Iraq UN educational agency condemns killing of Baghdad university professor

The United Nations educational agency in Iraq today condemned the killing of a professor at the University of Baghdad and urged authorities to investigate the murder.According to security reports, Dr. Ahmed Shakir, a specialist in cardio-vascular diseases and professor at the University’s Faculty of Medicine, was killed when a bomb planted in his car exploded on 1 July in Zaafaraniyya, south of Baghdad.“A clear message must be sent to the perpetrators that their acts will not go unpunished,” said Louise Haxthausen, Director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Office (UNESCO) in Baghdad.“UNESCO condemns this terrible act and offers its deep condolences to Dr. Shaker’s family and friends, as well as his colleagues and students at the University of Baghdad,” Ms. Haxthausen added. Acts of violence committed against academics and scientists in Iraq remain a main cause of brain drain, eroding the human capital of the country, the UN agency said.Teachers and professors are the true advocates of durable peace and sustainable development in Iraq, added Ms. Haxthausen. read more

First States supported by UN Peacebuilding Commission report substantial progress

The two countries, both recovering from years of civil war and factional fighting, were the first to be put on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) when it was set up in 2006, to prevent post-conflict nations from relapsing into bloodshed.“Sierra Leone is on the threshold of transformation in its engagement with the Commission as well as its socio-economic development,” Foreign Minister Samura Kamara told the Assembly’s annual General Debate.“With support from the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office, as well as other international and local development partners, Sierra Leone continues to make significant gains in the areas of good governance, human rights, gender equality and the fight against transnational organized crimes.”Foreign Minister Laurent Kavakure of Burundi. UN Photo/Paulo FilgueirasBurundian Foreign Minister Laurent Kavakure reported that substantial progress has been made in conjunction with the PBC. “In light of the notable advances already made since our country was put on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission, Burundi thinks it is time to progressively withdraw from the Commission’s agenda to leave room for other countries which have greater need,” he said. Both ministers stressed the importance of the theme of this year’s 68th Assembly, which is to set the stage for long-term sustainable development in the decades following the end of the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cycle, which seeks to slash extreme poverty and hunger and a host of other social ills. read more

Uruguays move to legalize cannabis endangers global antidrug effort UN agency says

The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yuri Fedotov said that confronting illicit drugs and their impact is dependent on pursuing a comprehensive response to the problem based on health, long-term security, development and institution-building. “Just as illicit drugs are everyone’s shared responsibility, there is a need for each country to work closely together and to jointly agree on the way forward for dealing with this global challenge,” he said in a statement. The move, which Mr. Fedotov termed “unfortunate”, comes ahead of a special session on the ongoing world drug problem, to be held at the UN General Assembly in 2016. He noted that next year, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will hold a high-level review of Member States’ implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on the world drug problem and said that would have been an opportunity for countries to pursue a coherent approach to drug trafficking. Mr. Fedotov also said that UNODC agrees with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body mandated to implement UN international drug control conventions, which earlier today said it “regrets” the decision by Montevideo. In its statement, the Board said “…the legislation to legalize production, sale and consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes approved yesterday in Uruguay contravenes the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, to which Uruguay is a party.” INCB President Raymond Yans said he was “surprised” that policymakers “knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed provisions of the treaty.” The Vienna-based agency also noted that Uruguayan policymakers failed to consider the negative impacts on health which confirm that cannabis is an addictive substance with serious consequences and longer-term development applications. read more

UN rights expert calls on Belarus to impose death penalty moratorium halt

The appeal by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, comes after the reported execution of Pavel Sialiun and a Supreme Court ruling last week upholding the death sentence against Eduard Lykau, both convicted for murder. Mr. Haraszti expressed concern about the way death sentences are carried out in Belarus, and particularly the circumstances of Mr. Sialiun’s execution, including that the date of his execution is not known, and that his mother was not notified and only learned from his lawyer that the sentence had been carried out. “Information on death sentences remains limited for relatives and the general public and there is a lack of transparency about persons held on death row, and an inadequate procedure for appeals,” the expert stated in a news release. “Annual statistics on the use of the death penalty are not available, nor are the names of most of those who have been already executed.” He added that those facing the death penalty, and their relatives, are not informed of the scheduled date of execution, and that following the execution, the relatives are not informed of where the body is buried. “No reports of executions for a considerable time, despite the imposition of several new death sentences, had filled the international community with the hope that Belarus had started a practical moratorium, which would then lead to a legal moratorium, and finally to the abolition of capital punishment,” Mr. Haraszti said. An estimated 160 countries have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it since the General Assembly’s landmark vote in 2007 calling for a worldwide moratorium on the practice. Most recently, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and the state of Washington in the United States decided to either establish a moratorium or to suspend executions.While welcoming these developments, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the fact that many States still execute people with little regard to due process. During a panel held yesterday in New York, he also voiced deep concern that some States with long-standing de facto moratoriums have suddenly resumed executions, or are considering reintroduction of the death penalty in their legislation.“The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights. The taking of life is too irreversible for one human being to inflict it on another,” he told the event, calling for greater efforts to put a final stop to this “cruel and inhumane practice” once and for all.In the case of Belarus, Mr. Haraszti noted that the establishment in December 2012 of a parliamentary working group on the death penalty was a “promising development,” and called on legislators to begin effective work towards reform. In an October 2013 statement, he had urged the Government to start an immediate moratorium on executions before the relevant legislation and court system could be reformed and capital punishment removed from the country’s Criminal Code. He had also voiced disappointment that Belarusian courts continued to hand down death sentences. Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. read more

Kicking off Africa Week at Headquarters UN officials call for integrated peaceful

“The Africa we want is an integrated, peaceful and prosperous continent. It must be a place where employment opportunities are available for those who seek jobs, and where children go to bed with full bellies, rather than hunger pangs,” said General Assembly President Sam Kutesa at a panel discussion at UN Headquarters in New York.With a population of about 1.1 billion people, a combined GDP of over 2 trillion dollars, and impressive rates of economic growth, the continent continues to attract investment, added Mr. Kutesa, who has previously also served as Uganda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. The rate of return on investment is higher in Africa than in any other developing region, and foreign direct investment inflows into the continent reached over $50 billion in 2013. Today’s high-level panel discussion held by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) focused on “The Africa We Want: Support of the United Nations System to the African Union’s Agenda 2063” – a development vision that is driven by Africa’s own citizens. The panel kicked off what has become informally known as “Africa Week” (13 to 17 October) at UN Headquarters, a series of high-level discussions and events held on the margins of the 193-member General Assembly’s annual consideration of the landmark New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and other vital issues concerning for the continent. Joining Mr. Kutesa were Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy-Secretary-General; Maged Abdelaziz, UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa; and several representatives of the African Union (AU), including Smail Chergui, its Commissioner for Peace and Security and Anthony Mothae Maruping, Commissioner for Economic Affairs. They all pointed out Africa’s progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and developing a common vision for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. In the past decade, Africa’s economies grew at a rate of 5.6 per cent on average, making it the world’s fastest growing region after East Asia.“To further accelerate this growth, African countries will need to modernize their agriculture, industrialize more, add value to their vast natural resources, innovate and create more employment opportunities especially for the youth,” said Mr. Kutesa. Addressing the challenge of inadequate infrastructure, especially energy, transportation and technology, remains critical. Access to healthcare and other basic social services is still low. And vocational training and skills development training remain inadequate. Mr. Kutesa commended the positive work of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) for its huge potential to link and open up Africa for trade and investment. “There are huge transformative projects for which we must mobilize financing. The support of the UN System, the international community and continued partnership with the African countries remains instrumental,” said Mr. Kutesa. Addressing the ECOSOC today, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson reiterated the UN’s commitment to work “hand in hand” with Africa on its most pressing challenges including assisting in the response to the current unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa.The UN has, among other efforts, deployed its first-ever emergency health mission–the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) which is “working hard to make a different on the ground: treat the infected, preserve stability, prevent the spread of Ebola and ultimately defeat it.”The Deputy Secretary-General outlined other initiatives aimed at making a difference in Africa, specifically the Every Woman Every Child initiative which has already advanced women’s and children’s health in the region. On Energy, he said that leaders are coming together to scale up access to clean energy. And the Call to Action on Sanitation is catalysing action in providing access to toilets, which 2.5 billion people currently lack. Additionally, the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance will help ensure that increased productivity and food security go hand-in-hand with decreased carbon emissions for nearly 25 million farming households by 2025. On a regional level, the UN will continue to support the Economic Commission for Africa which is working closely with the AU to determine capacity development needs for the implementation of Agenda 2063. In the area of peace and security, Mr. Eliasson said that the UN continues to support capacity building and to develop joint policies under the several AU-UN initiatives. Here in New York, the UN continues to galvanise the support of the international community for several vulnerable countries, including Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR). read more

UN agency calls on global clothing brands to help Cambodian manufacturers absorb

The new minimum wage of $128 per month, which came into effect on 1 January 2015, is projected by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to increase overall average wages in the garment industry – which include bonuses and overtime – from $183 to $217 per month, increasing factories’ wage bills by approximately 18.7 per cent.“It is important that all sides work together to ensure Cambodia’s garment industry remains economically viable,” said Maurizio Bussi, the ILO’s Country Director for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR. “We call on the global brands to play their part. We have received encouraging signals that key buyers will honour the pledge they gave the Cambodian Government in September.”The rise comes in the wake of other adjustments since 2012 that have seen the minimum wage increase from $61 per month. At the same time, the prices that Cambodian factories receive in their main markets have been stagnating or declining, with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics calculating a 4.5 per cent drop in prices paid for apparel imports from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries since June 2012.“Caught between these two forces, factories have seen a substantial fall in their operating margins over the past three years,” said Malte Luebker, the ILO’s Senior Regional Wage Specialist. “In principle, factories can respond by increasing efficiency, using measures that range from better work organization to energy conservation. However, our research shows that these gains are gradual and will only enable factories to cover a small share of the expected wage increase.”For example, optimistic projections of labour productivity growth in the garment sector see room for roughly four per cent growth in 2015, which would enable factories to raise wages by $7, to $190 per month, without eroding their margins. The expected wage increase to $217 per month is far higher than what can be generated through efficiency gains. To cover the shortfall, and assuming other costs remained the same, the ILO estimates that global brands would need to pay Cambodian factories between 2.4 and three per cent more, adding about two cents to the production costs of t-shirts that can currently be made for 80 cents and that might retail for about $10. On annual garment and footwear exports worth $6 billion, the small increase could generate additional revenue of $160 million to support the new wage levels. read more

Sustainable development at core of Fijis national agenda Prime Minister tells UN

“The world must act quickly and decisively to reverse the environmental degradation of our oceans and seas and the reckless and irresponsible use of their precious resources,” emphasized Mr. Bainimarama as he took the podium.Calling it “a centrepiece of the 71st session and one of our most critical priorities” the Prime Minister said that Fiji would be co-hosting with Sweden, the 2017 UN Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development, which would focus on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources.“For a small island developing State [SIDS] such as Fiji, this is as pressing as the need to address the challenges of climate change,” he stated, “and deal with the extreme weather events and rising seas that pose such a threat to our way of life in the SIDS and other vulnerable parts of the world.”He pointed out that many millions of people in maritime and coastal communities the world over are looking to Fiji for decisive action on the growing crisis of pollution, overfishing and the loss of marine habitats, saying we “must not fail them.”Mr. Bainimarama said that Fiji came to the UN “with a plea to all nations that have yet to do so to ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.” He noted proudly that Fiji was the first nation in the world to ratify the Agreement and lodge the ratification instruments.“But,” he continued “we also come with the message that Paris must be merely the first step. We are alarmed by scientific predictions that the 2 degree Celsius cap on global warming over pre-industrial levels agreed to in Paris is not enough to save us.”Seven months ago, Fiji was struck by the biggest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere. The Prime Minister called it a terrifying glimpse into the future predicted by experts.“Cyclone Winston – packing winds of more than 300 kilometres an hour – killed 44 of our people and left many thousands homeless,” he spelled out. “Mercifully, it spared our main tourism areas – our principal source of income – so our wider economy remained intact. But if this is what awaits us as global warming triggers weather events that are more frequent and more extreme, then God help us,” he added.In common with other small island developing States, Fiji is facing a nightmare scenario in which “a single event scoring a direct hit could wipe out our economy and set us back for decades.” This would make it impossible for the nation to meet the SDGs. In his address, the Prime Minister stressed the message that the 2-degree cap is not enough. “We need the world to go one better and embrace the 1.5 degree cap that we are calling for in the Suva Declaration by members of the Pacific Islands Development Forum,” he stressed, adding the need for deeper cuts in carbon emissions and more decisive global action than was currently being witnessed.“But as a first step,” he continued “I appeal to you all to ratify the Paris Agreement. And to turn your backs on what I have termed ‘the coalition of the selfish’ – those countries that would see the vulnerable nations battered and submerged rather than alter their pampered, carbon-driven lifestyles.” read more

Businessasusual not an option with future global food security in jeopardy cautions

According to FAO, without a push to invest in and reorganizing food systems, far too many people will remain hungry in 2030 – the year by which the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to eradicate chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.“Without additional efforts to promote pro-poor development, reduce inequalities and protect vulnerable people, more than 600 million people would still be undernourished in 2030,” the report noted.In fact, the current rate of progress would not even be enough to eradicate hunger by 2050, it added.Climate change will affect every aspect of food productionOn top of these challenges, climate change adds a new level of complexity. Its increasing impacts are leading to greater variability of precipitation and increasing the frequency of droughts and floods.RELATED: Drought drives food price spike in East Africa, UN warnsIn the midst of this multifaceted issue, the UN agency is advocating for a shift to more sustainable food systems that make more efficient use of land, water and other inputs, and for sharply reducing the use of fossil fuels in agriculture. In The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlights that while “very real and significant” progress in reducing hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, these have often come at a heavy cost to nature.“Almost half of the forests that once covered the Earth are now gone. Groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly. Biodiversity has been deeply eroded,” noted the report.“[As a result,] planetary boundaries may well be surpassed, if current trends continue,” added FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, underlining the gravity of the situation.With global population estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050, world-wide demand for agricultural products could be pushed by as much as 50 per cent above current levels, intensifying pressures on already-strained natural resources.At the same time, the report argues, greater numbers of people will be eating fewer cereals and larger amounts of meat, fruits, vegetables and processed food – a result of an ongoing global dietary transition that will further add to those pressures, driving more deforestation, land degradation and greenhouse gas emissions. Empowering small-scale farmers and providing them better access to information, markets and technologies is key to ensuring future food security. Photo: FAO Reducing fossil fuel dependency will also help cut agricultural green-house gas emissions, conserve biodiversity, and reduce waste, it added.Furthermore, investments in agriculture and agri-food systems, as well as in research and development, are needed to sustainably boost food production and help producers better cope with water scarcity and other climate change impacts.The social dimension to food securityAlso in the report, FAO has called for preserving and enhancing livelihoods of small-scale and family farmers, and ensuring access to food for the most vulnerable.Amid the core challenge of having to produce more with less, it has underlined that the twin-track approach is needed to immediately tackle undernourishment, and that pro-poor investments in productive activities – especially agriculture and in rural economies – could sustainably increase income-earning opportunities of the poor.RELATED: UN agency urges support for small farmers to help them not just get by, but thrive and feed othersIn addition to boosting production and resilience, it is equally important to create food supply chains that better connect farmers in low- and middle-income countries to urban markets.“Major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to meet the multiple challenges before us and realize the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet,” read the report.“Business-as-usual” is not an option. read more

UN chief calls tolerance understanding and compassion catalysts for peace

Speaking Tuesday at a panel discussion on The Role of Religious Leaders in Peacebuilding in the Middle East, the Secretary-General called for expanding the space for dialogue with local and regional leaders, and other people with a voice and influence within their communities. “Sustainable peace requires not only political will from all sides, but also the collective efforts of the international community, civil society and fundamentally, religious leaders,” he told participants organized by the UN Alliance of Civilizations.He noted that the world was witnessing a spiralling wave of discrimination and stereotyping of people who are sometimes referred to as “the other.”“As Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious leaders, you have the opportunity to teach the shared humanistic values of tolerance, understanding, compassion and peace,” he continued. Calling them the core values embraced by all three monotheistic faiths represented at the gathering, he pointed out that “they can be the catalysts for peace.” The Secretary-General applauded efforts towards promoting the peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis, calling the initiatives “the way to a more hopeful future – a future of tolerance and mutual understanding as a pathway to just and lasting peace.” In his speech, Mr. Guterres decried the elusiveness of peace in the Middle East conflicts, noting that “with every passing day, frustration grows, hope diminishes, and the perspective of a peaceful resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more distant. He reiterated that a two-state solution was the only path for Palestinians and Israelis to realize their historic aspirations and live in peace, security and dignity. “There is no plan B,” Mr. Guterres said. read more

GuineaBissau Political crisis requires continued UN presence Security Council told

“After several years of long-term investment in the stability of Guinea-Bissau, it is time to consolidate and reap the dividends of our concerted efforts. It is vital that we accompany this process to its completion,” Modibo Ibrahim Touré, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau told the Security Council. Mr. Touré stressed the importance for the Council to continue to reaffirm the centrality of the Conakry Agreement, reiterating its support to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its mediation efforts.The Conakry Agreement of 14 October 2016 provides for, among other things, the appointment of a consensual Prime Minister.According to the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by chronic political instability since gaining independence in 1974. The DPA provides support and oversight to the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office for Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), a special political mission first established in 1999 following a two-year civil war in the country. Since mid-2016, the Mission is headed by Mr.Touré. The main priorities of UNIOGBIS are to support efforts to consolidate constitutional order, further political dialogue and national reconciliation, encourage security sector reform, and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law. On political developments, Mr.Touré said President Jose Mario Vaz dismissed former Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló and replaced him with Artur Silva.“The absence of a functioning and stable Government for more than three years has limited the ability of UNIOGBIS to effectively and sustainably implement some of its mandated tasks,” said Mr.Touré.Until the completion of the electoral cycle in 2019, Guinea-Bissau remains a country that requires a dedicated UN presence to prevent a further deterioration in the political and security situation at the national level and to avoid any negative spill-over to its neighbours and creating a fertile environment for trafficking to thrive, he noted.“It will be important for the United Nations to remain engaged in peacebuilding efforts in the country while supporting ECOWAS intervention to resolve the political crisis for at least one more year,” he said.Lastly, throughout the past year, the presence of ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau has consistently acted as a deterrent to unauthorized military action and a stabilizing factor in the country, he said, calling on the Council and international donors to support the continued presence of ECOMIB through to the holding of a presidential election in 2019, including by advocating for the renewal of its mandate and the provision of the financial support needed to maintain its deployment. read more