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INTERNATIONAL - In 2015, International Women’s Day, celebrated globally on 8 March, will highlight the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments 20 years ago that sets the agenda for realizing women’s rights.

While there have been many achievements since then, many serious gaps remain.

This is the time to uphold women’s achievements, recognize challenges, and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality to mobilize all people to do their part.

The Beijing Platform for Action focuses on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisions a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.

To this end, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is the clarion call of UN Women’s Beijing+20 campaign “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” 

Join governments and activists across the world in commemorating the ground-breaking Conference of 1995. We celebrate the many achievements that have come since then and galvanize action to address the gaps that still remain in making gender equality a reality.

"Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality" asks governments to make national commitments to address the challenges that are holding women and girls back from reaching their full potential within the next 15 years.

Launching on the occasion of International Women's Day 2015, Step It Up will showcase specific commitments that governments make, leading up to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015.

The initiative comes at a critical moment in time as a new development agenda is taking shape to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

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Member States must ‘step it up’ on gender parity as UN sets equality targets for 2030

INTERNATIONAL – The past 20 years has seen haltering progress on women’s rights issues and, in some areas, outright stagnation and regression, the head of the United Nations entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment said.

Briefing journalists at a press conference at in New York as part of a wider launch of activities tied toInternational Women’s Day, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcukawarnedthat the march towards gender equality had been unacceptably slow amid chronic underinvestment across all areas.

“The Secretary-General’s report makes this very clear,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said, referring toSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon’s globalreviewof progress on gender equality, slated for full launch on 9 March at the opening of the 59th session of theCommission on the Status of Women.

“The disappointing gap between the norms and implementation of theBeijing Platform for Actionpoints to a collective failure of leadership on progress for women. The leaders entrusted with the power to realize the promises made in Beijing have failed women and girls,” she added.

UN Women noted that the report cites some areas of progress, such as an upturn in the number of countries removing discriminatory laws and adopting legislation to stop violence against women and girls. Meanwhile, girls’ participation in education has led them to being close to half of all students in primary schools while the presence of women in the labour force has also risen.

Nevertheless, despite the 189 countries that endorsed the Platform for Action 20 years ago in Beijing, the Secretary-General’s report notes that no country has yet achieved gender equality. In addition, it points out that despite their better education, women continue to hold some of the worst jobs while the gender pay gap remains a worldwide phenomenon.

Conflict, volatile food and energy prices, fallout from climate change, rising extremism and an insidious backlash against women’s rights due to deeply entrenched discriminatory norms – all continue to restrain advancements for gender parity.

As a result, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka continued, UN Women was launching its “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” initiative to galvanize government pledges for action and as part of the wider Beijing+20 campaign.

“Today, we are calling on governments, everywhere in the world, to Step It Up,” she added. “By 2030 at the latest, we want to live in a world where at least half of all parliamentarians, university students, CEOs, civil society leaders and any other category, are women. Real progress requires 50-50.”


Ahead of global risk reduction conference, A review finds vast majority of disasters climate-related

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations office dedicated to disaster risk reduction has appealed to world leaders ahead of a major gathering in northern Japan next week to provide clear, action-oriented guidance to tackle the underlying drivers of risk, such as climate change, which now accounts for 87 per cent of the disasters that have killed some 700,000 people over the past decade.

“Despite many successes and greatly improved performance in disaster management, it is sobering to note that 700,000 people have died in disaster events over the last ten years,” Margareta Wahlström, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said in apress release.

“A total of 1.7 billion people have had their lives disrupted in some way,” Ms. Wahlström said. “It is of great concern that economic losses in major reported disaster events come to $1.4 trillion.”

She went on to explain that while 70 per cent of deaths are caused by earthquakes, climate-related disasters now account for over 80 per cent of all disaster events and contribute enormously to economic losses and short and long-term population displacement triggered by disaster events.

“It is very important that the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which opens on March 14, should provide clear, action-oriented guidance to governments, local governments, the private sector and civil society in general on how best to tackle the underlying drivers of risk such as poverty, climate change, poorly planned urban growth, land use and the decline of protective eco-systems,” Ms. Wahlström said.

Thousands of government leaders and civil society representatives will be gathering in the northern Japanese city of Sendai at theThird World Conference on Disaster Risk Reductionfrom 14-18 March to broker the follow-up to theHyogo Framework for Action(HFA), and chart a global course on disaster risk reduction for the coming decade.

The Sendai conference is also the first landmark meeting of a particularly crucial year for the United Nations, which is set to lead the global development and climate agenda at a number of major international events: an international meeting in Paris in December on the adoption of a universal text on climate change; the UN special summit in September for the adoption of a global sustainability agenda; and the financing for development conference in July in Addis Ababa, to renew commitment to global development financing.


WHO health agency announces start of Ebola vaccine testing in worst-affected areas of Guinea

INTERNATIONAL – The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it will begin conducting Ebola vaccination trials in Guinea this week, which if found effective, could be the “game-changer to finally end the epidemic” that has affected nearly 24,000 people, mostly in West Africa.

“We have worked hard to reach this point,” WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan,said in Geneva.

“There has been massive mobilization on the part of the affected countries and all partners to accelerate the development and availability of proven interventions,” she continued. “If a vaccine is found effective, it will be the first preventive tool against Ebola in history.”

Based on promising data from initial clinical trials in late 2014, WHO said it will launch a Phase III trial in Guinea on 7 March to test the so-called VSV-EBOV vaccine for efficacy and effectiveness to prevent Ebola in collaboration with the Health Ministry of Guinea, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Epicentre and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

WHO said the vaccination will take place in areas of Basse Guinée, the region that currently has the highest number of cases in the country.

The announcement came as the agency, in its latest update on Ebola, reported 132 new confirmed cases had been reported in West Africa in the week to 1 March, an increase from the previous week of 99 new cases.

Liberia reported no new confirmed cases this week, the first time since the week of 26 May 2014, but the weekly number of confirmed cases has increased in both Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to WHO.

Transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the agency also reported a marked increase in case numbers compared with the previous week. Unsafe burials continue to occur in both these countries.

Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny, who leads the Ebola Research and Development effort at WHO, said: “An effective vaccine to control current flare-ups could be the game-changer to finally end this epidemic and an insurance policy for any future ones.”

Explaining the trial strategy, WHO said it involves the identification of a newly diagnosed Ebola case – the “index case” – and the tracing of all his/her contacts. The contacts are vaccinated if they give their consent.

“The objectives of the trial are two-fold: to assess if the vaccine protects the contacts who were vaccinated and if vaccinating the contacts will create a buffer – or ring – of protected individuals – around the index case to prevent further spread of the infection,” WHO said.

“Vaccination will also be proposed to frontline workers in the area where the trial will take place,” the agency added.

Since September 2014, according to WHO, the two most advanced Ebola vaccines have been evaluated in about 15 countries in Africa, Europe and North America.”

“The VSV-EBOV vaccine was selected for the planned trial based on a framework of parameters developed by the WHO Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee on Ebola Experimental interventions,” it said. “Criteria included acceptable safety profile, induction of appropriate immune responses, including neutralizing antibodies, and the timely availability of sufficient supplies of vaccine doses.

WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and vaccine alliance GAVI are collaborating with the affected countries to develop plans and strategies for large-scale introduction, should this be needed.

WHO said the vaccines’ manufacturers have assured that enough vaccine will be available in the coming months and that financial resources are in place to procure and make vaccines available in the affected countries.

The vaccine VSV-EBOV was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The vaccine was licenced to NewLink Genetics, and on November 24, 2014, NewLink Genetics and Merck announced their collaboration on the vaccine.


Member States must enforce human rights amid rising tide of extremism

INTERNATIONAL – The world may be at a “turning point” as violent extremism and intolerance remain pervasive across the spectrum of global society, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said as he urged Member States to uphold the human rights principles underlying their communities in their fight against radicalism.

Speaking to the 47-member UN Human Rights Council earlier in the week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned of the “real danger” that opinion-leaders and decision-makers would “lose their grasp” of the values that States built 70 years ago “to ward off the horror of war.”

“The fight against terror is a struggle to uphold the values of democracy and human rights – not undermine them,” Mr. Zeid declared. “Counter-terrorist operations that are non-specific, disproportionate, brutal and inadequately supervised violate the very norms that we seek to defend. They also risk handing the terrorists a propaganda tool – thus making our societies neither free nor safe.”

At the same time, the UN human rights chief said he was “appalled” by the “rising tide of attacks” around the world targeting people on account of their beliefs. Such “horrific acts of racial and religious hatred,” he said, spanned countries in Western Europe and North America, where “unfair policing, daily insults, and exclusion” affected large swathes of the population. Meanwhile, he added, “the tentacles of the extremist takfiri movement” – an ideology where one believer apostasies another and then condemns them as impure – had reached into a wide range of countries, from Iraq and Syria to Nigeria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

Against that backdrop, Mr. Zeid voiced deep concern at the tendency of States to clamp down on the most basic of human rights, including the adoption of measures that restrict freedom of expression and democratic space.

“When powerful leaders feel threatened by a tweet, a blog, or a high-school student's speech, this speaks of profound underlying weakness,” he continued. “And when writers are abducted, jailed, whipped, or put to death; when journalists are assaulted, subjected to sexual violence, tortured and killed; when peaceful protestors are gunned down by thugs; when human rights lawyers, human rights defenders and land activists are arrested and jailed on spurious charges of sedition; when newspapers are attacked or shut down – such cases attack and undermine the foundations of stable governance.”

The High Commissioner also expressed regret at the renewed use of the death penalty in a number of countries – Jordan, Pakistan, and Indonesia – and “the continuing extensive use” of the death penalty in China, Iraq, Iran and the United States.

“It is the people who sustain government, create prosperity, heal and educate others and pay for governmental and other services with their labour,” Mr. Zeid concluded. “It is their struggles that have created and sustain States. Governments exist to serve the people – not the other way round.”


Fuelled by ‘strong’ cereal stocks, world food prices dip to lowest level since July 2010

INTERNATIONAL – Food prices dipped to a 55-month low in February, dropping a steady per cent from the previous month and 14 per cent below its level compared to a year earlier, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported on March 5.

The continuing decline – lowest level since July 2010 - reflects a robust supply environment and ongoing weakness in many currencies versus the United States dollar, Michael Griffin, FAO's dairy and livestock market expert, confirmedin a statement on March 5.

“The first thing to flag is the favourable outlook for production of a number of crops in 2015,” he said, adding that “stocks are also very strong” for most cereals.

The FAO’s monthly Food Price Index – a trade-weighted index that tracks prices of five major food commodity groups on international markets – averaged 179.4 points in February, down from 181.2 points in January and 208.6 points in February 2014. The index measures the price of cereal, sugar, meat, dairy and vegetable oils.

The Cereal Price Index averaged 171.7 points in February, down 3.2 per cent from January, with booming prospects for wheat output explaining the bulk of the decline. On sugar, the price index averaged 207.1 points in February, down 4.9 per cent from January, the sharpest move of any commodity.

This sugar drop reflects optimism on production prospects in Brazil after recent rainfalls, as well as India's decision to subsidize exports to boost sugar sales abroad, the Rome-based FAO said.

The Meat Price Index averaged 187.4 points in February, also down 1.4 per cent from its revised January value. Beef and mutton prices declined, largely due to a stronger US dollar against the Brazilian real and the Australian dollar. Pig-meat prices rose for the first time in eight months, helped up by Europe’s decision to provide aid for private storage in the sector.

Dairy’s price index rose for the first time in a year, driven by milk powders and reflecting both a seasonal slowdown in European output as the season draws to a close and a crimped supply from New Zealand and Australia. Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 156.6 points, up 0.4 per cent from January, reflecting a sizeable rise in palm oil prices – resulting from recent floods in Malaysia and from a hike in Indonesian domestic biofuel subsidies expected to stoke demand.

FAO has also raised its estimate of 2014 world cereal production, with the bulk of the increase reflects wheat production gains in Argentina, Central Asia and Europe. Globally, 1.1 billion tonnes of cereals are forecast to be used for food consumption in 2014/15.


Eradicating sexual violence in Colombia requires investment in communities – UN envoy

INTERNATIONAL – In eradicating sexual violence related to Colombia’s internal armed conflict, the main challenge now is translating resolve into tangible solutions in communities where the crime continues to occur, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence said at the conclusion of her trip to the Latin American country.

“There is a direct correlation between poverty, access to justice, and sexual violence,” Zainab Hawa Bangura said in a statement issued yesterday, emphasizing the need to protect poor and uneducated women and girls who are especially vulnerable.

She summarized initiatives undertaken to address conflict-related sexual violence in Colombia including the adoption of what she called “groundbreaking legislation” in guaranteeing access to justice for victims of sexual violence. In meetings with the Minister of Defense and Chief of the Army Staff, Ms. Bangura pledged continued UN collaboration with the army and police to ensure implementation of policies to eradicate sexual violence.

During the four-day visit, she also met with communities and said that all the women and girls she spoke with had one common and resounding message: “They want sexual violence crimes that have been perpetrated against them to be acknowledged by all the parties involved in the conflict, and they want perpetrators to ensure that sexual violence will not be repeated.”

On her visit to Chocó, an area known for its Afro-Colombian population, she was distressed to hear about the clear links between armed groups, illegal mining, narco-trafficking and sexual violence. The sexual violence that is happening in Chocó must be understood in the context of the conflict and addressed as such.

This will require crucial institutional reforms. She said the Havana peace process has put in place an important mechanism to ensure a gender perspective and urged both the Government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army (FARC) to ensure that the ongoing peace process and the eventual peace agreement explicitly address gender issues and sexual violence in the conflict. This must be a central priority of any poverty reduction and development strategy going forward, Ms. Bangura added.

“The women and girls who have experienced sexual violence also told me that to be able to pick up the pieces of their lives and reclaim their dignity, they must have opportunities for entrepreneurship and livelihood support for themselves and their families.”

She said she found it disturbing to hear about children between ages 12 and 15 years being forced by members of non-state armed groups and criminal gangs to serve as sex workers in mining areas. “These children were often referred to as ‘packages’ to service mining operations, and that they were replaced by ‘new packages’ when they become ‘too used’ or ‘too sick.’”

Ms. Bangura also expressed extreme concern about the “silent issue” of children born out of rape and urged that more be done to find out their unique challenges including psychosocial needs and support they require. After decades of conflict in Colombia there are several generations of such children and adults.

While the will and capacity exists to prosecute sexual violence crimes, the barriers for survivors to report and access justice are significant. It must be a priority to create the necessary protective environment for survivors to come forward, and the stigma of sexual violence must be redirected from the victims to the perpetrators.

Equally important is addressing the genuine fears communities harbor about the reintegration of fights: “There is one question I asked the communities in Chocó: Are they ready to accept the young people of the armed groups back into their communities; and are those young people ready to come back to their communities? The answer to both questions was 'NO!’”

On the flip side, the demobilized members of armed groups that Ms. Bangura met with have genuine concerns about being reintegrated into situations of poverty and destitution. Reconciliation cannot begin after the peace agreement is reached. It must be an immediate priority and requires investment at community level. Ultimately that is what will ensure durable peace.

Ms. Bangura also warned against “a deep culture of silence and denial” which still exists, emphasizing that breaking the silence on sexual violence in Colombia must be a conscious effort, and represents a critical step toward eradicating this scourge.


World Health Organization spotlights risks of noise-induced hearing loss – “Making Listening Safe”

INTERNATIONAL – More than 1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices such as smartphones and exposure to damaging levels of sound, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to devote its International Ear Care Day (March 3rd) to “Making Listening Safe.”

“As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss,” Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO Director for the Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Preventionsaidin a press release.

“They should be aware that once you lose your hearing, it won't come back,” Dr. Krug continued, adding: “Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk.”

International Ear Care Day is an annual advocacy event held on 3 March. Designated at the First International Conference on Prevention and Rehabilitation of Hearing Impairment in Beijing, China, in 2007, the Day aims to raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care across the world, according to WHO.

This year, WHO is launching theMake Listening Safeinitiative to draw attention to the dangers of unsafe listening and promote safer practices.

“In collaboration with partners worldwide, WHO will alert young people and their families about the risks of noise-induced hearing loss and advocate towards governments for greater attention to this issue as part of their broader efforts to prevent hearing loss generally,” the UN health agency said.

According to WHO, “some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events.”

“Data from studies in middle- and high-income countries analysed by WHO indicate that among teenagers and young adults aged 12-35 years, nearly 50 per cent are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices and around 40 per cent are exposed to potentially damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues,” the agency said.

WHO explained that safe listening depends on the intensity or loudness of sound, and the duration and frequency of listening. The agency recommends that the highest permissible level of noise exposure in the workplace is 85 decibels up to a maximum of eight hours per day. Many patrons of nightclubs, bars and sporting events are often exposed to even higher levels of sound, and should therefore considerably reduce the duration of exposure. For example, exposure to noise levels of 100 decibels, which is typical in such venues, is safe for no more than 15 minutes.

“Teenagers and young people can better protect their hearing by keeping the volume down on personal audio devices, wearing earplugs when visiting noisy venues, and using carefully fitted, and, if possible, noise-cancelling earphones/headphones,” according to WHO. “They can also limit the time spent engaged in noisy activities by taking short listening breaks and restricting the daily use of personal audio devices to less than one hour.”

“With the help of smartphone apps, they can monitor safe listening levels,” it said.

WHO said governments also have a role to play by developing and enforcing strict legislation on recreational noise.

“Parents, teachers and physicians can educate young people about safe listening, while managers of entertainment venues can respect the safe noise levels set by their respective venues, use sound limiters, and offer earplugs and “chill out” rooms to patrons,” according to WHO.

WHO went on to say manufacturers can design personal audio devices with safety features and display information about safe listening on products and packaging.

Worldwide, the UN health agency says 360 million people today have moderate to profound hearing loss due to various causes, such as noise, genetic conditions, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, and ageing.

“It is estimated that half of all cases of hearing loss are avoidable,” the agency said.


‘It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime’

INTERNATIONAL – Illegal wildlife trade undermines rule of law, degrades ecosystems and severely hampers the efforts of rural communities striving to sustainably manage their natural resources,Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon said in marking World Wildlife Day on March 3rd.

“Combatting this crime is not only essential for conservation efforts and sustainable development; it will contribute to achieving peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities,” said Mr. Banin a messageon the Day.

“Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories,” the Secretary-General added.

World Wildlife Day– observed annually, with this year’s theme ‘It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime’ – was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2013 for 3 March, the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

According to the United Nations, as many as 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012. For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 per cent between 2002 and 2011. In Asia, poached African ivory may represent an end-user street value of $165 to $188 million. According to new figures released today, elephant poaching rates remained virtually unchanged in 2014 compared to 2013, and still exceeded natural elephant population growth rates, meaning a continued decline in elephant numbers overall is likely.

Accordingto CITES, 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2014 – this translates to one rhino killed every eight hours. Approximately 94 per cent of rhino poaching takes place in South Africa, which has the largest remaining populations and rhino horn poached in 2014 is valued at an estimated $63 to $192 million.

The illicit trafficking in live great apes is an increasingly serious threat to chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos in Africa and orangutans in Asia, with seizures averaging 1.3 per week since 2014. It is estimated that a minimum of 220 chimpanzees, 106 orangutans, 33 bonobos, and 15 gorillas have been lost from the wild over the last 14 months, according to the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

In his remarks, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlonsaidsaid: Illegal wildlife trade is threatening the survival of some of our most charismatic species, as well as some plants and animals you may have never heard of. And it threatens people, their livelihoods, their safety and security.”

“The situation is serious,” he declared, urging the international community to tackle the poaching, transport and consumption of illegally traded wildlife and in so doing use the same sorts of enforcement tools, techniques and penalties used to combat other serious crimes, such as trafficking in drugs or persons.

Indeed, once an emerging threat, wildlife and forest crime has transformed into one of the largest transnational organized criminal activities alongside drug trafficking, arms, and trafficking in human beings. Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues.

“Wildlife crime is a transnational organized crime generating billions of dollars and undermining development. It is also an inter-generational crime that can permanently scar the world through the loss of some of our most beautiful creatures. To stop this, we must act now,”saidYury Fedotov, Executive Director for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is launching new initiatives to halt the illegal trade in wildlife in Asia and Africa. These initiatives will tackle wildlife crime by focussing on law enforcement, regulations, and engaging the private sector and strengthening collaboration between governments within and across the two regions.

“World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate wildlife, but it is also a wake-up call to get serious about wildlife crime. We must all do more to halt the illegal trade in wildlife. UNDP and its partners are committed to this task,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said.

World Wildlife Day is being marked by events around the world. In New York, the Central Park Zoo is featuring a high-level expert panel discussion on the links between wildlife trafficking, organised crime and sustainable development. Other observances are being held around the world in Cairo, Lima, Nairobi, Seoul, Vienna, Geneva, Berlin and Sao Paulo.

On the occasion of the Day, General Assembly President, Sam Kutesa, will host a special session, where Member States and the global community will examine the challenges and opportunities to stepping up international efforts to combat wildlife crime at a global scale.


Over 5 billion people worldwide lacking access to essential medicines

INTERNATIONAL – Three quarters of the world population has no access to proper pain relief treatment, according to a report by the United Nations body charged with overseeing Governments’ compliance with international drug control treaties, which was released on March 3rd in London.

Around 5.5 billion people still have limited or no access to medicines containing narcotic drugs such as codeine or morphine the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says in itsAnnual Report for 2014, which went on to point out that around 92 per cent of all morphine used worldwide is consumed by only 17 per cent of the world population, primarily living in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The report, which calls on Governments to address the discrepancy in order to comply with International Drug Control Conventions, notes that natural disasters and armed conflicts around the world can further limit access to essential medicines and the Board stressed that in cases of emergency medical care, simplified control measures can be applied.

For example in the Philippines following the destruction by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the Board pointed out to all countries as well as to providers of humanitarian assistance the simplified procedures for the export, transportation and delivery of medicines containing substances under international control.

In its Report, the INCBnotesthat drug control measures do not exist in a vacuum and that, in their implementation of the drug control conventions, States must also comply with obligations under other treaties, including international humanitarian law and their international human rights obligations, such as allowing civilians to have access to medical care and essential medicines during armed conflicts.

Additionally, the INCB noted that States were charged with deciding specific sanctions for drug-related offences, but should avoid application of the death penalty for such cases.

To achieve a balanced and integrated approach to the drug problem, Governments also should ensure that demand reduction is one of the first priorities of their drug control policies, while they should put greater emphasis on and provide support and appropriate resources to prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, the Report says.

Among the rest of the Report’s findings were an increase in the number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) by 11 per cent and a 66 per cent increase in global consumption of methylphenidate, a stimulant primarily used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The Report also pointed out that the legalization of production, distribution, sale and consumption of cannabis and its derivatives for recreational purposes in Uruguay, together with the moves by States in the United States to legalise sale and distribution of cannabis for non-medical purposes, ran counter to article 4 of the 1961 Single Convention on narcotic drugs, which requires States to limit the use of narcotic drugs to medical and scientific purposes.

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