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Participants endorse ‘Ashgabat Statement’ as first-ever UN conference on sustainable transport ends

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The first-ever United Nations Global Sustainable Transport Conference concluded today in the Turkmen capital, with more than 50 countries endorsing the ‘Ashgabat Statement on Commitments and Policy Recommendations,’ with a view to supporting cleaner, greener transportation – from local transit systems to worldwide multimodal networks.

“The Conference has reinforced the importance of sustainable transport and has shown it is a shared global task,” said Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, at the closing ceremony.

“Sustainable transport solutions are key to leaving no one behind, securing prosperity, enabling access to services and protecting the environment,” concluded Mr. Wu, noting that “without sustainable transport, there will be no lasting progress on climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Noting the many encouraging success stories delegates had shared at the two-day conference, Mr. Wu said more needed to be done, including mobilizing trillions of dollars in investments and implementing legal, regulatory and governance frameworks. He also underlined the need to continue and strengthen capacity-building to developing countries.

“We have identified areas for regional and international cooperation and shared far-reaching policy recommendations,” he said. “We have, collectively and individually, identified concrete actions to move the world towards the new and essential paradigm of sustainable transport. Looking ahead, we must use our shared understanding to advance sustainable transport for all, by delivering on our commitments, forging new alliances and transforming our policies.”

He added that policy decisions needed to meet the needs of all in a low-carbon manner, requiring integrating transport modes and tapping into technological opportunities to bring the fundamental, transformative changes.

Stakeholders endorse ‘Ashgabat Statement’

Concluding the two-day conference with the so-called ‘Ashgabat Statement,’ participants stressed the need to promote the integration of science, technology and innovation into sustainable transport systems by tapping into technological opportunities in the decades to come, in order to bring about fundamental, transformative changes to transport systems.

This, they said, can be achieved through the use of energy-efficient technology, as well as information and communications technology, as they called for strengthening capacity-building support to developing countries.

They also welcomed stakeholders who had developed and launched sustainable transport initiatives, and called on all stakeholders to continue to seek collaborative partnerships for new, innovative, sustainable transport paradigms.

Also during the closing ceremony, Igor Runov, UN Under-Secretary-General and Head of the International Road Transport Union, presented the summary of the Transport Business Forum, which had been held earlier in the day.

Three other events held today focused on transport safety, the needs of countries in special situations – mostly least developed countries – and avenues for financing sustainable transport.

“Sustainable transport is a challenge for all countries, but countries in special situations, including least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states, face particular obstacles,” said Gyan Chandra Acharya, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative dealing with the needs of those countries (UN-OHRLLS), in his opening remarks to an event focused on sustainable transport and transit solutions in countries in special situations.

Developing countries face challenges in financing sustainable transport systems

Among the challenges highlighted by the panelists, and which, they acknowledged, must be addressed in order to achieve sustainable development in these countries, include high transport cost, restricted access to the sea, limited air service for passengers and cargo, and difficulties securing investments and partnerships.

“There are, altogether, about 1.1 billion people in these countries, so when we look at the global programmes, global solutions, as well as global development frameworks, we have to look at those countries if we want to leave no one behind, and make it inclusive of all,” noted Mr. Acharya, referring to the rallying call of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Conference, which opened yesterday, brought together key stakeholders from Governments, the UN system and other international organizations, the private sector, and civil society to engage in a dialogue that emphasizes the integrated and cross-cutting nature of sustainable transport and its multiple roles in supporting the achievement of the SDGs. All modes of transport – road, rail, aviation, ferry and maritime – were addressed.

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Human Rights

Discover the new Right to education handbook

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photo: UNESCO

Education is a fundamental human right of every woman, man and child. However, millions are still deprived of educational opportunities every day, many as a result of social, cultural and economic factors.

UNESCO and the Right to Education Initiative (RTE) recently released the Right to education handbook, a key tool for those seeking to understand and advance that right. It is also an important reference for people working towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 by offering guidance on how to leverage legal commitment to the right to education. 

Why is this handbook important?

The aim of this handbook is to make sure that everyone enjoys their right to education. Its objective is not to present the right to education as an abstract, conceptual, or purely legal concept, but rather to be action-oriented. It provides practical guidance on how to implement and monitor the right to education along with recommendations to overcome persistent barriers. It seeks to do this by:

  • Increasing awareness and knowledge of the right to education. This includes the normative angle of the right to education, states’ legal obligations, the various sources of law, what states must do to implement it, how to monitor it, and how to increase accountability.
  • Providing a summary of current debates and issues regarding education and what human rights law says about them, including on forced migration, education in emergencies, the privatization of education, and the challenge of reaching the most marginalized.
  • Providing an overview of the UN landscape and its mechanisms, including a clear understanding of the role of UNESCO and more generally the United Nations, as well as all relevant actors in education, particularly civil society.  

Who should use this handbook?

The handbook was developed to assist all stakeholders who have a crucial role to play in the promotion and implementation of the right to education. This includes:

  • State officials, to ensure that education policies and practices are better aligned with human rights.
  • Civil servants, policy-makers, ministers, and the ministry of education staff, officials working in ministries and departments of justice, development, finance, and statistics, as well as National Human Rights Institutions.
  • Parliamentarians, their researchers and members of staff will find this handbook useful in evaluating and formulating education, human rights, and development legislation, and in implementing international human rights commitments to national law.
  • Judges, magistrates, clerks, and lawyers and other judicial officials can use the material to explain the legal obligations of the state and how to apply them.
  • Civil society including NGOs, development organizations, academics, researchers, teachers and journalists will benefit from this handbook as it includes guidance on how to incorporate the right to education in programmatic, research, and advocacy work.

Those who work for inter-governmental organizations, including at key UN agencies, will find this handbook useful in carrying out the mandate of their organizations. Private actors, multilateral and bilateral donors, and investors can use this handbook to ensure their involvement complies with human rights and that they understand and can apply their specific responsibilities.

How to use this handbook?

The handbook was designed to be accessible. Each chapter starts with the key questions addressed in the chapter and ends with a short summary consisting of key points and ‘ask yourself’ questions, designed to make the reader think deeper about issues raised in the chapter or to encourage people find out more about the situation in their own country.

For more than 70 years, UNESCO has been defending and advancing the right to education, which lies at the heart of its mandate. It recently ran a digital campaign on the #RightToEducation to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Energy News

IEA launches World Energy Outlook in China

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Mr Li Ye, Executive Director General of China’s National Energy Agency speaks at the launch of the World Energy Outlook in China (Photograph: IEA)

IEA Chief Modeller Laura Cozzi launched the latest World Energy Outlook in Beijing on 23 January. The China launch brought together over 120 officials and experts drawn from government, academia and the power industry to discuss the latest global energy trends, and the outlook for the electricity.

During his opening remarks, Li Ye, Executive Director General of China’s National Energy Agency noted the strong IEA-China relationship that has delivered key results across a range of important areas of reform for China including: power market reform, distributed energy, renewables and gas market design.

At the IEA Ministerial meeting in 2015, China became one of the first countries to activate Association status with the Agency. Since then the IEA and China have been working closely together to achieve energy reform in China. In 2017, the IEA and China agreed a Three Year Work programme to boost energy policy analysis, promote clean energy systems, build capacity on energy regulation, and improve exchange of data on renewable energy and other resources.  The launch in Beijing was organised by the China Electricity Power Planning and Engineering Institute, which hosts IEA’s China Liaison Office.

The IEA’s work with China includes collaboration to draw upon best international practice in carbon emissions trading, and power market reforms that enables renewable energy to make a greater contribution to electricity supply. Work is ongoing with Chinese counterparts as the new Five Year Plan, and longer-term plans, are put in place to accelerate China’s clean energy transition.  The IEA will launch its latest work on China’s Power System Reform in Beijing on 25 February.

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Environment

UNIDO to pilot Better Cotton Initiative in Egypt towards sustainable cotton production

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photo: UNIDO

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), under the framework of The Egyptian Cotton Project, launched the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) pilot in the country to support the Egyptian Cotton branding as part of a renewed drive to increase product sustainability, improve working conditions along the supply chain, and support cotton growers and relevant institutions in paving the way towards the pilot’s national upscaling.

“The project’s vision is to pilot the BCI standard system in Egypt to advance the cotton industry in a way that cares for the environment and the farmers growing it, through a multi-stakeholder programme jointly coordinated by UNIDO, relevant governmental entities, farmers’ cooperatives, cotton and textile associations, and local and international private sector stakeholders,” said The Egyptian Cotton Project’s spokesperson.

The BCI will  strengthen the competitiveness of the Egyptian textile industry in the global market through an holistic approach to sustainable cotton production which covers all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic. Farmers will receive trainings and those who meet rigorous levels of sustainable production and employee welfare will be granted the BCI standard.

Funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Egyptian Cotton project is implemented by UNIDO in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation as well as with local and international textile private sector stakeholders. It also leverages the “Cottonforlife” CSR initiative by Filmar Group.

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