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23 Nov, 2011

UN Chief Urges Asia To Lead On Global Issues

Bali, Nov 19 2011 (UN News Centre) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today challenged the Asia and Pacific region to assume global leadership on issues of international concern, including climate change, sustainable development, access to food and energy, human rights and the empowerment of women.

“Now is the moment for Asia, and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in particular, to step into a truly global role,” Mr. Ban told a news conference on the margins of the ASEAN summit in Bali, Indonesia. “To the assembled leaders, I said the world needs your help, your leadership. The world needs Asia to fully engage on the great challenges of our day.”

He welcomed the Joint Declaration on a Comprehensive Partnership between the United Nations and ASEAN signed today in Bali, saying it builds on a strong foundation and introduces new avenues of cooperation, including mechanisms for more regularized communication and common action.

“We should be able to discuss the widest range of issues, including those that are difficult and most sensitive,” Mr. Ban said in his address to the ASEAN summit earlier. The UN and ASEAN have a shared stake in helping Myanmar advance towards democracy, he added.

He said sustainable development is the “number one imperative” of the partnership between the UN and ASEAN, noting that Asia understands the interconnection between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health and food and nutrition security.

Before proceeding to Bali, Mr Ban visited Central Kalimantan region of Borneo, which has been chosen by the Indonesian Government for a pilot programme of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative.

At a press conference, he said deforestation not only threatens the planet’s climate and national economic development, but also communities whose income, culture and way of life depend on healthy forests.

The initiative aims to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, and provides added incentive for governments and local communities to preserve and sustainably manage them. “REDD+ can be a win-win-win for local communities, for Indonesia and the world,” said the Secretary-General. “But let me be clear: While REDD+ can play an effective role in engaging developing countries in the global fight against climate change, it is not a substitute for deep greenhouse emissions reductions in developed countries. It is complementary.”

Globally, deforestation accounts for some 17 per cent of global carbon emissions – the second largest source after the energy sector, Mr. Ban pointed out. Each hectare of forest lost or degraded contributes to global greenhouse emissions.

“As we move ahead with REDD+, and for the initiative to be a success, it will be crucial to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the communities who depend on forest resources,” he said, adding that he is aware that there is misunderstanding, apprehension and opposition about REDD+.

“Indigenous people, in particular, are concerned that REDD+ is associated with unsustainable extractive industries that harm their well-being. Making REDD+ a success here in Kalimantan, and elsewhere, will require the commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders,” he stated. “We must ensure that all have a voice. This is a crucial test for REDD+ and for Indonesia.”

He added that the UN will do its part to help this groundbreaking partnership realize its potential, beginning with the establishment of the UN Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (UNORCID), whose opening the Secretary-General attended on Nov 17.

The UN is also consulting with government and civil society on improving forest governance and anti-corruption, as well as working to measure and understand the physical environment and the social implications of REDD+ to adjust efforts as they unfold.

“We will facilitate environmental and social safeguards,” said Mr. Ban. “And we will help to establish Green Schools, and work on forest fire prevention and sustainable plantations. In sum, our work will benefit local people while helping to address the global problem of climate change.”

He noted that Kalimantan has extensive forest cover and peatland, and that many of its inhabitants are custodians of an invaluable wealth of forest-based knowledge.

“Yet these men and women – and these precious ecosystems – are under threat from the global demand for palm oil, timber, minerals and other commodities,” said Mr. Ban, who met with representatives of communities affected by deforestation in the village of Kalampangan.

According to a report issued in September by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), conserving key forests in Indonesia under the REDD+ programme could generate billions of dollars in revenue, up to three times more than felling them for palm oil plantations.

The report recommended designating new forested areas for REDD+, taking into account the multiple benefits for carbon storage, orangutan habitat conservation and the protection of ecosystem services, while expanding palm oil plantations on land with low current use value and avoiding agricultural and timber concessions where conservation value is high.

While in Kalimantan, Mr. Ban also visited a health clinic, where he immunized a child against polio and met with pregnant women and health workers. The Secretary-General is now in Bali, where he will take part in, among other events, the fourth summit between the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).