Inter Press Service » Extra TVUN Journalism and Communication for Global Change Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:35:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Portuguese-Speaking Nations Endorse FAO Director-General for Second Term Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:14:02 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
DILI, East Timor, Jul 24 2014 (IPS)

A summit meeting of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), also known as Comunidad de Paises de Lengua Portuguesa, last week reaffirmed the right to food and called for the eradication of hunger.

The high level meeting of political leaders from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome & Principe, Timor-Leste and Equatorial Guinea also endorsed the re-election of the FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, for a second term in July 2015.

The resolutions adopted at the Dili summit: reaffirmed the CPLP commitment to strengthening the human right to adequate food – both at national and community levels – while recognizing their role in eradicating hunger and poverty in the CPLP through the inclusion of the theme “Food Security and Nutrition” on the agendas of CPLP Presidencies and the Summits of Heads of State and Government until 2025;

Additionally, the resolutions also reaffirmed the need to implement the Action Plan of the CPLP Strategy on Food Security and Nutrition (ESAN-CPLP), including activities such as the operation of the CPLP Council on Food Security and Nutrition (CONSAN-CPLP) and the positive impact generated by the launch of the Campaign “Together against Hunger”, in all Member States and in the international community;

The summit highlighted the importance of the establishment of “Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries Without Hunger” in light of the technical cooperation agreement between CPLP and FAO in the framework of cooperation for the eradication of hunger and poverty in the CPLP Member States;

The nine world leaders also welcomed the set of actions that have been undertaken within the International Year of Family Farming, responsible for promoting the role of family farming in the fight against hunger and malnutrition and in the development of sustainable food systems;

They recognized the opportunity presented by the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), to be held next November in Rome, to reinforce nutrition as a standing issue on the international agenda, and also as a public issue.

Also highlighted was the CPLP’s support to the current FAO administration’s policies aimed at to eradicating hunger and poverty, and recommended its continuation in the coming years in order to succeed in achieving its objectives.

The summit highlighted the common political commitment to promote CPLP’s visibility through the promotion of candidatures from its member states to positions and functions in international organizations, as expressed by the CPLP’s endorsement of the following candidatures in the UN system: (i) Angola as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, for the term 2015-2016; (ii) Portugal for the United Nations Human Rights Council, for the term 2015-2017; (iii) Brazil for the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), for the term 2015-2017; (iv) Brazil for the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission (CO-CCP), for the term 2015-2016; (v) Brazil for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), for the term 2016-2020; (vi) Brazil for the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), for the term 2017-2019.

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Study Shows Worsening Humanitarian Disaster in CAR Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:21:30 +0000 Chau Ngo By Chau Ngo

Violence has resulted in widespread deaths in the Central African Republic (CAR) in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

One in three families surveyed lost at least one family member between November 2013 and April 2014, the medical humanitarian organisation by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, said in a report.

About 95 percent of the over 2,000 casualties examined derived from gunshot, grenade or other blast wounds, it said.

“It is a disaster characterised by unspeakable violence targeted against civilian populations, catastrophic levels of preventable disease and death,” said Sylvain Groulx, MSF Head of Mission in CAR. “CAR has devolved into a nightmare of even graver proportions.”

The country of 4.6 million people in central Africa has been wracked by violence between the anti-Balaka Christian militants and the Seleka-aligned Muslims.

A country rich in oil, gold and uranium, CAR has one of the world’s lowest gross national income per capita, at 320 dollars in 2013, according to the World Bank (WB). Its life expectancy is also among the shortest, at 49 in 2012.

Violence targeted at the Muslim minority has driven nearly all the Muslim population in the western area of the country to fled in several months, said MSF. However, they continued to face risks while seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Hundreds of people died during the transfer to Chad, most of them due to violence, MSF said, adding that Chad’s decision to close its border for security reasons in May has complicated the situation of the Central African refugees. More than 120,000 people have sought refuge in Chad since last December.

“While Chad has the legitimate right to maintain the security of its territory, it is crucial that the fundamental right for people to flee violence is guaranteed and respected,” said Dounia Dekhili, Deputy Manager of MSF Emergency Programmes.

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Less Vulnerability & Better Resilience, Urges HDR Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:15:48 +0000 Zafirah Mohamed Zein By Zafirah Mohamed Zein

Although global poverty is declining, human development growth across all regions is slowing down, according to the 2014 Human Development Report (HDR) launched Thursday by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).

Income inequality has also risen in several regions, though Latin America and the Caribbean still carry the highest instances of income disparity. Increased levels of violent crime continue to threaten the lives of people, despite its many achievements in human development.

Such crises and threats significantly hinder progress towards sustainable development. Other than physical insecurity and income inequality, the report cites food insecurity, health risks and natural disasters as shocks that prevent people from overcoming vulnerability.

Almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if problems arise, which is more frequently becoming the case in a world where rising instances of conflict are thrusting people into states of insecurity.

“The eradication of poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’ – it is also about staying there,” states UNDP administrator Helen Clark. She also added that as long as people remain at risk of slipping back into poverty because of structural factors and persistent vulnerabilities, development progress remains uncertain.

The report – “Sustaining Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience” – thus asserts that progress is neither equitable nor sustainable unless comprehensively tackled by policies and social norms.

It takes on a people-centred approach with a human development lens in order to consider vulnerability and resilience and makes recommendations in dealing with these factors.

More than 15 percent of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multi-dimensional poverty. The report states that restricted core capabilities in areas such as education and health as well as limited choices caused by social obstacles prevent them from effectively tackling shocks and setbacks.

Khalid Malik, Director of UNDP’s HDR Office, said at a press briefing, “There may be instances in which equal opportunities require unequal treatment. Greater resources and services may need to be provided to the poor, the excluded and the marginalized to enhance everyone’s capabilities and life choices.”

He also talked about “historic exclusions” such as that experienced by India’s Dalits, and suggested collective action be taken in addressing this deep-rooted issue and supporting people’s rights.

The report promotes “a more equal society” where people are placed first, in order to secure gains and sustain progress. It advocates for the universal provision of basic social services, stronger social protection and a commitment to full employment.

“Markets alone cannot provide adequate social and environmental protection,” said Malik. He recognized that fair and responsive institutions have to exist in order to foster social cohesion and expand the capacity for disaster preparedness and recovery.

He also added that “jobs are far more important than the wages” being attained from employment because of the social dividends – such as social cohesion and stability – that exceed the private benefit.

In many parts of the world, youth expectations in the labour market are not being met. As witnessed in the Arab Spring, a youth bulge coupled with limited jobs, amongst other socio-political issues, led to an explosion of dissatisfaction with the state.

The report argues that changing social forces and greater global interconnection require that a better relationship be forged between states and their citizens.

In order to do this, people need to be empowered and supported by their governments, through social protections and policies that build resilience to weather shocks. It also calls for universalism, an improvement in global coordination and stronger collective action in the path towards sustainable development.

As preparations for the conclusion of the post-2015 development agenda negotiations are being made, the report serves as a timely and valuable analysis. It urges the inclusion of “an international consensus on universal protection” in the upcoming plan.

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Ethiopia Shoulders Heavy Refugee Burden Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:23:38 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Ethiopia plays host to a refugee population higher than the entire population of Luxembourg, in large part due to the recent conflict in South Sudan.

On Wednesday, John Ging, Operations Director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, spoke about his recent trip to Ethiopia, stressing the seriousness of South Sudan’s crisis and the sacrifice of the Ethiopian government and people.

“Ethiopia sets a global standard for its generosity and its humanity with regard to hosting so many refugees,” Ging told reporters. “There are now over 600,000 in total in Ethiopia in over 22 locations in the country.”

Already the destination of refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, Ethiopia has faced an increased burden as 180,000 South Sudanese have poured across the border into its Gambella region since January.

With an original population of only 300,000, the Gambella region may soon be overwhelmed.

Ging highlighted the needs of both the South Sudanese refugees and their Ethiopian hosts.

“We shouldn’t just look at a response for the refugees. We must also look at a response for the host communities who themselves are impoverished,” he said.

“The influx of refugees compounds the challenges that they face themselves in terms of their own economic status and prospects.”

Ging praised the current response by the Ethiopian authorities and the U.N. Refugee Agency’s “very strong cadre of humanitarian staff,” but made clear that the refugees’ plight was not receiving enough attention.

“The appeal for the refugee component in this crisis is only 25 percent funded. That means that across the board the delivery of services does not meet what the refugees are entitled to,” he said.

In addition to the insufficient level of contributions, the timing of the funding has been causing headaches. Ging lamented that since the humanitarian appeals did not receive upfront funding, the U.N. could not distribute aid until the rainy season had begun, creating an expensive logistical nightmare.

The camps face substantial shortfalls in water, sanitation and food.

About 90 percent of Ethiopia’s refugee population consists of women and children. More than 30 percent of the children suffer from malnutrition.

“Food distribution is funded until September but if there is not new funding the food distribution will stop,” said Ging.

He called on the rest of the international community to shoulder its share of the burden.

Amid the bad news, Ethiopia’s willingness to welcome its neighbours still inspires, said Ging. It has recently given university scholarships to more than 1,700 Eritrean students.

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CAR With the “Most Abandoned People,” Says Mia Farrow Wed, 23 Jul 2014 05:42:10 +0000 Zafirah Mohamed Zein By Zafirah Mohamed Zein

“I came away thinking that the people of the Central African Republic (CAR) were surely the most abandoned people on earth,” said Mia Farrow.

The Hollywood actress, one of UNICEF’s first Goodwill Ambassadors, addressed the media at a press briefing Tuesday, on her recent trip to CAR and her concerns about the severe humanitarian crisis afflicting the country.

She had visited CAR twice before – in 2007 and 2008.

CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries, plagued by decades of political turmoil. Despite being engulfed in extreme violence and chaos, the conflict-torn nation is one the international community has paid least attention to. Observers have likened the current situation in the country to genocide.

On her trip in 2013, Farrow talked of the fragility of the situation in Bangui, and the ethnic cleansing that had taken place. “Nobody was safe. By the time I came back in June-early July, the town of Bossangoa had been cleansed of the entire Muslim population.”

Religious tensions have been brewing in the country between minority Muslims and Christians since the March 2013 ouster of President Francois Bozize and subsequent capture of Bangui by the Seleka rebel coalition.

The current absence of governance in CAR is described by Farrow as an “open invitation to any kind of extreme groups,” and the country is seeing an influx of armed militants from politically unstable countries such as Libya, adding to the onslaught of bloodshed by both sides.

Despite this, Farrow is against the notion that the situation in CAR is a religious conflict. “A country like CAR is able to be trained and used as [extreme groups] wish. That doesn’t make it a religious conflict. It means people of two different faiths have lined up on different lines. It is a sense of otherness.”

She talked of the precise division in which the country’s Muslims and Christians live by, and the immense anger felt on both sides. However, the explosion of violence has blurred these lines, as Christian militias that form the Anti-balaka group have been reported to be killing, raping and robbing Christian civilians as well.

In two clinics she visited – one Christian, the other, Muslim – Farrow met two young mothers, both teenagers uncertain and fearful of their children’s future. One of them had travelled a whole day in the forest, carrying her baby on her shoulders and crossing the river.

“There was no clean water where she was, nothing to eat but leaves, and her baby was dying. As soon as the baby was strong enough, she was going to cross that river and go back.” The young mother was certain staying in the area would result in their deaths.

Around 2.3 million people is said to have been displaced by the conflict, and up to 10,000 children recruited by armed militias on both sides. “It’s the children you worry about the most. The fear in the faces of women and children is something you can never forget,” said Farrow.

On the work of the United Nations and other international humanitarian agencies in CAR, the actress noted their increased presence and voiced her appreciation for the French troops that have been striving to restore order in the country.

“Where I saw the troops in action, they absolutely made it better,” she said. “There aren’t enough of them and they can’t cover enough ground but tens of thousands of people would be dead had they not been there.”

The French mission in the CAR has been extended till the end of the year, and 12,000 U.N. soldiers are to be deployed in September.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged the people of CAR to seize the opportunity of the three-day Brazzaville peace talks taking place in the Republic of Congo to pave the way towards reconciliation.

Farrow reiterated the urgency of the situation in CAR and called for peace in order for its people to live even a semblance of ordinary lives.

“I wish for the cessation of the violence in CAR so that people can reclaim the tatters of their lives and rebuild. This kind of destruction will take time. There’s been too much killing. Maybe all will be forgotten in a month or a year. But I want to see the road towards peace.”

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U.S. Counter-Terrorist Sting Ops Overstep Proper Bounds Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:05:29 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

In its zealous pursuit of terrorism since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals in sting operations and alienated the American Muslim community, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday.

The report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Procedures”, documents cases against American Muslim defendants in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) overstepped its bounds.

“The United States government has failed to meet its international legal obligations with respect to its investigations and prosecutions of terrorism suspects, as well as its treatment of terrorism suspects in custody,” says the report.

More than 500 individuals have been prosecuted in federal courts for terrorism or related offences since 2001. Many prosecutions have respected the law, according to HRW, but an alarming number have not.

One of the most disturbing trends in US counterterrorism policy is the prevalence of discriminatory sting operations.

In a sting operation, a law enforcement informant collaborates with a suspected terrorist in the planning of an attack, sometimes providing financial support or fake weaponry, and then arrests the individual when he or she attempts to carry out the plan.

Problems arise when the government persuades or pressures a hesitant individual to act. These investigations often target individuals with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent, according to the report.

“In some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act,” the report says.

In the report, a former FBI agent questioned the efficacy of sting operations. “When the FBI undercover agent or informant is the only purported link to a real terrorist group, supplies the motive, designs the plot and provides all the weapons, one has to question whether they are combatting terrorism or creating it,” he said.

Almost 15 percent of federal counterterrorism convictions involved a sting operation in which the informant played an active role in the plot.

In recent years, the U.S. government has attempted to build trust with American Muslim communities, but its controversial counterterrorism measures have undercut its own efforts.

For example, the arrest of Adel Daoud in autumn 2013 raised an uproar in Chicago’s Muslim community over the use of sting operations. Daoud was only 17 when undercover FBI employees began to cultivate a fake plot with him to attack a Chicago bar through an online Islamic forum.

His eventual arrest prompted “speculation about why the FBI deployed undercover agents to ensnare the teenager, rather than contact his parents or community leaders,” the report says.

According to HRW, unscrupulous law enforcement practices in terrorism cases “have alienated the very communities the government relies on most to report possible terrorist threats and diverted resources from other, more effective ways, of responding to the threat of terrorism.”

Building on the criticisms it raises, HRW ends its report by calling on the U.S. government to restrict and regulate the use of informants and develop rights-respecting partnerships with local community groups.

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Reallocation of Finance Needed for Sustainable Development Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:03:10 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Successful sustainable development financing will require a reallocation of investment and the creation of innovative partnerships, according to the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF).

The committee conducted a briefing Friday on the progress of its new report.

The report seeks “to provide a sustainable development financing strategy for the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015,” according to Ambassador Pertti Majanen, co-chair of ICESDF.

“We found that needs are extremely large, and the challenge in meeting them is huge, but it is achievable,” he said. “Public and private savings, already at around 22 trillion US dollars a year, are sufficient to meet the needs.”

“Nonetheless, it is clear that the current allocation of investment will not deliver sustainable development. The challenge of policymakers is thus to facilitate investment of diverse public and private, domestic and international financing flows in sustainable development.”

Mansur Muhtar, the other co-chair of ICESDF, focused on the specific policies that need to be implemented for successful sustainable development financing, on both the national and international levels.

“National efforts need to be complemented by international public support and an enabling international environment,” he said.

Countries need to “formulate their own national financing strategies aimed at addressing sustainable development goals,” Muhtar said, “and look at this in a holistic and synergistic and interrelated manner.”

The committee wishes to promote the development of “efficient and transparent tax systems through the broadening of the tax base and improving tax administration as well as closing loopholes.”
National development banks could play an important role in domestic public financing, according to Muhtar.

ICESDF stressed that national governments must cooperate with and encourage private sector sustainable development financing.

Muhtar cautioned that blended financial instruments can shift risk from the private sector to the public sector, but remained confident that “innovative financial structures can overcome past impediments.”

On the international level, the committee “felt that there should be a focus on strengthening tax cooperation, facilitating greater exchange of innovation [and] encouraging country-by-country reporting,” Muhtar said. These measures are designed to stem illicit flows and increase financial transparency.

Sustainable development financing works best in a fair and open financial system, said ICESDF. The committee encouraged global and regional dialogue and the sharing of best practices in the structuring of sustainable development financing arrangements.

ICESDF will release its final report upon the conclusion of its next meeting from August 4 to August 8.

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Seeking Leadership & Innovation in Sustainable Development Fri, 18 Jul 2014 05:24:55 +0000 Zafirah Mohamed Zein By Zafirah Mohamed Zein

Sustainable energy and sustainable development are key components of a new initiative launched by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) and the China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC) .

Entitled “Powering the Future We Want,” the initiative provides $1.0 million annually to individuals or institutions that have showed leadership and innovation in energy practices towards sustainable development.

“We expect the recipient(s) to identify lessons learned and underlying factors of best practices, and share the lessons learned with decision-makers and practitioners from other countries, through capacity building workshops and seminars,” said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, at the signing ceremony Friday.

The approach is a response to a call by member states during the 2012 Rio+20 Conference, where they acknowledged a lack of efforts in spreading best practices and sharing successful experiences.

This issue was highlighted as a limiting factor in the path towards sustainable development and the reduction of implementation gaps.

China’s Ambassador to the United Nations Liu Jieyi, said, “Without the development of developing countries, the development of the world would be incomplete.”

Hence, capacity building in developing countries plays an important role in the success of this collaborative scheme. UN-DESA and CEFC hope this can be achieved through south-to-south cooperation and innovative partnerships.

The initiative comes in the midst of active dialogue on the post-2015 Development Agenda. Occurring at such an appropriate time, Jieyi stressed that steps must be taken to ensure the common future of developing countries and that of the international community. He expressed his pride in CEFC in “taking the lead and setting the example” in this direction.

CEFC is a non-governmental, non-partisan, not-for-profit Chinese think tank committed to promoting international dialogue and understanding of cultural values, regional cooperation and energy security.

Patrick Ho, Secretary-General of CEFC, highlighted the importance of energy as a strategic commodity for the development of a country, thus contributing to the challenges and sufferings that stem from efforts to gain resources for the security and interests of individual countries.

“Energy belongs to every one of us on this earth. Access to energy should be a basic universal right. There is enough energy to go around for every one of us and for our children,” he said.

“Energy security at this global level should transcend all parochial, selfish and private reasons.” He also added that global energy is a global challenge that demands global participation.

Grant recipients are chosen through competitive review and selection process by the Technical Advisory Group and High Level Steering Committee, with participation from relevant U.N. systems.

Only those with the most creative, practical and implementable practices that address the world’s challenges in sustainable development will be rewarded, according to Hongbo. He added that the selected “will still need to work hard after winning” and hopes that competition will be fierce.

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Survivors of Biafran War in New Push for Reparations Mon, 14 Jul 2014 10:38:16 +0000 a Global Information Network correspondent By a Global Information Network correspondent
NEW YORK, Jul 14 2014 (IPS)

Survivors of the Nigerian civil war that raged for 3 years and whose horror was captured in unforgettable photographic images that shocked the world have renewed their demand for compensation for the suffering of those years.

Ndigbos, a socio-cultural Igbo group, were cut down in a brutal war that followed years of political wrangling among three regional-political sectors joined in an uneasy alliance by British colonialists.

The newly-independent Nigeria consisted of Yoruba, Igbo and Muslim Hausas. After a deadly coup and counter-coup, the Igbos declared their intention to breakaway and form a sovereign republic called Biafra.

Their intention triggered a war against the new republic which had minimal defenses. A military blockade of the Biafrans in 1968 led to a humanitarian disaster including widespread civilian hunger and starvation in the besieged Igbo areas. The Biafrans claimed that Nigeria used hunger and genocide to win the war, and they sought aid from the outside world.

Only five countries (Tanzania, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Zambia and Haiti) officially recognized the endangered Biafra republic. The UK and the Soviet Union supported (especially militarily) the Nigerian government while Canada and France helped the Biafrans.

The United States declared neutrality, with the Secretary of State explaining that “Nigeria is an area under British influence.” Nevertheless the U.S. provided some military assistance to the Nigeria government.

Images of the Biafran war came to life in the recent best-seller by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun – now a movie. It is estimated that up to three million people died due to the conflict, most from hunger and disease.

This week, the Reparation Committee of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in a 28-page document titled: “Atrocities and Injustices Against Ndigbo,” set out a list of demands and submitted them to President Goodluck Jonathan.

It reads in part: “The Federal Government should pay 400 billion naira each to the five states of the South East as compensation to those who lost loved ones, lost properties, and those still suffering dislocation today in Nigeria.

Compensation would be made to those Igbos who escaped during the pogroms and war and returned to find their jobs taken, their properties and houses occupied and their Biafran money worthless.

This has led to a feeling of an injustice as the Nigerian government policies are seen as further economically disabling the Igbos even long after the war.

The group is also asking the Federal Government to invest in a massive re-planning of Igbo cities with proper structures such as provision of urban water works, a sort of Marshall Plan often devised for war-ravaged area.

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Noncommunicable Diseases Receive Vital Attention Fri, 11 Jul 2014 10:30:58 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Less than two percent of all health-related development assistance is directed at noncommunicable diseases, despite the fact they are responsible for more than 60 percent of all deaths worldwide.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Noncommunicable Diseases Country Profiles 2014 report, which documents the impact of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on 193 countries.

Although many assume that NCDs like cardiovascular disease and cancer predominantly affect developed nations, the report found that “developing countries have the greatest vulnerability and the least resilience in preventing and controlling NCDs.”

The report was released in the midst of a two-day High-level Meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on the comprehensive review and assessment of the progress achieved in the Prevention and Control of NCDs.

Speaking at the opening of the NCD review meeting, John W. Ashe, current president of the U.N. General Assembly, remarked that “NCDs are now recognised by the WHO as the largest single cause of death and disability worldwide, responsible for some 36 million deaths” per year.

The current push against NCDs began in 2011 when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Political Declaration on NCDs. To achieve the commitments of the declaration, the WHO designed an NCD Global Action Plan, composed of concrete actions for countries to take to reduce premature mortality from NCDs.

Countries pledged to reduce the use of alcohol and tobacco, halt the rise in diabetes and obesity and provide preventative therapy for heart attacks and strokes.

According to the NCD Country Profiles 2014 report, “while many countries have started to align their policies and resources with the nine global targets and the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020, progress in countries has been insufficient and highly uneven.”

“A significant number of developing countries are struggling to move from commitment to action,” it says. “This is not the result of lack of political will. Rather, many developing countries don’t have the resources… needed to address the significant health and socioeconomic impacts of NCDs.”

At the report’s release, health officials from several countries also raised concerns over the misdistribution of health resources within countries. They argued for a shift of focus from disease treatment to disease prevention.

Health advocates highlighted the economic and social impact of NCDs on women at a side event to the NCD review.

According to a survey of 10,000 women from 10 different countries, “22 percent of the women said that more than 25 percent of their family’s income is spent on NCD’s,” said Nalini Saligram, founder of a global health non-profit called Arogya World.

Women shoulder a double burden, since they suffer from NCDs but also are the primary caregivers for family members with NCDs, the women’s health advocates agreed.

The Country Profiles 2014 report provides a comprehensive summary of the effect of NCDs, and disaggregates its measurements to account for the divergent impacts on men and women.

The new report documents what has changed since the WHO’s last report in 2011 and provides a benchmark for future improvements.

“I always say what gets measured, gets done,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. “This is the only way to make sure the momentum is being kept.”

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As Population Advances, a New Younger Generation on the Rise Fri, 11 Jul 2014 09:55:58 +0000 Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin By Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin

Today’s 1.8 billion young people are a powerful force, individually and collectively. They are shaping social and economic realities, challenging norms and values and building the foundation of the world’s future.

Governments and the international community are increasingly conscious of the importance of providing resources and opportunities for all young people to reach their full potential as individuals and citizens.

They recognize that investing in young people and enabling them to exercise their human rights not only benefits young people themselves, but can also help their countries reap a demographic dividend.

We know that healthy, educated, productive and fully engaged young people can help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and are more resilient in the face of individual and societal challenges. As skilled and informed citizens, they can contribute more fully to their communities and nations.

For millions of young people around the world, puberty — the biological onset of adolescence — brings not only changes to their bodies, but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the areas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing.

Millions of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage, increasing the risks of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as death or disability due to childbirth.

This is why young people, especially adolescent girls, are at the heart of our work at UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Working with a multitude of partners, in particular young people themselves, UNFPA is advocating policies and programmes that invest in adolescents and youth and foster a positive environment for them; promoting their access to comprehensive sexuality education as well as quality sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning; and facilitating their leadership and participation.

We are doing this with an emphasis on reaching the poorest, most marginalized and underserved adolescent girls.

Through this multipronged effort, we and our partners are seeing how critical early investments in sexual and reproductive health can enhance the lives of young people and the welfare of their societies.

A sustainable future depends on having resilient populations, which cannot be achieved without investments in young people. They not only form a large proportion of the world’s population and deserve their fair share as a matter of equity, but are also in a critical stage of their lifecycle that will determine their future – and thus those of their families, communities, and societies.

On this World Population Day, I commit UNFPA’s full support to all efforts to promote young people’s aspirations and to place young people at the very heart of national and global development efforts.

 * Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin is U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNFPA Executive Director

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Asia, Africa See Faster Urbanisation than Rest of the World Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:05:02 +0000 Chau Ngo By Chau Ngo

Asia and Africa are seeing a faster pace of urbanisation than the rest of the world and the trend is expected to continue, posing challenges for governments to provide public services and manage migration issues.

All regions in the world will further urbanise in the next decades, in which Asia and Africa, now accounting for nearly 90 percent of the world’s rural population, will be home to most of the urbanisation process, the United Nations said in its 2014 World Urbanisation Prospects report released here.

Nearly 64 percent of Asians and 56 percent of Africans will live in cities by 2050, an increase from today’s 48 percent and 40 percent respectively, according to the report. India now has the largest rural population in the world, with 850 million people.

The ongoing urbanisation trend requires governments worldwide to plan for and manage the changes in population distribution and migration, said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

“The thing to be afraid of is the situation in which governments do not plan for the growth that’s going to take place, then you can get sprawl and slumps,” he said. “It’s very important to anticipate the growth that’s going to take place.”

The world’s urban population exceeded the rural one for the first time in 2007 and today around 54 percent of global population live in cities. The ratio is expected to increase to 66 percent by 2050, the U.N. said.

Tokyo is the world’s largest cities with around 38 million people, followed by Delhi with 25 million and Shanghai’s 23 million, according to the report.

The U.N. has also urged countries to produce extensive and better quality data on their population trends, which would help them to better manage urbanisation issues and ensure sustainable development.

“Accurate, consistent and timely data on global trends in urbanisation and city growth are critical for assessing current and future needs with respect to urban growth and for setting policy priorities to promote inclusive and equitable urban and rural development,” it said.

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Amnesty International Calls for Accountability in CAR Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:00:55 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Perpetrators of human rights atrocities in the Central African Republic operate with complete impunity because of the country’s feeble judicial system and ongoing instability, according to an Amnesty International report released Thursday.

Based on interviews conducted between December 2013 and May 2014, the report chronicles human rights violations on all sides of the conflict between the mostly Christian Anti-balaka and the mostly Muslim Séléka armed groups.

“Since December 2013, deliberate large-scale killings of civilians, including women and children, have continued unabated, sometimes followed by mutilation, dismembering and burning of the bodies,” the report said. “Acts of cannibalism have also been reported.”

The report, entitled Central African Republic: Time for Accountability, identifies about twenty alleged human rights abusers, including François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia, both former presidents of the Central African Republic (CAR) who are at the centre of the conflict.
Amnesty International also spotlighted the alleged killing of civilians on CAR territory by the Chadian national army and the Chadian contingent of the African Union’s CAR peacekeeping force.
“Most of the attacks have been conducted openly, the perpetrators showing no remorse or fear of sanction,” the report said.

CAR’s failure to effectively investigate past human rights abuses has convinced violators that they will not be held accountable.

According to the report, the security situation in the CAR holds much of the blame for the culture of impunity. The transitional government, assisted by 5,800 African Union peacekeepers and 2,000 French soldiers, has been unable to stem the violence, leaving the judicial system in a precarious position.

On at least three occasions, human rights abusers have broken out of the country’s only operational prison en masse.

Because of violence targeted at those who speak out against the massacres, magistrates fear for their lives and those of their family members. In May 2014 the Bangui prosecutor announced that criminal proceedings would be suspended altogether.

In the report, Amnesty International criticizes the transitional government’s reluctance to move forward with investigations. The transitional authorities fear that the detention of prominent anti-Balaka and Séléka members would provoke retaliation and instigate even more instability.

The report worries that “Despite the urgency of the situation, the international community’s response to the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in CAR has been far too slow.”

Amnesty International concludes the report by calling for a coordinated international effort to restore CAR’s justice system and hold human rights abusers accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The net is closing in on those responsible for human rights abuses,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s CAR expert. “Their names and whereabouts are known. Their crimes are being documented. And they will face justice.”

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NGOs Warn of Slowing Poverty Reduction Wed, 09 Jul 2014 09:55:21 +0000 Chau Ngo By Chau Ngo

Poverty reduction has been slowing despite the swift economic development worldwide in the past 20 years, as a result of increasing inequality between countries and within the nations.

The pace of poverty reduction was faster in the 1990-2000 period than in the following decade, in contrast to that for trade and income, which grew more quickly after 2000, according to Social Watch, a network of citizen organisations advocating poverty eradication and ending discrimination.

“Slowing progress on social indicators will only get worse as the impact of the global financial, economic food and energy crisis is being registered in internationally comparable statistics,” the Uruguay-based advocacy group said in its 2014 report.

Social Watch said its Basic Capabilities Index (BCI), designed to measure progress in the Millennium Development Goals components, climbed by 7 percentage points between 1990 and 2010, adding this was “very little progress”.

In the same period, the world’s exports increased by five times and inhabitants’ average income doubled, it said.

The United Nations said earlier this week global poverty has been halved five years ahead of the targeted timeframe 2015, with around 22 percent of the world’s population living in poverty as of 2010.

However, Social Watch said poverty reduction progress has not been sufficient because the bar for these efforts has been lowered.

“The message to the governments of the world is, therefore, that nothing needs to change to win this war,” it said.

The World Bank classified “absolute poverty” in low-income developing countries as a person living on less than 30 U.S. cents a day in 1973, which is now equivalent to 1.6 dollars, adjusted to inflation, Social Watch said. Today, the World Bank is keeping the threshold at 1.25 dollars.

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U.N. Proposes Pathways to Decarbonisation Tue, 08 Jul 2014 11:18:47 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

National teams in 15 of the world’s largest carbon emitting countries collaborated to produce a 194-page report, which outlines the vast technological transformations that each country must make to prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C.

The report, launched Tuesday by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, aims to lead the debate in the run-up to the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris.

It was the first report of the Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project (DDPP).

The Secretary General struck an optimistic tone at the report’s presentation. “Change is in the air,” he said. “Solutions exist. The race is on, and it’s time to lead. Deep decarbonisation is feasible, but it requires global commitment to advancing key low-carbon energy technologies.”

According to Jeffrey Sachs, the world is on a trajectory to see a temperature increase of 4°C, double the limit set by the U.N. “The business as usual path would be an absolutely reckless and unforgivable gamble for this planet,” he said.
Current debate focuses on narrow measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as switching from coal to gas in U.S. power plants, but Sachs asserted that a deeper transformation is necessary.

The DDPP report identifies three pillars of deep decarbonisation.

First, energy efficiency should be improved. Second, energy should only be produced from renewable resources or fossil fuels paired with carbon capture and storage methods. Third, transportation, construction and industry should move away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels towards electric power.

These three pillars are at the heart of the decarbonisation pathways of all 15 countries covered in the report, which account for 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The teams from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S. adjusted this basic framework depending on national circumstances.
While the DDPP report demonstrates that deep carbonisation is possible in theory, funding problems remain.

“We’re profoundly under-investing in the research and development of low-carbon technology,” Sachs lamented.

Despite the difficulties, Ban hoped that the development of this report would spur further efforts at decarbonisation. “By seeing what is possible,” he said, “others can take inspiration and follow suit.”

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Environment Should be Priority in China’s Urbanisation Spree Tue, 08 Jul 2014 10:54:38 +0000 Chau Ngo By Chau Ngo

Environment should be among the top issues to be addressed by China in its urbanisation spree to ensure sustainable development, according to panelists at a discussion here Tuesday.

“I deeply hope that carbon capture and sequestration can work at a significant scale and this would be the number one option for China, because it’s a coal-based economy,” Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Millennial Development Goals, told the audience at a discussion on China’s initiatives on city development.

“This is the time for sustainable development within China and globally.”

Coal accounts for about 70 percent of China’s total energy consumption, according to the World Bank. The country is also the world’s largest coal producer and consumer, with half of the global consumption of the fossil fuel.

Urbanisation has taken place swiftly in China in the past 30 years following economic expansion. As of 2012, around 52.6 percent of the country’s population lived in urban areas, a jump from 36 percent in the early 2000s.

China said it expects the urbanisation ratio to reach 60 percent by 2020, meaning around 800 million people will be living in cities.

China’s urbanisation, which is the swiftest and largest in human history, has placed the country in the face of various issues, including the misuse of land, hardships of migrant workers, environmental issues.

Pollution in China’s cities is a popular topic in media coverage. The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) has also warned the country about health issues as a result of heavy air pollution, with hundreds of thousands of people being affected.

China said it has adopted a plan to deal with the issues arising from its urbanisation process, in which it aims to seek new ways to ensure sustainable development.

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Opium Production Rises to Record Levels Worldwide Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:16:33 +0000 Chau Ngo By Chau Ngo

Illicit opium production rose last year to nearly 300,000 hectares, the largest since estimates became available, with Afghan heroin reaching new markets, according to a United Nations report.

Afghanistan, which has been the world’s largest opium producer, accounted for 209,000 hectares, or 70 percent of the total cultivation area, said the World Drug Report 2014 released on Thursday by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

“There is evidence that Afghan heroin is increasingly reaching new markets, such as Oceania and Southeast Asia, that had been traditionally supplied from Southeast Asia,” the report said.

“The so-called ‘southern route’ is expanding, with heroin being smuggled through the area south of Afghanistan reaching Europe, via the Near and Middle East and Africa, as well as directly from Pakistan.”

Apart from Afghanistan, Myanmar saw an increase in the area of opium cultivation, according to the report.

The report also presents the latest development of the use of opiates, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines, and their impacts on the users’ health. Up to 200,000 people worldwide die of drug-related issues every year despite the stabilisation of its use, the report said.

Between 3.5 percent and 7.0 percent of the world’s population at the age of 15-64 had used an illicit drug at least once by 2012 while up to 39 million people worldwide had drug use disorders or dependence in 2012, relatively similar to the previous years, according to the report.

“We must continue to enhance international cooperation, including with respect to transparent sharing of data and analysis, to help us better understand the drug problem and address the many challenges, including the related issues of violence and insecurity,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said.

This report also provides the joint estimates about the number of people injecting drugs and living with HIV from the UNODC, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Bank, the U.N. said.

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If One Wing is Broken, No One Can Fly Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:11:31 +0000 Kanya DAlmeida By Kanya D'Almeida

Before an audience of over a thousand people in the historic Apollo Theatre in West Harlem, UN Women launched a major global campaign Thursday to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women.

Called ‘Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It!’, the campaign seeks to revive the spirit of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which marked a major turning point in the gender equality movement nearly two decades ago when it was unanimously accepted by 189 countries.

Reflecting on 20 years of struggles for women’s rights, though, is a sobering process.

Despite years of efforts to end gender-based violence, one in every three women and girls experience some form of sexual or physical abuse in their lifetimes, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Despite billions spent on rural development, women in sub-Saharan Africa spend an estimated 16 million hours a day fetching water.

And despite fierce struggles for equal representation of women in politics, by January 2014 only nine women were serving as heads of state, and just 15 as heads of government.

As UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka pointed out to much applause, “The Beijing Platform is still unfinished business.”

She drew attention to the success stories, pointing out that the percentage of girls enrolled in primary schools increased from 75 to 90 percent in the last 20 years. She also noted important developments in access to healthcare, which have halved the number of women who die during childbirth in the two decades since Beijing.

“Still,” she added, “a full 800 women still die in childbirth every day, most from preventable diseases.” And while the world has made strides in combating such travesties as female genital mutilation, she said, “An estimated 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the next decade.”

She concluded: “Progress? Yes. But it is too slow. And too little.”

With the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals approaching fast, the ‘Empowering Women’ campaign has identified 2030 as the year for the Beijing Platform to become obsolete in light of full gender equality around the world.

Already the campaign has reached 40 million people on social media, and aims to go even further to educate the world on 12 critical areas of concern for women and girls – originally articulated in Beijing but very much relevant today – including: reducing women’s share of poverty; protecting women and girls from discrimination and violence; ensuring women’s full and equal participation in the workforce; and safeguarding women’s health, including sexual and reproductive health.

Ample research exists to prove that including women at every level of development brings tangible results for the entire community. For instance, research on local councils across rural India found that projects to improve access to fresh water were 62 percent higher in areas where women formed an integral part of village councils.

According to UN Women, “Equalising access to resources and services for women farmers would boost output and eliminate hunger for 150 million people.”

The agency also found that “for every one additional year of education for women, child mortality decreases by 9.5 percent.”

Interspersed with music and poetry, a line of distinguished speakers took the stage Thursday night to affirm their commitment to these goals – including several men who stressed the need for men and boys to become dedicated partners on the road to women’s rights.

Addressing the massive audience, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson called attention to such tragedies as the attempted assassination of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012, as well as the recent spate of kidnappings of Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.

He urged men to join the work of ending such brazen acts of violence.

An online platform called ‘’, launched by UN Women, encourages such efforts by providing men the space to share their stories, learn from others and join in the fight against gender-based violence and inequality.

As Gloria Steinem, long-time women’s rights champion and author of the bestselling book ‘Revolution From Within’, pointed out as she left the stage: “We need to start seeing humanity as a bird with two wings. If one wing is broken, no one can fly.”

Picture it.

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U.N. says Violence Kills Over 1,000 People in Iraq Tue, 24 Jun 2014 10:33:31 +0000 Chau Ngo By Chau Ngo

The surging violence in Iraq killed more than 1,000 people and left another 1,000 injured within two weeks since the dramatic rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) earlier this month, the United Nations said Tuesday.

“This figure – which should be viewed very much as a minimum – includes a number of verified summary executions and extra-judicial killings of civilians, police, and soldiers who were hors (de) combat,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), using a French term for soldiers who are no longer combatants.

There have been further abductions in Baghdad and the northern provinces, some of which involved killings, the OHCHR said, adding that there has been evidence of summary executions.

The ISIL ousted Iraqi troops and seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, earlier this month and has continued to take control of the country’s northern region since. The ISIL, which grew out of al-Qaeda, aims to form an Islamic emirate at the heart of the Middle East.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the violence “at the hands of terrorist groups” including ISIL, saying the mass summary executions by the group are deeply disturbing.

He also warned against “sectarian rhetoric that could further exacerbate the conflict and carry grave implications for the entire region,” the U.N. said.

At least 757 civilians were killed and 599 injured in provinces to the north and east of Baghdad in 17 days since June 5, while an additional 318 lost their lives and 590 were wounded in Baghdad and southern areas, said the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).

Apart from ISIL’s violence, the UNAMI also said it has received reports about abuses by the government-run Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF), including executions of at least 41 prisoners.

“We urge the Iraqi authorities to swiftly carry out their obligation to thoroughly investigate these, and any other, reported summary executions and all other violations by their personnel,” the OHCHR said.

The spreading violence has resulted in a critical humanitarian situation in Iraq, the U.N. has said. Around one million Iraqis have been displaced so far this year while there have been reports about children being recruited and used as suicide bombers by the militias, it said.

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U.N.”Deeply Concerned” Over Journalists’ Sentences in Egypt Mon, 23 Jun 2014 10:26:19 +0000 Chau Ngo By Chau Ngo

United Nations officials on Monday voiced their concerns over the verdicts and sentences of three Al Jazeera journalists and 11 others who were tried in absentia in Egypt, and called on the country to review the handling of these cases.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was  “deeply concerned” by the death sentences of 183 people and the heavy sentencing of journalists in Egypt, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters Monday.

“Proceedings that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those resulting in the imposition of the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability,” Ban was quoted as saying.

An Egyptian court sentenced two Al Jazeera journalists – Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy – to seven years of imprisonment and Baher Mohamed to ten years on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false information, the news network said Monday.

The three reporters have been detained for more than 170 days and have rejected the charges, it added.

The court rulings left U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay “shocked and alarmed,” her office said in a statement, adding that these verdicts, together with the confirmation of the death penalty for 183 Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, added to a string of prosecutions that have been “rife with procedural irregularities and in breach of international human rights law.”

“Harassment, detention and prosecution of national and international journalists, including bloggers, as well as violent attacks by unidentified assailants, have become commonplace,” she said.

“It is not a crime to carry a camera, or to try to report various points of views about events.”

Pillay called on the Egyptian authorities to release all journalists who have been detained for doing their job. “Media employees trying to carry out their work in Egypt are now confronted by an extremely difficult and dangerous environment,” she said. “They should be protected not prosecuted.”

The three journalists’ verdicts have drawn attention from activist groups. Human Rights Watch said prosecutors could not provide credible evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and urged the Egyptian government to drop charges and free the journalists.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 65 journalists have been detained in Egypt since last July with most of them having been released. However, 14 journalists are still imprisoned.

“CPJ has repeatedly called on the Egyptian government and newly elected President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to do all they can to see that all journalists being held in Egypt, including the three Al-Jazeera staff members jailed since December, are set free,” the watchdog group said.

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