9 August 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today unveiled a new panel on global sustainability that is tasked with finding ways to lift people out of poverty while tackling climate change and ensuring that economic development is environmentally friendly. “I have asked the Panel to think big,” the Secretary-General told reporters in New York today. “The time for narrow agendas and narrow thinking is over.” To be co-chaired by Finland’s President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma, the 21-member High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability brings together representatives from government, the private sector and civil society in countries rich and poor. It is essential, Mr. Ban said, to promote low-carbon growth and enhance resilience to climate change’s impacts, as well as to tackle the intertwined challenges posed by poverty, hunger, water and energy security. “In short, we need a new blueprint for a more livable, prosperous and sustainable future for all,” he stressed. The Secretary-General said that he expects the new Panel to come up with practical solutions to address the institutional and financial arrangements necessary to put a new scheme into practice. The new body is expected to deliver its final report by the end of next year, ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled for 2012, as well as annual conferences of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Panel also comprises Gro Harlem Brundtland, Han Seung-soo, Yukio Hatoyama, Luisa Dias Diogo and Kevin Rudd, former prime ministers of Norway, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Mozambique and Australia, respectively, as well as Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayid Al Nahayan, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, and Switzerland’s Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey. They will be joined by Alexander Bedritsky, Aide to the Russian President on climate change; Hajiya Amina Az-Zubair, Adviser for the Nigerian President on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); Zheng Guogang, Director of the China Meteorological Administration; Jim Balsillie, Chair of the board of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI); and Susan E. Rice, the United States’ Permanent Representative to the UN. The Panel will be rounded out by current and former environment ministers – Jairam Ramesh of India, Julia Carabias of Mexico and Cristina Narbona Ruiz of Spain – as well as Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s Commissioner for Climate Change.
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The United Nations refugee agency today confirmed that it assisting the Government of Pakistan to issue new refugee cards to more than 1.6 million Afghan refugees in the country, certifying that they are legally in the country and should be allow access to social services and basic rights.The refugee card “protects against risks such as extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention as well as deportation under Pakistan’s Foreigner’s Act,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva.Under the two-phase process, current card holders of the so-called proof-of-registration (PoR) cards will get a replacement card valid until the end of 2015. The current ones were set to expire on 30 June.From July to the end of this year, Pakistani authorities will register and issue individual cards to some 150,000 children born during the past five years.In addition, under the initiative, another 330,000 Afghan children below the age of eighteen will receive birth certificates for the first time. Mr. Edwards said that the UN agency “welcomes the issuance of birth certificates,” adding that it offers important protection for refugee children as it helps to prevents statelessness, makes it easier for children to access social services and schooling, and allows for the issuance of documentation.In July of last year, Islamabad announced that it would renew the commitment of Pakistan, the world’s largest refugee-hosting nation, to continue to provide protection and safety to Afghan refugees. The announcement came as Pakistan finalized a new national policy for Afghan refugees, which includes recommendations for extending PoR cards and continuing a tri-partite arrangement between Pakistan, Afghanistan and UNHCR governing voluntary returns of the refugees.Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of 1979 and UNHCR has been engaged with the Government of Pakistan, as well as with those of Iran and Afghanistan, in managing their stays and facilitating voluntary returns.Since 2002, UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme has helped nearly 4.8 million Afghans return home from Pakistan and Iran. The UN agency also supports the sustainable reintegration of Afghans who decide to return to their country.