Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, June 2012 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or “Rio+20”) convenes June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This conference marks the 20 th anniversary of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio in 1992. Governments participating in the 1992 meeting politically endorsed the objective of “sustainable development” as achieving economic, environmental, and social development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Rio+20 begins from the premise and findings that the objectives of the 1992 Rio conference have not been achieved. The U.N.’s fifth Global Environmental Outlook, published in June 2012, found significant progress toward only four of 90 internationally-agreed goals associated with sustainable development. It found back-tracking on eight goals. Stakeholders widely agree that changes in policies and institutions are desirable to improve implementation, but do not agree on means. It seems unlikely that Rio+20 will produce any agreements that would require congressional action or be legally binding. Some proceedings, however, may engender congressional interest in concepts proposed for simultaneously achieving economic, social, and environmental objectives. Rio+20 could influence views and actions internationally on development paths and practices, thereby affecting regional and global economies, demand for development aid, transnational environmental issues, and conflict incidence and resolution. Therefore, Congress may take interest in the conference. In addition, proceedings may reference the non-binding, 1992 Agenda 21, produced at UNCED in 1992; media coverage could raise questions from constituents that Members may wish to address.
The Rio+20 organizers indicate that “[g]overnments are expected to adopt clear and focused practical measures for implementing sustainable development, based on the many examples of success we have seen over the last 20 years.” However, with strongly divergent views among the expected 115 Heads of State and up to 50,000 participants, Rio+20 may be more like a trade show than political negotiations. Indeed, some observers suggest that the conference may yield many deals among private participants. It is not expected to produce a treaty or any other binding commitments of national governments. Some observers wonder whether a meaningful communique can be successfully negotiated. High-level participants will be prompted to address issues that include
- the definition of “green economy,” and whether a definition gives adequate emphasis to social aspects (e.g., “fairness”) of sustainable development;
- whether “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) should replace or supplement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by the U.N, General Assembly in 2000 and expected to end in 2015, as well as how SDGs might be negotiated, and what priorities might be set among them;
- how to reform international environmental institutions, particularly whether the United Nations Environmental Program should be strengthened;
- what actions, if any, might lead to improved implementation of existing sustainable development goals, given slow progress so far;
- whether governments may commit to greater financial and technological assistance to low-income countries to assist their sustainable development.
Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
A report released today by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees shows 2011 to have been a record year for forced displacement across borders, with more people becoming refugees than at any time since 2000.
UNHCR’s "Global Trends 2011" report details for the first time the extent of forced displacement from a string of major humanitarian crises that began in late 2010 in Côte d’Ivoire, and was quickly followed by others in Libya, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere. In all, 4.3 million people were newly displaced, with a full 800,000 of these fleeing their countries and becoming refugees.
Worldwide, 42.5 million people ended 2011 either as refugees (15.2 million), internally displaced (26.4 million) or in the process of seeking asylum (895,000). Despite the high number of new refugees, the overall figure was lower than the 2010 total of 43.7 million people, due mainly to the offsetting effect of large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) returning home: 3.2 million, the highest rate of returns of IDPs in more than a decade. Among refugees, and notwithstanding an increase in voluntary repatriation over 2010 levels, 2011 was the third lowest year for returns (532,000) in a decade.
Viewed on a 10-year basis, the report shows several worrying trends: One is that forced displacement is affecting larger numbers of people globally, with the annual level exceeding 42 million people for each of the last five years. Another is that a person who becomes a refugee is likely to remain as one for many years – often stuck in a camp or living precariously in an urban location. Of the 10.4 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, almost three quarters (7.1 million) have been in exile for at least five years awaiting a solution.
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World leaders launch plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015
Source: United Nations
World leaders gathered in New York for the 2011 United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS have today launched a Global Plan that will make significant strides towards eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive.
Providing pregnant women living with HIV with antiretroviral prevention and treatment reduces the risk of a child being born with the virus to less than 5%—and keeps their mothers alive to raise them. Neither technical nor scientific barriers stand in the way of responding to this global call to action. The plan notes that what is needed is leadership, shared responsibility and concerted action among donor nations, recipient countries and the private sector to make an AIDS-free generation a reality.
In answering the Global Plan’s call to action, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) announced an additional US$ 75 million to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) efforts. This funding will be on top of the approximately US$ 300 million that PEPFAR already provides annually for PMTCT.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged US$ 40 million, Chevron committed to US$ 20 million and Johnson & Johnson pledged US$ 15 million.
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As signatories of the UN Convention of the Right of the Child, EU member states have long been committed to making the best interests of the child a primary consideration for public authorities. The new Treaty of Lisbon further commits the European Union and its member states to protecting the rights of the child in all internal and external policies. In December 2011, the protection of the rights of the child was declared an explicit priority for EU external action and efforts to promote human rights and democracy in the world.Migrant children constitute a particularly vulnerable group. As children and as migrants they face poverty, social exclusion, exploitation and multiple risks, including risks to health. How to translate Europe’s commitment to protecting the rights of children in the context of migration, irrespective of nationality, legal status or social background, remains a particular challenge. Special attention is required to ensure that the rights and principles laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to migrant children without conditions.While respect for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is one key component of EU policies on migration, repatriation and a credible threat of forced return are held to be indispensable tools in Europe’s fight against illegal migration. Prompted by the lack of child-focused migration research, and concerns about a possible impact of repatriation on children’s psychosocial health, UNICEF decided to explore how repatriation and reintegration realities interact with children’s mental health. Focusing on children repatriated from Germany and Austria to Kosovo, this study aims to provide empirical evidence to allow for a more informed discussion aimed at protecting the best interests of children. How to make the rights of children an integral part of migration and repatriation policies thus lies at the heart of this research.The evidence presented indeed points to an alarming situation: one out of two children describe their return as the worst experience of their lives. Especially foreign-born and minority children experience their repatriation as traumatic. Every third repatriated child suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome; nearly one in two teenagers suffers from depression and one in four reports suicidal ideation. Reintegration realities in Kosovo today are such that key factors that could help these children recover are almost non-existent: many returned children live in abject poverty, 70 percent of minority children drop out of school upon return, and the mental health care system in Kosovo is simply unable to meet the treatment needs identified in repatriated children and parents.Europe’s commitment to act in the child’s best interests is put to the test in every return decision taken. The responsibility to protect children rights, however, does not end at a country’s border. On the contrary, as this study underlines repatriation practices and reintegration realities greatly impact a child’s wellbeing and psychosocial health. As a child’s health is a sine qua non for the exercise of all other rights, health considerations must take precedence over legal and political concerns in sending and receiving countries.
Palestinian Initiatives for 2011 at the United Nations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State, Foreign Press Center)
Many Members of Congress are actively interested in the question of possible U.N. action on Palestinian statehood. Congress could try to influence U.S. policy and the choices of other actors through the authorization and appropriation of foreign assistance to the Palestinians, the United Nations, and Israel and through oversight of the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts.
Changes to aid levels may depend on congressional views of how maintaining or changing aid levels could affect U.S. leverage and credibility in future regional and global contexts. Officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) are taking action in the United Nations aimed at solidifying international support for Palestinian statehood. On September 23, 2011, at the opening of the annual session of the General Assembly, PLO Chairman and PA President Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application for Palestinian state membership to the U.N. Secretary-General—on the basis of the armistice lines that prevailed before the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (the “1967 borders”)—in order to bring about a Security Council vote on whether to recommend membership. Abbas cites a lack of progress on the peace process with Israel as the driving factor behind PLO consideration of alternative pathways toward a Palestinian state. The Obama Administration has indicated that it will veto a Security Council resolution in favor of statehood. In an alternate or parallel scenario, an existing U.N. member state supportive of PLO plans may sponsor a resolution in the General Assembly. Such a resolution could—with a simple majority vote—recommend the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders—either as-is or subject to future Israel-PLO negotiation—and change Palestine’s permanent observer status in the United Nations from that of an “entity” to that of a “non-member state.” U.S., Israeli, and PLO diplomacy focused on Europe—particularly permanent Security Council members France and the United Kingdom—has been active and could further intensify as the time for a possible vote draws closer. Diplomacy also might currently or in the future include negotiations regarding the venue for, and the timing and wording of, potential resolutions or other actions on Palestinian statehood.
This report provides information on the U.N. framework and process for options being discussed, including overviews of the following topics: the United Nations and recognition of states, observer status in the United Nations, and the criteria and process for United Nations membership. The report also analyzes the prospects for avoiding U.N. action by reaching an Israel-PLO agreement to resume negotiations, as well as the possibility of a compromise U.N. resolution that could set forth parameters for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations but stop short of addressing the question of Palestinian statehood beyond expressing aspirations.
It is difficult to predict the potential future implications of U.N. action on Palestinian statehood. Some observers speculate that tightened Israeli security with respect to the West Bank and Gaza and popular unrest or civil disobedience among Palestinians could ensue, depending on various scenarios. Although Abbas maintains that he seeks an eventual return to U.S.-backed Israel-PLO negotiations on a more equal basis, an upgrade of the Palestinians’ status at the U.N. also could facilitate subsequent efforts to apply greater pressure on Israel, especially if the PLO gains greater ability to present grievances in international courts—such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or International Criminal Court (ICC). Whether U.N. action or its aftermath would make Israel more or less willing to offer concessions in a negotiating process remains unclear, especially in light of ongoing regional political change and the volatility and possible deterioration of Israel’s political and military relationships with Egypt and Turkey.
Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory
Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory (PDF)
Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
While the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) grew by 7.4 per cent in 2009 and 9.3 per cent in 2010, unemployment remained high, at 30 per cent in both years. The growth was driven by donor support, and reflects an economy recovering from a low base. Economic growth has not altered the reality of worsening long-term development prospects, caused by the ongoing loss of Palestinian land and natural resources, isolation from global markets, and fragmentation. Unemployment, poverty and food insecurity, especially in Gaza, continue to be alarming. The Palestinian Authority’s fiscal position remains precarious, despite recent improvements. A large trade deficit and dependence on the Israeli economy persist. New evidence suggests that the trade deficit with Israel is overstated by official data, which mask “indirect imports”. The tax revenue on such indirect imports, currently lost, could increase Palestinian public revenue by 25 per cent. Meanwhile, the economic ramifications of the severance of East Jerusalem from the rest of the OPT call for serious attention too. In spite of limited resources, UNCTAD continues to respond to the needs of the Palestinian economy in coordination with other United Nations organizations and donors, and has recently commenced a new project to “strengthen Palestinian trade-facilitation capacity”.
OAS, OECD and ECLAC Present First Report on International Migration in the Americas
Source: Organization of American States, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
The Organization of American States (OAS), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) today presented the First Report on International Migration in the Americas, a joint effort by the three organizations to make rigorous and current technical information on the phenomenon of international migration available to the international community.
This First Report analyzes the migration situation in the nine countries of the Americas that participated in the first phase of the Continuous Reporting System on Labour Migration for the Americas (SICREMI): Argentina, Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and Uruguay. Nine more countries will participate in the second phase, at the end of which a report will be published in 2012: Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, and Dominican Republic.
Among other facts, the report highlights that, between 2003 and 2009, nearly 950,000 people per year emigrated from the Americas to countries of the OECD; of this total, nearly half went to the United States, and a fourth to Spain. Furthermore, it specifies that “legal migration levels from the Americas to OECD destination countries have generally maintained themselves in the midst of the most severe economic crisis of the post-war years with the exception of migration levels to Spain and the United States.” Recent developments in remittance flows, the labor market situation of emigrants from countries in the Americas in recent years, and asylum seekers in the Americas are some of the other subjects contained in the report.
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World Investment Report 2011
Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
Global foreign direct investment (FDI) has not yet bounced back to pre-crisis levels, though some regions show better recovery than others. The reason is not financing constraints, but perceived risks and regulatory uncertainty in a fragile world economy.
The World Investment Report 2011 forecasts that, barring any economic shocks, FDI flows will recover to pre-crisis levels over the next two years. The challenge for the development community is to make this anticipated investment have greater impact on our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
In 2010 – for the first time – developing economies absorbed close to half of global FDI inflows. They also generated record levels of FDI outflows, much of it directed to other countries in the South. This further demonstrates the growing importance of developing economies to the world economy, and of South-South cooperation and investment for sustainable development.
Increasingly, transnational corporations are engaging with developing and transition economies through a broadening array of production and investment models, such as contract manufacturing and farming, service outsourcing, franchising and licensing. These relatively new phenomena present opportunities for developing and transition economies to deepen their integration into the rapidly evolving global economy, to strengthen the potential of their home-grown productive capacity, and to improve their international competitiveness.
Unlocking the full potential of these new developments will depend on wise policymaking and institution building by governments and international organizations. Entrepreneurs and businesses in developing and transition economies need frameworks in which they can benefit fully from integrated international production and trade. I commend this report, with its wealth of research and analysis, to policymakers and businesses pursuing development success in a fast-changing world.
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Full Text Reference Book: African Statistical Yearbook 2011 (3rd Ed.)
Source: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (via INFOdocket)
From the Introductory Material:
The 2011 African Statistical Yearbook was prepared under the overall umbrella of the African Statistical Coordination Committee set up by major continental organizations dealing with statistical development namely the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the African Union Commission (AUC), and the United Na tions Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in the framework of the implementation of the Reference Regional Strategic Framework for Statistical Capacity Building in Africa (RRSF).
As with the previous two editions, this third edition presents time series showing how African Countries performed on several economic and social thematic areas over the 2002 to 2010 period. We have continued our efforts to privilege the use of data sourced from countries national sources, validated through a rigorous process.