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UN Observance: World Refugee Day – June 20

A ray of light for refugees in Jordan

“I’ve met so many who have lost so much. But they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world. They ask for little in return – only our support in their time of greatest need” stated UN Secretary-General, António Guterres while calling on Member States to take action for refugees.

In a world where violence forces thousands of families to flee for their lives each day, the time is now to show that the global public stands with refugees. On World Refugee Day, the global community gathers to show support to victims of war and climate change that have no other choice than leaving their home. This day aims to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of people and families, but also to raise awareness on the terrible living conditions they have.Final Phase Digital The United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention is the only global legal instrument explicitly covering the most important aspects of a refugee’s life. it provides that refugees deserve, as a minimum, the same standards of treatment enjoyed by other foreign nationals in a given country and, in many cases, the same treatment as nationals.

Nevertheless, the definition of refugees found in the convention doesn’t include climate refugees, while their number has been booming in the past years. Therefore, it is fundamental to integrate the refugees’ issues to the global challenge of achieving sustainable development. In this regard, some initiatives show that we can respond to the refugee crisis while fostering innovation and sustainability.

Final Phase DigitalIn Jordan, a refugee camp will soon lead the shift towards sustainable development as it is to become the world’s first solar-powered refugee camp. Thanks to a public private partnership, solar power is expected to meet the needs of 35,000 refugees. Beyond the sustainable assets of this project, encouraging energy transition in Jordan, this is also a step forward towards better living conditions for refugees. Too often, access to electricity isn’t a reality in refugee camps.

What can you do to stand with refugees? First, you can sign the #Withrefugees petition, launched in June 2016 by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and call on governments to work together to ensure humans rights are respected. You can also join an event around you or spread the word on social media with the hashtag #WithRefugees.

To learn more about World Refugee Day, please visit: http://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/us/

UN Observance: World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought – June 17

logo2017

“No one can deny the terrible similarities between those running from the threat of guns and those fleeing creeping desertification, water shortages, floods and hurricanes” stated Konrad Osterwalder, Rector of the United Nations University to illustrate the link between climate change and the rise of migration flows.

On June 17, the World Day to Combat Desertification and Droughts focuses on the link between land degradation and migration, to raise awareness about the vital importance to protect our lands. Indeed, given that desertification affects over 250 million people, and threatens 1 billion people around the world, acting is now a priority. This day is therefore a unique moment to remind everyone that solutions exist to solve this problem.

Life ecology solitude concept - lonely dry dead tree on crackedDesertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.

“Our Land, Our Home, Our Future” is the slogan for this year world day. In Africa, these words are particularly relevant, as drylands make up 43% of the continent’s land area account for 75% of agricultural lands and are home to 50% of the population. It first reveals the importance of sustainably managing these lands, to ensure food security for the populations, and the future generations. In 2016, the report from the World Bank alerted on the “real risk of undermining future options if existing areas under production are not managed sustainably”. In developing countries, overpopulation causes pressure on lands and exhausts them, threatening food security, and local populations. As a result, populations must move to other places, increasing migration and displacing pressure to other territories. In just 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide has risen from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015 and is expected to keep rising.

 Severe drought. Forest fires in the dry wind completely destroThe 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”. Achieving the UN Agenda will require ambitious actions to put an end to desertification, and encourage everyone, from local communities to policy makers, to commit for this goal. In some places, agricultural traditions change to protect lands, and ensure food security. In Kenya, classes on conservation agriculture are provided to local communities, to turn away from traditional techniques, that consisted in burning crop and weed residues after harvesting, to sustainable practices.

However, provided that you live in a dryland or not, it is your opportunity to get involved. Participate in an event around you or market your support on social media by using the hashtag #2017WDCD. Take some time today to learn about this issue and spread the word around you!

To learn more about the World Day to Combat Desertification and Droughts, please, visit:

Online Campaign: http://www2.unccd.int/2017-world-day-combat-desertification-online-campaign

Events: https://www.scribblemaps.com/maps/view/2017_WDCD_Events/2017WDCD

Videos:

http://www.un.org/en/events/desertificationday/videos.shtml

Kenya: Women adopt conservation agriculture to fight against drought.

https://www.newsdeeply.com/womenandgirls/articles/2017/06/14/to-fight-drought-kenyan-women-farmers-adopt-conservation-agriculture

Land for life, Create Wealth, Transform Lives

http://www2.unccd.int/sites/default/files/documents/Land%20for%20Life%20English%20Book_web%20fa_1.pdf

Desertification and Migration

http://www2.unccd.int/sites/default/files/relevant-links/2017-01/Desertificationandmigration.pdf

UN Observance Day: World Oceans Day

“We are here today to protect the lifeblood of our planet” stated the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres during the opening session of the first Ocean Conference of the United Nations. Over the last years, there have been an increasing consideration on the degradation of oceans as a threat for our world.

This conference is one more step towards achieving global awareness of the urgent need to take care of our oceans, to secure the future of humanity. Over the course of  a week, this historic conference will discuss the challenges faced by oceans, and bring solutions to achieve sustainable development. The main issues discussed will range from marine pollution and conservation of marine ecosystem to ocean acidification and marine technology development.

20170608_102003(1)While the global community gathers at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, you will have the opportunity to join the movement for oceans on June 8. This year, the World Oceans Day theme is “Our Oceans, Our Future”. It aims to raise awareness around the world about a rising emergency, and enhance the development of local initiatives to make change happen at all levels. Covering about two-thirds of the surface of the Earth, oceans are the very foundation of life. Through overexploitation, marine pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification, oceans are threatened by human activity.

This year, the World Oceans Day focus on plastic pollution prevention and cleaning the ocean of marine litter. Considering that 9.5 million tons of additional plastic waste flow into the ocean every year, the challenge of plastic is more important than ever. Moreover, for every three tons of fish swimming in the oceans, there could be one ton of plastic in marine waters by 2025. To avoid this becoming a reality, innovative solutions are being developed to clean the oceans. But in the meantime, it belongs to everyone to be careful of our environment.

loggerhead-turtle-123402_1920Indeed, your participation matters. On June 8, join an event near you, or spread the word on social media, using the hashtag #WorldOceansDay. Taking action for oceans can take many easy forms. Encourage individuals to think about what the ocean means to them and what they offer and learn about how your daily actions affect marine life. Finally make small modifications to your everyday habits and become a caretaker of our oceans.

To learn more about the World Oceans Day, please, visit the official website at: http://www.worldoceansday.org/

Analyzing the French Presidential Election: Providing a Pathway to a New Generation of Heads of State

By Arthur Le Nena, UN Programs Intern, GFDD

Wherever we live, whoever we are, we share the same responsibility, make our planet great again” stated the French President Emmanuel Macron in reaction to the decision of the President of the United States, Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on June 1st. One month after the defeat of the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, France seems far away from the shade of isolationism. At 39 years old, the youngest President of France since Napoleon ruled over France in the 19th century, the election of President Macron gives as much hope as it does raise questions. Considered by many as a possible turning point for the world, the French election has brought a fresh air in international relations, strengthening the opportunity for greater cooperation for change, particularly within the European Union.

This election, which took place after the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump’s election in the United States of America, was as uncertain and dangerous for the international community. Indeed, the opposition during the second round of this election between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, slowly turned into a choice in favor of or against globalization. On the first hand, Marine Le Pen campaigned on ideas such as isolationism, nationalism, promising to leave the European Union while Emmanuel Macron promoted liberalism, progressivism, and humanism. Defeating the two main parties of France, this election was also a demonstration of the rising criticism against the political establishment in democracies across the globe.

SG meets with President of France
UN Photo

Through the victory of Emmanuel Macron the French people decided to remain part of the global community. But it also put forward a claim for real change, that Emmanuel Macron will have to promote. Even though he was the Minister of Economy during the term of the former socialist President Francois Hollande, Emmanuel Macron had never been elected to a public office before. Moreover, he won thanks to the support of “En Marche!” (Onward!), a political movement he created one year ago. At the national level, his election could represent a long-awaited generational change in French politics that have been dominated by the same faces for years. Illustrating this new political context, close to 40% of the actual Members of Parliament won’t run for a new term in June. Finally, by putting together a new political strategy and challenging the traditional political parties, the success of Macron new government in France  could catalyze the development of similar movements in Europe and abroad.

The election was a test for the European Union as Marine Le Pen, European MP, promised to leave this grouping of States. On the contrary, Emmanuel Macron focused his campaign on a stronger European Union. His first meeting with Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, was the occasion to open the door for renegotiations of European treaties and pave the way for change in Europe. His political agenda includes measures to revive the regional organization, including the creation of a European Defense Fund with a European Security Council or the implementation of a European Ministry of Economy and Finance with a specific budget.  blue-1283011_1920

At the global level, the French election confirmed the end of a wave of isolationism around the world, in addition to the victory of the center-right candidate over the far-right candidate in the Netherlands in March 2017. Considering this growing threat of populism around the world, world leaders have a huge responsibility to act for real change. During his first month in office, Emmanuel Macron multiplied international meetings with officials from NATO, the European Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. On June 1st, the decision of President Trump to leave the Paris Agreement on Climate Change constituted a big step towards isolationism for America. Signed by 195 countries in the world, the Paris Agreement is a symbol of the universal fight for sustainable development. For the first time, the entire world recognized as one, that we all share the same planet. And that we therefore must protect it together. Despite this withdrawal by the United States, this decision could foster greater actions between the remaining countries of the agreement and democratize leadership opportunities around the world. Reacting quickly after Trump’s announcement, Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed clearly that the Paris Agreement “remains irreversible and will be implemented, not just by France, but by all the other nations”.

Thus, the French election was of great importance for the global community. Closely following the election, the world turned from the fear to see another country make the choice of isolationism to the new hope generated by a pro-globalization President. This new generation of young leaders, progressivists open to the world, can create an enabling environment to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and create a better future for all. But this victory is also a huge responsibility, as it is a call for real change. This is therefore time to take advantage of the collective strength the international community provides to make our planet great again.

ERADICATING POVERTY IN ALL ITS FORM: IS CHINA ABOUT TO ACHIEVE THE GOAL?

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” states an ancient Chinese proverb. Following this meaningful message, the Chinese government has been taking action to eradicate poverty by 2020. Taking advantage of an important economic development completed with ambitious social strategies, China is very likely to achieve this goal.

In 2015, the world moved forward towards sustainable development through 3 landmark agreements: the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Thanks to this global commitment, poverty has been recognized as the greatest challenge of our current world. Over the last 20  years, nearly 1 billion people have been taken out of extreme poverty. Despite these efforts, many people are still living in extreme poverty. Accounting to 1.3 billion people, China is a key country to achieve the eradication of poverty.

the-scenery-805594_1920Indeed, China is currently leading the fight against poverty. Turning to the official Chinese poverty line (which is 20% above the international poverty line of $1.9 a day), the country reduced poverty by 94% between 1980 and 2015. This evolution was first driven by the economic development of the country. If industrialization led to an increase in income inequalities, it also encouraged a deep transition for the Chinese working population. Between 1978 and 2015, the number of people in non rural jobs increased from 29% to 70%. Moreover, it made possible the development of local market and businesses, it also transformed and upgraded traditional agriculture.

At the same time, the Chinese government developed local and individual strategies to eradicate poverty everywhere. First, the government distributed cultivated land in rural China enabling everyone to have income from their land, while providing support for agricultural development. Second, the implementation of universal social development programs such as compulsory education and social pensions contributed to a growth in income of the poorest population, especially in rural areas. Finally, targeted poverty reduction programs have played an important role. Since the 90’s, the dibao program has provided a minimum income for poor individuals. This system focuses on individuals, drawing up specific plans for individuals, rather than being based on geographical regions of poverty, in the hope that it will have a better impact on the poorest.

hong-kong-1872882_1920However, many things remain to be done to achieve poverty eradication in China. And the last step towards poverty reduction will be the hardest one to implement. China’s economic growth is less important than before, and the industrialization’s positive effects have already impacted the population. Eradicating poverty from this stage forward, won’t be easy as it is now concentrated in the most underdeveloped areas. Moreover, a recent government survey found that 46% of China’s poor have health issues, which prevents them from working.

Thus, the current rate of poverty reduction could lead to an end of extreme poverty in China by 2020. This achievement has been made possible through the implementation of ambitious strategies which represents a model for other developing countries. Nevertheless, the goal to achieve poverty eradication in all its forms by 2030 is far from achieved. Around the world, in both developing and developed countries, poverty’s face is changing. From rural to urban areas, leaving the extreme poverty line doesn’t mean living with dignity. It is therefore necessary to keep fighting against poverty everywhere, particularly as its the first barrier to achieving sustainable development.