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13 Jun, 2011

Jeffrey Sachs Blasts U.S. Military Spending

1. Jeffrey Sachs Blasts U.S. Military Spending

2. UN City Garden Project In Dr Congo Boosts Nutrition, Jobs And Profits

3. Call For More Empowerment And Political Participation Of Women

4. Some 115 Million Child Labourers Globally Engaged In Hazardous Work

5. Climate Change-Related Water Scarcity To Affect Global Food Production

1. Jeffrey Sachs Blasts U.S. Military Spending

Jakarta, Indonesia, 13 June 2011(World Economic Forum Press Release) – Asia has made the most progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) but a sense of urgency is now needed before it can achieve all the anti-poverty targets by the 2015 deadline, said panellists at the World Economic Forum East Asia.

“What I think is lacking, in varying degrees, is a sense of urgency. We have four and a half years to go and we have a long way to go,” commented Rajat M. Nag, Managing Director-General, Asian Development Bank, Manila, in a plenary session on Inclusive Asia: Reinvigorating the Millennium Development Goals.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, USA, and Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, blamed part of the problem on the crisis facing the traditional Official Development Assistance, with some OECD countries not living up to their commitments. Sachs said the US has made a “profound mistake” in this regard.

“We invest 25 times more in military than we do in development assistance. We are not going to get the kind of outcomes that we need for a safer world. We invest more in bonuses on Wall Street even after the financial collapse than we do in development assistance,” he added.

Among the eight MDG goals are the halving of the proportion of people living on less than US$ 1 a day; achieving decent employment and universal primary education; reducing child mortality rates and improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS; and protecting the environment.

Indonesia’s Vice-President Boediono said his country has met the targets on halving extreme poverty and improving gender equality, and is moving in the right direction on health but still working on areas like maternal health, HIV/AIDS and the environment. He added that the government has announced plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2020 while maintaining economic growth rate at 7%.

Boediono called for greater public-private partnerships and an increase in trade and investments to help the country achieve the remaining goals.

Nag said an estimated US$ 8 billion a year is needed to help 14 of Asia’s least-developed countries meet the MDG goals. Sachs pointed out that, in recent years, non-traditional donors like China, South Korea and Brazil are stepping up, reflecting the rebalancing of the world economy. “China is the major financier of infrastructure in Africa right now,” he said.

The 20th anniversary World Economic Forum on East Asia is taking place in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 12-13 June 2011. Under theme “Responding to the New Globalism”, the meeting is convening more than 600 top regional and global leaders from over 40 countries.

The programme is built on four sub-themes: Managing Global Disruptions, Ensuring Employment and Inclusive Growth, Leading through Sustainability and Exploring New Norms in Asia. The programme focuses on how governments, businesses and civil society in Asia will have to forge new, collaborative efforts to capitalize on the region’s dynamism while addressing interlinked challenges such as inflationary pressures, threats to food security and complexities associated with massive urbanization.

The Co-Chairs of the World Economic Forum on East Asia are: Karen Agustiawan, President Director and Chief Executive Officer, Pertamina (Persero), Indonesia; Dominic Barton, Worldwide Managing Director, McKinsey & Company, United Kingdom; Stuart T. Gulliver, Group Chief Executive Officer, HSBC Holdings, United Kingdom; Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever, United Kingdom; Prashant Ruia, Group Chief Executive, Essar Group, India; and Sehat Sutardja, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Marvell Technology Group, USA.

2. UN City Garden Project In Dr Congo Boosts Nutrition, Jobs And Profits

Jun 10 2011 — A five-year United Nations urban horticulture programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has more than doubled its output of vegetables, turned profits, increased nutrition and employed thousands – some at four and five times the income they made previously, according to a report issued today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The $10.4 million FAO plan, financed by Belgium and implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development since 2000, has assisted urban growers in five cities – Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Mbanza-Ngungu, Kisangani and Likasi – to produce 330,000 tons of vegetables annually, up from 148,000 in 2005-2006, FAO said in a press release.

Less than 10 per cent of the vegetables produced by the project are consumed by beneficiaries. The remainder, constituting more than 250,000 tons of produce, is sold in urban markets and supermarkets, for up to $4 a kilo for the major vegetables produced: tomatoes, sweet peppers and onions, for a surplus value of about $400 million, FAO said.

“This programme has increased per capita daily intake of micronutrients: different types of greens, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables, and as such is enormous help in the fight against malnutrition, especially amongst children and breast-feeding women in cities,” said Remi Nono-Womdim, an agricultural officer for FAO.

An estimated half of children in the DRC are chronically undernourished.

The FAO said the programme has also helped provide employment for 16,000 small-scale market gardeners, and to 60,000 people more in jobs linked to the horticulture business.

“Farmers have seen their incomes increase dramatically,” FAO said. “On average, in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi for example, [the] annual income of each farmer has increased from around $500 in 2004 to $2,000 in 2010 and in Likasi it rose from $700 to $3,500. There have been similar increases in other cities.”

“It helped that many of the new city dwellers were rural immigrants who already had basic knowledge of crop production,” said Mr. Nono-Womdim. There were also sizeable areas of fertile land available, especially around Lubumbashi.

The FAO said the project in the DRC “is a flagship model of how to help cities grow their own nutrients and micro-nutrients to keep pace with growing demand.”

“The global number of urban dwellers is now higher than those living in rural areas. With the fastest growing cities situated in the developing world, vegetable growing in towns, cities, suburbs and shanty towns is essential to improving nutrition and food security in poor countries,” FAO said.

“The great thing is we have shown this goal can be reached, what we need to do now is scale-up production in the DRC and in other parts of Africa,” said Mr. Nono-Womdim.

3. Call For More Empowerment And Political Participation Of Women

Jun 10 2011 — The head of the United Nation entity tasked with promoting gender equality today reiterated that economic empowerment of women, political participation, ending gender-based violence and raising women’s involvement in post-conflict peacebuilding are the priorities of the body.

Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), told a news conference in Geneva that her office would also work with other UN agencies and partners on topics ranging from education for women and girls to sexual and reproductive health.

Asked how she intended to address the problem of sexual violence against women, Ms. Bachelet said prevention was most effective way of dealing with the scourge. Prevention methods included raising awareness and educating both girls and boys to eradicate gender stereotypes in society.

On gender-based violence in conflict situations where UN peacekeeping forces are deployed, Ms. Bachelet said UN Women will use best practices developed by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to train soldiers prior to their deployment to increase their tactical readiness to respond to reports of sexual violence.

It was also important to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence and to develop rapid response teams that could provide legal assistance to women in places that did not have the legal capacity to handle such cases, Ms. Bachelet said. Having more women in peacekeeping roles also had several benefits, including the fact that women felt more comfortable talking to other women about sexual violence, she said.

Ms. Bachelet said UN Women had been actively involved in promoting the participation of women – while respecting local ownership of the process – in the democratic transitions under way in Middle East and North Africa. She said had visited Egypt twice and will next visit Tunisia where a number of women’s organizations have requested assistance from the agency.

She pledged to work with all UN Member States and all sectors of society championing the cause of women’s empowerment. She noted that some aspects of gender inequality were the result of poverty, stressing that poverty alleviation was another way eradicating such manifestations of injustice as human trafficking, early marriage and child labour.

Addressing a panel discussion on conflict-related violence against women at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Margot Wallström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, stressed the need for upholding human rights and enhancing social justice to prevent conflict.

Women’s rights did not end when conflict began, she noted, adding that sexual violence thrived in silence and impunity. The challenge was to prevent the cycle of violence and vengeance, as well as discrimination and disempowerment that gave rise to rape as a tactic of war, she added.

4. Some 115 Million Child Labourers Globally Engaged In Hazardous Work

More than half of the world’s estimated 215 million child labourers are engaged in hazardous work which puts them risk of injury, illness or death, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a new report unveiled today.

The report, “Children In Hazardous Work: What We Know, What We Need To Do,” cites studies from both industrialised and developing countries that indicate that a child labourer suffers a work-related accident, illness or psychological trauma every minute.

The document, released as the UN marked the World Day against Child Labour on June 12, says that although the overall number of children aged 5 to 17 in hazardous work declined between 2004 and 2008, child workers in the 15-to-17 age bracket rose by 20 per cent during the same period, from 52 million to 62 million.

“Despite important progress over the last decade, the number of children in child labour worldwide – and particularly in hazardous work – remains high,” said Juan Somavia, the ILO Director-General.

“Governments, employers and workers must act together to give strong leadership in shaping and implementing the policies and action that can end child labour. The persistence of child labour is a clear indictment of the prevailing model of growth. Tackling work that jeopardizes the safety, health or morals of children must be a common and urgent priority,” said Mr. Somavia.

The ILO Global Report on child labour warned last year that efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour were slowing down and expressed concern that the global economic crisis could halt progress toward the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.

The new report calls for fresh efforts to ensure that all children remain in education institutions at least until the minimum age of employment. It urges countries to prepare lists of hazardous work as required by ILO child labour conventions.

According to the report, urgent action is required to tackle hazardous work by children who have attained the minimum working age, but may be at risk in the workplace, and calls for training and awareness to ensure that they are informed on risks, rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

The study notes that the problem of children in hazardous work is not confined to developing countries. Evidence from the United States and Europe also shows the high vulnerability of youth to workplace accidents.

The ILO report concludes that while there is a need to strengthen workplace safety and health for all workers, specific safeguards for adolescents between the minimum age of employment and the age of 18 are needed. The measures need to be part of a comprehensive approach in which employer and worker organizations and labour departments have particularly critical role to play.

So far 173 of the ILO’s 183 Member States have committed themselves to tackling hazardous work by children “as a matter of urgency” by ratifying the ILO convention on the worst forms of child labour.

In a statement on the occasion of the Day, the independent UN expert on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, said the annual observance draws attention to the alarming extent of hazardous child labour and advocates for change.

“On this day, we must reiterate our profound commitment to the global effort to achieve the complete elimination of the worst forms of child labour, which includes hazardous child labour, by 2016,” said Ms. Shahinian. “Poverty, conflict and harmful traditional practices are some of the main causes for children working. Child labour is in great demand because it is cheap, and because children are naturally more docile, easier to discipline than adults, and too frightened to complain.”

The expert, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, stressed that the protection of children’s rights should be a high priority for Governments, which have the primary responsibility to provide families and communities with alternative livelihoods, access to social protection and basic services.

5. Climate Change-Related Water Scarcity To Affect Global Food Production

Jun 9, 2011 — The world will increasingly experience water scarcity for agriculture as a result of climate change, a phenomenon that will affect the livelihoods of rural communities and the food security of urban dwellers, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a survey released today.

The impact of climate change on the availability of water include reduction in river run-off and aquifer recharges in the Mediterranean and the semi-arid areas of the Americas, Australia and Southern Africa, regions that are already showing signs of water stress, according to the FAO survey entitled “Climate Change, Water, and Food Security.”

In Asia, large areas of irrigated land that rely on snowmelt and mountain glaciers for water will also be affected, while heavily populated river deltas are at risk from a combination of reduced water flows, increased salinity, and rising sea levels.

The findings of the survey also show that an acceleration of the world’s hydrological cycle is anticipated as rising temperatures increase the rate of evaporation from land and sea. Rainfall will increase in the tropics and higher latitudes, but decrease in already dry semi-arid to mid-arid latitudes and in the interior of large continents.

A greater frequency in droughts and floods will need to be planned for, but already water scarce areas of the world are expected to become drier and hotter.

The report points out that even though estimates of groundwater recharge under climate change cannot be made with any certainty, the increasing frequency of droughts is expected to encourage further exploitation of available groundwater to boost production for farmers.

Loss of glaciers, which support around 40 per cent of the world’s irrigation, will eventually have an impact on the amount of surface water available for agriculture in key producing basins.

Rising temperatures will lengthen the growing season in northern temperate zones, but reduce the length almost everywhere else. Increased rates of crop moisture loss will also result in reduced yields.

“Both the livelihoods of rural communities as well as the food security of city populations are at risk,” said Alexander Mueller, the FAO Assistant Director General for Natural Resources. “But the rural poor, who are the most vulnerable, are likely to be disproportionately affected.”

The FAO report recommends that countries implement effective systems for “water accounting” thorough measurement of water supplies, transfers, and transactions to inform decisions about how water resources can be managed and used under increasing variability.

“Water accounting in most developing countries is very limited, and allocation procedures are non-existent, ad hoc, or poorly developed,” according to the survey. “Helping developing countries acquire good water accounting practices and developing robust and flexible water allocations systems will be a first priority.”

At the farm level, growers can change their cropping patterns to allow earlier or later planting, reducing their water use and optimizing irrigation. Yields and productivity can be improved by shifting to soil moisture conservation practices, including zero- and minimum tillage. Planting deep-rooted crops would allow farmers to better exploit available soil moisture, FAO recommends.

Mixed agro-forestry systems also hold promise. The systems both sequester carbon and also offer additional benefits such as shade that reduces ground temperatures and evaporation, added wind protection, and improved soil conservation and water retention.