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31 Jan

Suriname’s climate promise, for a sustainable future

  • 31 January 2020 |

Suriname has become the second nation globally to outline updated plans to fight climate change in the hope of ensuring that any future increase in the temperature of the planet does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The South American country describes its new national plan as a “cost-effective pathway to decarbonization of substantiable economic development.”

But what does this all mean in terms of global efforts to reverse the warming of the planet? Read on for an explanation.

What are these plans and why are we hearing about them now?

Globally, 196 countries, plus the European Union, originally signed up to the Paris Agreement in 2015 which commits the international community to restrict global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and aim, if possible, for 1.5C.

It’s hoped that these ambitious targets will be met collectively by countries by setting distinct, individual or national goals known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs. These NDCs are a key part of the Paris Agreement and are reviewed and updated every five years by the countries themselves. It’s now 2020, so all countries are expected to declare their amended NDCs. The Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean was the first nation to do so, Suriname is the second.

Is Suriname a big emitter of the greenhouse gasses which lead to climate change?

No, on the contrary Suriname stated as far back as 2014 that it had a carbon negative economy; that means that any global warming gasses it does produce, are offset by natural resources which absorb those gasses.

The South American country is 93 per cent covered by forest, which acts as a massive carbon sink; in other words, all those trees capture, or suck in, harmful carbon dioxide gas removing it from the atmosphere. Less carbon dioxide means less warming.

So why is Suriname’s update of its NDCs significant?

It’s significant on a number of levels, firstly as a statement that this small country is committed to fighting climate change but also as a reminder to other countries that they too must update their plans if the international community is going to reach the 2 degree Celsius target it agreed on in Paris five years ago.

And many of the smaller developing countries and especially island states, or those with low-lying coastal areas, are keen to push forward the new commitments because they are particularly susceptible to climate change, even though they have contributed least to the problem.

Suriname has a small population of just over half a million, and thus most infrastructure and economic activity is concentrated along its easily accessible Atlantic coast.

This coastal zone has already experienced extensive erosion and has suffered damage from heavy rainfall, flooding, higher temperatures during dry seasons and high winds; the types of natural phenomena (and in some cases disasters) which are expected to worsen with climate change.

Do the climate action plans of the world’s poorest countries account for the need for development?

Absolutely, in fact all countries, rich and poor, are aiming to develop in a sustainable way by growing their economies and the wealth and social well-being of their citizens while finding ways to reverse climate change and protect the environment. So, when Suriname talks of a “cost-effective pathway to decarbonization of substantiable economic development”, it commits to maintaining the “integrity of natural forest acting as a carbon sink” while diversifying its economy with the aim of creating the conditions for sustainable development.

The significant difference between developing and developed countries is that the former, generally don’t have enough money to turn their plans into reality and that’s why richer countries and the private sector are being asked to step in and partner with the poorer countries. Suriname says its “NDC enhancement process” will cost US$696 million.

So, what are Suriname’s plans?

Suriname’s updated NDCs focus on four key areas; forests, electricity, agriculture and transport. It is committed to maintaining 93 per cent forest cover but says “significant international support is needed for the conservation of this valuable resource in perpetuity.”

Sustainable and “clean” electricity is also a priority and in its updated NDCs, Suriname has pledged to “maintain the share of electricity from renewable sources above 35% by 2030.”

Agriculture is the cause of 40 per cent of the country’s total emissions but also provides a valuable source of income. At the same time, the sector is strongly impacted by climate change, so Suriname is focusing on the development of climate-smart farming. That includes water resources management, the promotion of sustainable land management; and adopting innovative technologies, for example converting biomass into energy.

Transport is another large and growing source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and plans have been announced to improve public transportation and introduce controls on vehicle emissions.

What happens next?

It’s hoped and expected that more countries will update their NDCs during 2020 and present them at the next major international climate conference (known as COP26) to be held in Glasgow in the UK in November.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said that “in Glasgow, governments must deliver the transformational change our world needs and that people demand, with much stronger ambition – ambition on mitigation, ambition on adaptation, and ambition on finance.”

Ultimately, the meeting should give a clear indication of whether the global community is on track to meet the 2 degrees Celsius target.

Source: UN News

30 Jan

WHO declares Public Health Emergency on novel coronavirus

  • 30 January 2020 |

Washington, Jan. 30, 2020 (PAHO)—The Director-General of the World Health organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, today declared that the outbreak of 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). In China, more than 7700 cases have been confirmed, and 170 people have died. There are 82 additional cases confirmed in 18 countries.

Dr. Tedros, acting on the advice of an Emergency Committee of experts chaired by Professor Didier Houssin, called on the global community “to provide support to low- and middle-income countries to enable their response to this event, as well as to facilitate access to diagnostics, potential vaccines & therapeutics."

He noted, “It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO.”

“Countries should place particular emphasis on reducing human infection, prevention of secondary transmission and international spread, and contributing to the international response though multi-sectoral communication and collaboration and active participation in increasing knowledge on the virus and the disease, as well as advancing research,” he said.

The committee heard from Representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China on the current situation and the public health measures being taken. There are now 7711 confirmed and 12167 suspected cases throughout the country. Of the confirmed cases, 1370 are severe and 170 people have died. 124 people have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

The WHO Secretariat provided an overview of the situation in other countries. There are now 82 cases in 18 countries. Of these, only 7 had no history of travel in China. There has been human-to-human transmission in 3 countries outside China. One of these cases is severe and there have been no deaths.

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health organisation, said “The declaration means that the alert level is still very high. The organisation, in its risk assessment, had already indicated that there was a very high risk to China, to countries bordering China, and a high risk to all countries in the world. What is changing now is that this decree can mobilize more international resources to act in China with the Chinese government to interrupt the transmission where it is occurring.”

What is the Corona virus?

30 Jan

Youth leaders share positive visions of the future, as Guterres launches UN75 in New York

  • 30 January 2020 |
Six youth leaders from around the world were at UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday to share their ambitious visions for a future where international cooperation is prioritized and everyone’s voice is heard. 

They took part in a discussion with Secretary-General António Guterres marking the official launch of dialogues being held worldwide this year to mark the UN’s 75th anniversary. 

As Mr. Guterres explained, this initial high-profile UN75 dialogue will set the tone for these global conversations on how the Organization can work harder to create a better future for all. 

“We want to change, we want to be better, we want to respond to your aspirations, to your concerns,” he said. 

“We want you to have the opportunity to play the role that youth must play in the modern world in which we live, and especially in the world we are trying to build.”   

Here to listen 

Diverging from most UN meetings, where speeches from the dais are the norm, the Secretary-General instead sat in a semi-circle with the participants, stressing that he was there to listen, not to take questions. 

For recent graduate Jahan Rifai, from Jordan, a better world means the more than 71 million people who have been uprooted by war or persecution, being able to return home. 

“I would also like to see the resolution of the conflicts of today as well as of yesterday that have continued on with no seeming end in sight” she added.   

“This may be a little too optimistic, or a little too cliché, but I would like to see a world with no fear, a world with no hatred, and a world where people can hope—but hope, with reason.”    

Earlier, Mr. Guterres had asked the panellists, as well as scores of young people in the room, if they felt the world will be better, worse or the same in 25 years’ time, when the UN turns 100.  

“I think there is a wave of optimism,” he stated, based on the show of hands. 

Natalia Herbst from Argentina was in the glass-half-full camp, but with reservations.  As an activist for social inclusion, she said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) already provide a roadmap for a more just future, but only if everyone gets on board. 

“The ongoing resistance from many power holders to adhere to a very basic fact-based consensus which is relevant to climate change and to reproductive rights is becoming very challenging to fulfil the SDG agenda by 2030, which would be a very promising step towards a better 2045”, she stated. 

The tech challenge 

Gender equality is a UN priority, and the Secretary-General found an ally in Isaiah Owolabi, co-founder of the HACEY Health Initiative which works to improve the lives of women and girls in Nigeria. 

He has found that technology is an obstacle to achieving gender equality but also to eradicating poverty.   

“And if we also look at climate change, it’s something that the world should be very, very concerned about because it has the capacity to negatively impact generations across different sectors, and it has also the capacity to cause chaos beyond what we can imagine”, he added. 

“So even when we are making the biggest of plans and we are deploying the biggest of technology tools, we should be very wary of the threats posed by climate change.”    

 Eleonore Pauwels from Belgium researches the security and governance implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies.  She underscored the “unique role” of the UN to act as a bridge between the political and technical sectors, promoting the use of powerful new technologies for the common good.  

She explained that while AI and cybersecurity can help prevent hate speech, reduce human trafficking, ward against election fraud, and deter cybercrime, they are not entirely risk-free. 

“AI plus DNA technologies mean that we can develop precision medicine; we can also develop more powerful biotech weapons”, she said.  “So, how do we train the next generation to anticipate, think and translate norms into accountability mechanisms that will protect us? I think that is really the next challenge.”    

UN staff member Ahmit Joshi, from Nepal, also hoped for more action to curb the negative use of AI, and to protect people’s right to privacy. 

“Data can be collected by both corporations as well as governments,” said Mr. Joshi, who is a member of the Young UN network.  

“Corporations try to collect data in the name of making profits without getting explicit consent from you.  At the same time, Governments start collecting and monitoring and tracking you 24/7 to suppress your voice.  So where are we now heading to? There is no freedom of speech.” 

UN75: More than a birthday celebration 

The Secretary-General will present the opinions, ideas and solutions generated through the various UN75 dialogues globally, and an online survey initiative, at a high-level summit for world leaders in September.  

Cristina Petcu, a global governance researcher from Romania, hoped this anniversary year will be “more than just a birthday celebration”.   

She told Mr. Guterres: “I would also encourage you to treat the UN’s 75th anniversary as a landing pad for a few timely innovative reforms for global governance, but more as a launch pad for more ambitious reforms that might take more time to mature and to garner political support.”  


Source: UN News

24 Jan

PAHO Director urges readiness to detect cases of new coronavirus in the Americas

  • 24 January 2020 |

Washington, DC, 24 January 2020 (PAHO)- Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne today urged countries in the Americas to be prepared to detect early, isolate and care for patients infected with the new coronavirus, in case of receiving travelers from countries where there is ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus cases.

"Health services need to be prepared because they will most likely be the entry point where cases of the new coronavirus will be detected, as has already happened with previous epidemics," Etienne said. "PAHO stands ready to support them because detecting cases early can prevent the spread of the disease." She spoke at a PAHO briefing for ambassadors of the Americas to the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington.

Through January 24, some 846 confirmed cases of infection by Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov) have been reported globally, including 830 cases from China. Of these, 177 cases were severe and 25 died. Of the confirmed cases, 80% were people over the age of 40 and 64% were men.

Other cases have been reported in Thailand (4), Japan (2); Hong Kong (2), the Republic of Korea (2), Macau (2) and Singapore (1). In the Americas, the United States has confirmed 2 cases of travelers from China, and other countries ruled out or is investigating suspicious cases.

In Wuhan, China, health workers were one of the affected groups, which has put health services under pressure. For this reason, Etienne stressed the importance of the awareness and training of health personnel in the region and promoting the use of infection prevention equipment to protect them from disease.

The Director of PAHO said the organization has activated its incident management system, and that since the beginning of January it has shared information with ministries of health through the International Health Regulations channel and through its country representatives. She said PAHO will continue to update information on what countries can do to effectively respond to this new virus, about which there is still uncertainty.

On 22 and 23 January 2020, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus convened the Emergency Committee to advise him on whether the outbreak in China constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). The Director of WHO decided not to declare a public health emergency at this time. However, he said it is an emergency in China, and that the outbreak poses a high risk at the regional and global levels.

"The fact that WHO has not declared an emergency does not mean that we are not facing a major public health challenge," said PAHO Assistant Director Dr. Jarbas Barbosa. "With globalization and international travel, it's not unexpected that countries in the region can receive people with the virus," he said. "Having an imported case is not the same as having local or sustained transmission in a country," he added.

The Director of PAHO's Health Emergencies Department, Dr. Ciro Ugarte, stressed that epidemiological surveillance for early detection of cases, as well as the management of patients with proper infection prevention and control measures to limit person-to-person transmission, can reduce secondary cases and prevent a spread of the disease.

"The nature of 2019-nCoV is very similar to influenza, and the symptoms are similar to those of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome): fever, cough, shortness of breath and pneumonia," Ugarte said. He added that there is no specific treatment and no vaccine for the new coronavirus.

Origninal story : PAHO websiste

Learn more about the Corona virus

22 Jan

Grenada to be reviewed by Human Rights Council's UPR

  • 22 January 2020 |

Geneva,  22 January – Grenada’s human rights record will be examined by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group for the third time on Monday, 27 January 2020 from 9.00 – 12.30 (04.00 - 07.30 Grenada time) in Room 20, Palais des Nations, Geneva. It will be webcast live. Grenada is one of the  14 States to be reviewed by the UPR Working Group during its upcoming session taking place from 20 to 31 January. The country's first and second UPR reviews took place in May 2010 and January 2015, respectively.
The documents on which the reviews are based are:

  1. National report - information provided by the State under review;
  2. Information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and group, known as the Special Procedures, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities;
  3. Information provided by other stakeholders including national human rights institutions, regional organisations and civil society group

Documentation for these and other information can be found  at UPR's countries page.

The UPR is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. Since its first meeting was held in April 2008, all 193 UN member States have been reviewed twice within the first and second UPR cycles. During the third UPR cycle, States are again expected to spell out steps they have taken to implement recommendations posed during their previous reviews which they committed to follow-up on, as well as to highlight recent human rights developments in the country.

The delegation of Grenada will be headed by Mr. Charles Peter David, Minister for Foreign Affairs. The three country representatives serving as rapporteurs (“troika”) for the review of Grenada are: Brazil, India and the Netherlands.

Guyana will also be reveiwed on 29 January from 09.00 - 12.30 ( 04.00 - 07.30 Guyana time). The three country representatives serving as rapporteurs (“troika”)  are: Australia, Chile and Pakistan.

The webcast of the session will be at http://webtv.un.org

16 Jan

UN finds that prospects for economic growth in 2020 hinge on reducing trade disputes and uncertainty

  • 16 January 2020 |

Press Release - New York, 16 January. Impacted by prolonged trade disputes, the global economy suffered its lowest growth in a decade, slipping to 2.3 per cent in 2019. The world, however, could see a slight uptick in economic activity in 2020 if risks are kept at bay, according to the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2020, which was launched today.

The Report states that growth of 2.5 per cent in 2020 is possible, but a flareup of trade tensions, financial turmoil, or an escalation of geopolitical tensions could derail a recovery. In a downside scenario, global growth would slow to just 1.8 per cent this year. A prolonged weakness in global economic activity may cause significant setbacks for sustainable development, including the goals to eradicate poverty and create decent jobs for all. At the same time, pervasive inequalities and the deepening climate crisis are fueling growing discontent in many parts of the world.

"UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned:

“These risks could inflict severe and long-lasting damage on development prospects. They also threaten to encourage a further rise in inward-looking policies, at a point when global cooperation is paramount.”

In the United States, recent interest rate cuts by the US Federal Reserve may lend some support to economic activity. However, given persistent policy uncertainty, weak business confidence and waning fiscal stimulus, GDP growth in the United States is forecast to slow from 2.2 per cent in 2019 to 1.7 per cent in 2020. In the European Union, manufacturing will continue to be held back by global uncertainty, but this will be partially offset by steady growth in private consumption, allowing a modest rise in GDP growth from 1.4 per cent in 2019 to 1.6 per cent in 2020.

Some moderate growth and momentum projected

Despite significant headwinds, East Asia remains the world’s fastest growing region and the largest contributor to global growth, according to the Report. In China, GDP growth is projected to moderate gradually from 6.1 per cent in 2019 to 6.0 per cent in 2020 and 5.9 per cent in 2021, supported by more accommodative monetary and fiscal policies. Growth in other large emerging countries, including Brazil, India, Mexico, the Russian Federation and Turkey, is expected to gain some momentum in 2020.

Progress towards higher living standards has stalled for many Africa has experienced a decade of near stagnation in per capita GDP and many countries around the world are still ailing from the effects of the commodity price downturn of 2014-16, which resulted in persistent output losses and setbacks in poverty reduction. In one-third of commodity-dependent developing countries (home to 870 million people), average real incomes are lower today than they were in 2014.
This includes several large countries such as Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Credit: UN DESA

At the same time, the number of people living in extreme poverty has risen in several sub-Saharan African countries and in parts of Latin America and Western Asia. Sustained progress towards poverty reduction will require both a significant boost to productivity growth and firm commitments to tackle high levels of inequality.

UN estimates indicate that to eradicate poverty in much of Africa, annual per capita growth of over 8 per cent would be needed, compared to the just 0.5 per cent average rate over the past decade. Headline GDP growth misses crucial aspects of sustainability and well-being Beyond GDP growth, other measures of well-being paint an even bleaker picture in several parts of the world.

Climate change: an investment priority

The climate crisis, persistently high inequalities, and rising levels of food insecurity and undernourishment continue to affect the quality of life in many societies. “Policymakers should move beyond a narrow focus on merely promoting GDP growth, and instead aim to enhance well-being in all parts of society.

This requires prioritizing investment in sustainable development projects to promote education, renewable energy, and resilient infrastructure,” emphasized Elliott Harris, UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development.

Economic growth while limiting carbon emissions is possible by changing the energy mix To combat climate change, the world’s growing energy needs must be met with renewable or low-carbon energy sources. This will require massive adjustments in the energy sector, which currently accounts for about three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. If per capita emissions in developing countries were to rise towards those in developed economies, global carbon emissions would increase by more than 250 per cent – compared to the global goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

The urgency of energy transition continues to be underestimated, resulting in short-sighted decisions such as expanding investment in oil and gas exploration and coal-fired power generation. This not only leaves many investors and Governments exposed to sudden losses, but also poses substantial setbacks to environmental targets. Any delay in decisive action towards energy transition could double the eventual costs. The transition to a cleaner energy mix will bring not only environmental and health benefits, but economic opportunities for many countries.

A more balanced policy mix is needed Overreliance on monetary policy is not just insufficient to revive growth, it also entails significant costs, including the exacerbation of financial stability risks. A more balanced policy mix is needed, one that stimulates economic growth while moving towards greater social inclusion, gender equality, and environmentally sustainable production.

“Amid growing discontent over a lack of inclusive growth, calls for change are widespread across the globe. Much greater attention needs to be paid to the distributional and environmental implications of policy measures,” concluded Mr. Harris.

 Info-graphic summary of Latin America and the Caribbean 

15 Jan

UN Women and partners announce themes today ahead of Generation Equality forum

  • 15 January 2020 |

15 January 2020,  UN Women, together with feminists across the world, and the Governments of Mexico and France, announced the Action Coalition themes for the Generation Equality Forum to be held in Mexico City and Paris this year.

The Action Coalitions are global, innovative partnerships with governments, civil society, international organizations, and the private sector, to catalyze collective action, drive increased public and private investment, and deliver game-changing results for women and girls everywhere.

The Generation Equality Forum, a civil society-led global gathering convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the Governments of Mexico and France, taking place in Mexico City from 7 to 8 May, and in Paris from 7 to 10 July 2020, will launch the following six catalytic Action Coalitions:

  1. Gender-Based Violence
  2. Economic justice and rights
  3. Bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)
  4. Feminist action for climate justice
  5. Technology and innovation for gender equality
  6. Feminist movements and leadership

The six themes were based on data-driven analysis and selected in consultation with international feminist groups, grassroots activist organizations, governments and other partners.

The Generation Equality Forum is taking place in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most comprehensive blueprint for achieving gender equality and women’s rights, adopted by 189 countries in 1995. Despite some progress, real change has been slow, and no country has achieved gender equality.As the world faces unprecedented challenges, including climate crisis, rising inequality and threat to multilateralism, progress on girls’ and women’s rights is at risk.

The Action Coalitions, backed with financing and impactful partnerships, aim to make accelerated and irreversible progress to advance gender equality.

Each Action Coalition will be led by a group of partners, including: Member States, women’s movements and civil society organizations and the private sector, as well as UN agencies, other international organizations and youth leaders. 

Adolescent girls and young women are at the heart of Generation Equality, lifting up those who have been silenced, stigmatized and shamed far too long, and ensuring that no one is left behind. One of the concrete actions in each Action Coalition theme will specifically target the unique needs of adolescent girls and young women. 

Each Coalition will develop and implement targeted solutions that advance the rights of adolescent girls and young women during the UN Decade of Action (2020 – 2030) to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals.

For more information on Generation Equality Forum and the Action Coalitions, click here. Get involved and join the global campaign, #GenerationEquality to make gender equality a reality within our lifetimes.

Original story on UN Women

12 Jan

UN committed to helping Haiti build better future, says Guterres, marking 10-year anniversary of devastating earthquake

  • 12 January 2020 |

On 12 January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude quake struck Haiti, devastating its capital, Port-au-Prince. About 220,000 people were reportedly killed, among them, 102 UN staff who lost their lives when the building housing the stabilization mission there, known as MINUSTAH, collapsed. Some 300,000 people were injured and 1.5 million become homeless during the 35-second-long tremor.

Marking the 10-year anniversary of the tragedy, Secretary General António Guterres renewed the commitment of the United Nations to helping the country and its people build a better future. 

“On this day, we remember the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who lost their lives and the millions gravely affected by the devastating earthquake that struck their country ten years ago,” Mr. Guterres said in a video statement, also honouring the memory of the UN colleagues lost on that same day. 

“My heart goes out to all those who lost family, friends and loved ones., the Secretary-General Said, adding: “I will never forget the shock and sadness across the United Nations as we became aware of the scale of the tragedy.”   

The UN chief said that over the past decade, Haiti has drawn on the resilience of its people and the support of its many friends to overcome this disaster. 

“With the continued support of the international community, Haiti is striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including through strengthening the institutions that are so crucial to the wellbeing and prosperity of its people,” Mr. Guterres said. 

Sombre Commemorations

On Friday, UN Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters that in Port-au-Prince on Sunday, all UN staff have been invited to attend a commemorative ceremony to be held at the site of the Christopher Hotel, which housed the UN peacekeeping mission’s headquarters, and which collapsed during the earthquake.

Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenča will be the senior official from New York representing the UN at this ceremony and other commemorative events organized by the Haitian Government.

Next week, there will be several other events to mark the anniversary.

On Monday, in Tunis, the UN will inaugurate the Hedi Annabi Hall, honouring the memory of the head of the UN peacekeeping mission, Hedi Annabi, who died in the collapse of the Christopher Hotel. Mr. Annabi was also a long-time Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations in New York.

And in Geneva, on Wednesday, there will be another commemoration at the Palais des Nations, with, among other participants, Haiti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

And lastly, on Friday next week, 17 January, the Secretary-General will take part in a ceremony here which will include representatives of the countries who lost [citizens] their lives in the earthquake.

09 Jan

Secretary-General: uphold UN Charter in a world of turmoil

  • 09 January 2020 |

Amid an era of rising geopolitical tensions and declining trust between nations, the United Nations Secretary-General has encouraged countries to “come home” to a defining document of the international community: the UN Charter. 

António Guterres was addressing the Security Council which on Thursday held a debate on upholding the founding treaty of the UN, nearly 75 years since its adoption. 

“At this time when global fault-lines risk exploding, we must return to fundamental principles; we must return to the framework that has kept us together; we must come home to the UN Charter”, he said. 

Foundation of international relations 

Signed in June 1945, the UN Charter promised to save future generations from the devastation of war. 

António Guterres was addressing the Security Council which on Thursday held a debate on upholding the founding treaty of the UN, nearly 75 years since its adoption. 

“At this time when global fault-lines risk exploding, we must return to fundamental principles; we must return to the framework that has kept us together; we must come home to the UN Charter”, he said. 

It reaffirmed the equal rights of all people, respect for national self-determination, the need for peaceful settlement of disputes, and contained clear rules governing the use of force.   

These values and objectives endure today, the Secretary-General observed. 

“These principles are not favours or concessions. They are the foundation of international relations.  They are core to peace and international law. They have saved lives, advanced economic and social progress and, crucially, avoided a descent into another world war,” he said. 

“But when these principles have been flouted, put aside or applied selectively, the result has been catastrophic: conflict, chaos, death, disillusion and mistrust.  Our shared challenge is to do far better in upholding the Charter’s values and fulfilling its promise to succeeding generations.” 

 Never take peace for granted

The Secretary-General issued a special message to the 15 ambassadors in the Security Council.

As members of the chamber, they have a vital responsibility for upholding the UN Charter, particulalry in preventing and addressing conflict.

Present and past disagreements must not be an obstacle to action to address current threats, he stated.

"War is never inevitable; it is a matter of choice - and often it is the product of easy miscalculations," he stated. " And peace, too, is never inevitable; it is the product of hard work and we must never take it for granted."



07 Jan

Spread of polio still an international public health concern

  • 07 January 2020 |

The spread of polio internationally remains a global public health concern, experts meeting in Geneva have concluded. 

The opinion comes in a statement released on Tuesday following the latest meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) that provides technical advice on international public health emergencies.   

“The Committee unanimously agreed that the risk of international spread of poliovirus remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and recommended the extension of Temporary Recommendations for a further three months”, it said. 

“Significant increase” in wild poliovirus 1 cases  

The Emergency Committee, which met in December, expressed concern over “the significant increase” in cases of wild poliovirus 1 (WPVI), the last of three strains to be eliminated.   

There were 28 cases in 2018, compared to 113 as at mid-December last year, “with no significant success yet in reversing this trend.” 

Members said recent progress “appears to have reversed”, as international spread of WPV1 is at the highest point since the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), in 2014. 

Transmission remains widespread in Pakistan, where challenges include continued refusal to accept vaccination by individuals and communities.  There was also evidence of further spread to neighbouring Afghanistan, where ongoing instability makes scores of children inaccessible, particularly in the south. 

Meanwhile, WPV1 has not been detected in Nigeria for three years, meaning that the African region could this year be certified as being virus-free.  The Emergency Committee also commended efforts to reach children in Borno state in the north, which has been in the grip of a Boko Haram terrorist insurgency for a decade. 

Regarding circulating vaccine derived polioviruses (cVDPV), the Emergency Committee recalled that outbreaks have occurred in Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific regions, while seven countries have reported outbreaks since its last meeting. 

Additionally, spread of cVDPV2 was recorded in West Africa and the Lake Chad area, reaching Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Chad, while cVDPV1 moved from The Philippines to Malaysia. 

“The rapid emergence of multiple cVDPV2 strains in several countries is unprecedented and very concerning, and not yet fully understood,” said the statement. 

Country recommendations 

Overall, countries affected by wild poliovirus 1, or strains of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, should officially declare that stopping their spread is also a national public health emergency, the Committee said in its temporary recommendations. 

Residents, long-term visitors and travellers to these areas also should be protected against the disease. 

The experts further recommended intensifying coordination to increase vaccination coverage of people travelling who regularly cross borders, and to improve monitoring of the quality of vaccination at transit points as well as tracking of unvaccinated travellers. 

source: UN News



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