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UN push for prompt release of Saudi women human rights defenders

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A ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia may have officially ended at the weekend, but on Wednesday, nine United Nations experts called for the immediate release of a number of women’s rights defenders who were imprisoned following a government crackdown which began in mid-May.

“In stark contrast with this celebrated moment of liberation for Saudi women, women’s human rights defenders have been arrested and detained on a wide scale across the country, which is truly worrying and perhaps a better indication of the Government’s approach to women’s human rights,” said UN Human Rights experts in a joint statement.

“We call for the urgent release of all of those detained while pursuing their legitimate activities in the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia,” added the Special Rapporteurs and experts.

The crackdown began on 15 May with a spate of prominent women’s rights defenders’ arrests. Over the following three weeks, some 12 other human rights defenders, including both women and men, were also arrested.

The majority of detainees were advocating for lifting the driving ban and for improvements in women’s rights within Saudi Arabia. Many of those detained face extremely serious charges, such as 20 years in prison, according to reports.

Although charges have not been confirmed, the experts’ statement said that some of those imprisoned have been reportedly accused of undermining national security, and of acting against religious and national foundations inside Saudi Arabia.

“Women human rights defenders face compounded stigma, not only because of their work,” added the statement, “but also because of discrimination on gender grounds.”

While noting that Saudi Arabia has won acclaim for its recent programme of modernization under Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the experts said that “these arrests portray a contradictory stance in policy regarding women’s rights.”

“We reiterate our long-time concern over others detained in Saudi Arabia on the basis of their activism and the exercise of their right to freedom of expression as well as their right to freedom of association,” the experts stated, urging the Government to improve its human rights record, “especially with regards to women’s rights.”

“The first step in demonstrating such commitment is to free the human rights defenders who remain in prison solely as a result of working to advance the enjoyment of rights for all,” the experts concluded.

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Waste-to-energy and circular economy workshops to be held in Uruguay

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photo: UNIDO

The Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Technology Executive Committee (TEC), and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) are organizing two workshops during the Latin America & Caribbean Climate Week (LACCW), which will take place between 20 and 23 August in Montevideo. The sessions, titled: “Enabling circular economy solutions to boost climate action” and “Enabling waste-to-energy, industrial waste reuse and prevention solutions to achieve circular economy and boost climate action”, will be held as part of the Regional Technical Expert Meetings on Mitigation (TEMs-M) and the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action.

The first workshop will present the concept of “circular economy”, an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use and dispose), which is restorative and regenerative by design and redefines products and services to design waste out, being ultimately powered by renewables. The second workshop will then discuss how waste-to-energy, industrial waste reuse and prevention solutions are integral parts to achieving a circular economy and its associated economic and environmental benefits.

The events will bring together members from the civil society, UN agencies and financial institutions. The high-impact case studies presented will serve as a basis for discussion on the vision/goal in terms of harnessing mitigation potential and co-benefits of circular economy related policies, practices and actions as well as on innovative approaches to waste-to-energy and waste reuse/prevention that are actionable in the short term for the region. Participants will learn the necessary elements for replication and upscaling of circular economy and specifically waste-to-energy solutions, such as policy, partnerships and the need of financial, technical and capacity building resources.

Manuel Albaladejo, UNIDO Representative in Uruguay, said, “It is important to understand that the circular economy starts at the design stage and that profitability rarely comes by bending a linear model into a circular one.”

With the Latin America Carbon Forum as a cornerstone event, the focus of Latin America & Caribbean Climate Week (LACCW) will be placed on market-based approaches, economic instruments and climate-aligned finance to drive investment in climate action.

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Multilateralism: The only path to address the world’s troubles

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Secretary-General António Guterres (center) meets with Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Photo: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce

As the world’s problems grow, multilateralism represents to best path to meet the challenges that lie ahead, said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday, launching his annual report.

The Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization  for 2018, also tracks the progress made over the last year in maintaining peace and security, protecting human rights, and promoting sustainable development.

“I started my tenure calling for 2017 to be a year of peace, yet peace remains elusive,” said the UN chief in the report’s introduction, noting that since January last year “conflicts have deepened, with grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law; inequality has risen, intolerance has spread, discrimination against women remains entrenched and the impacts of climate change continue to accelerate.”

“We need unity and courage in setting the world on track towards a better future,” stressed Mr. Guterres, crediting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for generating coordinated efforts by Member States and civil society to “alleviate poverty and build peaceful, prosperous and inclusive societies.”

Wide-ranging reform

The most comprehensive reform of the UN development system in decades already underway, led by Mr. Guterres and his deputy, Amina Mohammed, aims to strengthen the Organization’s capacity to support Member States in achieving the 17 SDGs.

While the report points to gains, such as increased labour productivity, access to electricity and strengthened internet governance, it also illustrates that progress has been uneven and too slow to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals within the given time frame.

For example, in 2015, three out of 10 people did not have access to safe drinking water, and  60 per cent lacked safe sanitation. Moreover conflicts, disasters and climate change are also adversely affecting populations.

The report underlines the importance of building stronger multilateral partnerships with Member States; regional and international organizations; and civil society; to “find solutions to global problems that no nation alone can resolve.”

Although the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development of 2018 reflected some positive initiatives, it also showed the urgent need to step up efforts in areas such as energy cooperation, water and terrestrial ecosystems.

According to the report, “partnerships are key to achieving the SDGs” – and as of June, 3,834 partnerships had been registered with the Partnerships for the SDGs online platform from different sectors across all the 17 goals.

With regard to technology, last October a joint meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Second Committee welcomed Sophia, the first robot to sit on a UN panel. This gave a glimpse into the advances being made in the realm of Artificial Intelligence.

Turning to young people, UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake, of Sri Lanka, is continuously advocating for their needs and rights, including in decision-making processes at all levels, and in strengthening the UN system’s coordination on delivering for youth, and with their increased participation.

The UN report also spoke to the growing scale, complexity and impact of global migration. In July, the General Assembly agreed a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which will be presented for adoption in December at an Intergovernmental Conference in Morocco.

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Youth Calls for Action to Build the Workforce of the Future

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Special Senior Advisor to the ADB President Mr. Ayumi Konishi (4th from right) on behalf of ADB signs the Incheon Youth Declaration on The Future of Work at the 6th Asian Youth Forum. Photo: ADB

Over 400 youth representatives from Asia and the Pacific launched the Incheon Youth Declaration on the Future of Work, which calls upon the international community to invest in more inclusive, large-scale, and market-relevant solutions for youth employment and entrepreneurship.

The declaration, launched during the 6th Asian Youth Forum (AYF6) and coinciding with the celebration of the International Youth Day on 12 August, reflects the shared vision, commitments, and calls to action of the youth to inform future policy strategies and project initiatives to promote decent work. AYF6, with the theme “Building the workforce of the future,” was organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Incheon Metropolitan City, Incheon Tourism Organization, Plan International, and AIESEC.

“We at ADB commit to continue investing in youth through our operations, including through our work in education, and in many other sectors we are supporting. We appreciate that the declaration today covers various issues including partnerships, entrepreneurship, as well as environment,” said Special Senior Advisor to the ADB President Mr. Ayumi Konishi, who also emphasized that the declaration will help guide ADB in advancing efforts to invest in education and empowering youth as key development partners in the region.

“Incheon will further boost its efforts to support youth employment and startups through various policies, such as the establishment of youth policy organization, cluster for startup incubators, funds, and forum for startups,” said Vice Mayor of Incheon Metropolitan City Mr. Jong Sik Heo. Acting President of the Incheon Tourism Organization Mr. Yong Sik Lee also attended the event.

The declaration highlights several key issues affecting youth employment and the future of work and what several stakeholders including governments, private sector, civil society, multilateral institutions, academe, and the youth themselves can do to address them. These issues include ensuring decent work and inclusion; transitioning from education and training to work; fostering youth entrepreneurship; and preparing for jobs of the future.

Youth delegates from 20 developing member countries of ADB have expressed their commitment in carrying out the efforts outlined in the declaration. Ms. Priscilla Caluag, a delegate from the Philippines, shared that the Asian Youth Forum has given her and other young people from the region a unique opportunity to act in ways beyond their own personal interests but ultimately for the betterment of society.

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