Friday, 15 July 2011

UN welcomes South Sudan as 193rd Member State

The UN General Assembly admitted on 14 July 2011 the Republic of South Sudan as the 193rd member of the United Nations, welcoming the newly independent country to the community of nations.

To read more:
UN welcomes South Sudan as 193rd member
UN multimedia South Sudan flag raised at United Nations
Blog post on independence celebration of South Sudan

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

18 July 2011 - Nelson Mandela International Day

The idea behind the celebration of the Mandela Day is a call to action for individuals – for people everywhere – to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place, one small step at a time, just as Mr Mandela did within his 67 years of public service.
In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly recognized in its resolution A/RES/64/13 Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. The resolution acknowledged his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world. Mandela history is also a great example for all politicians around the world. Demonstrations in the middle east and the financial crisis proof that people interests are still unheard and that statesmen must be recalled to their main responsibilities to work for the benefit of the collectivity and for the public interest.

More info:

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

According to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono an International partnership among wood producers and importers is essential to face illegal logging

President of Indonesia
 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
In an article published on the Jawa Pos National Network, the President of Indonesia - Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that deforestation in the country is still quite large. Each year 0.7 million hectares of forest are destroyed, against the forest growth at 0.5 million hectares rate. The destruction of Indonesian forests, is still rampant for the deforestation without permission and illegal logging. Apart, from the intensification of control inside the country, what it is really needed is a shared commitment among nations to combat illegal logging more effectively. Mr. Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Forestry, said that Indonesia has pioneered a certified legal timber trade.
Forest Police
"We have a signature with EU commissioner, in cooperation with the United States and other countries. Police is fighting iIllegal logging with extraordinary efforts, but also the countries that receive forest products without a clear documentation and certification of origin should refuse to accept logs.

More info:

Monday, 11 July 2011

2010-2020 United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against desertification - Climate change, population growth and the intensive use of fertile soils put Egypt among the countries at risk

The United Nations launched the Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification almost one year ago on 16 August 2010. Between January 2010 and December 2020 A number of projects and actions will be launched to promote the protection of world's drylands and avoid the further deterioration and degradation of these territories into deserts.

Only about 3 percent of Egypt's land area is cultivated but desertification, and construction work fuelled by economic activity and a rapidly growing population, are eating into this resource, posing a significant threat to domestic food production, according to experts. A rapidly increasing population - expected to reach 123 million in 2029, from 85 million at present - will make it harder for Egypt to meet its food needs.

Fertile soil in green
"Desertification is the real danger everybody should pay attention to," Abdel Rahman Attia, a professor of agriculture at Cairo University, told IRIN.

Egypt loses an estimated 11,736 hectares of agricultural land every year and also rising sea levels  pose a threat to agricultural land, causing intrusion of seawater into groundwater, and reducing agricultural productivity.
The country imports more than 60 percent of its food, and about 768,903 hectares of agricultural land in the north Delta region has been lost to rising ground water, poor drainage practices and encroaching sand dunes over the decades, he added.
Thousands of acres of agricultural land have also been lost to construction. According to Ismail Abdel Galil, the former chairman of Egypt's Desert Research Centre, said studies showed that just over a hectare of fertile land in the Nile Valley is lost every hour because of construction on agricultural land.

Egypt signed the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in 1994, subsequently banning the use of top soil as a raw material for red bricks, taking measures to restrict urban development on arable land, and regulating irrigation systems. But despite this, the combination of dwindling farmland and
Increasing desertification has also affected water availability. Egypt's 55.5 billion cubic metre share of Nile water is already insufficient to satisfy the country's growing needs.

Agriculture is responsible for 85 percent of water consumption in Egypt, according to the country's state of the environment report. Egypt's water problems are expected to get worse as upstream countries like Ethiopia and Uganda, which also have rapidly growing populations, push for a greater share of the water to satisfy their own needs.

More info:
Irin News
Potential rise of seawater in the Nile Delta

Thursday, 7 July 2011

On 9 July 2011 the Republic of South Sudan will celebrate its birth and admission to the United Nations

Almost 5 months are passed from the Statement by Mr. Haile Menkerios, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan to the Security Council, who talked about the success of the Southern Sudan Self-Determination Referendum. The 5 days polling which started on 9 January 2011 and concluded on 15 January saw the wide participation of the local population which voted for the independence of the country.
The international community wishes that the birth of the Republic of Southern Sudan will bring stability and peace in the region despite the recent clashes at the border, the displaced Southerners in Sudan and the unsolved situation in the district of Abyei. Key negotiations with the North still remain - most importantly over oil.

Flag hoisting rehearsals for the independence
 ceremony of next 9 July 2011 - Photo:Paul Banks.

"Both parties have clearly demonstrated that from now on, no unilateral action, no provocation could bring them back to war, and their remaining disputes shall be resolved through dialogue," said Haile Menkerios, the UN Secretary-General's special representative, in a speech on 7 July.

More information:
UNMIS - United Nations Mission in the Sudan
Rehearsals for South Sudan Independence Ceremony
As South Sudan’s independence nears, UN gets ready for next phase of its role

The 5th South African AIDS Conference summarized the important results made in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country

The 5th South African AIDS Conference, held from 7-10 June, 2011 in Durban, showcased the recent remarkable achievements of the country’s HIV/AIDS response. The conference was less concerned with groundbreaking clinical research, and more with the work of improving the care and health of the country’s millions living with and at risk of HIV.

South Africa’s accomplishments

1) Just under 12 million South Africans got tested in the last year for HIV — almost a quarter of population in less than a year.

2) The cost of antiretroviral therapy for the country has been cut in half in the last six months.

The conference chair Professor Francois Venter credited this to the Department of Treasury and some hard bargaining by the Department of Health. “Bringing down the cost of antiretrovirals just in the last six months by more than half is no small achievement. It has meant that treating HIV is getting to the stage where it’s one of the cheapest chronic diseases to treat, in the South African system,” he said.

3) South Africa’s own public expenditure on HIV and AIDS has increased by 40% per annum. “In the current financial year we have allocated US$1 billion to HIV and AIDS programmes,” the Deputy President said in an address to the UN.

4) The number of South African facilities providing ART is now about 1668.

5) 1.4 million South Africans are now on ART, 400,000 of whom started treatment in the last year. “That’s 1.4 million people who are alive and well on antiretrovirals who would be either dead or sick. Four hundred thousand people who would be dead in a year or two. Their families would be burying them,” said Prof. Venter. “There are not many things in medicine that save this number of people. And we have to thank a Department of Health, a donor, an NGO, an activist nation who have got together and have collectively made this happen.”

Coat of Arms of  South Africa
As would later be reported at the conference, this number includes around 100,000 children initiated on ART, which appears to be associated with a drop or at least a stabilisation in the national under-five child mortality.

“I really do think that is something to be proud of as a country. Coming from a situation where we weren’t doing particularly well or benchmarking ourselves against countries like Botswana and Namibia, we are starting to step up and show the leadership that is required. It’s going to require a lot more. We need to almost double that number by the end of 2012. It’s going to require a lot of effort on the part of all of us to actually get there,” said Prof. Venter.

6) Reduction in mortality: ART appears to have had a clear impact on survival. Several years back, before such rapid scale-up of ART was considered possible, modelling by the Actuarial Society of SA had predicted that, in 2010, there would be 388,000 deaths due to the HIV epidemic, up from 257,000 at last count in 2005. However, the number of AIDS-related deaths has clearly dropping over the last couple years. Last year, it is estimated to have dropped to around 194,000, about 60,000 less than in 2005 and half the number projected. This sharp decline is attributable to the ART programme, according to Professor Yunus Moosa, of the University of KwaZulu Natal.

7) TB is finally receiving more attention: “TB has been the orphan of the health world for decades. It hasn’t been given the resources it deserves but for the first time, it’s being regarded as the emergency that it actually is. For the first time, we’re seeing new drugs, new diagnostics. We need to now start making sure that our healthcare system is one that can tackle TB,” said Prof. Venter.

Two separate symposia focused on advances in TB diagnostics, in particular the roll-out of Gene Xpert for more rapid TB diagnosis, while another symposium focused on the government’s efforts to scale up TB infection control in health facilities. Other presentations would describe the decentralisation of multidrug-resistant TB care in KZN, and the development of tools, training and support to improve the implementation of basic TB infection control measures by clinic staff.

8) Strengthened prevention: “We are making continuous efforts to strengthen our prevention strategies,” said the Deputy President in his taped address, noting that more than 50,000 men have undergone medical male circumcision nationally, along with an increase in the numbers of both male and female condoms being distributed nationally.

Another highlight of the meeting was the performance of the programme to prevent parent-to-child HIV transmission (PPTCT), which has reduced the rate of transmission to 3.5% at around 6 weeks of age — a profound improvement compared to reports a few years ago.

More Info:
South Africa - Partnership Against HIV and AIDS
South African National AIDS Council
Africa Centre contributions to the conference

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

New resources to develop transport infrastructures in Burundi have been secured by the African Development Bank

The African Development Bank has just approved a $67 million grant for the second phase of a road development project in Burundi.
The second phase of the project includes the construction of the Gitega-Nyangungu portion of the Gitega-Nyangungu-Ngozi corridor in the African country. It covers the development and asphalting of the road portion as well as the rehabilitation of some 22 kilometers of rural roads and construction of the pedestrian bridges in the area.
In September 2010, AfDB provided a $36 million loan for the first phase of the road development project, which covered the rehabilitation of the highway between Nyangungu and Ngozi in northern Burundi.
Burundi needs $5.8 billion for infrastructure such as telecommunications, electricity and transport projects over the next two decades, a study by the government and African Development Bank (AfDB) showed on Friday. In order to recover from years of civil war in the mid-1990s that halted development and impoverished the population, Burundi needs to develop its  transport infrastructure.

Map of Burundi
Right now:
  • Only 2 % Burundians have electricity, compared with an average 16 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 
  • Only 3% of the population has access to a landline or mobile phone, and 90 percent of them are in urban centres, the report said.
  • Transporting a tonne of fertiliser from the Kenyan port of Mombasa port to Burundi costs $100 more than the regional rate, (namely $230) 
Low levels of infrastructure also translate into much higher costs, with service costs running at two or three times that of 0ther countries. Objectives are ambitious...By improving key connections of the country with its  neighbours and the rest of the continent:

By 2020, the 25% of population will access electricity

Burundi would reach annual GDP growth of 6-7% .

More info on the AfDB Report:
An infrastructure action plan for Burundi. Accelerating regional integration

Monday, 4 July 2011

11 july 2011 - World Population Day

Later this year, the world’s population will reach 7 billion. We are each an equal part of this coming milestone. Every one of us has a unique role and an inherent calling to help one another and to make the world a better place. Every organization has a responsibility to help solve the problems larger than any one person can tackle alone.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
UNFPA has identified seven Key Messages in The World for the 7 Billion campaign:

1. Reducing poverty and inequality also slows population growth.
2. Unleashing the power of women and girls will accelerate progress.
3. The largest population of young people is changing our world and future.
4. Ensuring that every child is wanted and every childbirth safe leads to smaller and stronger families.
5. All seven billion of us, and those who follow, depend on the health of our planet.
6. Lower fertility and longer lives add up to an unprecedented challenge: ageing populations.
7. The next two billion people will live in cities, so we need to plan now.

More info:

The Brazilian Paradox. In 2011 the year celebrating forests, the National Congress of Brazil is discussing a modification of the Forest Code that will put in danger the Amazon rainforest

Few days ago, the Brazilian José Graziano da Silva (left photo) has been elected new Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Mr. Graziano played an important role in setting up the successful Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program in Brazil. This program which supported small holder farmers and recognized women’s rights to resources and access to land have produced impressive results. The Brazilian presidential advisory body on food security and nutrition has shown that effective institutions, with the participation of civil society, can help deliver food security. A number of donors in the international community wish that these successful policies to be replicated at the global level. However, I think that another pressing issue will request his intervention.

National Congress - Brasilia
The Brazilian House of Deputies’ decision on May 24 to loosen environmental protections contained in the Forest Code invited plenty of international criticism. Brazil’s Forest Code, established in 1965, requires private landowners to keep 80 percent of protected areas forested, among other provisions.The main force pushing the reforms is Aldo Rebelo, head of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCDoB). His rationale is that the current code works against small-scale farmers. Among the reforms, restrictions on clearing forests along rivers and on the tops of hills will be eased. There will also be an amnesty for small-scale landowners who illegally chopped down trees prior to July 2008. Environmentalists view the proposal as a step backwards in the country’s fight to protect the Amazon rainforest. It would be extremely important if the new elected Director General could play his part in pressing the National Senate to repel the amendments of the Code voted by the House of Deputies.

Sure, farmers can exploit more of their land if they clear hilltops and riverbanks. But what happens if strong rains come? How are the chances increased that water will pour down the newly naked slopes and wash soil away? If drought comes to the Amazon again, as some climate forecasts suggest it will in ever stronger form, how will the removal of riverbank protection exacerbate water shortages that will affect everyone - farmers included?

More info:
Código Florestal - 2ª Edição (Portuguese)
Brazil's Proposed Reform of Forest Code Sparks Environmentalist Outcry