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Blog Posts: united nations

  • Why Community Land Rights Belong in the Sustainable Development Goals

    A U.N. working group of 70 member states recently adopted a proposed set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to succeed the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire in 2015. The “post-2015” SDGs will aim to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 while also supporting inclusive economic development and environmental sustainability. While the proposal puts forward a plethora of targets for the international community to pursue between 2015 and 2030, it leaves out a critical component of improving rural livelihoods—securing community land rights.

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  • UNEP Report Finds Significant “Emissions Gap” Must Be Bridged

    A new report from the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that the world is still not taking enough action to avoid dangerous levels of climate change. Assuming countries deliver on the pledges they have made to reduce their respective emissions, the Emissions Gap Report finds that global GHG emissions in 2020 will still be 18 to 27 percent above where they need to be if warming is likely to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This gap puts the world in a dangerous position of experiencing increased sea level rise, forest fires, and other serious impacts--unless we take action now.

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  • Global Efforts to Tackle Poverty and Climate Change Must Come Together

    When the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, takes the floor of the UN general assembly this week, he will address two of the most pressing challenges of our time: poverty and climate change.

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  • Signs of Trouble and Progress as Bonn Climate Talks Wrap Up

    Much like recent extreme weather events in Europe and the United States, this month’s intersessional in Bonn, Germany could be described as volatile. But despite some “stormy” discussions, rays of light could still be seen in some areas.

    The low point that seems to be generating the most attention is Russia preventing a key UNFCCC working body from making any progress. Russia, along with Ukraine and Belarus, blocked the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), which works on both substantive and administrative implementation issues, from moving forward on its agenda. Russia appeared to still be upset about the process during a last-minute decision at COP 18 in Doha, when the rules for the next commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol were quickly gaveled through over their objection. Refusing to let the body take up its work unless it included an agenda item on procedural issues for the climate talks as a whole, Russia rejected numerous attempts at compromise.

    The blockage in the SBI discussions created noticeable ripples of nervousness throughout the negotiating hall. But in spite of the intermittent gloominess, there were also clear rays of light. What emerged most palpably was an insistence by nearly all the countries here that these kinds of tangles must be avoided, and that they are committed to moving forward on the key issues facing the UNFCCC negotiations and, not incidentally, the world.

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  • The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Linking Sustainability and Poverty Eradication

    The High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda provided a welcome injection of energy and ambition into the future of development with its final report released last week. While the details will be parsed over the coming months, the report’s recommendations were at once bold and practical. The Panel sees that the promise of a world free of extreme poverty is within reach, and achieving this vision requires that sustainability and equity should be at the core of the global development agenda.

    While there have been many such calls to move the world onto a more sustainable and equitable development path, if the Panel’s proposals are to be truly acted upon, the results would be transformational.

    With that in mind, let’s look at how the report stacks up against the four “issues to watch” that we highlighted last week:

    1) Will sustainability be on the margins or at the center of the post-2015 agenda?

    This was a clear winner, as the Panel recognized that environmental sustainability and poverty eradication are inextricably linked. The report identified sustainable development as one of five essential “transformational shifts.” Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which relegated the environment to just one of eight goals, the panel offered four goals--on energy, water, food, and natural resources--that directly connect human well-being with care for the planet.

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  • 4 Issues to Watch: Recommendations for the Post-2015 Development Agenda

    UPDATE 5/30/13: The High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda released its final report on May 30th. Read the full report on the Panel's website.

    Following an extensive global consultation process, the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda will present its final report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this week. Led by the heads of state of Indonesia, Liberia, and the United Kingdom, the panel is charged with producing a bold yet practical vision for global development beyond 2015, when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are set to expire. While this is just the first round of what is sure to be a multi-year process, there has been no shortage of discussion about the Panel’s report and what it should say.

    Here are four key issues that we will be looking at on May 31st:

    1) Will sustainability be on the margins or at the center of the post-2015 agenda?

    The MDGs focused primarily on poverty reduction and the social dimensions of human development, with one stand-alone (and largely ineffective) goal on environmental sustainability. There is growing recognition now that the twin challenges of environmental degradation and inequality are among the root causes of poverty, and thus are inextricably linked. The Panel has already acknowledged this in earlier pronouncements, but how and to what extent it takes a more integrated approach to environmental sustainability and equity issues will be a key test of the new poverty agenda. Will it propose another strengthened, stand-alone goal(s) on environmental sustainability, embed sustainability across a number of other goals, or put forth some combination of the two? How will environmental sustainability and poverty reduction be linked in the post-2015 agenda?

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  • Time to Get Serious About the Future of UNEP

    This post originally appeared in UNEP's magazine, "Our Planet."

    “This gathering represents man’s earnest endeavor to understand his own condition and to prolong his tenancy of this planet.”

    With these stirring words, Indira Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister, galvanized the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. A wake-up call to the state of our planet, Stockholm gave birth to the UN Environment Programme, amid high hopes that humanity could together curb alarming trends in pollution and natural resource loss.

    Hopes were high when a 43-year-old Maurice Strong took the reins of the new institution – the first UN body to be located in a developing country. UNEP’s remit was simple: to be the world’s lead institution on the global environment. Its mandate included compiling much-needed environmental data, coordinating international activities, developing international agreements, and providing capacity development and technical assistance, especially to developing countries.

    Forty years on, UNEP has made some vital contributions. It has played a key role in creating dozens of institutions and agreements that have advanced understanding of global challenges and propelled international action. These include such game-changers as the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which led to a 98 percent drop in controlled ozone depleting gases; the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), since 1988 the leading global body on climate science; the 1992 Earth Summit, and its associated global treaties on climate and biodiversity; and the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the first ever survey of the health of the world’s biological resources.

    And yet, as it enters its fifth decade, few can believe that UNEP is equipped for the magnitude of the task ahead.

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  • More Voices Needed in Climate Debate

    This piece originally appeared on CNN.com.

    After two weeks of climate negotiations in Doha, bleary-eyed ministers, negotiators, and advocates are headed back home to the various regions around the world. Few, if any, are leaving entirely satisfied.

    The pace of progress on climate change is still too slow, and the political will for greater ambition remains elusive. That said, these talks did achieve the basic goal of extending the Kyoto Protocol and moving countries onto a single negotiating track toward a new climate agreement by 2015. This leaves the door open for more progress ahead.

    This year's talks took place against the backdrop of two disturbing trends. On the one hand, there are multiple signs that climate change is here, and its impacts are already being felt around the world. On the other hand, the world remains tied to the consumption of fossil fuels that drive more and more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. With each passing day that we don't shift directions, we are increasingly locking ourselves into a more unstable climate future.

    The real question is: Can the international talks have a real impact on climate change?

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  • 3 Imperatives for the Next Global Development Agenda

    This post was co-authored with Vinod Thomas, Director-General of Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank.

    Can extreme poverty be eliminated in the next 20 years? With much of the world still mired in an economic slump, the question might seem ill-timed. Yet, as heads of state arrive in New York on Monday for the 67th United Nations General Assembly, this goal should be at the top of the agenda.

    There are two compelling reasons why world leaders should seize this moment. First, this is a crucial chance to build on the hard-won progress in reducing poverty over the past two decades. With the UN-led Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a galvanizing force, the number of people living below $1.25 a day fell from some 43 percent in 1990 to about 22 percent in 2008. But far more still needs to be done.

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