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Gandhi’s dedication to non-violence still remains example for all – UN chief

INTERNATIONAL – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for a renewal of the commitment to non-violence and lives of dignity for all, noting that the example set by Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi is relevant now as it has ever been.

“Today, at a time of escalating conflicts, rising extremism, massive displacement and rapidly growing humanitarian need, Mahatma Gandhi’s dedication to non-violence remains an example for us all,” Mr. Ban said at a special event held at UN Headquarters to mark the International Day of Non-Violence.

“The Day is observed annually on 2 October, the birthday of Mr. Gandhi, who pioneered the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.

"Gandhi proved that non-violence – the principle and the practice – can change history,” Mr. Ban noted. “His mass campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience helped pave the way for the independence of India, and have inspired countless movements for change across the world.”

“During an official visit to India in January, the UN chief visited Sabarmati Ashram, which houses a library and museum chronicling Gandhi’s life, work and teachings. “We will succeed only if the memory of Gandhi's unyielding fight against injustice burns bright in our hearts and we defend his ideals every day of the year,” he had said on the occasion.

“In a separate message for the International Day, the Secretary-General added: “Gandhi showed the power of peacefully opposing oppression and hatred. He showed how cooperation and tolerance can prevails over injustice. He demonstrated the great value of the rule of law in breaking vicious cycles of vengeance.”

“The General Assembly established the commemoration of the Day in June 2007 as an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness.”

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UN envoy condemns deadly shooting attack in West Bank

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has condemned a shooting attack that took place on Thursday on an Israeli civilian vehicle in the West Bank which resulted in the death of two people and injuries to their four children.

“There is nothing heroic about the killing of civilians. The perpetrators of this violent act must be brought to justice,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement issued in Jerusalem.

“In order to avoid escalation all must refrain from inflammatory statements and retaliatory action that can only further exacerbate an already tense environment.”

Recent weeks have witnessed increasing tensions both in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, prompting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urge Israelis and Palestinians to defuse tensions and prevent any escalation of the current situation on the ground.

Mr. Mladenov noted that today’s tragic incident again highlights “the need for significant steps to help stabilize the situation, reverse the current negative trends and restore hope that a just and lasting negotiated two-State solution is possible.”

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Island States threatened by rising seas call at UN for urgent action on climate change

INTERNATIONAL – Islands States from the Pacific and Caribbean took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday to call for urgent action on climate change, with one leader warning that their people and culture face “potential genocide” from rising seas.

“I speak as an islander who has walked the shores of many atoll islands, where there was once sandy beaches and coconut trees. Now there are none. I am told this will continue,” President Peter Christian of Micronesia told the Assembly on the fourth day of its 70th annual General Debate.

“While we wait in fear for the predicted and inevitable sea level to rise, other effects of global warming, like stronger ocean currents and more frequent typhoons, continue to wash away shorelines and topple tress, not waiting around for the sea to rise above the land.”

Mr. Christian voiced hope that the international climate change conference in Paris in December would resolve the disagreements over allowable emissions of greenhouse gases by industrial nations.

“We must become more cohesive in our actions to bring a useful conclusion to help mitigate the threat of sinking islands and prevent the potential genocide of Oceanic peoples and cultures,” he declared.

Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogovare said the issue was existential. “It impacts on everyone, but the poorest and marginalized populations often bear the greatest burden. It is imperative that the Paris Conference delivers an ambitious, comprehensive and robust climate change Agreement that is inclusive and leaves no one behind,” he added.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

He noted that Solomon Islands tourism, fisheries and the livelihood of 85 per cent of its people are at risk from ocean acidification. Sea level rise already has seen land inundation, loss of biodiversity, threat to food security and the resulting relocation of populations from low lying islands to other parts of the country.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne of the Caribbean State of Antigua and Barbuda chided the industrial world for its long-standing emission of globe warming gases for which the less developed islands are now paying the price.

“The sadness is that these disasters are not occurring in these islands through their own fault,” he said. “They are happening because of the excesses of larger and more powerful countries, who will not bend from their abuse of the world's atmosphere, even at the risk of eliminating other societies, some older than their own,” he said.

“All industrialized nations should accept their responsibilities as the chief contributors in emitting high levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” he declared.

Prime Minister Gaston Alphonso Browne of Antigua and Barbuda addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Mr. Browne also condemned the recent listing in the United States and Europe of many Caribbean and Pacific Island States as “tax havens” and warned that “such wrongful tarnishing” could lead to US and European financial institutions cutting relations with their banks.

“If that happens, no one in our small States will be able to pay for any goods or services purchased from the United States and Europe, including food, tuition for our young studying abroad and medication and medical bills for our people in need of specialist treatment,” he explained.

“The consequences would be disastrous, since we would be excluded from the international payment system and would be unable to settle our trade and investment transactions. Our banking system would collapse, our economy would be irreparably damaged and our people would be plunged into abject poverty.”

The need for a binding agreement at the Paris climate change conference was echoed by Bahamas Foreign Minister Frederick A. Mitchell who urged all countries to work toward its success.

Foreign Minister Frederick A. Mitchell of the Bahamas addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

“Even as we speak, The Bahamas is under the threat of flooding and a hurricane,” he said. “This reinforces the existential threat of climate change to our country.”

For his part Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato of Papua New Guineacalled on the UN Security Council to deal decisively with the implications of climate change.

Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato of Papua New Guinea addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

“Climate change poses imminent dangers with wide ranging implications, including threats not only to human security, survival and development, but also to the entire global ecosystem,” he said.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

‘The time for excuses is over,’ small island leaders tell UN, urging global action on climate change.

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Pacific islands play vital role in advancing action on climate change, Ban tells leaders

INTERNATIONAL – Located on the frontlines of climate change, Pacific island nations have a crucial role to play in efforts to advance a sustainable future, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the region’s leaders as they met on Thursday at United Nations Headquarters.

“You speak for the most vulnerable. That is why I am counting on you to raise your voices to build political momentum to resolve outstanding issues,” Mr. Ban told the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum.

“The PIF is crucial to realizing our global vision for a sustainable future.”

Mr. Ban noted that this year Member States have agreed on key global policies – on disaster risk reduction, on financing for development, and most recently on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which collectively aim to ensure the long-term well-being of the planet and its people.

“All of these will boost our work on the SAMOA Pathway for small island developing States,” he said, referring to the outcome of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), held in the Samoan capital of Apia in September 2014.

In its 124 points, the SAMOA [SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action] Pathway includes actions for categories ranging from “sustained and sustainable, inclusive and equitable economic growth with decent work for all” to “climate change” and “health and non-communicable diseases.”

Noting the need for action on climate change, which has a severe impact on the Pacific region, the Secretary-General said he will continue to call on major economies to raise their level of ambition. “And I will press for priority attention to the needs of small island developing States and least developed countries,” he added.

Mr. Ban recalled his visit to Samoa last year during which he visited Lepa to witness the damage from the 2009 tsunami.

“It was a powerful reminder of how badly small islands are hit by extreme weather events. And it was a sober lesson on how urgently we need to invest in climate change adaptation and mitigation.”

At the meeting, the UN chief also noted the progress made across the Pacific regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“But we still have to help women who are threatened by violence. We have to do more to involve women in politics. And we have to make women’s rights a reality everywhere.”

The Forum, whose secretariat is based in Suva, Fiji, is a political grouping of 16 independent and self-governing States.

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Ban urges international support to prevent relapse of ‘horrific’ Central African Republic violence

INTERNATIONAL – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday underscored the need for concerted action to prevent a relapse of the “horrific” violence that tore the Central African Republic (CAR) apart, while appealing for support from the country’s partners to promote long-term peace and development.

The country has recently witnessed an upsurge in violence in the capital, Bangui, that has left more than 30 people dead and over 100 wounded and forced thousands to flee their homes in search of safety, following the murder of a young Muslim man last week.

“As developments over the last days have demonstrated, the importance of international support, and the need to bridge religious and communal divisions and find common ground, has never been more critical,” Mr. Ban said at a high-level meeting on CAR, held on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual debate.

“Major challenges remain, beyond the immediate security concerns. Rebuilding, reconciling and reforming a country that has been exposed to years of violent crises takes time. And the humanitarian needs remain significant,” he noted.

Mr. Ban called on all parties to end the fighting and lay down their arms, stating that it is clear that the latest violence in Bangui is designed to destabilise the country and jeopardise the transition process.

“We cannot allow forces to undermine achievements over the past year and deny the aspirations of the vast majority of Central Africans for peace and a better life,” he stressed.

“All those who perpetrate or instigate crimes – including human rights violations – or incite violence must be held accountable. We must work together to ensure against a relapse of the horrific violence that tore the country apart. The United Nations will continue to provide steadfast support.”

He recalled the way the international community came together two years ago and showed its commitment to end violence, protect civilians and find a sustainable solution.

“One year ago, we encouraged broad-based dialogue, supported by regional and international partners. Local consultations culminated in the Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation.

Central Africans agreed on the need for security sector reform, justice for those responsible for serious crimes, and the rebuilding of their State for social and economic recovery.”

He cited progress on the political front, particularly the ongoing preparations for the elections later this year.

“Today, we are here to express our firm support to a peaceful end of the Transition but also look beyond, and focus on priority actions identified during the Bangui Forum that can be achieved within 18 months or less,” he stated. “At the same time, we are mindful of the most pressing priority to fill the funding gap in support of the election process.”

While thanking those that have already contributed, the Secretary-General noted that many programmes remain underfunded. “Without the resources to help address security and stabilization needs and ensure human rights for all, the country risks sliding back into protracted conflict and suffering,” he warned.

“More than anything, Central Africans urgently need concrete reassurance that peace and stability in their country remain high on the international community’s agenda.

“Today, I am calling on you to mobilize the necessary support for the speedy implementation of the outcomes of the Bangui Forum, the successful conclusion of the Transition, and the building blocks for long-term peace and development that the people of the Central African Republic demand and deserve.”

President of the Transition Catherine Samba-Panza, who was in New York this week to address the General Assembly but was forced to return to Bangui amid the latest developments, addressed the meeting via video teleconference.

She said that recent tragic events highlighted the numerous challenges that exist in the country, which is months away from the end of the transition period. The challenges basically have to do with implementing the recommendations of the Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation; the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme; and security sector reform.

The Government estimates that the three priorities of disarming and demobilizing ex-combatants; promoting justice and reconciliation; and good governance and economic development, will cost $202 million over the next 18 months. Around $85 million remain unfunded.

“The will of the Transitional Government is to give the new authorities that will emerge from the elections a country that can be governed and which is endowed with the necessary tools,” she stated. “The new government must be operational in the security area. This must be its top priority.”

Stating that “your duty is to stand by us,” Ms. Samba-Panza called for concrete commitments from the country’s partners and donors “to help the people of the Central African Republic get out of the spiral of conflict and suffering that they have been victims of.”

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‘The time for excuses is over,’ small island leaders tell UN, urging global action on climate change

INTERNATIONAL – Speaking today at the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister of Fiji, along with other leaders of other small island developing States, warned of the existential threat of climate change and looked forward to the possibility of consensus at the upcoming conference in Paris.

Prime Minister Mr. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama noted his nation’s recent elections and encouraging advances in economic growth, primary and secondary schooling, infrastructure, roads, water and healthcare.

He then turned his attention to the subject of climate change, noting that Pacific small island developing States (SIDS) have “a unique perspective of the world to share with the international human rights community.”

“Like our neighbours in the South Pacific and other SIDS, we see the bright future we have charted for ourselves dimmed by the prospect of climate change and sea-level rise,” he said.

Fiji has been outspoken in insisting that all nations do their duty, he said, with regard to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is simply not acceptable for advanced economies to build a high standard of living based on the degradation of the Earth and the seas,” he said. “The time for excuses is over.”

Mr. Bainimarama said he hoped for an acceptable outcome at the Paris climate change conference later this year, and called for an agreement of a temperature rise of not more than 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, also noting that it should be legally binding for all parties.

“We also call for the climate change adaptation measures to be 100 percent grant financed,” he added.

He said that, because of climate change, Fiji currently has plans to move 45 of its villages to higher ground, and also to settle people from other low-lying Pacific Island States.

The President also welcomed the Sustainable Development Goal on the conservation and sustainable management of the oceans.

“Our destiny is shaped by the ocean in which we are set,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President of Nauru, Baron Divavesi Waqa, highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda, which “places the welfare of human beings at its core and lays out a comprehensive set of goals and targets to help empower every individual to realize their full potential.”

He also spoke about the importance of the ocean as the source of almost all development possibilities for Nauru, and highlighted concerns over illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the nation’s waters, noting “if we are to be true to Agenda 2030 and the commitments made to SlDS, we must do much more to eliminate IUU fishing and ensure that the income from fishing goes to the rightful resource owners.”

President Baron Divavesi Waqa of Nauru addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Turning to the subject of climate change, Mr. Waqa called it “the largest test of our international and domestic institutions.”

“Clearly, a strong, legally binding agreement in Paris is absolutely critical, with ambitious mitigation contributions from all countries,” he said. “The agreement should be guided by a temperature goal of 1.5 degree Celsius and consistent with our vision for a safe and secure world. It must also ensure climate finance is available for adaptation, particularly for the most vulnerable countries.”

He added that he believed many major economic powers wanted to reach an agreement in the upcoming Paris climate change conference.

“However,” he continued, “I’m starting to doubt whether they are willing and able to make the fundamental changes in their political and economic systems required to achieve our ambitious goals.”

Mr. Waqa warned that intense lobbying to accept an unsatisfactory outcome had already begun, which could leave a “take-it-or-leave it deal” for climate change.

Meanwhile, the President of the Marshall Islands, Christopher Loeak, addressed the General Assembly on the pressing issues of climate change and nuclear disarmament.

“The UN’s 2030 development agenda – and its Sustainable Development Goals – offers small island States a powerful tool to craft and adjust our own domestic strategies,” he said.

“In adopting the SDGs, the Marshall Islands cannot afford a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality which has too often marked past international efforts, he said.

President Christopher J. Loeak of the Marshall Islands addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

He said he also welcomed the establishment of a comprehensive assistance program with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will build his country’s capacity to monitor and evaluate serious issues of nuclear contamination, as well as addressing health strategies and other SDG benchmarks.

He also referred to the upcoming climate change conference in Paris.

“I am proud that climate change is now recognized by all world leaders as a reality which deserves, and is gaining, a firm and collective response. Everyone among us must act - and many, including my own nation, have already committed to emissions cuts well into tile future of 2025, of 2030 and beyond,” he said.

“A world without a true commitment, and meaningful pathway, towards decarbonization is, for us in the island nations, ultimately, no world at all,” he said.

“As a low-lying island nation, with no higher ground, climate change poses a severe threat to our very security,” he continued. “Some have said there is no more hope, and no more time. I forcefully disagree. The future of my nation – the future of our very land – is perhaps more in the hands of my fellow world leaders than it is my own.”

In his remarks, Comoros President Mr. Iklilous Dhoinine noted the need to build on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, and endorsed the 2030 Agenda while cautioning against the misuse of sustainable resources.

Speaking on climate change, Mr. Dhoinine emphasized the importance of conserving and using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. He also said that, in the same way, leaders should promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and forests, and combat desertification and land degradation.

President Ikililou Dhoinine of the Comoros addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

He also urged efforts to build peace and accountable institutions, as well as to ensure a world without poverty and inequalities.

Mr. Dhoinine also addressed the consequences of war, which have resulted in millions being forced “to leave homelands and board makeshift boats and live in inhumane conditions,” as well as “barbarous acts perpetrated by terrorist movements.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu, told the Assembly that climate change continued to be a major challenge for the world and a major threat for SIDS.

Mr. Livtuvanu said “if we do not resolve this global crisis today, then we are running a risk of creating a world where there is no prospect for sustaining peace and security.”

Prime Minister Meltek Sato Kilman Livtunvanu of Vanuatu addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

“The linkage between Climate Change and sustainable development is clear,” said Mr. Livtuvanu. “Without addressing climate change, sustainable development for SIDs cannot be achieved.”

He outlined how, in March this year, his country experienced a category 5 tropical cyclone that affected 60 per cent of the population and 64 per cent of its economy. “In our current assessment, it will take many years and more than USD500 million to rebuild our economy,” he added.

Mr. Livtuvanu said that Pacific island leaders continued to voice their concerns on climate change at international fora, calling for a legally binding agreement limiting global average temperature increase to well below 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa devoted the majority of his address to the General Assembly to the issue of climate change and SDG goal 13, particularly as it pertained to small islands.

He describes climate change as “the single most urgent challenge confronting mankind,” adding that it is “facilitated largely through human-induced activities driven for the most part by profit motives, with some degree of insensitivity to the consequences of such action on others.”

He noted that climate change was also a security risk.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

“For some of the low lying Pacific island countries, climate change may well lead to their eventual extinction as sovereign States,” he warned.

“Against the backdrop of the existential threat climate change poses especially to atolls and low lying islands, SIDS have long been advocating for ambitious mitigation efforts by member states with the capacity to do so, and for a global goal of limiting the rise in average global temperature to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent some of our low-lying islands from being submerged by sea level rise,” he cautioned.

He also noted the importance of the upcoming climate change conference in Paris, emphasizing that it required “a new brand of cooperation and broad outlook.”

“A durable climate change agreement in Paris is therefore a test of multinational solidarity,” he said. “Time is running out.”

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New UN treatment guidelines say all people with HIV should get antiretrovirals

INTERNATIONAL – Anyone infected with HIV should begin antiretroviral treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today, as it issued new guidelines that could help avert more than 21 million deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.

With its “treat-all” recommendation, WHO removes all limitations on eligibility for antiretroviral therapy (ART) among people living with HIV.

“All populations and age groups are now eligible for treatment,” the Geneva-based agency said in a news release.

According to WHO, the expanded use of antiretroviral treatment is supported by recent findings from clinical trials confirming that early use of ART keeps people living with HIV alive, healthier and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to partners.

WHO is also now recommending that people at “substantial” risk of HIV should be offered preventive antiretroviral treatment. This builds on previous guidance to offer a combination of antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV acquisition, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), for men who have sex with men.

Following further evidence of the effectiveness and acceptability of PrEP, WHO has now broadened this recommendation to support the offer of PrEP to other population groups at significant HIV risk. PrEP should be seen as an additional prevention choice based on a comprehensive package of services, including HIV testing, counselling and support, and access to condoms and safe injection equipment.

The new guideline stresses that, in order to effectively implement the recommendations, countries will need to ensure that testing and treatment for HIV infection are readily available and that those undergoing treatment are supported to adhere to recommended regimens and are retained in care.

Based on the new recommendations, the number of people eligible for antiretroviral treatment increases from 28 million to all 37 million people who currently live with HIV globally.

Expanding access to treatment is at the heart of a new set of targets for 2020 aimed at ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. These targets include 90 per cent of people living with HIV being aware of their HIV infection, 90 per cent of those receiving antiretroviral treatment, and 90 per cent of people on ART having no detectable virus in their blood.

According to estimates by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), expanding ART to all people living with HIV and expanding prevention choices can help avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.

In a news release, UNAIDS welcomed the release of the new guidelines as a significant step towards improving the lives of people living with HIV and reducing the transmission of the virus.

“These new guidelines and recommendations are a highly significant moment in the AIDS response,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “The medicines and scientific tools now at our disposal provide us with a real opportunity to save millions of lives over the coming years and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”

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People over 60 will double by 2050 but little evidence they will be healthier – UN report

INTERNATIONAL – The number of people over the age of 60 is expected to double by 2050 and require radical societal change because “unfortunately, 70 does not yet appear to be the new 60” contrary to widespread assumptions, according to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

In advance of the International Day of Older Persons, which falls on 1 October, WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said “most people, even in the poorest countries, are living longer lives, but this is not enough.”

“We need to ensure these extra years are healthy, meaningful and dignified,” Dr. Chan said.

In his message for the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons,Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said older persons are an “enormous asset” to society and called on governments to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable so that no one – of any age – is left behind.

A report released today by WHO stressed that governments must ensure policies that enable older people to continue participating in society and that avoid reinforcing the inequities that often underpin poor health in older age.

Contrary to widespread assumptions, WHO said the report finds that there is very little evidence that the added years of life are being experienced in better health than was the case for previous generations at the same age.

“Unfortunately, 70 does not yet appear to be the new 60,” said Dr. John Beard, WHO Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course. “But it could be. And it should be.”

Dr. Beard said while some older people may indeed be experiencing both longer and healthier lives, these people are likely to have come from more advantaged segments of society.

But the report rejects the stereotype of older people as frail and dependent and says the many contributions that older people make are often overlooked.

Women, according to the report, who comprise the majority of older people, provide much of the family care for those who can no longer care for themselves.

“As we look to the future, we need to appreciate the importance of ageing in the lives of women, particularly in poorer countries," according to Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director- General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health. "And we need to think much more about how we can ensure the health of women right across the life course.”

The report highlights three key areas for action, beginning with making cities and communities friendlier to older people. Also critical is realigning health systems to the needs of older people and governments developing long-term care systems that can reduce inappropriate use of acute health services and ensure people live their last years with dignity.

The theme of this year’s International Day of Older Persons – “Sustainability and age inclusiveness in the urban environment” – highlights the need to make cities inclusive for people of all ages.

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High-level UN event tackles biggest refugee and migration crisis since Second World War

INTERNATIONAL – As the world confronts the biggest refugee and migration crisis since the Second World War, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today convened a high-level meeting on the issue and outlined eight guiding principles to improve preparedness.

“We must step up our work to prevent and stop wars and persecution. But we know that conflicts will not disappear overnight. More people will flee crisis, and people will keep moving in search of better opportunities. We must be better prepared,” Mr. Ban toldparticipants.

The meeting, held at United Nations Headquarters on the side-lines of the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly, provides an important opportunity for Member States to discuss the challenges and responsibilities, as well as the opportunities, that large migrant and refugee movements bring.

Mr. Ban outlined eight guiding principles to improve preparedness, beginning with saving lives. “The preservation of life must guide all our efforts, from asylum policies to robust search-and-rescue mechanisms,” he stated.

Also vital is protection; non-discrimination; preparedness to better adjudicate claims; responsibility sharing in terms of boosting the number of refugee resettlement places; better cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination; managed migration to ensure safe and legal channels for refugees and migrants; anticipating future challenges – including the plight of those escaping areas progressively ravaged by climate change.

“Together, we must translate these principles into reality,” Mr. Ban stressed.

Recalling the haunting photograph of a lifeless Syrian toddler laying on a Turkish beach, the Secretary-General said such an image, while symbolizing deficiencies and failures, can also catalyse solutions.

“Let us make sure that the heartbreaking death of Aylan Kurdi – and so many other nameless tragedies – compel us to move forward together and see the long-term benefits of integrating refugees and migrants.”

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for International Migration, Peter Sutherland, said the issues being discussed are “issues for humanity” that are not going to go away, and which are likely to grow in the coming period.

Stressing the need for cooperation, he noted that there are still far too many countries which believe in unilateral action to address migration challenges. “Cooperation is central to where we have to go. Those who seek unilateral solutions sometimes rely on sovereignty. But the only way to exercise sovereignty effectively in the day and age in which we live is through cooperation in an interdependent world. If we don’t take that course, then the winners will be those who seek to undermine society and the rule of society which we all claim to wish to uphold,” he stated.

“In the context of migration, the winners will be smugglers, traffickers and unscrupulous employers. Those who lose will be the dispossessed, the hungry, the vulnerable, the defenceless and the children.”

He also underscored the principle of global responsibility, stating that “proximity doesn’t determine responsibility.”

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Latin American leaders urge reform of UN bodies, highlight 2030 ‘agenda of change’

INTERNATIONAL – Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, one of several leaders from the Latin American and Caribbean region to address the General Assembly on Monday, warned of the urgent need for United Nations Member States to react to the plight of refugees, which she said had become a global crisis affecting peace and security.

“As an international community, we are duty-bound to react with solidarity in order to restore peace and provide a response that will enable us to minimize the suffering of the victims of war and those who are running away from it,” said Ms. Bachelet.

“This is why my Government has decided to take in refugees from the civil war in Syria and it is also why Chile will expand cooperation with Africa. Starting in 2016, we will be participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations in that region,” she added.

She also highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for tackling inequality and being an “agenda of change.”

“This is a promising and a binding agenda,” said the Chilean President “It focuses on addressing various aspects of inequality, which is the main challenge in Latin America and of course in Chile, in this new phase of our economic and political development.”

At the same time, she said the primary responsibility for sustainable and more equal development rests with each individual country, adding that: “Only if we can carry out an agenda of change at the global, as well as the national level will it be possible to promote more inclusive and sustainable societies.”

She also touched on her hope for an increased number of permanent members for the Security Council.

“In 2014 and 2015, we have been a non-permanent member of the Security Council. In light of this experience, we wish to reaffirm our belief in the need to reform the Council by increasing the number of its permanent members and reducing the veto, at least in cases of crimes against humanity,” said. Ms Bachelet.

The Chilean President also referred to the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

“This is a historic step,” she said. “Chile applauds the use of dialogue and respect for international law as the civilized way for countries to resolve their differences,” she added.

In her remarks, Cristina Fernandez, President of Argentina, noted that the General Assembly had recently adopted a resolution on the guidelines for the restructuring of countries’ external debt, saying that States enjoy the sovereign right to decide their own macroeconomic policy. That was a logical principle, she said, noting that creditors established timetables for repayment when a company or municipality defaulted.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Argentina had gone bankrupt in the early 2000s, leading to a default in 2001, but it had rebuilt itself. Politicians had retaken control of the Government and decided it was necessary to allow Argentina to grow in order to be able to pay. “That is economic logic,” she said. Argentina then began its inexorable progress, which led to paying off its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2005. The State was moving towards sustainable development. “We do not forget that the greatest growth occurred among the emerging countries,” she said.

The recent global financial crisis had begun here, in the United States, “the very heart of international finance,” continued President Fernandez. It had then extended to the Eurozone. It was a euphemism when people spoke of “saving countries;” that really meant saving the banks. It was essential to have regulation to ensure that the flood of resources into the financial sector came back into the real economy, but no such rule was implemented.

In the Eurozone, that had led to historic levels of unemployment and unprecedented financial woes. The collapse of financial institutions had now threatened developing countries, which had previously been growing at a rapid rate. The current refugee crisis was caused by “financial predators.”

According to the IMF, one per cent of the global population held a shockingly large percentage of the world’s wealth. She asked how the world could talk about gender empowerment when resources were so inequitably distributed. It was time to inject resources into the “real economy” – to create jobs in production as engines driving society, she said.

Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara, President of Paraguay, spoke of the importance his country placed on ending extreme poverty and inequality, saying that “the main objective of our Government is to reduce poverty, through public policies to eradicate it in the short term.”

President Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara of Paraguay addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

“Therefore, we maintain and increase the scope of the assistance programs, especially those focusing on extreme poverty and through tied aid,” he added. “Generation of opportunities, employment, decent housing, respect, equity and access to education, health and quality basic public services constitute the arsenal of our tireless struggle to eradicate extreme poverty in our country.”

He also spoke about the youth of Paraguay, noting that 70 per cent of its population is under 40 years old, which, he said “represents a valuable human capital.”

“We trust the immense potential of our youth and we firmly believe in the importance of access to high quality education to achieve the full progress of our nation,” he said.

Mr. Cartes Jara said he noted with great concern the exodus of families fleeing conflicts in Syria and other countries.

“We cannot turn our backs on this human tragedy that is currently occurring,” he said. We call upon our Organization to appeal to Member States, in particular those in the region, to adopt the necessary measures in favour of the most vulnerable sectors of civil society.”

He also spoke of what he saw as the need to reform the General Assembly and the Security Council. “If we want democracy to rule within our own republics, it is fair that we would also want it for the United Nations,” he said, calling for democracy, equity and geographical representation within the UN system.

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa Delgado, began his address to the General Assembly by making a request that the next Secretary-General of the United Nations should be a woman, before going on to talk about the problems of poverty and extreme poverty.

President Rafael Correa Delgado of Ecuador addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

“It can be said that poverty is the worst form of violence,” said Mr. Correa Delgado. “Poverty and extreme poverty are still waiting for justice, freedom and real democracy.”

He also highlighted the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying that common goals should not just be those “seeking the bare minimum, but seeking social maximums,” including the right to live with dignity and in harmony with other human beings of different cultures.

Mr. Correa Delgado said that the absence of any mention of “free human mobility” was “a very regrettable omission” from the SDGs. Free movement of merchandise, he said, for maximum profit was promoted, while the free movement of people seeking decent work was penalized.

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