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Migration, sustaining peace, development high on UN General Assembly’s agenda for 2018

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Migration, sustaining peace and development are among the priorities of the United Nations General Assembly for the remainder of the current session through September 2018, the President of the main UN deliberative and policymaking body said Friday.

“We are nearly four months into the 72nd Session of the General Assembly. And I believe we can say we have achieved a lot in this time,” said Miroslav Lajčák in his briefing to UN Member States, noting that the body has already adopted more than 250 resolutions and a new regular budget for 2018-2019 period, among other accomplishments.

“We need to see these eight months as an opportunity; as a chance to ensure that, when we get to September 2018, we will have even more achievements to point to,” he added.

Such achievements would include, he said, agreement on the world’s first-ever Global Compact on Migration.

When negotiations on the Compact begin on 20 February, Member States will all have to compromise and mobilize support at home, he said, adding that an agreement must be in place in July so that the compact will be adopted in December.

A second achievement relates to sustaining peace, and he will convene a high-level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace on 24 and 25 April, he said.

On this subject, he stressed the need for a stronger focus on conflict prevention. “We should be acting faster, and sooner, when there is a peace to keep – rather than scrambling for solutions once it has been lost,” he said.

Underscoring the importance of partnerships and the participation of women and youth, he also highlighted the need for better financing for the chronically underfunded UN peacebuilding and sustaining peace activities, and the need to integrate UN efforts in this regard.

“Sustaining peace is not a task for one office, or one team at the United Nations. Instead, it must be mainstreamed […] Everything the United Nations does must be seen through a lens of peace,” he said.

As for development, he plans to convene three major events in the resumed part of the session. The first will focus on water. On 22 March, he will convene a high-level launch of the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development.’

The second event will be a youth dialogue on 30 May. A wide range of topics will be covered – from education, employment and opportunities, to prevention of violent extremism and radicalization.

The third contribution from his Office to the ongoing implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is an event on financing on 11 June. It should act as a platform for stronger public-private partnerships.

The discussions and outcomes of these events will feed into the High-Level Political Forum in July.

Mr. Lajčák said he also intends to focus on human rights “because there can be neither peace nor development without respect for dignity and fundamental rights.”

That is why human rights must be mainstreamed throughout all of our activities – from peacebuilding and sustaining peace, to SDGs implementation and migration, he said.

Important tasks remain to be done for UN reform. The first round of intergovernmental negotiations for Security Council reform will take place at the end of January.

After the Secretary-General’s concrete proposals to reposition the UN development system are considered by the Economic and Social Council in February and March, the General Assembly will have an important role to play.

As for management reform, further discussions will be needed once the Secretary-General submits his comprehensive report. And work must continue on the reform of the UN’s peace and security pillar once the Secretary-General submits his second report.

Mr. Lajčák stressed the need to revitalize the work of the General Assembly, as it is the most representative body in the world.

The Assembly’s agenda also includes many mandated processes, such as planning for the diplomatic conference on a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

Preparations for the first-ever high-level meeting on ending tuberculosis will also begin. And the Assembly will also convene the first comprehensive review of the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, and organize the first informal interactive hearings with indigenous people, on the margins of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, in April.

In June, the biennial review of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy will take place.

For the first time, the Assembly will be conducting dialogues with the candidates for the position of President of the General Assembly for the 73rd session.

Wrapping up his remarks, Mr. Lajčák warned that “multilateralism is under threat” because the very purpose of the United Nations is being questioned not by one actor but by many.

Up for debate now are truths, accepted for decades, such as that we are stronger together, than apart; that all voices should be heard – not just those belonging to the most powerful; and that a compromise or agreement for all is better than a win for one, or a few, he said.

“We all have a responsibility to push back, against this trend,” he urged.

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Improved economic conditions boost air-traveller numbers worldwide

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A record 4.1 billion passengers took to the skies in 2017 onboard some 37 million scheduled flights globally, the United Nations civil aviation agency reported Thursday, highlighting that the fastest growth was seen among low-cost carriers.

According to preliminary figures released by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), air travel demand growth too gained “solid momentum” on the back of improved global economic conditions throughout the year.

The upward trend was driven by the strengthening investment in advanced economies as well as the recovery in emerging market and developing economies owing to the increased export demand,” said the UN agency.

It added that lower air fares owing to the low fuel price also continued to stimulate traffic growth, albeit at a more moderate level compared to 2016.

In terms of geographic distribution, Europe remained as the largest international market (37 per cent of the global total), recording a strong 8.1 per cent growth over the previous year. Asia-Pacific came in second with 29 per cent and growth of 9.6 per cent over 2016.

North America accounted for a 13 per cent global share, and demonstrated but notched up the slowest growth as a region (4.9 per cent over 2016).

The Latin America and the Caribbean region bagged 4 per cent of the international traffic and saw the largest improvement among all regions at 10 per cent. Africa had the smallest traffic share three per cent, grew slightly faster than last year at 7.6.

Low-cost carriers and air cargo post strong numbers

The ICAO news release also reveals that low-cost carriers consistently grew at a faster pace compared to the world average growth, carrying an estimated 1.2 billion passengers and accounting for approximately 30 per cent of the world total scheduled passengers.

At the same time, bolstered by improving global economic conditions and world trade, air cargo demonstrated a strong rebound in 2017, recording a “robust” 9.5 per cent growth, a “significant improvement” from the 3.8 registered in 2016.

ICAO also reported that in 2017, average jet fuel prices increased by about 25 per cent compared to 2016 but remained significantly lower than the prices observed for the ten years prior to 2016.

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Rohingya Crisis Growing, More Support Needed

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The Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh is growing at a rapid pace and there is an urgent need to support the host communities to cope with the influx and to help the refugees who are extremely vulnerable, the World Bank said today.

After visiting the Rohingya camps in the Cox’s Bazar area, World Bank South Asia Region Vice President Annette Dixon praised the government of Bangladesh and its people for sheltering and caring for the large influx of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar. She said the World Bank was ready to work with the government to help the host community and the displaced Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar.

“The scale of the influx is enormous. As far as the eyes can see, lines after lines of shelters—made of plastic sheets and bamboos—stretched over the deforested hills. It is creating huge pressure on the infrastructure and services as well as on the water resources and the environment. When the monsoon approaches, the challenges with disease and natural disasters will increase,” she said.

She visited the registered and makeshift camps and spoke with the Rohingya and the local community. She also visited registration centers, health and food distribution centers, children centers and women-friendly spaces. While these efforts are helping the Rohingya cope, they will need more support to rebuild their lives.

The people and the government of Bangladesh have shown great generosity to the Rohingya people in their hour of need. As soon as the crisis broke, with the government, the local and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and development partners extended support. This helped save thousands of lives,”  Dixon said. “But the needs are much greater. If the government seeks assistance, we can mobilize more resources to address the needs of both the host communities and the Rohingya people in a way that will continue to benefit the local people after the Rohingya leave.”

Dixon met local government officials and representatives of the many Bangladeshi and international relief agencies and NGOs that are working to support the Rohingya population in the Cox’s Bazar area.

Earlier in the week, Dixon spoke at the invitation of the government at the Bangladesh Development Forum in Dhaka. She praised Bangladesh’s remarkable success in reducing poverty and advancing development.

As she concluded today a five-day visit to Bangladesh, she said: “Bangladesh is an inspiration for development—it halved the number of people living in extreme poverty and created more opportunities for all. The country is at the cusp of another transformation: that of an upper middle-income country. The World Bank is committed to help Bangladesh address areas critical for achieving its vision of upper-middle income status.”

In the recent years, the World Bank support to Bangladesh has expanded. Currently, the World Bank’s support stands at nearly $10 billion, which represents a more than doubling in the last five years.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed close to $27 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country.

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Brand Africa and biodiversity focus of the 9th edition of INVESTOUR

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Nearly 30 African Tourism ministers convened at INVESTOUR to debate and exchange experiences on the development of the sector in the continent. This unique Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa is jointly organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Casa Africa and FITUR.

Two round tables and a business-to-business component integrates the 9th edition of INVESTOUR that took place in the framework of FITUR, the Tourism Fair in Madrid. The first session, moderated by Thebe Ikalafeng, Chairman at Brand Africa, addressed branding strategies to position the African continent in the travel market.

“International tourist arrivals in Africa grew by around 8% for the second consecutive year with 62 million arrivals registered for 2017. These strong results that show the potential of tourism in Africa but also the prioritization of the sector in the development agenda in the continent,” said UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“INVESTOUR has become a consolidated platform for sharing ideas and projects around the tourism sector in Africa. We started as a small summit and nine years later, nearly 30 African tourism ministers convene here to position the African continent, a topic that will occupy the debates in this year’s edition,” explained Luis Padrón, Director General of Casa Africa.

The second panel evaluated the added value of African biodiversity as a strong component of the tourism sector in the continent. Wildlife, reserves and geographic treasures make Africa unique with regard to its tourism offer. According to UNWTO research, wildlife watching travel represents 80% of the total annual tourist arrivals to Africa. However, it is mandatory to continue working on conservation and protection measures and to engage stakeholders of different nature such as governments, local communities, private sector recipients and the media.

Within that round table, the UNWTO/Chimelong Programme on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism was presented. The initiative, jointly implemented by UNWTO and the Chimelong Group, based in Guandong (China), aims at contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda through sustainable tourism and particularly wildlife conservation. The initiative comprises capacity building, advocacy and knowledge sharing methodologies and addresses multiple stakeholders such as governments, civil society and the media.

In the afternoon, tourism stakeholders gathered to discuss business opportunities in the continent. 15 inspiring projects were shared with the aim to build partnerships around tourism development in African nations.

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