Volume 14, No.12 - December 2010

Global dialogue on development

The world urgently needs a deal on climate change

The United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December, encompasses the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP)

Negotiators from 194 nations will attend the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference with expectations of reaching a new climate accord at any time far lower than they were at Copenhagen a year ago. Reality bit in Denmark over how far the world was from a meaningful agreement on the next round of global action covering the period 2013 to 2020.

United Nations remains confident about progress

Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning Robert Orr told journalists at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 22 November that he did not expect the conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to deliver a “final answer” on solving climate change but remained positive about the possibilities.

“Significant progress is possible in Cancún,” he said. “That is not to say that we expect all issues to be resolved.” “We need a package of decisions and outcomes. One or two [agreements] won’t an outcome create.”

Mr. Orr noted that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will attend the high-level segment of the talks, where he will urge countries to work towards a balanced set of agreements that move the climate change agenda forward across the board.

“He will urge governments to take decisions on those issues where there is consensus – on protecting forests, technology transfer, adaptation and the creation of a new fund to house long-term financing,” said Mr. Orr, adding that the Secretary-General will also be encouraging governments to make progress on more challenging issues.

Key focus of negotiations

The areas to be negotiated are the level of emissions reductions targets and how they are shared between rich and poor countries, funding from rich countries to poor to tackle climate change, mechanisms to transfer clean technology to poorer countries, and a global mechanism to halt deforestation in poor countries.

Developing countries are demanding deeper emissions reduction targets from the developed countries, which are the nations putting most of the excess greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The developing world wants a new, steeper set of targets from developed nations via the Kyoto Protocol, and from the US which is outside Kyoto.

Currently, the 2020 pledges in the Copenhagen Accord struck last year, from the developed world in particular, fall well short of the level needed to limit global warming to +2 degrees Celsius. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says that the current level of pledges will lead to a 5 to 9 billion tons emissions overshoot by 2020. UNEP’s Executive Director Achim Steiner has called on the 140 nations now signed up to the Copenhagen Accord to lock in their commitments and build on them in Cancun.

Developed versus developing countries

On the big questions of targets for emissions reductions, however, the dispute between developed and developing countries in general, and the US and China in particular, has progressed very little if at all since Copenhagen.

The last UNFCCC negotiation session in the lead up to Cancun underscored the intractability of this issue with the two biggest emitter nations at loggerheads over the same old ground; the US coming good with substantial targets to reduce emissions and China being bound to meaningful curbs on its emissions growth and the transparent international verification of them.

These two nations must agree on these issues before the world can agree and before a global accord emerges. A resolution is not going to come at Cancun, but progress toward one is vital yet it is hard to see it happening.

Tackle the loss of forest

On forests, an agreement on Reducing Deforestation and Degradation and enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries, or REDD+, was close to agreement last year in Denmark, possibly only held back by the lack of an overall climate agreement. So an agreement to tackle the loss of forest that is responsible for at least 12 per cent of total world greenhouse emissions every year is one of the more likely success stories that could emerge.

There is still significant devilish detail to be worked out to agree a global REDD programme that is workable – with safeguards for forest communities and indigenous groups; financing mechanisms, and the balance between public funding and carbon markets; and, the significant methodological questions around monitoring, reporting and verification.

“There are enough issues that are close to resolution that give us hope that an important outcome could be achieved in Cancún,” Mr. Orr said. “Negotiators need to remind themselves that the longer we delay, the more we will pay; both in terms of lives and in terms of money.”

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Time to act on forests

Forest Day 4, coinciding with the 16th Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, will take place in Cancun, Mexico on 5 December

With the International Year of Forests on the horizon, forest and climate change issues will be a large part of the discussions at the Climate Change Conference. To help foster collaboration and action on the challenges facing forests, the fourth “Forest Day” (Forest Day 4) is being held on the theme “Time to Act”, highlighting the necessity of taking action to help preserve and sustainably manage the world’s forests, the biodiversity they embrace and the people who depend on them.

The event is being hosted by the Government of Mexico, through the National Forestry Commission, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) and the Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR).

The Forest Day 4 programme will feature of a variety of discussions on the role of forests in climate change and biodiversity, as well as forest finance issues and the challenges surrounding Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and sustainable forest management. Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), will address the plenary session of Forest Day 4 on “Global updates on forests and climate change”.

Each year, an estimated 13 million hectares (32 million acres) of forests are lost due to deforestation. Close to 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity reside in forest habitats, and global recognition on the role of forests is growing. “There is greater awareness of the benefits forests provide in stabilizing climate change, protecting biodiversity and in the livelihoods of billions,” says Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, Jan McAlpine.

Forests and forest soils store more than one trillion tons of carbon– twice the amount found in the atmosphere. As the International Year of Biodiversity 2010 transitions into the International Year of Forests 2011, Forest Day 4 will help to bridge the two years and continue momentum towards greater action and awareness on the links between forests, biodiversity and climate change in 2011.

Sub plenary and learning events will also be a large part of the Forest Day 4 programme. The UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat, DESA, is co-organizing a sub plenary session on “Biodiversity: Synergies in policy and practice” together with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). In addition, a learning event on “REDD+ and Forest Finance: The need for a 360 degree perspective on Forest Finance” is also being co-organized by the UNFF Secretariat together with UN Environment Programme and UN-REDD.

Last year, 1,500 people attended Forest Day 3 at COP15 in Copenhagen. This year, organizers are anticipating up to 2,000 participants.

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Second Committee aims to complete its work beginning of December

The Committee is gearing up for the finalization of its work. As of 29 November, it has adopted 18 resolutions out of expected 41 resolutions

Under agenda item 17 on Information and communications technologies for development, L.56 on Information communications technologies for development was adopted and the Committee concluded the consideration of this item. Under agenda item 18 on Macroeconomic policy question, the Committee adopted L.44 on International trade and development [18(a)] and L.48 on International financial system and development [18(b)]. The Committee concluded its consideration of sub-item 18(a).

Under agenda item 20 on sustainable development, draft resolutions L.17/Rev.1 on Oil slick on Lebanese shores, L.28/Rev.1 on Protection of coral reefs for sustainable livelihoods and development, and L.35/Rev.1 on Global code of Ethics for Tourism were adopted. Under sub-item (b) on follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the Committee adopted L.46 on Towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations. Under sub-item (c) on International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, draft resolution L.54 on International cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon was adopted. Under sub-item (d) on Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind, the Committee adopted draft resolution L.51, and concluded its consideration of sub-item 20 (d). Under sub-item (h) on United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, the Committee adopted draft resolution L.41 and concluded its consideration of sub-item 20 (h).

Under agenda item 22 on Globalization and interdependence, the Committee adopted draft resolutions L.20 on Towards a New International Economic Order and L.50 on Culture and development. Under agenda item 23 on Groups of countries in special situations, the Committee adopted L.55 on Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. The Committee also adopted draft resolution L.47 on Groups of countries in special situations: specific actions related to the particular needs and problems of landlocked development countries. The Committee thus concluded its consideration of item 23 as a whole. Under agenda item 24 on Eradication of poverty and other development issues, the Committee adopted draft resolution L.10 on Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection. Under agenda item 25, Operational activities for development: operational activities for development of the United Nations system, draft resolutions L.14 on Operational activities for development of the UN System and L.19 on Renaming of the title of the Executive Board of the UNDP and UNFPA to include UNOPS were adopted. The Committee concluded its consideration of item 25 as a whole. Under agenda item 60 on Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, draft resolution L.31 was adopted.

In order to complete its work on the rescheduled conclusion date of 1 December, it has been announced that the all draft resolutions must be submitted for processing at the latest by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, 24 November.

The Committee is currently considering its methods of work with the aim of adopting a decision before the conclusion of its work in order to make the work of the Committee more effective and efficient.

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Innovative approaches in educating women, girls and the marginalized

In support of the 2011 ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), a regional preparatory meeting for the West Asia region will be held on 9 December in Doha, Qatar

In the Arab region, many girls and women remain excluded from learning opportunities and only nine of the twenty two Arab States have achieved gender parity in primary education. For groups most at risk of suffering from inequalities, disparities and multiple combined forms of exclusion, lack of access to education and the poor quality of the education received, remain major challenges. The underlying causes of educational marginalization are diverse and often interlinked with inequalities and marginalization in other sectors.

The ECOSOC meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss innovative approaches and policy responses that have worked to address these multiple barriers. The meeting, which will be held in conjunction with the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), will include a ministerial working lunch to identify policy options and key messages from the region to be brought to the July 2011 ECOSOC AMR for the action of Ministers.

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Principles of equity and social justice

International Human Solidarity Day will be commemorated worldwide on 20 December

In the Millennium Declaration world leaders identified Solidarity as one of the fundamental values essential to international relations in the twenty-first century and emphasized that “Global challenges must be managed in a way that distributes the costs and burdens fairly in accordance with basic principles of equity and social justice. Those who suffer or who benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most.” In the context of globalization and the challenge of growing inequality, the strengthening of international solidarity and cooperation is indispensable for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

The concept of solidarity has defined the work of the United Nations since the birth of the Organization. The creation of the United Nations drew the peoples and nations of the world together to promote peace, human rights and social and economic development.

The organization was founded on a basic premise of unity and harmony among its members expressed in the concept of collective security that relies on the solidarity of its members to unite “to maintain international peace and security”. It is in the spirit of solidarity that the organization relies on “cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character” as well (UN Charter).

Solidarity, as a central pillar of international cooperation, acquires new meaning in the face of globalization and growing interdependence.  In particular, a globalizing world offers new opportunities to forge innovative alliances that can unleash the potential for broader and faster economic and social development.

Among the more important aspects of solidarity at the international level are assistance, development aid and cooperation. “For the global community aid represents a mechanism for expressing human solidarity and for extending opportunity. Whether motivated by human rights, religious values or wider ethical systems, aid’s role in eliminating mass poverty, hunger and avoidable child deaths is a moral imperative” (Human Development Report, 2005).

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