Climate change: ‘A moral, ethical and economic imperative’ to slow global warming say UN leaders, calling for more action

It is nothing less than a “moral, ethical and economic imperative” to take more action to mitigate the existential threat posed by climate change, said top executives from across the United Nations system on Thursday.

UNDP Comoros/James Stapley: People living on the Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean are needing to adapt to climate change.

Calling on Member States to take “urgent action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”, the leaders of more than 30 UN agencies and entities, issued a formal, joint appeal for governments everywhere to “step up ambition and take concrete action” ahead of the landmark Climate Action Summit, which has been convened by UN chief António Guterres this September.

The appeal noted that to keep rising temperatures down, countries had to strive to “fulfil their obligations on human rights, including the right to health, the right to food security, the right to development, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women, intergenerational equity, and decent work and a just transition for all, as stated in the Paris Agreement.”

As set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming, limiting global warming to 1.5°C “is necessary to prevent irreversible changes. Achieving this goal will require changes on an unprecedented scale at all levels, but it is still possible if we act now”, said the UN system-wide appeal.

“With great urgency we call upon Member States to come to New York in September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020 and in support to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The communique issued after consultations during a meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination, called on countries to ensure that appropriate “adaptation measures” are taken to protect people, jobs and ecosystems, “particularly people in those regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including those at risk through forced displacement and migration.”

On the crucial issue of paying for the ambitious measures which need to be taken, the appeal described climate finance as “critical to deliver action on the necessary scale to address climate change…developed countries must deliver on the goal of mobilizing governments and the private sector to achieve the goal of $100 billion per year by 2020, to support climate action in developing countries and further enhance their efforts on scaling-up financial resources.”

And in the race to innovate, the appeal calls for greater ambition, noting that “the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers tremendous potential for a paradigm shift to low-emission, climate-resilient development pathways.”

The UN system is supporting “the enhancement of capacity of Member States to develop and utilize relevant data and technological innovations, to find solutions for climate and sustainable development challenges and disaster risk reduction and management, including the use of new and emerging technologies, including information and communication technologies, data and tools.

And the UN is going to practice what it is preaching from the Secretariat and beyond. “We will present our system-wide efforts towards reaching climate neutrality in our internal operations by 2020 and enhancing environmental and social sustainability in all UN activities”, says the joint appeal.

UN report shows one million species face extinction

A hard-hitting report into the impact of humans on nature shows that nearly one million species risk becoming extinct within decades, while current efforts to conserve the earth’s resources will likely fail without radical action, UN biodiversity experts said on Monday.

UNDP Ecuador: Splendid Leaf Frog, Ecuador. (19 January 2015)

Speaking in Paris at the launch of the Global Assessment study – the first such report since 2005 – UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that its findings put the world “on notice”.

“Following the adoption of this historic report, no one will be able to claim that they did not know,” the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said. “We can no longer continue to destroy the diversity of life. This is our responsibility towards future generations.”

Highlighting the universal importance of biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems – Ms. Azoulay said that protecting it “is as vital as fighting climate change”.

Presented to more than 130 government delegations for their approval at UNESCOheadquarters, the report features the work of 400 experts from at least 50 countries, coordinated by the Bonn-based Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

In addition to providing exhaustive insights on the state of nature, ecosystems and how nature underpins all human activity, the study also discusses progress on key international goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The report also examines five main drivers of “unprecedented” biodiversity and ecosystem change over the past 50 years, identifying them as: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change, pollution, and invasion of alien species.

One in four species at risk of extinction

On at-risk fauna and flora, the study asserts that human activities “threaten more species now than ever before” – a finding based on the fact that around 25 per cent of species in plant and animal groups are vulnerable.

This suggests that around one million species “already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss”.

Without such measures there will be a “further acceleration” in the global rate of species extinction, which is already “at least tens to hundreds of times higher, than it has averaged over the past 10 million years”, the report states.

It notes that despite many local efforts, including by indigenous peoples and local communities, by 2016, 559 of the 6,190 domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture were extinct – around nine per cent of the total – and at least 1,000 more are threatened.

Crop security threatened long-term

In addition, many crop wild relatives that are needed for long-term food security “lack effective protection”, the report insists, while the status of wild relatives of domesticated mammals and birds “is worsening”.

At the same time, reductions in the diversity of cultivated crops, crop wild relatives and domesticated breeds mean that farming will likely be less resilient against future climate change, pests and pathogens.

“While more food, energy and materials than ever before are now being supplied to people in most places, this is increasingly at the expense of nature’s ability to provide such contributions in the future,” the report states, before adding that “the biosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends…is declining faster than at any time in human history”.

Marine pollution ‘has increased tenfold since 1980’

On the issue of pollution, although global trends are mixed, air, water and soil pollution have continued to increase in some areas, the report insists. “Marine plastic pollution in particular has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species”, it says, including 86 per cent of marine turtles, 44 per cent of seabirds and 43 per cent of marine mammals.

The 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is also the first of its kind to examine and include indigenous and local knowledge, issues and priorities, IPBES said in a statement, noting that its mission is to strengthen policy-making for the sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.

“The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being,” insisted Sir Robert Watson, IPBES Chair. “Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come. Policies, efforts and actions – at every level – will only succeed, however, when based on the best knowledge and evidence.”

AGCO and Germany’s BMZ announce intention to co-operate in a new project to support farm mechanization in Sub-Saharan Africa

AGCO and Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) announce intention to co-operate in a new project to support farm mechanization in Sub-Saharan Africa

AGCO, Your Agriculture Company (NYSE:AGCO) (, a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment and solutions, has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to implement a joint agricultural project in Africa.

The potential project is subject to further talks but the aim is to make measurable contributions to increasing agricultural productivity and skills development, thereby boosting income and employment in African rural households. 

The LOI was signed in Berlin on 18 January by Martin Richenhagen, President, Chairman and CEO of AGCO, and Dr. Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“We expect that the collaboration between the BMZ, an important institution for international cooperation on agricultural projects, and AGCO, one of the world’s largest producers of farm machinery, to trigger significant synergies,” said Martin Richenhagen. “We both seek to foster mechanization to facilitate sustainable agriculture.”

The mechanization activities of both the BMZ and AGCO are designed to contribute to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to eradicate extreme poverty and end hunger by 2030. The Goals also aim to double the agricultural productivity of small-scale food producers, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices.

“With the 2030 Agenda and SDG as a globally binding framework for action, cooperation between the German Development Ministry and the private sector is becoming increasingly important,” commented Dr. Müller. “The close involvement of companies in joint measures enables private sector know-how and resources to be used for development policy goals. A world without hunger is possible if we join forces.”

AGCO’s newly-launched Farm in a Box initiative, which provides a package of essential farm equipment together with the crucial support mechanisms, is the company’s latest innovative solution to promoting farm mechanization in Africa.

The BMZ provides companies with financial and technical support for joint projects. The partnership enables companies to make effective and efficient contribution to the implementation of development objectives within the framework of their business activities. With its special initiative ‘One World – No Hunger’, the BMZ is a strong supporter of agriculture and rural development through its Green Innovation Centers in African and Asian countries.

Published courtesy of APO

Society reaps the benefits when women enjoy better health care


Weak political commitment, inadequate resources and persistent discrimination against women and girls: these are just some reasons that many countries still don’t openly and comprehensively address sexual and reproductive health and rights.

This is borne out by figures. Each year in developing countries, including those in Africa, more than 30 million women don’t give birth at a health facility. More than 45 million have inadequate or no antenatal care. And over 200 million women want to avoid pregnancy but don’t have accessto modern contraceptive methods.

Author: Marleen Temmerman Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OB/GYN), The Aga Khan University
Disclosure statement: Marleen Temmerman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals -– introduced in 2015 –- were created to address many of these problems. The goals recognise that sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental to people’s health and survival, to gender equality and to the well-being of humanity.

But many countries on the continent still have a long way to go before they make any headway with these goals .

In a bid to boost these fundamental rights, the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights was convened in 2016.

I was one of the experts from across the world who served on the commission to try and find new ways to achieve universal sexual and reproductive health. Our main finding – released this year – is that sexual and reproductive health services are fragmented, often duplicated and inefficient.

As part of the findings we’ve developed a set of evidence based interventions that’s rooted in human rights. These are a direct response to the gaps identified by the commission. It’s hoped that by plugging these gaps, we can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. After all, advancing sexual and reproductive health rights -– particularly among women – will help address the gender based disparities in health and other sectors.

Our findings

The commission’s findings address commonly recognised components of sexual and reproductive health like contraceptive services, maternal and newborn care, and the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

But it also addresses components that are often neglected or are addressed in isolation. These areas are critical if people are to make autonomous decisions about their health and lives, and include:

  • comprehensive sexuality education;
  • safe abortions;
  • the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections other than HIV;
  • counselling and care for sexual health and well-being; and
  • preventing, detecting and managing gender-based violence, infertility and reproductive cancers.

The interventions come in different forms. One example involves incorporating information on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections, contraception and sexual well-being into adolescent health programming. This upholds young people’s right to self-determination about their sexuality and results in improved health outcomes.

Another intervention is offering contraceptive counselling as part of postpartum and post-abortion care. Each year in developing regions, more than 200 million women want to avoid pregnancy but don’t use modern contraception methods. Giving them this access allows them to access contraceptives easily and reduces the risk of unintended pregnancy.

This intervention could reduce unintended pregnancies by 75% from 89 million in 2017 to 22 million. And it would only come at a cost of USD$ 9 per person per year. This is a modest cost, considering that half of this is already being spent to cover the costs of current levels of care.

Other interventions may have to involve amending a country’s laws or policies. For instance, in 2010 the Kenyan government passed laws that allow abortions to happen under certain circumstances. But eight years later health professionals are still reluctant to perform the procedure as they fear legal consequences. Why? Because the penal code hasn’t yet been revised and so they might still be held guilty of a crime.

The result of this gap between law and paperwork is that there were close to half a million unsafe abortions in Kenya in 2012. At least 100 000 of those women needed to be treated in hospital and roughly a quarter died due to complications.

All of this shows that while achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is ambitious it’s also achievable and affordable.

A way forward

There are several steps that governments need to take to tackle these issues. The first is that governments, multilateral organisations and advocates should embrace the commission’s recommended package of essential sexual and reproductive health interventions and push for its inclusion in national and international planning.

It’s also crucial for health ministries and service providers to consider how and where to introduce these interventions into the health care system. They must also work out how best to integrate sexual and reproductive health interventions into other health care services.

Many developing countries are not currently equipped to provide the full spectrum of interventions. But that does not preclude them from committing to achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and to making continual and steady progress, regardless of their starting point.

* Dr Zeba Sathar, who is the Population Council’s Country Director in Islamabad, Pakistan, also contributed to writing this article.

The article first published by The Conversation


Jean-Baptiste Elias, President of the National Anti-Corruption Authority

A staff team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Norbert Toé and Benin authorities have agreed on the need to sustain the efforts to strengthen governance and transparency and accelerate reforms aimed at improving the business environment.

The team visited Cotonou from March 21 to April 1, 2018 to conduct the second review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement with the Republic of Benin.

  • The IMF team reached staff-level agreement with the authorities on policies that could support the completion of the second review of Benin’s ECF-supported program.
  • The IMF Executive Board is expected to consider the review in June 2018.
  • IMF team worked with the government and development partners to assess sectoral plans for health, education, and water sanitation consistent with Benin’s National Development Plan.

“The team met with Romuald Wadagni, Minister of Economy and Finance; Abdoulaye Bio Tchané, Minister of State for Planning and Development; Alain Komaclo, National Director of the regional central bank, BCEAO; Jean-Baptiste Elias, President of the National Anti-Corruption Authority; and other senior government officials.

The discussions covered recent economic and financial developments and policies needed to foster inclusive growth, preserve fiscal and debt sustainability, increase the efficiency of public spending, and promote financial stability and inclusion.

Mr. Toé said the IMF team reached staff-level agreement with the authorities on policies that could support the completion of the second review of Benin’s ECF-supported program, adding that the Executive Board is expected to consider the review in June 2018.

“Economic activity in 2017 continued to be strong, buoyed by record cotton production and the recovery of the Nigerian economy. The economy is estimated to have expanded by 5.6 percent and inflation turned positive for the year due to an increase in food and petroleum prices during the last quarter. The current account deficit is estimated to have widened marginally in 2017, on the back of an increase in goods import, reflecting the scaling-up of investment. The medium-term outlook remains favorable with economic growth projected to accelerate to just above 6 percent over 2019–22, driven by rising private investment. Inflation is expected to remain below the WAEMU convergence rate of 3 percent. The programmed fiscal consolidation path aims to reduce the budget deficit (including grants) to below the WAEMU convergence criterion of 3 percent of GDP by 2019.

“Performance under the EFC-supported program remains broadly satisfactory. Based on available data, all program monitoring indicators (quantitative and structural) set for end-December 2017 were met. In particular, domestic revenue mobilization and spending on priority social programs exceeded the program targets. The team urged the authorities to step up the mobilization of domestic revenue in the context of a medium-term strategy to sustain the strong revenue performance, and continue to allocate more resources to social programs. Efforts are also needed to strengthen the evaluation and prioritization of new investment projects and more generally improve the efficiency of public investment.

“Going forward, the team and the authorities agreed on the need to sustain the efforts to strengthen governance and transparency and accelerate reforms aimed at improving the business environment. The team noted the recent improvement in these areas and encouraged the government to operationalize the recently created inter-ministerial steering committee for the reforms of the business environment.

“The team worked with the government and development partners such as the United Nations and the World Bank to assess sectoral plans for education, water and sanitation, and health consistent with Benin’s National Development Plan. It initiated a costing exercise required to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in these three sectors by 2030. Based on this costing exercise in Benin and in a few low-income countries from other parts of the world, an overview paper on SDG costs and needed financing will be prepared. It is expected that this overview paper would be presented to the U.N. General Assembly next fall.


Investing in Africa: the EU and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commit a further €100 million

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced their commitment to contribute to the EU’s External Investment Plan.


Support will help provide needed infrastructure in Africa’s health sector

The Gates Foundation will contribute $50 million (€40.9 million) in financing, as well as an additional $12.5 million (€10.2 million) in technical assistance, to investment projects in the health sector in Africa through the EU’s framework to improve sustainable investments in Africa.

This pooling of resources is designed to encourage additional private investment towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and will allow successful projects to be scaled up more rapidly. The European Commission welcomes this strong support to its efforts towards sustainable development in Africa, and will match this contribution with another €50 million.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The EU accounts for a third of foreign direct investment into Africa – this is now helping create jobs and growth on both of our continents. But we must do more to improve the business environment and provide a platform for African innovators to grow. This requires the full involvement of the private and philanthropic sectors, and I am grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their much needed engagement. This is an investment in our shared future. Europe’s partnership with Africa is one in which we support each other, help each other to prosper and make the world a safer, more stable and more sustainable place to live.”

Bill Gates said: “Improving health outcomes allows a society to become more prosperous and productive. There has been a lot of progress in this area in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000, but we need to do more to incentivize research and innovation that benefit the poor. It is fantastic that the European Commission, in partnership with African countries, is leading the way in reducing deep-seated inequities in global health. This commitment will create opportunities that will help people lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.”

This new partnership on health follows a first joint initiative with the EU, announced on 12 December 2017 at the One Planet Summit in Paris, to support the development of tools and techniques to benefit smallholder farmers in developing countries. Through that initiative, the Commission will provide €270 million, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation $300 million (€244.7 million), to finance agricultural research to help the world’s poorest farmers better adapt to increasingly challenging growing conditions brought about by climate change. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other EU Member States will also take part in this programme.

The European Union and Africa are working together to tackle the common challenges of today, from investing in youth, fostering sustainable development and strengthening peace and security to boosting investment in the African continent, supporting good governance and better managing migration.

The EU’s External Investment Plan was adopted in September 2017 to help boost investment in partner countries in Africa and the European Neighbourhood, in particular with a new €1.5 billion European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) Guarantee.

This ambitious initiative supports innovative financial instruments such as guarantees to boost private investment. With an input of €4.1 billion from the EU, it will help mobilise up to €44 billion of private investments by 2020. Such investments are mainly targeted at improving social and economic infrastructure, for example municipal infrastructure and proximity services, on providing support to small and medium-sized enterprises, and on microfinance and job creation projects, in particular for young people.

General Assembly approves $5.4 billion UN budget for next two years

Concluding the main part of its 72nd session, the United Nations General Assembly on Sunday took a number of key actions, including approving a nearly $5.4 billion programme budget for the Organization for the biennium 2018-2019.


United Nations Headquarters in New York City. UN Photo/Mark Garten

The budget covers UN activities across a range of areas, including political affairs, international justice and law, regional cooperation for development, human rights and humanitarian affairs, and public information.

The approved amount is $286 million (or 5 per cent) below the budget for the current two-year period 2016-2017 and $193 million below the proposal made by the Secretary-General in October this year.

In addition to the budget, the 193-member General Assembly also adopted a number of key resolutions, including reforms in areas of peace and security, and of management.

Speaking at the closing session, Miroslav Lajčák, the President of the General Assembly, stated that progress is not measured by the number of resolutions adopted, but rather by the impact the United Nations makes on people’s lives.

“Our work is not yet done. We have more to do next year,” he said, noting areas, including the Global Compact for Migration, the peacebuilding and sustaining peace agenda, maintaining momentum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as Security Council reform.

“To have meaningful outcomes from all these processes we need to talk, and more importantly, to listen, to one another. These agenda items represent global challenges. And multilateralism is the tool we need to solve them,” he added.

The UN budget

In approving the budget, the General Assembly also endorsed the proposal to move from a biennial planning and budgeting period to annual programme budget on a trial basis, as of 2020.

“This signals one of the most significant shifts in the programme planning and budgeting process of the Organization since the 1970s,” stated a note issued by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Explaining the details of the new budget, Johannes Huisman, the Director of Programme Planning and Budget, in the Office of the Controller, told UN News that most of the cuts were under operating or “non-post” areas, such as information technology or travel.

To a lesser extent, reductions also applied to personnel or post resources, he said.

Emphasizing that the UN budget will ensure that there is value for money, he said “This is a reassurance we can give to the tax-payers that no stone will be left unturned to make sure that the money is spent properly and ultimately benefits the world community in the areas where the UN is needed.”

Listen to the full interview below:

AUDIO: No stone left unturned to ensure budget benefits the world community