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Progress made on technology in Copenhagen climate talks – UN official

Cop15, Bella Center in Copenhagen10 December 2009 – Negotiators at the historic United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, are making good progress in the area of technology, a senior official with the world body said.

“I sense there is a real seriousness now to negotiate,” Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said today in the Danish capital, where nations are expected to wrap up talks on a new agreement during the two-week gathering.

He told reporters that he sees an “emerging” agreement, with countries wanting to see a new technical mechanism, including an executive body overseeing technological development and transfer, result from the conference.

Further, Mr. de Boer noted there is a growing consensus to set up a consultative network for climate technologies which would support developing nations’ efforts to take action on both adaptation and mitigation.

He also stressed that the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period expires in 2012, must remain in force.

It took eight years from the time the instrument was ratified to when it entered into force. Even if an agreement is reached in Copenhagen, “you can’t guarantee how quickly it will enter into force and I think it’s important to avoid a gap,” the official said.

Also, as many developing nations have pointed out, he said, the Protocol is the only legally binding instrument currently in force on climate change.

“There is no good reason at this moment to abandon it,” he said. “What there is good reason for is to come to a new process under the convention that engages the United States and allows for broader participation of developing countries and that really stimulates action now up to 2012 and beyond.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call on nations to “seize the moment” to reach a deal in Copenhagen.

In a message to a Summiteers’ Summit to Save the Himalayas in the Danish capital, he said that he sees hopeful signs.

“Never have so many different nations of all sizes and economic status made so many firm pledges together,” Mr. Ban said, exhorting countries to “continue pushing higher for still higher ambition.”

He warned that if the world continues on its present course, climate change will roll back years of successes in development and poverty reduction, among other areas.

For the world’s humanitarian community, at the Copenhagen summit, “the focus should be on adaptation,” not just on mitigation, or the reduction of emissions, John Holmes, the top UN relief official, said at a press conference in New York today.

“We’re not talking about something that may or may not happen in 50 years’ time or 20 year’s time,” he said. “We’re talking about something which is happening now.”

Mr. Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, called for countries to provide funding for adaptation, with a large proportion of those resources being earmarked for disaster risk reduction.

In a related development, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) partnered with Brazil’s National Institute for Space Institute (INPE) to monitor greenhouse gas emissions as part of a push to help developing countries monitor their impact on climate change.

Forest monitoring is a key element of UN-REDD, an initiative aimed at combating climate change by creating incentives for poorer countries to reverse the trend of deforestation and invest in more sustainable forms of development.

Many developing countries will have to invest in monitoring systems before joining a UN-REDD mechanism, but the systems in these nations are often not accurate enough for the measurement, reporting and verification of forest carbon stocks.

INPE’s work paves the way for large-scale monitoring of deforestation and forest degradation to provide accurate information to the public, and the same data and systems will be available to other countries to allow them to advance their own monitoring.

Ban intervenes with Spain and Morocco over Saharawi activist on hunger strike

Aminatou Haidar10 December 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is seeking “urgent” action from Spain and Morocco over a Saharawi activist whose condition is rapidly deteriorating after she went on hunger strike last month when Morocco denied her entry into her native Western Sahara, subject of a long-running dispute.

Mr. Ban spoke with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and is due to meet with Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri to discuss the condition of Aminatou Haidar, who began her hunger strike at the airport at Lanzarote, on Spain’s Canary Islands, after being denied entry.

“The Secretary-General expressed concerns about her deteriorating health and emphasized that a solution needed to be found with the utmost urgency,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said of today’s meeting. “He proposed possible steps to resolve the situation.”

Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after Spain’s colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy, while the Frente Polisario’s position is that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.

Last month, Mr. Ban voiced concern over the tensions between the parties to status talks after the recent detention of several groups of Saharawi activists. A UN mission in Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, is entrusted with monitoring a ceasefire reached in September 1991 and organizing a referendum on self-determination.

 

UN News Centre

UN marks Human Rights Day with call to end all forms of discrimination

Human Rights Day banner10 December 2009 – The United Nations marked Human Rights Day today, the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by stressing the enduring need to eliminate all forms of discrimination, with officials in the world’s most crisis-plagued regions – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Somalia – appealing for tolerance in the interests of peace.

“No country is free of discrimination,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message for the Day whose theme this year is ‘Embrace Diversity, End Discrimination.’ “It may appear as institutionalized racism, as ethnic strife, as episodes of intolerance and rejection, or as an official national version of history that denies the identity of others.

“Discrimination targets individuals and groups that are vulnerable to attack: the disabled, women and girls, the poor, migrants, minorities, and all those who are perceived as different,” he added, pledging UN commitment to fight inequality and intolerance wherever they are found.

In Baghdad, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative Ad Melkert called on all Iraqis to respect each others’ political rights, as well as cultural, religious, ethnic and gender differences, singling out the status of women. “Violence against women cannot be seen in isolation from discrimination against them,” he said.

In Kabul, too, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stressed that eight years after the end of Taliban rule, women still face growing challenges in public life and have limited access to justice. “Life in public spaces for Afghan women is shrinking and gender-based violence is still widespread and deeply rooted in Afghan society,” UNAMA human rights chief Norah Niland said.

Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah praised the courage of those who continued to risk their lives to protect and defend the human rights in a faction-riven country that has known no peace for nearly two decades. “A whole generation is growing up having never known what it means to live in a peaceful, stable environment where rights are respected,” he said.

In New York, General Assembly President Ali Treki joined the chorus of those calling for the respect of human rights without distinction to race, sex, language or religion. “Millions of human beings continue to fight a daily battle against discrimination to gain access to education, health services and decent work,” he said. “The realization of all human rights, social, economic and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, is hampered by discrimination.”

And in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay deplored the fact that discrimination is still rampant 61 years after the Declaration’s adoption. “Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food, yet earn only 10 per cent of the world’s income and own less than one per cent of the world’s property,” she said, also citing discrimination plaguing ethnic, racial and religious minorities, refugees and migrants.

In a joint statement the various independent experts who report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council warned that efforts to end discrimination are falling short and progress is even being reversed in some instances. “Globally, stronger commitments and more determined action are required if we are to defeat discrimination,” they said. “Our ethnic, cultural or religious differences should be acknowledged, valued and respected, not seen as a threat to our unity as they too often are, but as a celebrated component of it.”

At UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris, Director-General Irina Bokova said this year’s theme is particularly pertinent since the world has become more diverse than ever before. “It is only through mutual respect, understanding, constructive dialogue and acceptance of the right to be different that we will defuse tensions and build more peaceful multicultural societies,” she stressed.

Celebrations marking the Day spanned the globe, with the parliament of Timor-Leste – the tiny South-East Asian nation that the UN shepherded to independence in 2002 after its vote to separate from Indonesia – holding a special commemorative session at which Mr. Ban’s Special Representative Atul Khare highlighted the importance of the role of the Government and civil society in ending violence against women.

A half a world away in Washington UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Obaid was awarded the UN Association for the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award for her deep commitment to the belief that women's rights are human rights.

“What makes it [the award] more significant for me is that I am receiving it on Human Rights Day,” she said. “Such an honour will only make me, and UNFPA, more committed to promoting the human rights of women and girls who still face gender discrimination and violence, to advancing their empowerment and gender equality and to ensuring universal access to reproductive health.”

Meanwhile back at UN Headquarters in New York a special Human Rights Day event, entitled ‘Race, Poverty and Power,’ was being held, as well as a panel discussion on opposing rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. And in Geneva, women from 28 countries convened for a UN-backed symposium entitled The Courage to Lead: A Human Rights Summit for Women Leaders.

 

UN News Centre

Ban appoints a Spanish general as new military commander for UN mission in Lebanon

10 December 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the appointment of a Spanish Major General as Force Commander of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Lebanon, where Israel fought a 34-day war with Hizbollah in 2006.

Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas will head the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which he served from December 2008 to April this year as Sector East Commander.

He succeeds Major General Claudio Graziano of Italy, whose tour of duty is slated to end on 28 January 2010 after three years. The Secretary-General expressed his gratitude to Major General Graziano for “his outstanding service and leadership of UNIFIL.”

In 2006, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1701, which expanded UNIFIL – currently around 13,000 military personnel – and called for an end to hostilities, respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, disarming militias including Hizbollah, and an end to arms smuggling.

Major General Asarta Cuevas will leave his role as Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Spanish Army to take up his new post at UNIFIL, bringing with him wide-ranging experience in commanding troops and first-hand knowledge of UN peacekeeping.

Among his notable postings was a 2003 deployment with international forces in Iraq as the Deputy Brigade Commander of the Spanish contingent, as well as two tours to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR), and a stint in the UN Military Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA) in 1991.

 

UN News Centre

Winners of REClimate Nordic video competition announced in Copenhagen

The Nordic video competition REClimate has come to an end and it was finally time to present the winners. The first prize winner of 2000 euros is Faroese film Burden made by Jákup Klein, Jóannes Martin Johannesen and Hermann Mørkøre. The prize for second place went to Finnish film SOS made by among others Tiia Pääsky and Atte Westemark, and the third prize to Icelandic film Hope made by Pétur Már  Péturson from Island.

The winners of the competition were announced during an environmentally friendly online gala this morning, screened on the competition website www.reclimate.net. The gala could be seen from all over the world, and you can still watch it on the REClimate website. They will also be invited to the opening screening and the prize award in Copenhagen tonight at 8.30 PM at Klimaforum09. Danish actor Cyron Melville and Danish Minister for Education and Nordic Cooperation  Bertel Haarder will hand out the prizes.

Initiative by Björk
During autumn, young people between the ages of 15-19 have been taking part in the REClimate video competition in the run up to the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen. Animations, documentaries, features – 125 films have been entered into the competition and the winners have been selected through popular vote and a jury vote.

”It’s a fantastic result to have so many films from all over the Nordic countries. It shows the engagement among people and the fact that individuals can make a difference, said REClimate project coordinator Josefin Lindberg in the press release.

Among the initiators of the video competition, which was first discussed during a Náttura concert in Reykjavík in 2008, is Icelandic artist Björk:

"The reason I decided to take part is because I am curious to hear the hopes of young people for a more sustainable future, in a creative way. The future is theirs anyway!” Björk says.

The REClimate film competition was initiated by the Nordic Desk at the UN Information Centre UNRIC, Icelandic artists Björk and Sigur Rós at a concert organized by the Náttura organization in 2008. The project has been developed in cooperation with the Federation of Norden Associations (FNF) and the film portal dvoted.net, with the support of the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic Film institutions.

The awards ceremony was held at the Klimaforum09 in Copenhagen, the global civil society counterpart of the official UN conference in the Bella Center.

Speaking at the ceremony, Danish Minister of Education and Nordic Cooperation Bertel Haarder expressed his admiration for the creativity and involvement shown by the filmmakers and emphasized in particular the importance of the fact that the films have been made in the Nordic languages.

The winning team from the Faroe Islands, Jákup Klein and Jóannes Martin Johannesen said they had a clear idea of what kind of film they wanted to make in order to communicate the climate issue. All three prize winning entries and one of the honorary prize entries were represented at the ceremony.

Out of 125 submitted films, the Faroese entry Burden was a favorite among both the viewers and the jury in the Nordic video competition REClimate. But the decision was not easy as one of the jury members, Danish actor Cyron Melville, confirmed when handing out the second and third prizes.

“All eight finalists were very good and it was a difficult decision,” Melville said.

All the films and the jury’s comments can be seen on the REClimate website.

alt

Winners of the REClimate 2009 video competition, from left Benjamin Lee Nordsø from Denmark,
Jákup Klein and Jóannes Martin from the Faroe Islands, Tiia Pääsky and Ruut Similä from Finland, Pétur Már Péturson from Iceland.

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