#UN; #IndigenousPeople; #LegalRightsToLands; #SDGs
UN/Canadian-Media: Although the world’s indigenous peoples live in areas that contain around 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity, many still struggle to maintain their legal rights to lands, territories and resources, according to a new UN report published on Friday.
The Wayúu people are indigenous to Colombia. Image credit: WHO/PAHO/Karen González Abril
The latest edition of the State of the World’s Indigenous People report examines challenges communities face in asserting their rights to lands, whether in the context of agribusiness, extractive industries, development, conservation and tourism.
“Ensuring the collective rights of indigenous peoples to lands, territories and resources is not only for their well-being, but also for addressing some of the most pressing global challenges such as climate change and environmental degradation”, said Elliott Harris, the UN’s Chief Economist, speaking at the virtual launch in New York.
Custodians of the Earth
Mr. Harris is an Assistant-Secretary-General in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), which has issued the report.
Indigenous people are often described as “the custodians of our Earth’s precious resources”, DESA said. Their traditional knowledge of the land, and territorial rights, are gaining wider recognition as countries confront the impacts of climate change.
Just over five years ago, Governments adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which lays out a roadmap to a safer and equitable future for all people and the planet through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Although the 17 SDGs address key indigenous concerns, they still fall short in some respects, Mr. Harris told journalists.
“For example, the 2030 Agenda does not fully recognize collective rights in relation to lands and resources, or to health, education, culture and ways of living”, he said. “And yet, collective rights lie at the very heart of indigenous communities.”
Land conflicts on the rise
Mr. Harris outlined other serious challenges, noting that in many parts of the world, indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories and resources remain limited or unrecognized. Even where there is legal support, implementation is frequently stalled or inconsistent.
Indigenous rights activists have also faced enormous risks and reprisals for defending their lands, ranging from criminalization and harassment, to assault and killings, he added.
Anne Nuorgam, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, reported that there has been a rise in cases of encroachment onto indigenous lands and territories during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
“The sources of conflict are many, from resource extraction, logging, land for renewal energy sources and agribusiness to conflict between indigenous pastoralists, nomadic herders and farmers over shrinking grazing lands due to war, and the effects of climate change as well as the establishment of conservation areas”, she said in a statement read at the launch.
“The lack of respect for the principle and the meaning of free, prior and informed consent by both governments and the private sector continues unabated.”
The role of data
The UN report concludes with several recommendations for national authorities as they strive to meet the SDGs.
The authors advise States to include recognition of customary rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources in data on secure land tenure rights.
Governments are also urged to collect better data, disaggregated by ethnicity and indigenous identity, so that challenges faced by specific indigenous communities are more accurately reflected in SDG reporting.
#UN; #InternationalCooperation; #SDGs
UN/Canadian-Media: People worldwide have overwhelmingly highlighted their faith in multilateralism to address global challenges, the results of a year-long survey by the United Nations have shown.
The UN undertook a global crowdsourcing opinion campaign as part of its 75th anniversary celebrated in 2020. Image credit: United Nations
The UN75 initiative was launched by Secretary-General António Guterres, in January last year, to understand the global public’s hopes and fears for the future, as well as their expectations and ideas for international cooperation, and for the UN in particular. More than 1.5 million people from 195 countries took part in the campaign through surveys and dialogues.
UN Video | UN75: 2020 and beyond
“The UN75 global consultation showed that 97 per cent of respondents support international cooperation to tackle global challenges,” Mr. Guterres said on the results.
“That represents a very strong commitment to multilateralism, and to the mission of the United Nations. Now it is up to us – Member States and the UN Secretariat – to meet the expectations of the people we serve,” he added.
Unity across groups and regions
Announcing the findings at the UN Office at Geneva on Friday, Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the commemoration of UN’s 75th anniversary, said that together with UN75 conversations and surveys, innovative methodologies and artificial intelligence analysis were employed to gauge world opinion, including through traditional and social media.
In addition, two independent surveys were commissioned around the same questions to have a “reality check”, and the results were striking, he continued.
Unity, across generations, regions income groups, and levels of education, was one such striking result, Mr. Hochschild highlighted, explaining that opinions were united when it came to people’s hopes and fears for their future, and their expectations of international cooperation.
In the immediate priorities post-COVID-19, the world is united in wanting much better access to affordable basic services, healthcare, quality education, water and sanitation, and related is the world seeks much greater solidarity with the hardest hit communities and places, he added.
Launched to mark the Organization’s 75th anniversary, the exercise was the UN’s most ambitious effort to date to gather input from the global public, and the largest survey on priorities for recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the coronavirus pandemic reversing progress in human development and widening inequalities, many respondents prioritized access to basic services and support to the hardest hit places and communities in the short-term, according to the results.
The top immediate, short-term priority globally was universal access to healthcare.
In addition, given the impact of the crisis on children and education, greater investments in education and youth programs ranked high among respondents, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and central and southern Asia.
Similarly, while people expect access to health services to improve over the next 25 years, respondents in all regions identified climate change and environmental issues as the number one long-term global challenge.
Other longer-term priorities vary according to income levels, but include rising concern with employment opportunities, respect for human rights and reducing conflict.
Respondents in higher human development countries tended to give the highest priority to the environment and human rights, those in lower human development countries tended to accord the highest priority to less conflict and meeting basic needs, such as employment, healthcare and education.
UN’s role Many respondents also looked to the United Nations to lead in international cooperation to address immediate and longer-term global challenges, the results showed, with many also want the Organization to innovate – to be more inclusive, engaged, accountable and effective.
In surveys and UN75 dialogues held around the world, participants called on the UN for moral leadership; a more reformed, representative and agile Security Council; and an inclusive and participatory UN system, with improved understanding of the work of the Organization among citizens around the world, and which shows more care for the needs of the people.
#UN; #WHO; #Covid19; #Solidarity;#PovertyEradication
UN, Oct 13 (Canadian-Media): The UN Secretary-General has called for solidarity with all people living in poverty, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
COVID-19 and its fallout has pushed millions around the world deeper into poverty. According to UNICEF, many families are experiencing levels of deprivation they have never seen before. Image credit: © UNICEF/Fazel
António Guterres issued the appeal in a video message to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, observed annually on 17 October.
He highlighted how the pandemic represents “a double crisis” for the world’s poorest people.
“First, they have the highest risk of exposure to the virus, and least access to quality healthcare”, said Mr. Guterres.
“Second, recent estimates show the pandemic could push up to 115 million people into poverty this year – the first increase in decades. Women are at greatest risk because they are more likely to lose their jobs, and less likely to have social protection.”
The UN chief underscored the need for extraordinary efforts to fight poverty at this time.
As the pandemic demands strong collective action, he called for Governments to accelerate economic transformation by investing in sustainable recovery.
Additionally, countries need “a new generation of social protection programmes”, that also cover people who work in the informal economy.
“Joining together in common cause is the only way we will emerge safely from this pandemic”, said the Secretary-General.
“On the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, let’s stand in solidarity with people living in poverty, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
The International Day was established by a UN General Assembly resolution adopted in December 1992.
The theme this year is ‘Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all’.
For the UN, this focus recognizes “the multi-dimensionality of poverty”, meaning that social justice cannot be fully realized without also working to address environmental injustices, including those due to climate change.
#UN; #FoodSystem; #WorldFoodWeek; #FAO;
UN, Oct 12 (Canadian-Media): The UN chief António Guterres set out a new plan to transform the world’s food systems on Monday - coinciding with the start of World Food Week - which will culminate in a major summit, scheduled to take place in September next year.
A woman in Mali takes care of a community garden which is part of the World Food Programme's capacity building project. Image credit: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf
In a video message, Mr. Guterres highlighted the importance of food systems, and their impact on economies, environment and health, but warned that they are “one of the main reasons we are failing to stay within our planet’s ecological boundaries”.
A timely Nobel Prize
This year, the coronavirus pandemic has brought the fragility of the world’s food supplies to the fore, with millions going hungry. At the same time, the climate crisis continues to wreak havoc on food security.
To address these issues, the Secretary-General is convening a Food Systems Summit next year to raise global awareness and spur actions to rethink food systems, so that they can play a more positive role in ending hunger, reducing diet-related disease, and help in the fight against climate change.
The event will be held at UN Headquarters in New York in September, in conjunction with the next UN General Assembly opening session and, said Mr. Guterres, will focus the attention of world leaders on the issue.
“The awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the World Food Programme (WFP) highlights the Summit’s timeliness”, he added, underlining the need for global engagement and action for inclusive and sustainable food systems, and calling on everyone to join these conversations.
The Summit will be run by a specially appointed envoy, former Rwandan Minister for Agriculture, Agnes Kalibata. At a press briefing on Monday, she emphasized the need for food systems – which are responsible for trillions of dollars in wasted food, and significant greenhouse gas emissions – to radically change.
The Special Envoy told reporters that the Summit puts food and food systems at the heart of the UN’s Decade of Action, the 10 years left we have left to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Work to make sure the Summit is a success has already begun, she explained, with a scientific group, made up of experts drawn from a range of disciplines, having met over the summer to ensure that the event is based on sound scientific principles.
This November, dialogues will begin at a national level, involving governments and other stakeholders. These discussions, said Ms. Kalibata, will be critical, and will culminate in a meeting in Rome next Summer, at which actions for inclusive and sustainable food systems will be identified, and taken forward as recommendations for the Secretary-General to submit to world leaders at the September Summit.
‘Grow, nourish, sustain. Together’
This Friday, on World Food Day, the Summit team is holding a 24-hour global relay conversation, involving actors, celebrity chefs, and young people, to raise awareness about the unsustainable nature of the global food system, and will also serve as the launch of the Summit dialogues.
The main World Food Day events will begin at 2pm, Central European Time, with an opening ceremony involving key UN officials, Pope Francis, Queen Letizia of Spain and other prominent figures.
Other events include a video mapping show, which will be broadcast live from the Colosseum, and the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the Italian capital.
#Canada; #UN; #Covid19; #JustinTrudeau
Canada/UN, Sep 26 (Canadian-Media): The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that the world must change, as multilateral systems established decades ago are not working as they should, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada told the UN General Assembly on Friday.
United Nations. Image credit: Twitter handle
“The world is in crisis, and not just because of the last few months. Not just because of COVID-19. But because of the last few decades. And because of us”, he said in a pre-recorded speech for the gathering.
Mr. Trudeau recalled that following war and economic collapse, previous generations established the UN, and international finance organizations in the mid-20th century, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, thus laying the foundations for a rules-based international order and shared global prosperity.
Failing the world’s people “Today, all those institutions no longer serve us well enough on what they were designed for – defending multilateralism and international law, protecting human rights and open markets”, he said.
“That is what the crisis of COVID-19 has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt. That things have to change. And not just on the world stage – but at home, too.”
Mr. Trudeau said governments do not do enough for their vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly and the homeless. They also are not going far enough to eliminate systemic injustice, be it racism, homophobia or sexism.
“In the difficulties of our citizens, we can see reflected the failure of the institutions of our world”, he said, switching to French.
Gridlock blocking action Although COVID-19 has pushed many countries to the brink, and generated a humanitarian crisis, Mr. Trudeau warned of the greater threat of climate change.
He called for “a new way of thinking” on climate, inequality and health.
“Too often, concerted action is blocked – the needs of our citizens are denied – as a result of gridlock at decision-making bodies”, he charged.
“And why? Because there are few consequences for countries that ignore international rules. For regimes that think might makes right. Few consequences for places where opposition figures are being poisoned while cyber tools and disinformation are being used to destabilize democracies.
“Few consequences when innocent citizens are arbitrarily detained and fundamental freedoms are repressed. When a plane of civilians is shot from the sky. When women’s rights are not treated as human rights. When no one has any rights at all.”
Rise to the challenge Prime Minister Trudeau urged countries to use the present moment to shift course and work together to achieve a better future for all people.
“We must understand our opportunities and our responsibilities to take real action, together. To protect each other, to support each other”, he said.
“If we meet this moment, if we rise to this challenge, I know that, like our grandparents did 70 years ago, we will lay the foundations of a better world.”
Pacific small islands and ‘Big Ocean’ nations at UN Assembly make the case for climate action, shift to clean energy
#UN; #Covid19; #PacificIslanders; #OceanProtection; #UNSDGs; #SDGs
United Nations, Sep 25 (Canadian-Media): Facing constant threats from climate change and wary of the possible spread of COVID-19 to their shores, Pacific Island leaders on Friday touted their own environmental action plans and called for more aggressive climate action from other nations, including rapid shifts toward clean energy.
The low-lying island nation, Tuvalu, in the Pacific Ocean is particularly susceptible to higher sea levels caused by climate change. Image credit: UNDP Tuvalu/Aurélia Rusek
“All countries and peoples are in a global war against climate change. We have witnessed deadly fires in the US, typhoons in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, and floods in Asia. It is a war that we can win, but we must be much more aggressive in combatting it,’ David Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, the first of several Pacific Island leaders to speak today, said in a pre-recorded address.
He said “climate change is our single greatest long-term security threat. Rising waters threaten to make life in remote atolls impossible. Higher temperatures threaten crops, livestock, and fish. The world must transition to sustainable and renewable energy.”
Indeed, coal and natural gas are unsustainable solutions for the environment and are harmful to both economic growth and equality of opportunity. “If our world is to fulfill its commitments under the Paris Agreement, all nations must make a unified and global effort,” President Panuelo said, noting that, for example, through the Montreal Protocol, some 98 per cent of ozone depleting substances have been phased out by the global community.
Action today will secure oceans’ prosperity tomorrow
He went on to explain that Micronesia’s exposure to the Pacific Ocean carries risks beyond climate change. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, he said, by 2050 there may be more plastics than fish in our oceans.
“As such, in February 2020, he had signed legislation into public law which bans the importation of Styrofoam and one-time-use plastics into Micronesia. Further, over the next five years, Micronesia would partner with the Blue Prosperity Coalition to seek to protect 30 per cent of its ocean’s Exclusive Economic Zone by 2030.
“Micronesia is thus taking actions today for our ocean’s prosperity tomorrow. I urge all peoples and nations to join our efforts. We cannot allow COVID-19 to halt efforts such as the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework or the intergovernmental negotiations on the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) instrumentation,” he stated.
For his part, Kausea Natano, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said that while is island nation was still COVID-19 free, “the ripple effects of this deadliest virus has come at a huge cost to our economy. Unemployment in our fisheries and tourism sectors has soared and remittances dropped significantly. Food security was affected as supply chains were disrupted.”
“Covid-19 has significantly disrupted economies and societies right across the world. Indeed, [it] has reshaped the contours of the normal way of things, placing us on a ‘new normal’. Therefore, we must not only think outside the box, but we must also work outside the box,” he explained.
Safety of ‘Blue Pacific’ tied to climate action
And with that in mind, Prime Minister Natano said the United Nations and its Member States must work collaboratively to build back better countries and economies that are inclusive and leave no one behind; protect the health and wellbeing of all; preserve natural and marine environments; are low emissions and climate smart; and build resilience to future crises.
He stressed that the shared prosperity and security of “our Blue Pacific” can only safely exist if the international community pursues efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius. The transformation and investment response to the COVID-19 pandemic must also serve to build our resilience to the impacts of climate change.
“If we failed this, then we are putting additional debt into our already exhausted capacities, which can further exacerbate climate crises going forward,” he said, calling for stronger political will form all countries towards full implementation of the Paris Agreement, the SAMOA Pathway for small island developing States, and the Istanbul Plan of Action for landlocked developing States.
In his virtual address, Taneti Maamau, President and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Kiribati, said that of ‘great importance to Kiribati and our Blue Pacific is without question, the alarming dilemma of our present time, climate change.
To this end, his Government continues to implement critical projects to build resilience, including the Peacebuilding Fund’s climate security project, which he launched in Kiribati earlier this month.
Joint combat against COVID-19 and climate crisis“In solidarity with our Pacific Islands Forum family, we also remain committed to securing our maritime boundaries, amid the impacts of climate change. This is a matter of sovereignty,” he added.
“While COVID-19 is our immediate crisis, we must continue to work on the other challenges that confront us all, in particular climate change, the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of the Pacific and its peoples,” he said, recalling the Kainaki II Declaration in 2019 adopted by leaders at the end of the 50th Pacific Islands Forum, and the 2018 Boe Declaration, on security in the Pacific.
Next up, James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, said that to protect his country and people from the spread of the coronavirus, his Government had acted early and fast, putting in place the necessary preventive measures in policy and law, including passing a National Pandemic Act, to deal with COVID-19 and similar outbreaks in the future.
“This has cushioned us against the loss of lives, with just six so far,” he said, adding that Papua New Guinea was also working successfully at the regional level with the Pacific Islands Forum to curb the spread of teh disease. Nevertheless, the net effect of the pandemic had resulted in job losses, export and other revenue losses, and stalled development activities.
“Unless and until an effective vaccine is developed and made available to use, the health threats of COVID-19 cannot be underestimated,” warned Prime Minister Marape, and stressed that any approved vaccine must be considered a “public good” and be made widely available for the benefit of all.
Protecting maritime fisheries As a maritime nation, Papua New Guinea, stressed its Prime Minister, gives high priority to the protection of the maritime and fisheries sector, which represents a quarter of the annual budget and employs 80 per cent women, especially in the canneries of the tuna.
In support of this sector, the Government launched in July 2020 its very first National Oceans Policy 2020-2030, to ensure that the oceans, seas and their resources are correctly and sustainably coordinated, managed, protected, governed and used.
Finally, on Friday, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, Prime Minister and Minister for Public Enterprises of Tonga said that while small island developing States, including his own, contribute to no more than one per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, “it is unfortunate that we continue to bear the brunt of this climate injustice.”
As a result, Pacific Island countries continue to be imperiled by destructive tropical cyclones of unprecedented magnitude. The most recent had been Tropical Cyclone Harold in April of this year, which wreaked havoc on four Pacific Island nations, namely, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, as well as Tonga, he said “and this is while we grapple with the distressing effect of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Recalling that Pacific Island Forum Leaders consistently echoed the need for urgent climate action, Mr. Tu’i’onetoa, in his pre-recorded address, reaffirmed Tonga’s commitment to achieving the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius.
At the same time, he said that while 2020 was marked as the ‘Year of Delivery’ for powering Tonga’s sustainable development through the attainment of 50 per cent renewable energy penetration, project delays and the sudden halt to the market supply chains caused by the global pandemic, had led to a major disruption in efforts to achieve that target.
Science-based solutions critical for ocean preservation
“However, agreements have been signed for grant funding, by way of public-private partnership and the fervent support of our development partners, will continue to drive Tonga’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) objectives,” he said, citing his country’s push towards solar, wind and battery energy and other innovative technologies.
He went on to say that Tonga was also pressing ahead with its work towards achieving SDG 14 (conservation and sustainable use of the ocean) through, among others, measures taken to establish Special Management Areas (SMAs) initiatives, and the implementation of the Tonga Marine Spatial Planning Project.
“We cannot overemphasize the urgency for action to protect and sustainably use the world’s ocean, seas and marine resources,” the Prime Minister said, but stressed that relevant actions could only be meaningful and effective if derived from science-based and innovative information and data.
As such, Tonga supported the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021 – 2030, which provides an overarching framework that will allow ocean science to support countries in their sustainable development of the ocean.
#UNEP; #EconomistsNetwork; #UN75hAnniversary; #SDGs
Geneva/UNEP, Sep 25 (Canadian-Media): The chief economists from the UN System have come together to examine five human-made megatrends which continue to dominate and frustrate global efforts to put the world on a more sustainable and prosperous path, UN Environment Program (UNEP) reports said.
Image credit: Twitter handle
The trends identified are climate change and nature degradation, inequalities, urbanization, rapid population changes and technological revolution which continue to affect economic, social, and environmental outcomes.
Issued on the eve of the 75th UN General Assembly, the UN Economist Network’s report calls for a new, holistic way of designing policies in the 75 years to come. It argues for greater cooperation across seemingly unrelated areas, such as digitalization, urban planning and energy production, traditionally too often approached in isolation. The report, “Shaping the Trends of Our Time,” finds that five years into the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda, progress is already off-track and, in many instances may have even been reversed by the COVID-19 crisis
According to the report, without an overhaul of the current disjointed policymaking, the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is highly unlikely. Policies can influence a single megatrend as well as other megatrends that interact with it. Such policy interventions can propel more effective, mutually reinforcing changes and significantly greater impacts across the different megatrends.
By making the right choices today, without further delay, it is not too late to shape the major trends of our time in a direction that is sustainable and delivers benefits to all. The report stresses that international cooperation, and the United Nations, have a crucial role in framing the responses to the global megatrends, by encouraging domestic political consensus for sustained action. The United Nations can assist in mobilizing needed global support for individual countries, particularly those with fewer resources.
About the United Nations Economists Network
The UN Economists Network is a global network, led by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist, Elliott Harris, to facilitate collaboration and joint work among UN system entities on issues of shared interest and relevance to the sustainable development agenda and to provide a network of support on economic, financial, and social policy issues to Resident Coordinator Offices and United Nations Country Teams.
#UN; #UNGA; #Covid19Pandemic; #UNSDGs; #SDGs; #Bodiversity; #Gender
UN, Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): The 75th UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, begins on 15 September and this year, due to the ongoing global pandemic, it will be unlike any other in the organization’s three quarters of a century of existence.
A cleaning crew member operates a mopping vehicle inside the General Assembly Hall. Image credit: N Photo/Manuel Elias
his month, there will be no bumping into presidents or the occasional global celebrity in hectic and sometimes crushed corridors at UN Headquarters in New York.
There will be no marvelling at seemingly endless presidential motorcades on First Avenue and no “standing-room only” moments in the gilded General Assembly Hall, as the Organization’s busiest time of the year is reimagined in the time of COVID-19.
Most leaders will not be appearing in person and meetings are going virtual, but that’s not to say that the wheels of global diplomacy and sustainable development will not be turning at the usual speed.
Here are five things to look out for at UNGA 75.
1) Presidents and Heads of State calling in speeches
The centrepiece of any new General Assembly (often shortened to GA) session, is undoubtedly the General Debate, which starts on 22 September, a week after the official opening.
It’s a globally unique occasion at which presidents and heads of state (or sometimes their deputies or foreign ministers) take to the dais, and address a world audience on an issue of their choosing. This year, because of the pandemic, world leaders will be staying away and have been invited to send in pre-recorded videos of their speeches which will be broadcast “as live”.
Speeches are expected to be introduced by a New York-based representative of each state, who will be physically present.
However, any world leader has the right to turn up in person, to deliver his or her keynote address, an opportunity that at least one president seeking re-election this year, is reported to be mulling over.
Read more here about the first virtual GA.
2) Celebrating 75 years
The United Nations was established in 1945 and has been marking its 75th anniversary with what the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called an extended “people’s debate” which “promises to be the largest and furthest-reaching global conversation ever on building the future we want.”
An event at UN headquarters on 21 September to celebrate the milestone (which will also take place online and remotely) will aim to “generate renewed support for multilateralism”; an issue many believe has become ever more urgent as the world faces up to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s expected that the Secretary-General will address, in person, the High-Level event to mark the 75th anniversary in the GA Hall.
Read more here about the role of youth leaders in fashioning a UN fit for their future.
3) ‘Transforming the world’ through Sustainable Development
The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs - the 17 internationally agreed targets to reduce poverty and maintain peace, whilst protecting the planet - have remained at the top of the UN’s agenda during 2020, with many arguing, including the UN Deputy Secretary-General, that the pandemic has only underlined more forcefully why they are so important.
At the 75th GA session, the SDGs will be put under the spotlight in what is being described as a “first of its kind 30-minute global broadcast”, created by writer and director, and SDG advocate, Richard Curtis, which will take audiences across the world “on a dynamic exploration of the times we live in, the multiple tipping points our planet faces, and the interventions that could transform our world” up to 2030, when, it’s hoped, the SDG targets will be met.
Meanwhile, the SDG Action Zone, which, in past years, has provided a focal point and meeting place at UN Headquarters to promote the global sustainable development agenda, is moving online with appearances from “inspirational leaders” promised on the bill. And the UN will also be partnering with the Al Jazeera English flagship social media show, The Stream, in a series of discussions around the SDGs.
4) Facing up to ‘unprecedented loss’ of global biodiversity
Earth’s biodiversity, its rich variety of life, is declining at what the UN has warned “an unprecedented rate.” Over one million species are at risk of extinction, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded and 66 per cent of oceans, 50 per cent of coral reefs and 85 per cent of wetlands have been significantly and negatively altered by human activity.
A major international summit to discuss how to reverse the accelerating deterioration of the natural environment and how it is harmfully impacting people’s lives was due to be held this year in Kunming, China, but it has now been postponed until May 2021.
In the meantime, a day of virtual meetings will be taking place under the auspices of the General Assembly on September 30. Meanwhile, look out for the 2020 Biodiversity Outlook published on 15 September.
5) Gender: 25 years after Beijing
Progress on gender equality and women’s rights has been severely impacted by COVID-19, as women and girls suffer a disproportionate social and economic fallout according to the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.
On 1 October, this and other issues relating to gender equality and empowerment are due to be discussed at the UN in the context of the 25th anniversary of the internationally agreed Beijing Platform for Action which is widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive and forward-looking plan for advancing the rights of women and girls.
Look out for the first ever International Equal Pay Day on 18 September which focuses on aligning pay between men and women.
And one more…happy New Yorkers
Not strictly part of the General Assembly, but inextricably linked; many New Yorkers dread the opening of the new GA session every September which brings the closing of streets, presidential-motorcade-induced traffic jams on First Avenue and the surrounding Midtown area, and enervating disruptions to general life.
This year, while world leaders stay away, New Yorkers, despite the severe, ongoing challenges of the pandemic, which include billions of dollars in lost revenue from visitors and tourists, will no doubt enjoy a respite from the week or ten days when a small part of their global city is given over to presidents and heads of State.
#UN; #Asia; #Pacific; #ChronicUnderNourishment; #FoodSecurity; #FAO
UN, Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): Transforming food systems in Asia and the Pacific to make them more sustainable, resilient and productive, is vital for countries to rebound from the impact of COVID-19 and address chronic undernourishment, a UN regional forum on food security has heard.
Gathered virtually at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s thirty-fifth Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, governments, civil society organizations and the private sector highlighted the importance of innovation, solidarity, coherence and partnerships among and within countries.
A tea grower walks through a tea garden in Viet Nam where sustainable farming techniques are used to prevent land degradation.
Image credit: UNEP/Lisa Murray
Big data, digital economy and mobile technology will help producers achieve such transformations, Qu Dongyu, FAO Director-General said on Friday, the Conference’s final day.
For instance, a smartphone in the hands of a smallholder farmer is a “new farming tool”, he added.
“Leveraging data, innovation and technology has shown that, here in Asia and the Pacific, we have brilliant minds, scientists and an entrepreneurial spirit that will lead us through the challenges presented by COVID-19 and help us conquer malnutrition and poverty,” said Mr. Qu.
Agricultural innovation can also reduce back-breaking drudgery, and regional food chains can benefit from innovations such as drones, satellite imagery, big data and block chains, the Conference heard.
The Regional Conferences, held every two years, are a platform for ministers of agriculture and senior officials, NGOs, private sector and other stakeholders in the field to explore joint and coherent solutions to shared challenges confronting food security and agriculture. The 2020 Regional Conference was held from 1 to 4 September.
COVID upended efforts to fight hunger According to FAO, the Asia-Pacific region – the planet’s most populous – is also home to over half of the world’s undernourished people, and the number is feared to rise, with the impact of COVID-19. In southern Asia alone, the figure could rise by a third, to some 330 million in the next decade.
Conference Chair Yeshey Penjor, Minister for Agriculture and Forests of Bhutan, reiterated the need to strengthen collaboration to deal with the challenges.
“We must prepare for higher risks ahead of us and make sure that there is sustainability in the food supply chain,” he said.
Working ‘Hand in Hand’
New solutions, such as the FAO’s Hand in Hand Initiative, which “matches” stakeholders, bringing the right partners together at the right time, can help.
According to FAO, some 44 countries with limited capacity or hit by crisis have been invited to join the Initiative as beneficiaries, 80 as contributors, and some 20 have expressed interest to join as both.
The rollout of the Initiative coincided with the onset of COVID-19 and the urgent need to deal with its complex impacts on agri-food systems, said FAO, adding that the Initiative is helping support evidence-based efforts to prevent breakdown of and address emerging threats to food systems.
“The HIH approach to analysis and partnership-building has proven to be a useful model for coordinating integrated rapid response to COVID-19 impacts on food systems, particularly at the local or territorial level,” it added.
FAO Director-General Qu also said that while the COVID-19 has hit countries and societies, innovations are bringing people closer together.
“So while we are separated by some 11 time zones, we have still managed to come together, have thought-provoking discussions and reach consensus on a number of important issues,” he concluded.
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UN, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): Agnes Kalibata, the former Rwandan Minister for Agriculture, has been tasked with leading the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit. In an interview with UN News, she outlined her vision for a transformed international system that is more resilient, fairer, and less harmful to the planet.
Food systems involve all the stages that lead up to the point when we consume food, including the way it is produced, transported, and sold. Launching a policy brief on food security in June, UN chief António Guterres warned of an “impending food emergency”, unless immediate action is taken.
Ms. Kalibata told UN News that her commitment to improving food systems is closely linked to her early life as the daughter of refugees.
“I was born in a refugee camp in Uganda, because my Rwandan parents were forced to leave their home around the time of colonial independence in the early 60s.
Thanks to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), were given land, which allowed my parents to farm, buy a few cows, and make enough money to send me and my siblings to school. This allowed me to experience, first-hand, how agriculture, in a functioning food system, can provide huge opportunities for smallholder communities.
I took this appreciation with me when I eventually returned to Rwanda, as Minister for Agriculture, working with smallholders and seeing them grab every opportunity to turn their lives around against all odds. This was probably the most fulfilling period in my life.
But, I have also seen what can happen when threats like climate change, conflict and even more recently, a pandemic like Covid 19, hit the world's farmers, especially those who are smallholders, like my parents were.
As a daughter of farmers, I understand how much people can suffer, because of systems that are breaking down. I often reflect that I, and other children of farmers my age that made it through school, were the lucky ones because climate change hits small farmers the hardest, destroying their capacities to cope.
My experience has shown me that, when food systems function well, agriculture can provide huge opportunities for smallholder communities. I am a product of functional food systems, and I am fully convinced of the power of food systems to transform lives of smallholder households and communities, and bring about changes to entire economies.
I’m extremely passionate about ending hunger in our lifetime: I believe it’s a solvable problem. I don’t understand why 690 million people are still going to bed hungry, amidst so much plenty in our world, and with all the knowledge , technology and resources.
I have made it my mission to understand why this is the case, and how we can overcome the challenges we see along the way. That is why I gladly accepted the offer by the UN Secretary General to be his Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit.
Why food systems need to change
Today’s food systems do not respond to what we need as people. The cause of death for one in three people around the world is related to what they eat. Two billion people are obese, one trillion dollars’ worth of food is wasted every year, yet many millions still go hungry.
Food systems have an impact on the climate. They are responsible for around one third of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, which is interfering massively in our ability to produce food, upending farmers’ lives, and making the seasons harder to predict.
We have built up a lot of knowledge around the things that we’re doing wrong, and we have the technology to allow us to do things differently, and better. This isn’t rocket science: it’s mostly a question of mobilizing energy, and securing political commitment for change.
Galvanise and engage
The main impetus behind the Food Summit is the fact that the we are off track with all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that relate to food systems, principally ending poverty and hunger, and action on the climate and environment.
We want to use the Summit to galvanise and engage people, raising awareness about the elements that are broken, and what we need to change; to recognize that we’re way off track with the SDGs, and raise our ambitions; and to secure firm commitments to actions that will transform our current food systems for the better.
Pulling together the UN System
The UN system is already doing a lot of work in this area, and we’ve pulled together several agencies and bodies to support the Summit.
We have formed a UN Task Force to channel the existing research, so that nothing falls through the cracks, which will work closely with a core group of experts we have assembled, which is looking at scientific data pooled from institutions all around the world. At the same time, we are examining national food systems, to see what is and isn’t working.
We are going to pool all the information, evidence and ideas we receive, and create a vision for a future food system that benefits all."
At a briefing on the Food Systems Summit held on Friday, Amina Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, noted that a transition to more sustainable systems is already underway, with countries beginning to “take action and change behaviours in support of a new vision of how food arrives on our plate.”
UN Member States, she continued, are increasingly aware that food systems are “one of the most powerful links between humans and the planet”, and bringing about a world that "enhances inclusive economic growth and opportunity, while also safeguarding biodiversity and the global ecosystems that sustain life. "
The Summit objectives