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20 May, 2008

Global Billion Tree Campaign Is Now The Seven Billion Tree Campaign

A unique worldwide tree planting initiative, aimed at empowering citizens to corporations and people up to presidents to embrace the climate change challenge, has now set its sights on planting seven billion trees.

In this dispatch:









Nairobi, 13 May 2008, UN Environment Program – A unique worldwide tree planting initiative, aimed at empowering citizens to corporations and people up to presidents to embrace the climate change challenge, has now set its sights on planting seven billion trees. It follows the news, also announced today, that the Billion Tree Campaign has in just 18 months catalysed the planting of two billion trees, double its original target.

The campaign, spearheaded by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), was unveiled in 2006 as one response to the threat but also the opportunities of global warming, as well as to the wider sustainability challenges from water supplies to biodiversity loss. To date the initiative, which is under the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Kenyan Green Belt Movement founder Professor Wangari Maathai and Prince Albert II of Monaco, has broken every target set and has catalyzed tree planting in close to 155 countries.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “When the Billion Tree Campaign was launched at the Climate Convention meeting in Nairobi in 2006, no one could have imagined it could have flowered so fast and so far. But it has given expression to the frustrations but also the hopes of millions of people around the world. Having exceeded every target that has been set for the campaign, we are now calling on individuals, communities, business and industry, civil society organisations and governments to evolve this initiative onto a new and even higher level by the crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen in late 2009.

“In 2006 we wondered if a billion tree target was too ambitious; it was not. The goal of two billion trees has also proven to be an underestimate. The goal of planting seven billion trees — equivalent to just over a tree per person alive on the planet — must therefore also be do-able given the campaign’s extraordinary track record and the self-evident worldwide support,” he added.

The Billion Tree Campaign has become a practical expression of private and public concern over global warming. Heads of State including the presidents of Indonesia, the Maldives, Mexico, Turkey and Turkmenistan as well as businesses; cities; faith, youth and community groups have enthusiastically taken part. Individuals have accounted for over half of all participants.

<> In a single day in Uttar Pradesh, India, 10.5 million trees were planted.

<> 35 million young people in Turkey have been mobilised to plant trees.

<> 500,000 schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa and the United Kingdom have become engaged.

It has also attracted the support of multilateral organisations including the Convention on Biological Diversity whose new Green Wave initiative was launched in advance of its important conference being held in Bonn, Germany later this month, and which supports the Billion, now Seven Billion, Tree Campaign.

Tree planting remains one of the most cost-effective ways to address climate change. Trees and forests play a vital role in regulating the climate since they absorb carbon dioxide — containing an estimated 50% more carbon than the atmosphere. Deforestation, in turn, accounts for over 20% of the carbon dioxide humans generate, rivaling the emissions from other sources. Trees also play a crucial role in providing a range of products and services to rural and urban populations, including food, timber, fiber, medicines and energy as well as soil fertility, water and biodiversity conservation.

“The Billion Tree Campaign has not only helped to mobilise millions of people to respond to the challenges of climate change, it has also opened the door, especially for the rural poor, to benefit from the valuable products and services the trees provide,” said Dennis Garrity, Director General of the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre. “Smallholder farmers could also benefit from the rapidly growing global carbon market by planting and nurturing trees,” he said.

The two billionth tree was put into the ground as part of an agroforestry project carried out by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). It now planted 60 million trees in 35 countries to improve food security. This news comes as the United Nations calls for resolute action to end the global food crisis which affects an estimated 73 million people in 80 countries around the world.

In announcing the agency’s contribution to the Billion Tree Campaign, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said: “WFP is concerned about rising costs of food and fuel which inevitably hit the ‘bottom billion’ hardest. More people will require WFP assistance at a time when WFP’s current programmes are reaching fewer due to the critical funding gap created by rising costs.”

In terms of geographic distribution, Africa is the leading region with over half of all tree plantings. Regional and national governments organised the most massive plantings, with Ethiopia leading the count at 700 million, followed by Turkey (400 million), Mexico (250 million), and Kenya (100 million).

The campaign has also generated significant appeal in post-conflict and post-disaster environments. In acting upon the words of the campaign’s patron Wangari Maathai “when we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope,” communities in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Liberia and Somalia contributed to the global effort with over 2 million trees.

Furthermore, mangrove plantings were organised by Planète Urgence in Banda Aceh and other Indonesian provinces recovering from the December 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, while Replant New Orleans initiative in the United States sponsored a planting of fruit-bearing trees to breathe new life into a community struggling in the aftermath of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina.

The private sector pitched in as well, accounting for almost 6% of all trees planted. A number of multinational corporations supported the campaign, as did hundreds of medium and small-sized enterprises. The campaign has further highlighted the cultural and spiritual dimension of trees with groups as diverse as the International Olympic Committee, the World Scouting Movement, SOS Sahel Initiative or yet “Geiko and Maiko for Forests” — Japanese geishas from the hometown of the Kyoto Protocol — actively participating in the initiative.

“The Billion Tree Campaign is UNEP’s call to the nearly 7 billion people sharing our planet today to take simple, positive steps to protect our climate. It is a defining issue of our era that can only be tackled through individual and collective action. I am convinced that the new target will be met — one tree at a time,” concluded Steiner. The Billion Tree Campaign web site with pledges, plantings and news is at www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign, http://www.worldagroforestry.org/billiontreecampaign/



New York, May 19 2008, United Nations News — Chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke have taken over from infectious diseases as diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis as the leading causes of death around the globe, the UN World Health Organization says in a new report. A good source of background and research information for practitioners of health and wellness, the report was released for presentation to the 61st session of the World Health Assembly taking place in Geneva during 19-24 May 2008.

Based on data collected from the 193 Member States of WHO, the annual report contains measures on 73 separate health indicators covering areas including mortality levels, availability of health-care workers and the prevalence of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption. “We are definitely seeing a trend towards fewer people dying of infectious diseases across the world,” said Ties Boerma, Director of the WHO Department of Health Statistics and Informatics. “We tend to associate developing countries with infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. But in more and more countries the chief causes of death are non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.”

Says the report, “The global burden of noncommunicable diseases continues to grow; tackling it constitutes one of the major challenges for development in the twenty-first century. Noncommunicable diseases,principally cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases, caused an estimated 35 million deaths in 2005. This figure represents 60% of all deaths globally, with 80% of deaths due to noncommunicable diseases occurring in low- and middle-income countries, and approximately 16 million deaths involving people under 70 years of age. Total deaths from noncommunicable diseases are projected to increase by a further 17% over the next 10 years. The rapidly increasing burden of these diseases is affecting poor and disadvantaged populations disproportionately, contributing to widening health gaps between and within countries. As noncommunicable diseases are largely preventable, the number of premature deaths can be greatly reduced.”

Further details: http://www.who.int/nmh/NCD%20Action%20Plan%20Resolution.pdf

Other issues of relevance to the travel & tourism industry include:

STRATEGIES TO REDUCE THE HARMFUL USE OF ALCOHOL: Harmful use of alcohol is one of the main factors contributing to premature deaths and avoidable disease burden worldwide and has a major impact on public health. Although there are regional, national and local differences in levels, patterns and context of drinking, in 2002 the harmful use of alcohol was estimated to cause about 2.3 million premature deaths worldwide (3.7% of global mortality) and to be responsible for 4.4% of the global burden of disease, even when protective effects of low and moderate alcohol consumption on morbidity and mortality have been taken into consideration.

Further details: http://www.who.int/nmh/Draft%20Alcohol%20GS%20Resolution.pdf

CLIMATE CHANGE AND HEALTH: Climate change threatens public health security. Global warming is expected to pose direct threats to health by causing more severe storms, floods, droughts and fires, with consequent disruptions in water and food supplies and medical and other services. Higher temperatures will change the distribution, and increase the burden, of various vector-borne, food borne and water-related infectious diseases. The worsening of air quality, particularly owing to ozone pollution, increases the prevalence of asthma and respiratory infections, the number of admissions to hospital, and days of work and schooling lost. Meeting increasing energy demands by greater use of fossil fuels will tend to increase the number of cases of these air pollution-related illnesses and all-cause and all-age premature deaths. Greater frequency and intensity of heat waves will increase mortality and the incidence of heat stress and heat stroke. Evidence shows that this is already occurring.


This year’s report highlights several key issues, including the relatively slow increase in life expectancy in Eastern Europe since 1950 when compared with the rest of the continent, the soaring cost of health care worldwide and the effect that has on the poor, and the vast imbalance between maternal mortality rates in rich and poor nations. It also discusses such issues as: pandemic influenza preparedness: sharing of influenza viruses and access to vaccines and other benefits; and public health, innovation and intellectual property: draft global strategy and plan of action.



Applications for the UNESCO 2008 Award of Excellence for handicrafts are now being accepted. The deadline is 30 June 2008. The Seal of Excellence is effectively a “seal of approval” which endorses that the handicraft products with this seal conform to the rigorous standards set by the programme and have potential for the world market. The programme was established in Southeast Asia in 2001 by UNESCO and the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA) and now operates across all Asia and the Pacific.

The programme was established to encourage craft-workers to use traditional skills and materials to ensure the perpetuation of traditional knowledge and preserve cultural diversity. By setting quality standards for handicrafts and raising international awareness the SEAL programme aims to strengthen the for these products. A strong market provides the producers with a viable livelihood and long-term employment. For more information about 2008 award application, please click: www.unescobkk.org/index.php?id=811. Or www.unescobkk.org/index.php?id=2081



Canberra, 13 May 2008 — The just announced 2008-09 Australian Federal Budget will boost regional and Indigenous tourism with funding of more than $6.4 million. Under the Australian Tourism Development Program (ATDP), funding of $4.6 million will go to 12 projects in regional and metropolitan Australia to develop quality tourism precincts, experiences, and strategies for growth. The Business Ready Program for Indigenous Tourism (BRPIT) will inject $1.8 million to support start-up and established Indigenous tourism businesses which are often vital to the economic independence of rural and remote Indigenous communities.

The Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson, said, “The tourism sector provides jobs for almost half a million Australians and generates $38 billion in GDP. In this Budget the Australian Government is providing targeted measures to strengthen the industry’s base in key regional areas. We have allocated a total of $16.0 million to the ATDP over the next four years. Future funding will be competitive and merit-based and will contribute to the development of quality tourism experiences in Australia’s diverse tourism regions.

“ATDP funding will be refocussed on projects which deliver better infrastructure for regional tourism precincts, leverage private sector investment, and demonstrate innovation, a high level of product and service quality, and regional collaboration. The development of world-class tourism experiences across the nation will boost incoming tourist numbers and provide long-term jobs and economic security for regional communities through a sustainable tourism industry,” Mr Ferguson said.

The extension to the BRPIT program through 2008-09 will enable ongoing support to Indigenous tourism businesses. The minister said “Developing business skills in Indigenous communities to run sustainable Indigenous tourism enterprises holds the promise of increased economic independence for those communities. It is vital that we continue to support the development of these enterprises. In addition, Indigenous tourism is one of Australia’s competitive advantages in international tourism and an opportunity for us to celebrate and preserve our Indigenous heritage.”

In addition to the Budget funding, the Australian Government will progress a National Tourism Strategy aimed at strengthening the tourism industry’s supply-side capacity and maximising the net economic benefits of tourism to the Australian economy. The Strategy will be completed in the second quarter of 2009.

The specific projects to be supported are:

o A$500,000 for the first stage of a tourism strategy to encourage people to stay overnight and experience the heritage of Parramatta (NSW);

o A$100,000 to promote Batemans Bay township as a holiday destination during autumn and spring (NSW);

o $500,000 to upgrade the Wonthaggi Coal Mine Visitor Centre (Vic);

o $500,000 to restore the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour (Vic);

o $450,000 to upgrade the Creswick Visitor’s Information Centre (Vic);

o $185,000 to upgrade the Table Cape Lighthouse for commercially operated tours (Tas);

o $166,000 for an environmental audit program involving 40 tourism operators in the Huon Valley and Kingsborough (Tas);

o $50,000 to refurbish a locomotive for tourist rail services in the Derwent Valley (Tas);

o $500,000 for the 2009 Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive (SA);

o $75,000 to refurbish the South Perth Old Mill as a tourism precinct (WA);

o $500,000 to invigorate the Red Centre by providing two significant visitor shelters, visitor signage and picnic facilities (NT); and

o $100,000 for a Central Highlands tourism feasibility study and a development plan for the Rubyvale Gem Centre (Qld).


The Business Ready Program for Indigenous Tourism (BRPIT) supports start-up and established Indigenous tourism businesses by funding selected mentors to deliver tailored intensive business support. The emphasis is on the development of the skills necessary to run a financially viable business in the tourism industry. Tourism provides Indigenous individuals and communities with the opportunity for economic independence and the chance to preserve and celebrate the many Indigenous cultures. The Government is committing $1.8 million to the initiative in 2008-09.



CANBERRA, 13 May 2008 – Threats to the Great Barrier Reef, including the effects of climate change and declining water quality will be tackled by the Australian Government’s $200 million reef rescue plan announced in today’s Budget. Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Tony Burke said the funding will support land management grants to farmers and community groups and fund vital research.

The rescue plan will help protect one of the world’s great natural wonders, while benefiting local conservation and Indigenous groups, agricultural production and tourism, fishing and aquaculture industries. It is a key component of the $2.2 billion Caring for our Country initiative, to restore the health of Australia’s environment and build on improved land management practices.

As outlined in Labor’s election commitment, the $200.0 million five-year reef rescue plan includes:

* $146.0 million for a Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Grants Program – the majority of these funds to be provided in the form of matching grants to landowners and managers who commit to implementing proven practices to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment run-off from the land;

* $12.0 million for a Healthy Reef Partnerships Program to boost partnerships between the Government, state agencies and non-government organisations that support landowners with local expertise and extension staff;

* $10.0 million for a Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Research and Development Program – a competitive research funding program to look at the link between land management practices and environmental impacts and develop new water-quality monitoring techniques for nutrients, chemicals and sediments;

* $22.0 million for a Water Quality Monitoring and Reporting Program to expand existing monitoring and reporting of water quality in the Reef and fund a coordinated catchment-wide water quality monitoring program; and

* $10.0 million for the Land and Sea Country Indigenous Partnerships Program, including at least $5.0 million to employ Sea Country Officers in Indigenous communities and provide additional funding for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to strengthen partnerships with Indigenous communities.

“The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s most extensive coral reef system with habitats that are critically important for the diversity of our marine biology,” Mr Garrett said. “The reef continues to face the twin threats of coral bleaching, caused by climate change, and declining water quality. An important part of the reef rescue package will be building partnerships with Indigenous communities.”

Mr Burke said the sugar cane, cattle and banana industries had made significant advances in recent years to improve yields while reducing fertiliser and other inputs and their effects off-farm. “This reef rescue package will accelerate uptake of improved farm practices to ensure these vibrant primary industries can continue, while improving the quality of water flowing into the reef.”

The Australian Government will work closely with stakeholders, including governments, farmers and the community to implement the five-year program. Funds will be focussed on achieving clear, measurable outcomes in terms of improving water quality in the reef and achieving best value-for-money for taxpayers over the long-term.



19-05-2008 (Bangkok) – “Thanks to the revolution in ICTs, there is a real opportunity for multilogue” to promote mutual understanding and peace,” said Abdul Waheed Khan, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information yesterday in Bangkok, Thailand.

Attending the events organised by the Buddhist University on the occasion of the United Nations Day of Vesak, Buddha’s Birthday, Khan said that the internet and mobile phones have become critical elements in the dissemination of information around the world, and are ensuring that some level of freedom of expression exists, even when control is the order of the day.

The transformative affect of ICTs on the media landscape is helping media fulfill their fundamental role as a witness, as a watchdog and as a means for people to communicate. These simple and often affordable tools empower ordinary citizens, allowing them to document the world around them and share that information beyond their national borders.

Khan stressed that when allowed access to all the information presented without fear or favor, communities seek common ground to resolve their differences. “It is the manipulation of facts, the warping of the truth to secure an agenda benefiting one group over another, which leads to rivalries, misunderstandings and ultimately violence,” he added.

Abdul Waheed Khan also presented UNESCO’s initiative of the Power of Peace network that envisions connecting the power of media and ICTs to the concept of building peace through communication and information.

Vesak Day, the full moon day of the fourth lunar month, is the most important annual event for the Buddhist community. It commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment and Final Nirvana of the Buddha. In December 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations, at its fifty-fourth session recognised the Day of Vesak as an International Day of the United Nations and resolved that an appropriate activity would be held annually at the UN Headquarters and other offices as well.

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