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G7 summit begins with focus on pandemic, climate change

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By Gistflash

June 11, 2021

Leaders of the Group of Major Industrialised Nations (G7) are meeting on Friday for a summit that is overshadowed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

On the first day, leaders are due to discuss recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic, focusing on questions such as COVID-19 vaccine donations and financial aid to build vaccine production sites around the world.

The G7 group had pledged to donate one billion vaccine doses to poorer nations by sharing jabs directly and through financial aid, the British government announced.

Leaders were also to come up with a plan to extend vaccine manufacturing.

Ahead of the summit, U.S. President Joe Biden said the U.S. would donate another 500 million vaccine doses to 92 poorer countries and the African Union by June next year.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the three-day summit in the coastal village of Carbis Bay, announced that his country would provide 100 million surplus doses, most of them to be distributed through the COVAX vaccine-sharing programme.

The G7 group remained divided over the issue of lifting patent protection for Coronavirus vaccines, as proposed by the U.S. and several other nations.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that France and South Africa would present a proposal during the summit on an exemption for a limited period of time and applying to particular places.

The group was also looking to discuss plans to better prepare the world for future outbreaks.

“Global solutions are needed,’’ according to a draft of a “Carbis Bay Health Declaration’’ seen by dpa.

In the draft, the G7 leaders commit “to strengthen our collective defences to better prevent, detect and respond to, and recover from, future pandemics through effective multilateral action and a strengthened global health system.’’

In the evening, the leaders are scheduled to attend a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II and her son, Prince Charles, during which environmental protection and fighting climate change was on the agenda.

It was the leaders’ first in-person meeting in this format in two years, after the G7 leaders only met virtually last year due to the pandemic.

It was the first major international summit for Biden, which he was attending as part of a one-week Europe trip.

The group will also discuss relationships with Russia and China, with Biden looking to strengthen ties with the other G7 members again to create a united counterweight to the two nations.

The G7 comprises the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada. On Saturday, the leaders of Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa were invited as guests as well.

Johnson said he hoped this would make the summit more of a conference of leading democracies.

dpa/NAN

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Ethiopia’s govt. condemns probe into Tigray human rights abuses

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By Gistflash

June 17, 2021

An African Union investigation into possible human rights abuses in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region was met with condemnation by the government in Addis Ababa on Thursday.

The investigation, which was a unilateral announcement by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, is unhelpful and has no legal basis, according to Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry.

The inquiry should be halted immediately, it added in the statement.

Ethiopia’s government forces had been repeatedly accused of using violence and rape against the population in Tigray, which prompted the African Union to announce that investigations into the allegations would be undertaken by a commission of inquiry.

Ethiopia launched a military offensive on its northern region of Tigray in November to diminish the power of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which rules the region and has been critical of the central government.

The hostilities in northern Ethiopia soon escalated into a complex conflict involving neighbouring Eritrea.

Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled the fighting, which has caused widespread destruction.

According to the UN, similarly high numbers of people in Tigray were facing the threat of starvation.

dpa/NAN

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3.2 bn people under threat of desertification, drought, says UN chief

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By Gistflash

June 16, 2021

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that a combination of land degradation from climate change and the expansion of agriculture, cities and infrastructures, are undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people across the globe.

Guterres said this in his message on Wednesday, to mark World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, globally celebrated on June 17.

Its purpose is to raise awareness on desertification and drought, highlighting methods of preventing desertification and recovering from drought

“Humanity is waging a relentless, self-destructive war on nature. Biodiversity is declining, greenhouse gas concentrations are rising and our pollution can be found from the remotest islands to the highest peaks.

“We must make peace with nature,” he said.

The top UN official said that while “land can be our greatest ally”, currently it’s “suffering”. Land degradation is harming biodiversity and enabling infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, to emerge.

“Restoring degraded land would remove carbon from the atmosphere, help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change and generate an extra 1.4 trillion dollars in agricultural production each year.’’

And best of all, land restoration is “simple, inexpensive and accessible to all”, he added, calling it “one of the most democratic and pro-poor ways of accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

“To meet an ever-growing demand for food, raw materials, roads and homes, humans have altered nearly three quarters of the earth’s surface, beyond land that is permanently frozen.

“Avoiding, slowing and reversing the loss of productive land and natural ecosystems now is both urgent and important for a swift recovery from the pandemic and for guaranteeing the long-term survival of people and the planet.

“Restoring degraded land brings economic resilience, creates jobs, raises incomes and increases food security,’’ according to the UN chief.

Moreover, it helps biodiversity to recover and locks away carbon, while lessening the impacts of climate change and underpinning a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year marks the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration”, Guterres noted, while calling on everyone to “make healthy land central to all our planning”.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) pointed to the “dramatic impact” that desertification was having on “our common environmental heritages”, posing a “considerable threat” to the health of communities, global peace and sustainable development.

Having contributed to the collapse of biodiversity and promoting zoonoses, she called desertification “another reminder” that human health and that of the environment, were “deeply intertwined”.

Desertification and drought also increase water scarcity, at a time when two billion people still lacked access to safe drinking water, said Azoulay, adding that “over three billion may have to confront a similar situation by 2050”.

Quoting the Secretariat of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, she said that by 2030, the phenomenon would likely cause 135 million people to migrate worldwide.

“These migrations and deprivations are in turn a source of conflict and instability, demonstrating that desertification is also a fundamental challenge to peace,” she stressed.

Underscoring that “working together is crucial,’’ the UNESCO chief maintained that sustainable progress cannot be achieved without the participation of everyone, especially the youth.

“Together, let us build a sustainable future so that the fertile lands of the past do not become deserts emptied of their populations and their biodiversity,” she added.

NAN

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UN to provide meals to over 530,000 South Sudanese children

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By Gistflash

June 15, 2021

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday signed an agreement with South Sudan to provide meals to more than 530,000 children in the country.

The meals will be provided in 1,100 schools across the ten states for a period of 19 months.

Adeyinka Badejo, WFP Deputy Country Director for South Sudan, said the MoU signed with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction was aimed at increasing enrollment and encourage parents to keep children in school.

“We will be focusing on schools which are in more vulnerable areas where the level of food insecurity is high and where participation in education is low and where nutrition rates are concerning,’’ Badejo told journalists in Juba.

Kuyok Abol Kuyok, Undersecretary in the Ministry of General Education and Instruction, Sudan, said that the project would enable them to provide school meals to over half a million children in school across the country.

“This programme is one of the strategies we have to improve education in South Sudan and we are very grateful to the World Food Programme and donors,’’ said Kuyok.

The school feeding program was introduced in the then Southern Sudan in 2003 prior to independence from Sudan in 2011, with the aim of enhancing access to food.

Xinhua/NAN

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