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Angelina Jolie Visits Refugees in Iraq

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees just announced that Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie traveled to Iraq and Syria yesterday to visit Iraqis displaced by violence.

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The Iraq refugee crisis is perhaps one of the most underreported stories from Iraq. UNHCR–the main international body looking out for the interests of the displaced–has estimated that over 4 million Iraqi’s have been displaced by fighting, half of whom have fled to neighboring Syria and Jordan. Good on Angelina Jolie to take the personal risk to travel to Iraq to draw attention to their plight.

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Ban to visit Sudan, work towards peace in Darfur

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon he will be traveling to Sudan next week, to check on the peace progress in Darfur.

Mr. Ban told a press conference at UN Headquarters that he is visiting Sudan and some of its neighbours “to go and see for myself the very difficult conditions” under which the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force will operate in Darfur from the start of next year.

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Kudos to the EU

The Security Council is one step closer toward authorizing a civilian protection force in eastern Chad and northern Central African Republic. Yesterday, the council unanimously affirmed a proposal to let the European Union send forces to protect refugees in Chad and the Central African Republic, where some 400,000 people have fled to avoid conflict in Darfur. The mission will not be a traditional peacekeeping mission per se, but will incorporate UN civilian experts and UN police units. The EU troops would be stationed in and around the camps.

The need for such a force is undeniable. For the host countries, the masses of displaced people are a source of political instability. And for those living in the camps, protection is needed from predatory militia that attack on men and women who venture beyond the camp to find fuel and water for their families. The European Union–led by France–has stepped up and taken on this responsibility. I would think this deserves some praise and recognition.

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Global climate change meeting kicks off

A United Nations-backed climate change meeting–drawing 1,000 representatives from over 150 governments, business, environmental organizations and research institutions–kicked off in Vienna yesterday, in preparation for a global summit in Bali.

The summit, scheduled to take place from 3 to 14 December in Bali, Indonesia, aims to determine future action on mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses to climate change for the period after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol – the current global framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – in 2012.

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Will the Kyoto Non-Signatories Step Up?

Over 1,000 delegates from more than 100 industrialized countries are meeting in Vienna this week to discuss climate change strategies beyond the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The idea is to bring together Kyoto signatories with holdouts from key industrial states to see how much buy-in there is for broader climate change efforts among the major polluters. Nothing concrete is expected to come from this meeting, but it will test the waters before a major climate change summit in Bali, Indonesia this December. “The coming week will give us an indication of whether the political community…is willing to move beyond well-intentioned platitudes towards real negotiations,” says Yvo de Boer, the U.N.’s top climate change official.

That’s UN code for: “In the next few days, we will know weather or not the non-Kyoto signatory states–namely China and the United States—are serious about emissions reduction.”

For those interested in the future of our planet, all eyes should be on Vienna this week.

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UN backs conference on youth, technology and the environment

More than 180 young people from 85 different countries will meet in Germany next week to discuss the ways in which technology can be used to promote environmental protection.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Our hope is that on the basis of discussions at this Conference, 180 young people will return to their communities and nations and become beacons of activities and also motivators for many others to play a part in addressing environmental challenges.”

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