On Day for Eradication of Poverty UN highlights needs for a holistic

“Poverty is easy to denounce but difficult to combat,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “Those suffering from hunger, want and indignity need more than sympathetic words; they need concrete support.” Mr. Ban stressed that during times of economic austerity it is even more crucial to put policies in place that will protect the most vulnerable. “As governments struggle to balance budgets, funding for anti-poverty measures is under threat. But this is precisely the time to provide the poor with access to social services, income security, decent work and social protection,” he said. “Only then can we build stronger and more prosperous society – not by balancing budgets at the expense of the poor.” With the fight against poverty at the core of the UN development agenda, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed every year since 1993, when the UN General Assembly designated this day to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries. This year’s theme for the Day, ‘Ending the Violence of Extreme Poverty: Promoting Empowerment and Building Peace,’ highlights the link between poverty and social unrest, as well as the need to provide people with the necessary skills to contribute to society. “Poverty is not merely a matter of minimum income thresholds or insufficient resources, nor must it be remedied only through charity or wealth redistribution schemes,” the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, said in her message for the Day. “There is educational, cultural, scientific and social poverty, which is the corollary of material poverty and must be combated with the same determination,” she added. “Poverty results in deprivation of individual capacities for development and in the lack of autonomy. Poverty eradication entails building each person’s capacity to create wealth and to tap each human being’s inner potential.” Ms. Bokova noted that despite overall economic development worldwide, more than one billion people live in extreme poverty, which the World Bank defines as living on less than $1 a day. “This situation is a violation of basic human rights and an obstacle to development,” she said. “Progress is within our reach. Since 2000, extreme poverty has been halved. This proves that with political will and the joint commitment of States, outcomes can be achieved. To succeed, we must redouble our efforts to combat new forms of poverty and social exclusion. We must also understand all aspects of poverty in order to tailor our response appropriately.” She stressed that quality education, scientific development and cultural diversity are essential strategic tools for developing human intelligence and enabling people to take control of their future. In a separate message, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, called on States to take immediate measures to ensure access to justice by the poorest segments of society, stressing that such access is a human right in itself and essential for tackling the root causes of poverty. “Without access to justice, people living in poverty are unable to claim and realize a whole range of human rights, or challenge crimes, abuses or violations committed against them,” she said. She also highlighted the financial, social and physical barriers that prevent the poor from accessing justice and perpetuate and exacerbate their disadvantage, noting that they are often unable to seek justice due to the cost and time of travel to a distant courthouse, fees charged for filing claims or lack of free, quality legal assistance. “Lack of information about their rights, illiteracy or linguistic barriers, coupled with entrenched stigma attached to poverty, also makes it harder for the poor to engage with the justice system,” she noted. “In such circumstances, a person living in poverty cannot uphold their rights or challenge injustice.” To mark the Day, representatives of governments and civil society will gather at UN Headquarters in New York to discuss how poverty violates fundamental rights and the need to build on the successes of the anti-poverty goals known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to intensify anti-poverty efforts. The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development.’ read more

China and AsiaPacific region leading recovery in forest products industry – UN

The global forest products industry is slowly recovering from the economic crisis, with the Asia-Pacific region and particularly China taking the lead, according to new data published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).On average, global production of the main forest products grew by one to four per cent in 2011 compared to 2010, FAO stated in a news release. Production of wood-based panels and paper in 2011, for example, was above the pre-crisis levels of 2007 and appears to be growing relatively strong in most regions. Currently FAO’s forest product statistics database contains 1.2 million entries, covering production and trade of 52 products, 21 product groups and 245 countries and territories. The free online database now contains statistics for the last 50 years.“The FAO database provides the world’s most comprehensive and internationally comparable statistics for forest products, a crucial tool for making policy and investment decisions,” said FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry, Eduardo Rojas-Briales.The agency pointed out that China is increasing its importance as a producer of forest products, becoming the world’s second largest producer of sawnwood – which encompasses planks, beams and boards – after the United States, and having overtaken Canada. China has also increased its lead over all other countries as a producer of wood-based panels, paper and paperboard. In 2011, China produced 11 per cent of the world’s sawnwood, 38 per cent of its panels and 26 per cent of its paper. China is also playing a key role in international trade in forest products, being the largest importer of industrial roundwood, sawnwood, pulp and wastepaper and the largest exporter of wood-based panels. The country is also the fifth largest importer of paper and paperboard, despite a huge increase in domestic production since 2007. In 2011, China’s imports of all forest products amounted to $43 billion and account now for 16 per cent of the global total. In Russia, the largest forest country in the world, the structure of production and trade has changed in the last five years, with a decline in industrial roundwood exports by nearly 60 per cent and an increase in sawnwood production by 8 per cent. Over the same period, Russia has increased its sawnwood exports by 13 per cent. FAO noted that a high proportion of Russian industrial roundwood exports previously went to China, but the amount fell from 2007 to 2009 due to log export restrictions in Russia. Chinese imports of industrial roundwood have recovered though and some other major producing countries, including the US, Canada and New Zealand, have expanded exports to China. read more

UNICEF urges action to prevent child deaths from malnutrition in Central African

Before violence erupted earlier this month in the capital, Bangui, almost 1,000 children were being treated for severe acute malnutrition there. Now, only eight out of 15 nutrition centres in the city are operating, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Roughly half of the children have now resumed treatment, which in itself is remarkable, considering the current situation, with children and families scattered in more than 40 displacement sites,” said UNICEF nutrition specialist Bonaventure Muhimfura. “But, we have to do more. It is crucial to re-open the remaining nutrition centres as soon as possible to save children’s lives.”While over 400 children have now resumed treatment for severe acute malnutrition, UNICEF expects a significant rise in the number of admissions to nutrition centres in the coming weeks. The impoverished country has been thrown into turmoil since mainly Muslim Séléka rebels launched attacks a year ago and forced President François Bozizé to flee in March. A transitional government has since been entrusted with restoring peace and paving the way for democratic elections. The mainly Christian anti-Balaka movement has taken up arms and inter-communal clashes erupted in Bangui earlier this month.Violence is continuing in the capital, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR (BINUCA), Babacar Gaye, told UN Radio today.“We have just spent what we could call a dramatic Christmas with an enormous amount of violence in the city. Violence first of all against Security Council mandated soldiers, violence between communities and violence between armed elements from the two factions… And this unfortunately has led to an enormous loss of life and suffering.”He added that the UN-mandated International Support Mission, an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force known by its French acronym MISCA, assisted by French troops, are trying to stabilize the situation in the capital. The recent violence has displaced some 639,000 inside the country, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which noted that this includes more than 210,000 spread across 40 sites in Bangui.The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said that about 1.3 million people – more than 40 per cent of the country’s rural population – now need urgent assistance. Crop production has decreased sharply due to conflict, and food insecurity will have a serious impact on the nutrition status of children and women, the agency noted.So far in December, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have distributed nearly 500 tons of food to more than 118,000 people in Bangui. The agency is scaling up its emergency response to provide more than 1 million people with life-saving food support over the next six months. read more

At New York synagogue UN chief honours Holocaust victims pays tribute to

“My hope is that our generation, and those to come, will summon that same sense of collective purpose to prevent such horror from happening again anywhere, to anyone or any group,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks at the Park East Synagogue Memorial Service in honour of the victims of the Holocaust.The service comes ahead of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The Day is observed annually on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where over a million Jews and others perished during the Second World War.“The horror at Auschwitz played a formative role in defining the ideals and objectives of the United Nations. Like all of my predecessors as Secretary-General, I am determined to prevent any other such catastrophes and grave violations of human rights,” said Mr. Ban.He recalled his visit to Auschwitz last November, during which he was “profoundly saddened” by what he saw as he walked around the notorious death camp.“I walked through the infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate, and stared with disbelief at rooms filled with the shoes, dolls, suitcases and other belongings of those who were killed. I saw the ‘Book of Names’ – a list identifying more than 4 million Jewish victims – which filled one of the exhibition rooms yet contained just a fraction of the war’s toll.“I stood on the ramp where the transport trains unloaded their human cargo, where the awful moment of selection took place – where the quick flick of an SS commander’s index finger meant the difference between being killed immediately in the gas chambers and being kept alive only to be worked to death.”He was especially moved, he said, by a video showing European Jewish life in the 1930s – scenes of family meals and visits to the beach, musical and theatre performances, weddings and other rituals – all of it “savagely extinguished.”“Even today, the Holocaust is hard to grasp,” said the Secretary-General. “The cruelty was so profound; the scale so large; the camps spread so far and wide. The Nazi worldview was so warped and extreme – yet attracted so many followers.“As we have seen from Cambodia to Rwanda to Srebrenica, we have not eliminated the poison that led to genocide,” he added. Mr. Ban noted that in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, violence is taking on a “dangerous sectarian dimension,” and there is rising bias against migrants, Muslims, Roma and other minorities in Europe.“Each of us has a role to play in combatting intolerance, incitement and the manipulation of ethnic or religious identity that we see in conflicts and political campaigns. All those involved in atrocities – whether head of State or head of militia – should be held accountable,” he stated.“We must demand that those in power uphold their responsibilities to protect people. We must enact the laws and build the institutions that will uphold human rights.“And at this moment of disturbingly high rates of youth unemployment, we must make special efforts to inculcate universal values in the world’s young people. Otherwise, they could prove easy prey for extremists.”The 2014 observance of the International Day of Commemoration is centred around the theme “Journeys through the Holocaust” and recalls the various journeys taken during this dark period, from deportation to incarceration to freedom, and how this experience transformed the lives of those who endured it.The featured speaker at the 27 January memorial ceremony at UN Headquarters will be filmmaker Steven Spielberg, whose Shoah Institute for Visual History and Education was a landmark in preserving survivor testimony.The commemoration is organized by the United Nations and the Holocaust Outreach Programme, which has been working with teachers and students on all continents to promote tolerance and to warn about the consequences of anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination. read more

Nimble and flexible approach needed to bring new Ebola cases to zero

“There has been an extraordinary response to the Ebola crisis,” UN Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, told reporters today in Freetown, Sierra Leone. “The whole world has taken notice… and we are starting to see results.”Alongside Anthony Banbury, Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Dr. Nabarro gave a press conference to mark the first 60 days of the Mission, and assess the response to date. The United Nations had set targets for December 1 of 70 per cent of burials being done safely and 70 per cent of new cases being placed in treatment facility in order to end the outbreak, which the World Health Organization says has infected more than 16,000 people in 8 countries and claimed nearly 6,000 lives.Mr. Banbury said the target on safe burials has been exceeded in the three worst-affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – while the second target on isolating patients had been reached in Liberia and Guinea, but only in some parts of Sierra Leone.“The global response has successfully turned the crisis around,” he said, but noted that “we’re far away from being out of the woods” and now the response is focused on bringing down the number of cases to zero – the only true measure of success.“Going forward, we need to get down to zero,” he said. “Zero is the only success – when we’re at zero.”Mr. Banbury said UNMEER would apply a district-by-district approach for the next 60 days, to hunt down all cases and that he was “very confident that 60 days from now, all three countries will be in a much, much better condition than they are in now.”Assessing the current situation, Dr. Nabarro said the “intensity of transmission and numbers of newly affected cases of Ebola still vary greatly each day – slowing in some districts and increasing in others.”“The distribution changes from week to week,” he said. “The situation can worsen unexpectedly.”Looking headed to the next 60 days and beyond, Dr. Nabarro said “Responses must be nimble and flexible, so as to continually adapt to needs, and – at all times – remain coordinated, so resources are used effectively and efficiently.”Mr. Banbury elaborated by saying “now UNMEER and its partners are looking at putting in place a district-by-district strategy for the 62 districts in the three countries, where we have tailored interventions in every district that are appropriate to the circumstances in that district.”“The first 60, we were focused on deployment capabilities and turning the disease around, now we’re focused on aiming down towards zero through this district-by-district approach,” according to the head of UNMEER.And Dr. Nabarro said “as transmission reduces, emphasis shifts to recovery and the renewal, though all of us must remain engaged and vigilant.”“We must prevent the return of Ebola to areas freed of the disease,” he said.Meanwhile, in Geneva, Dr. Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General in charge of the Ebola response for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), cautioned reporters that the targets set for today were important milestones.But he cautioned: “You eventually have to get 100 percent safe burials, you eventually have to get 100 percent of people into treatment facilities” and complement that with case findings and contract tracing.The UN Development Programme (UNDP), meanwhile, said today that it has assisted the Government of Sierra Leone with two nationwide payments in November of more than 12,000 Ebola response workers, while in Guinea and Liberia, efforts are underway to check lists of workers and reinforce existing payment systems. The Head of UNDP, Helen Clark, stressed that success in the response, down to the district level, depends on the women and men who are risking their lives every day to fight the disease and that paying them in a timely fashion is crucial. UNMEER also reported that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali announced over the weekend that his country has no more confirmed cases of Ebola after the last patient known to be suffering from the virus was cured. read more

Latest incidents at sea show need for action to protect migrants stress

Vincent Cochetel, Europe Bureau Director for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement that the arrival in Italy today of a cargo ship carrying some 450 migrants is part of “an ongoing and worrying situation” that European Governments can no longer ignore. According to media reports, nearly 800 migrants were rescued from another ship found abandoned without any crew earlier in the week.The use of ships of such size marked a new trend, Mr. Cochetel noted, while underlining the need for urgent and concerted European action in the Mediterranean Sea, along with more efforts to rescue people at sea and stepped-up efforts to provide legal alternatives to dangerous voyages.UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson also commented on the new “appalling trend” of traffickers abandoning larger cargo ships laden with migrants in the Mediterranean.This is the latest cynical chapter in the ongoing tragedy of irregular migration at sea that has resulted in 3,000 reported deaths in the Mediterranean alone in 2014, compared to an estimated 700 migrant deaths in the same waters in 2013, according to a readout of Mr. Eliasson’s discussions on migration.The deputy UN chief held talks today with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration and Development Peter Sutherland, and Director General of the International Organization for Migration William Swing.He commended the ongoing rescue efforts, in particular by the Italian Navy and Coast Guard, and emphasized the responsibility held by countries of destination, transit and origin to ensure the protection and human rights of migrants.Mr. Eliasson’s views were echoed by Mr. Cochetel, who noted UNHCR’s gratitude to the Italian authorities for their response to the latest incidents, despite the phasing down of the Mare Nostrum operation. Mr. Cochetel emphasized his concerns about the ending of that operation despite the absence of a similar European search-and-rescue operation to replace it.“Without safer ways for refugees to find safety in Europe, we won’t be able to reduce the multiple risks and dangers posed by these movements at sea,” he said. read more

Widespread and early heatwaves impact northern hemisphere UN weather agency warns

“The heatwave is still ongoing and it is premature to say whether it can be attributed to climate change or whether it is due to naturally occurring climate variability,” stated Omar Baddour, who coordinates WMO’s World Climate Data and Monitoring Programme. “But climate change scenarios predict that heatwaves will become more intense, more frequent and longer. It is notable that the time between major heatwaves (2003, 2010, and 2015) is getting shorter,” he pointed out. In a press release issued over the weekend, WMO noted the extreme weather events currently taking place in the northern hemisphere. An initial analysis conducted by WMO’s Regional Climate Centre in Europe shows that many parts of the continent will continue to see above normal temperatures and dry conditions. The heatwave is unusual because it is so early and so widespread, drawing comparisons with the 2003 and 2010 summers, during which tens of thousands of people died. The difference is that the 2015 heatwave is much earlier and Europe much better prepared with heat-health action plans. WMO and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) on 1 July issued joint guidance on heat-health early warning systems, drawing to a considerable extent on the expertise and experience gained in Europe since the 2003 heatwave.Many parts of the Western United States are also suffering from high temperatures, further drying out soils and increasing the risk of wildfires. This ranges from California to the states of Washington and Oregon in the northwest, parts of Washington State having seen temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in the past week.No less than 623 climatic stations broke daily maximum high records in the last seven days, and 17 broke all-time records for maximum temperatures, noted the press release.The wildfire season in North America has gotten off to a very early start because of a number of factors including dry conditions, heat and lightning. In a 29 June report, the Alaska Wildland Fire Information said “June 2015 isn’t quite over, but our totals with one day left in the month are sobering: 399 fires have burned some 1,600,000 acres.”“The wildfire situation this summer has mainly been triggered by repeated lightning storms tracking across an abnormally dry state. The lightning has been astonishing; on June 21-23, some 50,000 lightning strikes were recorded in Alaska.” In Pakistan, the heatwave which caused more than 1,200 deaths in Karachi recently was aggravated by a low pressure system off the coast, which meant that the usual cooling coastal breeze was replaced by hot air coming from interior. According to the authorities, temperatures remain high, but the situation has stabilized. Parts of Pakistan have seen the onset of the monsoon.Finally, southwest China has witnessed a heatwave with temperatures over 35 degrees for a widespread area, accompanied by exceptionally heavy rainfall and widespread flood, prompting the Chinese authorities to issue level 4 emergency alert, the press release stated. read more

Extremists must not be allowed to escalate IsraeliPalestinian tensions warns Ban

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban condemned the numerous rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel over the last few days. He also voiced concern over recent violence in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The violence includes yesterday’s car ramming near the settlement of Shiloh which resulted in serious injuries to two Israeli soldiers; the firebomb attack that seriously injured an Israeli woman on Monday in East Jerusalem; and the violent clashes in the aftermath of the Duma terrorist attack. Also, Mr. Ban received “worrisome” reports today of provocations by settlers in Hebron, the statement noted.“The Secretary-General condemns these acts and expects all parties to speak out against and prevent such incidents. He calls upon Israeli and Palestinian political and community leaders not to allow extremists to escalate the situation and take control of the political agenda.” read more

UNICEF demands that water not be used to achieve military and political

“Clean water is both a basic need and a fundamental right, in Syria as it is anywhere else,” reminded Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa in a press release. “Denying civilians access to water is a flagrant violation of the laws of war and must end.” In recent months, up to five million people living in cities and communities across the country indeed have suffered the consequences of long and sometimes deliberate interruptions to their water supplies. That includes 2.3 million in Aleppo, 2.5 million in Damascus and 250,000 in Dera’a. In the northern city of Aleppo, where fighting has crippled the main pumping station for months at a time, UNICEF has recorded 18 deliberate water cuts this year alone. Taps in some communities were left dry for up to 17 days in a row – and for over a month in some areas of the city. With no water at home, children often take on the task of collecting water from street standpipes and collection points. One UNICEF engineer tells of a little girl he met who had stood in line for hours to fill two small water containers, only to realize that they were too heavy for her to carry. “She just burst into tears,” he recalled. The unpredictability of warfare can make the process of fetching water dangerous, and even lethal, UNICEF underlined. In recent weeks, conflict cost the lives of at least three children while they were out collecting water in Aleppo. Water shortages bring other consequences as well. Families in Damascus, Dera’a, Aleppo and other areas have to rely on dirty water from unregulated and unprotected groundwater sources, exposing children in particular to the risk of contracting diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis, and other diseases. In recent weeks, water prices have increased in Aleppo by up to 3,000 per cent, at a time when families are finding it harder than ever to make ends meet. Syria’s water crisis has deepened along with the conflict; water availability is about half what it was before the crisis began in 2011. Ongoing violence and heavy clashes have caused severe damage to pipelines and other water infrastructure, and municipal workers are often unable to carry out the necessary repairs. Frequent power cuts make it hard for technicians and engineers to pump water to civilians. Some areas receive only one hour of electricity a day and cuts lasting up to four days are reported. The misery is particularly acute for millions of displaced families who have to share limited water supplies in over-crowded shelters. To add to the suffering, Syria – like much of the region – has been wilting under a heat wave said to be the harshest in decades. Temperatures in Aleppo have soared to above 40 degrees Celsius in recent weeks. UNICEF called on parties to the conflict to take urgent steps to avert further suffering of civilians in Syria, by immediately halt water cuts and all actions that interrupt public water supplies, end all attacks on water facilities and infrastructure, and protect the safety of water engineers and other personnel who repair water supply installations. read more

COP21 encouraged by climate talks Ban urges negotiators to make final decisions

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that he is encouraged by progress of the talks at the UN climate change conference (COP21) in Paris, where the negotiations under way are perhaps the most significant and complex ever attempted.“I’d like to take this moment to highlight, commend and appreciate the strong commitment and engagement of ministers, negotiators and all the staff who are engaged in this very difficult negotiation,” Mr. Ban told reporters at a press conference, alongside French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius, at the Paris-Le Bourget site. For almost two weeks, government representatives have been working to reach a new universal climate change agreement to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius. “I have been attending many difficult multilateral negotiations, but by any standard, by far, this negotiation […] is the most important for humanity,” he continued. “Very limited hours remain.” The UN chief said there are still several outstanding issues, such as differentiation, the level of ambition and climate financing, but that thanks to many years of negotiations the parties already have “very good solutions.” “This morning we have a much cleaner, streamlined text,” Mr. Ban explained. “This is a good basis for further negotiations. Many brackets have been dropped and only a few brackets remain.” Reminding that even though as Secretary-General of the UN he is not engaged in negotiations, he said he is urging negotiators to make their decisions based on a global vision.“This is not a moment of talking about national perspective. Good global solutions will help good local solutions,” he stressed, appealing to all countries to “make final decisions for humanity.” Right before the press conference, Mr. Ban and Minister Fabius, who is also President of COP21, met to discuss the latest developments and to prepare for the adoption of the agreement, now expected tomorrow. “We’ve worked a lot these past days,” said Mr. Fabius at the press conference. “This morning we finished our collective work at 6am, and now I’ll be holding consultations with all the groups.” “Let me simply tell you that we are almost there, that I’m optimistic, that the preparations towards this ambitious agreement have been good, and that following these consultations, tomorrow morning at 9 I will be able to present a text to all parties, which I’m sure will be approved and will be a big step forwards,” the French Minister added. read more