The United Nations General Assembly today adopted a resolution to extend the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) beyond 2014.
Fresh commitments urged by the resolution
The resolution, which updates the UN’s global population policy, is entitledIntegrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.
As well as extending the ICPD Programme of Action for further implementation beyond 2014 when the Programme was technically to come to an end, it also called on governments to recommit themselves to achieving the goals and objectives of the Programme of Action, agreed on by 179 countries in Cairo in 1994. The extension comes with no end date for the Programme of Action.
The UNFPA has welcomed the resolution. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director said; “While much has been accomplished to implement the consensus agreement and reach the ICPD goals to reduce maternal and child death and achieve universal education and universal access to reproductive health by 2015, much remains to be done to implement this unfinished agenda.”
In addition, the General Assembly decided to convene a special session in 2014 to “assess the status of implementation of the Programme of Action and to renew political support for actions required for the full achievement of its goals and objects.” It asked UNFPA to review the implementation of the Programme of Action “on the basis of the highest-quality data and analysis of the state of population and development.”
The significance of population to sustainable development
“With the world approaching a population of 7 billion, some 215 million women still facing unmet need for family planning, and demographic changes, such as ageing, urbanisation and migration, affecting prospects for sustainable development,” said Ms. Obaid, “the United Nations Member States have again acknowledged the importance of fully implementing the ICPD agenda to improve the lives of people around the world.
A PSN-backed project by Community Health Africa Trust in Kenya has featured on an ABC News programme highlighting the worlds top global health issues and innovative solutions.
Mobile clinic features on ABC news
The Be the Change: Save a Life story on ABC news aired today, focusing on health conditions endured by the poorest communities across the world - and some of the innovations that can offer solutions.
From pregnant mothers to newborns, children and adults, the programme examined six of the world's top health problems, and shared simple and practical ways the audience can make an immediate difference.
The work of Community Heath Africa Trust (CHAT) / Nomadic Communities Trust in Kenya featured in the programme, highlighting how the charity delivers health care and medical supplies, including family planning services, to remote and rural communities living in environmentally fragile areas of Northern Kenya.
Launching the UN decade for fight against desertification, the UNs top drylands official says people must be paid via global carbon markets for preserving the soil.
Threats posed by desertification
Desertification and land degradation is "the greatest environmental challenge of our time" and "a threat to global wellbeing", according to the executive secretary of UN's Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Luc Gnacadja.
"The top 20cm of soil is all that stands between us and extinction," he told the Guardian. Conflicts and food price crises all stem from the degradation of land, he added.
Land conflicts in Somalia, dust storms in Asia and the food price crises of recent years all stem from the degradation of land, he said, due to overuse by humans and the impacts of global warming. Since the early 1980s, a quarter of the planet's land has been despoiled and 1% a year continues to be lost.
The world's poorest are worst hit
The reason desertification has not been a priority is because 90% of the 2.1 billion people who live in drylands live in developing countries, he said.
"Even in their own countries, they are the poorest among the poor and live in remote areas," said Gnacadja. "The world is driven by city dwellers: political leaders are setting agendas to satisfy people who live in the cities, we therefore tend to perceive soil as just dust, or mud, or a dumping place. But if we don't preserve that first 20cm of soil, where will we get our food and water from?" Half the world's livestock are raised on drylands and a third of crops, especially wheat.
The better known issues of climate change and loss of biodiversity are both rooted in the global loss of fertile soil, said Gnacadja, as the soil harbours a huge stock of carbon and the health of creatures living in the soil underpins global food production and forest growth.
The impacts of climate change - rising temperatures and more erratic rainfall - are here already from Latin America to the Sahel, said Gnacadja. Adding to the pressure on land is rising global population, which is expected to pass the 7 billion mark next year and reach 9 billion by 2050.
Implications for migration and conflict
As well as the consequences for food and water, violent conflicts and migration will also increase, he said, affecting those living outside drylands.
"Increased aridity is making the drylands the most conflict prone region of the world," he said. "If you really want to look at the root causes of the conflicts in Somalia and Darfur, and drylands of Asia, you will understand that people in their quest to have access to productive land and water for life, they end up in conflict." He also cited nothern Nigeria, where increased aridity means lack of fodder is driving herders south into the areas farmed for corn. "Conflict is almost inevitable."
Desertification and rising aridity were the ultimate cause of the food price crisis of 2007-8, Gnacadja said, as it began with a drought in Australia. This year's price spike started with a drought in Russia. Another example of desertification's impact was the loss of land bordering the Gobi desert leading to record dust storms that damage the health of people in Seoul in South Korea, thousands of kilometres away.
International action is needed
Gnacadja, a former environment minister in Benin, said combating desertification and soil degradation requires better land management, better equipment and new technology to manage water, drought resistant seeds and payment to communities for preserving the soil. He said he welcomed the new Green Climate Fund and the Redd deal to tackle deforestation agreed at the UN's climate change talks in Cancún last week.
But, he said, people must be able to earn carbon credits that can be sold on a global market for preserving soil, which contains 75% of all carbon on land. It was a "win-win-win", he said, as it not only reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but also helped food security and helped store and clean water.
The UNCCD has already launched a study into the economic costs of desertification and the benefits of prevention, aiming to emulate the impact the 2006 Stern review had on the climate change debate, and a similar report on biodiversity. It is also in the early stages of founding a global scientific body, like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to advise the world's governments. Funding for action on desertification is now available following a decision in February by the UN's Global Environment Facility to include land degradation.
Desertification is on the agenda for world leaders attending the next UN General Assembly in September 2011 in New York, and Gnacadja said all these initiatives at the start of the UN decade would bring knowledge of what needs to be done to the decision makers.
Population and Sustainability Networks Karen Newman delivered a presentation today at a UNFPA meeting on population, sustainable development and climate change.
Preparing for Rio+20
The two-day meeting beginning today at the UNFPA headquarters in New York brings together representatives from 20 non-governmental organizations and UNFPA staff to build partnerships to advocate for the inclusion of population issues into the agendas of upcoming international environmental events, especially 'Rio+20', a 20-year follow-up conference to the 1992 'Earth Summit'.
Rio+20 will aim to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development, to assess progress towards internationally agreed goals on sustainable development, and to address new and emerging challenges. The Summit will also focus on two specific themes: a new "green economy" and its relationship to poverty eradication and sustainable development, and an institutional framework for sustainable development.
The purpose of today's working meeting is to create an effective platform to link population dynamics, including gender and climate change, and sustainable development within the agenda of Rio+20 agenda, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 14-16 May 2012.
Ensuring population and reproductive health is on the agenda
Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, "as the world prepares to extend and expand the principles and pillars of sustainable development, it is essential that UNFPA bring its core mandate issues to bear on a new agreement," said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, speaking at the start of the NGO gathering.
Ms. Obaid announced that UNFPA will launch an initiative at Rio+20 to apply gender, reproductive health and population dynamics to sustainable development by harnessing data from the 2010 round of censuses, together with other population data. "National-level capacity building for data analysis and use in policy-making will be at the centre of this initiative," Ms. Obaid said.
Ms. Obaid said that the transition to the green economy requires greater understanding of the relationship among population dynamics and sustainable development. Taking these dynamics into account "will help to focus the sustainable development agenda on planning for the composition, distribution and movement of the population in the long term, which in turn shape areas vital to the green economy, such as food security, employment and occupational structure, health, social protection, agricultural production and environmental vulnerability," Ms. Obaid said.
PSN and the Population and Climate Change Alliance
In the area of climate change, UNFPA in 2008 brought together a group of non-governmental organizations specializing in sexual and reproductive health that agreed on the importance of linking population issues to the global environmental debate. These organizations later formed the Population Climate Change Alliance (PCCA), of which Population and Sustainability Network is now the Secretariat.
PSN's Karen Newman delivered a presentation at the meeting entitled Experiences in linking population, gender and climate change, during which she gave an introduction to the PCCA. The presentation also shared the key outcomes of the International Policy Symposium on Population Dynamics and Climate co-hosted by PSN in March 2010.
As outlined by a Uganda Minister at the symposium, it is the poorest countries that are hardest hit by climate change, yet they have contributed the least to it and have the least capacity to adapt. Linked to this issue, Karen explained that many of the least developed countries impacted by climate change have identified population growth as a factor that is increasing their vulnerability to climate change. For this reason, one of the policies that the PCCA is advocating is for funding to be made available to these countries to increase access to voluntary family planning, to support climate change adaptation.
The PCCA is currently looking to broaden its membership, with the view to have maximum influence at both the International Climate Change Conference in Durban in 2011, and Rio+20 in 2012.
PSN's full presentation at the UNFPA meeting is available here.
Meeting recommendations shared with new UNFPA Executive Director
Following the meeting, participants collectively sent a welcome letter to the new UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, congratulating him on the post. The letter shared with him some ideas and recommendations from the meeting, on issues that he may wish to prioritise as he takes up his UNFPA leadership responsibilities.
SOURCE: The Guardian Photo: Curtis Welsh
After the disappointing lack of progress at last years Copenhagan climate change conference, the deal reached at the UNs international climate change negotiations, which ended last Saturday in Mexico, was enough to save the UN process itself from burning out, but remains far short of saving the planet.
Progress made but challenges lie ahead
Delegates in Cancún cheered deliriously as the agreement was passed, but as the negotiators from 193 nations returned home, the scale of the tasks ahead became clear, from deep cuts in carbon emissions to raising billions of dollars of climate aid. "We can step forward in South Africa if we can continue to consolidate and carry on the spirit of unity and co-ordination formed in the Cancún conference," said Xie Zhenhua, head of China's delegation. "But the negotiations in the future will continue to be difficult." Connie Hedegaard, the EU commissioner on climate action, agreed: "There is a very heavy work programme in the next year."
Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican foreign minister who presided over the talks, said the result was "the best we could achieve at this point in a long process". She was praised for her firm but inclusive chairing of the meeting, a critical missing factor in Copenhagen, leading the Indian environment minister to compare her to a goddess. "A global deal on climate change is now back on track," said Chris Huhne, the UK's climate change secretary.
The Cancun agreement
The Cancún agreement (PDF) sets out a process towards the global, legally binding deal many observers believe will be essential to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. For the first time, it commits both rich and developing nations to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and sets up a Green Climate Fund to deliver financial aid to poorer nations bearing the brunt of climate change. It sets out in principle deals on tackling deforestation and providing wind turbines, solar panels and other low-carbon technology to developing nations. But the meeting in Durban next year will need to close the gap between the emission cuts offered to date and the much deeper cuts scientists say are needed if the UN's goal of keeping a temperature rise to under 2C is to be reached. Researchers from the Climate Action Tracker project said existing pledges set the world on course for 3.2C of warming.
The most daunting task ahead appears to be resolving the fate of the Kyoto protocol, for which Durban will be the last-chance saloon. The protocol is the only existing legally binding treaty, but it expires in 2012. However, some powerful nations want to see it killed, as it requires emissions cuts from only 37 of the richest industrialised nations. Japan caused a diplomatic upset in Cancún by declaring it would block a second phase for Kyoto, and was backed by Russia and Canada. Further complicating the issue is that the US never ratified Kyoto so, like China, the world's other super-polluter, it is not bound by it. Negotiators in Cancún parked the problem: those in Durban will not have that option.
Difficult decisions are left for next year
The Cancún agreements on money for adaptation to warming, deforestation and technology transfer all represent good intentions but their success will depend on the details decided in Durban. For example, the Green Climate Fund decision was to set up a "transitional committee" to design the fund, with no agreement on how the $30bn by 2012 or $100bn by 2020 previously promised will be raised. Another sticking point had been how pledged national cuts would be policed. Todd Stern, the US state department climate change envoy, said Cancún had given substance to the notion of an inspections regime: meaning all the difficult details remain to be resolved.
After Copenhagen, Cancún had been billed as a test of multilateralism. "Cancún has done its job," said Christiana Figueres, head of the UN's climate treaty under which the talks take place. "Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause."
Next year the Durban summit will have to turn Cancún's compromise into a real action plan. But some senior observers have suggested progress in combating climate change depends as much - or more - on action outside the UN process in the next year, with nations and regions making their commitments.
SOURCE: The Guardian
New Megacities on the Move report says authorities must start planning their transport infrastructure now for a future when two thirds of the worlds population will live in cities.
Planning needed now for sustainability
Moving away from car ownership, using real-time traffic information to help plan journeys and having more virtual meetings will be vital to prevent the megacities of the future from becoming dysfunctional and unpleasant places to live, according to a study by the environmental think tank Forum for the Future.
The report argues that authorities must begin to plan now in order to create easier and more sustainable ways of accessing goods and services in the world's ever-growing cities. Citizens must also be encouraged to change their behaviour to keep cities liveable.
By 2040, the world's urban population is expected to have grown from 3.5bn to 5.6bn. The new report calls for a radical re-engineering of cities' infrastructure to cope. "The future is going to look pretty urban ... with more and more people shifting to cities to the point that, by 2040, we're going to have two thirds of all the people in the world living in cities," said Ivana Gazibara, senior strategic adviser at Forum for the Future and an author of the report, Megacities on the Move.
"If we go on with business as usual, what happens is unmanageable levels of congestion because personal car ownership has proliferated," she said. "Cities could be a pretty nasty place to live for the two-thirds of the global population in the next 30 years if we don't act on things like climate change mitigation and adaptation, smarter use of resources and sorting out big systemic things like urban mobility."
The need for integrated transport systems
The report looked at transport, but not just moving from A to B. "It's about accessibility and productivity and interaction," said Gazibara. "Those are things you can do through physical interaction but you don't have to.."
One issue is to integrate different modes of transport: citizens will want to walk, cycle, access public transport, drive personal vehicles or a mixture of all modes in one journey. "Information technology is going to be incredibly important in all of this, in terms of better integrating and connecting physical modes of transport," said Gazibara. "But we're also going to see lots more user-centred ICT [information and communication technology] so it makes it easier for us to access things virtually."
The trickiest part, though, could be getting citizens themselves to take part. "We have the technological solutions, whether it's alternative drive-trains for vehicles or sophisticated IT - the real challenge will be scaling it in a meaningful way," said Gazibara.
City planning will also be important, she said, creating self-contained neighbourhoods where everything is accessible by walking or cycling.
The report also highlights examples of good practice that are already in use. Vancouver, for example, has recognised that many of its inhabitants will use several modes of transport in one journey, so city planners have widened pedestrian crossings, built more cycle lanes and provided cycle racks on buses.
For the future, Gazibara pointed to innovative car-sharing schemes such as the CityCar concept, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with "stackable" electric cars lined up near transport hubs. These could be rented out for short journeys within city limits. They could also store power at night, when renewable sources might be generating electricity that would otherwise have to be dumped.
Climate change must be at the heart of urban planning
Friends of the Earth transport campaigner Richard Dyer agreed that action was needed now to make cities more sustainable. "Tackling climate change must be at the heart of building a greener, fairer future - and local people must have their say. New technologies will be part of the solution, but rising populations and the urgent need to cut carbon emissions mean that we also need policies that reduce the need to travel, cut car use and make walking and cycling the first choice for short journeys. Alongside green energy and better insulation for our homes, this will make our cities healthier, more pleasant and vibrant places to live - and will create new jobs too."
Gazibara said city authorities needed to start taking the issues more seriously. "[There are] far too many places where cities that are acknowledging climate change as a threat continue to build more roads, continue to provide incentives to more car ownership and more driving. That's something that will fundamentally need to change."
The full Megacities on the Move report is available on the Forum for the Future website here.
SOURCE: The Guardian
Climate change could lead to shortages and 130% price rises in staple foods within our lifetime, increasing riots and civil unrest, a new study warned today.
Climate change and population increase undermining food security
The report Food Security, Farming and Climate Change to 2050, by theInternational Food Policy Research Institute, warned that warming of even one degree by 2050 could play havoc with food production - with hotter, wetter temperatures cutting crop yields.
With a global population of 9 billion forecasted by the middle of the century, the effects of lower crop yields could be devastating - especially if income growth faltered in developing countries, the report warned.
This year's drought and wildfires in Russia and the massive floods in Pakistan provided a window into a future of extreme weather conditions.
So did the food unrest of the last few years.
"The food price spikes of 2008 and 2010 both had important weather components," Gerald Nelson the report's co-author said.
In the world's poorest countries, average calorie intake would fall significantly, even by 2025. By the middle of this century, child malnutrition could rise by 18%.
"Reducing emissions growth to minimise the effects of climate change is thus essential to avoid a calamitous post-2050 future," the report said.
In a worst-case scenario, the study forecast the price of maize - a staple in sub-Saharan Africa - could go up by 130%. That's 34% higher than in a world without climate change, it said. Rice prices could rise by as much as 78%, and wheat by 67%.
Rice and wheat production would fall across the globe. But in a conference call with reporters, Nelson said sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia would likely suffer most under climate change.
However, even the American midwest would see poorer harvests because of hotter, drier weather patterns. "The corn belt in the United States has serious production losses," he said.
Agriculture itself must become more eco-friendly
The study is relatively rare in forecasting severe and far-reaching consequences of climate change by 2050 - a time period within the lifetime of most people alive today - rather than the end of the 21st century.
It produced 15 different scenarios of the world in 2050, combining different rates of income and population growth with various climate outcomes,
It also called for warming caused by agriculture - thought to be responsible for about 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions - to be reduced as well as the adoption of a carbon-negative agriculture target by 2050.
The full report by the International Food Policy Research Institute is available here.
The population of African cities is set to triple over the next 40 years, and by 2050 60% of Africans will be city dwellers, warns a new UN-Habitat report.
Slums see some progress
The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequalities and Urban Land Markets reports that across the whole of Africa, 24 million slum dwellers have witnessed improved living conditions over the last decade. However, while cities in North Africa reduced the share of slum dwellers from 20 to 13 per cent, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of slum dwellers decreased by only five per cent (or about 17 million).
According to the report, Africa will suffer disproportionately from the negative effects of climate change such as extreme weather events despite contributing less than 5 per cent of global green house emissions. Examples given include the extreme heavy rains in Burkina Faso which left 150,000 people homeless as well as other parts of Africa that have recently suffered prolonged droughts and subsequent hunger, leading to rural-urban ecomigration, adding even more people to the urban populations at risk.
"Urbanisation is here to stay and within a few decades, Africa will be predominantly urban. Already huge urban corridors across Africa are engines of economic growth," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. "The issue now is for regional and national governments, local authorities and all other stakeholders to pull together to ensure the efficient management of urban agglomerations. Smart urban policies could help spread the benefits and lift the continent out of poverty."
The report also highlights the difficulties caused by mobility when it comes to enumerating Sub-Saharan Africa's slum populations. A good example given is that of the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya where the long-standing perception was that its population was about half a million to one million people but the 2009 census set this figure at just under 400,000. The authors argue that data on slum dwellers derived from a population census or from voter rolls, often the sole options of enumerating, should be interpreted with great caution.
UN-Habitat Executive Director, Joan Clos also adds that "It is interesting to note that today in many parts of the world, poor people take advantage of urban-rural mobility to live in multiple locations. This is especially true of slum dwellers who retain links with their rural homesteads. Policymakers and planners need to take such fluidity into account when planning the shelter needs of the poor."
SOURCE: The Guardian
Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable in certain cases, notably to reduce the risk of HIV infection, in a book due out Tuesday, apparently softening his once hardline stance.
A promising shift
In a series of interviews published in his native language German, the 83-year-old Benedict is asked whether "the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms."
"It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution," the pope replies.
"In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality," said the head of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.
Following the leaking of differently translated passages of the book, these comments were widely reported in the press and generated intense controversy. According to the German original and the English translation, Benedict said the use of a condom by an HIV-positive male prostitute could be a good thing, in that would represent a first step towards an assumption of responsibility; in the Italian version, however, the word for a female prostitute was used.
Several commentators, particularly conservative ones, pounced on the pope's unusual example to claim he was not signalling a change in his church's opposition to artificial contraception. By referring in the original to homosexual sex, in which condoms are not used for contraceptive purposes, it was argued, he was maintaining the ban on their use in heterosexual relations.
Yet the Vatican has since broadened the scope of the pope's remarks, implying that they refer to men as well as women, apparently opening the way for the widespread use of condoms for Aids prevention by Roman Catholics in Africa and other parts of the world blighted by the disease.
At a press conference in the Vatican to mark the launch of the book, the pope's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, explained that he had raised this issue with the pope on Sunday.
"I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine," Lombardi said. "He told me: 'No.'"
Lombardi said the key point was: "It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship ... This is if you're a woman, a man, or a transsexual."
A mixed message: commentsfor AIDS prevention, not contraception
As several experts have noted, the book, Light of the World, by German journalist Peter Seewald, cannot alter doctrine. But Father Lombardi's comments signalled that the pope approved of condom use as a lesser evil where there was a risk of HIV contagion.
The Catholic ban on the use of condoms, or any other device, for purely contraceptive purposes remains. One of the pope's most senior officials, Cardinal Rino Fisichella, told the press conference it was "intrinsically an evil".
What remains to be seen, however, is whether the Catholic church will be able to sustain a meaningful distinction between the dual uses of the condom. Benedict's comments do not detract from his insistence that abstinence and fidelity are more important in fighting Aids.
PSN has published two new briefings, setting out the links between population dynamics and climate change, and the relationship between population dynamics and poverty reduction.
Putting population on the global agenda
The two briefing papers published this month by PSN are entitled Population Dynamics and Poverty Reduction, and Population Dynamics and Climate Change. The briefings explore and make recommendations in relation to the various ways in which poverty reduction, and climate change, are influenced by population dynamics.
Providing key points, facts and figures, case studies, as well as policy recommendations, the briefings are designed to communicate to audiences and policy makers from the development, environment, health and other sectors, the significance of population dynamics to key global development challenges.
Population dynamics and poverty alleviation
Key policy points and recommendations from this briefing include:
Population dynamics and climate change
Key policy points and recommendations from this briefing include:
PSN is grateful for the financial assistance received from the European Union to produce the briefings.