Tag Archives: United Nations

More than 100 million at risk of starvation

An internally displaced man looks at the carcasses of his goats and sheep in the outskirts of Dahar town of Puntland state in northeastern Somalia, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar - RTX2V8OJ

An internally displaced man looks at the carcasses of his goats and sheep in the outskirts of Dahar town of Puntland state in northeastern Somalia, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

By Umberto Bacchi
March, 2017

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The number of people facing severe hunger worldwide has surpassed 100 million and will grow if humanitarian aid is not paired with more support for farmers, a senior United Nations official said.

Dominique Burgeon, director of the emergency division at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said latest studies showed 102 million people faced acute malnutrition – meaning they were on the brink of starvation – in 2016, up almost 30 percent from 80 million in 2015.

The hike was mainly driven by deepening crises in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, where conflict and drought have crippled food production, he said. [nL5N1FF5EX]

“Humanitarian assistance has kept many people alive so far but their food security situation has continued to deteriorate,” Burgeon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

More investment is needed to help people feed themselves by farming crops and livestock, he added.

“We come with airplanes, we provide food assistance and we manage to keep them alive but we do not invest enough in the livelihood of these people,” he said.

“We avoid them falling into famine but we are not good at taking them off the cliff, away from food insecurity.”

The U.N. World Food Programme said last month more than 20 million people – greater than the population of Romania or Florida – risk dying from starvation within six months in four separate famines.

Wars in Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan have devastated households and driven up prices, while a drought in east Africa has ruined the agricultural economy. [nL8N1G06JS]

Famine was formally declared in February in parts of South Sudan, which has been mired in civil war since 2013.

In northeastern Nigeria, once a breadbasket for the country, a seven-year insurgency by Boko Haram militants has uprooted some 1.8 million people, forcing many to abandon their farms.

The government says it has clawed back most of the territory it lost to the jihadist group and tens of thousands of refugees are hoping to return to their crops, although security remains a concern. [nL4N1G65JP]

Burgeon said the FAO had raised less than a third of the $20 million it needs within the next two weeks to support almost 2 million people in the upcoming planting season in Nigeria – an investment he said would save money in the future.

“If you don’t support those who want to return to their area to crop then you have to agree that you will have to provide massive aid assistance at least until the harvest in 2018, which is unbearable,” he said.

Lack of funding was also hampering the agency’s response in Syria, where food production dropped to an all-time low in 2016, Burgeon said. [nL8N1DG4UO]

“A lot is going to food assistance and barely anything is going to help farmers who have decided to stay on their land,” he said.

The soaring cost of seeds, fertilisers and tractor fuel was pushing many farmers to leave, making it more difficult to restart the economy once peace or stability returned, he added.

“What we need to do is to help them stay and crop their land and be there for the future,” Burgeon said. “To survive is not enough.”

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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Hopes for UN Secretary General as Climate-savvy Leader

By Ruth Greenspan Bell and Sherri Goodman, The Daily Climate
October, 2016

Antonio Guterres, Geneva August 3, 2012. Photo by Eric Bridiers, US Mission, Public Domain

Antonio Guterres, incoming UN Secretary General. Above, in Geneva August 3, 2012. Photo by Eric Bridiers, US Mission, Public Domain

The selection of António Guterres as the new United Nations Secretary General is encouraging news for those concerned about the global challenges brought on by climate change.

Guterres, who will take over as Secretary in January 2017, has displayed an impressive understanding of the interconnectedness of climate issues and the willingness to fight for those causes he thinks deserve attention and resources.

Climate change is chief among the conditions complicating each of the already complex challenges that make up the UN portfolio. A Secretary who understands the security implications of a changing climate can lead the way to thread climate and its consequences into everything else the UN does – both to push hard for greenhouse gas reductions and to address the self-described “truth” articulated by President Obama, “that many nations have contributed little to climate change but will be the first to feel its most destructive effects.”

The Secretary designate has already demonstrated that he understands the connection between climate and security and how the UN can lead in this unprecedented challenge. In this, he is a worthy successor to Ban Ki-moon, who used the force of his office to front-burner climate issues, particularly leading to the 2015 UNFCCC Paris meetings.

The best case for this is Guterres’ remarkable November 2011 briefing to the UN Security Council. In his then-position as High Commissioner for Refugees, Guterres spoke to the subject of “New Challenges to International Peace and Security and Conflict Prevention.”

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our times: a challenge which interacts with and reinforces the other global megatrends such as population growth, urbanization, and growing food, water and energy insecurity,” he told the 15 members of the Council. “It is a challenge which is adding to the scale and complexity of human displacement; and a challenge that has important implications for the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Guterres drew attention to “the potential for conflict within and between states” as they compete for the scarce resources of water, grazing and arable land. He noted the possibility of “so-called ‘water wars’ over transboundary freshwater reserves” that could easily “uproot large numbers of people,” citing the example of Darfur, a conflict at least partially driven by climate change, environmental degradation and the struggle for access to land and water.

He drew attention to evidence that a one degree temperature rise increases the potential for armed conflict by 50 percent.

All of this alone would be impressive, but a second factor drew our attention: Guterres seems to be a seasoned and effective fighter for issues he thinks need global attention.

He has said publicly how hard it was to get the issue of refugees on the world and UN agenda – but proceeded to do just that. Based on this experience, he might just be the right person to work climate issues within the UN system, a system he clearly knows well.

Why does his comprehension and commitment matter? Daily, we get new evidence of the challenge ahead. Last week an Oxfam report documented how little wealthy nations, whose Paris pledges were supposed to raise $100 billion a year by 2020, are actually doing to help the world’s poorest people cope with the effects of climate change. In some cases, countries are lending rather than giving and in others ordinary aid is rebranded as climate finance. The resources to institute adequate protective measures are simply not there.

The consequences may be exactly as Guterres and security experts warn. But in his new position, Guterres can mobilize the resources necessary to address all facets of this complex existential challenge.

Creative Commons

Ruth Greenspan Bell and Sherri Goodman are Public Policy Fellows at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. (See below). This piece was originally published in The Daily Climate, an independent, foundation-funded news service covering energy, the environment and climate change.

Further information:

Read stories about climate change on F&O here.

Watch Sherri Goodman and Ruth Greenspan Bell speak on climate change and the UN.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Nations Agree on Binding Pact to Cut Greenhouse Gases

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerrydelivers his keynote addres to promote U.S. climate and environmental goals, at the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on the elimination of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) use, held in Rwanda's capital Kigali, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/James Akena

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerrydelivers his keynote addres to promote U.S. climate and environmental goals, at the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on the elimination of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) use, held in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/James Akena

By Clement Uwiringiyimana
October 15, 2016

KIGALI (Reuters) – Nearly 200 nations have agreed a legally binding deal to cut back on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners, a major move against climate change that prompted loud cheers when it was announced on Saturday.

The deal, which includes the world’s two biggest economies, the United States and China, divides countries into three groups with different deadlines to reduce the use of factory-made hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases, which can be 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases.

“While diplomacy is never easy, we can work together to leave our children a planet that is safer, more prosperous, more secure, and more free than the one that was left for us,” the White House said in a statement on the deal.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal was “a monumental step forward” as he left the talks in the Rwandan capital of Kigali late on Friday.

Under the pact, developed nations, including much of Europe and the United States, commit to reducing their use of the gases incrementally, starting with a 10 percent cut by 2019 and reaching 85 percent by 2036.

Many wealthier nations have already begun to reduce their use of HFCs.

Two groups of developing countries will freeze their use of the gases by either 2024 or 2028, and then gradually reduce their use. India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the Gulf countries will meet the later deadline.

They refused the earlier date because they have fast-expanding middle classes who want air conditioning in their hot climates, and because India feared damaging its growing industries.

“Last year in Paris, we promised to keep the world safe from the worst effects of climate change. Today, we are following through on that promise,” said U.N. environment chief Erik Solheim in a statement, referring to 2015’s Paris climate talks.

GAINING MOMENTUM

The deal binding 197 nations crowns a wave of measures to help fight climate change this month. Last week, the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb climate-warming emissions passed its required threshold to enter into force after India, Canada and the European Parliament ratified it.

But unlike the Paris agreement, the Kigali deal is legally binding, has very specific timetables and has an agreement by rich countries to help poor countries adapt their technology.

A quick reduction of HFCs could be a major contribution to slowing climate change, avoiding perhaps 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) of a projected rise in average temperatures by 2100, scientists say.

Environmental groups had called for an ambitious agreement on cutting HFCs to limit the damage from the roughly 1.6 billion new air conditioning units expected to come on stream by 2050, reflecting increased demand from an expanding middle class in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Benson Ireri, a senior policy adviser at aid group Christian Aid, said that all African countries had volunteered for the earlier deadline because they worried about global warming pushing more of their citizens into poverty.

“It was a shame that India and a handful of other countries chose a slower time frame for phasing down HFCs but the bulk of nations, including China, have seen the benefits of going for a quicker reduction. It’s also been encouraging to see small island states and African countries a part of this higher ambition group,” he said in a statement.

A scientific panel advising the signatories to the deal said phasing out HFCs will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, said Manoj Kumar Singh, India’s joint secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

“The implementation starts from 2024 onwards so there is enough time to plan and mobilise finance,” he told Reuters.

Donors had already put $80 million in a fund to start implementing the agreement, said Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But Sergey Vasiliev, the head of the Russian delegation, said Russia’s estimates of the costs were higher and argued countries’ contributions to a multilateral fund to help poor countries adapt their technology should be voluntary.

The details of the funding will be finalised at a later meeting.

“We think it is more than $10 billion and some experts estimated up to $20 billion,” he told Reuters.

The HFC talks build on the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which succeeded in phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), widely used at that time in refrigeration and aerosols.

The protocol contains provisions for noncompliance, ranging from the provision of technical and financial assistance to trade sanctions in ozone depleting substances, which will be widened to include HFCs.

The original aim of the Montreal Protocol was to stop the depletion of the ozone layer, which shields the planet from ultraviolet rays linked to skin cancer and other conditions.

That effort cost $3.5 billion over 25 years, said Stephen Olivier Andersen, the director of research at Washington-based think tank Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. Scientists say it prevented 2 million cases of skin cancer.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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Nature needs a seat at the UN

By Anthony Burke and Stefanie Fishel 
October, 2016

Street art in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Stefanie Fishel

Street art in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Stefanie Fishel

Whether we consider wild weather, unprecedented Arctic melting and global temperatures, or the Great Barrier Reef, the global environment is generating alarming news. Predictions of multi-metre sea level rises, the collapse of marine biodiversity and food chains, and global warming far beyond 2℃ are equally concerning. Is our system of global environmental law and governance adequate to this crisis?

Our short answer is “no”, but what should be done? We believe new international institutions and laws are needed, with one fundamental purpose: to give a voice to ecosystems and non-human forms of life.

We say this knowing that the current global system is inadequate to respond to many human crises, but with the conviction that environmental justice often overlaps with social justice.

It is tempting to believe that we can muddle through with the existing system, centred on the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Biological Diversity. But these are not integrated with each other, and are also kept separate from global economic and trade institutions like the World Trade Organisation, the G20 and the World Bank, and from global security institutions like the UN Security Council. The latter has never passed a resolution about the environment, despite growing warnings from military strategists of the potential for climate-catalysed conflict.

Global trade and security are each governed by global agencies. But there is no comparable global authority to protect the environment.

The climate agreement negotiated at last year’s Paris summit was a great diplomatic achievement, but the euphoria was premature. Current national pledges to cut emissions will fail to keep global warming below 2℃, let alone the 1.5℃ that climate scientists and many nations in Paris have argued is the safer limit.

The Paris deal’s predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, actually saw global emissions rise by 60% to 2014.

Three months before Paris, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its mission to “heal and secure our planet”. The gap between ambition and ability could scarcely be greater.

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A new manifesto

We and our colleagues have published a “Planet Politics” manifesto, which argues that the current architecture of international society is failing to see and address the global ecological crisis. Our global governance is too focused on interstate bargaining and human interests, and sees the environment as an inert backdrop and resource for human societies. Yet the reality is that the fates of society and nature are inextricably bound together – and the planet is letting us know that.

In response, we propose three key international reforms: a coal convention, an Earth system council, and a new category of “crimes against biodiversity”.

A coal convention

Every year toxic air pollution from coal burning causes death and disease. Coal is responsible for 43% of global greenhouse emissions and 80% of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration since 1870.

We already have UN treaties banning the use of chemical and biological weapons, on the basis of their threats to human health and security. Based on the same principles, we suggest a similar international convention to outlaw the mining and burning of coal.

This would create a common legal framework in which states can transform their energy economies without fear of “free riders”. It would also add to the pressure already being felt by the coal and energy industries to curb their damaging pollution.

An Earth system council

An Earth system council would function much like the UN Security Council – it would, in effect, be an “ecological security council”.

Its mandate would be to preserve, protect and repair global ecosystems. It would respond to immediate crises while also stimulating action on systemic environmental degradation and ecosystem repair. Its resolutions would be binding on all UN member states, although we do not envisage that it would have the same coercive powers (such as sanctions). The council would be able to refer issues to the International Court of Justice, or create ad hoc international criminal tribunals relating to major environmental crimes.

This is significant reform that would require the revision of the UN Charter, but our proposals for membership go even further. Every meeting would be briefed by the head of the UN Environment Program and by Earth system scientists or ecologists.

We suggest it could have 25 voting seats, 13 of which would go to state representatives elected for fixed terms, allocated among the major world regions. The other 12 would be permanent seats held by “eco-regions”: major ecosystems that bind together large human and non-human communities and are crucial to the planetary biosphere, such as the Arctic and Antarctic, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Amazon Basin, tropical Africa, or major river systems like the Mekong and Congo. Alternatively, following WWF’s Global 200, eco-regions could be based on major habitat types.

Each eco-region would be represented by a democratic assembly and have a constitution focused solely on the preservation and repair of its ecology. It would appoint a representative to the Earth system council and have the power to make recommendations for ecosystem protection to regional governments. Each state with territory that overlaps that eco-region would have one seat. Other seats would be elected democratically from communities (especially indigenous peoples) within those regions.

Crimes against biodiversity

A “crimes against biodiversity” law would act like a Rome Statute for the environment. It could add much-needed teeth to efforts to preserve global biodiversity and prevent large-scale environmental harms. Ecological damage should be criminalised, not just penalised with fines or lawsuits.

We envisage that this law would outlaw and punish three kinds of activity:

  • actions that contribute to the extinction of endangered species, such as poaching, illegal whaling or destruction of habitat;
  • actions that involve the unnecessary large-scale killing or death of species groups, as happened in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster;
  • activities that destroy ecosystems, such as the dumping of mine tailings or toxic waste into rivers.

It would not criminalise the farming of animals or the catching of fish, but could apply if these practices involve the mistreatment of animals or large-scale collateral damage to biodiversity – for instance, by overly extractive fishing methods. Such global-level regulation will augment enforcement at local levels.

Unlike international laws that punish genocide, our suggested law would not require proof of intent to commit the crime, but merely a strong link between the activity and the destruction of biodiversity or industrial and systemic harm to animals. There are potential legal precedents in the US legal doctrine of “depraved heart murder” in which individuals are liable for deaths caused by wilful indifference, rather than an express desire to harm.

It is easy to see how this kind of legal reasoning could be used to help deter dangerous industrial, mining or agricultural activities.

Readers might ask how the destruction of biodiversity is as morally appalling as genocide or other crimes against humanity. The philosopher Hannah Arendt has argued that the distinct evil of crimes against humanity lies not simply in mass murder but in the destruction of human diversity; an attack on humanity’s peaceful coexistence on our planet.

Now, as we become ever more aware of the complex enmeshment of human and non-human life in the planetary biosphere, the human-caused extinction of species is likewise an attack on our common ecological existence. It is time for this truth to be recognised in international law.

We are aware that these are radical ideas that raise significant political and legal complexities, but the time to start debating them is now. Planet Earth needs unprecedented politics for these unprecedented times.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Anthony Burke is an Associate Professor of International & Political Studies, UNSW Australia.  Stefanie Fishel is an Assistant Professor, University of Alabama This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Verbatim: Hate, mainstreamed — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Hate is being mainstreamed, said High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in a global update at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council

By Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein — excerpts from an address
Geneva, 13 June 2016

When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court;

When States Parties have threatened to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – and, even more recently, others threaten to leave the United Nations, or the European Court of Human Rights and the European Union;

When those calling for departure have seemingly already fled in their minds from the urge to protect the world from the untold sorrow and miseries which twice swept it, and brought about the creation of many of these very institutions;

When filthy abuse by politicians of the vulnerable is tolerated; when the laws – human rights law, refugee law, international humanitarian law – are increasingly violated, and when hospitals are bombed – but no one is punished;

When human rights, the two words, are so rarely found in the world of finance and business, in its literature, in its lexicon – why? Because it is shameful to mention them?

When working for the collective benefit of all people, everywhere is apparently losing its ardour, and features only in empty proclamations swelling with unjustified self-importance and selfishness –

Then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?

I think of a video clip I saw on the internet only days ago, where the body of a young child, a young girl, with a face that is white with dust, nose bloodied, hair springing with life still – and her body crushed, inert as the rubble – dug out as she was from a bombed building in Syria, so reports said, just days ago.

The poet Hafiz says:

As pallid ghost appears
Speak the epic of thy pain

Please stop this, because this madness can be stopped.

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As I speak before this 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, at which all of the 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented, the international community’s familiar customs and procedures are much in evidence.

And yet the workable space in which we function as one community – resolving disputes, coming to consensus – is under attack. The common sets of laws, the institutions – and deeper still, the values – which bind us together are buckling. And suffering most from this onslaught are our fellow human beings – your people – who bear the brunt of the resulting deprivation, misery, injustice, and bloodshed.

I, and many others, seek your support.

Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers. Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions which act as checks on executive power are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods.

These trends bleed nations of their innate resilience. They do not make them safe: they make them weaker. Piece by piece, these mutually reinforcing trends are shearing off the protections that maintain respect, enable development, and provide the only fragile basis for world peace. They are attacks on sanity. And they can be reversed.

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This is a period of powerful lessons – if we choose to learn from them.

We can build societies in which disputes can be peacefully resolved by impartial and effective institutions, and where people’s right to development and other fundamental rights are respected.

We can shore up the basic building blocks of co-existence and well-being, both within States and between them.

Sound rule of law institutions, which offer the confidence of impartial justice, build confidence and strength. Equality: every individual must be clear in the knowledge that regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, opinions, belief, caste, age or sexual orientation, her equal rights are fully acknowledged. Trust can only accrue if government is transparent and accountable – and when people know they are entitled to contribute to all decisions in which they have a stake, there is greater social unity. When fundamental economic and social goods – such as education, clean water and adequate health-care – are viewed, correctly, as rights, resources are allocated with greater fairness and society as a whole is stronger. The freedoms of expression, association and belief must prevail, together with independent media, in order that people be fully informed and free to contribute ideas and experiences without fear of attack.

These are powerful levers for development and peace. They are investments which pay instant and long-term benefits in maintaining peace, in maximising sustainable development, and in optimizing the well-being of each society and humanity as a whole. In contrast, the damage done by denial of human rights spills across borders and mutilates the destiny of generations to come. Human rights are not costly – they are priceless.

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We are 7.4 billion human beings clinging to a small and fragile planet. And there is really only one way to ensure a good and sustainable future: ensure respect, resolve disputes, construct institutions that are sound and fair and share resources and opportunities equitably. ….

The actions of the police, security forces and all other agents of the State must be in line with relevant human rights obligations and minimum standards. When reports suggest violations of human rights, I call on the authorities to conduct investigations to establish the facts, prosecute perpetrators and ensure redress for victims. Economic, social and cultural rights are vital, and their respect must include equitable access to resources, services and opportunities. Refugee law must also be respected, especially the principle of non-refoulement. And all forms of discrimination must be eradicated, to ensure that every member of society can freely make choices and participate in decisions.

On a daily basis, we are witness to horrors of every kind around the world. I extend my condolences and respect to all victims of human rights violations, including the victims of conflict and those who suffer violations of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. I also condemn with the greatest possible force the outrageous attacks by violent extremists on innocent people, chosen at random, or because of their presumed beliefs, or opinions, or – as we saw (In Orlando, where scores of people were killed or injured in a nightclub by a gunman) – their sexual orientation.

Martin Luther King spoke of the deep shame reserved “for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight”. But he also pointed out that we can “re-dedicate ourselves to the long, and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”

Visit the Office of the High Commissioner, United Nations Human Rights, to read the entire address by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

hc_Al_Hussein_smll

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein became United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2014. A is a veteran multilateral diplomat with experience in international criminal justice, international law, UN peacekeeping, post-conflict peace-building, international development, and counter- nuclear terrorism.  He  holds a Bachelor of Arts from The Johns Hopkins University and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Cambridge University (Christ’s College).

Read his bio here.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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G7 warns of risks to economic growth, health

(From L) European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pose for the family photo during the first day of the Group of Seven (G7) summit meetings in Ise Shima, Japan, May 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Pool

(From L) European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pose for the family photo during the first day of the Group of Seven (G7) summit meetings in Ise Shima, Japan, May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Pool

by F&O
May 27, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participate in a G-7 Working Session in Shima, Japan, Friday, May 27, 2016, during the G-7 Summit. REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/Pool

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participate in a G-7 Working Session in Shima, Japan, Friday, May 27, 2016, during the G-7 Summit. REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/Pool

The G7 wrapped up its 2016 summit with warnings, of risks to economic growth, health threats from microbes resistant to antibiotics and the handling of health emergencies, as well as a loss of public trust in tax systems to the need for infrastructure investment and trade agreements.

Always a document crafted of diplomacy, with hard issues at times reduced to milquetoast, this year’s statement ran over 30 pages and occasionally bristled.

 

Threats to global growth include the risk of a “Brexit” — British exit from Europe — in the United Kingdom referendum in June;  “escalated geo-political conflicts, terrorism and refugee flows;”  and violent extremism and terrorist attacks that “pose serious threat to the existing rule based international order, and common values and principles of “freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

The G7  statement, following a summit in Japan from May 26 to 27, is worth at least a scan, not least because the organization — more so than the United Nations and its agencies — is arguably the closest thing the world has to a global government body with real-world influence. The criteria for membership includes wealth and a  high Human Development Index, and today includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the European Union represented,

Global growth is the urgent priority, and the group said it would support fiscal, monetary and structural policies to strengthen demand and tackle supply constraints.

Members said they would “increase global assistance” to short and long term refugee needs.

Free trade and several free trade agreements now in progress  —  many increasingly contentious in the current American election cycle and cited as helping the rise of far-right  factions — ranked third on a list of commitments. “We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight all forms of protectionism” said the G7, and stressed its commitment to eliminate”market distorting measures” — specifically citing the steel sector, a contentious issue with China.

The group committed to tackle medical research and development including on microbial resistance to antibiotics, and “to promote Universal Health Coverage,” a hot-button topic in America. It pledged to lead the response to public health emergencies, usually the bailiwick of the World Health Organization. And, in a sharp comment, it said “the Ebola outbreak turned into a major epidemic partly due to the lack of swift and coordinated actions among relevant stakeholders,” and said reform of the WHO is needed for “prompt and effective responses to public health emergencies.”

Equality for and empowerment of women received a separate note of commitment, identifying a need for education and training and promoting women in science, technology, engineering and math.

Other pledges included “an accessible, open, interoperable, reliable and secure cyberspace;” a pledge to fight corruption and improve transparency, and law enforcement cooperation.

Climate change was listed at the bottom of the G7’s priorities, a placement that may or may not have meaning. The group statement said:

“The G7, continuing to take a leadership role, commits to taking the necessary steps to secure ratification, acceptance or approval of the Paris Agreement as soon as possible, and calls on all Parties to do so striving for a goal of entry into force in 2016. We commit to take the lead by early, transparent and robust implementation of our nationally determined contributions, and promoting increased ambition over time. We also commit to actively participate in the regular review of global stock-take progress every five years. We commit to formulate and communicate ambitions mid-century long-term low greenhouse gas (GHG) emission development strategies well ahead of the 2020 deadline. “

It added, “we are determined to accelerate our work towards the transition to an energy system that enables a decarbonization of the global economy, and commit to further invest in supporting innovation in energy technologies and encouraging clean energy and energy efficiency …

Read the full G7 Ise-Shima Leaders’ Declaration here: http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000160266.pdf

—  Deborah Jones         

Copyright Facts and Opinions 2016

Links:

G7 Summit site: http://www.japan.go.jp/g7/summit/documents/index.html

Wikipedia page for the G7: of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Leaders attend the the first Outreach Session during the second day of the Group of Seven (G7) summit meetings in Ise Shima, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Watson/Pool

Leaders attend the the first Outreach Session during the second day of the Group of Seven (G7) summit meetings in Ise Shima, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Watson/Pool

G7 warns on global glut of steel

By Yuka Obayashi and Ami Miyazaki

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference during the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in Shima, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference during the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in Shima, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO/ISE-SHIMA, JAPAN (Reuters) – Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) pledged on Friday to tackle a global glut in steel, though their statement did not single out China, which produces half of the world’s steel and is blamed by many countries for flooding markets with cheap steel.

While not included in the text, China was brought up in the discussions among leaders of the G7 industrial powers, a senior Japanese government spokesman told reporters.

China insists that its steel exports do not violate trade rules nor are its policies designed to encourage mills to sell overseas. It also says it has sought to reduce tax rebates on exported steel.

But with steel mills from Australia to Britain under threat of closure, pressure is mounting on Beijing to cut capacity after output hit a record high earlier this year.

“We recognise the negative impact of global excess capacity across industrial sectors, especially steel, on our economies, trade and workers,” said the statement.

“We are committed to moving quickly in taking steps to address this issue by enhancing market function, including through coordinated actions that identify and seek to eliminate … subsidies and support,” it added.

Leaders of the G7 – which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – met this week near Nagoya, a Japanese car production and steel manufacturing centre.

“The reference to steel overcapacity is significant as it underlines that the G7 nations are firmly united in dealing with the issue,” a Japanese industry ministry official told Reuters.

But Yusuke Miura, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute, saw little direct impact from the G7 call.

“China’s main focus is domestic issues rather than foreign concerns, such as protecting jobs and preventing bankruptcies,”

said Miura.

China has cut 90 million tonnes of steel capacity and plans to cut another 100-150 million tonnes through 2020.

Yet China’s crude steel output hit a record high of 70.65 million tonnes in March as rising prices and better margins prompted some mills to resume production.

“China knows it needs to slash capacity, but it will take time,” Miura said, predicting trade actions and price competition worldwide to continue.

EU lawmakers rejected this month any loosening of trade defences against China, whose eligibility for market economy status is being debated by the European Union.

Meanwhile, the United States slapped Chinese steelmakers with import duties of 522 percent on cold-rolled flat steel used for car body panels and construction.

The G7 should acknowledge that government subsidies and China’s state-owned steel mills are the major contributors to the global excess capacity, Philip Bell, president of the U.S. Steel Manufacturers Association, said in an email.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Nick Carey in CHICAGO and David Stanway in BEIJING; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Ed Davies)

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UN: World’s poorest need $160 per year

A woman carrying her baby walks past fallen trees in Tanna March 18, 2015. International aid agencies ramped up appeals for cyclone-hit Vanuatu, warning that the powerful storm which affected more than two-thirds of the South Pacific island nation had wiped out crops and destroyed fishing fleets, raising the risk of hunger and disease.  Residents of the southern island of Tanna said food and basic supplies were running low while relief workers were still battling to reach many islands pummelled by Cyclone Pam's gusts of more than 300 kph (185 mph) on Friday and Saturday.  REUTERS/Edgar Su

A woman carrying her baby walks past fallen trees in Tanna March 18, 2015. International aid agencies ramped up appeals for cyclone-hit Vanuatu, warning that the powerful storm which affected more than two-thirds of the South Pacific island nation had wiped out crops and destroyed fishing fleets, raising the risk of hunger and disease. Residents of the southern island of Tanna said food and basic supplies were running low while relief workers were still battling to reach many islands pummelled by Cyclone Pam’s gusts of more than 300 kph (185 mph) on Friday and Saturday. REUTERS/Edgar Su

By Joseph D’Urso
July, 2015

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Just $160 per year for each person living in extreme poverty would eradicate world hunger by 2030, the United Nations said on Friday, recommending the money should be delivered through both cash transfers and “pro-poor” investments.

Eliminating hunger is one of the U.N.’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), new objectives set to replace the eight expiring U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The SDGs will be finalised in September, but U.N. officials say member states have identified 17 goals and 169 targets. The second goal targets hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity.

“If we adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach, by 2030, we would still have more than 650 million people suffering from hunger,” said José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The new report, prepared by FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), comes ahead of a major international conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next week.

The U.N. wants cash transfers to “eliminate hunger immediately” by bringing people up to the World Bank’s poverty line of $1.25 per day. It estimates this would cost $116 billion per year, $75 billion of which would go to rural areas.

To ensure the drop in hunger is sustainable, “pro-poor” investments of $151 billion per year are needed in areas such as irrigation, infrastructure and credit facilities on top of cash transfers, the U.N. said.

The total sum the U.N. says is needed each year is $267 billion. “Given that this is more or less equivalent to 0.3 percent of the global GDP, I personally think it is a relatively small price to pay to end hunger,” Graziano da Silva said in a statement.

Though much progress has been made in recent years, nearly 800 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat. Most live outside cities.

“We cannot allow them to be left behind,” said Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme.

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Reporting By Joseph D’Urso; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

 

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