustainable development. This, during the 19th meeting of the Monitoring Committee of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC), held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

“our focus continues to be on building the necessary skills and institutional capacity, so that those of you who have responsibility for implementing sustainable development at home are better positioned to meeting the challenges of integrated sectoral planning and policy coherence which are essential factors to the successful implementation of Agenda 2030”.

Raúl García-Buchaca
Deputy Executive Secretary for Management and Programme Analysis of the ECLAC

Welcoming the Member Countries and Associate Members of ECLAC, the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Dennis Moses, noted that “Trinidad and Tobago had been the beneficiary of a range of technical cooperation activities over the current biennium. Indeed, we have found a reliable and trusted partner in the UN ECLAC Subregional Headquarters for the Caribbean. We have also come to rely on ECLAC as a subregional think-tank, which facilitates increased contact and cooperation among us, the membership”.

The current Chair of the CDCC, Minister with Responsibility for External Affairs of Saint Lucia, Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, echoed these words, and further underscored that “important take-aways from the sessions this week include the importance of institutional, operational and policy coherence for more effective integrated sustainable development planning; the value of a strong network of national focal points in this regard; the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution; we find the best fit for our own national circumstances, and we will have to find innovative ways to strengthen our capacity for data capture and analysis to meet the monitoring and reporting obligations of the 2030 Agenda”.

To reposition vulnerable, indebted Caribbean SIDS on the path to sustainable development, senior government representatives, economists, statisticians, non-governmental organization officials and civil society leaders discussed the importance of building stronger synergies between the agendas of SIDS and SDG implementation.

Highlighting the efforts undertaken by ECLAC’s subregional headquarters for the Caribbean in this regard over the past twelve months, Director of ECLAC Caribbean, Diane Quarless, underscored that “the Port of Spain team remains enthusiastic and committed to providing targeted and substantive support to meet the specific needs of our constituents in the Caribbean. We have completed another year of initiatives in research, policy analysis, provision of technical assistance and building institutional capacity to advance the sustainable development process in the sub-region”.

full story on ECLAC website

13 May

UN showcases SDGs, talks environment issues at Tobago inaugural partnership event

  • 13 May 2019 |

The United Nations System in Trinidad and Tobago (UNTT) hosted an SDG exhibit at the Inaugural Tobago Environmental Partnership Conference at the Mount Irvine Bay Resort on 13 and 14 May. Some of the notable speakers at the opening ceremony included, Her Excellency Paula Mae Weekes, The President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Kelvin Charles, Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary. Participants were urged to “fullticipate” in this new platform, which will enable stakeholders in Tobago to work together on critical environmental issues facing the island.

 The Tobago Environmental Partnership is a collaboration between the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and environmental civil society in Tobago, represented by the Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville and Environment Tobago. The organisers planned the event with the hopes of generating discussions and formulating ideas about a sustainable future for the island, its ecology and inhabitants. A number of stakeholders were invited to showcase their work with the Tobago environment, including United Nations. Willard Philips of UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ( ECLAC) presented on the benefits and future of green and blue economies. 

Some of the other areas of dicussion inlcuded costal management, partnerships bewteen civil society organisations and government, sustainable tourism and climate change. These issues are also part of the Sustainable Development Goals strategy or Agenda 2030, so it was a natural expectation to see United Nations offices exhibiting their work and campaigns that will helop small developing island states like Trinidad and Tobago.

photo album:

13 May

4 shifts the UN chief encourages Governments to make for Climate Action

  • 13 May 2019 |

Speaking to young Māoris and people of the Pacific islands in New Zealand on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said “nature does not negotiate” and emphasized four key measures that Governments should prioritize in order to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Acknowledging the role that youth needs to play in advancing climate action worldwide, he reminded the room of our common “central objective: not to have more than 1.5 degrees of increasing temperature at the end of the century. The international community, and especially the scientific community, has been very clear that to reach this goal we absolutely need to have carbon neutrality by 2050.”

For this, he called on nations worldwide to make four pivotal shifts:

1. Tax pollution, not people

The UN chief called for an emphasis to be placed on taxes on carbon emissions, known as “carbon pricing,” instead of being placed on salaries.

2. Stop subsidizing fossil fuels

He stressed that taxpayer money should not be used to increase the frequency of hurricanes, the spread of drought and heatwaves, the melting of glaciers and the bleaching of corals.

3. Stop building new coal plants by 2020

Coal-based power is key according to UN-environment’s 2018 Emissions Gap Report: all plants currently in operation are committing the world to around 190 giga tonnes of CO2, and if all coal power plants currently under construction go into operation and run until the end of their technical lifetime, emissions will increase by another 150 giga tonnes, jeopardizing our ability to limit global warming by 2°C as agreed upon in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

4. Focus on a green economy not a grey economy

“It is very important that around the world young people, civil society and those that in the business community have understood that the green economy is the economy of the future and the grey economy has no future,” said Mr. Guterres. “It’s very important that you convince governments that they must act because there’s still a lot of resistance,” he told the youth gathered in the room.

“Governments are still afraid to move forward,” he deplored explaining that “they feel the costs of climate action forgetting that the costs of inaction are much bigger than any costs of climate action”.

“Nature does not negotiate,” he added. “It’s very good to see youth in the frontline.”

On 23 September, the UN chief is convening a Climate Change Summit to galvanize increased ambition for decisive climate action. 


10 May

The Future of the Caribbean is Single-use Plastic-Free

  • 10 May 2019 |

Statement on the Ban of Single-Use Plastics, Jamaica

Vincent Sweeney, Head of the Caribbean Sub-Regional Office, UN Environment

The future of the Caribbean is to be free of single-use plastics and plastic pollution. A Caribbean that is sustainable, resilient and growing economically must take care of the people and the industries upon which it depends. One of the ways we can effectively do this is to reduce our dependency on single-use plastics.

UN Environment’s Waste Management Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean, released in October 2018 finds that of the 145 tonnes of garbage produced each day, plastic waste contributes to 17 tonnes. This number is steadily increasing every day. Another recent report published by UN Environment, entitled “Legal Limits on Single-Use Plastics and Microplastics: A Global Review of National Laws and Regulations” finds that at least one hundred and twenty-seven (127) out of 192 countries reviewed (about 66%) have adopted some form of legislation to regulate plastic bags. Plastic bags regulations globally include restrictions on the manufacture, distribution, use, and trade of plastic bags, as well as taxation and levies.

Waste management, and in particular, the disposal of plastics has been a great concern for Caribbean ministers; this was reinforced in our discussions with them as recently as last October at the Second High-Level Forum for Caribbean Ministers with Responsibility for Waste.

At that time, the Caribbean Ministers endorsed a Caribbean Waste Management Action plan which includes among others – the priority of reducing plastic waste.

It is for that reason, that the UN Environment Caribbean Sub-Regional Office applauds Jamaica for its bold move to ban single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam.

Jamaica joins approximately seven Caribbean countries who have implemented measures to reduce plastic pollution. This is a forward step in ensuring a future in which we have achieved the Sustainable Development Goals related to Climate Action and preserving land on life and in the water.

Beyond achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, we must also seek to preserve the complex link between the environment, and the social and economic development of the country. This will improve the present economic growth status and ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from the rich resources of the island.

 read the full story 

03 May

Tobago Roadshow

  • 03 May 2019 |

The Trinidad and Tobago Country Team hosted a roadshow in the island of Tobago. The purpose of the set of activites was to apmlify the message of the Sustainable Development Goals to the people who live there and to build greater interest and support for taction by state and communities toward acheiving the seventeen strategic targets also known as the agenda 2030.

Small island states like those in the Caribbean haved particular vulnerabilities and needs when it comes to a sustainable future. Climate resilience, rising-sea levels, clean and sustainble sources of energy are just some of those immediate issues that UN in the Caribbean is workig with Member States to find solutions for.  

Some of the activites include exhibits that demonstrate the work of UN in Trinidad and Tobago, story telling sessions and  opporutnites for one on one conversations with staff of the UN Family.

Photo album from the roadshow

03 May

A free press is ‘cornerstone’ for accountability and ‘speaking truth to power’: Guterres

  • 03 May 2019 |

At a time when disinformation and mistrust of the news media is growing, a free press is “essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights”, said the UN Secretary-General, in his message for World Press Freedom Day, marked on Friday.

 No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information, said António Guterres, describing unfettered journalism as “the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.”

This years commemorations which began on Thursday across the world, are focussing on the powerful role that good reporting plays in championing democracy and free elections, when disinformation is becoming a larger problem in even the world’s oldest and most sophisticated democratic systems.   

“Facts, not falsehoods, should guide people as they choose their representatives”, said the UN chief, noting that “while technology has transformed the ways in which we receive and share information, sometimes it is used to mislead public opinion or to fuel violence and hatred.”

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), almost 100 journalists were killed going about their work in 2018, with hundreds imprisoned. A total of 1,307 journalists were killed between 1994, and last year.

Mr. Guterres said he was “deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity…When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.”

Facts must win out: UNESCO chief Azoulay

The head of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, said in her message for the day that it was essential to “guarantee freedom of opinion through the free exchange of ideas and information, based on factual truths.”

She said societies which value a free press, needed to “constantly vigilant. We must act together to protect the freedom of expression and safety of journalists”.

A free media is a “prerequisite” for the proper functioning of democracies, she added: “Independent journalism provides an opportunity to present facts to citizens and to form an opinion. Press freedom guarantees transparent societies where everyone can access information”.

Among the commemorative events that got underway on Thursday, were a global conference on “Media for Democracy, Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, jointly organized by the Government and the African Union Commission, together with UNESCO; and a conference in the Lebanese capital Beirut, on the same theme, organized by the local UNESCO office in partnership with the Ministry of Information.

A high-level event takes place at UN Headquarters in New York on Friday where the Secretary-General and President of the UN General Assembly are due to speak, followed by an expert roundtable.

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