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Yearly Archives: 2007

Some Good News on AIDS

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In its annual update on worldwide trends in the AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS announced today that the number of people living with HIV is lower than previously thought. New sampling techniques used for this year’s report show that about 33 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, compared with last year’s estimate of around 40 million. Also, the new techniques yield an estimate that 2.5 million people will be infected with AIDS this year–which is a 40% drop in last year’s estimate.

The number of people living with AIDS each year is still increasing–but at a much slower rate than previously thought. This is excellent news, but far from a declaration of victory. From the Los Angeles Times:

Dr. Roger Detels, a UCLA epidemiologist, cautioned that the reduced numbers should not be used as an excuse to dismiss concerns about the pandemic.

“Even though the estimates are lower than we had previously thought, they’re still pretty significant,” Detels said. “You’re still talking about prevalences in sub-Saharan Africa where you’ve got over 20% of adults infected with HIV…I think the danger here is to say: ‘Oh my Lord, you know they overestimated. It’s not a very serious epidemic.’ I would say 33 million is a pretty serious epidemic.”

Indeed, the report shows that 5,700 people die each day from AIDS-related conditions. That’s like losing the population of Miami every two and a half months. READ MORE

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UNHCR pledges $11 million to Iraqi refugees in Jordan

The United Nations refugee agency has pledged $11 million to help care for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees living in Jordan.

Under a funding agreement signed in Amman today, the money will help the Ministry of Health enhance public medical services and primary health centres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a news release.

“For a long time there was not enough attention given to the burden on Jordan and we continue to try to help in alleviating this burden,” UNHCR Representative in Jordan Imran Riza said after signing the agreement.

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IPCC Report and What to Expect From Bali

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There’s been extensive coverage of the newest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Like the three reports proceeding it, this one warns of dire consequences should action not be taken immediately to combat climate change. The timing of the release is no accident. Next month, delegates from hundreds of UN member states will meet in Bali to discuss a new climate change convention to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The contents of the report, says the Washington Post, is “key ammunition” for negotiators at Bali.

Lest people have unrealistic expectation from what will come out of the talks, the negotiations in Bali will be what they call a “process meeting.” There will be no document to point to after the delegates go home which spells out specific obligations under a post-Kyoto climate change framework. Rather, the significance of the meeting is that it will lay out the entire road map for how negotiations over the next three years will proceed.

The path set forth in next month’s meeting will be how the climate change debate is framed over the next three years and beyond. So what to do if a member state is somewhat cold to the idea of say, an emission reduction target of 80% for developed countries by 2050, with a 1990 base year? At least for now, disputes over specific proposals should not make much of a difference to the outcome of Bali, which is more a discussion about future discussions than actual substantive policy negotiations.

Still, the process questions are hugely important. And UN Dispatch will be in Bali, covering the discussion from the ground with frequent updates throughout the two week long meeting, which begins December 3.
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New Blogging Heads

Matthew Lee and I square off once again. In the newest installment of Blogging Heads, we discuss the challenges facing UN peacekeeping in Africa, the bizarre Zoe’s Ark scheme in Chad, the Secretary General’s climate change efforts, Ambassador Bolton’s new book, Kosovo and more. You can also listen to the pod cast.
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Ban pledges support to Bangladesh cyclone victims

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced his concern at the devastation and increasing death toll left by Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh.

Media reports say that more than 2,000 people have been reported killed as a result of Cyclone Sidr, which struck the southwest coast of Bangladesh late on Thursday local time, bringing winds of more than 240 kilometres per hour and a water surge that created waves up to five metres high. The death toll is expected to climb further.

Thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, large tracts of cropland have been wiped and hundreds of thousands of people have had to evacuate their home villages and towns and now depend on aid for basic necessities.

Ban expressed “his profound condolences to the people and Government of Bangladesh for the many deaths and the destruction involved, and the full solidarity of the UN system at this time of crisis.”

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IAEA Report Roundup

The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report (pdf) yesterday on Iran’s nuclear program. Nearly all reports about the report called it “mixed,” which I tend to think is more of a comment about how various constituencies reacted to the report, than descriptive of the content of the report itself. The big question on everyone’s mind at the United Nations is whether or not this report provides justification for pursuing a third round of Security Council sanctions against Iran. And as you can see, the reactions to the “mixed” report are, in fact, mixed.

Chinese UN Ambassador Wang Guangya: “I don’t like to see this issue being discussed here [in the Security Council]. We already have two resolutions on the sanctions, and what do we have?”

American UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad: “For diplomacy to succeed, it needs widely supported, broad and biting sanctions to affect the calculations of the regime in Iran. I don’t believe the Chinese would want to take responsibility for the failure of diplomacy by not cooperating with the effort at additional sanctions.”

UK UN Ambassador John Sawyers: “The IAEA showed that they can’t even resolve questions about Iran’s past, that knowledge of present activities is diminishing, and they cannot clarify Iran’s future intentions because of the lack of cooperation. That is really worrying.”

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili: “All the claims that Iran’s nuclear activities have a military agenda and are deviant are not true. The report says clearly that most of the ambiguities…have been removed.”

Former UN weapons inspector David Albright: “The main issue is that Iran now has 3,000 centrifuges. The report doesn’t even judge the quality of the information being offered, but it’s clear it is giving minimal answers.”

Meanwhile, hot off the presses, the Washington Post is reporting that Beijing canceled a Security Council meeting on Iran scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving. So at least for the time being, it looks like there will be no third round of sanctions.

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