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‘The clock is ticking’ on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals

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Pointing to climate change, inequalities and other serious challenges, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a forum on Thursday Development that “the clock is ticking” down, to making the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Climate change is ravaging the planet… staggering numbers of children and youth – especially girls and young women – still lack access to basic education and healthcare services, [and] people in many countries are starved of economic opportunities, decent work and social protection measures”, she told the  2019 ECOSOC Partnership Forum, where governments, business representatives and other influencers met to discuss how partnerships can best advance and the 17 (SDGs).

Under the theme, “Partnerships Driving Inclusive Implementation of the SDGs”, the Forum will capture key policy messages to inform the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in in September.

“Our task is immense, but many of the pathways to change are in plain sight”, she asserted, adding that while “success is still possible”, it requires difficult conversations around “the need to fill partnership skillset gaps, tackle financing shortfalls, and address data deficiencies”.

The economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development call for “a fully integrated approach” that engages everyone.

“Partnerships are critical for achieving progress across the full agenda” stressed Ms. Mohammed, calling SDG 17 on partnerships, “the ‘connective tissue’ which will ensure an integrated and holistic approach to sustainable development”.

The deputy UN chief shared four points for discussion, beginning with a commitment between the UN, governments, private sector and civil society to work together in a more coordinated and integrated way. 

“The transformation we need requires us to acknowledge that everyone is a development actor,” she argued. “Governments alone cannot achieve the SDGs”. 

Secondly, she pointed to the need to prioritize investments in platforms and coalitions that engage a larger ecosystem of partners. 

“Investments in cross-cutting, high-return priorities have strong potential to unlock progress across multiple SDGs”, she stated, flaggin a range of areas, from quality education and health services to zero-carbon energy and environmental conservation.

Ms. Mohammad’s third point focused on leadership, innovation and strategic collaborations “at the local level”. 

“We must draw on the knowledge and experience of local communities and actors on the ground to ensure that we replicate and scale up the most promising models”, she emphasized. 

Ensuring that the process to socialize the SDGs and strengthen ownership is “inclusive, transparent and accountable”, was her final point.

“All stakeholders, big or small should find a place to play their role and make their contribution”, she maintained. 

She urged everyone to “reflect honestly about where we are falling short, because those shortcomings are also where the opportunities lie to make a difference”. 

“Only with this kind of pragmatic approach will we realize our aspiration of leaving no one behind”, said Ms. Mohammed, with the reminder that promoting equitable access and equal participation by all, including the most marginalized, “is a fundamental ethic of the SDG era”. 

Turning to capacity-building for vulnerable groups, she encouraged the forum to apply “a lens of inclusion and empowerment” to ensure that they “are put in the driver’s seat for SDG implementation”. 

Recalling that young people, particularly women and entrepreneurs, are at the forefront of SDG progress, the Deputy Secretary-General concluded: “Let’s make sure we listen carefully to their vision and draw inspiration from their determination and commitment to creating a better world”.

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UN Environment and NASA reach agreement on new global learning initiative

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United Nations Environmental Programme have agreed to work together on the promotion and implementation of Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) and UN Environment’s activities. 

The GLOBE Programme is an international science and education programme that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment. 

Through this partnership, GLOBE and UN Environment will cooperate on environmental education and training, citizen science, and the collection and distribution of environmental data. 

GLOBE and UN Environment will also work together to increase awareness, and promote the use, of GLOBE data by the international science community by leveraging the UN Environment’s Global Resource Information Database Centres and publications, with the goal of encouraging participation of environmental researchers in GLOBE.

They will also share education and training resources for distribution to their networks and promote closer collaboration of UN Environment Regional Offices with GLOBE countries.  UN Environment, NASA, and GLOBE are excited about the opportunities this partnership will bring to the environmental community.

“The NASA Globe and UNEP partnership strengthens the sharing and interoperability of geospatial data, promoting the availability of rich information for learning and observations towards a better environment,” says Alexandre Caldas, UN Environment’s Chief of the Country Outreach, Technology and Innovation Branch in the Science Division.

“NASA is pleased to partner with UNEP to enhance environmental education and training and to open up new prospects for the collection and use of environmental data,” says Allison K. Leidner, the NASA GLOBE Program Manager.

“The opportunity to collaborate with a worldwide environmental organization is especially exciting at the cusp of the GLOBE Program’s 25th anniversary on Earth Day 2020,” she adds.

“It has a direct impact on youth and new generations, fundamental for data strategies and our common future. This leverages UNEP initiatives in terms of harnessing the power of big data on the environment for sustainable development, peace and security and humanitarian action.”

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World Economic Forum to Launch Tropical Forest Alliance in China

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The World Economic Forum today announced that it will launch a branch of the Tropical Forest Alliance in China. The Alliance is an initiative led by the Forum that aims to remove deforestation from commodity supply chains

At its Annual Meeting of the New Champions, the Forum also kicked off its latest collaboration with China’s Ministry of Ecology and the Environment (MEE) in support of the 2020 Biodiversity Conference of Parties (COP) in Kunming, China, with a high-level gathering of governments and businesses to start lifting the ambition for the COP and driving business and broader societal action. The event is part of a wide-ranging memorandum of understanding that was signed at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos between the Forum and the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, a high-level advisory body to the Chinese government administered by the MEE.

“The Tropical Forest Alliance is a neutral global public-private platform that brings together more than 150 consumer goods companies, governments, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples, and other environmental actors who seek to reduce tropical deforestation linked to commodity supply chains. China could potentially reduce its environmental footprint of commodity sourcing by 55% versus a BAU scenario in 2025.

“We are thrilled to support Chinese companies and the government to strengthen President Xi Jinping’s vision of ecological civilization within global soft-commodity supply chains,” said Justin Adams, Executive Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance.

The Annual Meeting of the New Champions saw progress in a number of other areas related to global public goods. With biodiversity loss now occurring at mass-extinction rates – the population of vertebrate species declined by an estimated 58% between 1970 and 2012 – a diverse group of influential international organizations including the World Economic Forum has announced a global coalition to elevate the business call for comprehensive action to reverse nature loss and restore the planet’s vital natural systems. Business for Nature was launched today at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions.

The Forum will continue to support Chinese companies and the government in the run-up to the COP after finalizing a work plan with the MEE. The aim is to raise ambition levels for the COP across business and society. Starting with a gathering of high-level leaders this week at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, activities will ramp up ahead of the event with the formation of an alliance of supporting businesses, as well as the publication by the Forum and partners of a landmark report on The

New Nature Economy. This report will identify a commercial imperative – to complement the environmental and societal need – to conserve our natural world.

In separate moves, the Annual Meeting of the New Champions saw the first advisory meeting to provide strategic direction to the 28 financial institutions that have signed up to a set of Green Investment Principles. The principles, drafted by a coalition including the Forum, the Green Finance Committee of China, the Society for Finance and Banking and the Green Finance Initiative of the City of London, aim to serve as a voluntary standard for investment into the Belt and Road Initiative.

To further support the sustainability measures of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Forum also joined theGreen Belt and Road Coalition. The move will the see the Forum working with MEE on a number of thematic partnerships: Environmental Information Sharing and Big Data; Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management; Green Finance and Investment; and Green Technology Innovation.

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Azerbaijan presents National Forestry Programme for 2020-2030

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Azerbaijan is strengthening its forest sector with a new ten-year national forestry programme, developed with UNECE support. Strong emphasis is put on increasing forest cover while conserving and improving the country’s forest resources.

The sustainable development of forests is among the main priorities of the government of Azerbaijan. In May 2019, Azerbaijan joined the international Bonn Challenge on forest landscape restoration and committed to restore 170,000 ha of forests by 2030 and an additional 100,000 ha if further funding can be mobilized. This commitment increases the visibility for the country’s efforts to improve and sustainably manage their forests, which is also a main target in the country’s new forestry programme.

The new National Forestry Programme and its Action Plan for the period 2020 to 2030 were finalized and presented at a meeting on 14 June 2019, in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was organized by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan together with the joint UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section and the FAO Partnership and Liaison Office in Azerbaijan.

The National Forestry Programme was drafted within the framework of a project on the revision of the national forestry programme and the modernization of the forest management system which was supported by UNECE and jointly implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan. The National Forestry Programme provides a sound legal basis for forest management and ensures the development of institutional capacities. It will now be put forward through the national process for official adoption.

The presentation of the newly developed forestry programme was attended by the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, the Chairman of the Azerbaijan Food Safety Agency, the Head of the FAO Partnership and Liaison Office in Azerbaijan, the Deputy Chief of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section and the international forestry specialist from the FAO sub-regional office in Turkey.

Another outcome of the meeting was a Memorandum of Understanding between the State Agrarian University and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources to improve the education and ensure technical training for young forestry personnel in Azerbaijan.

60 participants from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the State Committee on Property Issues, the State Statistics Committee, the Azerbaijan Amelioration and Water Farm OJS, the Food Safety Agency, IDEA, institutions and international organizations attended the meeting. 

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