United Nations

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on all parties in the deadly conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region to agree on a definitive political settlement following the signing of a cessation of hostilities accord between the Government and a major rebel group. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Ban hailed the agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, by the Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) as “an important step towards an inclusive and comprehensive peace agreement” for Darfur, where nearly seven years of war between have killed at least 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million others from their homes. The African Union-U.N. Joint Special Representative, Ibrahim Gambari, who was in Doha to witness the signing ceremony, also commended both parties on their efforts.

    Over 1,500 people have been displaced by increased fighting in the western part of Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region and very few agencies have been able to provide them with desperately-needed aid due to lack of security, the U.N. reported Feb. 24. The displaced people have sought refuge in Thur, West Darfur, after fleeing from nearby villages because of increased fighting in the Jebel Marra area last month, the joint African Union-U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said, after sending a humanitarian mission there earlier this week. “However, following the Darfur Framework Agreement signed between the Sudanese Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), it is expected that help will quickly begin to reach the areas affected by the recent clashes,” the mission added. “UNAMID is already finalizing plans for other similar missions to the affected areas, in coordination with other humanitarian agencies.”

    With often preventable, non-communicable diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory illness accounting for 60 percent of all global deaths, experts from around the world gathered at a United Nations forum this week to draw up plans to reverse the trend. Solutions exist to prevent premature deaths from such diseases by cutting tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol, yet the World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts that their mortality rate will rise by 17 percent over the next five years, with the greatest increase in Africa (24 percent) and the Eastern Mediterranean (23 percent). “Diseases once associated with abundance are now heavily concentrated in poor and disadvantaged groups. Developing countries have the greatest vulnerability and the least resilience,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.

    The U.N. launched a new effort to expand its partnership with the private sector and philanthropies in the battle for complete gender equality and the empowerment of women, not only as a necessary human right but as economic common sense as well. “To the private sector, we look to you to exercise even more leadership for gender equality starting from the top,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a special event at U.N. Headquarters in New York, attended by some 300 representatives of foundations, private companies, academia and civil society organizations. “To the philanthropic community, we look to you to target women with your programs.” Co-sponsored by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the U.N. Office for Partnerships (UNOP) and the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), the forum heard speakers stress the importance of women in ending poverty and propelling economic development.

    Under a new U.N.-backed initiative, cities in Asia and the Pacific, which are dealing with ever-increasing heaps of waste, will be able to transform “trash into cash.” The scheme – unveiled by (ESCAP) and Waste Concern, a Bangladeshi NGO – seeks to help solid waste development strategies become decentralized, pro-poor, low-carbon and self-financing through the sale of carbon credits. Exploding urban populations and economies in the region have resulted in a surge in solid wastes. Even though local governments spend up to 60 percent of their annual budgets to collect, transport and dispose of solid wastes, not all of it is collected and waste is often disposed in crude open dumps that pollute the atmosphere and water. The new program, launched in Dhaka, Bangladesh, seeks to harness the potential of the informal waste collection sector, which has demonstrated that recycling trash can be extremely profitable.

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