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UN Observance: World Humanitarian Day – August 19

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Join GFDD on August 19 to celebrate World Humanitarian Day and pay tribute to aid workers who have risked and lost their lives in humanitarian service.

What is World Humanitarian Day?

The Day was designated by the General Assembly in 2008 to coincide with the date of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq which killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Each year, World Humanitarian Day focuses on a theme, bringing together stakeholders from across the humanitarian system to advocate for survival, well-being, and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers.

Watch the video: Civilians are #NotATarget

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMIuWqaDnnw

Lend Your Voice:

This World Humanitarian Day, raise awareness for civilians trapped in conflict by going to the official webpage and using their Facebook Live filter. Each video helps deliver a powerful story on behalf of someone trapped in conflict. The more voices that join, the more impactful our message.

Simply click here to go live and lend your voice.

Sign the petition:

This World Humanitarian Day, we come together in solidarity with the millions of people caught in armed conflict. Civilians are #NotATarget. By signing this petition, you are making your voice heard to leaders around the world.

The Impact of Climate Change on Disease

By Guest Blogger Richard A. Lutes, MD, President / CEO of Angam Scientific, LLC

Humans have forever been locked in an evolutionary arms race with pathogens.  The success or failure of a pathogen is entirely dependent on its ability to survive, reproduce, and spread to a new host or environment. The host will attempt to recognize and subsequently rid the body of the intruder. Co-evolution between host and pathogen naturally occurs because of these interactions and it is a battle that will continue into the foreseeable future. At the basic level, this concept suggests that when a host evolves new defenses to thwart a pathogen’s attack, the pathogen is forced to adapt a more impressive attack strategy to penetrate the heightened defenses. In response, the host must once again develop new defenses to cope with the new attack mechanism, and the cycle continues.

Macro of mosquito sucking blood

One factor that has frequently upset the scales in favor of the pathogens is the environment.  There are numerous examples of the environment factors coming together to create global pandemics such as the plague, small pox, HIV and influenza in 1918.  These events were responsible for millions of lives lost.  The greatest threat today is from climate change.  Climate change is under way and proceeding more rapidly than anyone previously expected and we are now seeing on a global scale the effects on human health.

Warmer winters are allowing ticks to mover further north carrying diseases such as Lyme Disease, Powassan virus, Bourbon viruses and others with lethal consequences.  One of the clearest signs of health risks in a warming world has emerged in one of the world’s most advanced economies, as Canada belatedly struggles to cope with Lyme disease’s migration in North America.  In the United States, reported cases of Lyme disease have increased from fewer than 10,000 reported cases in 1991 to more than 27,000 cases by 2013. Canada was well-positioned to be affected by the spread of the disease. Warmer temperatures are allowing Lyme-carrying ticks to thrive further north.  As early as 2005 modeling, published by researcher Nicholas Ogden, then at the University of Montreal, indicated that the geographic range of the Lyme-carrying tick could expand northward significantly due to climate change in this century.  It is not just Canada that is threatened but there are a growing numbers of disease-carrying ticks “moving North” to France, Britain and as far as Scotland and even Russia

Where will the next global threat come from? With the planet warming tropical countries are the most bio-diverse areas on the planet and are a likely source of the next pandemic.

map threats disease

South America is a hotbed of potential killer viruses, new research from the EcoHealth Alliance in New York has revealed.  Their study is the first comprehensive look at all viruses known to infect mammals and the findings show bats are the biggest threat, carrying a “significantly higher proportion of viruses able to infect people than any other group of mammals”.

The most recent example of diseases originating in South America is the Zika virus outbreak which started in Brazil.  Although almost all US cases today are from travel to the US, global warming may make southern US a potential source of infection.

It is not just in tropical countries where climate change may pose a threat.  In Antarctica and the North Pole climate change is melting the permafrost.

In the cold dark permafrost, with no oxygen, pathogens can survive in soils frozen for millions of years and when thawed may release ancient viruses and bacteria.  Scientists have managed to revive an 8 million-year-old bacterium that had been lying dormant in ice, beneath the surface of a glacier in the Beacon and Mullins valleys of Antarctica. In the same study, bacteria were also revived from ice that was over 100,000 years old.  These pathogens can spring back to life as they thaw.  Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past.  A most recent example occurred in 2016 when multiple anthrax cases were reported in Siberia due to permafrost thaw.

Global Warming

If the world proceeds on a “business as usual” path, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will likely be more than 700 ppm by 2100, and they will still be rising. This is nearly double the current level and much more than double the preindustrial level of 280 ppm. State-of-the-art climate models suggest that this will result in an increase of about 3.5oF in global temperatures over the next century. This would be a rate of climate change not seen on the planet for at least the last 10,000 years.

In this hotter planet, we will see new diseases frequently which will require constant surveillance to identify and treat the new emerging diseases.

Dr. Lutes recently participated in a UN event co-organized by GFDD, the United Nations Association of the United States of America Council of Organizations (UNA USA COO) and the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration. The event, an International Conference on Novel Diagnostics & Affordable Treatment, was titled Advancing UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health & Well-being) and took place at the UN Church Center. It was a unique opportunity for attendees to engage with a diverse panel of speakers that included high-level representatives from the World Health Organization, the World Bank and several medical practitioners. The conference, which took place before an audience of 80 people, was split into three parts including two panel discussions on Diagnostic Challenges of Resurging Diseases and Applicable Affordable Treatments and a networking session. The panelists discussed a wide range of ongoing public health issues in developing countries, from tropical virus outbreaks and their interrelation with climate change, to the prevalence of pandemics such as tuberculosis or rabies, offering effective yet affordable solutions to help tackle them.

To find out more about the outcomes of this event, please click here

World Indigenous People Day

United Nations Presents:  International Day of the Indigenous People: August 9th

By: Susej Mendoza GFDD Intern

hands-1939895_1920It is the tenth anniversary of the International Day of the Indigenous People at the United Nations where the declare the rights of indigenous people worldwide. With over 370 million indigenous people in the world who live in over 90 countries they are fifteen percent of the world’s poorest communities according to the United Nations website on Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People. This day is to seek and demonstrate the importance of what it is to give indigenous people the same rights as any other cultural group. As a community of people and as distinct families they have encountered many challenges including poverty due to lack of rights to their traditional lands, reservations, and territories stripped from them. At a time where they are increasingly vulnerable, change and awareness must be brought globally which has resulted on this international date in honor of them.

The Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People was implemented and adopted by the General Assembly ten years ago which provided a connection between member states and indigenous people. This was a big achievement and there have been many more progressive decisions and articles included in this declaration to improve the lifestyle and condition these families and groups of people live in or experience. Many countries like Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and much more have taken action on declaring their rights due to the impact of this declaration.

Many United Nations organizations have been proactive in revisiting work done with indigenous communities. Implementation of innovative projects and ideas to socially develop has been evident over the years to show the voice indigenous people have like all people from all different parts of the world. In many areas and decisions where their rights were not considered, now progress is being made in regard to what can be a benefit to them globally. The United Nations Forum on Indigenous People states that, “In contrast to the Millennium Development Goals where indigenous peoples were largely invisible, the Sustainable Development Goals include explicit consideration of key priorities of indigenous peoples, with six references to indigenous peoples in the 2030 Agenda.”

Join the United Nations on this day to fight for the rights of Indigenous People worldwide and find new strategies to improve the lives of those suffering of injustice.

To learn more about this day please visit: http://www.un.org/en/events/indigenousday

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Naciones Unidas: Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas: 9 de agosto de 2017

By: Susej Mendoza GFDD Intern

hands-1939895_1920Es el décimo aniversario del Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas en las Naciones Unidas donde se declaran los derechos de los pueblos indígenas en todo el mundo. Con más de 370 millones de indígenas en el mundo que viven en más de 90 países son el quince por ciento de las comunidades más pobres del mundo según el sitio web de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Declaración de los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas. Este día es buscar y demostrar la importancia de lo que es dar a los pueblos indígenas los mismos derechos que cualquier otro grupo cultural. Como comunidad de personas y familias distintas, han enfrentado muchos retos, entre ellos la pobreza debido a la falta de derechos sobre sus tierras tradicionales, las reservas y los territorios despojados de ellos. En un momento en que son cada vez más vulnerables, el cambio y la conciencia deben ser traídos a nivel mundial, lo que ha dado como resultado esta fecha internacional en honor de ellos.

La Declaración sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas fue implementada y aprobada por la Asamblea General hace diez años, lo que proporcionó una conexión entre los Estados miembros y los pueblos indígenas. Este fue un gran logro y ha habido muchas más decisiones progresistas y artículos incluidos en esta declaración para mejorar el estilo de vida y la condición de estas familias y grupos de personas viven o experimentan. Muchos países como Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica y mucho más han tomado medidas para declarar sus derechos debido al impacto de esta declaración.

Muchas organizaciones de las Naciones Unidas han sido proactivas en la revisión del trabajo realizado con las comunidades indígenas. La implementación de proyectos e ideas innovadoras para desarrollar socialmente ha sido evidente a lo largo de los años para mostrar la voz que tienen los pueblos indígenas como todas las personas de todas las partes del mundo. En muchas áreas y decisiones donde sus derechos no fueron considerados, ahora se está avanzando en lo que puede ser un beneficio para ellos a nivel global. El Foro de las Naciones Unidas sobre Pueblos Indígenas declara que “a diferencia de los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio en los que los pueblos indígenas eran en gran medida invisibles, los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible incluyen la consideración explícita de las principales prioridades de los pueblos indígenas. ”

Únase a las Naciones Unidas en este día para luchar por los derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas en todo el mundo y encontrar nuevas estrategias para mejorar las vidas de aquellos que sufren de injusticia.

Para obtener más información sobre este día, visite: http://www.un.org/en/events/indigenousday

UN Observance:    World Day  against Trafficking in Persons    - July 30

By Osward Hiraldo, GFDD Intern 

Depositphotos_71275791_l-2015.jpgOn July 30th,  please  join us in the fight against human trafficking!    

GFDD and the international community stand behind the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Human trafficking is a global issue that exploits children, women, and men of all regions for many purposes such as forced labor and sex.  It is estimated by the International Labour Organization that 21 million people are victims of human trafficking.    

In 2013, UN member governments established July 30th as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.This day was created to raise awareness of the human trafficking situation around the world. It was also created to promote and protect the rights of victims of human trafficking.  This day is a follow up to 2010, when the General Assembly of the United Nations developed the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. This plan encourages member governments to work together to fight back human trafficking. It also calls to integrate the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programs to boost development and strengthen security worldwide.    

 How bad is the current situation? On a  global  scale, the human trafficking industry is a $150 billion industry. The profits of this illicit industry rival the profits of top corporations around the world. In the United States, human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms and will surpass the illicit industry of drugs in a couple of years.  More developed countries are  most  affected by human trafficking.  

The U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons report and it highlighted countries in the Western hemisphere like the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany are lagging behind other countries when it comes to stopping and arresting individuals working in human trafficking. 

traffickingWho are the victims? The primary victims of human trafficking are women and children but men are also affected. Women and girls tend to be trafficked for marriages and sex labor while men and boys are likely used for forced labor, as porters, and as soldiers.  Although women are impacted the most by human trafficking, children are  also  very vulnerable to this industry.   According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons released in December 2016 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),  almost a third of all human trafficking victims are children.  For every child victim, two are girls and one is a boy.    

This year the  UNODC  has chosen ‘act to protect and assist trafficked persons’ as the focus of the World Day. This topic highlights one of the most pressing issues of our time — the large mixed migration movements of refugees and migrants. The theme puts the spotlight on the significant impact of conflict and natural disasters, as well as the resultant, multiple risks of human trafficking that many people face. It addresses the key issue concerning trafficking responses: that most people are never identified as trafficking victims and therefore cannot access most of the assistance or protection provided.  

Spread the word about this observance day on social media using  #HumanTrafficking #EndHumanTrafficking  

For more information please visit the official webpage here. 

Shifting Gears and Engines: Deploying Electric Vehicles to Save the Planet and its People

By Marc Jourdan, GFDD UN Programs & Outreach Manager

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In case you hadn’t heard, new French President Emmanuel Macron announced two weeks ago that his country will end the sale of gas or diesel-powered cars by 2040!

This move follows related announcements by countries such as Norway, which seeks to fully transition to the sale of electric vehicles by 2025, the Netherlands, which is debating a similar law, and India, which wants to become a fully EV nation by 2030.

So why are all these countries suddenly switching to plug-in cars? In addition to the environmental arguments advocated for by the above-mentioned signatory countries of the recent Paris Agreement on climate change, there are also important public health reasons, including the fact that the world population is rapidly increasing (the UN estimates the world population to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100 from 7.6 billion today). In 2016, the UN estimated that 54.5 percent of the world’s population lived in urban settlements and by 2030 it foresees that urban areas will house 60 percent of people globally (this means that one in every three people will live in cities). This will have a significant impact on air pollution, an issue which rapidly industrializing countries such as India and China are grappling with on a daily basis. China in particular, as we will see below, is the trend setter in terms of the evolution of the electric vehicle market.

But how big is the environmental impact of the transportation industry? The World Bank reports that transportation produces around 23 percent of the global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. It is also the industry with the fastest growing consumption of fossil fuels and the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions. With rapid urbanization in developing countries, energy consumption and CO2 emissions by urban transport are therefore increasing rapidly.

In China, the issue is very worrying, as a World Bank study of 17 sample cities in China noted that urban transport energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have recently grown between 4 and 6 percent a year in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xi’an. In China’s capital city, Beijing, the issue of air pollution is in fact slowly choking its citizens and the economy, as the city’s concentration of PM 2.5 particles – those small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream – recently hit 505 micrograms per cubic meter (The World Health Organisation recommends a safe level of 25). The worsening air pollution has also grounded flights, closed highways, and even kept tourists from visiting Beijing’s Forbidden City when it closed its doors, preventing 11,200 people from visiting the site!

So, to what extent will electric vehicles (EVs) be rolled out to combat these issues? There is a growing belief that EVs represent the future of automobiles. Forbes magazine recently reported that technology costs have declined significantly, with battery costs approximately 20% of what they were five years ago. Together with technological innovations and substantial new battery capacity coming on stream in China, this bodes well for further price declines. At the infrastructure level, charging stations are also being extensively deployed in China, the United States and other major countries around the world. Finally, EVs have lower operating costs than gas-powered vehicles, even at today’s oil prices. As technology costs drive the initial price of EVs lower, price parity with gas-powered vehicles and lower operating costs will make a compelling economic case for EVs. And China is taking the lead on this.

Being the most populous country in the world and expecting to host over one-third of the world’s 600 largest mega cities by 2025, China has now pulled ahead of other countries. In 2016, 507,000 EVs were sold there, a 53% increase from 2015. Meanwhile, 222,200 EVs were sold in Europe, a 14% increase; and 157,130 units were sold in the United States, a 36% increase from the prior year.

climate-change-2254711_1920.jpgAt the environmental level, one issue to overcome in this rapid new vehicle deployment is the fact that the high shares of EVs will require significant additional electricity generation. In the absence of coordination by countries this may put significant stress on electricity infrastructure. The EU Commission reports that even between countries with a similar share of renewable energy, management strategies to accommodate the charging of a large number of electric vehicles can be very different, depending on the types of renewable energy and conventional power generation in each country. That being said, the EU Commission has also confirmed that the avoided CO2 emissions in the road transport sector would outweigh the higher emissions from electricity generation. Indeed, a net reduction of 255 megatons of CO2 could be delivered in 2050, an amount equivalent to around 10% of the total emissions from all sectors for that year in the region.

Finally, turning to the public health benefit, emissions from road transport occur at ground level and generally in areas where people live and work, such as cities and towns, meaning that much of the population is exposed to them. In contrast, power stations are generally outside cities, in less populated areas. Because of this lower exposure, a shift of emissions from the road transport sector to the power generation sector can therefore be beneficial for health.

Although they are starting to help alleviate the immediate air pollution crisis experienced in countries like China and India, EVs are just one way in which we can move toward a more resource-efficient economy and decarbonized transportation system to effectively combat climate change. Replacing gas-powered vehicles with electric vehicles can help reduce emissions, although how much it will benefit the environment depends significantly upon the source used to charge vehicles: whether renewable, nuclear power or fossil fuel sources. Replacing the fleet of urban vehicles will not solve all the other transport-related problems which include traffic congestion and increasing demand for road infrastructure. As advocated by the international community during the recent 2017 UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, we need to achieve “systematic transformation,” that includes renewable biofuels, a shift towards public transport and changes to how we use our transport systems.