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23 Jun, 2011

Logging, Drug Threats Put Rainforests On UN Heritage Danger List

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1. Japanese Accident Offers Lessons For World On Nuclear Safety

2. Logging, Drug Threats Put Rainforests On UN Heritage Danger List

3. Indian Wildlife Sanctuary Lifted From UNESCO’s List Of Endangered Heritage

4. Social Investments Deserve Priority In Economic Recovery Schemes

5. UN Cautions Against Reducing Assistance To Smallholder Farmers



Jun 22 2011 — The accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station after the earthquake and tsunami in March offers lessons for the whole world on how to improve nuclear safety, according to the United Nations fact-finding mission that carried out a recent assessment.

Last month, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sent an international fact-finding mission to Japan to make a preliminary assessment of the safety issues linked with the accident, nearly three months after the disaster which struck on 11 March.

The mission’s team leader, Mike Weightman, presented its report today at the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, which is being hosted by the IAEA in Vienna, Austria.

“We must as a world seek every opportunity to learn lessons from incidents, accidents and extreme events such as what happened at Fukushima,” said Mr. Weightman, the Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations of the United Kingdom.

The preliminary conclusions and lessons to be learned have been shared and discussed with Japanese officials and experts. They fall broadly under three areas: external hazards, severe accident management and emergency preparedness.

The mission’s report contains 15 conclusions and 16 lessons for the international community to consider so that it can take advantage of the “unique opportunity” created by the Fukushima accident to seek to learn and improve global nuclear safety.

“One of the main findings is to never be complacent. We must seek to improve as we go forward,” said Mr. Weightman.

The lessons also cover issues such as the basic design basis for plants, making sure they are compatible with the circumstances around them and ensuring that they cover extreme events, as well as making sure they have essential safety equipment that can survive these events and deliver the “prime safety functions of containment, control and cooling,” he added. “For me the essence of nuclear safety in a sustained way is about continuous improvement, which really is the bedrock of nuclear safety.”

At the start of the conference on Monday, participants adopted a declaration calling for stronger national and international measures to ensure the highest and most effective levels of nuclear safety in the wake of the Japanese accident. The declaration added that safety standards should be continuously reviewed, strengthened and implemented as broadly and effectively as possible, and encouraged States with nuclear plants to conduct “comprehensive risk and safety assessments of their nuclear power plants in a transparent manner” in response to the accident in Japan.


Jun 22 2011 — Illegal logging, poaching, and other intrusions have led rainforests in Honduras and Indonesia to be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported today.

In the Honduran case, the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve was put back on the endangered list four years after having the protective status lifted because of the Government’s previous success in controlling incursions.

“The Government of Honduras requested the World Heritage Committee to place the property on the List in Danger in view of the combined threats of illegal logging, fishing and land occupation, poaching and the reduced capacity of the State to manage the site, notably due to the deterioration of law and to the presence of drug traffickers,” UNESCO said in a press release.

The agency also said the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, located in Indonesia, “has been placed on the Danger List to help overcome threats posed by poaching, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment, and plans to build roads through the site.”

The danger list helps “focus the efforts of government departments, civil society and international cooperation” on the threatened areas, UNESCO said.

The 2.5-million hectare Sumatran forest was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004 for its biodiversity. The Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, home to an indigenous population that has preserved its traditional way of life in the rainforest, was inscribed in 1979. It was previously inscribed on the Danger List between 1996 and 2007.

The decisions were taken by the World Heritage Committee, which is holding its 35th session at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO.


Jun 21 2011 — Citing “significant improvements in preservation,” the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) said today that it has withdrawn India’s Manas Wildlife Sanctuary from its List of World Heritage in Danger.

Situated on the foothills of the Himalayas, the Manas sanctuary, home to a great variety of wildlife, including many endangered species, such as the tiger, pygmy hog, Indian rhinoceros and Indian elephant, was inscribed on the List in Danger in 1992, seven years after it had entered UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The World Heritage Committee “noted that the outstanding universal value for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage list was recovering from damages sustained during ethnic unrest in the site,” UNESCO said.

UNESCO said the site is noted for its spectacular scenery, with a variety of habitat types that support a diverse fauna, making it the richest of all Indian wildlife areas. The park represents the core of an extensive tiger reserve that protects an important migratory wildlife resource along the borders of Bhutan and the Indian states of West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. Its wetlands are considered to be of international importance.


Jun 22 2011 — A new United Nations report finds that many governments did not pay enough attention to the social implications of the recent global financial crisis and urges that social investments be given priority in recovery programmes.

“The Report on the World Social Situation 2011: The Global Social Crisis”, published today by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), explores the ongoing adverse social consequences of the 2008-2009 financial and economic crisis – the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

One consequence of the crisis is that unemployment rose sharply to 205 million people in 2009 from 178 million in 2007. The loss of jobs means not only a loss of incomes but also an increase in vulnerability, especially in developing countries without comprehensive social protection, notes the report.

It adds that various estimates suggest that between 47 million and 84 million more people fell into, or were trapped in, extreme poverty because of the global crisis, which occurred immediately after food and fuel prices had risen sharply. As a result, the number of people living in hunger in the world rose to over a billion in 2009, the highest on record.

The report states that the global economic downturn has had wide-ranging negative social outcomes for individuals, families, communities and societies, and its impact on social progress in areas such as education and health will only become fully evident over time.

“However, initial estimates show that the effects have been sharp, widespread and deep. Given the fragility of the economic recovery and uneven progress in major economies, social conditions are only expected to recover slowly.

The increased levels of poverty, hunger and unemployment due to the global crisis will continue to affect billions of people in many developed and developing countries for years to come,” the report says.

It is essential, it adds, that governments take into account the likely social implications of their economic policies. Further, economic policies considered in isolation from their social outcomes can have dire consequences for poverty, employment, nutrition, health and education, which, in turn, adversely affect long-term sustainable development.

“There is renewed realization that social policy considerations, especially productive employment, must be given greater importance within economic policy,” said Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development. “The disconnect between economic policies and their social consequences can create a vicious cycle of slow growth and poor social progress.”

The economic crisis is a reminder, he said, that it is essential for people to be healthy, educated, adequately housed and well fed to be more productive and better able to contribute to society.


Jun 21 2011 — The head of the United Nations agency tasked with combating rural poverty today cautioned developed countries against cutting assistance to smallholder farmers in poorer nations, saying most food producers across the world were small-scale growers.

“When people cannot afford to eat because they cannot make a decent living, they become desperate, which led to riots during the 2008 food crisis,” said Kanayo Nwanze, the President of the UN International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), speaking ahead of the two-day Group of 20 (G20) agriculture ministers’ meeting, which opens in Paris tomorrow.

“The current food price increase has pushed an estimated 44 million people into poverty, creating once again a volatile mix. During the last price increase, when smallholders were assisted in accessing markets for finance, seeds and fertilizers, they were able to benefit from higher prices and both poor producers and consumers were better off,” added Mr. Nwanze, who will address the meeting.

France holds the presidency of the G20, which is made up of the world’s largest economies.

The G20 agriculture ministers are tasked with developing an action plan to address price volatility in food and agricultural markets and its impact on the poor. Studies have shown that the gross domestic product (GDP) growth generated by agriculture is more than twice as effective in reducing poverty as expansion in other sectors.

Mr. Nwanze is expected to tell the ministers that the G20 has a comparative advantage in promoting the sharing of experiences of countries that have made significant progress in boosting agricultural production, and which have created an enabling environment for investment in agriculture, including Brazil and China.

In addition, the G20 can strengthen policy coherence and coordination, which is essential in dealing with sensitive issues in trade, biofuels and responsible investment in agriculture, he said.

“I take this message to the ministers on behalf of the smallholder farmers around the world: the development of rural areas is central to overcoming hunger and poverty, mitigating climate change, achieving energy security and protecting the environment, and it is the smallholder farmer that holds the key. But we must seriously start investing in their potential to support them to deliver.”