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Top of the Morning: UN Peacekeepers for CAR?

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Ban Ki Moon May Recommend UN Peacekeepers for CAR

The Secretary General is expected to release a long-awaited report on the Central African Republic that will likely recommend a broad UN Peacekeeping mission. “A UN peacekeeping mission, assuming it’s authorized by the Security Council, will not be a panacea for CAR, but it will be able to provide more troops, police, and civilian personnel, which are desperately needed. WhileMISCA has saved lives, there are not enough troops on the ground. Currently, MISCA has 6,000 troops, 600 police, and 35 civilians who have only been able to deploy to a limited number of areas. This is in contrast to a UN peacekeeping mission, which aims for at least 10,000 troops…While a for ce of this magnitude is still not large considering the size of CAR, it could cover a larger swath of the country…A UN Peacekeeping mission could also provide more enabling assets such as helicopters, vehicles, fuel, and communications systems, which are essential to the mandate of protecting civilian.” (Better World Campaign

It Used to Be a Coal Plant. Soon It will become Latin America’s Biggest Solar Farm!

Mexico it taking the lead. “Renewable energy has started to take off in Mexico, with construction of the biggest solar power plant in Latin America, Aura Solar I — a 30-megawatt solar farm in La Paz, Mexico — the latest signal. If Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s recent summit with North American leaders is an indication of the significance of the trio’s relationship, then his expected upcoming visit to the Aura I solar farm can be seen as a benchmark on the country’s path to a more renewable future. Mexico is poised to be Latin America’s solar hotbed according to Greentech Media, with the solar market’s installed base expected to quadruple from 60 megawatts to 240 megawatts by the end of this year. Mexico’s energy ministry has set a target for 35 percent of power generation to come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2024. (CleanTechnica

photo credit  UNMISS/Isaac Billy

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Cutting Uganda’s Aid is a Morally Dubious Proposition

Senator Patrick Leahy wants to review US aid to Uganda in wake of the atrocious new anti-Gay law.

“I am deeply concerned by the decision of President Museveni of Uganda to sign into law the anti-homosexuality bill.  I support Secretary of State Kerry and others in calling for its immediate repeal.  Much of U.S. assistance to Uganda is for the people of Uganda, including those in the Ugandan LGBT community whose human rights are being so tragically violated.  But we need to closely review all U.S. assistance to Uganda, including through the World Bank and other multilateral organizations.  I cannot support providing further funding to the Government of Uganda until the United States has undergone a review of our relationship.”

I appreciate the sentiment. Senator Leahy is an experienced legislator and I expect any decision he takes would be thoughtful.  But as others join this debate, there are a few things to keep in mind about US assistance to Uganda that Americans should know before they call for cutting bi-lateral assistance.

The USA earmarked about $480 million in assistance for Uganda last year. About half that funding was distributed through PEPfAR, America’s flagship program to fight HIV/AIDS around the world. The other half went to USAID programs to support the health, development, education and food security. Of those USAID funded programs, totaling $211 million, only about 5% of USAID funding for Uganda passed through the government for specific development projects. The rest went to local or international NGOs and American contractors working on education, health and development programs.

The overwhelming majority of US aid to Uganda is directly to benefit of the Ugandan people. It pays for anti-retrovirals for pregnant mothers so they don’t pass HIV to their babies; it pays for insecticide-treated bed nets; it helps many thousands of women access modern family planning service. Shutting off that aid would hurt some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

The anti-Gay law is horrible. But so is effectively preventing a person living with HIV from accessing her medicine. Let’s hope that as this debate moves forward people keep in mind the morally problematic issues raised by shutting off aid.



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6 Ways Humanity Can Master its Urban Future

Ed note. This op-ed by Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Advisor of the Secretary General to Timor-Leste originally appeared on Project Syndicate and is reprinted here with permission. 

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NEW YORK – By the end of this century, ten billion people will inhabit our planet, with 8.5 billion living in cities. This could be the stuff of nightmares. But, with sufficient political will, vision, and creativity – along with some simple, practical policy changes – we may be able to create cities of dreams.

Cities are hubs of economic and social power. They drive national and global development by concentrating skills, ideas, and resources in a single location. But rapid urban development comes at a heavy cost. As cities expand, they swallow up land that would otherwise be used for food production. They drain water supplies, account for almost 70% of global energy use, and generate more than 70% of greenhouse-gas emissions.

If global growth is to be sustainable and equitable, we will need to alter the balance between rapid urbanization and the unrelenting consumption of resources that it fuels. This is a main goal of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which has warned of the unprecedented pressures that economic growth will impose in coming decades on infrastructure (especially transportation), housing, waste disposal (especially of hazardous substances), and energy supplies.

The battle to keep the world’s cities – and thus the global economy – both dynamic and sustainable can be won by developing innovative ways to consume our limited resources, without diminishing them or degrading the delicate ecological systems on which they depend. To achieve this, the world must meet six broad challenges.

First, we must change the way we design cities. Sustainability must be central to all urban planning, particularly in coastal cities that will soon face the ravaging effects of climate change. Denser cities use land more efficiently, reduce the need for private cars, and increase the quality of life by making space for parks and nature. Likewise, tightly integrated mass-transit systems reduce greenhouse-gas emissions dramatically.

Second, we must rethink how we design and operate buildings so that they use less energy – or, better still, generate energy. Buildings are responsible for substantial CO2 emissions, owing to the materials used in their construction, their cooling and heating requirements, and auxiliary functions such as water supply, wastewater, and solid-waste disposal. Our building codes need to promote energy-efficient engineering and construction technologies, which can be supported by tax incentives and stricter regulations. With almost 30% of city dwellers in the Asia-Pacific region living in slums, one of our greatest tests will be to improve their living conditions without wreaking havoc on the environment.

The third challenge is to alter citizens’ transport habits. This means shifting from private cars to public transportation, and from road to rail. Indeed, wherever possible, we should try to reduce the need to travel at all. Transport systems that favor cars and trucks cause accidents, pollution, and chronic congestion. Moreover, the transport sector accounted for 23% of all energy-related CO2 emissions in 2004, and it is the fastest growing source of emissions in developing countries. Instead, we need to integrate transportation, housing, and land use, encourage reliance on public transportation, and make our streets pleasant and safe for walking (especially for women and the disabled).

The fourth challenge is to change how we produce, transport, and consume energy. This includes creating more efficient energy systems and increasing our investment in renewable sources (which will, one hopes, create jobs in the process). We can also encourage households to consume less energy, and companies to reduce the amount of energy that they waste.

Fifth, we must reform how we manage water resources and water infrastructure, so that this precious resource can be re-used several times, and on a city-wide scale. This requires us to integrate the various aspects of water management, such as household supply, rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment and recycling, and flood-control measures.

Finally, we must change the way we manage solid waste so that it becomes a resource, not a cost. In many developing countries, 60-80% of solid waste is organic, with open dumping causing excessive amounts of methane to enter the atmosphere. Cash-strapped local governments spend 30-40% of their budgets on waste management but derive little in return. Yet, with some simple technological and design improvements – aimed, for example, at achieving higher rates of composting and recycling – 90% of this waste could be converted into something useful, such as biogas and resource-derived fuel.

These six steps require a comprehensive and coordinated change in behavior, and will require government at all levels to cooperate, invest at scale, share ideas, replicate best practices, and plan for the long term. It is a monumental and daunting challenge, but not an impossible one. If it can be achieved, the world may yet get the urban future that it deserves.

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Top of the Morning: University Awards First-Ever Degrees in Gender and Peace Building

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Senegal University Awards First-Ever Advanced Degrees in Gender and Peace Building

The World Bank and the African Capacity Building Foundation have supported the only program of its kind in Africa Twenty-nine graduates (15 women and 14 men) from university and professional backgrounds made up the first class, remarkable for its diversity. The students were from Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Togo and the Republic of Cabo Verde, no fewer than 13 sub-Saharan African countries…The objective is to ‘close the gaps in training and fulfill the need to protect women’s rights when armed conflicts occur,’ said FAS president Bineta Diop. The program will constantly evolve to take into account new risks and new threats as they arise, especially in the Sahel region, she noted.” (World Bank

Hospitals Targeted in South Sudan Fighting

Patients were shot in their bed and entire wards burned down. “MSF staff witnessed the gruesome aftermath of recent armed attacks and clashes in Malakal in Upper Nile State, discovering patients murdered inside the town’s Teaching Hospital. In another disturbing violation of medical structures since conflict erupted in mid-December 2013, an MSF team returned to Leer, in Unity State, and discovered the hospital thoroughly looted, burned and vandalised. Vast parts of the town appear to have been razed to the ground.” (MSF


Credit: Djenebou Diallo, a 27-year-old woman from Côte d’Ivoire, at her graduation ceremony.  /World Bank

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An activist waves a rainbow flag, an international symbol for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Photo: Flickr/See-ming Lee

Chart of the Day: The Huge Global Divide on “Acceptance” of Homosexuality

Donor countries around the world are contemplating their response to Uganda’s horrific new anti-gay law. They are doing so, in part, because there is considerable domestic political pressure to respond to this affront to human rights.

Last June, Pew Research Center released results of a fascinating global survey of attitudes toward homosexuality. They found that the more affluent and secular a country, the more likely its citizens are to be accepting of homosexuality.  That seems fairly intuitive. But what is striking to me is the enormous gap between western countries and those in the global south, particularly in Africa.

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Most ordinary Canadians and Spaniards take a look at this law and are aghast at its cruelty. But an even higher proportion of Ugandans or Nigerians are probably wondering what all the fuss is about?

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A Race Against the Coming Rainy Season in South Sudan

The rainy season is about to hit South Sudan. Under normal circumstances, life gets immeasurably more difficult for people affected by seasonal flooding. This year, though, some 800,000 South Sudanese fled their homes as an incipient civil war threatened to descend into ethnic violence.

The conflict has largely subsided, but has not gone away entirely. Now, humanitarian agencies and the United Nations are racing against the clock to prepare for blocked roads, floods, cholera and other hardships that the rainy season may bring.

This video from UNICEF offers some insight into what that preparation looks like on the ground.

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