Daily Archives: January 31, 2018

Radiant.Earth and OpenAQ Partner to Fight Air Pollution in Africa

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Radiant.Earth today announced its partnership with OpenAQ to bring together a diverse group of individuals in Ghana and Kenya who are deeply concerned about poor air quality in their community and are looking for solutions.

Radiant.Earth, a non-profit advocating for open geospatial data for positive impact and improved decision-making, will provide OpenAQ with institutional support to organize two workshops focusing on air inequality.

Air pollution, one of the biggest global health threats of our time, kills more people in Africa each year than unsafe water or childhood malnutrition. However, despite the fact that it is a stealthy killer, the development of public policy to address this problem remains complicated. OpenAQ, established specifically to fight air inequality worldwide, approaches this policy problem by opening up air quality data and convening around it a diverse global grassroots community of people from multiple sectors.

“This collaborative community approach is impactful,” says Dr. Christa Hasenkopf, Co-founder of OpenAQ. “To date, we have opened up more than 150 million air quality measurements from 8,174 locations in 64 countries. We worked with community members across the world, who have launched policy-relevant field studies and petitioned their parliaments for action. Members of our community have collaborated on articles for the general media, written a joint science and policy commentary, developed apps and bots, conducted research, and built open-source tools.”

The workshops in Ghana and Kenya will focus on identifying overarching goals and strategies shared among participants to fight air inequality—zeroing in on tangible, attainable, and specific actions that participants can take. The plan is also to connect workshop participants with the larger OpenAQ Community, so as to exchange ‘community wins’ and open-source resources to have a larger impact.

This project is funded in part by The Godley Family Foundation, which backs innovative solutions that address health and environmental issues. “We are pleased to partner with Radiant.Earth, OpenAQ, and local communities in finding creative ways to address the global air inequality problem,” says Frederick Godley, MD, President of the Godley Family Foundation.

“Help from The Godley Family Foundation and Radiant.Earth will allow us to expand the OpenAQ community, and to learn and share with the communities in Ghana and Kenya,” says Dr. Hasenkopf. “We are enormously grateful.”

“Open data are essential to unmasking problems and finding solutions to global challenges,” says Ms. Anne Hale Miglarese, CEO of Radiant.Earth. “We are pleased to support OpenAQ with this project as they work to empower the public to fight air pollution through open data, open-source tools, and cooperation.”

Scheduled to take place in the second quarter of 2018, the OpenAQ workshops in Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya are an opportunity for local tech, science, policy, government, media, open data, software, art, and other air inequality-related sectors to interact with each other and the global OpenAQ Community and Platform.


OpenAQ is a non-profit that fights air inequality by opening up air quality data and connecting a diverse global, grassroots, multi-sectoral community.

ABOUT Radiant.Earth

Radiant.Earth is a non-profit organization committed to aggregating the world’s open Earth imagery and providing access and education on its use to the global development community.

Media Contact

Christa Hasenkopf

Building Regional Partnership in Afghanistan, Central Asia among Signature Items of January, Speakers Underline at Security Council ‘Wrap-Up’ Meeting

A ministerial debate on building regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia was among the signature events of a January packed with meetings and discussions, Security Council President Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan) told members during an end-of-month wrap-up meeting today.

Central Asia is represented on the Security Council for the first time in the history of the United Nations, he said, describing efforts to balance the organ’s global agenda with priorities in the region. Through a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, his delegation sought to foster new dynamism, pursuing a strategy to strengthen: the security-development nexus; a regional approach to transnational threats faced by countries in conflict; and streamlining United Nations effectiveness.

Mahlet Hailu Guadey (Ethiopia), also speaking on behalf of CAte D’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea, said the Council’s recent visit to Kabul allowed members to better understand regional dynamics. She described other the notable meetings on enhanced coordination among the United Nations, African Union, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Southern African Development Community (SADC) in support of the 31 December 2016 political agreement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the briefing on the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), and related presidential statement, in support of national and local actors.

Amy Noel Tachco (United States) welcomed the emphasis on promoting peace in Afghanistan, and potential partnerships between the Government and the region, stressing that that country was a top United States priority. Discussions on the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, and press statement supporting the work of its Head, Natalia Gherman, marked the first time we have come to consensus on that topic in several years, she said.

Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (Peru) agreed on the need act more constructively to prevent conflict. Meeting today’s challenges must include bolstering multilateralism, respect for the rule of law and compliance with United Nations Charter, especially its Chapter VI. It was important for the Council to be more coordinated in tackling new challenges, and to maintain unity. While the 15-member organ had stood together in support of the peace process in Afghanistan, it struggled to reach consensus on the issue of impunity related to chemical weapons use in Syria.

Olof Skoog (Sweden) welcomed the timely briefing on non-proliferation, and in particular, the role of confidence-building measures. The Council had an important role to play in advancing those issues, as well as standing united to ensure perpetrators were held to account. He applauded efforts to ensure the Council communicated clear messages after most closed consultations, which not only increased transparency, but allowed members to summarize the most salient points of discussions.

Samer Melki (France) welcomed the 9 January meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and adoption of the press statement, which recalled the importance of the Saint-Sylvestre agreement, respect of electoral timeline and participation of all in respect of fundamental rights. This was very important for the partners of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the 23 January meeting on Mali, the Council sent a unanimous message of impatience on the implementation of peace agreements, while the renewal of sanctions on the Central African Republic on 30 January was another sign of its attention to the need for sustainable peace.

Lise Huberta Johanna Gregoire Van Haaren (Netherlands) said the Council’s continued support to Afghanistan was evident, as just this week it issued three press statements on terrorist attacks, events which only strengthened its resolve to stand with the Afghan people. On Syria, the Council considered a draft resolution to establish a new mechanism to investigate chemical weapons use in that country. The fundamental characteristic of any accountability mechanism was the principle of impartiality and independence. These are still missing in the proposal presented, she said.

Alexander A. Polyanskiy (Russian Federation) said non-proliferation required a quest to overcome disagreement, especially when considering new mechanisms. On cooperation in Central Asia and Afghanistan, he expressed hope that the positive experience of the Moscow format would be taken into account, adding that external players must not try to drag regional countries into a game or present false choices. It was important to find mutual understanding, and discussions must continue in the broader format of the General Assembly. He also welcomed that the Council agreed on a press statement on the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia for the first time in three years.

Zhang Dianbin (China) said the Council’s visit to Kabul, along with the 19 January ministerial meeting on Afghanistan and Central Asia, allowed members explore ways to resolve Afghan issues from a regional perspective. The open debate on the question of Palestine underscored the urgency of resolving the issues and sent a clear message on the need to resume peace talks.

Joanna Wronecka (Poland) cited January’s two high-level events, along with the Council’s visit to Afghanistan, noting that the press statement on the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia was the first since 2015. The presidential statement on UNOWAS would be useful tool for maintaining stability in that region. She underscored the need to maintain unity, stressing: We will need this level of unity in the upcoming months.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Soliz (Bolivia) stressed that cooperation between Afghanistan and Central Asia was vital for creating stability, as well as fighting terrorism and transnational organized crime, citing four recent terrorist attacks in that country. He also highlighted United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and work to support the political process.

Stephen Hickey (United Kingdom) said the Council must make the consequences for those violating the cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and undermining the revitalization forum. He called for an arms embargo equally on all parties. In Syria, while the Council had agreed to set aside differences on the political situation to tackle humanitarian issues, we haven’t seen any progress. Neither have the people in eastern Ghouta, where children awaited the regime’s approval for medical evacuation. The Council must express itself clearly on the matter.

Mansour Ayyad Sh. A. Alotaibi (Kuwait) said his country and Sweden, as co-penholders on the humanitarian situation in Syria, were ready to take the lead in reaching a unified Council position on expanding assistance to reach Idlib, eastern Ghouta and Aleppo, and providing civilian protection. As Chair of the Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, and as Council President for February, Kuwait would hold an open debate on increasing transparency and performance.

Source: United Nations

Outlining 2018 Workplan, Peacebuilding Commission Chair Says More Collaboration with Regional Organizations, Global Financial Institutions Among Top Priorities

Convening its first 2018 meeting amid several major shifts in the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, the Peacebuilding Commission today elected Ion Jinga (Romania) as Chair of its twelfth session, while also adopting a workplan aimed at expanding the Commission’s work and building synergies both within and beyond the United Nations system.

Elected as Vice Chairs for the same period were the representatives of Germany and the Republic of Korea.

At the meeting’s outset, the Commission adopted, without a vote, a draft report on its eleventh session. Presenting the document, outgoing Chair Cho Tae yul (Republic of Korea) said it outlined the Commission’s work in 2017 to implement the relevant recommendations and resolutions laid out in the wider review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, as well as priorities identified in the previous report’s Agenda going forward section. It also identified key priorities to serve as the framework of its future workplan, he said, noting that the report would be transmitted to the General Assembly and the Security Council for their respective annual consideration.

Prior to the report’s adoption, the representative of Japan welcomed its contents, stressing: The Commission has come a long way in the last couple of years. While the body had been going through a difficult time, those challenges could also be used to make great headway. Among other things, members had worked to make the Commission’s work more transparent and allowed it to venture into new territory, including a partnership with the World Bank and the inclusion of new countries which had not previously been included on its agenda. Recalling that the Secretary General had presented several important reform proposals, he emphasized that we must respond in kind, showing that we are committed to improving our own performance.

Mr. Jinga, addressing the Commission for the first time as its Chair, outlined the proposed 2018 workplan, which he said focused on five key priorities. The first was to maintain its regional approach, which presented important opportunities and positioned the body to carry on its coordinated, coherent approach to peacebuilding. As demonstrated during recent discussions on Asian and Latin American experiences, peacebuilding is a universal imperative, he said, encouraging countries from various regions to consider using the Commission as a platform to share peacebuilding experiences and build partnerships with key stakeholders.

Regarding partnerships, he said the Commission had demonstrated a high degree of flexibility in engaging with peacebuilding stakeholders. Underlining his intention to further strengthen collaboration with regional and subregional organizations especially the African Union as well as global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank and civil society organizations, he said partnerships with the private sector should also be further explored.

Recalling that a key outcome of the recent peacebuilding review had been the recognition of the importance of supporting conflict affected countries through the whole process, including preventing the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of conflict, he went on to stress that peacebuilding must respect the sovereignty of the States concerned and be based on the concept of ownership. Pledging to further strengthen the synergies between the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, he voiced his intention to continue convening regular discussions with the Peacebuilding Support Office with the goal of keeping the Commission updated on the countries supported by the latter and enhancing coherence between the two bodies, all while preserving the Fund’s independence. In addition, he said, there was a need to raise the Commission’s profile and broaden public awareness of its work, which would be accomplished in part by transmitting its meetings via webcast.

Mr. Cho, delivering final remarks in his capacity as Chair of the Commission, said the progress achieved during his tenure had largely been made possible by the twin resolutions adopted in 2016 by the Security Council and the General Assembly on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture. Indeed, it had been an opportune time for reinvigorating the Commission’s role, allowing it to expand its work and consider new countries and regions. Most notably, the Commission had begun to assist the Gambia in its critical transition period by sustaining international attention on the country after the Security Council ended its deliberations on it.

Additionally, he said, the Commission had discussed the situations in the Solomon Islands, Colombia and Sri Lanka at their requests, contributing to the synergies between the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, and continued to take a regional approach through its discussions on the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and the Great Lakes regions. Stressing that such support must not end with one off meetings, he said the body should focus on identifying and implementing practical ways to help countries and regions in achieving their peacebuilding priorities.

The Commission had also continued to strengthen its partnerships with stakeholders within and outside the United Nations, he continued, recalling in particular a meeting convened with the World Bank in June 2017. Building a partnership with the African Development Bank would be another priority for 2018, as was continuing its recent exploration of ways to engage with the private sector and civil society.

Within the United Nations, he said, interaction between the Commission and the Security Council was improving, and the former had also convened a joint meeting with the Economic and Social Council in June 2017 to address the social and economic dimensions of the challenges facing the Sahel region. We should continue to deliberate on how to better work with these bodies to bring about a cross pillar, coherent, integrated approach to peacebuilding, he stressed.

Among other elements, he said the Commission should build on recent efforts to diversify its working methods � with a view to promoting the concept of a one PBC and move beyond simply convening meetings to explore more practical support it could provide to countries. That could include regular visits with international financial institutions in order to advocate on their behalf.

Oscar Fernandez Taranco, Assistant Secretary General for Peacebuilding Support, also addressed the Commission, thanking the outgoing Chair for his efforts over the recent year. You have helped raise the profile and impact of the PBC during this unprecedented year, he said, citing its meetings on the Sahel and Great Lakes region, as well as the Gambia, as important examples. Discussions on the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and Colombia had also been critical, as they provided a space for interested counties to share their experiences with peacebuilding, underlining the principle of national ownership and sharing lessons learned.

Equally important was the Commission’s intention to expand its work, he said, outlining several major challenges ahead. First, the Commission must continue to build on and consolidate the progress achieved and continue to become nimbler in its ability to assist countries. A high level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, to be convened by the President of the General Assembly on 24 and 25 April, would focus on accountability, leadership, partnerships and funding, among other issues. Noting that 2018 would see critical changes to the United Nations peace operations architecture including the repositioning of the various relevant bodies he said there would also likely be changes to the Peacebuilding Fund aimed at improving its ability to support the priorities of Member States and encouraging a quantum leap in their contributions to it.

Juergen Schulz (Germany), Vice Chair of the Commission, expressed his delegation’s strong support for both the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, noting that Germany had been the latter’s second largest donor in 2017. Welcoming changes to the Commission’s working methods in recent years, which had transformed it into a more flexible body, he also voiced support for efforts to strengthen its advisory role to the Security Council and urged members to build on the current positive momentum in sustaining peace.

Representatives of El Salvador, Colombia, Kenya, Burundi, Belgium, Bolivia, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Indonesia, France, South Africa, the Central African Republic and Mexico as well as the European Union delegation also took the floor to deliver general statements about the Commission’s past and upcoming work and pose questions about elements of its 2018 workplan. Many expressed support for its core priorities, while also drawing attention to the United Nations recent paradigm shift in support of a more holistic concept of sustaining peace. Others voiced concern that the Peacebuilding Fund remained woefully underfunded and called on States to boost their contributions to that critical entity. Mr. Jinga and Mr. Fernandez Taranco responded to several questions.

In other business, the Commission re elected, without a vote, representatives to serve as chairs of its country meetings during 2018. They were: Brazil, for Guinea Bissau; Canada, for Sierra Leone; Morocco, for the Central African Republic; Sweden, for Liberia; and Switzerland, for Burundi. Each delivered brief remarks outlining his or her priorities for the coming year.

Source: United Nations

Over $46 billion lost to premature cancer deaths in BRICS economies, UN research finds

Premature deaths as a result of cancer is costing major emerging economies tens of billions of dollars a year, a new United Nations health study has found, underlining the need for context-specific strategies for both prevention as well as treatment for those suffering from the disease.

The economic impact of cancer in fast-developing economies not only underlines the high cost of the disease in terms of the lives it claims and the impact on the economy, but also highlights the urgency of tackling preventable cancers in these countries, said the study’s lead author, Alison Pearce.

Published in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, the study led by the World Health Organization (WHO) cancer research centre reveals that the total cost of lost productivity because of premature cancer mortality for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa collectively known as BRICS countries was $46.3 billion in 2012 (the most recent year for which cancer data was available for all these countries).

These countries together account for more than 40 per cent the world’s population and a quarter of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, these countries are also home to 42 per cent of the global cancer deaths.

Although they have diverse levels of wealth, and health indicators, the BRICS countries have all undergone particularly rapid demographic and economic growth, noted the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in a news release announcing the findings.

These countries are all affected by infection-related cancers as well as cancers associated with changing lifestyles such as changes in diet, lack of physical activity, obesity and reproductive patterns.

Yet each of these countries has a distinct cancer profile, and therefore a tailored approach to national cancer control policy is required, added IARC.

The largest productivity loss at $28 billion was recorded in China, a country particularly affected by liver cancer, with hepatitis B virus infections and exposure to aflatoxins primary factors for the loss.

Lifestyle-related risk factors in Russia, South Africa and Brazil high consumption of alcohol, smoking and rapidly increasing obesity, respectively, added to the factors causing losses, noted the study.

In India, the use of chewing tobacco was a leading cause of economic loss due to premature mortality from cancers of the lip and oral cavity.

Policies to influence lifestyle changes and reduce cancer risk are, therefore, critical, highlights IARC.

The study demonstrates the economic importance of targeted primary prevention activities embedded in national cancer control policies. Focusing on tobacco control, vaccination programmes, and cancer screening, combined with access to adequate cancer treatment, would yield significant health and economic gains for the BRICS countries, said Christopher Wild, the Director of IARC.

Investing in evidence-based preventive interventions as a part of national cancer control plans is not only cost-effective and life-saving but also a powerful lever for sustainable economic development.

Source: UN News Centre


PRETORIA– South Africa and Uganda have signed a collaboration agreement to put in place various measures to boost and diversify bilateral trade, promote inclusive growth and create jobs.

The agreement which was signed here Tuesday by the Uganda Industrial Research Institution (UIRI) and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of South Africa will see the two countries co-operating in an agro-sector project on essential oils.

The project, which has already been piloted in Uganda, will lead to the establishment of the Essential Oil Out Grower Farmers Programme which will see university students being attached to the project to enhance local content creation and human capital development skills.

The two countries are committing about two million Rand (about 167,000 US dollars) each towards this project.

South Africa and landlocked Uganda will also work on projects in the areas of agro-processing, minerals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, footwear and chemicals. These will be led by South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Uganda Development Cooperation and the Uganda Development Bank Limited.

The agreement will see the agencies continually engaging on the prospects of lines of credit given to the common projects.

Collaboration between the two countries will see the reviewing of laws around retail distribution value chains, which will be inclusive of shelf life standards.

At present, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards requires South African retailers trading in dairy products to have a 75 per cent remaining period of shelf life on the products by the time the products are placed on supermarket shelves. This escalates the costs of trade and often leads to losses, as there are often delays in transportation.

There will also be collaboration in the areas of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) incubation, skills development and best practice exchanges. South Africa wants to learn from Uganda in this area, as the Ugandan economy has its foundations in the small enterprise economy.

Uganda’s exports are predominantly produced by SMEs, with about 60 per cent of products traded in the East Africa region produced by that country.

The two countries also agreed Tuesday to negotiate a co-operation agreement on investment at the end of a two-day Joint Trade Committee (JTC) here. The JTC was set up in 2015 to strengthen bilateral economic relations between the two countries.

The session was co-chaired by Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Gratitude Magwanishe and his Ugandan counterpart Amelia Kyambadde.

Magwanishe said the JTC explored new trade, investment and technical cooperation opportunities, as well as removing obstacles to equitable trade. It remains critical to improve trade conditions, despite low demand for commodities, the effects of drought and protectionism.

Trade imbalance between the two countries, volatile markets and the need for export promotion are changes which demand a positive response, said Magwanishe.

The Ugandan delegation called for a flexible market environment to try even the trade imbalance, which is in favour of South Africa. Ugandan companies have had little success in penetrating the South African market due to inadequate phytosanitary standards, high visa fees and lack of import codes.

Many South African companies already have a footprint in Uganda. However, Ugandan companies are minimal. As such, we seek improved trade and preferential access to the SA market, Kyambadde said.

She urged institutions to devise additional mechanisms to further promote equitable trade for the benefit of the people, while calling on both governments to be more active in implementing the mutual projects.

A joint working group will be formed in order to implement, monitor and evaluate the commitments from the JTC which will hold its next meeting in 2019.