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UN climate conference set to recognize the role of women in climate action

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With the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23), in Bonn, Germany, entering its final week of negotiations, the Fiji Presidency today announced an agreement on a Gender Action Plan, highlighting the role of women in climate action.

At a press conference, President of COP 23 and Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, announced that the Parties had finalized the plan, which still has to be adopted.

“This recognizes the role of women in climate action,” he said.

“It is about integration of gender into all the work around climate policy – both nationally and internationally,” added Nazhat Shameen Khan, the Chief Negotiator for the COP 23 Presidency.

Heads of State and Government, Ministers, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres will be attending the high-level segment of COP 23, on 15-16 November.

New national and corporate climate action on forests

Also Sunday, countries and corporations announced new initiatives to cut emissions from forest use and establish sustainable forestry management programmes.

The efforts include an Ecuadorean initiative to reduce 15 million tons of CO2 emissions in the forest sector; a commitment to deforestation-free commodities by Walmart; Mars Inc.’s new policy to reduce their carbon footprint 27 per cent by 2025 and 67 per cent by 2050 through addressing deforestation throughout their corporate value chain; and Gabon’s National Park Service efforts to combat illegal logging.

“The forests have this incredible ability to store carbon and we have underinvested in that,” said Inger Andersen, Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at a press conference.

“Protecting and restoring the forests is absolutely key to achieving the Paris Agreement [as well as] the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Hundreds of companies commit to climate action

Also today in Boon, the industry sector said that it is set to deliver much of the emissions reductions needed to achieve the Paris Agreement goal but added that closer national and international policy and implementation strategy partnerships together with governments will help business take further, faster action.

“Industry is taking action on climate change like no other period in history,” said Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD, a global, business leaders-led organization of over 200 leading businesses working on sustainable development).

“The transition to the low-carbon economy is inevitable, and business will continue to implement the solutions necessary for fulfilling the Paris Agreement,” he added.

Since 2015, over 600 companies with combined revenues of more than $15 trillion have made over 1,000 commitments to climate action through ‘We Mean Business,’ a global non-profit coalition. Many are going 100 percent renewable, are implementing science-based targets and are collaborating across sectors through the Low Carbon Technology Partnership initiative (LCTPi).

Local, regional leaders sign Commitment for faster climate action

Local and regional leaders from around the world signed the Bonn-Fiji Commitment Sunday, pledging action to deliver on the Paris Agreement.

Cities are responsible for as much as 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels used for energy and transport, and with more than half the global population living in urban centres and this figure expected to approach two-thirds by 2050, the Bonn-Fiji Commitment pushes efforts to advance sustainable urban development.

The Commitment encompasses 19 initiatives, including The European Covenant of Mayors and Compact of Mayors joining forces to create the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy – the largest coalition of over 7,400 cities from six continents and 121 countries to reduce emissions and make societies and economies resilient to climate change.

Similarly, the UN World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the UN Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) and in partnership with the Fijian Presidency launched an initiative to protect people living in small island developing States from the health impacts of climate change.

The vision is that, by 2030, all small island developing States will have health systems that are resilient to climate change.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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World Bank Supports Maldives to Improve Secondary Education

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a $9 million project to improve the performance of the education system, schools, and teaching and learning outcomes at the secondary education level in Maldives.

Maldives has achieved almost universal enrolment at early childhood, primary and lower secondary education levels, but low net enrolment and high gender disparity are the major challenges at the higher secondary level. Learning outcomes are moderate, with clear geographical disparities  among atolls, and between islands within atolls. The average scores for English, Mathematics and Dhivehi for Grade 4 and Grade 7 students ranged between 50 to 60 percent.

“The COVID 19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the Maldives’ general education system, forcing the extended closure of primary and secondary schools across the entire country,” said Faris. H. Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. “The project will broaden educational opportunities for the youth and advance the country’s equitable economic and human development.”

The new Maldives Atoll Education Development Project will support the Government in improving the quality of secondary education in subjects of strategic importance for economic development such as English language, mathematics, science, and skills education. Improved learning outcomes at secondary education level in these strategic subjects will help more students qualify for higher secondary education. Schools will be encouraged to adopt environment-friendly behaviors like saving energy and reducing waste. Support will be provided to atoll schools to expand their ICT equipment and technology while also improving the skills of teachers to address the needs of students with learning challenges. Skills of school principals, management officials, and teachers will also be improved through targeted programs.

“The Maldivian government is implementing a comprehensive curriculum reform initiative and is focusing on improving learning outcomes equitably across Atolls and islands,” said Harsha Aturupane World Bank Lead Economist and Task Team Leader. “Building on these positive steps, Maldives needs to strengthen the quality of general education with a special focus on teacher performance in the outer atolls, and the quality assurance of schools in the islands with small student populations” added Karthika Radhakrishnan-Nair, World Bank Education Specialist and Co-Task Team Leader of the project.

The Maldives Atoll Education Development Project will be implemented by the Ministry of Education. The total financing is $10 million, which is comprised of a $4.5 million grant and a $4.5 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessional credit window for developing countries, and a contribution of US$1 million of counterpart funds from the Government of Maldives.

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