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UN General Assembly elects Peter Thomson as President of 71st session

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, June 13: In a rare secret ballot vote, the United Nations General Assembly today elected Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji, as President of its upcoming 71st session.

Mr. Thomson, who will replace current General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, will begin his tenure in September at the commencement of the 71st General Assembly session.

The new President-elect defeated Andreas Mavroyiannis of Cyprus by a secret-ballot vote of 94 to 90, with one abstention.

The selection of the President of the General Assembly follows a geographical rotation system, with respective regional groups putting forward a consensus candidate every year. If a group cannot reach consensus on a nominee, a vote by secret ballot will take place.

Following the voting, Mr. Thomson highlighted that his election marked the first time that a representative of a Pacific small island developing State will serve as Assembly President. He added that as a representative of such a State, he planned to be vocal on the issue of climate change.

Mr. Thomson also noted that the Assembly's 71st session would bring momentum to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and serve to achieve progress on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In that regard, he pledged to serve the Assembly and UN in a spirit of fidelity and commitment to the common good.

For his part, Mr. Lykketoft noted that Mr. Thomson brought extensive experience in matters of rural development, as well as in international affairs for many years.

Expressing his support for Mr. Thomson's preparations to assume the presidency on 13 September, Mr. Lykketoft said that much work remained to be done during the current session, including preparing for a high-level event on large movements of refugees and migrants in September, and further informal dialogues with candidates for the position of Secretary-General, as necessary.

Congratulating Mr. Thomson on his new role, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted that the President-elect brings a broad perspective to his new post, having years of experience in the international arena, both working for the Government of Fiji and in the private sector.

“I am confident that he will seek the views of others to forge consensus. As the new President-elect once said, 'Progress at the United Nations does not emanate from adversarial corners, but from cooperation by those who meet in the middle,” Mr. Ban said.

The Secretary-General noted that during Mr. Thomson's posting as Permanent Representative, he made his mark as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China.

Mr. Ban also said that Mr. Thomson gained extensive knowledge of the UN development system as Chair of the Executive Board of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS). Moreover, Mr. Ban highlighted Mr. Thomson's experience as Vice President of the General Assembly from 2010 to 2011.

“In addition to his staunch commitment to development, the new President-elect brings the very valuable perspective of a small island developing State to this post. He is a staunch advocate of both sustainable development and climate action. I count on him to help us carry out both the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” the Secretary-General said.

The UN chief also said that Mr. Thomson will have an opportunity to build on the “extraordinary progress” seen under the leadership of Mr. Lykketoft.

“At this time, I would like to take this opportunity to particularly commend Mr. Lykketoft for his many important initiatives,” the Secretary-General said.

“Already this month, the Assembly has adopted an action-oriented political declaration on ending AIDS. He has convened thematic debates on pressing global challenges – and he has travelled to the frontlines of crisis,” he added.

Mr. Ban also noted that Mr. Lykketoft has brought new transparency to the selection process for the next Secretary-General.

“This has drawn unprecedented and very welcome attention around the world,” Mr. Ban said.

Made up of all the 193 Member States of the UN, the General Assembly provides a forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter. It meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required.

65 million people displaced in 2015, says UN

GENEVA, June 20: The UN refugee agency says persecution and conflict in places like Syria and Afghanistan raised the total number of refugees and internally displaced people worldwide to a record 65.3 million at the end of last year.

The previous year, 2014, had already seen the highest number of refugees worldwide since World War II, with 60 million displaced people. But last year — when Europe staggered under the arrival of large numbers of migrants — topped that record by nearly 10 percent, the UNHCR said Monday in unveiling its annual Global Trends Report.

The Geneva-based agency urged leaders from Europe and elsewhere to do more to end the wars that are fanning the exodus of people from their homelands.

“I hope that the message carried by those forcibly displaced reaches the leaderships: We need action, political action, to stop conflicts,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “The message that they have carried is: ‘If you don’t solve problems, problems will come to you.’”

With stark detail, UNHCR said that on average, 24 people had been displaced every minute of every day last year — or 34,000 people a day — up from 6 every minute in 2005. Global displacement has roughly doubled since 1997, and risen by 50 percent since 2011 alone — when the Syria war began.

More than half of all refugees came from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Turkey was the “top host” country for the second year running, taking in 2.5 million people — nearly all from neighboring Syria. Afghan neighbor Pakistan had 1.6 million, while Lebanon, next to Syria, hosted 1.1 million.

Grandi said policymakers and advocacy groups admittedly face daunting challenges helping the largest subset of displaced people: Some 40.8 million internally displaced in countries in conflict. Another 21.3 million were refugees and some 3.2 million more were seeking asylum.
More than a million people fled to Europe last year, causing a political crisis in the EU.

Grandi called on countries to work to fight the xenophobia that has accompanied the rise in refugee populations, and decried both physical barriers — like fences erected by some European countries — as well as legislative ones that limit access to richer, more peaceful EU states.

Such European policies were “spreading a negative example around the world,” he said.
“There is no plan B for Europe in the long run,” Grandi said. “Europe will continue to receive people seeking asylum. Their numbers may vary ... but it is inevitable.”

India could lose $49 bn in GDP by food price shock: UN

UNITED NATIONS, May 26: India could lose $49 billion in GDP if global food prices double in future, according to a new UN report which said the world will likely suffer from more volatile food prices due to rising populations.

The UN Environment Programme-Global Footprint Network report, entitled ‘ERISC Phase II: How food prices link environmental constraints to sovereign credit risk’, features countries according to how badly they will be affected if global food commodity prices double.

The report said if global food prices double then China could lose $161 billion in GDP and India could lose $49 billion.

“In the future, the world will likely suffer from higher and more volatile food prices as a result of a growing imbalance between the supply and demand of food. Rising populations and incomes will intensify the demand for food while climate change and resource scarcity will disrupt food production,” it said.

The report models the impact of a global food price shock on 110 countries to assess which countries face the greatest economic risk from this growing imbalance.

In terms of the highest percentage loss to GDP, the five countries that will be worst hit if food commodity prices double are all in Africa - Benin, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana. But China will see the most amount of money wiped from its GDP of any country - $161 billion, equivalent to the total GDP of New Zealand.

India will see the second highest loss to GDP - $49 billion, equivalent to the total GDP of Croatia.

It said the risk exposure of individual countries is largely determined by their net food trade and the share of average household spending on food commodities.

Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and the Philippines that combine high food commodity imports and high household spending on these commodities see the worst effects in terms of reduction in absolute GDP, worsening of current account balances, and higher inflation.

A number of large emerging market countries, including China, Indonesia and Turkey, are also strongly impacted as they have high household spending levels on food commodities and moderate net imports of these commodities.

Countries expected to experience an increase in GDP include South American cash crop exporters such as Paraguay and Uruguay and agricultural powerhouses such as Brazil, Australia, Canada and the United States.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Fluctuations in food prices are felt directly by consumers and reverberate throughout national economies. As environmental pressures mount, it is important to anticipate the economic impact of these stresses so that countries and investors can work on mitigating and minimising risk. And as the global population continues to rise, food prices can be a bellwether for how environmental risk translates to economic risk and vulnerability.”

UN observes 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar

NEW YORK: The birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar was observed here on Wednesday at the United Nations for the first time with focus on "Combating Inequalities for the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals". The Permanent Mission of India to the United nations in New York hosted a special event at the UN Headquarters to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The event was organised in association with the Kalpana Saroj Foundation and Foundation of Human Horizon.

UN to observe 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, April 9: The birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar will be observed on April 13 at the United Nations for the first time with focus on "Combating Inequalities for the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals"

The Permanent Mission of India to the United nations in New York will host a special event at the UN Headquarters to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Dr. B. R.
Ambedkar. The event will be organised in association with the Kalpana Saroj
Foundation and Foundation of Human Horizon.

“Babasaheb’s birth anniversary to be observed at the U.N. for 1st time with focus on combating inequalities to achieve SDGs,” India’s envoy to the U.N. Syed Akbaruddin had tweeted.

"The landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that combating inequality within and among countries, creating sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth and fostering inclusion are interdependent. The vision of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the architect of
the Indian Constitution, to achieve social justice and equality also finds resonance in the core message of the 2030 Agenda," according to a press note issued by the Indian Mission.

To highlight the above, a panel discussion will be held on the theme 'Combating inequalities for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals' with the objective of raising awareness on the importance of addressing all forms of inequality for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and as per the visionary message of Dr. Ambedkar.

Ms. Helen Clark, Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and the Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will be the Keynote Speaker. Professor Stan
Kachnowski Chair, HITLAB and Fellow, Royal Society of Medicine, Associate Professor Ms.
Anupama Rao from Colombia University and Mr. Christopher Queen, Lecturer at Harvard
University will be among the panelists.

The event is expected to be bring together political leaders, senior UN officials, diplomats, academia, civil society and private sector from India, US and other parts of the world.




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