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World’s 1.8 billion youth must ‘have a say in the future of the planet’

INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, Climate Change - It is “crucial” that the world’s 1.8 billion young people have a say in the fight against climate change and ultimately “the future of the planet” according to the UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake.

Young activists, innovators, entrepreneurs and change-makers are due to gather at UN headquarters in New York at the Youth Climate Summit on Saturday 21 September to put pressure on global leaders to take action to prevent climate change.

Ms. Wickramanayake will be there, and UN News asked her why young people are so important to the climate action debate.

UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, speaking to some of the members of the 4th Batch of Trainees following their Graduation Ceremony in Chamen, Gambia. 5 February 2018. , by UNFPA Gambia/Alhagie Manka

Why is it necessary to bring young people together to discuss climate change?

There are 1.8 billion young people in the world today, that’s the largest number ever, so it is crucial that they have a say in the future of the planet, in their future. The school strike for climate action started by the young Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, in her home town, Stockholm, and the other strikes by young people around the world which followed, have shown that they are demanding action on climate and want to have a decisive role in the decision-making process. The time to respond with action is now.

This Youth Climate Summit taking place at UN Headquarters will bring together the key leaders of the youth climate movement and provide a chance for them to engage with a wider global audience. Some 1000 young people from across the world will be attending the event in person and many more will be following online.

Is this an acknowledgement that those people in power, in other word adults, are not doing enough?

It is clear that tackling climate change needs to involve all people, young and old, privileged and underprivileged, from developed and developing countries. Young people want and deserve a role in what should be a participatory process and the school strikes for climate action were born out of their desire to make global leaders aware of and act on their concerns. Just as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underlines that young people are the torchbearers of sustainable development, they are also the thinkers, doers and innovators who can realise this agenda. They have a stake in the future as this is the planet, they will inherit; it is they who will bear the impact of a changing climate.

UN Youth Envoy
@UNYouthEnvoy

?ATTENTION?
Across the ? young ppl are leading action on crisis. Now they’re telling leaders?, “It’s YOUR turn!”

Be a part of a global voice for our future? share your ?️ ahead of the Youth Summit & @UN Summit.http://bit.ly/2NpY06l

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What do you think this youth summit can achieve?

The Summit is a platform for young leaders and youth-led organizations to showcase the actions they are taking to slow down climate change with the aim of keeping to a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels. In May, I launched the “Summer of Solutions” challenge to young people to create innovative technology-based climate solutions. These include developing a platform to enhance the access of localized climate and market information, developing tech tools to boost the “circular economy,” an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the re-use of resources. The best ideas will be highlighted at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit on 23 September.

The youth Summit will also feature a strong intergenerational component that will carry forward into the Climate Action Summit and which will allow youth activists from both the global south and north to question world political leaders about addressing climate change.  

Providing young climate pioneers with an opportunity to engage with political leaders, including by asking bold and provocative questions, as well as proposing concrete solutions in a UN setting will be an important testament to fact that the voices of youth are being listened to. Beyond that, and more importantly, they are being responded to and they are influencing decision making at the highest levels. The youth summit is the United Nations Youth Strategy “Youth 2030” in action, where the first priority is engagement, participation and advocacy to amplify young peoples’ voices for the promotion of a peaceful, just and sustainable world. 

What practical steps will come out of the interaction between youth and global leaders?

The Youth Climate Summit will prioritize meaningful engagement with leaders from national governments, the private sector and civil society. It is hoped that a large number of countries around the world will commit to consulting youth when formulating and designing climate action policies, plans and laws. 

It is also expected that by facilitating these exchanges, corporate leaders will commit to working with, mentoring, as well as learning from, young entrepreneurs and/or youth-led companies, many of whom are in fact at the forefront of developing solutions to climate change. 

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, sailed into New York Harbor today flanked by a fleet of 17 sailboats representing each of the Sustainable Development Goals on their sails., by UN Photo/Mark Garten

A key voice at the youth summit will, no doubt, be Greta Thunberg. How important is she?

Young people think, feel and do things differently to older people and this is incredibly valuable as we face what the UN Secretary-General has called the “existential crisis” of climate change.

Greta Thunberg is an incredibly inspirational model for young people the world over and a powerful symbol of their desire to take action to prevent climate change. It is no small feat to get the attention of world leaders in the way she has done, so in this sense she is creating a powerful climate action movement led by the world’s young people, which cannot be ignored. I am also very proud of the youth activists from the global south, who might not be getting as much media attention; such as Venessa from Uganda and Timothy from Fiji and thousands more who are vocal advocates for our common future and are Greta’s biggest allies around the world.

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INTERVIEW: Guterres urges world leaders to ‘do what is necessary’ for peace and the planet

INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, SDGs - As global leaders prepare to convene in New York next week to debate the best way forward for the planet, Secretary-General António Guterres  is urging them to “do what is necessary” to ensure that “we are able to solve the dramatic problems we face.” 

The UN chief is urging Member States to bring “concrete plans” to the 74th session of the General Assembly, in hopes of bolstering the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the ambitious goals that are the bedrock of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  

In a special interview for UN News conducted this week by newly-appointed head of Global Communications, Melissa Fleming, Mr. Guterres lamented that “we are not on track” to meet a 2030 deadline in many aspects, highlighting that the first-ever SDG summit on 24 and 25 September, will inject more momentum.   

The UN chief told Ms. Fleming that “more and more of the crises we face, have a multiplicity of factors, from different parts of the world” and resolving these issues begs “more international cooperation” with the UN firmly “at the centre of it.”  

UN News/Joon Park
The Secretary-General sits down with newly-appointed head of Global Communications, Melissa Fleming, for an exclusive UN News interview ahead of the 74th General Assembly Debate at UN Headquarters in New York. 18 September, 2019.

Melissa Fleming: You have said that the world is facing a critical time on a number of fronts: The climate emergency, rising inequality, an increase in hatred, intolerance as well as peace and security challenges. Do you have a formula to address them?  

Secretary-General: The formula is more international cooperation. These are global issues that no country can solve alone, in relation to climate. That's why we are having a summit. And that summit is aiming at making countries understand that they need to do much more than what they have been until now, because we need to defeat climate change that is still running faster than what we had.   

And we see the consequences in devastating hurricanes, we see the consequence in glaciers melting, we see the consequences in public health deteriorating, with heat waves and new diseases coming to several areas. And so, we need more international cooperation to defeat climate change.  And inequality is the same. We need fair globalization, and fair globalization is only possible with more international cooperation. That's why we are going to have a summit on the Sustainable Development Goals. That's why we have the Agenda 2030, which is the blueprint of the UN to bring all countries together for fair globalization.  

Then if you move into all the other areas, from hate speech - it is clear that this is now spreading like wildfire everywhere - we need to fight it together. Or even security issues - more and more of the crises we face have a multiplicity of factors, from different parts of the world. So only with more international cooperation and the UN at the centre of it, are we able to address these challenges and hopefully to start solving them.  

The General Assembly will be an excellent opportunity for many of these issues to move forward. We have a climate summit. We have a summit on the Sustainable Development Goals - which means on the Agenda 2030, the blueprint for fair globalization - and a summit for financing it, which is absolutely central because without finance, there is no way we can move in the development areas; a summit on public health and Global Health Coverage for public health; a summit on the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that are the first victims of climate change as we all know.   

And all these combined, all these together, represent a comprehensive response in which the UN is trying to bring all countries into the same platform to be able to solve exactly the kind of problems that you mentioned in your first question.   

Melissa Fleming:  One of those summits is a youth climate summit. Why is this special? Why are the youth being called together now here in New York?   

Secretary-General:  Because the youth has shown an enormous leadership on this and it's perfectly understandable.  Climate change is already a dramatic problem today, but it is clear it will be even more dramatic in the years to come. And so, when the young people of today will be the adults that will be running the world in a few decades, they will be facing the worst consequences of the mistakes we might make now. So, the youth have been really in the forefront of pushing governments and pushing businesses and pushing cities and pushing all other actors to do what they have to do, to stop climate change. And so, a youth summit is a very important instrument to put pressure on those who have to take the decisions that are necessary.  

Melissa Fleming:  Well the following day, you will be convening the global climate summit here. You have quite famously now said you are asking countries to come, not with beautiful speeches, but with real action. What kind of expectations do you have for the kind of initiatives that might come?   

António Guterres:  The action that is needed to meet the requirements that the international community of scientists is telling us are necessary to defeat climate change. Not to let temperatures go above 1.5 degrees at the end of the century, means that we need to be carbon-neutral in 2050, that we need to reduce dramatically the emissions during the next decade. And what we want to have, is more and more countries coming here and committing to carbon neutrality in 2050, and committing to reductions.  

And our target is 45 per cent of the emissions during the next decades. Coming here to commit in relation to the financing of the Green Climate Fund and the $100 billion we need to have every year to support developing countries - in adaptation and mitigation in the coming year - and announcing the other investments that are absolutely essential in order to make sure that we promote the kind of energy - renewable energy - that is needed in relation to the fossil fuels that represent the past; that we are able to have different agriculture, a different use of land; that cities have different strategies in the way they reduce their emissions…(There are) lots of concrete, concrete measures that we hope States, cities, businesses will be able to announce during the summit.   

UN Photo/Mark Garten
Off the coast of Fiji last May, the frontline of "the battle against climate change", Secretary-General António Guterres takes a tour on an eco-friendly, solar powered sail boat that teaches conservation as well as climate-related issues.

Melissa Fleming:   Let's move to the last two questions: Very importantly, the leaders at the GA (General Assembly) are also being asked to come here for a summit on the Sustainable Development Goals.  

On Tuesday, also with commitments that will bring about results, there will be a meeting, as you just mentioned, on mobilizing financing to achieve the SDGs. What are your specific expectations for the outcome of this? 

Secretary-General: Well, first of all, the recognition that we are not on track - the agenda 2030 in relation to the eradication of poverty in relation to health; in relation to education; in relation to water and sanitation; to the oceans, to climate change; to all these aspects, that the agenda 2030 determines that we should, in 2030, have reached a number of concrete goals. We are not on track; we are not doing enough.   

And obviously there has been progress. There is less absolute poverty then a few decades ago. There has been improvement in child mortality or in access of education, but we are not on track.   

We need more investment, more political action, more priority to those aspects that are described in the Goals that we have fixed to have a fair globalization, to have a development that is simultaneously sustainable and inclusive, that leaves no one behind, that brings all those that have been marginalized by development into the benefits of that development…(We must) recognize that we are not on track and then take the decisions necessary in investment, in policies, in changes of different forms of cooperation; also, at the international level or with the businesses, the civil society, the local authorities, in order to come together more effectively to make sure that Agenda 2030 is successfully implemented.   

Melissa Fleming:  Somewhat related to the SDGs, obviously is health, and there is going to be also a high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage next week. Why is this so important in today's world?   

Secretary-General:  Because it's a basic right that is not yet universal. Many people have no healthcare and many people that have healthcare, have no quality of care.  And one fundamental objective is to make sure that sooner rather than later, the world will be able to provide to all the citizens of the world the kind of quality of care they need, and they deserve.   

Melissa Fleming:  Finally, peace and security will likely loom large during the GA this week. Do you see any signs of hope in this area?   

Secretary-General:  There is hope in the sense that we see some problems moving forward in a positive way. We have seen progress in Sudan, we have seen progress in the conversations on South Sudan last week. We have seen progress in the Central African Republic, with its peace agreement. We see that many elections that were supposed to have been a disaster for the countries, ended without violence - from the DRC, to the Maldives, to Madagascar.   

So, there are many positive signs, but unfortunately, we also have many negative signs and we see people going on dying in Syria, in Libya, in Yemen. And so, we need to increase our commitment to diplomacy for peace, and we need to make countries understand - especially those that to a certain extent, are responsible for these wars by proxy - make countries understand, that these are wars nobody's winning, everybody is losing.  

And they are becoming more and more interlinked to global terrorism and becoming a threat, not only for the countries where these conflicts take place, but for the whole of the international community.   

Melissa Fleming:   A final note: your message to the leaders coming here to New York, to the General Assembly next week.   

Secretary-General:  Do what is necessary to make sure that we are able to solve the dramatic problems we face.  

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Climate emergency ‘a new danger’ to peace, youth activists hear ahead of World Day

INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, Peace and Security - Among the efforts to build a sustainably peaceful world, “urgent climate action is needed” to curb environmental threats to all our well-being and security, the Secretary-General told the annual peace gathering in New York on Friday, addressing a largely youthful crowd.  

Each 21 September, the General Assembly-mandated International Day of Peace is observed, devoted to “strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples”, with this year’s theme spotlighting climate action as key to that aim.  

“Today peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods and our lives”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message.

Speaking to some 700 high school and college student leaders, he explained that peace “is not only about peace among people, but peace between people and the planet”, lamenting that “we have been at war” with nature. 

Climate change has posed clear threats to international peace and security, with natural disasters displacing three times as many people as conflicts; forcing millions to flee their homes in search of refuge.  

UN Photo/Kim Haughton

Growing tensions over resources, mass movements of people, and endangered food security are escalating and “affecting every country on every continent” according to the UN.  

On Friday morning Mr. Guterres commenced celebrations by ringing the Peace Bell at Headquarters in New York, and observing a minute of silence in the UN’s Peace Garden.  

He was joined by the UN Messengers for Peace, Yo-Yo Ma and Midori Goto, and hundreds of high school and college student guests, who represent the growing number of young people stepping up to meet the climate challenge - close to half a million world-wide the UN estimates.   

This year, the UN’s recognition of the Day showcased the power of young voices by hosting a Peace Student Observance - a platform for young people to share projects they have undertaken to nurse a healthy planet while promoting peace.   

To mobilize ambition, the Secretary-General is convening a Climate Action Summit on 23 September, with “concrete and realistic plans to accelerate action” as urged by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, and put forward ambitious plans outlined in the landmark Paris Agreement. A special climate summit for youth on Saturday, the first of its kind, will bring young leaders and innovators together to further address the climate emergency.  

The shift toward a safer and greener future “will be backed by passionate voices of young women and men around the world, who understand their future is at stake” Mr. Guterres said in the 100-Day countdown to the International Day back in June, deeming this challenge “the battle of our lives.” 

“We are at war with nature” the UN chief said, “nature doesn’t forgive, and nature is striking back.” 

Form farming, to how we mobilize ourselves, to power supply, we need “huge transformations” the Secretary-General urged.  

Commending the young attendees, he said: “Your leadership is essential, to make sure that my generation does the right thing…Good luck in your very committed engagement towards peace among people, and people with mother nature.”

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‘Collective’ erosion of two-State solution, continues unabated: Mladenov

INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, Peace and Security - The “steady deterioration” of chances that a lasting peace can be negotiated between Israel and Palestine as two States live side by side, reflects a “collective failure” of leadership across the region and the world.

“There is no other viable solution to end the conflict”, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, told the Security Council on Friday.

“Those who continue to support a two-State outcome must acknowledge that derailing that prospect, means that Palestinians and Israelis are facing a grim future of perpetual occupation, endless violence and threats to international stability”, he said.

Earlier, he began his briefing said that the sides remained far apart, and most of the 2016 Council resolution, known as 2334, remained to be implemented: “developments during this reporting period cannot be divorced from the broader context: Israel’s continued military occupation…settlement activity and the threat of annexation; Hamas’ continuing hold over Gaza, and its militant activity; unilateral actions that undermine peace efforts and severe challenges to the fiscal viability of the Palestinian Authority”, he said, adding the risk of military escalation regionally.

“All these developments collectively erode the prospects of a two-State solution”, which the UN and most Council members have consistently backed as the only possible way out of final-status talks.

Mr. Mladenov noted that around 3,000 housing units had been advanced in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures had also continued. The last three months had also seen “worrying levels of violence throughout the occupied Palestinian territory”.

Gaza tensions continue

In the Gaza strip, although overall levels of violence decreased, “tensions continue”, with four killed, including two children, in continuing protests at the border fence, as well as 496 injured by Israeli live fire.

Gaza’s humanitarian crisis continues, said the Special Coordinator, although Qatari funding had led to more than double the power output from the Gaza Power Plant, and more than 10,000 jobs had been created by UN agencies on the ground, including around 3,000 for women. “Despite these efforts”, the health system in Gaza “remains on the brink of collapse”.

He noted that “sadly”, two years on from a reconciliation agreement between militant Hamas forces that control Gaza, and Fatah leaders in the West Bank, “intra-Palestinian divisions remain deeply entrenched.”

Regarding the pre-election promise offered by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that as a first step, he would annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea if re-elected, Mr. Mladenov told the Council that “such steps, if implemented, would constitute a serious violation of international law. They would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations and regional peace.”

He said that nearly three years after the passing of resolution 2334, “we can only lament the worsening situation on the ground. Settlements have expanded, demolitions have accelerated, violence and incitement have continued, achieving intra-Palestinian unity seems and ever-more distant prospect, and credible negotiations have yet to be launched.”

The overall deterioration in the chances for peace “reflects the collective failure of leaders, politicians and the international community to deliver on the vision that peace between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, can be achieved through peaceful negotiations with support from the international community, based on 1967 lines, international law, relevant UN resolutions and previous agreements.”

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UN staff support youth-driven global action on climate crisis

INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, Climate Change - Staff at UN Headquarters in New York joined untold numbers of students, scientists, organized labour, and everyday people worldwide, who took to the streets on Friday, demanding action to address climate change.

The global climate strike was inspired by weekly demonstrations held by the Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, and UN workers gathered in front of the Secretariat to show support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to bring about a greener future for all people.

Ms. Thunberg is attending the schoolchildren-led march in New York, but millions of people of all ages have already joined children across the world in demonstrations, from the south Pacific region, to the west coast of the United States.

UN chief António Guterres told students attending the annual ceremony marking the International Day of Peace, observed on 21 September, that they are making a difference.

“Like the millions who all over the world are demonstrating today in favour of peace with nature, your presence here today is very important for our work,” he said.

António Guterres
@antonioguterres

Join me on my journey to Pacific islands on the frontlines of the climate crisis and meet some inspiring climate activists in this exclusive 360 video experience: https://www.facebook.com/unitednations/videos/385690082322719/ 

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Climate change is indeed a youth issue, as the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said in its Rural Development Report 2019.

Nearly one billion of the global population aged 15 to 24, live in developing countries, according to IFAD. Around half, or just under 500 million, live in rural areas.

“Countries with large youth populations are typically poor and still heavily agricultural, which is one of the sectors most directly affected by climate change,” the report stated.

“Countries in West and Central Africa – notably the Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone – are in this position. These countries are also in the midst of post-conflict or fragile situations, making it all the more pressing to address the challenge of youth inclusion.”

There is also a gender dimension to the climate crisis. As UN Women pointed out in a tweet posted on Friday: Taking #ClimateAction is also taking action to realize women's rights.

While climate change affects everyone, the agency said it is the world’s poorest—especially women and girls—who suffer most following devastating storms, drought and other conditions brought on by extreme weather conditions.

“Often, they are the last to eat or be rescued; they face greater health and safety risks as water and sanitation systems become compromised; and they take on increased domestic and care work as resources dwindle,” according to a recent UN Women editorial.

More than 700 young people are expected to take part in the UN Youth Climate Summit on Saturday, to showcase their solutions to address what the UN believes is the defining issue of our time.

For UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake, the nearly two billion young people worldwide are “crucial” to the planet’s future.

“Young people want and deserve a role in what should be a participatory process and the school strikes for climate action were born out of their desire to make global leaders aware of and act on their concerns,” she told UN News ahead of the event.

“They have a stake in the future as this is the planet they will inherit; it is they who will bear the impact of a changing climate.”

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Security Council: Two draft resolutions, zero consensus on ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib

INTERNATIONAL, 19 September 2019, Peace and Security - The UN Security Council on Thursday failed to reach consensus on either of two competing resolutions on a cessation of hostilities in Idlib, Syria: the last province in the war-torn nation that is still largely held by rebel forces.

Belgium, Germany and Kuwait tabled a draft proposing a humanitarian ceasefire, which garnered 12 out of 15 votes.

Permanent members Russia and China used their right to veto, blocking its adoption. Their own resolution, which highlighted terrorism concerns by extremist groups operating inside the region, also failed to pass, with nine members voting against and four abstaining.

Ursula Mueller, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who spoke prior to the voting, said a unilateral ceasefire announced by Russia on 30 August has reportedly led to a decline in fighting in the northwestern region. However, insecurity and an “alarming” humanitarian situation persist.

“The fragile ceasefire has brought into focus an outlook that, for this Security Council should be all too familiar: Further fighting will endanger and displace thousands of civilians. Further displacement will create even more needs. Further needs will stretch humanitarians that are already at their limit”, she told the chamber.

“The world is watching…in hopes that a more humane outlook for Syria will be created, one where civilians are safe, needs are addressed, and humanitarians are protected.”

Families living in the open

Humanitarians reach more than 1.6 million people in the Idlib region every month through cross-border operations from Turkey.

Some 400,000 residents have fled their homes since May, following an escalation of military operations. They have been pushed to areas near the border, which are already densely populated, thus further straining host communities.

Ms. Mueller stressed that shelter is a major concern. Increased demand and short supply mean that many families cannot afford a place to live. With winter approaching, humanitarians estimate they will need more than $68 million to help those in need.

“A survey earlier this month found that about 600,000 people live in tents, camps and sites for internally displaced persons. Humanitarian partners report that, in the absence of viable alternatives, families in some areas resort to living out in the open,” she said.

Board of inquiry set to begin work

Last month, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the establishment of an internal Board of Inquiry into conflict-related incidents that have taken place in northwest Syria since last September, when Russia and Turkey signed a deal to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib.

Damage or destruction to facilities on the deconfliction list and to UN-supported facilities will be among the matters to be investigated when the Board begins its work later this month.

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Despite progress in childbirth safety, one woman or baby dies every 11 seconds

INTERNATIONAL, 19 September 2019, Health - Childbirth survival rates are now a “staggering success” compared with the year 2000, but one pregnant woman - or her child - still dies every 11 seconds from largely preventable causes, UN health experts said on Thursday.

In a joint appeal for all nations to do more to provide better medical care for all, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) outlined several ways to help protect the 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns who die every year.

Henrietta H. Fore
@unicefchief

A skilled pair of hands to help mothers and newborns around the time of birth, along with clean water, adequate nutrition, basic medicines and vaccines, can make the difference between life and death. https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/more-women-and-children-survive-today-ever-un-report 

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More women and children survive today than ever before – UN report

unicef.org

Their recommendations tackle immediate and underlying problems, such as ensuring that midwives have water to wash their hands and helping teenage girls to stay in school longer, where there is less chance of them getting pregnant.

In addition, communities should have access to cheap medicines, such as oral rehydration salts used to treat diarrhoea, and “ten cent vaccines” to keep tuberculosis at bay, the UN agencies insisted.

Citing 2018 data showing that newborns – babies in their first month - accounted for around half of the 5.3 million deaths among under-fives, WHO and UNICEF also highlighted the need for other structural changes.

These include ensuring that pregnant mothers eat a sufficiently nutritious diet to stave off illnesses linked to malnutrition.

Sub-Saharan babies, 10 times more likely to die

All of these things “can make the difference between life and death”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, in a statement accompanying new data showing that in sub-Saharan Africa, women in childbirth are nearly 50 times more likely to die, than in richer regions, and their babies are 10 times more likely to perish in their first month.

According to 2018 figures, one in 13 children in sub-Saharan Africa also died before their fifth birthday, which is 15 times more than in Europe, where the rate is one in 196.

Beyond sub-Saharan Africa, the joint WHO/UNICEF report also expressed concern about high mother and baby mortality rates linked to poverty in Southern Asia.

Taken together, both regions account for around eight in 10 of all maternal and child deaths, highlighting vast inequalities in healthcare worldwide.

Going to Sweden ‘can reduce mother’s chances of dying by 100’

“If I look to my own native country, Sweden (a woman) who travels from the highest mortality regions to the world to Sweden, she reduces her overall mortality rate by 100”, UNICEF’s Chief of Health, Dr Stefan Peterson, told journalists in Geneva.

Under global healthcare targets agreed by the international community in 2015 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda, Goal 3.2 calls for fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.

“The world will fall short of this target by more than one million lives if the current pace of progress continues”, the agencies warned.

Another SDG target (3.2) urges countries to reduce deaths of babies in their first month of life, to at least 12 per 1,000 live births, and to bring down mortality among under-fives, to at least 25 per 1,000 live births.

In 2018, 121 countries had already achieved this under-five mortality rate, according to WHO, while among the remaining 74 States, 53 will need to accelerate progress to reach the SDG target on child survival by 2030.

UN Inter-agency Group for Child/Maternal Mortality Estimation (IGME)
Under-five mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) by country, 2018.

$200 billion needed to achieve healthcare targets

Some $200 billion a year is needed to achieve all the primary health goals that are required for quality universal health coverage for all, according to Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director in charge of Universal Healthcare targets at WHO.

Welcoming the many positive changes in tackling child and maternal mortality globally since 2000, Dr Salama insisted that many countries were in a position to achieve much more, without having to find new funding.

“The biggest difference in terms of when we discuss financing between the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) era (2000-2015) and the SDG era, is the real acknowledgement that the money is there for many countries, they just have to spend it on the right things,” he said.

“So we’re not turning to the donor community and saying, ‘Give us $200 billion.’ We’re turning to middle-income and higher-income and even some lower-income countries that are stable and saying, ‘Actually, if you choose the right things, you could meet these goals within your current budgets.’”

‘Staggering success’ in reducing deaths

Since 2000, Dr. Salama insisted, the overall story of maternal and child mortality had been “a staggering success that we don’t often see in global and health development”.

He pointed to a 50 per cent reduction in deaths in children under 15 years old – from 14.2 million in 2000 to 6.2 million deaths in 2018 - and a 35 per cent reduction in maternal deaths over the same period.

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UN human rights report shows rise in reprisals against activists, victims

INTERNATIONAL, 19 September 2019, Human Rights - Cases of intimidation and retaliation against victims, civil society and activists who cooperate with the United Nations are on the rise, a new report from the UN Human Rights Office reveals.

The study documents incidents from nearly 50 countries, such as the detention and imprisonment of activists, and the filming of participants at meetings, including on UN premises, without their consent. 

Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said there are also cases of authorities threatening and harassing relatives of activists.

UN Human Rights
@UNHumanRights

? UN Secretary-General Report documents alleged against victims, members of civil society and activists for cooperating with the @UN in 4⃣8⃣ countries. Learn more: http://ow.ly/qMkF50wgawq

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“Some governments seem prepared to go to almost any lengths to punish people who cooperate with us.  This may actually underscore the justice of the victims’ causes,” he said.

The report covers the period from 1 June 2018 to 31 May of this year.  It also notes misuse of online spaces to promote hate speech, cyberbullying and smear campaigns, particularly against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Mr. Gilmour expressed concern over the continued trend in the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies as justification for blocking access to the United Nations.

“Reported cases include individuals or organizations being charged with terrorism, blamed for cooperation with foreign entities or accused of damaging the reputation or security of the State. These have also been used to justify restrictions on foreign funding,” he wrote in the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

“A disproportionate number of cases of enforced disappearance or detention, many which have been deemed arbitrary by United Nations experts, relate to these national security arguments. This is a worrisome trend that I have addressed publicly, including in my previous report, and, regrettably, it continues.”

He said the UN will continue to strengthen its response to these developments, including through improved reporting on allegations.  However, he added, the onus remains on countries as “Member States must be accountable for their own actions and practices, and provide remedy when reprisals occur."

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Nature ‘one of most effective ways’ of combatting climate change

INTERNATIONAL, 19 September 2019, Climate Change - Nature is “one of the most effective ways” of combatting climate change and should be part of every country’s climate strategy according to the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Inger Andersen. 

World leaders will be gathering at the United Nations in New York next week at a Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Ms. Andersen will be there to promote the idea of nature-based solutions to combatting climate change.

UNEP is supporting one of the nine summit action tracks designated by the Secretary-General under the leadership of the Governments of China and New Zealand.  UN News asked Ms. Andersen how nature can help to reverse climate change.

How is climate change affecting the natural world?

The largest glacier in the Swiss Alps, the Aletschgletscher, is melting rapidly and could disappear altogether by 2100. Geir Braathen

The world’s climate is changing rapidly and these changes are evident on a daily basis. Global temperatures are rising, rainfall patterns are changing and the weather in many parts of the world is more erratic and unpredictable than ever before. The effects are widespread; natural habitats are changing, biodiversity is being lost, farming cycles are being disrupted and water stress is becoming more common than not.

Natural hazards such as floods, droughts, hurricanes and heatwaves are becoming more extreme and frequent costing countries billions of dollars and destroying homes, infrastructure and livelihoods. The climate crisis is threatening people’s well-being, food security and worsening poverty.

In June this year, the UN Secretary-General said the world needs to create conditions for “harmony between humankind and nature.”

What is meant by a nature-based solution?

Nature-based solutions are actions that protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that also address societal challenges, thereby simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. So, whether its food security, climate change, water security, human health, disaster risk or economic development, nature can help us find a way.

And climate change is a very important part of the solution puzzle. There are many ways to address climate change, but one of the most effective and immediate ways is using what is on our door step… nature.  

For example, nature-based solutions can focus on reducing emissions from deforestation and agricultural practices and enhancing the ability of natural ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Remember, it is carbon dioxide that contributes to the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.

The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit provides an opportune moment to catapult nature-based solutions to the forefront of climate action.

What range of solutions are available?

Most nature-based solutions for climate change come from strengthening or restoring existing natural ecosystems. For example, forests don’t just absorb carbon, they also defend us from its most devastating impacts. Carefully planted tree species can act as firebreaks, keeping trees next to farmland can protect crops from the erosive forces of intense rain, and forests can alleviate inland floods due to the sponge-like way they absorb water.

Mangroves provide effective and cheap natural barriers against coastal floods and shoreline erosion. Changing our land practices alone could deliver 30 per cent of the emissions reductions that we need to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate action by 2030.

Restoring peatlands and other natural ecosystems are also effective nature-based solutions.

Find out more here about the benefits of peatlands: 

How effective are they and at what financial cost?

Nature is available now and we should use it; there are no quick technological fixes that have the same scale of impact that nature-based solutions offer. In fact, these solutions could deliver more than a third of the emissions reductions needed globally by 2030.

Crucially, what is urgently required is an increase in investment to unlock the potential of nature. Right now, these solutions receive less than three per cent of available climate funding, even though they are extremely cost effective. And, they offer a very high return on investment potentially adding trillions of dollars to the global economy. For example, the building of the Great Green Wall an ambitious project to reverse desertification in the Sahel region of Africa could create 10 million jobs there by 2030 and have other benefits including slowing migration.

These solutions have to be integrated into climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Globally, governments must align their efforts and commit to investing in these solutions as part of their national policies.

How important are nature-based solutions in the overall fight against climate change?

The bottom line is that we cannot limit warming to 1.5°C (or 2°C for that matter) without natural climate solutions. Nature-based solutions have the potential to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 12 gigatons each year. This is roughly equal to emissions from all the world’s coal fired plants. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind, firstly, that increasing ambition requires us to commit simultaneously to an energy transition and greater investments in nature.  And secondly, if we don’t act on nature now, then nature’s ability to protect humanity will diminish even more. So, nature is on the table as a solution to climate action, but only just and we have to seize the moment. The good news is nature is forgiving and it’s time we gave it the chance it deserves.

Are there enough projects underway right now globally to make a difference?

The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, addresses a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP/Cyril Villemain

We are in a period of global emergency, but also in a period of unprecedented momentum. Young people are holding us to account, and every week a government somewhere in the world, commits to climate action. Nature-based solutions are immediately available, cost-effective and can be scaled up depending on need. And every country in the world can act.

And we have many examples of success. When the Great Green Wall is completed in 2030, restored land will absorb carbon dioxide equal to keeping all of California’s cars parked for 3½ years. In Niger, farmer-led reforestation has improved tree cover, reducing women’s time in collecting firewood from three hours to 30 minutes. And Medellin in Colombia reduced temperatures by more than 2°C through turning their concrete jungles into urban forests.

So, we need to scale up initiatives like this, build on political momentum and deliver at the scale and pace needed to propel us beyond the ambitions of the Paris Agreement because when we give nature a chance, we have a better shot at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

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UN summits to urge ‘ambition and action’ on climate change, sustainable development: Guterres

INTERNATIONAL, 18 September 2019, Climate Change - There are five key United Nations summits taking place next week to spur action on the climate crisis and other global concerns, which will showcase the UN as a “driver for meaningful, positive change”, according to the man at the helm of the Organization.

For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, there is no time to lose in the face of climate change, rising inequality, increasing hatred and intolerance; and what he described as an “alarming” number of peace and security challenges.

António Guterres
@antonioguterres

As we begin a new session, my message to world leaders is simple.

Put people first:
their needs
their aspirations
their rights.https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/press-encounter/2019-09-18/secretary-generals-press-conference-the-outset-of-the-74th-session-of-the-general-assembly 

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“The biggest challenge that leaders and institutions face is to show people we care – and to mobilize solutions that respond to people’s anxieties with answers. The upcoming high-level week is designed to do precisely that,” he told journalists in New York on Wednesday,

“There will be dozens of summits, meetings and side events. But I can distill the significance of all these discussions into two words: ambition and action. I see the high-level week as an excellent opportunity to showcase the United Nations as a centre for solutions and a driver for meaningful, positive change in people’s lives.”

The high-level week kicks off on Monday with the Climate Action Summit. Mr. Guterres said several plans to dramatically reduce emissions over the next decade, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, should be unveiled there.

The Secretary-General added that the UN is doing its part. This includes the announcement today of the Climate Action for Jobs initiative by the International Labour Organization (ILO), alongside Spain and Peru.

The four other summits will address universal health coverage, the Sustainable Development Goals, financing for development and support to Small Island Developing States.

Mr. Guterres promised that his message throughout will be simple: “Put people first. Their needs. Their aspirations. Their rights.”

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