Tag Archives: United Nations

Pope urges inclusive and sustainable food systems

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by Robin Gomes from Vatican News

As the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) kicks off its 4-day Conference on Monday, Pope Francis has pledged the support of the Holy See and the Catholic Church for their “dedication to a more just world, at the service of our defenseless and needy brothers and sisters”.  He urged special attention for the poor rural food producers, who are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and hunger. 


A vegetable and food vendor in a market in Jakarta, Indonesia  (ANSA)

The Pope made the remarks on Monday in a message to Michal Kurtyka, the Polish Minister of Climate and Environment, who is chairing FAO’s 42nd Conference at it headquarters in Rome, June 14-18.  While reviewing the state of food and agriculture in the world, the virtual session has as its overall theme, “Agriculture Food Systems Transformation: From Strategy to Action”.

Creating inclusive and sustainable food systems

FAO coordinates international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security. The Pope said that this task assumes a special prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic, as “many of our brothers and sisters still do not have access to the food they need, either in quantity or quality”.  Last year, he noted, the number of these people was the highest in the last five years. With conflicts, extreme weather events, economic crises, together with the current health crisis, the future could be worse. Hence, policies capable of tackling the structural causes of these growing vulnerabilities need to be adopted.

In this regard, a circular economy, which guarantees resources for all, including future generations, and promotes the use of renewable energies, will help create resilient, inclusive and sustainable food systems that will provide healthy and affordable diets for everyone. However, the fundamental factor in recovering from the crisis that is ravaging us is an economy tailored to mankind, not subject only to profit, but anchored in the common good, friendly to ethics and respectful of the environment.

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Question for this article:

What is the relation between movements for food sovereignty and the global movement for a culture of peace?

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Farming and rural communities

The reconstruction of post-pandemic economies should take into account the valuable role of family farming and rural communities. The Pope lamented that those who produce food are the ones who suffer from the lack or scarcity of food. “Three-quarters of the world’s poor”, he said, “live in rural areas and depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods”.

However, due to lack of access to markets, land ownership, financial resources, infrastructure and technologies, they are most vulnerable to food insecurity.

Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the international community’s effort to enable individual countries achieve food autonomy while preserving local ecosystems and biodiversity. He urged innovative ways to support and help small producers improve their capacities and resilience.

Fraternity vs virus of indifference

As the world prepares to re-launch after the pandemic, Pope Francis said it is fundamental to promote a culture of care against the individualistic and aggressive tendency to discard, which is very present in our societies.

“While a few sow tensions, confrontations and falsehoods”, he said, “we, on the other hand, are invited to patiently and decisively build a culture of peace, which is directed towards initiatives that embrace all aspects of human life and help us to reject the virus of indifference”.

Pope Francis said mere outlining of programs is not enough. Tangible gestures are needed that have as their point of reference the common belonging to the human family and the fostering of fraternity. Gestures that facilitate the creation of a society that promotes education, dialogue and equity.

He urged that all welcome the current trial as an opportunity to prepare for a future for all without discarding anyone, warning, “without an all-embracing vision, there will be no future for anyone”.

The Conference is FAO’s supreme governing body whose main functions are to determine the policies of the Organization, approve the budget, and make recommendations to members and international organizations. 

International Day of Living Together in Peace – Joint Declaration by Mouvement de la Paix and MRAP

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

A declaration of Friendship between peoples

May 16 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Day of Living Together in Peace in order to “regularly mobilize the efforts of the international community in favor of peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity, and the opportunity for all to express the deep desire to live and act together, united in difference and in diversity, with a view to building a viable world based on peace, solidarity and harmony “.

National situations are marked by acts of racism, intolerance, the development of violent and fascistic extremisms including terrorist acts, while the international situation sees the persistence of conflicts, the worrying rise of fascistic far-right movements, the growth world military spending which reached the amount never reached in the history of humanity of 2 trillion dollars in 2020. We are encouraged to give a more important place to this international day which is based on the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and the United Nations resolution on the Culture of Peace [see below], and more simply on the promotion of friendship between peoples.

Living together in peace means individually accepting differences, listening, showing esteem, respect and recognition towards others. However, these individual or collective attitudes and behaviors can only be fully effective if, at national and international level, economic, social, cultural and humanitarian policies are implemented to fully realize human rights (economic, social, cultural, etc.). environmental) for all without distinction of origin, sex, language or religion. At the same time, these policies must tackle all forms of discrimination affecting individuals or groups, development inequalities that exist within societies or between societies; and substitute for security based on power (in particular military) a collective security based on the realization of human rights.

It is on these foundations that the MRAP and the Peace Movement intend to strengthen their cooperation to participate in the construction of human security in its physical, economic, social, health and environmental dimensions which will promote living together in peace in allowing unification in action around humanist objectives while removing the specter of ideologies of hatred which feed on inequalities, discrimination and the absence or non-realization of human rights.

In Paris, Sunday May 16, 2021

(Click here for the original French version of this article.)

Question(s) related to this article:

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

Article 3 of resolution 53/243 of the UN General Assembly on the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace states that “The fuller development of a culture of peace is integrally linked to:

Promoting peaceful settlement of conflicts, mutual respect and understanding and international cooperation;

Complying with international obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law;

Promoting democracy, development and universal respect for and observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;

Enabling people at all levels to develop skills of dialogue, negotiation, consensus-building and peaceful resolution of differences;

Strengthening democratic institutions and ensuring full participation in the development process;

Eradicating poverty and illiteracy and reducing inequalities within and among nations;

Promoting sustainable economic and social development;

Eliminating all forms of discrimination against women through their empowerment and equal representation at all levels of decision-making;

Ensuring respect for and promotion and protection of the rights of children;

Ensuring free flow of information at all levels and enhancing access thereto;

Increasing transparency and accountability in governance;

Eliminating all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

Advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity among all civilizations, peoples and cultures, including towards ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities;

Realizing fully the right of all peoples, including those living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, to self-determination enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the International Covenants on Human Rights,2 as well as in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960.

Ceasefire can’t hide scale of destruction in Gaza, UN warns, as rights experts call for ICC probe

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from the United Nations

The humanitarian community has welcomed the ceasefire agreed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel but warned that the destruction in Gaza will take years, if not decades, to fix.

Speaking from Gaza, Matthias Schmale from the UN relief agency for Palestinians UNRWA, said that there was no “going back to normal” in the enclave, after more than 10 days of rocket fire and airstrike exchanges between the warring parties that have killed more than 250 people and injured thousands.


© UNRWA/Mohamed Hinnawi A tower block lies in ruins in Gaza city following an Israeli air strike.

“Going back to normal life means having to watch very carefully where we are going; unexploded devices, we know that at least one school, one of our 278 schools, where we have established two deeply buried bombs, and we have alerted the Israeli authorities”, he said. “Obviously we cannot just rush back into our buildings and schools, we have to make sure they’re safe.”

The senior UNRWA official also noted that the Kerem Shalom crossing was due to open for several hours on Friday but that for the duration of the clashes, it had not been possible to get people out for medical treatment, or aid reinforcements in.

Mr. Schmale noted that UNRWA staff who are mainly residents of the region said that the violence had been “worse in intensity and terror than 2014”, before echoing the UN Secretary-General’s call  for a meaningful political process to resolve the grievances of both Palestinians and Israelis.

War still looms

“Normality here also means 50 per cent employed and rising…I’m convinced after being here two and a half years that we will be back in war unless underlying causes are not addressed; and from a Gaza perspective that means giving people and especially young people a dignified perspective of a dignified life”, he said.

“If you have your own money and take home your own money to buy food instead of depending on handouts from the UN”, the top UN official added, “you’re less likely to run into groupings like Hamas”.

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, allocated $4.5 million towards the cost of meeting rising needs across Gaza on Friday. The money comes from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which is in addition to $14.1 million allocated on Thursday. It is expected that an inter-agency Flash Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory will be issued next week. 

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(click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?

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UNICEF delivers aid containers

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, delivered 18 containers of aid on Friday following the resumption of relative calm in the Gaza Strip, through the Kerem Shalom crossing, to support children and families in need.

Among the items delivered were first-aid kits, blood supply bags and solution, fire extinguishers, antibiotics and other infection-control kits, together with 10,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are extremely thankful that a ceasefire agreement in the Gaza strip came into effect at 2am this morning, because the human toll there has been huge”, said Lucia Elmi, UNICEF Special Representative in Palestine. “This will allow families to have much-needed respite and allow for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance and personnel to the Gaza Strip”, she added.

UN rights experts call for ICC probe

UN independent human rights experts on Friday called on all parties  to the conflict in Gaza and Israel to respect the ceasefire, and urged an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the attacks on civilian populations and other “gross violations of human rights”, according to a statement released through the UN rights office (OHCHR).

The experts pointed to the forced evictions of Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, in Occupied East Jerusalem, as the spark that set off a full-blown war.

They said that at least 222 people, including 63 children, were killed in Gaza and 12 people died in Israel as a result of the fighting.

More than 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip were completely destroyed or damaged by missiles, the statement continued. Among them were six hospitals, nine healthcare centres and a water desalination plant, supplying around 250,000 Palestinians with clean drinking water, as well as a tower which housed media outlets including the Al Jazeera network, and Associated Press (AP). 

‘Asymmetry of power’

“Owing to the vast asymmetry of power, the victims of this conflict are disproportionately Palestinians in Gaza, of whom over 74,000 have been forcibly displaced and made homeless, mostly women and children”, the experts said. 

“The conflict has led to a new wave of unprecedented mass destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, including electrical grids in Gaza, and indiscriminate or deliberate missile attacks on civilians and residential areas in Israel and Gaza, that violate not only international human rights standards, but amount as well to crimes under international law for which there is individual and State responsibility”, the experts continued.

The experts said that all “indiscriminate or deliberate bombardment of civilians and towers housing civilians, media organizations and refugee camps in Gaza and Israel are war crimes that are, prima facie, not justified by the requirements of proportionality and necessity under international law. All parties who engage in such attacks must bear individual and State responsibility as appropriate.”

Independent Special Rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor specific countries or thematic issues.  They serve in their individual capacity and are not UN staff, nor are they paid by the Organization. 

We the Peoples : Call for Inclusive Global Governance

. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .

A call from We the Peoples

The biggest challenges facing humanity such as pandemics, the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, violent conflict, forced displacement, discrimination and inequality are global and cross-cutting in nature. With each passing day, they become more pressing. International collaboration and global governance need to improve significantly and become more accountable to those affected most: the world’s citizens.

On the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary, heads of state and government committed to making global governance more inclusive. The UN Secretary-General promised to promote a new model based on full, inclusive and equal participation in global institutions. We agree. It is time to give people a stronger voice in global affairs and at the UN.

We call on the UN and member states to implement three specific institutional changes to strengthen the inclusive and democratic character of the UN:


(Click on image to enlarge)

A World Citizens’ Initiative

The creation of the instrument of a World Citizens’ Initiative which enables people to put forward proposals on key issues of global concern for discussion and further action at the highest political level. Any proposal that reaches a certain threshold of popular support should be put onto the agenda of the UN General Assembly or Security Council.

#WorldCitizensInitiative
Study on implementation: PDF here
More details: worldcitizensinitiative.org

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Question related to this article:

How can we develop the institutional framework for a culture of peace?

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A UN Parliamentary Assembly

The creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly which allows for the inclusion of elected representatives in the agenda-setting and decision-making of the UN. The assembly will act as a representative body and watchdog connecting the people with the UN and reflecting a broad diversity of global viewpoints.

#UNParliamentaryAssembly
Study on implementation: PDF here
More details: unpacampaign.org

A UN Civil Society Envoy

Setting up the office of a UN Civil Society Envoy to enable greater participation, spur inclusive convenings and drive the UN’s outreach to the public and civil society organisations. This envoy should champion the implementation of a broader strategy for opening up the UN to people’s participation and civil society voices.

#UNCivilSocietyEnvoy
Background paper: PDF here
More details: together1st.org

These new tools will help the UN and member states to tackle global challenges more effectively. They will enhance the legitimacy of global governance and facilitate its transformational potential.

Tangible changes in the UN’s functioning are urgently needed to realize the promise of the Preamble of the UN Charter which begins with the words, “We the Peoples of the United Nations”.

Endorse here

A joint initiative of Democracy without Borders, Civicus and Democracy International

Generation Equality Forum: Mexico City, 29-31 March 2021

. WOMEN’S EQUALITY .

An announcement from Foro Generacion Igualdad

The Generation Equality Forum will kick off in Mexico City 29-31 March 2021, hosted by the Government of Mexico.

With civil society at its core, the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico will reinforce the power and voice of feminist movements and youth and the commitment and action of different stake holders, including high level representatives from Member States, the private sector, and international organizations.

By analyzing progress and gaps since the 1995 Beijing Women’s conference, including the heightened urgency posed by the COVID crisis, the event will make the case for strengthened intergenerational and transformative feminist leadership and accelerated action on gender equality.

As the kick-off for the Generation Equality Forum journey, the event will:

– Launch the work of the Action Coalitions, and their calls for action for urgent implementation and investment

– Develop a multilateral feminist agenda to sharpen the Generation Equality Forum vision towards Paris

– Integrate the formation of a multilateral alliance of countries to promote the gender equality agenda

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(Click here for a Spanish version.)

Questions for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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The event will include a series of dialogues that will address the structural and systemic obstacles that prevent the achievement of gender equality and fulfillment of the human rights of women and girls.

This event presents a historic opportunity to promote the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, and is aligned with the feminist foreign policy promoted by the Government of Mexico.

The Generation Equality Forum is a civil society–centred, global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France. Kicking off in Mexico City, Mexico, on 29–31 March 2021, and culminating in Paris, France, in June 2021, this landmark effort will bring together governments, corporations and changemakers from around the world to define and announce ambitious investments and policies. The Forum will propel concrete, ambitious, and transformative commitments for gender equality.

Registration for the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City is now open at this link, and an FAQ about the event is available here.

The Forum responds to the fact that—despite the commitments made in Beijing in 1995 to take strategic, bold action on gender equality—progress and implementation has been slow. Not a single country today can claim to have achieved gender equality. With women’s rights at risk of rolling back further as a result of the COVID-19 crisis—due to heightened poverty and risks of gender-based violence—the Forum is a rallying point to finally achieve the human rights of all women and girls.

The Generation Equality Forum will also fuel a powerful and enduring coalition for gender equality, bringing together governments, activists, corporations, feminist organizations, youth and allies to achieve transformative change.

To learn more about the Forum in Mexico, the Action Coalitions and to stay up-to-date on all the latest developments, visit the Generation Equality Forum website.

Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, on International Women’s Day 2021

. WOMEN’S EQUALITY .

A statement from UN Women

International Women’s Day this year comes at a difficult time for the world and for gender equality, but at a perfect moment to fight for transformative action and to salute women and young people for their relentless drive for gender equality and human rights. Our focus is on women’s leadership and on ramping up representation in all the areas where decisions are made – currently mainly by men – about the issues that affect women’s lives. The universal and catastrophic lack of representation of women’s interests has gone on too long.



Video of Statement

As we address the extraordinary hardship that COVID-19 has brought to millions of women and girls and their communities, we also look ahead to the solid opportunities of the Generation Equality Forum and Action Coalitions to bring change.

During the pandemic, we have seen increased violence against women and girls and lost learning for girls as school drop-out rates, care responsibilities and child marriages rise. We are seeing tens of millions more women plunge into extreme poverty, as they lose their jobs at a higher rate than men, and pay the price for a lack of digital access and skills. These and many other problems cannot be left to men alone to solve. Yet, while there are notable exceptions, in most countries there is simply not the critical mass of women in decision-making and leadership positions to ensure that these issues are tabled and dealt with effectively and this has affected the pace of change for women overall.

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(Click here for a French version of this article or here for a Spanish version.)

Questions for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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There are breakthroughs to celebrate, where women have taken the helm of organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank and we look forward to more such appointments that help to change the picture of what a leader looks like. Yet this is not the norm. In 2020, as a global average, women were 4.4 per cent of CEOs, occupied just 16.9 per cent of board seats, made up only 25 per cent of national parliamentarians, and just 13 per cent of peace negotiators. Only 22 countries currently have a woman as Head of State or Government and 119 have never experienced this – something that has important consequences for the aspirations of girls growing up. On the current trajectory, we won’t see gender parity in the highest office before 2150. 

This can and must change. What is needed is the political will to actively and intentionally support women’s representation. Leaders can set and meet parity targets, including through appointments for all executive positions at all levels of government, as has occurred in the few countries with gender equal cabinets. Special measures can work; where countries have put in place and enforced quotas, they have made real progress on women’s leadership, as have those that have policies to address representation. Where these measures do not exist, progress is slower or even nonexistent and easily reversed.

No country prospers without the engagement of women. We need women’s representation that reflects all women and girls in all their diversity and abilities, and across all cultural, social, economic and political situations. This is the only way we will get real societal change that incorporates women in decision-making as equals and benefits us all.

This is the vision of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals and the vision of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It is the vision of civil society and multitudes of young people who are already leading the way and of all those who will join us in the Generation Equality Action Coalitions. We need bold decisive action across the world to bring women into the heart of the decision-making spaces in large numbers and as full partners, so that we can make immediate progress on a greener, equitable and inclusive world.

International Women’s Day 2021

. WOMEN’S EQUALITY .

A publication of UN Women

Women of the world want and deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes and violence; a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all. To get us there, the world needs women at every table where decisions are being made.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (8 March), “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.


Credit: UN Women/Yihui Yuan

Women’s full and effective participation and leadership in of all areas of life drives progress for everyone. Yet, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making, as revealed in the UN Secretary-General’s recent report. Women are Heads of State or Government in 22 countries, and only 24.9 per cent of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government will take another 130 years.

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(Click here for a French version of this article or here for a Spanish version.)

Questions for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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Women are also at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, as front-line and health sector workers, as scientists, doctors and caregivers, yet they get paid 11 per cent less globally than their male counterparts. An analysis of COVID-19 task teams from 87 countries found only 3.5 per cent of them had gender parity.

When women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change and equality in all parts of the world. Yet, women under 30 are less than 1 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide. 

This is why, this year’s International Women’s Day is a rallying cry for Generation Equality, to act for an equal future for all. The Generation Equality Forum, the most important convening for gender equality investment and actions, kicks off in Mexico City from 29 – 31 March, and culminates in Paris in June 2021. It will draw leaders, visionaries, and activists from around the world, safely on a virtual platform, to push for transformative and lasting change for generations to come.

Meet the activists, and get inspired by stories of women leaders we admire.

Event: United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day 2021
UN Women is pleased to invite you to the United Nations observance of International Women’s Day 2021. The theme is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world on the way to the Generation Equality Forum”. Learn more.

Statements

Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, on International Women’s Day 2021.

In her statement for International Women’s Day (8 March), UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “We need women’s representation that reflects all women and girls in all their diversity and abilities, and across all cultural, social, economic and political situations. This is the only way we will get real societal change that incorporates women in decision-making as equals and benefits us all.”

New UNEP synthesis provides blueprint to urgently solve planetary emergencies and secure humanity’s future

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

A press release from the United Nations Environmental Program

The world can transform its relationship with nature and tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises together to secure a sustainable future and prevent future pandemics, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that offers a comprehensive blueprint for addressing our triple planetary emergency.


Launch of report

The report, Making Peace with Nature, lays out the gravity of these three environmental crises by drawing on global assessments, including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, as well as UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook report, the UNEP International Resource Panel, and new findings on the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.

The authors assess the links between multiple environmental and development challenges, and explain how advances in science and bold policymaking can open a pathway towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and a carbon neutral world by 2050 while bending the curve on biodiversity loss and curbing pollution and waste. Taking that path means innovation and investment only in activities that protect both people and nature. Success will include restored ecosystems and healthier lives as well as a stable climate.

“By bringing together the latest scientific evidence showing the impacts and threats of the climate emergency, the biodiversity crisis and the pollution that kills millions of people every year, [this report] makes clear that our war on nature has left the planet broken,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in the report’s Foreword. “But it also guides us to a safer place by providing a peace plan and a post-war rebuilding programme.

“By transforming how we view nature, we can recognize its true value. By reflecting this value in policies, plans and economic systems, we can channel investments into activities that restore nature and are rewarded for it,” he added. “By recognizing nature as an indispensable ally, we can unleash human ingenuity in the service of sustainability and secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet.”

Amid a wave of investment to re-energize economies hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the blueprint communicates the opportunity and urgency for ambitious and immediate action. It also lays out the roles that everyone – from governments and businesses to communities and individuals – can and must play. 2021 is especially crucial, with upcoming climate and biodiversity convention meetings – NFCCC COP 26 and CBD COP 15 – where governments must come up with synergistic and ambitious targets to safeguard the planet by almost halving greenhouse gas emissions in this decade, and by conserving and restoring biodiversity.

Tackling three planetary threats together

Economic growth has brought uneven gains in prosperity to a fast-growing global population, leaving 1.3 billion people poor, while tripling the extraction of natural resources to damaging levels and creating a planetary emergency. Despite a temporary decline in emissions due to the pandemic, Earth is heading for at least 3°C of global warming this century; more than 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species are at substantially increased risk of extinction; and diseases caused by pollution are currently killing some 9 million people prematurely every year. Environmental degradation is impeding progress towards ending poverty and hunger, reducing inequalities and promoting sustainable economic growth, work for all and peaceful and inclusive societies.

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Question for this article:
 
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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The report shows how this trio of environmental emergencies interact and have common causes, and thus can only be effectively addressed together. Subsidies on fossil fuels, for instance, and prices that leave out environmental costs, are driving the wasteful production and consumption of energy and natural resources that are behind all three problems.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said the report highlighted the importance of changing mindsets and values, and finding political and technical solutions that measure up to the Earth’s environmental crises.

“In showing how the health of people and nature are intertwined, the COVID-19 crisis has underlined the need for a step-change in how we view and value nature. By reflecting that value in decision-making – whether we are talking about economic policy or personal choices – we can bring about a rapid and lasting shift toward sustainability for both people and the environment,” she said. “‘Green recovery’ plans for pandemic-hit economies are an unmissable opportunity to accelerate the transformation.”

Released ahead of the fifth UN Environment Assembly, the report presents a strong case for why and how urgent action should be taken to protect and restore the planet and its climate in a holistic way.

It presents examples of what transformative change can look like, and how it can create prosperity, employment and greater equality. Far-reaching change involves recasting how we value and invest in nature, integrating that value into policies and decisions at all levels, overhauling subsidies and other elements of economic and financial systems, and fostering innovation in sustainable technologies and business models. Massive private investment in electric mobility and alternative fuels show how whole industries recognize the potential gains from shifting quickly.

The authors point out that ending environmental decline in all its forms is essential to advancing many of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular poverty alleviation, food and water security and good health for all. An example is how intensifying agriculture and fishing in sustainable ways, allied with changes in diets and lower food waste, can help end global hunger and poverty and improve nutrition and health while sparing more land and ocean for nature.

Reinforcing the call for action, the report stresses the need for stakeholders at all levels of society to be involved in decision-making, and identifies dozens of key actions that governments, businesses, communities and individuals can and should undertake in order to bring about a sustainable world.

For instance:

* Governments can include natural capital in measures of economic performance, put a price on carbon and shift trillions of dollars in subsidies from fossil fuels, non-sustainable agriculture and transportation towards low-carbon and nature-friendly solutions

* International organizations can promote One Health approaches and ambitious international targets for biodiversity, such as expanded and improved protected area networks

* Financial organizations can stop lending for fossil fuels and develop innovative finance for biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture.

* Businesses can adopt the principles of the circular economy to minimize resource use and waste and commit to maintaining transparent and deforestation-free supply chains

* Non-government organizations can build networks of stakeholders to ensure their full participation in decisions about sustainable use of land and marine resources

* Scientific organizations can pioneer technologies and policies to reduce carbon emissions, increase resource efficiency and lift the resilience of cities, industries, communities and ecosystems

* Individuals can reconsider their relationship with nature, learn about sustainability and change their habits to reduce their use of resources, cut waste of food, water and energy, and adopt healthier diets

A sustainable future also means learning from the COVID-19 crisis to reduce the threat of pandemic diseases. The report underlines how ecosystem degradation heightens the risk of pathogens making the jump from animals to humans, and the importance of a ‘One Health’ approach that considers human, animal and planetary health together.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

‘Women and girls belong in science’ declares UN chief  

. WOMEN’S EQUALITY .

An article from United Nations News

Closed labs and increased care responsibilities are just a two of the challenges women in scientific fields are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN chief said in his message for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, on Thursday. 


Video made by the Secretary-General

“Advancing gender equality in science and technology is essential for building a better future”, Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “We have seen this yet again in the fight against COVID-19”. 

Women, who represent 70 per cent of all healthcare workers, have been among those most affected by the pandemic and those leading the response to it. Yet, as women bear the brunt of school closures and working from home, gender inequalities have increased dramatically over the past year.  

Woman’s place is in the lab 

Citing the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) he said that women account for only one third of the world’s researchers and hold fewer senior positions than men at top universities, which has led to “a lower publication rate, less visibility, less recognition and, critically, less funding”. 

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning replicate existing biases.  

“Women and girls belong in science”, stressed the Secretary-General.  Yet stereotypes have steered them away from science-related fields. 

Diversity fosters innovation 

The UN chief underscored the need to recognize that “greater diversity fosters greater innovation”.  

“Without more women in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], the world will continue to be designed by and for men, and the potential of girls and women will remain untapped”, he spelled out. 

Their presence is also critical in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to close gender pay gaps and boost women’s earnings by $299 billion over the next ten years, according to Mr. Guterres. 

“STEM skills are also crucial in closing the global Internet user gap”, he said, urging everyone to “end gender discrimination, and ensure that all women and girls fulfill their potential and are an integral part in building a better world for all”. 

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(Click here for a French version of this article or here for a Spanish version.)

Questions for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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 ‘A place in science’ 

Meanwhile, despite a shortage of skills in most of the technological fields driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, women still account for only 28 per cent of engineering graduates and 40 per cent of graduates in computer science and informatics, according to UNESCO.  

It argues the need for women to be a part of the digital economy to “prevent Industry 4.0 from perpetuating traditional gender biases”.  

UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay observed  that “even today, in the 21st century, women and girls are being sidelined in science-related fields due to their gender”.  

As the impact of AI on societal priorities continues to grow, the underrepresentation of women’s contribution to research and development means that their needs and perspectives are likely to be overlooked in the design of products that impact our daily lives, such as smartphone applications.  

“Women need to know that they have a place in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and that they have a right to share in scientific progress”, said Ms. Azoulay.

‘Pathway’ to equality

Commemorating the day at a dedicated event, General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir informed that he is working with a newly established Gender Advisory Board to mainstream gender throughout all of the UN’s work, including the field of science. 

“We cannot allow the COVID-19 pandemic to derail our plans for equality”, he said, adding that increasing access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, for women and girls has emerged as “a pathway to gender equality and as a key objective of the 2030 Agenda  for Sustainable Development”. 

Mr. Volkan highlighted the need to accelerate efforts and invest in training for girls to “learn and excel in science”. 

“From the laboratory to the boardroom, Twitter to television, we must amplify the voices of female scientists”, he stressed. 

STEM minorities  

Meanwhile, UNESCO and the L’Oréal Foundation honoured five women researchers in the fields of astrophysics, mathematics, chemistry and informatics as part of the 23rd  International Prize for Women in Science.  

In its newly published global study on gender equality in scientific research, To be smart, the digital revolution will need to be inclusive, UNESCO shows that although the number of women in scientific research has risen to one in three, they remain a minority in mathematics, computer science, engineering and artificial intelligence. 

“It is not enough to attract women to a scientific or technological discipline”, said  Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Natural Sciences.  

“We must also know how to retain them, ensuring that their careers are not strewn with obstacles and that their achievements are recognized and supported by the international scientific community”. 

New ICC ruling ‘opens the door’ for justice in occupied Palestine – Independent UN expert

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from United Nations News

The ruling of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that is does have jurisdiction over grave crimes committed in occupied Palestinian territory is a “significant step forward in the quest for justice and accountability”, an independent UN human rights expert said on Tuesday. 


A girl stands in front of her home in Khan Younis Palestine refugee camp in Gaza. © UNRWA/Hussein Jaber

Q 1: An Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem has labelled Israel as an “apartheid state” over its policy of favoring Jews over the Palestinians earlier this month. How would you comment on this declaration? Could it ease the Israeli aggression on Palestinians?

 “This offers profound hope to those who believe that consequences, not condonation, must be the answer to the commission of grave crimes”, said  Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.  

The judgement, which includes potential war crimes, is a major move towards ending impunity in the 53-year-old occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza. 

“The leading political organs of the United Nations have repeatedly failed to enforce their own significant body of resolutions on the Israeli occupation”, the UN expert said. “This ruling opens the door for credible allegations of Rome Statute crimes to finally be investigated and potentially reach the trial stage at the ICC.” 

Probing the past 

The ICC prosecutor can now investigate a number of past allegations, including “grave crimes” committed by Israel during the 2014 war against Gaza, the killing and wounding of thousands of largely unarmed demonstrators during the Great March of Return in 2018-2019 and Israel’s settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to the press release from OHCHR.  

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(click here for a related article in French.)

Question related to this article:

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?

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Moreover, the prosecutor can also look into allegations of grave crimes involving Palestinian armed groups.  

“In adopting the Rome Statute and creating the International Criminal Court, the international community pledged its determination to end impunity for the perpetrators of grave crimes”, the Special Rapporteur stated. “Yet, in the context of Israel’s protracted occupation, the international community has permitted a culture of exceptionalism to prevail”.  

He also maintained that, had international legal obligations been purposively enforced years ago, “the occupation and the conflict would have been justly resolved and there would have been no need for the ICC process”. 

Unanswered reports 

The Special Rapporteur elaborated on a number of authoritative UN reports in recent years that have called for accountability and for Israel to meaningfully investigate credible allegations of grave crimes – none of which has been implemented.  

He cited one from the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict, which stated that “justice and respect for the rule of law are the indispensable basis for peace. The prolonged situation of impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action”. 

Another referred to a 2013 report on the implications of the Israeli settlements and called upon Israel to “ensure full accountability for all violations…and to put an end to the policy of impunity”. 

Call for global backing 

Mr. Lynk urged the international community to support the ICC process, reminding that “the preamble of the Rome Statute calls for ‘international cooperation’ to ensure the ‘lasting respect for and the enforcement of international justice’”.  

“Ending impunity and pursuing justice can only bring us closer to peace in the Middle East”, upheld the independent UN expert. 

His call has been endorsed by Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council  to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions and the experts are not paid for their work.