Coalition of women organisations attending the ongoing 3rd United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-3) today urged the global assembly to prioritise the protection of women human rights and environmental defenders.
The women groups under the umbrella of the Women’s Major Group (WMG) made the call at a side event on the challenges facing women’s environmental rights defenders.
“Since the effects of pollution outlive all of us, we want a fast-response civil society advisory committee and the strengthening of UNEP’s safeguards and human rights policies if really we are to leave no one behind,” the women groups said.
Identifying 2017 as the deadliest year for women’s environmental rights defenders, the women called for increased protection of their rights to indigenous land and resource ownership as they face increased crackdowns, violence, threats, intimidation and murder by state and non-state actors.
The Women’s rights group also paid tributes to women who lost their lives this year while highlighting the important role of women rights defenders in creating a pollution-free future.
Helen Hakena, Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency, Papua New Guinea said, “We have suffered a 20-year war, which has had a terrible impact on Women.
“62% of the men confessed to having raped women. Even though the war has ended, women still face immense aggression from the conflict of resources on our land, where an international mining company operated the largest open pit mine in the world,” she said.
“The Panguna mine has destroyed and polluted our land, forest, rivers and food sources, and seeps all profits away, Nehan added”
Priscilla Achakpa of the Women’s Major Group revealed that about 200 women’s environmental rights defenders have been assassinated within the past 12 months, mostly killed over land and forest conflicts.
“Only last week, we lost Elisa Badayos from the Philippines. But these conflicts are greatly aggravated by pollution,” Achakpa said
“Pollution is not incidental but a deliberate and inevitable consequence of a profit-oriented economy of mass production of harmful plastics, pesticides, and fossil fuels,” Priscilla Achakpa added.
Apart from this, the WMG chief said Nigerian women are exposed to hazardous chemicals every day.
“Samples of human breast milk obtained from Nigeria were found to have high levels of Persistent Organic Pollutants. A study found over 15,000 metric tonnes of pesticides per year were imported into the country between 1983 -1990,” Achakpa said.
In Kenya, some 5000 people are exposed to Mercury pollution in Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining sites.
“Mercury is banned under the Minamata Convention, negotiated here at UNEP but in the impoverished community that I’m working with they don’t have much option,” says Griffins Ochieng from the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development (CEJAD), a Kenya based NGO.
“Mining gold and mixing it with mercury is the only knowledge they have and the main source of income. Communities do not have access to information about the hazards of using mercury. We need our government to stop mercury trade,” Ochieng added.
As part of a 30m Euro intervention, the EU will, on 5 December, sign a 17.2m Euro agreement with three UN institutions working jointly to reduce the illegal killing of wildlife and the trafficking of wildlife products throughout Eastern and Southern Africa, and the Indian Ocean.
The new ‘cross-regional wildlife programme’ will focus its activities in the regions’ most important protected areas, national transit points, and in some of Africa’s most important trans-boundary ecosystems.
The new project aims at tackling the illegal killing of wildlife and the trafficking of wildlife products at three levels which include the MIKE Programme, that will lead the implementation of activities to reduce the illegal killing of wildlife at a number of priority protected areas located in critical trans-boundary ecosystems throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.
It will also incorporate the national and regional levels with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which will lead activities focused on reducing the international trafficking of wildlife products by strengthening and expanding their highly successful Container Control Programme, improving criminal justice responses and enhancing capacities through the criminal justice chain.
The regional level, activities under CMS will focus on developing and strengthening the governance and collaborative management mechanisms for some of most important ‘trans-boundary conservation areas’ throughout eastern and southern Africa.
This innovative project, building on the strengths of each of the three implementing organizations’ experience, will be signed at a high-level event of the ongoing UNEA-3.
UNEA-3's Opening plenary UNEA-3's Opening plenary Over 4,000 stakeholders today converged on the green terrains of the UN office in Nairobi, Kenya to witness the opening ceremony of the 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA3).
This year’s edition of the assembly, which is the highest –level decision-making body on the environment, aspires to consider new policies, innovations and financing capable of steering the world “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.”
The UNEA-3 brings together governments, entrepreneurs, and activists who will share ideas and commit to taking positive action against the menace of pollution. UNEA-3 aims to deliver a number of tangible commitments to end the pollution of air, land, waterways, and oceans, and to safely manage chemicals and waste, including a negotiated long-term programme of action against pollution that is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The High-Level Segment of UNEA-3, which will take place from 5-6 December, is also expected to endorse a political declaration on pollution, aimed at outlining policy measures for, inter alia: addressing pollution to protect human health while protecting the developmental aspirations of current and future generations.
The ministerial segment will debut the interactive ‘Leadership Dialogues,’ aimed at providing participants with an opportunity for high-level engagement and discussion on how to achieve a pollution-free planet. Other UNEA-3 outcomes will include voluntary commitments by governments, private sector entities and civil society organizations to address pollution, and the ‘#BeatPollution Pledge,’ a collection of individual commitments to clean up the planet.
Discussions at UNEA-3 will draw on a background report by the UNEP Executive Director, titled ‘Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.’ The Report explores the latest evidence, as well as responses and gaps in addressing pollution challenges, and outlines opportunities that the 2030 Agenda presents to accelerate action on tackling pollution.
Welcoming delegates to the assembly, Prof. Judy Wakhungu, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, declared that the assembly’s focus on beating pollution is very timely as pollution increases with every effort to provide services to our citizens.
“It is time, the world addressed this challenge without delay and agree on a common goal as a pollution-free planet cannot be achieved without working together,” she said. The environment is our responsibility; it is the source of our well-being. The fate of our world depends on the quality of the care we give it,” Prof Wakhungu added.
“Our collective goal must be to embrace ways to reduce pollution drastically,” said Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and the President of the 2017 assembly. “Only through stronger collective action, beginning in Nairobi this week, can we start cleaning up the planet globally and save countless lives.”
New report on the environment
According to a new UN Environment report, everyone on earth is affected by pollution. The report entitled “Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet” is the meeting’s basis for defining the problems and laying out new action areas.
The report’s recommendations – political leadership and partnerships at all levels, action on the worst pollution, lifestyle changes, low-carbon tech investments, and advocacy – are based on analysis of pollution in all its forms, including air, land, freshwater, marine, chemical and waste pollution.
Overall, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems. Over a dozen resolutions are on the table at the assembly, including new approaches to tackle air pollution, which is the single biggest environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.
Over 80% of cities operate below UN health standards on air quality. The report reveals that exposure to lead in paint, which causes brain damage to 600,000 children annually, and water and soil pollution are also key focus areas.
Also, over 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment, poisoning the fields where we grow our food and the lakes and rivers that provide drinking water to 300 million people. According to recently published report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at over US$4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 per cent of global economic output.
“Given the grim statistics on how we are poisoning ourselves and our planet, bold decisions from the UN Environment Assembly are critical,” said head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim. “That is as true for threats like pollution as it is for climate change and the many other environmental threats we face.”
Corroborating the report, Ibrahim Jibril, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment in his statement at the plenary averred that “pollution affects the air, soil, rivers, seas and health of Nigerians in an adverse way even though the actual cost has not been determined. Trans-boundary pollution, according to Jibril, “accounts for 28% of disease burdens in Africa.” The UNEA-3 will run from 4-6 December.
BONN, Germany (PAMACC News) In an innovative push to better drive its development projects in the continent, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is looking forward to launching the Africa Environment Partnership Platform in May 2018.
The Platform NEPAD officials say will serve as a coordinating organ to help galvanize resource mobilization efforts and for pursuing resource mobilization strategies, approaches to support the implementation of environmental initiatives, particularly those identified in the Environment Action Plan.
“We have great initiatives on land degradation, like the great green wall, Grow Africa Programme, Africa Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), so we hope this platform will be able to help us better coordinate these different activities,” Estherine Fotabong NEPAD Director of Programmes implementation and coordination said in an interview with PAMACC at COP23 in Bonn,Germany.
The Environment Partnership Platform according to a concept note from NEPAD is in responds to a request from the African Union Summit which mandated African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) to conduct a substantive analysis of the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) Summit and develop a roadmap for the effective implementation of the outcomes in Africa.
“The platform will coordinate, mobilize resources, foster knowledge and align support for the implementation of the Environment Action Plan,” the concept note stated. Additionally, the 14th Session of AMCEN of September 2012, decided to develop and implement Regional Flagship Programmes (RFPs) as a means to ensure the effective implementation of the outcomes of the Rio +20 Summit.
The platform will seek to deliver a paradigm shift in addressing environmental degradation in Africa, in both public and private sectors and to develop innovative models. It will also engender the prerequisite political support, needed institutional structures and adequate human capacity at national and regional levels to ensure integrated environmental management.
The environment, though a cross cutting, will remain distinct and adequately harmonized with other sectors and priorities like agriculture, infrastructure and energy. Climate related risks will increasingly be mainstreamed into development and adaptation actions that will be carried out in priority regions and sectors to meet the need of especially vulnerable rural populations in Africa, according to NEPAD.
The rural populations of Africa are heavily dependent on natural resources for livelihoods with the ecosystem providing food, medicine, energy and construction materials, thus the need to better coordinate project activities geared at guaranteeing food security.
“Food security for Africa is not only derived from agriculture but also from natural resources and the ecosystems,” Fotabong points out. The platform is in response to a strong imperative to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to programme designing and implementation and strengthen the necessary synergies and improve coordination at various levels.
To achieve this, a country-driven and regionally-integrated Initiative that will provide the tools for action and platform for partnerships that will deliver results has become imperative.
Coordinated by NEPAD, the initiative will be fully aligned with and be an integral part of the CAADP framework, as well as cultivating the necessary multi-sectoral engagements, including the environment, natural resources and climate change policies and programmes.
“To support countries, a virtual and physical African Alliance was established where knowledge is exchanged to identify best practice and partnerships across stakeholder groups are catalysed,” she said.
Accordingly,the platform will also foster a coherent African development Agenda as well as sustaining the collective power and urge for action. It will also facilitate assessment of individual (country, region, sector, etc.) performance against continental and even global benchmarks. Fotabong says they hope to get many development partners align in support of the new programme that will also serve as a collaborative platform to identify innovative sources of financing.
“We are also looking forward to the alignment of development partners to support these programmes” Building partnerships is a critical success factor for the sustenance of the platform given the multiplicity of actors and its ability to deliver on the mandate assigned to it by AMCEN. The platform will therefore create an avenue for constructive dialogue, especially as Africa could benefit from the experience of countries across the world that have achieved considerable environmental sustainability.