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‘Surge in financing’ needed to transform the world: UN chief

INTERNATIONAL, 24 September 2018, SDGs - A “surge in financing and investments” is needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations plan of action agreed by Member States, to transform the world, the Secretary-General said on Monday.

António Guterres was speaking at the opening of the High Level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda, at which he launched his Strategy to support Financing the 2030 Agenda.

He was joined by Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), several Heads of State and Government, as well as senior representatives of leading companies – including the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates – and philanthropic foundations.

The financing needs of the 2030 Agenda, said Mr. Guterres, are immense, in the order of between $5 and $7 trillion per year.

Whilst some progress has been made in mobilizing resources, he said that urgent action is needed to drive progress: “that means galvanizing political support across governments and local communities; building momentum for change in corporate boardrooms; and doing better in tapping resources that sit idle.”

Mr. Guterres outlined three “essential action points” for developed countries: meeting the commitments made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda; continued support for developing countries in creating good governance measures and fighting illicit flows of capital; and stepping up efforts in developing innovative financing and in mobilizing private investment.

The Secretary-General’s new Strategy to support Financing the 2030 Agenda builds on existing efforts and proposes urgent action to achieve three objectives: aligning global financial and economic policies with the 2030 Agenda, enhance sustainable financial strategies at the regional and country levels, and exploit the potential of financial innovations, new technologies and digitalization to provide equitable access to finance.

On this latter point, Mr. Guterres announced that he had tasked Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, with setting up a Task Force on the Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking on behalf of the IMF, Christine Lagarde said that the organization’s objective is sustainable development for all, “making sure that all girls and boys have a fair chance to thrive, to flourish, to develop their capacities no matter who they are or where they were born,” and that the “essence of sustainable development growth is to eradicate poverty, eliminate deprivation for a fairer world that respects the limits of nature.”

UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Bill Gates speaking at the High-Level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, at UN Headquarters in New York, on 24 September 2018.

Bill Gates underlined the ways in which philanthropic organizations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, play an important role in advancing the system, using innovative tools that allow them to invest in new technologies, make innovation less risky, and address market failures, and pointing out that the development finance system is key to achieving the objectives of the SDGs.

Mr. Guterres concluded by reminding those present that, “by investing in the Sustainable Development Goals, we invest in the future, ensuring a world in which we strive for peace, stability and prosperity that leaves no one behind.”

You can find out more about the financing of the 2030 Agenda here.

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Youth2030: UN chief launches bold new strategy for young people ‘to lead’

INTERNATIONAL, 24 September 2018, Economic Development - The United Nations Secretary-General launched a new partnership strategy with the world’s 1.8 billion young people on Monday, to help put “their ideas into action”.

Noting that it was “a rare treat” to see so many young faces at the UN, to launch the new “Youth2030” strategy, UN chief António Guterres highlighted a list of challenges “the largest young generation in history” faces today.

He noted that “globalization, new technologies, displacement, shrinking civic space, changing labour markets and climate impacts,” were putting huge pressure on youth everywhere, adding that more than one-fifth of young people are not in employment, education or training; a quarter are affected by violence or armed conflict; and young people remain excluded from development programmes, ignored in peace negotiations and denied a voice in most international decision-making. 

At the same time, he pointed out that young people were “a vast source of innovation, ideas and solutions,” who push for the needed changes in technology, climate action, inclusivity and societal justice. 

“Empowering young people, supporting them, and making sure they can fulfil their potential are important ends in themselves,” he stressed. “We want this for all people, everywhere.” 

Moreover, to fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for a more peaceful, sustainable and prosperous world, “we need young people to lead,” he added. 

In presenting Youth 2030: The United Nations Youth Strategy, he called it “the UN’s strategy to engage with, but especially to empower young people.”

Saying that the Organization has for decades worked for youth, he expressed hope that the new strategy would make the UN “a leader” in working with them, “in understanding their needs, in helping to put their ideas into action, in ensuring their views inform our processes.” 

“And as we change, we will work with our partners to do likewise” and spur new partnerships, the UN chief said, identifying five key areas:

Today is the start of a new era for young people at the United Nations ­– UN Secretary-General

  1. Opening new routes to involve young people and amplify their voices. 
  2. Strengthening the UN’s focus on their accessing education and health services.
  3. Placing their economic empowerment at the fore of development strategies, with a focus on training and jobs.
  4. Working to ensure their rights, and civic and political engagement.
  5. Prioritizing support for young people in conflict and in humanitarian crises, including their participation in peace processes. 

“Today is the start of a new era for young people at the United Nations,” he said, encouraging everyone to help move it forward. He urged Member States to invest in and empower youth nationally; challenged businesses to provide young people with skills and opportunities; and called on civil society cat speak out and keep up the pressure.

And to all youth, Mr. Guterres stressed: “Sign up. Volunteer. Vote. Be part of the solution.”

“We need you as partners and leaders. We need you as we build a peaceful and more sustainable world,” he concluded.

For her part, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recounted that she’d often sat with young people to hear and share their ideas, enthusiasm and vision for the future.

She also listened to their worries, such as joblessness, lack of education, and violence at home and online, as well as at school and in the neighbourhoods where they live.

“And girls are worried about the discrimination and violence they face just because they’re girls,” she lamented.

In kicking off Generation Unlimited, or Gen-U, a multi-partnership initiative to ensure that all young people are in school, training or employment by 2030, Ms. Fore called on governments, businesses, foundations, academia, non-profits, communities and innovators to help with “cutting-edge solutions and new ideas.”

“Our time. Our turn. Our unlimited future,” she declared to a responsive crowd at UN Headquarters.

Noting that a “massive generation is about to inherit our world,” the UNICEF chief concluded, appealing for “a legacy of hope and opportunities for them. And most importantly, with them.”

Invest in health, education

At the same time, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, expressed his personal concern over the world his two young sons stand to inherit, with billions of others.

Referring to the successful path of his native South Korea in recent decades, Mr. Kim said: “When aspirations are met with opportunity, you get dynamic economic growth.”

He explained that because Korea invested in “health, education and all the things that are need,” he had the opportunity to become World Bank President while the K-pop boy band BTS, also at the event, was able to forge a successful career in music and entertainment.

“The nature of work is changing very quickly and many, many countries are not prepared,” Mr. Kim flagged, saying that jobs will be more digitally demanding and require more perseverance and determination than ever.

Pointing out that there are 1.8 billion people between ages 15 and 30, with developing countries housing half a billion underemployed, or holding insecure jobs and that 300 million have no employment or education, he stressed “we are in a demographic change of extraordinary proportions.”

Noting that during 1960s and ‘70s young Americans used to say ‘don’t trust anyone over 30,’” he advised young people not to “trust anyone over 30 to make the most important decisions that are going to affect your future.”

“Don’t let us decide how much we spend on health and education,” he stated, instructing youth to insist that enough is spent so that everyone can become whatever they want.

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At UN, countries pledge to be guided by Mandela’s legacy in working for a better world

INTERNATIONAL, 24 September 2018, Peace and Security - The United Nations General Assembly on Monday honoured Nelson Mandela with a pledge to build a just, peaceful and prosperous world and to revive the values for which the former South African President and anti-apartheid campaigner stood.

At the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, held in New York, Member States adopted the first resolution of the General Assembly’s 73rd session, “committing to demonstrate mutual respect, tolerance, understanding and reconciliation in [their] relations.”

“We resolve to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies, stressing the importance of the equal participation and full involvement of women and the meaningful participation of youth in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security,” read the resolution.

Member States, many represented by their heads of State and government, also reiterated the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and said that they remain committed to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions – economic, social and environmental – in a balanced and integrated manner.

Sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security – General Assembly resolution

“Sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security, and peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development. We reaffirm our pledge that no one will be left behind,” they resolved.

Addressing the Summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke of the growing pressure against human rights around the world, and urged everyone to draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s wisdom, courage and fortitude, to face the challenges.

“[That] is the only way to build the just, peaceful and prosperous world envisioned in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Mr. Guterres.

“Madiba was a global citizen whose legacy must continue to guide us,” he added.

Today’s Peace Summit coincides with the centenary year of Mr. Mandela’s birth.

UN Photo/Cia Pak
From left: Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa; María Fernanda Espinosa, the President of the General Assemby; and Secretary-General António Guterres unveil the statue of Nelson Mandela at the UN Headquarters in New york.

Unveiling of Nelson Mandela’s statue

Earlier in the day, a statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at UN Headquarters by Mr. Guterres alongside Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa, and María Fernanda Espinosa, the President of the current session of the General Assembly.

Gifted by South Africa to the UN, the life-size statue shows Madiba with his arms outstretched and bears his warm and broad smile.

Speaking at the unveiling, Secretary-General Guterres highlighted Mr. Mandela’s humility as a hallmark of his greatness.

“When he achieved the pinnacle of power as president of his beloved country, Madiba set an example that still resounds throughout Africa and the world – he stepped down after one term, confident in the durability of South Africa’s newfound democracy … He did not pursue power for its own sake, but simply as a means of service,” said the UN chief.

Also speaking at the unveiling, Ms. Espinosa recalled Mr. Mandela’s first landmark speech at the UN, in 1994, in which he spoke of the interdependence of all nations and asked what can and must leaders do to ensure that democracy, peace and prosperity prevail everywhere.

“It is my hope that the placement of this statue – within the physical boundaries of the UN territory – will serve as an inspiration and reminder to all Member States,” added the Assembly President.

“A reminder that our differences are to be celebrated; that our work is wholly and unreservedly for the people for whom we serve; and that our efforts, in whatever form they take, should always be guided by the inspiration and the promise that Mandela has left us.”

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Global spotlight on world drug problem ‘is personal’ says UN chief a high-level UN event

INTERNATIONAL, 24 September 2018, Health - The United Nations focused a global spotlight on the world-wide drug problem during a high-level counter-narcotics event on Monday in which Secretary-General António Guterres flagged that this “is personal.” 

Drug addiction is “more than just a policy issue. It is personal.”  Mr. Guterres said at the event, noting that “the reality is that drugs and addiction are not abstract issues.”

“All of us have stories” and “it is our duty to act – and act now,” underscored the UN chief.

He highlighted that he had lost a friend to drugs “at an unbearably young age, and also described how his sister had spent many years working as a psychiatrist at a drug treatment centre in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.

“I saw the heavy toll it took on her day after day as she treated those suffering so badly,” he said, adding that he had “enormous admiration” for her. “I think I have done several tough jobs in my life. Nothing compares with what I have seen her do.”

Calling the situation “alarming,” Mr. Guterres pointed out that the global production of opium and manufacture of cocaine “has never been higher.”

“Some 450,000 people die every year from overdoses or drug-related health issues,” he underscored, adding that in recent years, “some 31 million people around the world” required drug-addiction treatment.

Non-medical use of tramadol in parts of Africa and the Middle East is threatening communities that are already fragile. And the United States is in an “utterly heart-breaking” opioid crisis, according to the UN chief.

He voiced concern that only one-in-six people who need drug-addiction treatment receives it, and for women, the figure is even higher.

National priorities may differ, but the global community shares a common goal: to protect people’s security, health and wellbeing – UN Secretary-General

Mr. Guterres urged “strong action in two areas” to tackle this issue.

Firstly, he underscored the urgency to “crack down on drug trafficking and those who profit from human misery,” specifically by denying them safe havens and better cross-border cooperation; improving intelligence-sharing and analysis across drug supply chains; and targeting the links between drugs, corruption, arms, human trafficking and terrorist networks. 

Secondly, he called for the need for drug-addiction treatment, with consumers being “first and foremost, patients and victims.” 

The Secretary-General explained that this was the policy he employed as Portugal’s Prime Minister two decades ago, when the country had some of Europe’s highest drug abuse death rates and the highest rate of HIV amongst injecting drug users.

"And the policy worked," he stated. “There was an increase in the quantity of drugs seized and in the efficiency of police and customs operations.”

Moreover, he said that drug consumption dropped “significantly, particularly among youth,” drug users declined by 50 per cent, and drug-related infectious diseases and the number of people overdosing also plunged.

“National priorities may differ, but the global community shares a common goal: to protect people’s security, health and wellbeing,” he emphasized.

Mr. Guterres assured that the UN stands behind the UN Drug Control Conventions and the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session outcome document.

"The United Nations system – and I personally – stand ready to support governments in meeting the challenge of the world drug problem,” he asserted.

“Failure is, indeed, not an option.  Together we will succeed. We will never give up,” concluded the Secretary-General.

“Deliver a drug-free future”

UN Photo/Mark Garten

US President Donald Trump, hosting the event, called Mr. Guterres a "great friend," noting that he was doing a "wonderful job" in a "very complex” situation, adding that the UN’s “tremendous potential” was “slowly but surely” being met.

The US President stressed the need to combat drug addiction and stop all forms of trafficking and smuggling.

"The scourge of drug addiction continues to claim too many lives in the US and the nations around the world," said Mr. Trump. “Today we commit to fighting the drug epidemic together.”

Citing the 2018 World Drug Report, he pointed out that cocaine and opium production have hit record highs, noting that global drug-related deaths have gone up 60 per cent in 15 years.

Flagging the link between illicit drugs and organized crime, illegal financial flows, corruption and terrorism, he stressed: "It is vital for public health and national security that we fight drug addiction and stop all forms of trafficking and smuggling that provide the financial lifeblood for vicious trans-national cartels."

“All of us must work together to dismantle drug production and defeat drug addiction,” he underscored, recalling the US’ call-to-action last month on the world drug problem: “Reduce drug demand, cut off the supply of illicit drugs, expand treatment and strengthen international cooperation.”

“If we take these steps together, we can save the lives of countless people in all corners of the world,” said Mr. Trump. “The United States looks forward to working with you to strengthening our communities, protect our families and deliver a drug-free future for all of our children.

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Yemen: Tackling the world’s largest humanitarian crisis

INTERNATIONAL, 24 September 2018, Humanitarian Aid - With three-quarters of the population requiring some form of basic assistance to survive, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, now in its fourth year, has reached unprecedented levels of need. On Monday, ahead of the United Nation’s 73rd General Assembly high-level debate, a special event will focus on the humanitarian response across the country, its major achievements and its daily challenges, in an attempt to galvanize more international support.

The figures of the crisis are staggering and near-impossible to grasp: 22.2 million in need of assistance, 8.4 million people severely food insecure, and a further 10 million that could fall under the same category by the end of the year, if action is not urgently taken.“It is bleak”, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council on Friday. “We are losing the fight against famine”.

In addition, more than 1.1 million cases of acute watery diarrhoea or cholera have been reported since April 2017.

Conflict in Yemen – already one of the poorest countries in the world before the crisis – escalated in March 2015, when an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened militarily at the request of the Yemeni President. Airstrikes have become a daily occurrence for millions of civilians.

Since 1 June alone, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), half a million people have been forced to flee their homes in Hudaydah, an opposition-held governorate in western Yemen, bringing the total of internally displaced persons in the country to 2 million.

Hundreds of thousands of families no longer have a regular source of income – including teachers, health workers, water and sanitation workers and other public servants. They have not been paid a regular salary in two years.

Currently, over 150 relief organisations, including eight UN agencies, are working around the clock to provide food, shelter, nutritional assistance, protection services and much more to millions of Yemenis whose lives have been uprooted by the conflict.

Of the nearly US$ 3 billion required for this year’s response plan, $2 billion (65 per cent) have been mobilized, making it the world’s best funded humanitarian appeal. The humanitarian response reaches more than 7 million people every month across Yemen and the number of people reached has increased consistently across sectors during the year.

However, the needs continue to outpace the response capacity and humanitarian workers face critical challenges every day. According to OCHA, the organizer of the General Assembly high level event, these include impediments to humanitarian action such as movement restrictions, attempted interference and harassment, as well as fluctuating commercial import levels and collapsing basic health, education, water and sanitation services.

The event will take place from 1:15 pm to 2:30 pm at UN Headquarters and will be broadcast live on webtv.un.org. It will include opening remarks by the UN head of humanitarian affairs, Mr. Lowcock, and a briefing by Yemen’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the UN, Lise Grande.

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UN News Daily #UNGA Guide: Mandela Peace Summit, Global Goals, Youth and Yemen

INTERNATIONAL, 24 September 2018, UN Affairs - As the United Nations enters its biggest weeks of the year with a plethora of events, speakers and leaders’ meetings, UN News will be preparing a daily guide to help you navigate what’s going on and keep abreast of the world-changing decisions that are made in the hallways of UN headquarters in New York. 

Here’s what you need to know for Monday 24 September (please note all timings are based on the New York time zone, Eastern Daylight Time, or EDT):

Uniting for peace

  • Setting the tone a day before the General Debate starts at the General Assembly, the  Nelson Mandela Peace Summitwill be held on Monday at 9:30 am, marking the centenary of the birth of South Africa’s first democratically-elected President and global civil rights icon. Member States are expected to adopt a historic Political Declaration declaring 2019-2028 the “Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace,” and calling on all world leaders to “redouble efforts to pursue international peace and security, development and human rights”.
    >> Follow the event via livestream or via Twitter with #Mandela100.

Advancing the SDGs

  • For those interested in sustainable development, there’s a lot going on today, starting with a high-level meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda at 3pm, bringing together some of the UN’s highest officials, including Secretary-General António Guterres and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Heads of State and Government, and private sector leaders.
  • In parallel, the annual UN Global Compact Leaders Summit returns, focusing once again on  strengthening the public-private dialogue to achieve the 2030 Agenda. With an impressive list of speakers, the event begins at 9 am and can be livestreamed here.
  • All week long, keep an eye on the SDG Media Zone — an ongoing series of live interviews, panel discussions and other digital content — which, starting today, will showcase some of the initiatives that the global community is working on to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You can watch, like, share and follow the buzz using #SDGLive.
  • Finally, with 1.8 billion children and adolescents in the world, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made it a priority for the UN System to reset its focus on youth. On Monday, at 12 pm, he will officially launch the UN’s “Youth Strategy”, to empower youth across the world. Watch live here and follow the conversation with #Youth2030.  

Focus on humanitarian issues

Go further...

The above is only a curated selection of high profile events. For a comprehensive list of everything that you can follow online, this calendar should provide the answers.

And if you feel a bit lost and haven’t quite caught up with everything that has been going on ahead of the 73rd General Assembly so far, here are a few ways of catching up fast:

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Financing the 2030 Agenda: What is it and why is it important?

INTERNATIONAL, 24 September 2018, UN Affairs - António Guterres launches his strategy to finance the 2030 Agenda to put the world on a more sustainable path, this 24 September, ahead of the General Assembly’s annual general debate.

How high on the Secretary-General’s to-do list is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

Well, the timing of the meeting to discuss financing the Agenda might be a clue: it takes place on Monday afternoon, just before the General Debate of the General Assembly on Tuesday morning, when the eyes of the world will be on UN Headquarters in New York.

A plan to transform the world

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, commonly referred to as the 2030 Agenda, is being billed as a plan to “Transform Our World.”

In 2015, UN Member States adopted the Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, which break down into three broad areas: people, planet and prosperity.

The adoption of the Agenda was significant, as it was the first time that world leaders pledged common action in support of such a universal and ambitious policy agenda. As the name suggests, the organizing principle of the Agenda and the SDGs, is sustainable development, and this is also the key message to the world community.

The UN defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This means taking into account, for example, the effects that unbalanced economic growth can have on the environment and people’s wellbeing.

The SDGs provide a framework for sustainable development that improves the lives of everyone, everywhere. For example, ensuring that economies grow and provide decent work; that everyone has access to nutritious food, no matter where they live; and access to quality education for all.

Source:UN SDGs
UN in collaboration with Project Everyone

From 2015 until 2030, Member States, civil society and other partners are mobilizing efforts to change the way the world does business: ending all forms of poverty, fighting inequalities and tackling climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

Since 2015, the UN has been hosting several meetings every year, designed to monitor the progress of Member States and partners, including the private sector, in changing business practices to ensure that the SDGs can be met.

The foundations for the financing of the SDGs were laid in July of that year, at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which took place in the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa, in a document called the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. It provided a new global framework for financing sustainable development by aligning finance with economic, social and environmental priorities; and set out a list of over 100 concrete measures, touching on finance, technology, innovation, trade, debt and data, in order to reach the SDGs.

Progress and setbacks

Since then, there have been positive signs. Just a week ago, at the Global Climate Action Summit, it was estimated that new UN-backed commitments to take action against the damaging effects of climate change could result in $26 trillion in economic benefits worldwide, and help create 65 million new “low-carbon jobs” by 2030.

Many welcome initiatives by governments and companies were noted. For examples, the Investors Agenda, one of the focus areas of the Global Climate Action Summit, brought together nearly 400 investors, managing $32 trillion of assets, who pledged to scale up the flow of capital into climate action, and a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.

However, whilst this new way of running the world presents a huge investment opportunity, public or private resources, and investments remain stubbornly far below what is needed to meet the 2030 targets.

Too much investment remains short-term and volatile, and the systemic change needed  transform economies and societies is not yet happening. Governments need to make it easier for business to finance and invest in sustainable development projects, the private sector needs to mobilize for long-term investment, and new solutions for financing the SDGs must be created.

The High-Level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda

Which brings us back to Monday’s meeting. It can be expected that the timing, and the senior status of politicians taking part, will ensure that considerable attention will be directed to the proceedings, and the outcome.

The Secretary-General will open the meeting, followed by Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Heads of State and Government will also participate, as well as senior representatives of leading private sector investors, financial technology innovators, and foundations.

Mr. Guterres has indicated that this meeting will be used to build momentum and political support at all levels; step up engagement with the private sector; and make the most of innovative solutions to finance the SDGs.

It will also be the forum for the launch of his Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has three objectives:

1. Aligning global financial and economic policies with the 2030 Agenda

2. Enhancing sustainable financial strategies at the regional and country levels

3. Exploiting the potential of financial innovations, new technologies and digitalization to provide equitable access to finance.

After the meeting, the process continues, with several follow-ups scheduled for this year, and into 2019. The road is long, complicated and filled with potential potholes, but the commitment from the UN is clear: transform the world for the better by 2030.

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UN chief condemns attack in south-west Iran which killed dozens

INTERNATIONAL, 23 September 2018, Peace and Security - United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the terrorist attack on Saturday in Iran’s southwestern city of Ahvaz which reportedly left dozens dead and injured, including children.

According to media reports, the attack targeted a military parade, with terrorists shooting from a long distance at the armed forces parading as well as the civilians watching the event. 

Mr. Guterres expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Iran. He wished those injured a speedy recovery.

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Deaf advocate voices importance of sign languages as UN marks first commemoration

INTERNATIONAL, 23 September 2018, Culture and Education - Nyle DiMarco is just a foreigner speaking a different language. That’s how the actor, model and advocate introduces himself to people who have not met a deaf person before.

Mr. DiMarco, who reached fame after winning America’s Next Top Model in the United States, advocates for children learning sign language at an early age.  The 29-year old grew up in an all-deaf family and has more than 25 relatives who are deaf.

“I advocate for early education because growing up, my life was really privileged. My deaf parents knew exactly how to raise a deaf child,” Mr. DiMarco told UN News during a visit to the United Nations Headquarters for an event linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On Sunday, the UN is marking the first International Day of Sign Languages, at the start of the official International Week of the Deaf. The UN General Assembly selected 23 September to coincide with the date the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) was founded, in 1951. WFD consists of 135 national associations of deaf people and strives to defend their human rights.

Mr. DiMarco studied in a deaf school and attended a private university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Growing up with an education, Mr. DiMarco says he was able “to define who [he] was.” He played sports, was involved in different organisations and skateboarded.

The advocate is among 72 million deaf people worldwide, of whom only 2 per cent have access to a formal education.

“How can they be expected to succeed and have the same successes in their lives as someone with the same privileges that I had,” Mr. DiMarco said of other deaf people who grew up without setting foot in a classroom.

He noted that in some countries sign language is considered “a mere gesture” which results in deaf children being deprived of a language, and also unable to define their own lives.

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UN chief “alarmed” by violations of UN-backed ceasefire in Libya

INTERNATIONAL, 22 September 2018, Peace and Security - United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated on Friday that he is “alarmed by the increasing number of violations of the ceasefire” in the capital of Libya, Tripoli, which has led to the death of dozens of civilians. 

Violence escalated in the city in August, with rival militias fighting and with tanks and heavy artillery deployed into residential neighborhoods. News reports indicate that, to date, over 100 Libyans have been killed in the violence and dozens more injured.

The Secretary-General extended his condolences to those who have lost loved ones and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured as a result of the continuing violence.  

In addition, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), hundreds have been displaced by these recent clashes.

Tripoli has been at the center of Libya's seven-year conflict, following an uprising that led to the overthrowing and killing of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

On 4 September, a ceasefire agreement was signed by the armed groups in Tripoli under the auspices of UN Special Representative, Ghassan Salamé, and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

The Secretary-General urged “all parties to the conflict to respect the ceasefire and refrain from any actions that would increase the suffering of the civilian population”.  

He emphasized that “anyone responsible for the violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law must be held responsible”. 

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