Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Ban issues call for unity to world leaders as UN's annual debate begins

The world’s most pressing challenges can only be solved when countries unite through the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told dozens of world leaders gathered today for the opening of the General Assembly’s annual high-level meeting in New York.

“Now is our time. A time to put the ‘united’ back into the United Nations,” Mr. Ban emphasized, calling for the international community to be both united in purpose and in action.

Simultaneous crises on multiple fronts –food, energy, recession and pandemic flu – have shown the importance of renewed multilateralism, he said in his address to the 192-member Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters.

“The world looks to us for answers,” the Secretary-General stressed, adding that the moment is now to “create a United Nations of genuine collective action.”

He spotlighted the need for joint efforts on issues ranging from climate change and disarmament to ensuring that the world’s poorest people are not left behind by efforts to deal with the economic crisis.

The threat posed by climate change is the greatest challenge faced by humanity, he said, appealing for united global efforts to tackle the problem ahead of this December’s conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where negotiations on an ambitious new agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions is set to wrap up.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General convened the largest-ever summit on the issue, with some 100 heads of State and government taking part and affirming their commitment to ‘sealing a deal’ in the Danish capital.

At the end of the day-long event, he voiced optimism that negotiations towards an agreement in Copenhagen are on the “right track,” but also warned that momentum must be maintained in the run-up to the December conference.

In his address to the General Assembly today, Mr. Ban also called for this year to be the one in which the world takes advantage of growing momentum and finally agrees to rid itself of nuclear weapons.

“For too long, this great cause has lain dormant,” he said, but expressed optimism that the international climate is changing thanks to recent developments, including the agreement between Russia and the United States to cut their nuclear arsenals. Tomorrow, US President Barack Obama will chair a “historic” Security Council meeting on disarmament.

“Together, let us make this the year we agreed to banish the bomb,” the Secretary-General said.

On the fight against poverty, Mr. Ban also called for this year to focus on “those left behind” and help the “near-poor” who are on the verge of falling below the poverty line.

“People are angry. They believe the global economy is stacked against them,” he said.

In a wide-ranging speech, the Secretary-General’s address also touched on the situation in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

“So much is possible if we act together,” he said. “We are the best hope for human kind. And now is our time.”

European nations highlight need for Security Council reform

24 September 2009 – The leaders of European nations today stressed the need for a more representative Security Council, calling for urgent reform of the 15-member body responsible for maintaining international peace and security.

Željko Komšić, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told heads of State and governments assembled at United Nations Headquarters in New York for the General Assembly’s high-level debate that the Council’s restructuring is needed to boost transparency and increase participation of nations, especially those directly affected by a crisis on the panel’s agenda.

“We all have to be aware of the fact that any further delay in the reform of the Security Council will undermine credibility of this body,” he said, adding that “the willingness to reach a compromise must be an imperative.”

Also voicing concern about the slow pace of reform today was President Tarja Halonen of Finland, which she said “actively participates in the efforts to make this body more representative and efficient.”

Her country, she said, values the key role played by the Council, which has five permanent and 10 non-permanent members, calling for progress on reform to be made during this Assembly session, which will run until next September.

Negotiations on the body’s potential reorganization have picked up pace, Danilo Türk of Slovenia said.

“It is apparent that the expansion of the Security Council in various types of both permanent and non-permanent members has gained broad support among UN Member States,” the President stated.

President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania issued a call at the Assembly for the UN to “come of age” and transform into “the visible and credible expression of the globalization of politics.”

In the face of numerous serious challenges - including terrorism, energy and climate change – she said required that “we work with each other or we suffer in isolation.”

Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero also exalted the virtues of multilateralism, especially as the world is experiencing a severe financial crisis.

“This has not been, as has been said, the first crisis of globalization. It has been the first crisis of global governance, the crisis of an insufficiently regulated globalization,” he said at the debate, underscoring that collective determination and coordinated action deployed in the face of the financial and economic crisis should be equally applicable to other world challenges.

“This same willingness to take collective responsibility for the problems and solutions, which has been forcefully apparent these recent months, should now enable us to succeed in responding to the conflicts and threats that still loom over world security and peace,” Mr. Zapatero said.

The world is still navigating the path towards multi-polarity, Croatia’s President Stjepan Mesić told the Assembly.

“It is not yet ready to face the fact that it is not a crime to be different and that our future can only be unity through diversity – of course under the condition of full equality and strict observance of human rights and in line with United Nations conventions,” he said, stressing the need for multilateralism to quash major threats in the global arena.

For his part, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi of Malta sounded the alarm that the time has come for the Assembly to review the Law of the Sea Convention, as new problems have arisen since the pact was concluded in 1982.

“Among these deficiencies are the provisions dealing with piracy, illicit traffic in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, the rules relating to the protection and preservation of the marine environment, and the rules dealing with submarine cables and pipelines,” he added.

Last night, Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski also spoke in favour of Security Council reform, telling the Assembly that there was a clear difference between what was established in 1945 when the UN began and present-day concerns.

He called for UN peacekeeping operations to be more effective, saying the world body needed organizational changes to accomplish that goal.

Latvian President Valdis Zatlers used his address today to promote reform both of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, established earlier this decade by UN Member State to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights.

“The Human Rights Council has already achieved some results,” Mr. Zatlers said, referring to the universal periodic review mechanism – in which every country’s rights record is monitored – as one of its “most notable success.

“However, we believe that this process can be further improved to avoid abuse of shortcomings in methodology and practice. The Human Rights Council will undergo a review in 2011. We believe that the Council can become even more credible and effective body for the promotion and protection of human rights.”

UN forum on reproductive health in protracted crises kicks off in Spain

Health officials, many from countries either in or recovering from long-running crises, are meeting at a United Nations forum in Granada, Spain, to find ways to meet the neglected sexual and reproductive health needs of people during and immediately after crisis situations.

The “Consultation on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Protracted Crises and Recovery” is organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in association with the Andalusian School of Public Health.

“Today, there are still barriers to the full and effective implementation of sexual and reproductive health services during protracted crises and in the recovery phase that follows,” says Dr. Daniel Lopez Acunã, Director of Recovery and Transition Programmes in WHO’s Health Action in Crises Cluster.

“This results in lower coverage of family planning, much higher rates of maternal mortality, ranging from 660 to1,800 deaths for every 100,000 live births, and in a decreased ability to prevent and manage gender-based violence.”

The three-day forum brings together health officials from countries such as Sudan, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Nepal and the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as representatives of UN agencies involved in health, humanitarian partner organizations, academia and the donor community.

In addition to reviewing past experiences and lessons learned, the gathering will focus on identifying ways to include sexual and reproductive health services as a central part of humanitarian and recovery health interventions.

“We are observing a shift in pattern in emergencies from the acute and sudden onset to a more complex situation of recurrent and protracted crises,” says Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Chief of UNFPA’s Humanitarian Response Branch. “Humanitarian response that follows also needs to shift its focus increasingly on achieving longer-term objectives that allow for more sustainable action.”

The best way to address reproductive health needs in protracted crises and recovery phases, in her view, is to ensure all stakeholders work together to re-establish a functional health system.

“Full establishment of comprehensive health services from primary health care up to tertiary level care can only be achieved by providing financial resources, strengthening health systems, and developing human resource that will address the sexual and reproductive health needs of the affected population.”

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