Inter Press ServiceGlobal – Inter Press Service News and Views from the Global South Wed, 20 Sep 2017 23:53:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Trump Doctrine of Hypocrisy Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:38:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations. During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times. “Our government’s first duty is […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations.

Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times.

“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values,” he told world leaders.

“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

But in a global world that relies on each other on issues such as economic growth and environmental protection, can a “me first” approach work?

Peace Action’s Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs Paul Kawika Martin says no.

“To say one country first over the other certainly is not going to deal with these issues,” he told IPS.

Though the President highlighted the need to work together to confront those who threaten the world with “chaos, turmoil, and terror,” his actions seem to imply otherwise.

Starting with withdrawing from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement to tackle global emissions to threatening funding cuts to not only the UN but also to its own State Department which handles diplomacy and foreign assistance, the U.S. seems to be far from working together with the international community.

As Trump received applause upon speaking of the benefits of the U.S.’ programs in advancing global health and women’s empowerment, he has also sought to eliminate such programs including the gender equality development assistance account ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and has already withdrawn all funds to the UN’s Population Fund.

“Talk is cheap when you don’t fund the efforts you tout,” said Oxfam America’s President Abby Maxman.

“Mr. Trump continues on a path that will cost America its global influence and leadership,” she continued.

Martin echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “We talk about working together but we don’t seem to do the things that you need to do to work together, which is making sure you have the right diplomacy, supporting the UN, and supporting other international fora.”

He particularly pointed the U.S.’ refusal to participate and sign the new nuclear ban treaty.

Adopted in July, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons is now open for signature and will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty.

However, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states including the U.S. boycotted the negotiations and announced they do not ever intend to become party to the document.

Instead, President Trump used his address to lambast both North Korea and Iran for their alleged pursuits of nuclear weapons and make war-inciting claims.

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said.

“It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.”

Martin noted that no country would act kindly to threats of annihilation.

Such threats have instead only served to increase tensions.

Since Trump threatened “fire and fury” on 8 August, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests.

The President continued to say that the Iran Deal is the “worst” and most “one-sided” agreements, threatening to withdraw from it.

As nuclear tensions continue escalate, Trump’s threats of war and unwillingness to cooperate gives security to none, particularly not Americans.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the President for his remarks and noted the hypocrisy in using the UN stage of peace and global cooperation to threaten war.

“He missed an opportunity to present any positive actions the U.N. could take with respect to North Korea…By suggesting he would revisit and possibly cancel the Iran nuclear agreement, he greatly escalated the danger we face from both Iran and North Korea,” she said.

“He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States.”

Martin highlighted the importance of diplomacy rather than intimidation.

“Diplomacy is the hardest thing. It is harder to get together at a table and work on a deal but that’s what needs to be done.”

President Trump did express his support for the UN and its work, citing former President Harry Truman who helped build the UN and made the U.S. the first nation to join the organization.

He referred to Truman’s Marshall Plan which helped restore post-World War II Europe, but still went on to urge nations to “embrace their sovereignty.”

However, it was Truman that spoke of a “security for all” approach during a conference which established the UN Charter in 1945.

He urged delegates to use this “instrument for peace and security” but warned nations against using “selfishly,” stating: “If any nation would keep security for itself, it must be ready and willing to share security with all. This is the price which each nation will have to pay for world peace.”

“Out of this conflict have come powerful military nations, now fully trained and equipped for war. But they have no right to dominate the world. It is rather the duty of these powerful nations to assume the responsibility for leadership toward a world of peace.

That is why we have here resolved that power and strength shall be used not to wage war, but to keep the world at peace, and free from the fear of war.”

Truman’s collective action approach helped prevent another devastating world war.

However, President Trump’s non-cooperation and combative words signal a darker future in global affairs.

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Poor Orphan Crops…So Valuable, So Neglected Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:49:23 +0000 Baher Kamal When ‘think-tankers’ in the mid-1990s formulated their famous “think global, act local” slogan, they probably did not expect humankind to require a couple of decades to implement such practical advice. At least this has been the case for the so-called ‘neglected’, ‘under-utilised’, ‘minor’ or ‘promising’ crops, which have been forgotten over the last century. Now […]

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A group of people heading towards Mangoky River (Madagascar) past Baobab trees. Baobab leaves and fruits are sources of food for people and fodder for animals. Credit: FAO/Aris Mihich

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

When ‘think-tankers’ in the mid-1990s formulated their famous “think global, act local” slogan, they probably did not expect humankind to require a couple of decades to implement such practical advice.

At least this has been the case for the so-called ‘neglected’, ‘under-utilised’, ‘minor’ or ‘promising’ crops, which have been forgotten over the last century.

Now scientists and policymakers are beginning to recognise the value of these colourfully dubbed ‘orphan’ crops, affirming what local communities have already known for generations.

What Are They?

But what are they all about? The United Nations leading food and agriculture agency provides the answer with some specific examples — the African Yam Bean and the Desert Date, and Ber, a stocky tree with a vitamin-rich berry.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) explains that the African yam bean, cultivated mainly for home consumption, is planted for its seeds, which are high in protein and low in calories, and are often eaten after being dried and ground into flour or simply boiled and seasoned.

The starch-rich, tuberous roots, similar to spindly sweet potatoes in shape, are consumed either fresh, cut into strips in salads, or dried and ground into flour. The leaves can also be cooked and eaten much in the same way spinach is.

The crop seems to be little affected by altitude, and flourishes at elevations ranging from sea level to 1,800 meters. It takes five to seven months to grow and produce mature seeds.

They appear on a vine growing to between 1.5 and 3 m in height, green in colour or pigmented red. The vines twine clockwise around the stakes or climb around other crops for support; indeed the African yam bean is often used as a living fence. Due to its attractive, large pink and purple flowers, the plant is also cultivated as an ornament.

Scientists are beginning to recognise the value of orphan crops, affirming what local communities have already known for generations

Moringa seedlings at a nursery in Tanzania. All parts of the Moringa tree are edible. Credit: FAO/Daniel Hayduk

Special Qualities

The UN specialised agency relates some of this crop’s main qualities: typical of legumes, the African yam bean adds a natural nitrogen boost in the soil and reduces the need for fertilizers in areas where it is cultivated; the crop is highly adaptable and capable of growing even on acid and highly leached sandy soils of humid lowland tropics; it is usually intercropped with maize or cassava and also used in crop rotations, and it is mainly used as food for people, but is also used to feed animals.

The point is that the excessively long cooking time (4-6 hours), among other factors, limits the food use of the beans. However, this issue can be overcome using traditional cooking techniques, such as soaking the seeds in water from 4 to 8 hours – a practice that will reduce both the cooking time and the anti-nutrients.

Among others, FAO also explains, some of the nutritional value of the orphan crops are that African yam beans, for instance, have the advantage of producing both beans (pulse or grain) and an edible tuber; the small tuberous roots are white-fleshed, spindly and long like sweet potatoes, but contain more protein than sweet potatoes, cassava or yams, and the dried beans are also rich in protein (18.9 per cent), with a good amount of dietary fibre (16.7 per cent) and 1.5 per cent of fat.

Overlooked by Everybody…

In spite of their high value, they have been overlooked by researchers, extension services and policy makers; governments rarely allocate resources for their promotion and development, FAO underlines. That results in farmers planting them less often, reduced access to high quality seeds, and loss of traditional knowledge.

Why? Simply because these species have been overshadowed by those in greater demand. For example, of the 30,000 edible plant species, a mere 30 are used to feed the world.

“Yet these neglected and under-utilised crops can help to increase the diversification of food production, adding new species to our diets that can result in better supply of particular nutrients, i.e. essential amino acids, fiber, proteins.”

The UN agency also notes that, in addition to diversifying nutritional intake, orphan crops provide economic and environmental benefits–farmers can grow them on their own, as part of crop rotation systems or inter-plant them with other crops, protecting and enhancing agro-biodiversity at the field level.

And having a bigger number of species to choose from in a crop rotation system allows farmers to have a more sustainable production system, it adds. By changing species in a crop rotation system, the cycle of some pests and diseases is disrupted and probabilities of infestations are reduced.

“By expanding the portfolio of crops available to farmers, we can help build more diverse and resilient cropping systems,” FAO Assistant Director-General Ren Wang said.

Scientists are beginning to recognise the value of orphan crops, affirming what local communities have already known for generations

Allanblackia tree in Kribi, Cameroon. Credit: AfricanOrphan Crops Consortium (AOCC)

In fact, the UN food and agriculture agency, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), among others, have agreed to work together to strengthen the capacities of FAO member countries and to better focus research and development, plant breeding and seed delivery systems.

Food Security, Nutrition…

“Imagine the positive impacts on food security, nutrition, health, safety and farmers income if crop varieties that rural African families, especially women, grow were more nutritious, higher yielding, and resilient from climate change, drought and pests.”

With these words, FAO announced what it called “an uncommon partnership” of 15 government organisations, scientific, agricultural bodies, universities, companies, regional organisations and NGOs, along with a network of 20 agricultural and horticultural centres, devoted to improving the diets and livelihoods of the 600 million people who live in rural Sub-Saharan Africa, and they believe that this vision will be a reality.

In this partnership, the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) is the driver to generate the genomic resources for the selected crops. Approved by African Heads of State at the African Union Assembly and led by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the AOCC is in fact sequencing the genomes of 101 African food plants.

They Know…

Smallholders and people living in rural areas in Africa grow a huge variety of edible plants other than rice, wheat or maize. These crops, including the African yam bean, have long been neglected although they represent an excellent alternative food supplement to most diets, FAO says.

Grown in pockets of tropical Central, West and East Africa, the African yam bean has great potential to contribute to overall food security and improve local diets. This crop is not to be confused with the other yam bean, the jicama, which comes from Latin America.

The African yam bean is a traditional crop, high in proteins and starch, is highly adaptable to adverse environmental conditions and can fix nitrogen in the soil, which means it does not require a large amount of fertilisers. It is usually grown together with maize or cassava, adds FAO.

In short, scientists and researchers are now discovering what farmers and rural populations have been aware of generation after generation. Better late than never.

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Macron Defends Globalist Approach at UN General Assembly Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:59:33 +0000 Roshni Majumdar French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a sombre speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, denouncing Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing,” and calling for better protection of refugees around the world. While U.S. President Donald Trump’s own debut speech earlier that morning focused on national sovereignty and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, Macron took […]

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By Roshni Majumdar

French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a sombre speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, denouncing Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing,” and calling for better protection of refugees around the world.

Emmanuel Macron. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

While U.S. President Donald Trump’s own debut speech earlier that morning focused on national sovereignty and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, Macron took a more multilateral approach. He vowed to fight climate change with all other member countries and said that he would try to persuade Trump to reconsider his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

Macron, a centrist who ran his recent presidential campaign on open borders, kept in line with his advocacy for protecting refugees as a “moral duty.” He addressed human trafficking along the Mediterranean route, and said that greater checks and a “humanitarian infrastructure” should be put in place to stem blatant flouting of “fundamental human rights” by traffickers.

He added that migration and terrorism are political challenges, and “short-term” responses were not good enough to address critical issues of national security. He committed to contribute to developmental aid, and said that the process, for him, began with investing in education.

“We must give the opportunity to young boys and girl to obtain an education to choose their own future, not the future that is imposed on them by need but the future that they should choose for themselves,” he said.

He also put emphasis on freedom of expression, and called for a UN Special Representative for the protection of journalists across the world.

The U.S. president, on the other hand, touted topics that invoked a mainstream media frenzy, touching on nevertheless important national security issues. He reiterated his critical views of the 2015 deal lifting sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear programme, calling it an “embarrassment.”

Although Trump urged every country to put themselves first, he ultimately praised the UN body and its potential to bring deliberations at the world stage.

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President Trump at the UN: a Reaction Wed, 20 Sep 2017 05:40:37 +0000 Jessica Stern Jessica Stern is Executive Director of OutRight Action International

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Jessica Stern is Executive Director of OutRight Action International

By Jessica Stern

On September 18 and 19, US President Donald Trump addressed world leaders at the opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly in New York.

Jessica Stern

Time and time again, President Trump has threatened to curtail the United States’ obligations to the international human rights system and to the United Nations itself. In his remarks, the word he said most often – “sovereignty” – underscored that his political agenda promotes political isolationism and undermines the global cooperation that protects vulnerable people from natural disasters, corrupt governments, and civil war.

As an organization that serves as a watchdog on the UN, we know that sovereignty is a term loaded with negative meaning. Sovereignty is often an excuse for States to ignore their obligation to protect the human rights of individuals, especially those that are most marginalized and vulnerable.

Reform in President Trump’s words is code for stripping the human rights system of much-needed resources. We believe the only reform that is truly needed puts LGBTIQ people and all vulnerable groups at the center of UN governance, human rights, and programs. The reform and resources we need would elevate the rights of the world’s most marginalized, open space for meaningful civil society participation, and invest in climate justice.

OutRight addressed the kinds of reform that would advance human rights and strengthen the UN today.

Reallocation of resources

The world’s most vulnerable and marginalized people shoulder the burden of poverty and discrimination, yet the UN currently fails to adequately address the needs of these populations. For example, UN Women, the lead agency addressing gender-based violence and gender justice, has one of the smallest budgets of all UN agencies. The UNDP proposed LGBTI Inclusion Index would aggregate global data about LGBTI people aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, but it remains woefully underfunded.

Increased investment in UN programs that work with marginalized and vulnerable populations is essential if the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, girls and LGBTI people are to be protected. Adequate funding is required to protect and promote the human rights of all women and girls, people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics, indigenous, migrant, rural, and elderly people, as well as people with disabilities, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Access for civil society

Civil society access across the UN system is shrinking. In the last year alone, arbitrary and onerous restrictions on human rights defenders and organizations trying to utilize the UN have increased exponentially. Under these circumstances, civil society is unable to raise vital issues and act as a watchdog on States and UN officials, and the result is that transparency and accountability have been undermined. The very voices and people the United National claims to protect and serve are increasingly excluded from participating.

The reform needed would enable civil society to participate meaningfully in decision-making and for human rights defenders working at the international level to be protected from reprisals.

Greater investment in human rights and climate justice

Investment in security alone is not sufficient to protect human lives. Peace and security are achieved through the protection and promotion of human rights and climate justice. Every day, people’s fundamental rights are egregiously and persistently violated in ways that shock the conscience. Often the only recourse and access to justice for individuals’ whose rights are being undermined and disregarded at the country level are international rights structures. Global migration and food scarcity will only be exacerbated if the world does not put issues of climate change front and center in policymaking.

We call on UN Member States to increase commitment to the Office of Human Rights, the Human Rights Council, treaty bodies and special mechanisms. We call on Member States to fully ratify the Paris Agreement, uphold the “Call to Action” of the Oceans Conference, and support the Kyoto Protocols.

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“We are a World in Pieces” Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:38:30 +0000 Antonio Guterres António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

By António Guterres

I am here in a spirit of gratitude and humility for the trust you have placed in me to serve the world’s peoples. “We the peoples”, and our United Nations, face grave challenges. Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.

The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace. And I strongly believe that, together, we can build peace. We can restore trust and create a better world for all. I will focus today on seven threats and tests that stand in our way. For each, the dangers are all too clear. Yet for each, if we act as truly United Nations, we can find answers.

First, the nuclear peril.
The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. Even the threat of their use can never be condoned. But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within the DPRK itself, such tests do nothing to ease the plight of those who are suffering hunger and severe violations of their human rights.

I condemn those tests unequivocally. I call on the DPRK and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions. Last week’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 tightens sanctions and sends a clear message regarding the country’s international obligations.

I appeal to the Council to maintain its unity.

Only that unity can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and — as the resolution recognizes — create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis.

When tensions rise, so does the chance of miscalculation. Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.

The solution must be political. This is a time for statesmanship. We must not sleepwalk our way into war. More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have a special responsibility to lead.

Today proliferation is creating unimaginable danger, and disarmament is paralyzed.

There is an urgent need to prevent proliferation and promote disarmament. These goals are linked. Progress on one will generate progress on the other.

Second, let me turn to the global threat of terrorism.
Nothing justifies terrorism — no cause, no grievance. Terrorism continues to take a rising toll of death and devastation. It is destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits. National and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts have disrupted networks, reclaimed territory, prevented attacks and saved lives.

We need to intensify this work. Stronger international cooperation remains crucial. I am grateful to the General Assembly for approving one of my first reform initiatives: the establishment of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism. Next year, I intend to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of Member States to forge a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership.

But it is not enough to fight terrorists on the battlefield or to deny them funds. We must do more to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people. Political, religious and community leaders have a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance and moderation.

Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.

Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive. As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we have lost the war.

Third, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law.
We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. A vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression has led more than 400,000 desperate people to flee, putting regional stability at risk.

The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.

No one is winning today’s wars. From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions can bring peace. We should have no illusions. We will not be able to eradicate terrorism if we do not resolve the conflicts that are creating the disorder within which violent extremists flourish.

Last week I announced the creation of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Those eminent individuals will allow us to be more effective in brokering peace around the world. The United Nations is forging closer partnerships with key regional organizations such as the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

We continue to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping – protecting civilians and saving lives around the world. And since taking office, I have sought to bring together the parties to conflict, as well as those that have influence on them.

As a meaningful example, I am particularly hopeful about tomorrow’s meeting on Libya.

Last month, I visited Israel and Palestine. We must not let today’s stagnation in the peace process lead to tomorrow’s escalation. We must restore the hopes of the people. The two-state solution remains the only way forward. It must be pursued urgently.

But I must be frank: in too many cases, the warring parties believe war is the answer.

They may speak of a willingness to compromise. But their actions too often betray a thirst for outright military victory, at any cost. Violations of international humanitarian law are rampant, and impunity prevails. Civilians are paying the highest price, with women and girls facing systematic violence and oppression.

I have seen in my country, and in my years at the United Nations, that it is possible to move from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. Let us push ahead with a surge in diplomacy today and a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow.

Fourth, climate change puts our hopes in jeopardy.
Last year was the hottest ever. The past decade has been the hottest on record.

Average global temperature keeps climbing, glaciers are receding and permafrost is declining.

Millions of people and trillions of assets are at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.

The number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970. The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1600, or once every five days. I stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and the United States who have just suffered through Hurricane Irma, the longest-lasting Category 5 storm ever recorded.

We should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict will be the new normal of a warming world.

We have had to update our language to describe what is happening: we now talk of mega-hurricanes, superstorms and rain bombs.

It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable. I urge Governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition. I commend those cities that are setting bold targets.

I welcome the initiatives of the thousands of private enterprises — including major oil and gas companies — that are betting on a clean, green future. Energy markets are telling us that green business is good business. The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today. So is the growing evidence that economies can grow as emissions go down.

New markets, more jobs, opportunities to generate trillions in economic output. The facts are clear. Solutions are staring us in the face. Leadership needs to catch up.

Fifth, rising inequality is undermining the foundations of society and the social compact.
The integration of the world’s economies, expanding trade and stunning advances in technology have brought remarkable benefits. More people have risen out of extreme poverty than ever before. The global middle class is also bigger than ever. More people are living longer, healthier lives.

But the gains have not been equal. We see gaping disparities in income, opportunity and access to the fruits of research and innovation. Eight men hold the same wealth as half of humanity.

Whole regions, countries and communities remain far removed from the waves of progress and growth, left behind in the Rust Belts of our world. This exclusion has a price: frustration, alienation, instability. But we have a blueprint to change course — to achieve fair globalization. That plan is the 2030 Agenda.

Half our world is female. Half our world is under 25 years of age. We cannot meet the Sustainable Development Goals without drawing on the power of women and the enormous energy of young people. We know how fast transformation can take place in our day and age. We know that with global assets and wealth worth trillions, we are not suffering from a lack of funds.

Let us find the wisdom to use the tools, plans and resources already in our hands to achieve inclusive and sustainable development — a goal in its own right but also our best form of conflict prevention. The dark side of innovation is the sixth threat we must confront — and it has moved from the frontier to the front door.

Technology will continue to be at the heart of shared progress. But innovation, as essential as it is for humankind, can bring unintended consequences. Cybersecurity threats are escalating. Cyber war is becoming less and less a hidden reality — and more and more able to disrupt relations among States and destroy some of the structures and systems of modern life.

Advances in cyberspace can empower people, but the dark web shows that some use this capacity to degrade and enslave. Artificial intelligence is a game changer that can boost development and transform lives in spectacular fashion. But it may also have a dramatic impact on labour markets and, indeed, on global security and the very fabric of societies.

Genetic engineering has gone from the pages of science fiction to the marketplace – but it has generated new and unresolved ethical dilemmas. Unless these breakthroughs are handled responsibly, they could cause incalculable damage. Governments and international organizations are simply not prepared for these developments.

Traditional forms of regulation simply do not apply. It is clear that such trends and capacities demand a new generation of strategic thinking, ethical reflection and regulation. The United Nations stands ready as a forum where Member States, civil society, businesses and the academic community can come together and discuss the way forward, for the benefit of all.

Finally, I want to talk about human mobility, which I do not perceive as a threat even if some do. I see it as a challenge that, if properly managed, can help bring the world together.

Let us be clear: we do not only face a refugee crisis; we also face a crisis of solidarity.
Every country has the right to control its own borders. But that must be done in a way that protects the rights of people on the move.

Instead of closed doors and open hostility, we need to reestablish the integrity of the refugee protection regime and the simple decency of human compassion. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the numbers we face can be managed. But too many states have not risen to the moment.

I commend those countries that have shown admirable hospitality to millions of forcibly displaced people. We need to do more to support them. We also need to do more to face the challenges of migration. The truth is that the majority of migrants move in a well-ordered fashion, making positive contributions to their host countries and homelands. It is when migrants move in unregulated ways that the risks become clear – for states but most especially for migrants themselves exposed to perilous journeys.

Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay.

The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and the human rights of all concerned properly protected. But from ample experience, I can assure you that most people prefer to realize their aspirations at home.

We must work together to make sure that they can do so. Migration should be an option, not a necessity. We also need a much stronger commitment of the international community to crack down on human traffickers, and to protect their victims.

But we will not end the tragedies on the Mediterranean, the Andaman Sea and elsewhere without creating more opportunities for regular migration. This will benefit migrants and countries alike.

I myself am a migrant, as are many of you. But no one expected me to risk my life on a leaky boat or cross a desert in the back of a truck to find employment outside my country of birth.

Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite. Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.
I have been pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain.

In today’s world, all societies are becoming multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious.
This diversity must be seen as a richness, not a threat. But to make diversity a success, we need to invest in social cohesion, so that all people feel that their identities are respected and they have a stake in the community as a whole.

We need to reform our world, and I am committed to reforming our United Nations. Together, we have embarked on a comprehensive reform effort:
— to build a UN development system to support States in bettering peoples’ lives;
— to reinforce our ability to safeguard people’s peace, security and human rights;
— and to embrace management practices that advance those goals instead of hindering them.
We have launched a new victims-centred approach to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
We have a roadmap to achieve gender parity at the United Nations – and we are already on our way.

We are here to serve: to relieve the suffering of “we the peoples”; and to help fulfil their dreams.
We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions, traditions vary widely — and wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict. That is exactly why we need the United Nations. That is why multilateralism is more important than ever.

We call ourselves the international community. We must act as one. Only together, as United Nations, can we fulfil the promise of the Charter and advance human dignity for all.

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Ending Modern Slavery Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:29:33 +0000 William Lacy Swing William Lacy Swing is Director General of the United Nations Migration Agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

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One in four victims of modern slavery were children. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

One in four victims of modern slavery were children. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By William Lacy Swing
NEW YORK, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Two centuries ago, right here in this city soon to emerge as the world’s center of commerce, a coalition of clergy, government officials, business leaders and rescued victims rose to fight the scourge of human slavery.

Their cause was Abolitionism and it became the world’s first transnational human rights movement.

Thanks to Abolitionism, businesses that depended on human bondage would no longer be tolerated. Soon they would be illegal. Slavery, which had endured since antiquity, was driven first from the English-speaking world and, eventually, everywhere else.

William Lacy Swing

William Lacy Swing

Or was it? We are here this week to examine a problem that’s risen in today’s increasingly globalised economy. To put it in blunt terms, the “chains” of historic slavery have in some cases been replaced with invisible ones: deception, debt bondage, unethical recruitment. It may be an infection buried within the supply chains of sophisticated global industries—like fishing, logging or textile manufacturing.

Or it can be hidden in plain sight—on any street corner where sex is sold for money.

Its victims number in the tens of millions. At any moment in 2016 forced labor—and its twin scourge, forced marriage—enslaved an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children worldwide, this according to research being released here this week during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

While many consider slavery a phenomenon of the past, it is a plague that is still very much with us. Criminals worldwide continue to find new ways to exploit vulnerable adults and children, undermine their human rights and extract their labor by force. Whether this takes the form of the sexual enslavement of women or the recruitment and trafficking of men forced to labor, no continent, and no country, is free today of this threat to human rights and human dignity.

At any moment in 2016 forced labor—and its twin scourge, forced marriage—enslaved an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children worldwide
On 19 September, Alliance 8.7, the global partnership to end forced labor, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labor, will bring together key partners representing governments, United Nations (UN) organizations, the private sector, workers’ organizations and civil society to launch new global estimates of modern slavery and child labor.

The global estimate of modern slavery was developed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with my organization, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is also the United Nations global migration agency.

Accurate and reliable data are vital tools in tackling complex social challenges like modern slavery. The estimates prepared by Alliance 8.7 will not only raise international awareness about such violations, but will also provide a sound basis for policymakers around the world to make strategic decisions and enable development partners to address funding gaps.

Drawing on in-depth responses from thousands of face-to-face interviews conducted in 48 countries, combined with comprehensive data sets about the experiences of victims of human trafficking from the IOM, the global estimates of modern slavery will provide valuable insight into the numbers behind modern slavery with specific information regarding region, group and gender.

Among the findings to be presented here this week:

  • Debt bondage affected half of all victims of forced labor.
  • Women and girls accounted for 71 per cent of total modern slavery victims.
  • One in four victims of modern slavery were children.

Such data, sadly, reveal only one facet of this ongoing tragedy: its global scale. The hard work of rescuing victims reveals how deeply modern slavery affects whole families.

Recently, IOM’s Global Assistance Fund for victims of trafficking and other migrants in vulnerable situations contributed to assisting 600 men from foreign fishing boats enslaved in Indonesian waters. Some had not been on dry land for years. One victim told IOM he had been separated from his family, without any contact, for 22 years.

There should be no mystery as to why this has become such a concern of IOM. We call for migration that is safe, legal and secure for all. Safe and legal migration means mobility managed transparently by the world’s governments, instead of hidden in a labyrinth of criminal netherworlds.

Migration that is secure for all means just that: for all. Governments need not wonder who is sneaking tonight across some unguarded border. Employers need not worry their new hire is, unknown to them, a debt-slave bound to a “recruiter” who is pocketing their pay—even as he or she increases the debt burden on the victim. Families need not dread what has become of a son, or daughter, who leaves home for a distant opportunity—and then is never heard from again.

So please join me in this fight against global slavery. The struggle may be centuries old but, in some ways, it’s just beginning.

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Islamic Organization Promotes Cultural Rapprochement Between US & Muslim World Mon, 18 Sep 2017 11:44:28 +0000 Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen is Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

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Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen. Credit: OIC

By Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen
NEW YORK, Sep 18 2017 (IPS)

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), by virtue of its position of being the second largest international organization outside the UN system with 57 member countries comprising one fifth of the world population and covering Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, is indeed an important actor in dealing with rapprochement between cultures, in particular rapprochement between the Muslim World and its international partners like the USA.

Rapprochement between cultures through dialogue among civilizations and diverse faiths as an agenda item was pioneered by the OIC at the international level as early as 1998.

The OIC believes in dialogue and communication in order to foster mutual respect and understanding. Its focus continues to be one of outreach and engagement with the international stakeholders like the USA to form a meaningful and functional partnership to work together in engendering a culture of peaceful coexistence and upholding human dignity.

Communication makes people more connected and raises awareness among them on the implications of hatred and discrimination based on their faith, culture and religion. Based on these premises, the OIC has established a separate full-fledged Department of Dialogue and Outreach in its General Secretariat. The main objective of this Department is to reach out to different cultures with an aim to reduce misunderstanding and cultural gap between them and the Muslim World.

With this in mind, the Department has established a close relationship of collaboration and cooperation with the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an Intergovernmental setup established at the initiative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia along with Austria and Spain to highlight the efficacy of cultural rapprochement as an effective tool to reduce conflict through building bridges between cultures.

We all want to live in dignity, in peace, in security, to raise our children, to protect our families. Muslims are not exception to that. Islam like any other religion advocate for the same values of humanity, mercy, solidarity, peace.

To this end, contemporary challenges like xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination, and hatred must be tackled through inclusive dialogue and tolerance. For this, uniting our efforts is what the world needs today.

Much has been achieved in this regard, nevertheless, as the challenges around us continue to grow and expand, much more is yet to be done. We believe that there is more to unite us than to divide. As such, in order to focus on the factors that bring us together, cultural rapprochement through communication, dialogue and inclusiveness needs to be nurtured and demonstrated in our everyday life.

Meanwhile, an OIC press release says the Organization will hold several meetings on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York starting Monday, 18 September 2017.

The foreign ministers of the OIC Member States are expected to hold a coordination meeting to discuss the issues of interest to the OIC that are on the agenda of the current session of the UNGA.

Also, the Special Ministerial Committee on Palestine will hold a meeting to discuss the developments regarding the Palestinian issue, and the Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al Othaimeen will chair an international high-level meeting to support the Palestinian refugees.

There will also be a ministerial meeting of the Contact Group on the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, who are being subjected to persecution, displacement and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar for years. The situation has exacerbated in the past weeks, which caused more than 300,000 of the Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.

Other contact group meetings will also be held on Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Yemen, Jammu and Kashmir, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the aggression of Armenia on Azerbaijan to discuss the situations and developments in these countries and regions.

In addition, the second meeting of the Contact Group on Muslims in Europe will be held, which aims to promote understanding and respect between Muslims living in the West and their communities and protecting their rights in light of heightened Islamophobia across Europe.

The recent terrorist attacks combined with the current economic crisis and high unemployment rates have increasingly strained relations between immigrant Muslim communities and the larger societies in which they live, a situation that has been used by the far right groups to exacerbate tensions.

The OIC Secretary General is expected to have bilateral meetings with a number of presidents, foreign ministers and high officials from the member states and non-member states during the UNGA to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Furthermore, Al-Othaimeen and his accompanying delegation of senior officials will participate in the opening of the UNGA session and several meetings and activities that are to be held on its sidelines on important regional and international issues.

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World Hunger on the Rise Again Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:48:09 +0000 Baher Kamal Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, a major United Nations joint report has just revealed. Hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak, on 15 September warned the first-ever UN report measuring progress on meeting […]

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Children drink from a tap during recess at a UNICEF supported primary school inside Bukasi internally displaced people's camp, in Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria. Credit: UNICEF/Gilbertson

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, a major United Nations joint report has just revealed.

Hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak, on 15 September warned the first-ever UN report measuring progress on meeting new international goals pegged to eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. “After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 815 million people in 2016, or 11 per cent of the global population, says a new edition of the annual report on world food security and nutrition.”“Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be business as usual”

At the same time, multiple forms of malnutrition are threatening the health of millions worldwide, it adds.

“The increase – 38 million more people than the previous year – is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, according to the study.”

Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be “business as usual,” alerts the new edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building Resilience for Peace and Food Security.

It requires a conflict-sensitive approach that aligns actions for immediate humanitarian assistance, long-term development and sustaining peace, says this year’s report, which has been elaborated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the UN World Food Program (WFP), along with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Key numbers

Hunger and food security

• Overall number of hungry people in the world: 815 million, including:
o In Asia: 520 million
o In Africa: 243 million
o In Latin America and the Caribbean: 42 million

• Share of the global population who are hungry: 11%
o Asia: 11.7%
o Africa: 20% (in eastern Africa, 33.9%)
o Latin America and the Caribbean: 6.6%

Malnutrition in all its forms

• Number of children under 5 years of age who suffer from stunted growth (height too low for their age): 155 million.
o Number of those living in countries affected by varying levels of conflict, ranging from South Sudan to India: 122 million

• Children under 5 affected by wasting (weight too low given their height): 52 million

• Number of adults who are obese: 641 million (13% of all adults on the planet)

• Children under 5 who are overweight: 41 million

• Number of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 613 million (around 33% of the total)

The impact of conflict

• Number of the 815 million hungry people on the planet who live in countries affected by conflict: 489 million

• The prevalence of hunger in countries affected by conflict is 1.4 - 4.4 percentage points higher than in other countries

• In conflict settings compounded by conditions of institutional and environmental fragility, the prevalence is 11 and 18 percentage points higher

• People living in countries affected by protracted crises are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere

SOURCE: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017

The Consequences

The consequences are striking—around 155 million children aged under five are stunted (too short for their age), the report says, while 52 million suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height.

Meantime, an estimated 41 million children are now overweight. Anaemia among women and adult obesity are also cause for concern. These trends are a consequence not only of conflict and climate change but also of sweeping changes in dietary habits and economic slowdowns.

The report is the first UN global assessment on food security and nutrition to be released following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 as a top international policy priority.

It singles out conflict – increasingly compounded by climate change – as one of the key drivers behind the resurgence of hunger and many forms of malnutrition.

And it sends a clear warning signal that the ambition of a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 will be challenging – achieving it will require renewed efforts through new ways of working.

More Chronically Undernourished People

The joint report provides estimates of the number and proportion of hungry people on the planet and includes data for the global, regional, and national levels, while offering a significant update on the shifting global milieu that is today affecting people’s food security and nutrition, in all corners of the globe.

Among other key findings, it reveals that in 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people in the world is estimated to have increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015 although still down from about 900 million in 2000.

After a prolonged decline, this recent increase could signal a reversal of trends.

“The food security situation has worsened in particular in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Western Asia, and deteriorations have been observed most notably in situations of conflict and conflict combined with droughts or floods.”

The apparent halt to declining hunger numbers is not yet reflected in the prevalence of child stunting, which continues to fall, though the pace of improvement is slower in some regions, the report warns.

Globally, the prevalence of stunting fell from 29.5 per cent to 22.9 percent between 2005 and 2016, although 155 million children under five years of age across the world still suffer from stunted growth.

Children, Stunned

According to the report, wasting affected one in twelve of all children under five years of age in 2016, more than half of whom (27.6 million) live in Southern Asia.

Multiple forms of malnutrition coexist, with countries experiencing simultaneously high rates of child undernutrition, anaemia among women, and adult obesity, t reports, adding that rising rates of overweight and obesity add to these concerns.

Levels of child stunting are still unacceptably high in some regions, and if current trends continue, the SDG target on reducing child stunting by 2030 will not be reached, according to the report.

Economic Slowdown

Another key finding is that worsening food security conditions have also been observed in more peaceful settings, especially where economic slowdown has drained foreign exchange and fiscal revenues, affecting both food availability through reduced import capacity and food access through reduced fiscal space to protect poor households against rising domestic food prices.

Credit: WHO/C. Black

“While underlining that the failure to reduce world hunger is closely associated with the increase in conflict and violence in several parts of the world, the report attempts to provide a clearer understanding of the nexus between conflict and food security and nutrition, and to demonstrate why efforts at fighting hunger must go hand-in-hand with those to sustain peace.”

Famine struck in parts of South Sudan for several months in early 2017, and there is a high risk that it could reoccur there as well as appear in other conflict-affected places, namely northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, they reminded.

Alarm Bells

Over the past decade conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature, said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General; David Beasley, WFP Executive Director; Gilbert F. Houngbo, IFAD President; Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Some of the highest proportions of food-insecure and malnourished children are found in countries affected by conflict, a situation that is even more alarming in countries characterised by prolonged conflicts and fragile institutions.

At the site for internally displaced persons in Mellia, Chad. Credit: OCHA/Ivo Brandau

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition,” the chiefs of the five UN agencies participating in the elaboration of the report have stated.

The five UN agencies heads also reaffirmed their determination and commitment now more than ever to step up concerted action to fulfil the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda and achieve a world free from hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

“Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition is an ambitious goal, but it is one we strongly believe can be reached if we strengthen our common efforts and work to tackle the underlying causes that leave so many people food-insecure, jeopardizing their lives, futures, and the futures of their societies.”

In response to a question raised by IPS at a press conference held this morning to launch the report at FAO headquarters, the FAO DG da Silva emphasized that to reverse the adverse trend in the number of undernourished people, ‘we are all working together, especially in countries affected by conflict and climate change, and continuing our focus on emergencies and humanitarian issues. There are new tools available now, such as cash vouchers and food for work. Although lives were lost, we were able to pull South Sudan out of famine in three months and Somalia in six months. There is no illusion that all protracted crisis can be solved immediately’.

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo said that ‘We should not wait for conflicts to be over. Long term investment is core to the solution, not only as seen from an agriculture perspective, but there are also issues of governance. Agriculture investment must also be combined with investment in technology and fighting food losses and creating access to markets’

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Communities Can be Role Models for Sustainable Development Fri, 15 Sep 2017 14:29:46 +0000 Nik Sekhran Nik Sekhran is Director of Sustainable Development, UN Development Programme (UNDP)

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Mikoko Pamoja is a community-based initiative that has pioneered carbon credit payments for mangrove restoration. Credit: Mikoko Pamoja

By Nik Sekhran

The United Nations, governments, civil society, business, thought leaders and media will gather in New York on September 17 to celebrate the winners of the Equator Prize 2017. The 15 prize winning communities successfully advance innovative solutions for poverty, environment, and climate challenges.

The Equator Prize 2017 winners will join a prestigious group of 208 previous Equator Prize winners that have been recognized by the UNDP Equator Initiative partnership since its inception in 2002. Together, these prize winners tell a compelling story about the power of local action. This year, among the winners is the Federación de Tribus Indígenas Pech de Honduras, a cooperative that sells an essential ingredient in the international fragrance and flavor industry.

Nik Sekhran

Across the Atlantic, the Mali Elephant Project works in a region torn asunder by violent extremism to protect the endangered African elephant and advance local development priorities. Moving further east, in Indonesia, Raja Ampat Homestay Association has created an innovative, community-run web platform for ecotourism, garnering over 600 new jobs for the community and catalyzing the creation of 84 community businesses, all while conserving fragile marine ecosystems.

The stories of these groups are not simply colorful reminders that people can live in harmony with nature. They illustrate how community action is essential to achieve sustainable development.

In 2015, the world agreed to an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From ending extreme poverty and hunger, to ensuring resilient communities, to ensuring water security, to sustaining life on land and life below water, this agenda defines the world we want in 2030. Achieving these goals will require a significant departure from business as usual.

Take the environment as an example – on our current trajectory, we will lose 68% of biodiversity by 2020. We are losing a rhino every eight hours, and an elephant every 15 minutes. Losing biodiversity also hurts the economy – we have lost US$20 trillion dollars in economic value since 1970 due to the degradation of ecosystems and the disappearance of biodiversity.

Further challenges arise from the trends we will face over the next 13 years, as we look towards 2030. With 1.3 billion more people on the planet, demand for food will increase by 35%, for water by 40%, and for energy by 50%.

We are approaching, and may have already surpassed, the planetary boundaries that define the thresholds of sustainability. We must learn to stay within these limits, to address the coming challenges, and to not only stem the loss of biodiversity but to transform nature to become an engine of sustainable development.

The village of Bang La sustainably manages a 192-hectare forest that has shielded the community from devastating disasters and improved livelihoods through increased fish catch. Credit: Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Bang La

We at UNDP believe that no one actor – not governments, not companies, not cities and not NGOs – can achieve the SDGs alone. We also believe that local action will be an essential component to achieve the goals. Local communities and indigenous peoples face the very real consequences of biodiversity loss and climate change daily – consequences which can mean life or death for their families, communities, and ways of life.

The Equator Prize teaches us that these same communities excel in developing innovative tactics that deliver high-impact, scalable solutions to address these challenges and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our awardees demonstrate that successful approaches combine multiple sustainable development benefits. Each Equator Prize 2017 winner’s actions address at least five SDGs in a holistic way. In Kenya, for example, Mikoko Pamoja is the first community-based initiative of its kind to sell carbon credits generated through the protection of mangrove forests. The community reinvests income from these credits into clean water and education, providing a virtuous cycle of development dividends that deliver on SDG1 (no poverty), 4 (quality education) and 6 (clean water and sanitation), in addition to SDG13 (climate action), SDG14 (life under water), and SDG15 (life on land).

In Indonesia, Raja Ampat Homestay Association’s web portal for community homestays provides a scalable avenue for local development and ocean conservation. Credit: Raja Ampat Homestay Association

Equator Prize winning communities also show that investing in nature is an effective and efficient pathway to sustainable development. Because its mangroves were intact, the village of Bang La in Thailand was largely spared the devastating force of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The community formed an association – the Mangrove Forest Conservation Group of Bang La Community – to legally protect their mangroves for future generations, at a fraction of what the cost of rebuilding a devastated community would be.

I look forward to celebrating and honoring these environmental heroes. Our venue for the Equator Prize Award Ceremony gala is a testimony to the power of local action – The Town Hall theatre in New York City was built in the early 1920s as a meeting place for a vibrant group of suffragists. The success of their struggle shows us how the commitment and perseverance of a small group of individuals can change the world for the better. Just like these suffragists, the Equator Prize 2017 winners provide powerful stories of hope amidst chaos, showing us that local action can create powerful impacts for people, planet, and prosperity.

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Secretary-General Talks Myanmar, Trump Ahead of General Assembly Thu, 14 Sep 2017 06:47:38 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage In an environment full of major threats, countries must work together towards peace and stability, the Secretary-General said ahead of the General Assembly. As the UN gears up for the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, when leaders from around the world will convene, the Secretary-General pointed to pressing issues and actions to be discussed […]

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Secretary-General António Guterres addresses a press conference ahead of the 72nd session of the General Assembly, which begins on 19 September. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

In an environment full of major threats, countries must work together towards peace and stability, the Secretary-General said ahead of the General Assembly.

As the UN gears up for the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, when leaders from around the world will convene, the Secretary-General pointed to pressing issues and actions to be discussed over the course of the week.

“Global leaders will gather here next week at a time where our world faces major threats—from nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cyber crime,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of his first General Assembly session since assuming office in January 2017.

“No country can meet these tests alone. But if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course, and that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important,” he continued.

Among the most pressing issues that is expected to be discussed during the annual meeting is the humanitarian crisis and escalation of violence in Myanmar, which Guterres described as “catastrophic” and “unacceptable.”

“I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country,” Guterres said, recommending that Rohingya Muslims be granted citizenship or at least a legal status that allows them to leave a productive life.

Sparked after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked a security post on August 25, Myanmar’s military has launched “clearance operations” which has left a path of destruction in its wake.

Security forces have reportedly systematically targeted Rohingya communities, including by burning their homes and indiscriminately shooting at villagers.

Over 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have since fled into neighboring Bangladesh, a figure that tripled in just one week.

In response to the violent outbreak, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that the treatment of Rohingya Muslims seems to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

When asked if he agrees that the Rohingya population is facing ethnic cleansing, Guterres stated: “When one-third of the Rohingya population have to flee a country, can you find a better word to describe it?”

However, he stopped short of describing the atrocities as genocide, instead calling it a “dramatic tragedy.”

“The question here is not to establish a dialogue on the different kinds of technical words…people are dying and suffering at horrible numbers and we need to stop it. That is my main concern.”

Amid mounting criticism over her response to the latest iteration of the crisis, Nobel Peace laureate and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi recently cancelled her trip to the UN meeting this year.

In her address to the General Assembly in 2016, Suu Kyi said that her government did not fear international scrutiny over its treatment of the Rohingya population.

“We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the State,” she said.

Myanmar is reportedly sending its Second Vice President Henry Van Thio in Suu Kyi’s place.

The Security Council (UNSC) has also faced criticism for its silence and lack of action on the situation in Myanmar.

The group last met behind closed doors at the end of August but issued no formal statement or proposal to end the crisis.

The Secretary-General wrote a letter to the 15-member council asking it to “undertake concerted efforts to prevent further escalation of the crisis.”

During a press conference, Guterres highlighted his personal commitment to the issue, stating: “This is a matter that I feel very deeply in my heart…the suffering of the people is something I feel very strongly about.”

UNSC held another closed-door meeting on Wednesday which many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are saying is insufficient and are urging for a public meeting.

“[UNSC] needs to take control of the issue and show that they are really concerned about it,” said Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau at a press conference on the Myanmar crisis.

“The Security Council is supposed to be the guardian of international peace and security. This is an international peace and security crisis. It is a nightmare—people are dying, there is destruction, there is no excuse for them to keep sitting on their hands,” he continued.

In an effort to advance the UN’s work on peace and security, Guterres also announced a new High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.

The 18-member group, which includes personalities such as President of Chile Michelle Bachelet and President of the International Crisis Group Jean-Marie Guéhenno, will advise the Secretary-General on mediation efforts and challenges.

Guterres also said that he aims to discuss the Myanmar crisis along with other challenges such as climate change with the United States’ President Donald Trump who is due to attend and speak at the general debate on 19 September.

Since taking office, President Trump has butted heads with the UN, threatening to significantly cut funds to UN programs and even eliminating all funds to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) after citing concerns that the agency conducts “coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China.

Earlier this year, Trump also announced the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a landmark commitment made by 195 countries to address and combat climate change.

In response to such challenges, Guterres highlighted the efforts being made to make the U.S.-UN relationship a constructive one and hopes that it will be a message that the President will also convey in his address.

“It is my deep belief that to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organizations like the UN,” Guterres said.

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South-South trade cooperation key to sustainable and inclusive model of globalization Tue, 12 Sep 2017 06:22:38 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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South-South trade cooperation key to sustainable and inclusive model of globalization

Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

Thanks to globalization and trade liberalization of commodities, services and goods, global trade has reached an unprecedented level. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, world trade in goods was valued at approximately USD 16 trillion. North-North trade generates the highest trade volume at approximately 6 trillion; trade flows within and between countries of the Global South amounts to 4.6 trillion. Trade between the Global South and the Global North -approximately between 2.5 and 3 trillion – add up to less than the trade flows within the Earth’s two main poles.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

With a rapid population growth on the horizon, the potential to increase South-South trade and South-North trade is crucial to maintain economic growth and promote a sustainable and inclusive model of globalization. With more than 80% of the world population living in developing countries, South-South trade has the potential to increase in the years to come and to become a vector for economic growth and prosperity for a major world region whose potential has not been fully tapped during past decades.

The 2017 International Day for South-South Cooperation is an important opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of strengthening and enhancing economic cooperation between the world’s most populous regions. According to the US Energy Information Administration, 7 out of 10 countries with the highest proven oil reserves in the world are located in the Global South (Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Libya). If we look at the world’s diamond producing countries, 4 out of 7 are in thesub-Saharan Africa region (Botswana, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia). Not only does the Global South account for more than 80% of the world population, it is also blessed with abundant natural resources.

There are numerous obstacles to unleashing the full potential of South-South trade cooperation, notably in the Arab region. In 1997, 14 Arab countries took the initiative to establish the Greater Arab Free Trade Area – a pan-Arab free trade and economic union – to spur economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa. This initiative can still become a success story if Arab states agree to remove and to eliminate tariffs hindering trade liberalization from taking full effect. The Gulf Cooperation Council is a good starting point. But even within this grouping which is one of the most successful economic trade block, setbacks occur. In addition, the unprecedented rise of military conflicts in the Arab region has hindered trade and economic growth. Ideological and political differences are still dividing Arab states in different sub-camps. These obstacles are also rife in many other regions in the Global South.

Another fundamental problem impeding better South-South trade cooperation is the current structure of the trade system. Many countries in the Global South are raw material producers with a strong primary sector in which the economic backbone is built primarily on the export of raw materials and commodities. Commodity and raw material prices are subject to volatility spurring social instability, as witnessed during the 2007-2008 world food price crisis or in the recent drop in oil prices. Countries in the Global South need to take further steps to move from a monoculture economy or one based on oil rent to an industrialized economy with a growing service sector as witnessed in the developed world. In the Arab region and especially in oil exporting countries, efforts are being made to diversify the economy despite the persistence of what is currently referred to as the “Dutch disease” (the discovery of natural gas in Groningen, Netherlands, drew all economic factors of production to the gas sector which led to the dereliction of the rest of the economy). The UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in particular are developing robust economic systems by reducing over-reliance on raw materials such as oil and gas. However, many countries in the Global South have not managed to free themselves from the raw material curse.

Countries in the Global South need to take further steps to move from a monoculture economy or one based on oil rent to an industrialized economy with a growing service sector as witnessed in the developed world.
In order to unleash the potential of South-South trade cooperation and ensure the right to development of their communities, countries in the Global South need to renew their commitments to create a global trade agreement that could bring about a meaningful South-South trade partnership. Although efforts were made to promote the Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP) as a blueprint for increased South-South cooperation, the GSTP has not materialized owing to differences in the elimination of trade tariffs. In the latest GSTP negations round that were held in Sao Paolo (Brazil), few countries signed the Sao Paolo Round Protocol despite the fact that the GSTP consisted of – at that time – 43 countries including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia. Although the Sao Paolo Round was concluded in 2010, it has not yet become effective owing to the insignificant number of countries signing and ratifying the protocol.

In order for an economic South-South trade agreement to become a reality, countries in the Global South need to ensure that trade policies are in line with the provisions set forth in the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development. The protection of human rights needs to be embedded in all trade agreements of relevance to the Global South. In addition, developed countries must provide for an enabling environment to boost trade and development in developing countries. Unfair trade tariffs, subsidies and economic sanctions – hindering the realization of free trade between the Global South and the Global North – need to be eliminated so as to promote an inclusive and sustainable model of globalization that would serve the interest of the world society.

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Much more climate finance now! Tue, 12 Sep 2017 05:57:47 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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A seawall in Dominica. A recent report has called for specific measures to protect small islands from sea level rise. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

Funding developing countries’ climate change mitigation and adaption efforts was never going to be easy. But it has become more uncertain with President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Accord. As a candidate, he threatened not to fulfil the modest US pledge of US$3 billion towards the 2020 target of US$100 billion yearly for the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The GCF was formally established in December 2011 “to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change”. In the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, developed economies had promised to mobilize US$100 billion yearly for climate finance by 2020.

However, only a small fraction has been pledged, let alone disbursed so far. As of July 2017, only US$10.1 billion has come from 43 governments, including 9 developing countries, mostly for start-up costs. Before Trump was elected, the US had contributed US$1 billion. Now that the US has announced its withdrawal from the 2015 climate treaty, the remaining US$2 billion will not be forthcoming.

Moreover, the US$100 billion goal is vague. For example, disputes continue over whether it refers to public funds, or whether leveraged private finance will also count. The OECD projected in 2016 that pledges worldwide would add up to US$67 billion yearly by 2020. But such estimates have been inflated by counting commercial loans to buy green technology from developed countries.

Cooperation needed

Even if all the pledged finance is raised, it would still be inadequate to finance a rapid transition to renewable energy globally, forest conservation as well as atmospheric greenhouse gas sequestration. The Hamburg-based World Future Council (WFC) estimates that globally, annual investment of US$2 trillion is needed to retain a chance of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C.

Obviously, the task is daunting, especially for developing countries more vulnerable to climate change. Therefore, in adopting the Marrakech Vision at the 2016 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) to meet 100% domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible, 48 members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum advocated an “international cooperative system” for “attaining a significant increase in climate investment in […] public and private climate finance from wide ranging sources, including international, regional and domestic mobilization.”

International cooperation is necessary, considering developing countries’ limited abilities to mobilize enough finance domestically. Much foreign funds are needed to import green technology. Additionally, most renewable energy investments needed in developing countries will not be profitable enough to attract private investment, especially foreign direct investment.

Hence, two options, proposed by the UN and the WFC respectively, are worth serious consideration. The UN proposal involves using Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a particular kind of development finance, namely climate finance. It involves floating bonds backed by SDRs, not directly spending SDRs. Thus, for example, the GCF would issue US$1 trillion in bonds, backed by US$100 billion in SDR equity.

QE for climate change mitigation
The WFC has proposed that central banks of developed countries continue ‘quantitative easing’ (QE), but not to buy existing financial assets. Instead, they should invest in ‘Green Climate Bonds’ (GCBs) issued by multilateral development banks, the GCF or some other designated climate finance institution to fund renewable energy projects in developing countries.

This should have some other potential benefits. First, it will not destabilize the financial system of emerging economies, whereas QE has fuelled speculation and asset price bubbles. Second, it is less likely to increase inflation as it will be used for productive investments. Third, for the above reasons, it should not exacerbate inequality.

Fourth, it will also help industrial countries as developing countries receiving climate finance will be importing technology and related services from developed economies. Fifth, GCBs can become near permanent assets of central banks due to their very long duration. Sixth, supporting sustainable development in climate vulnerable developing countries will ensure more balanced global development, which is also in the interest of industrialized countries themselves.

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Taking Stock of SDG Actions on UN’s Development Agenda Mon, 11 Sep 2017 05:47:38 +0000 Peter Thomson Peter Thomson is President of the UN General Assembly

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Peter Thomson is President of the UN General Assembly

By Peter Thomson

Taken together, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, provide humanity with a masterplan for a sustainable way of life on this planet.

Peter Thomson

If we maintain our fidelity to this masterplan, we will end extreme poverty and create economic growth and prosperity that is more equitably shared both between and within countries. And in so doing, we will empower billions of women and girls; advance human rights and reduce the risk of violent extremism. Most importantly, we will restore balance to our relationship with the planetary ecosystem, both on land and in the Ocean, while addressing the realities of Climate Change.

We set the bar high with the Agenda because conditions, both today’s and those to come, demand that we do so. Thus the goals we have set ourselves present enormous challenges and require of us huge transformations of systems and behavior.

Their realization demands political foresight, collaboration and the deployment of resources, expertise and technology on a scale that has perhaps never before been seen. But we do have these qualities and resources. Potentially, we have reserves of them sufficient to well exceed the goals before us. Thus it is a matter of deployment, of marshalling our forces, both morally and practically, to undertake the tasks at hand in a spirit of inclusivity and universality.

In these early years of the 2030 Agenda, it is essential that we generate an unstoppable momentum towards the way stations of 2020 and 2025, and ultimately on to our 2030 destination. In November last year, I presented to you my PGA plan to generate such momentum. As you know, I assembled a high-quality team of SDG experts within my office, supported by Chef de Cabinet, Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen, my Special Adviser on SDGs, Ambassador Dessima Williams, and the PGA’s Special Envoy on SDGs and Climate Change, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, to help me implement that plan.

Over the course of the last twelve months, we have pursued activities to bring progress to each of the 17 SDGs. This work has been captured in the report prepared for today’s meeting, a copy of which should now be with you.

I will summarize a sample of those activities now, by talking to three main streams of work.

The first work-stream relates to SDG Advocacy.

In order to keep the SDGs at the top of the global agenda, my office travelled to 32 countries across every region of the world. This was a time-consuming exercise, and I particularly want to thank Ambassadors Kamau and Williams for putting in the hard yards attained. From COP22 in Morocco to Habitat III in Ecuador; from the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and the OECD in France; from the African Union in Ethiopia to the European Union in Belgium, to the Belt and Road Forum in China and to the SIDS Symposium in the Bahamas, we were present at the forefront.

We visited the UN Offices in Bangkok, Nairobi, Vienna, Rome and Geneva to convene with them on the Sustainable Development Goals. On each occasion, we drove home our key 2030 Agenda messages, urging all actors to get on board the SDG train, to get the wheels of implementation turning, and to join the journey to a better world by 2030.

During the 71st session, we placed particular focus on engaging young people, believing them to be the most effective agents of transformation given the importance of the 2030 Agenda to their lives. We met with groups of young people at every given opportunity and I wrote to every Head of State and Government encouraging them to incorporate the SDGs into national school curricula, making a similar request to the heads of over 4,000 universities.

In addition, we strove to bring the attention of the global public to the SDGs. As part of this effort, we organized a series of SDG Media Zones to allow the global social media community to engage with leaders and speakers at the High Level Week in September and other High Level Meetings. All this to burn the candle of enlightenment better and brighter.

The second work-stream has focussed on generating collaboration across a range of SDGs.

Here, we convened a host of meetings in New York and elsewhere. You will recall the five SDG Action Events convened during the resumed session. Cognizant of the busy GA, ECOSOC and Security Council schedules, many of these action events were organized back to back with other meetings.

The first of them was held in January; when in keeping with the Secretary-General’s focus on prevention and in advance of next year’s High Level Meeting on Sustaining Peace, we looked closely at the links between the 2030 Agenda and the concept of Sustaining Peace. We emerged from that day with the mantra, ‘There can be no sustainable development without sustaining peace, and no sustaining peace without sustainable development.’

In March, we held a meeting with UNFCCC on the SDGs and Climate Change. It was hugely reassuring to observe at this meeting that the great mass of humanity, along with the governments that lead us, are united behind the Paris Agreement. The meeting made clear that proactive Climate action will have direct positive impacts across all of the SDGs, with a lack of Climate action having the opposite effect.

In April, with a view to identifying the steps required to unlock the massive resources required by the 2030 Agenda from international private finance, we held an SDG Financing Lab. This event illustrated how different goals require different sources of finances; how action must be taken to bring key financial stakeholders together on a UN platform to get investments flowing; and how the financial system must be aligned with the SDGs in order to facilitate the financing of the Goals.

In May, we held a memorable meeting on Innovation, kick-starting a reflection on how the UN system and Member States alike can embrace innovation for the benefit of SDG progress. We concluded that the fourth industrial revolution will be a boon to the 2030 Agenda, but that we must manage both the benefits and the risks associated with exponential technological change.

As we engaged with both the worlds of finance and technology during the 71st session, it became clear to us that there is a strong demand from outside the UN for a port of call, a docking station at the UN, for partnerships to be structured in support of the implementation of the SDGs.

And then in June, to bring a fresh spirit of collaboration and action to one of the most crucial SDGs, we held the SDG Action Event on Education and SDG 4. The meeting brought together key stakeholders to discuss what it will take to realize the Education Goal, looking at financing needs, at empowering youth, at education in humanitarian and emergency settings as well as at education for sustainable development, and at how connectivity and exponential technology advances can transform the way we educate for progress.

Finally, there was The Ocean Conference, held in support of the implementation of SDG14. Working with the Co-Chairs, Fiji and Sweden, with DESA, OLA, DOALOS, UNDP, UNEP, FAO, IOC and the entire UN membership, agencies and programmes, we raised global consciousness on the plight of the Ocean and produced a huge work plan of solutions from the congregation of world expertise assembled. The conference generated almost 1400 voluntary commitments for Ocean action and a global community of actors now committed to working with us in reversing the cycle of decline in which the Ocean has been currently caught.

I am very proud of what The Ocean Conference achieved. Ahead lies the implementation of the work plan, with the necessary discipline of the proposed 2020 UN Ocean Conference to work towards in support of SDG14.

The third work-stream has been the implementation of SDG-related mandates within the General Assembly.

Here, resolutions were passed on key issues like the Technology Bank for LDCs, and the Global SDG Indicator Framework. Lengthy consultations were conducted on the alignment of the GA Agenda with the SDGs, and important GA meetings were held on the UN’s response to individual SDGs such as those relating to biodiversity, water and urbanization. During the session, we advanced preparations for major meetings on SDG-related matters including migration, human trafficking, and South-South cooperation.

Having analyzed and reflected on what we have busied ourselves with during the 71st session, I draw a few key conclusions that I would like to share with you.

First, I believe that together we have generated momentum across the SDGs. Through our advocacy efforts, the New York element of the 2030 Agenda has been properly applied to ensuring the SDGs are at the forefront of the global agenda. Through our SDG action events, we have brought new actors to the table and encouraged those already involved to collaborate more actively with others. And through our work here at the General Assembly, we have strengthened the overall architecture for implementing and following up on the SDGs, and broadened global awareness of the SDGs.

Second, based on our experience and on all of the above-mentioned efforts and more, the outlook for SDG implementation is positive.

Headway is being made in many key areas, as captured in this year’s UN SDG Progress Report. Governments have made great strides in incorporating the SDGs into their national development plans, as was further evidenced by the strong interest in voluntary national reviews at this year’s HLPF.

Meanwhile it is heartening to see the business sector becoming increasingly aware of the SDGs and expressing a desire to play an active part in their implementation. Progressive actors in the financial world see that the future is green and that the 2030 Agenda presents incredible investment opportunities.

An army of innovators are at their keyboards and in their labs ready to unleash their ideas and new technologies to support the SDGs. And civil society actors, many of whom helped us to conceive this masterplan, are ready to push us forward day in day out.

Here at the UN in New York we see positive signs. The High Level Political Forum is growing in strength year on year. The appointments of Secretary General Guterres; of DSG Mohammed; of UNDP Administrator Steiner; and of UN DESA’s Mr Liu and many more, means that the UN has recruited an inspiring team to lead the charge of the 2030 Agenda.

The Secretary General’s report on the UN System that was released in July demonstrates his resolve to do what is needed to ensure the UN is fit to discharge its mandates to best effect and to better support Member States in realizing the SDGs. In this regard, I urge Member States to get behind the Secretary General’s efforts, to look beyond the pain of short-term changes and embrace the systemic shift needed to move us closer to the achievement of our universal goals.

My third conclusion is not yet an alarm bell, more in the nature of an early morning wake-up call. Two years after the momentous adoption of the 2030 Agenda, implementation is not yet moving at the speed or scale required to meet our ambitious goals.

Progress on individual goals is at best uneven, as evidenced on the ground where it matters most. This mixed picture is reflected across regions, between the sexes, and among people of different ages, wealth and locales, including urban and rural dwellers. Thus a much greater focus on leaving no one behind, on empowering women and girls, young people and vulnerable groups is asked of us at all levels.

UN DPI, the SDG Action Campaign and Project Everyone are diligently performing their respective roles in bringing the SDGs to the people. But popular awareness of the SDGs at individual and community levels across the world remains far too low. This is a serious flaw, for without knowledge of the rights and responsibilities inherent in the SDGs, people are not directly motivated to work on the transformations of thought and action the 2030 Agenda requires.

To correct this, further emphasis is needed in national plans and policies – be they in the global North or South – to better promote the central demands of the 2030 Agenda. These should include a focus on inclusion; an integrated approach across the three dimensions of sustainable development; and an emphasis on participation, transparency and accountability.

As indicated in the Secretary-General’s report, big gaps also exist in the UN’s current approach, particularly in the areas of partnership, finance, data and innovation.

More broadly, it is clear that we have yet to see the levels of collaboration and collective action that helped governments make major inroads on the MDGs. There is clearly a need for a more systematic approach to SDG partnerships and collective action across the range of SDGs and the UN has a critical role to play in making this so. The Ocean Conference demonstrated the power of bringing together a wide-range of actors to support the implementation of a particular SDG, and this model can be replicated elsewhere.

Similarly, we have yet to witness the dramatic shift in financing and global economic policy that is necessary to align the financial system with the SDGs. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda must be implemented, say it loud and say it clear. A shift away from unsustainable investments and a surge of private investment into developing countries, particularly in areas such as energy and infrastructure, is urgent business at hand. We need to see a significant increase in development assistance; a dramatic improvement in global tax cooperation; and meaningful review of macroeconomic policies to align them with the SDG’s focus on inclusion and sustainability. The UN has a more proactive role to play in promoting these issues, given its status as a trusted convener.

In conclusion, the UN needs to build a capacity, a docking station capacity, to convene, engage and create coalitions for collective action across the Means of Implementation, be it partnerships with the private sector, harnessing the potential of exponential technological change or convening the titans of public and private finance to support achieving the SDGs.

During the 71st session, we tried to leave no stone unturned in the search for SDG momentum.

I want to thank you, the Member States, for your support and good advice throughout. For those among you who at my request took on onerous roles of facilitation and chairmanship, I applaud you here in front of your peers. I congratulate the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General for grasping the baton of responsibility and leadership without breaking stride.

I thank UN DESA and many other parts of the Secretariat, especially those in the field in the service of the UN system, for putting their shoulders to the wheel; likewise, the wonderful team at the Office of the President of the General Assembly for doing all that was possible to keep us moving forward on the 2030 Agenda.

As you begin your preparations for the High-level week of the 72ndsession, I urge you to give this message to your capitals: we have achieved momentum on the SDGs, but there can be no rest. To get to the promise of the 2030 Agenda, we now need a shift in gears. It is time to crank it up a notch, for time is not on our side.

The message should also be that we find ways to collaborate better with non-governmental actors. Partnerships at times may involve risks, but if we partner right and partner strong, the rewards far outweigh them. And the message should include strong support for the Secretary-General in bringing forward his reforms of the UN System, so that we are in best possible shape to help others along the journey to 2030.

We have the resources, the ideas, the technology and the motivation. Add leadership, courage and an unwavering commitment to progress and we will reach our 2030 destination with goals fulfilled. As I have said many times, together we are strong.

When it comes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we succeed or fail together, for we are addressing the sustainability of our planetary ecosystem, the integrity of our global economic system, and the equity of humanity. We will not fail because we love our grandchildren. We will succeed because we have not come this far only to be defeated by greed.

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114 Nations Seek Support to Implement UN’s 2030 Development Agenda Sat, 09 Sep 2017 07:21:43 +0000 Amina Mohammed Amina J. Mohammed is Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations

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Amina J. Mohammed is Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations

By Amina J. Mohammed

Two years have passed since the world came together to adopt a truly remarkable framework for common progress: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda is transformative and inspiring its own right. That it was agreed at a time of severe political divisions on so many other issues was especially encouraging. Since then there has been very promising momentum around the world.

Amina J. Mohammed

The Sustainable Development Goals have jumped from the General Assembly Hall to communities across the world. They are taking hold among policy-makers and in global public awareness.

We saw this most recently here at the United Nations, when 65 countries — far more than expected and far more than last year — submitted their voluntary national reviews at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The Forum was a welcome opportunity to identify implementation challenges at the country level – and to share solutions, knowledge and best practices. It is clear that Member States are taking vigorous action to implement our SDGs. In many countries, Heads of State and Government are personally leading the charge, incorporating SDGs into national plans and visions, in some cases, incorporating sustainable development principles into legal frameworks too. In line with the interlinkages of the SDGs, we see governments walking the talk in terms of national coordination, resource mobilization and budget allocation, and engaging parliaments and local authorities.

Stakeholders, including business, NGOs, and the scientific community, are also helping to lead the implementation process. At the HLPF, which attracted over 5,000 participants this year, I was pleased to see so many enthusiastic actors. Next year, the list of countries ready to engage in the voluntary review process has already reached its maximum of 44. To me, this is an unmistakable signal of commitment.

The UN Development System, too, has shown its firm commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda, by providing country-level support. To date, 114 governments have requested support from UN Country Teams on SDG implementation. That is the good news. However, our assessment clearly shows that the pace of progress is insufficient to fully meet that ambition. We see, in the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals as we transition to the SDGs, that progress has not been even across regions, between the sexes, and among people of different ages and constituencies.

Inequality remains a significant challenge, both within and among countries. Children and youth, women and girls, indigenous people, older people, rural workers, people with disabilities, migrants and people affected by conflict remain vulnerable, deprived of their rights and opportunities. Every day, they must be empowered if we are to be true to our commitment to leave no one behind. The latest data show that extreme poverty is down to 11 per cent, but this translates to an estimated 767 million people still living with severe deprivation. Although Eastern and South Eastern Asia made significant progress, 42 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa continued to live in extreme poverty. We do need to put emphasis on data to know where those are that are being left behind. Maternal deaths have declined, but we need to double the rate of reduction to meet the target.

This means a concerted effort to invest in universal health care, with a focus on primary health care and secondary referral. The environment continues to bear the brunt of man-made actions, leaving more than 2 billion people to confront water stress and nine out of 10 city dwellers breathing polluted air. And there has been a significant increase in violent conflicts in recent years, despite a decline in homicides and better access to justice for more citizens around the world. So we are challenged.

To eradicate poverty, address climate change and build peaceful, inclusive societies for all by 2030, key stakeholders, including governments, must drive implementation of the SDGs at a much faster rate and at much larger scale. Poverty remains a major challenge. Increasing focus on the poorest, most vulnerable, furthest behind and hardest to reach is critical.

To ensure no-one is left behind, we need to monitor progress through disaggregated data, by building the capacity of national statistic systems and by improving data availability. We must also advance on gender equality. The empowerment of women and girls is an enabler for the whole 2030 Agenda. Currently, gender inequality is deeply entrenched. We see it in the slow progress in women’s representation in political life and in decision-making within our own households.

We see it as well in the violence, most often with impunity, that women and girls face in all societies, which also affect the mental health of women – which is also deserving of greater attention. The systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the whole 2030 Agenda is therefore crucial.

Another critical area is climate change. At this point I would like to express my sincere condolences to those who have recently suffered from environmental disasters, from landslides in West Africa, widespread floods in South Asia and, as I am speaking, from immense destruction and loss of life in the Caribbean region with Hurricane Irma. My heart goes out to them.

On UN Staff Day—September 8 — I also wish to acknowledge all the colleagues working on the ground in the affected regions. Implementation of the Paris Agreement is central to the success of the 2030 Agenda. The UN System supported countries in identifying and declaring their climate targets in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement.

This has carried forward – through multilateral initiatives such as the Nationally Determined Contributions Partnership – with translating targets into action, coordinating support, and providing access to climate finance. The priority now must be to scale this up and accelerate action to achieve country targets.

The Secretary General’s climate summit in 2019 will provide momentum for increased ambition. However, the financing requirements for realizing the SDGs and the Paris Agreement are considerable. They call for transformative solutions. The Addis Agenda provides the financing framework and blueprint for global cooperation. In many SDG priority areas, additional investments are essential. Development banks have significant potential to scale up their contributions to sustainable development financing. We also need countries to meet their commitments on ODA and we need to leverage South-South cooperation.

But public finance alone is not sufficient. We need to work in partnership with the private sector to ensure that all financing becomes sustainable and contributes to the SDGs. A growing number of businesses are considering social and environmental factors in their investment decisions. But here again, we need to go to scale.

The SDGs are also opening new business opportunities. I am proud to say that the UN is supporting efforts by the private sector to better align their internal incentives with long-term investment and with sustainable development indicators. Ultimately, progress will only be achieved through genuine and meaningful partnership. Partnerships at all levels are key to ensure continued momentum and implementation. Let me emphasize here the key role of local governments and mayors.

The UN has a critical role to play in bringing all stakeholders together and supporting countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. But the UN too must change to be an effective, accountable and responsive partner. As I have said before, the 2030 Agenda is a bold agenda for humanity and requires equally bold changes to the UN development system.

The UN development system has a proud history of delivering results and generating ideas and solutions to improve the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable. Yet, the current model of the UN development system is insufficient to match the ambition, of the new agenda.

In June, the Secretary-General put forward 38 concrete ideas and actions to reposition the UN development system to deliver the integrated support needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Combined, these ideas offer a roadmap for change that can significantly enhance the system’s effectiveness, cohesion, leadership and accountability. In the coming month, we will continue to confer with Member States and the UN development system, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with you and your representatives as the process unfolds.

We intend as a system to meet the ambition. The 2030 Agenda is the international community’s best tool for a more prosperous and peaceful world. It is relevant to all countries and all people. And it belongs to everyone. Its success, in turn, will depend on the active engagement of all actors for people, peace, prosperity and a healthy planet.

My simple appeal today to all of you is to stay engaged, help us keep the ambition high, and work with us in this collective endeavour for a better future for all.

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“I Decide for Myself”: South Sudanese Woman Shows Power of Knowledge Fri, 08 Sep 2017 14:41:02 +0000 Arlene Alano Elizabeth Ayumpou Balang is a teacher at a nursery and primary school in Rumbek, a town in central South Sudan. It is her dream job, but it did not come easily. Like many girls in South Sudan, Ms. Balang was married, and became a mother, while just a teenager. In South Sudan, about 45 per […]

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Elizabeth Ayumpou Balang speaks with a midwife during her antenatal check-up at the Kiir Mayardit Women's Hospital in Rumbek. Credit: UNFPA South Sudan/Arlene Alano

By Arlene Alano
RUMBEK, South Sudan, Sep 8 2017 (IPS)

Elizabeth Ayumpou Balang is a teacher at a nursery and primary school in Rumbek, a town in central South Sudan. It is her dream job, but it did not come easily. Like many girls in South Sudan, Ms. Balang was married, and became a mother, while just a teenager.

In South Sudan, about 45 per cent of girls are married before reaching age 18 – a situation that may be worsening because of the country’s ongoing conflict. For many girls, this means unfinished education, early motherhood, and worse health outcomes for themselves and their children.

But Ms. Balang resolved to follow a different path.

After having her first child at 18, she went back to school. “I wanted to continue my studies and become a teacher,” she told UNFPA. Since then, she balanced her time between taking care of her family and attending her classes.

Ms. Balang shows the module on gender and HIV & AIDS that she uses for her class. Credit: UNFPA South Sudan/Arlene Alano

It was challenging, she says, but her determination was stronger.

Empowered by knowledge

She also bucked another trend – she and her husband embraced family planning. Ms. Balang knew that contraceptives would enable her to achieve her goals.

“If I follow cultural norms, I am not supposed to practice family planning. But I decide for myself and my husband supports me,” she said.

She began attending a UNFPA-supported clinic, where midwives and other health workers provide a full suite of reproductive health support, including antenatal care, safe childbirth services, family planning information and a variety of contraceptive options.

Now 23, Ms. Balang teaches at a local school and finds fulfilment contributing to the empowerment of her students through education.

As part of the school curriculum, primary students are taught modules on gender equality, HIV and AIDS, and family planning. It is part of the comprehensive sexuality education that schools have incorporated into their programmes, with technical assistance from UNFPA.

“We teach these subjects so they become aware of gender issues and their rights, especially the girls, as well as to educate them on how to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” Ms. Balang explained.

The students respond well to the subjects, she says. “They are encouraged to participate in the discussion, especially when they realize that it is beneficial for them to be informed about these issues.”

A role model

Ms. Balang is now pregnant with her second child, and expecting to deliver soon. The timing of her second pregnancy works well for her family, she told UNFPA.

She hopes more South Sudanese women and couples learn about the benefits of family planning. With the country’s conflict and widespread instability, having more children that you cannot feed makes the situation worse, she explained.

Gordon Magang, one of the midwives working in UNFPA’s Strengthening Midwifery Services Project, says Ms. Balang is not just a good role model for young girls; she also sets a positive example for pregnant women with the way she takes care of herself.

“She regularly comes to the clinic for antenatal check-ups and to receive her vitamins. She wants to make sure that both she and her baby are healthy,” the midwife shares.

South Sudan is one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a mother. Government data from 2006 show that for every 100,000 live births, 2,054 South Sudanese women died from pregnancy or childbirth complications. More recent figures from the United Nations show 789 deaths per 100,000 live births, the fifth highest in the world.

Family planning and maternal health care can bring these tragic maternal death figures down. Ms. Balang’s inspiring example could very well save lives.

The post “I Decide for Myself”: South Sudanese Woman Shows Power of Knowledge appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Transformative Power of Literacy in Today’s Digitalized Society Fri, 08 Sep 2017 05:25:14 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 8 2017 (IPS)

The vision of a literate world has guided the United Nations in its efforts to eliminate illiteracy worldwide. According to UNESCO, the world literacy rate now stands at 91% up from 79% in 1980. In the Arab region, the literacy rate is currently at 86%; a 22% increase from 1980 where the literacy rate stood at 64%. Although world society has witnessed significant progress in eradicating illiteracy, approximately 750 million adults and 264 million children worldwide are still considered as illiterate. Thus, the cloud of world illiteracy overshadows the geography of world poverty. Nonetheless, the Sustainable Development Goals have translated the vision of a literate world into a concrete action-plan: Sustainable Development Goal 4.6 calls upon all member States of the United Nations to ensure that youth, both men and women, “achieve literacy and numeracy” by 2030. In the words of formerSecretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

“Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

The 2017 World Literacy Day addresses a subject that is even more important today owing to the digitalization of our societies. This year’s theme “Literacy in a digital world” explores the transformative power of communication and information technology in addressing illiteracy. In my previous role as the Minister of Education of the United Arab Emirates, numerous initiatives and projects were implemented to empower youth through enhancing literacy in the age of information. The vision was to enable youth to read, reflect and think as the first step towards building a society for the future. Eliminating illiteracy is an investment in educating humanity and in promoting a sustainable future. Access to technology is a prerequisite for a knowledge-based society.

The introduction of digital technologies – against the backdrop of globalization – has brought peoples closer as communication and exchange of information have become seamless. We are more connected than ever. In a heartbeat, we can buy our favourite book on the Internet, read articles on Kindle or even read newspapers on the airplane. The teaching environments in today’s modern classrooms have been transformed, thanksto the Internet. Students now have access to the latest information technology to increase their learning capabilities and gain knowledge through electronic means. Inevitably, digitalization has simplified access to information and knowledge and contributed to the alleviation of literacy at a faster rate than was the case in the past.

Digitalization has also facilitated the emergence of a new concept commonly referred to as digital literacy. Cornell University in the United States defines the latter as “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.” It has transformed our traditional understanding of literacy – the ability to read and write – to also include the capability of effectively using technological devices to communicate and access information.

Inevitably, youth – at an early stage of their lives – are not adequately equipped with the required skills to critically analyze or question the validity of information available on the Internet. In this regard, youth are becoming vulnerable to the growing and alarming increase in self-radicalization that occurs through the use of Internet and social media. Online propaganda and ideological inspiration from sources controlled by right-wing and terrorist groups are increasingly exposing youth to heinous ideologies. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have repeatedly warned against the phenomenon of Internet radicalization requiring “a proactive and coordinated response from Member States.” In world society’s attempts to address illiteracy, the ability to learn and to write needs also to include critical thinking so as to avoid self-radicalization which is emerging as a major social ill.

We must respond to the rise of Internet radicalism that is emerging as an invisible force inciting youth to join violent and radical groups whether in the Middle East or in Europe. Supportive settings and safe learning environments fostering social inclusion, open-mindedness and equal citizenship rights are important prerequisites in creating conditions protecting youth from falling prey to misguided ideologies. Critical thinking needs to be integrated in pedagogical teaching methodologies targeted towards youth. Literacy is not a static concept, it evolves in line with the developments of society. Strengthening digital literacy and critical thinking among youth is an investment in the future and one of the solutions to promote enlightenment, cope with radicalization in today’s digital age and realize the vision of a world that both prospers and is at peace with itself.

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How Ivory Fell into the Hands of Organized Criminal Syndicates Thu, 07 Sep 2017 13:40:47 +0000 Dr Richard Thomas Dr Richard Thomas is Global Communications Co-ordinator, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network

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Part of the 6 tonnes of confiscated ivory that were destroyed by the authorities in China. Credit: UNEP

Part of the 6 tonnes of confiscated ivory that were destroyed by the authorities in China. Credit: UNEP

By Dr Richard Thomas
CAMBRIDGE, Sep 7 2017 (IPS)

Ivory is like a drug and you have to be careful with it. If you are serious and desire it, you can get all you want, but you have to be patient and act very carefully,” a Cameroonian man selling ivory items from a network of shops across Central Africa, told TRAFFIC investigators in 2014.

A new report, launched September 7 by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, contains interviews and findings over a period spanning almost ten years from dozens of such men, all active participants in ivory trafficking within Central Africa.

In the first comprehensive ivory market assessment in the region in nearly two decades, the TRAFFIC investigators posed as buyers at known and newly identified ivory markets and workshops across Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Gabon: key source countries fuelling ivory trade in Africa and beyond. They also held consultations with major stakeholders, including government officials in all five countries.

The collective opinion they documented was a world where weak governance, corruption and shifting trade dynamics were highlighted as significant factors seriously undermining the control of ivory trafficking throughout the region.

According to the report’s authors: “enforcement efforts are hampered by corruption, often involving high-level governmental officials, insufficient human and financial resources, mismanagement and weak political will.”

In DRC, one ivory trader claimed to have a relative in the army who supplied him with raw ivory. He also alleged that the main suppliers are government officials and, to some extent, UN peacekeepers, who have the ability to move around the country frequently.

Also in DRC, researchers recorded well-informed claims that the FARDC, the country’s official army, was one of the main groups responsible for elephant poaching in Virunga National Park, with the ivory exported by the non-State “Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda” (FDLR).

The study found the trade has shifted from an open domestic retail trade of worked ivory to underground transactions with a focus on the export of raw ivory to foreign markets, especially China.
Nevertheless, throughout the multi-year investigation, market research showed that the region’s open illegal ivory markets were fast disappearing—with the exception of Kinshasa, DRC (whose market was recently closed). TRAFFIC investigators recorded less than 1 kg of ivory products openly displayed in 2014 and 2015 within CAR, Congo, Gabon and Cameroon, compared to around 400 kg in 2007, and more than 900 kg in 1999.

So what has caused local ivory markets to disappear? Certainly, the increasing pressure from authorities conducting frequent law enforcement operations had played a role, but the underlying driver appears highly sinister.

The study found the trade has shifted from “an open domestic retail trade of worked ivory to underground transactions with a focus on the export of raw ivory to foreign markets, especially China.” Meanwhile, a common theme heard throughout the sub-region were allegations concerning Chinese citizens operating within organized criminal networks as key actors in the trafficking, which has reduced the availability of ivory for local retailers and carvers.

A recent sharp increase in raw ivory prices was ascribed to “high demand and limited supply owing to the shift to exportation through transnational ivory networks and syndicates with greater financial resources.”

Amid this troubling scenario—where criminals involved in international ivory trade are regularly exploiting weak State governance and official collusion, confusion and corruption—what hope is there for the region’s future and that of its elephants?

Clearly the Central African countries face significant governance and enforcement challenges and urgently need to ramp up their efforts under a range of commitments made at multiple international fora over the last ten years. But, as long as corruption remains rampant and there is official collusion with trafficking networks, these bold intentions will inevitably be undermined.

This July, the G20 summit ended with leaders pledging to address the corruption that facilitates wildlife trafficking: a crucial step to stopping illicit ivory trade. With this high-level commitment is in place, will the resources to implement it now follow?

Last month, media reported that Zhang Yiming, the new Chinese ambassador to Namibia, had offered his country’s support to Namibia and other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to launch a robust joint regional law-enforcement initiative to tackle the trafficking of elephant ivory, rhino horns and other wildlife products, as part of China’s resolve to combat the scourge of poaching. If the same offer was available to the countries of Central Africa, it is one they can perhaps ill afford to turn down.

Ivory Markets in Central Africa – Market Surveys in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon: 2007, 2009, 2014/2015  was funded by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing, WWF France and WWF International, as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Wildlife Trafficking, Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) Project.

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Sixth North Korean Nuclear Test Creates New, More Dangerous Phase in Nuclear Crisis Wed, 06 Sep 2017 22:34:55 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association

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Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association

By Daryl G. Kimball

North Korea’s 5.9 to 6.3 magnitude nuclear test explosion September 3 marks a new and more dangerous era in East Asia.

Daryl G. Kimball

The explosion, which produced a yield likely in excess of 100 kilotons TNT equivalent, strongly suggests that North Korea has indeed successfully tested a compact but high-yield nuclear device that can be launched on intermediate- or intercontinental-range ballistic missiles.

Still more tests are likely and necessary for North Korea to confirm the reliability of the system, but after more than two decades of effort, North Korea has a dangerous nuclear strike capability that can hold key targets outside of its region at risk. This capability has been reached since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” if Pyongyang continued its nuclear and missile pursuits Aug. 8.

The inability of the international community to slow and reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits is the result of missteps and miscalculations by many actors, including the previous two U.S. administrations—George W. Bush and Barack Obama—as well as previous Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean governments.

Unfortunately, since taking office, President Donald Trump and his administration have failed to competently execute their own stated policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” with North Korea. Trump has greatly exacerbated the risks through irresponsible taunts and threats of U.S. military force that only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and have spurred Kim Jong-un to accelerate his nuclear program.

The crisis has now reached a very dangerous phase in which the risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is unacceptably high. Trump and his advisers need to curb his impulse to threaten military action, which only increases this risk.

A saner and more effective approach is to work with China, Russia, and other UN Security Council members to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

All sides need to immediately work to de-escalate the situation.
• The United States needs to consult with and reassure our Asian allies, particularly South Korea and Japan that the United States, and potentially China and Russia, will come to their defense if North Korea commits aggression against them.
• As the United States engages in joint military exercise with South Korean and Japanese forces, U.S. forces must avoid operations that suggest the Washington is planning or initiating a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, which could trigger miscalculation on the part of Pyongyang.
• Proposals to reintroduce U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea are counterproductive and would only heighten tensions and increase the risk of a nuclear conflict.
• The United States must work with the world community to signal that international pressure—though existing UN-mandated sanctions on North Korean activities and trade that can support its illicit nuclear and missile activities—will continue so long as North Korea fails to exercise restraint. Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important.
• Sanctions designed to limit North Korea’s oil imports should now be considered. While such measures can help change North Korea’s cost-benefit calculations in a negotiation about the value of their nuclear program, it is naive to think that sanctions alone, or bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack, can compel North Korea to change course.
• The United States must consistently and proactively communicate our interest in negotiations with North Korea aimed at halting further nuclear tests and intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile tests and eventually to verifiably denuclearize the Korean peninsula, even if that goal may no longer be realistically achievable with the Kim regime in power.
• Washington must also be willing to do more than to simply say it is “open to talks,” but must be willing to take the steps that might help achieve actual results. This should include possible modification of U.S. military exercises and maneuvers in ways that do not diminish deterrence and military readiness, such as replacing command post exercises with seminars that serve the same training purpose, dialing down the strategic messaging of exercises, spreading out field training exercises to smaller levels, and moving exercises away from the demilitarized zone on the border.
• This latest North Korean nuclear test once again underscores the importance of universalizing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Unless there is a more serious, more coordinated, and sustained diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

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Scaling up Development Finance Tue, 05 Sep 2017 15:21:51 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The United Nations and others have revived the idea of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issuing Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to finance development. Credit: Sriyantha Walpola/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR , Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission has estimated that achievement of Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals will require US$2-3 trillion of additional investments annually compared to current world income of around US$115 trillion. This is a conservative estimate; annual investments of up to US$2 trillion yearly will be needed to have a chance of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C.

The greatest challenge, especially for developing countries, is to mobilize needed investments which may not be profitable. The United Nations and others have revived the idea of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issuing Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to finance development.

IMF quotas
SDRs were created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement member countries’ official reserves (e.g., gold and US dollars). They were designed to meet long-term international liquidity needs, rather than as a short-term remedy for payments imbalances. The SDR is not a currency, but a potential claim on freely usable currencies (e.g., USD) of IMF members.

Currently, SDRs are allocated among members according to their IMF quotas. IMF quotas determine a member’s maximum financial commitment, voting power and upper limit to financing. Determination of quotas has been influenced by the convertibility of currencies, as it provides the Fund with ‘drawable’ resources. Moreover, the current quota formula is highly influenced by countries’ GDPs and trade.

Despite some reforms over the decades, IMF quotas are biased in favour of rich countries. Thus, arguably, SDR distribution based on IMF quotas is not neutral. Allocating more rights to provide poor countries with development finance would help redress this bias.

Concessional finance
The UN has long argued for creating new reserve assets (i.e., SDRs) to augment development finance instead of current provisions for distribution according to IMF quotas.

Creating new SDRs for development finance has its origins in Keynes’ 1944 proposal for an international clearing union (ICU). The ICU was to be empowered to issue an international currency, tentatively named ‘bancor’. The ICU would also finance several international organizations pursuing desirable objectives such as post-war relief and reconstruction, preserving peace and maintaining international order, as well as managing commodities.

From the late 1950s, Robert Triffin and others urged empowering the IMF to issue special reserve assets to supplement development finance. In 1965, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) endorsed a plan similar to Triffin’s.

According to this plan, the IMF would issue units to all member countries against freely usable currencies deposited by members. The IMF would invest some of these currency deposits in World Bank or International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) bonds. The IBRD would then transfer some of these to the International Development Association (IDA) for long-term low-interest loans to the poorest countries.


However, the proposal was blocked by the Group of Ten developed countries. They argued that the proposal, for permanent transfers of real resources from developed to developing countries, would contradict the original intent of costless reserve creation. Additionally, the G10 argued, direct spending of SDRs would be inflationary.

The creation of SDRs is not an end in itself, but a means to raise living standards. Thus far, the SDR facility has been used to try to ensure more orderly and higher growth in international liquidity, e.g., following the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, when a new allocation of SDR 182.7 billion was approved.

Also, by substituting for gold, which requires real resources to be mined, refined, transported and guarded, with costs of production and administration near zero, SDRs generate social savings, which can be used for internationally agreed objectives.

Jan Tinbergen argued that as the creation of new money always implies that the first recipient gets money without having produced something, this privilege should be given to the poor countries of the world, instead of the rich. But changing the SDR allocation formula requires amending the IMF Articles of Agreement, which requires approval of all powerful developed countries, which seems most unlikely in these times.

Development finance
Another recent UN proposal could help overcome resistance to issuing SDRs for development finance. The proposal involves floating bonds backed by SDRs, not directly spending SDRs. Arguably, leveraging SDRs thus would expose bond holders to illiquidity risks and distort the purpose (i.e., reserve asset) for which SDRs were first created.

Opposition to the proposal should be reduced by only leveraging ‘idle’ SDRs held by reserve-rich countries to purchase such bonds. This would be comparable to countries investing foreign currency reserves through sovereign wealth funds, where the liquidity and risk characteristics of specific assets in the fund determine whether they qualify as reserve holdings. Thus, careful design for leveraging SDRs, while maintaining their reserve function, can mitigate objections.

The proposal is also in line with current donor preference for blended finance, using aid to leverage private investment. Hence, this more modest and less ambitious proposal should face less political resistance from developed countries as it delinks the SDR distribution formula from the debate over amending IMF quotas.

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Robots: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations? Mon, 04 Sep 2017 16:38:37 +0000 Joseph Chamie Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

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TOPIO ("TOSY Ping Pong Playing Robot") is a bipedal humanoid robot designed to play table tennis against a human being. Photo: Humanrobo. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

TOPIO ("TOSY Ping Pong Playing Robot") is a bipedal humanoid robot designed to play table tennis against a human being. Photo: Humanrobo. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

Are humanoid robots or androids a solution to declining and aging populations? Given the prospects of demographic decline and population aging coupled with growing opposition to immigration, countries are increasingly turning to and investing in advanced robotics and androids to address shrinking workforces and rising numbers of elderly.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for example, has called for a more rapid development of advanced robotics. He believes that robotics “could help the country overcome the handicap of a fast-aging populace and a declining workforce and to help the country to use robotics from large-scale factories to every corner of our economy and society”.

More than 80 countries, representing 46 percent of world population, are experiencing fertility below the replacement level of about two births per woman (Figure 1). In many of those countries, including Canada, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the United Kingdom, fertility levels have remained below replacement for several decades.


Robots: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations? - Proportion of World Population by Fertiliity Rate of Countries

Source: United Nations Population Division.


Largely as a consequence of sustained levels low fertility about 50 countries or areas are projected to have smaller populations by midcentury. Some of those countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine, will likely see their populations decline by more than 15 percent by midcentury.

In addition, many countries are also experiencing rapid population aging. Due to low fertility rates and increased longevity, population age structures are becoming older than ever before. The median age of developed countries, for example, is now more than 40 years, an increase of 13 years since 1950. By midcentury the median age of about a dozen countries will be 50 years or more, including Japan (53 years), Spain (52), Italy (51) and Germany (50).

Also, in some countries, such as Greece Italy, Japan, Portugal and Spain, one in three people is expected to be 65 years and older by 2050. Consequently, potential support ratios in those countries are projected to decline to less than two people in the working ages 15 to 64 years per one elderly person aged 65 years and older (Figure 2).


Robots: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations? - Potential Support Ratios for Selected Contries

Source: United Nations Population Division.

At the same time that many countries are facing demographic decline and population aging, opposition to immigration is increasing among most migrant-receiving countries.  Opinion surveys report that majorities in dozens of countries, including Germany, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the United States, consider immigration to have a “very or fairly negative impact”.  In addition to rising public opposition to immigration, governments in a growing number of countries are tightening border controls, erecting fences, walls and barricades, and adopting policies to significantly restrict immigration.

Facing declining and aging populations coupled with resistance to immigration, countries are increasingly turning to and investing in advanced robotic technology to meet their labor needs and also increase productivity, reduce labor costs and improve goods and services. Recent examples of robotic technology include: a self-driving pizza delivery car; a robotic bricklayer that can lay 1,000 standard bricks in one hour, which typically takes two men about a day; and a robotic barista that can serve 120 coffees in an hour.

High robot-to-worker ratios are found in South Korea, Japan and Germany (Figure 3).  While more than half of the top ten countries in robot-to-worker ratios belong to the European Union, 75 percent of the world’s robots are geographically concentrated in five countries: China, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United States. The International Federation of Robotics forecasts that the number of industrial robots deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million by 2019, which is nearly a doubling since 2015.


Source: United Nations Population Division.


Advances in robot technology and artificial intelligence are contributing to the humanization of robots and the emergence of androids that look, move and act like a human being, even having a human-like body with a flesh-like appearance. In addition to being a solution to shrinking workforces, some believe that androids will be able to provide valuable services, including being personal companions for the growing numbers of elderly living alone, providing a platform for basic healthcare services and doing the dirty, dangerous and difficult work that many eschew.

Although still under development, first stage androids are becoming more apparent in warehouses, retail stores, reception/information centers, hospitals, military installations, industrial parks and television. Several years ago scientists in Japan developed the world’s first news-reading android that not only had perfect language skills, but also possessed a sense of humor. Another recent example is an android developed at a research institute in Singapore that works as a university receptionist.

In the past the possibility of androids existing within human societies was limited mainly to science-fiction writers, moviemakers and futurists. More recently, scientists, innovators and industrial leaders are addressing the emergence of the transformative era of humanoid robots with artificial intelligence.

The benefits and advantages of androids or human-like robots are widely recognized by governments, businesses, the military and research centers. In addition to performing repetitive manual tasks, androids are able to converse and interact with people, provide customer service and artificial companionship, undertake dangerous assignments, potentially saving human lives, and even have sex. Also, in contrast to humans, androids don’t need food or financial compensation, don’t tire or require sleep, follow instructions explicitly and automatically, work without perks, and do not have feelings of fear, anger, pain or depression.

Others, however, have voiced serious concerns about the possible negative and even dangerous consequences of androids with enhanced artificial intelligence. As androids become increasingly humanlike, they are believed pose a potential threat to societies. Advanced machine learning algorithms, for example, are permitting robots to self learn and replicate themselves.

Some have also warned that advanced robotics threatens the prospect of mass unemployment, affecting everyone from drivers to sex workers. Others have also raised concerns about people getting emotionally attached to androids that provide artificial companionship. In contrast to rudimentary robotic devices, studies have reported people relating to androids as though they were human. A recent example of such emotional attachment is the Japanese male who decided to “marry” his robot.

Regarding mass unemployment, some argue that as has been the case in the past – for example, when Luddites were proved wrong – the emerging android and robotic technologies will eventually lead to more jobs and prosperity as well as improved and less costly goods and services. While many human jobs will be taken over by robots, recent evidence from Germany and the United States suggests that automation programs with robots have a positive effect on employment opportunities.

However, others counter that the development of androids and robots are coming up so rapidly and across such a broad spectrum of jobs that large numbers of workers, especially those lacking technical training and skills, are being displaced and encountering difficulties finding suitable employment. One economic study found that since 1990, each robot added to an American factory reduced employment in the surrounding areas by 6.2 workers.

In response to those concerns, some have recommended a robot tax to raise revenues to retrain those workers displaced by robots or provide them with a universal basic income if they remain unemployed. Another suggestion is that governments may be pressured by their constituents to legislate quotas for human workers.

Such suggestions, however, do not address the needs of the millions of young people seeking employment in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the population aged 15 to 24 years is expected to more than double by midcentury, exceeding more than 400 million youths. Seeking employment and a better life, many young men and women are deciding to migrate illegally to the industrialized countries.

Another worrying dimension is that governments have not yet devised a body of laws, standards and regulations regarding the use of androids. Issues of android registration, taxation, liability, application and safety are just a few of the practical concerns. More serious matters are protections against hackers, cybercriminals, terrorists, and others getting control of androids and robots that could cause disruption and harm to people, property and the environment.

More than 40 countries already have robotic programs with developed unmanned aerial bombers. In many countries the military is a prime driver in robotic and android development as it seeks to reduce risks to soldiers and acquire enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The International Committee for Robot Arms Control fears that advances in robotics will lead to more countries involved in war, as androids and armed robot combatants replace human soldiers on the battlefield. Recently, 116 founders of robotics and AI companies from 26 countries signed a petition calling for a ban of killer robots, or lethal autonomous weapons systems, arguing that only humans should be permitted to kill humans.

While some see androids as one solution to declining and aging populations, others view it as a worrisome development that poses a potential threat to human societies. Given the profound implications of the emerging transformative era of androids, the international community of nations should address and seek to establish a global agreement or protocol on the use of androids.


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