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Posts tagged ‘United Nations’

They said it: Leaders at the UN, in their own words

September 26, 2019

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Lots of leaders saying lots of things about lots of topics — topics that matter to them, to their regions, to the world. That’s what the speechmaking at the U.N. General Assembly invariably produces each year. And each year, certain enormous topics and certain louder voices dominate.

Here, The Associated Press takes the opposite approach and spotlights some thoughts you might not have heard — the voices of leaders speaking at the United Nations who might not have captured the headlines and the airtime on Wednesday, the second day of 2019 debate.

“We must ensure that nobody has to choose between sending her daughter to school and sending her to work.”

— Edgar Lungu, president of Zambia

“The peoples of the world have seen the movement of globalization nurture in them this common dream of seeing the Earth become a genuine global village. But, alas, we have never seen so many walls and barriers thrown up.”

— Faustin Archange Touadera, president of the Central African Republic

“Multilateralism is nothing but showing compassion for the fate of others.”

— Kersti Kaljulaid, president of Estonia

“More than most, island nations must have faith in the multilateral international order. We are by nature isolated and by design, our livelihoods are tied to the rest of the world. We rely heavily on this premise as well as on the actions or inactions of others for our very survival.”

— Danny Faure, president of Seychelles

“All of you are coffee drinkers around the world. I want to ask all of you a question: If you would dare ask those who sell that cup of coffee to you whether they’re paying a fair price to the producers, would you ask that question? Would you even consider it? Think about it. Think about it. Because I am certain that if the answer is yes, that would be very powerful. It would be very powerful because it could change the lives of some 120 million families of coffee producers around the world.”

— Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose coffee-growing country is contending with a drop in its harvest that he attributes to both low global prices and climate change

New UN warming report sees hungry future that can be avoided

August 08, 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) — On the ground, climate change is hitting us where it counts: the stomach — not to mention the forests, plants and animals. A new United Nations scientific report examines how global warming and land interact in a vicious cycle. Human-caused climate change is dramatically degrading the land, while the way people use the land is making global warming worse.

Thursday’s science-laden report says the combination is already making food more expensive, scarcer and even less nutritious. “The cycle is accelerating,” said NASA climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, a report co-author. “The threat of climate change affecting people’s food on their dinner table is increasing.”

But if people change the way they eat, grow food and manage forests, it could help save the planet from a far warmer future, scientists said Earth’s land masses, which are only 30% of the globe, are warming twice as fast as the planet as a whole. While heat-trapping gases are causing problems in the atmosphere, the land has been less talked about as part of climate change. A special report, written by more than 100 scientists and unanimously approved by diplomats from nations around the world at a meeting in Geneva, proposed possible fixes and made more dire warnings.

“The way we use land is both part of the problem and also part of the solution,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a French climate scientist who co-chairs one of the panel’s working groups. “Sustainable land management can help secure a future that is comfortable.”

Scientists in Thursday’s press conference emphasized both the seriousness of the problem and the need to make societal changes soon. “We don’t want a message of despair,” said science panel official Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London. “We want to get across the message that every action makes a difference”

The report said climate change already has worsened land degradation, caused deserts to grow, permafrost to thaw and made forests more vulnerable to drought, fire, pests and disease. That’s happened even as much of the globe has gotten greener because of extra carbon dioxide in the air. Climate change has also added to other forces that have reduced the number of species on Earth.

“Climate change is really slamming the land,” said World Resources Institute researcher Kelly Levin, who wasn’t part of the study but praised it. And the future could be worse. “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases,” the report said.

In the worst case scenario, food security problems change from moderate to high risk with just a few more tenths of a degree of warming from now. They go from high to “very high” risk with just another 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) of warming from now.

Scientists had long thought one of the few benefits of higher levels of carbon dioxide, the major heat-trapping gas, was that it made plants grow more and the world greener, Rosenzweig said. But numerous studies show that the high levels of carbon dioxide reduce protein and nutrients in many crops.

For example, high levels of carbon in the air in experiments show wheat has 6 to 13% less protein, 4 to 7% less zinc and 5 to 8% less iron, she said. But better farming practices — such as no-till agricultural and better targeted fertilizer application — have the potential to fight global warming too, reducing carbon pollution up to 18% of current emissions levels by 2050, the report said.

If people change their diets, reducing red meat and increasing plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and seeds, the world can save as much as another 15% of current emissions by mid-century. It would also make people more healthy, Rosenzweig said.

The science panel said they aren’t telling people what to eat because that’s a personal choice. Still, Hans-Otto Portner, a panel leader from Germany who said he lost weight and felt better after reducing his meat consumption, told a reporter that if she ate less ribs and more vegetables “that’s a good decision and you will help the planet reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Reducing food waste can fight climate change even more. The report said that between 2010 and 2016 global food waste accounted for 8 to 10% of heat-trapping emissions. “Currently 25-30% of total food produced is lost or wasted,” the report said. Fixing that would free up millions of square miles of land.

With just another 0.9 degrees of warming (0.5 degrees Celsius), which could happen in the next 10 to 30 years, the risk of unstable food supplies, wildfire damage, thawing permafrost and water shortages in dry areas “are projected to be high,” the report said.

At another 1.8 degrees of warming from now (1 degree Celsius), which could happen in about 50 years, it said those risks “are projected to be very high.” Most scenarios predict the world’s tropical regions will have “unprecedented climatic conditions by the mid to late 20th century,” the report noted.

Agriculture and forestry together account for about 23% of the heat-trapping gases that are warming the Earth, slightly less than from cars, trucks, boats and planes. Add in transporting food, energy costs, packaging and that grows to 37%, the report said.

But the land is also a great carbon “sink,” which sucks heat-trapping gases out of the air. From about 2007 to 2016, agriculture and forestry every year put 5.7 billion tons (5.2 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the air, but pulled 12.3 billion tons (11.2 billion metric tons) of it out.

“This additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever,” said study co-author Luis Verchot , a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia. “If we continue to degrade ecosystems, if we continue to convert natural ecosystems, we continue to deforest and we continued to destroy our soils, we’re going to lose this natural subsidy.”

Overall land emissions are increasing, especially because of cutting down forests in the Amazon in places such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru, Verchot said. Recent forest management changes in Brazil “contradicts all the messages that are coming out of the report,” Portner said.

Stanford University environmental sciences chief Chris Field, who wasn’t part of the report, said the bottom line is “we ought to recognize that we have profound limits on the amount of land available and we have to be careful about how we utilize it.”

Czech stud farm makes UNESCO’s World Heritage list

July 16, 2019

KLADRUBY NAD LABEM, Czech Republic (AP) — A Czech stud farm founded 440 years ago to breed and train ceremonial horses to serve at the Habsburg emperor’s court has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list, acknowledging the significance of a tradition that has survived for centuries.

The National stud farm, located in the town of Kladruby nad Labem 90 kilometers (56 miles) east of Prague, is the first stud farm on the UNESCO’s list.

Here’s a look at it:

A ROYAL HISTORY

The farm officially started in 1579, when Emperor Rudolf II of the House of Habsburg gave an imperial status to an original stud established by his father, Emperor Maximilian II. The famed regular visitors to the site, which also has a small chateau and a church, included Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Elisabeth of Bavaria.

The stud farm survived wars and a devastating 18th-century fire until the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, when the newly established Czechoslovak state took over. That threatened its existence, since anything linked to the former empire was unpopular in Czechoslovakia. Yet somehow the horse breeding tradition weathered both that shift and 40 later years of communist rule.

In 2015, the whole site underwent a major renovation with European Union funds.

MAKING THE UNESCO LIST

The Kladruby site occupies 1,310 hectares (3,240 acres), about the same size since the 16th century. Located on flat, sandy land near the Elbe River, it contains fields and forests along with its classic stables, indoor and outdoor training grounds and a symmetrical network of roads.

UNESCO describes it as “one of Europe’s leading horse-breeding institutions, developed at a time when horses played vital roles in transport, agriculture, military support and aristocratic representation.”

Kladruby director Jiri Machek said UNESCO’s recognition is the confirmation of “the global uniqueness of this place.” “There are three unique aspects about it,” Machek told The Associated Press. “It’s not only about a tangible heritage, it is also the breeding of unique Kladruber horses, which means the landscape still serves its original purpose. And the third, unique thing — which is not mentioned so often — is the intangible heritage, the traditional way of doing things, that is we have been trying to operate the stud in a traditional way.”

ONE OF THE OLDEST HORSE BREEDS IN THE WORLD

Kladruby is the home of the Kladruber horse, a rare breed that is one of the oldest in the world with a population of only 1,200. Kladrubers were bred to serve as ceremonial carriage horses at the Habsburg courts in Vienna and Prague. A warm-blooded breed based on Spanish and Italian horses, a convex head with a Roman nose is among their significant features.

Since the late 18th century, the Kladrubers have come in two colors, grey and black. The grey ones were used for royal ceremonies while the black ones served high-ranked clergy. Today, they still do the same at the Danish court, while others are used by the trumpeters from the Swedish Royal Mounted Guard. Some carry police officers in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

The breed’s peaceful nature also makes them a popular riding horse among private owners around the globe, and some compete in international carriage driving events…

Landmark UN plastic waste pact gets approved but not by US

May 11, 2019

GENEVA (AP) — Nearly every country in the world has agreed upon a legally binding framework to reduce the pollution from plastic waste except for the United States, U.N. environmental officials say. An agreement on tracking thousands of types of plastic waste emerged Friday at the end of a two-week meeting of U.N.-backed conventions on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals.

Discarded plastic clutters pristine land, floats in huge masses in oceans and rivers and entangles wildlife, sometimes with deadly results. Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program said the “historic” agreement linked to the 186-country, U.N.-supported Basel Convention means that countries will have to monitor and track the movements of plastic waste outside their borders.

The deal affects products used in a broad array of industries, such as health care, technology, aerospace, fashion, food and beverages. “It’s sending a very strong political signal to the rest of the world — to the private sector, to the consumer market — that we need to do something,” Payet said. “Countries have decided to do something which will translate into real action on the ground.”

Countries will have to figure out their own ways of adhering to the accord, Payet said. Even the few countries that did not sign it, like the United States, could be affected by the accord when they ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.

Payet credited Norway for leading the initiative, which first was presented in September. The time from that proposal to the approval of a deal set a blistering pace by traditional U.N. standards for such an accord.

The framework “is historic in the sense that it is legally binding,” Payet said. “They (the countries) have managed to use an existing international instrument to put in place those measures.” The agreement is likely to lead to customs agents being on the lookout for electronic waste or other types of potentially hazardous waste more than before.

“There is going to be a transparent and traceable system for the export and import of plastic waste,” Payet said.

UN mission: Ukraine actions after Odessa fire inadequate

May 03, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Five years after 48 people died in clashes in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, a United Nations’ human rights monitoring mission criticized authorities Thursday for delays in investigating and prosecuting people for the violence.

The loss of life on May 2, 2014 started during a confrontation between demonstrators calling for autonomy in eastern Ukraine amid a Russia-backed separatist uprising and supporters of Ukraine’s government. Six people were killed during hours of street fighting.

The worst was yet to come. After pro-autonomy demonstrators retreated to a trade union building, government supporters threw fire bombs into the building; 42 people died inside or after jumping or falling from windows.

In a statement on the bloodshed’s five-year anniversary, the U.N. human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine said “authorities have not done what it takes to ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions.”

In Odessa, residents marked the anniversary by laying flowers outside the trade union building and attending other events. About 4,500 people took part, according to police.

UN adds leader of outlawed Pakistan group to sanctions list

May 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD (AP) — In a major diplomatic win for India, the United Nations added the leader of an outlawed Pakistani militant group to its sanctions blacklist Wednesday after the group claimed responsibility for a February suicide attack in disputed Kashmir that killed 40 Indian soldiers.

Sanctions against Masood Azhar were confirmed by Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal at an urgently held news conference in Islamabad. Azhar’s addition to the Security Council’s Islamic State and al-Qaida blacklist includes a travel ban and freeze on his assets as well as an arms embargo.

The development came less than three months after Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad group claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 attack in Kashmir, which is split between the two countries and is claimed by both in its entirety. The clashes brought the two nuclear rivals to the brink of war.

India had intensified its lobbying to have Azhar blacklisted after the killing of its soldiers and New Delhi quickly welcomed the Security Council decision. Sanctions against Azhar had been delayed because Security Council member China had blocked them on three previous occasions. But the council went ahead after China no longer objected.

Azhar was blacklisted for his leadership of the al-Qaida-linked Jaish-i-Mohammad. The official listing by the U.N. sanctions committee said the 50-year-old Azhar was associated with al-Qaida by supporting its activities including by supplying arms and recruiting members, and for financially supporting Jaish-i-Mohammed after he was released from prison in India in 1999 in exchange for 155 passengers on an Indian Airlines flight hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

As a group, Jaish-i-Mohammed had been put on the sanctions blacklist in 2001 for its ties to “Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban.” The U.N. listing noted that 2008 recruitment posters for Jaish-i-Mohammed “contained a call from Azhar for volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that “today is a day that would make every Indian proud! I thank the global community and all those who believe in humanitarian values for their support.”

Days after the Feb. 14 Kashmir attack, India responded by launching an airstrike in northwest Pakistan that caused no casualties. Pakistan then responded on Feb. 27 by shooting down two Indian warplanes and capturing a pilot, who was later returned.

Timely intervention by the international community defused tensions between the two South Asian nuclear powers, who have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947. Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said the Trump administration commends the decision to sanction Azhar. Azhar’s sanctioning comes weeks after Washington said it was seeking to have him put on the U.N. blacklist. Pakistan is a key ally of the U.S. in its fight against extremism.

A senior U.S. administration official told reporters that “after 10 years China has done the right thing by lifting its hold on this designation.” The official, who insisted on speaking anonymously, said Britain and France joined the U.S. in putting pressure on China after the Feb. 14 attack, and Beijing seems to have understood “that it is increasingly important that its actions on the international stage on terrorism matched its rhetoric.”

The official said the Trump administration is watching to see if Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s commitment to crack down on militants in the country “will translate into irreversible steps to end terrorist and militant safe havens inside Pakistan.”

Khan has ordered the takeover of assets and property of Jaish-i-Mohammed and dozens of banned militant organizations that operate in Pakistan. Bushra Aziz, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Embassy to the U.S. in Washington, said the country is resolved to countering terrorism and claims that no other country can match Pakistan’s efforts in the fight. Aziz said terrorism is a menace to the world and also criticized India’s actions against residents of Kashmir.

Pakistan has said authorities have detained dozens of people suspected of involvement in the Kashmir attack after receiving a file with intelligence on the attack from New Delhi. Pakistan said its probe did not establish any direct link between Azhar or his group and the attack that killed the Indian soldiers. However, Islamabad has sought more evidence from New Delhi so that it can act against Azhar and his group.

Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed reported in Islamabad and AP writer Ashok Sharma reported from New Delhi, India. AP writers Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

UN rights envoy says Laos focus on big projects hurting poor

March 28, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — A United Nations human rights expert has urged communist-ruled Laos to focus less on foreign-invested dam and railway contracts and devote more resources to helping its children and the poor.

The U.N. rapporteur on poverty, Philip Alston, said Thursday that Laos’ impoverished economy can only thrive if its leaders do a better job of educating and caring for all of its people. The current strategy of favoring big-ticket projects with Chinese investors and granting big concessions for land and other resources favors a wealthy elite and is leaving many others behind, he said.

Alston made the remarks in a news conference livestreamed from Laos’ capital, Vientiane, after he toured parts of rural Laos, including an area devastated by a dam collapse last year. They add to a chorus of concern over China’s push for big construction projects linked to its “Belt and Road” initiative, which is aimed at weaving a global network of transport and trade that is integrated with its own economy and industries.

Tucked between Thailand, China, Myanmar and Cambodia, tiny Laos’ economy has grown quickly in recent years, but the benefits of that growth have not reached many in its largely rural population. Alston said many infrastructure and plantation projects take land from local residents, forcing their resettlement. Most generate too few jobs and result in too much debt, he said.

“Those concessions potentially cover something like 40 percent of the national territory and many if not most of those concessions have produced very few returns to the national budget,” he said. “They have generated very little real revenue that can be spent on the wellbeing of the Lao people and of course they have led to widespread dispossession.”

A Lao foreign ministry official, Phetvanxay Khousakoun, objected to Alston’s comments. “Some of that information that you received might be biased. Also, NGOs might have hidden agendas. This might provide you some misperceptions about Laos,” he said. “These are rather small groups of people that do not reflect the entire country.”

The official also suggested Alston’s comments went beyond his mandate. Alston praised the government for allowing his 11-day visit to the country. But he countered that his findings were in line with his mission.

“These challenges can only be met if they are acknowledged,” he said. He noted that women in Laos are largely shut out of decision making, and that the ethnic minorities who make up nearly half of the population are “severely deprived” by nearly every measure, with low incomes and inferior access to education and health care.

Despite major progress in alleviating poverty, more than one-fifth of Lao children are underweight, 9 percent suffer from “wasting,” or severe malnutrition and a third are stunted. Less than half have been vaccinated.

“You might have no interest in children, but all you have to know is they are the economic future,” he said. “You’re not going to have a great workforce with those statistics as your starting point.” Alston, an Australian who is based in the U.S., acknowledged that all countries struggle with poverty.

He said the government’s pursuit of resource-oriented foreign investment such as rubber plantations, mining and hydroelectric dams is directly linked to poverty because they fail to generate tax revenues or jobs needed to address poverty.

“Poverty is a political choice,” he said. “When you decide to spend money on something else, you produce poverty or you perpetuate poverty.”

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