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FIRST PERSON: Louisiana alligator whisperer’s ‘dream job’

Tucker Friedman is known in the Louisiana swampland as the alligator whisperer. He set up his tour company Atchafalaya Basin Landing Airboat Tours 20 years ago and introduces visitors from around the world to the unique ecosystem of the swamps in the Mississippi River flood plain.  He entertains his customers by calling to the alligators in Cajun French, a Louisiana vernacular, and then tickles them on the chin. 

“People call me Captain Tucker in these parts. I’m a tour operator and alligator handler and have been running airboat tours in the Atchafalaya Basin for the past 19 years. I spend most of my days out here on the water; it’s a dream job, the environment is so beautiful. I also love working with the animals, so would not give up this job for any other. 

I spend most of my days out here on the water; it’s a dream job, the environment is so beautiful. I also love working with the animals, so would not give up this job for any other. – Tucker Friedman

Back in the 1960s, the alligator population was dying out in Louisiana; as a child I would catch baby alligators and take them home and put them in the bath. I would keep them until my mom told me they were too large and that I had to return them to the wild.  

In the 1970s, they were a protected species and commercial alligator farms were established for leather and meat production. The farmers still come into the swamps to collect eggs to hatch alligators, a proportion of which they return to the wild.  

Now, I’m convinced there are more than two million just in the Atchafalaya basin, which is 170 miles long and 24 miles across at its widest point. 

ILO/John Isaac
Alligators became a protected species in the 1970s in Louisiana after which commercial farms were established for leather and meat production.

The community here is very supportive in terms of protecting the environment and of helping tour companies. We all work together and contribute to the area. Customers come to me, but also stop at restaurants and grocery stores in the area, they buy fuel. It’s an economic circle. 

It’s a constantly growing business; we’ve seen a 15 per cent increase in visitors compared to last year and many of those are repeat customers, or new customers who have been told about the tour by people who have experienced it. 

I am working towards retirement, but this will remain a family business. My daughter who has worked with me for 17 years is in charge of the business end of the operation and my son is taking over leading the tours as well as the maintenance of the airboats.  

ILO/John Isaac
Tucker Friedman set up Atchafalaya Basin Landing Airboat Tours 20 years ago in Louisiana.

I started the business with just one boat and now there are five which we operate all year round apart from three days when we are closed. We are now planning to build a new welcome centre which will float on the water. It’s a seven day a week business.  

I have one other daughter and I would like to be able to build the business up to a level at which she and her family could eventually become involved.” 

Continued airstrikes in western Libya ‘utterly unacceptable’, says UN mission chief

Ghassan Salamé, head of the UN Support Mission in the country, UNSMIL, called for greater civilian protection following the incidents, which occurred in three locations in the west.

“We have said it loud and clear that indiscriminate attacks against civilians not only constitute a grave violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law, but also further escalate the conflict and incite future acts of revenge, which threaten the social unity in Libya,” he warned in a statement issued on Saturday, adding that “this is utterly unacceptable.”

Week of airstrikes

Libya has been facing ongoing instability since the fall of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Thousands have been killed in fighting between factions of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, based in the east, and the internationally-recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, located in the west.

Mr. Salamé reported that the Institute of Applied Engineering in the city of Al-Zawiya, which is located near a centre hosting hundreds of migrants, was attacked in an airstrike on Saturday.  No casualties were reported.

However, he said two civilians were killed and eight injured on Thursday in airstrikes carried out in the city by General Haftar’s forces.

Furthermore, one person died and six others were injured, including two children, in attacks in Abu Salim on Friday, while several casualties were reported in airstrikes in Tajoura on Tuesday.

Civilian casualties mounting

The UN mission chief underscored the need to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in Libya.

“The principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution must at all times be fully respected,” said Mr. Salamé.

Overall, at least 284 civilians were killed and 363 injured in Libya this year, according to data from UNSMIL and the UN human rights office, UNHCR. These figures represent an increase of more than 25 per cent over the same period last year.

Most of the casualties were due to airstrikes, which accounted for 182 deaths and 212 injuries, followed by ground fighting, improvised explosive devices, abductions and killings.


FIRST PERSON: Accordion maker has ‘never had so much fun’

Clarence Martin, the son of a crop-sharer and carpenter, opened Martin Accordions in Lafayette, Louisiana after giving up working as a building site contractor. The company, where his son and daughter also work, makes, repairs and tunes accordions. 

ILO Photo/John Isaac
Clarence Martin (left) talks to a customer whose accordion he has repaired.

“I used to be a residential contractor and cabinet maker, but 37 years ago decided, after my body started giving out on me, that I needed a new job. My wife had bought me an accordion and I took it all apart to see how it was made. After rebuilding it, I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life.   

It’s a pleasure and an honour to make accordions. This has been the most rewarding job I have had; I’ve never had so much fun in my whole life. – Clarence Martin

I measured the accordion and documented every part and then my son drafted the designs for those pieces on his computer, so I had plans to work from.   

I started making melodeon accordions which originated in Germany. They are called Cajun accordions in Louisiana. We made 50 in the first year and after three years we were a major manufacturer here in Louisiana and now in a busy year, we can make over 200.  

We were only three people. It’s difficult to teach people to make accordions, as it just takes too much time. If you mess up one little thing, you have to throw away the accordion and start again. I’ve seen an accordion which didn’t turn out well end up in the BBQ pit; it sounded so bad. 

I still work 10-12 hours a day. I can never get enough of this work; I’ve always been a workaholic and now my daughter is the same. She used to come into the workshop after school and said she would like to help out. It’s a lot of fun for us to work as a family. 

Martin Accordions is a family business. Clarence Martin’s son, Anthony (pictured) polishes the body of a new accordion. ILO Photo/John Isaac

The best part of this job is meeting people from all over the world and especially French-speaking nations like Canada and France. It’s a pleasure and an honour to make accordions. This has been the most rewarding job I have had; I’ve never had so much fun in my whole life. 

I’d like to expand the business as there is more demand for accordions, but we need more people who are as good as me or better. We have one man who learned how to make accordions by looking over my shoulder and he is excellent, better than me, but he is not ready to retire yet. I told him when he does retire, he has a job here.” 

Secretary-General condemns ‘horrendous’ Somalia car bomb attack

At least 79 people died and scores more were wounded when a car bomb exploded at a busy checkpoint in the capital, Mogadishu.  Many of the victims were students.

UN chief António Guterres has condemned what he described as “this horrendous crime”, according to a statement issued by his spokesman.

Mr. Guterres has also extended his deepest sympathies to the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured in the blast.

“The Secretary-General reiterates the full commitment of the United Nations to support the people and Government of Somalia in their pursuit of peace and development,” said the statement.

The top humanitarian official in Somalia also joined the Secretary-General in condemning the attack.

Adam Abdelmoula, who is a Deputy Special Representative at the UN Assistance Mission in the country, UNSOM, took to Twitter to underline the Organization’s solidarity with the Somali people and Government.


Women in Business “must be knowledgeable and trust their knowledge”

It’s 7pm at Swirl wine bar in the Faubourg St John neighborhood of New Orleans a wine tasting is underway.  Some 300 different wines from all over the world, but with an emphasis on Italy and France, are stacked in wooden racks around the small but bustling wine bar-cum store. The Swirl staff circulate and discuss grape types, vintages and regional growing variations with customers.

Beth Ribblett set up the business almost 14 years ago. “My work means making sure my customers are enjoying themselves and I also get great satisfaction from educating people about the wine we are serving”, she told UN News on a visit to Swirl. “I want them to know where it’s from and the story behind the wine. This is one of the most important things we do. Is I always want to be learning, and educating customers helps me to do this.”

Male dominated industry

Ask any bar or restaurant owner in the United States and they will tell you it’s a hard business to make a success of and Beth Ribblett says it’s especially difficult for women. “The catering industry is male dominated from chef to sommelier, so it can be tough for women.”

Read more here about Beth Ribblett’s job

And she says that women continue to be treated badly. “I am sad to hear stories of men taking advantage of young women and I hate that this is still part of our business.  I am upset that women feel they have to put up with this behavior or somehow ignore it in order to make progress,” adding that her advice to young women is “to be knowledgeable, trust that knowledge and be confident if challenged.”

ILO Photo/John Isaac
Kai Bussant is a fashion designer and milliner in New Orleans.

Poetic process

Five miles south of Swirl, another woman is hard at work in another industry traditionally dominated by men. Kai Bussant is a milliner, a maker of hats, as well as an all-round designer, who is currently employed by the hatmakers, Goorin Bros, to restore and refurbish hats.

“Historically, millinery has been male-dominated, but I don’t believe customers are concerned about a woman working on their hat,” she told UN News.” As a woman, when I’m dealing with customers, I like to be inclusive and comforting and explain the process and timeline.”

Read more here about Kai Bussant’s job.

She brushes down a grey women’s fedora she has been working on and adds: “there is a poetic process of designing or bringing a hat back to life as well as an exacting attention to detail, and maybe women can offer something different.”

Gender equality

Both Kai Bussant and Beth Ribblett are thriving in their respective fields, and it’s hoped their success stories can be replicated in other industries not just in the US but globally. The UN’s specialized agency for work-related issues, the International Labour Organization (ILO), is aiming to create more opportunities for women by promoting gender equality in workforces worldwide.

Both women have participated in an ILO photography project called “Dignity at Work: The American Experience.” The project launched to mark the organization’s centenary in 2019 documents the working life of people across the United States. Kevin Cassidy, the Director of the ILO’s office for the United States believes change is happening: “The people I have met as I have criss-crossed the United States with this project are telling me there is a sea-change in terms of gender equality and the understanding of women’s role in society, although this has been happening slowly. We do need more women in the workforce and these women, young and old, are role models for others, showing they can have successful careers.”

And he adds, “that women at work suffer from a lack of confidence not competency. Some recent research shows that when women apply to jobs they need 100 per cent confidence they can do the job, for men they only need to believe they can do 50-60 per cent of the job before applying.”

The ILO is taking a “proactive role” according to Kevin Cassidy in reducing the barriers for women to succeed at work. In June 2019, the organization passed a convention, a legally binding international treaty that may be ratified by member states, on violence and harassment in the workplace, which is one of the key barriers preventing women from entering the workforce. The ILO has also agreed a convention on domestic workers which will provide women, especially those who are migrant workers, with protection at work.

Listen here to an interview by Kevin Cassidy with Michelle Gueydan, a sommelier who consults for Swirl: 

Back at Swirl wine bar the wine tasting event is coming to an end and customers are finishing off reds, whites and rosés. It’s been a long day for owner Beth Ribblett and her team pouring and explaining with he confidence borne of their in-depth knowledge, the stories behind each wine they have served.

The 2010 – 2020 UN News Decade in Review, part three

2017: ‘Ethnic cleansing’ of the Rohingya

UNHCR/Roger Arnold
Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar flee to Bangladesh after facing brutal persecution that UN officials have said may amount to crimes against humanity.


In August 2017, soldiers from the Myanmar military carried out a security crackdown in Rakhine, a region in the west of the country that borders Bangladesh, blaming deadly attacks on police and security posts by Rohingya separatists from the self-styled Arakan Rohingya Salvation Arakan Army.

The military operation is widely believed to have led to numerous atrocities committed against mostly-Muslim Rohingya civilians, a minority who have faced many episodes of persecution in the past, and was described by Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, the then UN human rights chief, as bearing all the hallmarks of a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

As evidence, Mr. Ra‘ad al-Hussein pointed to reports of Myanmar authorities laying landmines along the border with Bangladesh and requiring returnees to provide “proof of nationality,” an impossibility given that successive Myanmar governments have since 1962 progressively stripped the Rohingya population of their political and civil rights, including citizenship rights.

By September of that year, more than half a million Rohingya people had arrived in Bangladesh, swelling the Kutupalong refugee camp, and leaving UN agencies struggling to cope.

The UN Population Fund, UNFPA, warned that horrific accounts of rape and sexual assault against Rohingya women and girls fleeing unrest in Myanmar could be “just the tip of the iceberg,” whilst a group of independent UN rights experts called on the international community to take action, noting “credible allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses committed against the Rohingya, including extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement, as well as the burning and destruction of over 200 Rohingya villages and tens of thousands of homes”.


To date, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has documented the arrival of over 744,000 refugees in the camp since the crackdown, and Kutupalong is now believed to the biggest refugee camp in the world.

The chances of the refugees returning home in any great numbers appears slim, with a September 2019 UN-appointed investigation concluding that the threat of genocide hanging over ethnic Rohingya who still live in Myanmar remains higher than ever, amid Government attempts to “erase their identity and remove them from the country”.

In December 2019, Aung San Suu Kyi, the de-facto civilian leader of Myanmar, defended her country’s military against accusations of genocide, brought by The Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s main judicial body, which settles disputed between countries.

Meanwhile, in November 2019, the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has the responsibility of trying individuals, authorized its own investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, namely deportation, committed against the Rohingya.

🎥 Watch this story and more in the 2017 UN Year in Review

2018 UN leaves Liberia, mission accomplished

UN Photo/Albert González Farran
NGOs and other cultural organizations perform different and colourful farewells for UNMIL.

Liberia was once a by-word for insecurity and turmoil, suffering 15 years of conflict between 1989 and 2003, during which time it went through two civil wars, a complete breakdown of law and order, and saw the death of almost 250,000 people.

By 2018 the turnaround in the fortunes of country was complete: in January, George Weah succeeded Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the country’s President, the first time in almost three quarters of a century that Liberians had seen a peaceful transfer of power.

And, in March, the UN Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, which was established by the UN Security Council in 2003 after a peace agreement was signed to end the fighting, closed: during his January inauguration, President Weah praised the Mission for ensuring “unbroken peace within our borders for more than a decade.”

UNMIL successfully created a security environment that enabled more than a million refugees and displaced persons return to their homes; supported the holding of three presidential elections, and helped the government establish its authority throughout the whole country following years of fighting and instability.

On March 31, the Mission was replaced by a UN country team, and the 17 UN funds and agencies present in Liberia remained in the country to focus on development, and improving the lives of Liberian people.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2018, President Weah again thanked the work of UNMIL, noting that it “brought stability and helped rebuild Liberia’s institutions and communities”.

“We are a peacekeeping success story, and we are grateful for the support given,” he said.

🕮 Read a recap of 2018’s UN News stories here

2019: fresh impetus in the fight against the climate emergency

UNDP Tuvalu/Aurélia Rusek
The low-lying island nation, Tuvalu, in the Pacific Ocean is particularly susceptible to higher sea levels caused by climate change.


This year has seen UN Secretary-General António Guterres injecting new momentum into the fight against the climate crisis, as a host of hard-hitting reports from several authoritative sources – including the UN Environment Programme, World Meteorological Organization, UN climate change body UNFCCC, and Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change, drove home the stark message that the world is facing a global environmental catastrophe, unless significant cuts are made to global greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN chief’s steady drumbeat of pressure culminated is his Climate Action Summit at UN Headquarters in New York this September, which he trailed earlier in the year by warning world leaders that he expected them to arrive with concrete plans for cutting emissions, rather than “beautiful speeches”.

On that score, the conference could be deemed a success, with many countries announcing increased action to deal with the climate crisis, above and beyond commitments made in the key Paris climate agreement in 2015.

Several nations signalled a move away from fossil fuels and made financial pledges to help developing countries deal with the effects of climate change; major businesses announced climate targets across their operations; and over 2000 cities committed to placing climate risk at the centre of their decision-making.


However, attention was dominated by the furious and impassioned speech of 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, who blasted world leaders: “you are failing us, but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you, and if you choose to fail us, I say, we will never forgive you.”

Ms. Thunberg’s anger was welcomed by the Secretary-General, who closed the conference by acknowledging the “boost in momentum, cooperation and ambition”, but also warning that “we have a long way to go”.

The COP25 UN climate conference in Madrid, which took place during the first two weeks of December was the next milestone on the long journey to a sustainable global economy.

Many commentators and activists saw the conference as a disappointment, as no overall consensus was reached on the key issue of increased climate change. However, UN chief António Guterres refused to see COP25 as a defeat, vowing “we must not give up, and I will not give up”, and there were several signs of progress, and growing momentum for change.

The European Union, for example, committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, and 73 nations announced that they will submit an enhanced climate action plan (or Nationally Determined Contribution). A groundswell of ambition for a cleaner economy was also evident at a regional and local level, with 14 regions, 398 cities, 786 businesses and 16 investors are working towards achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

UN gears up for 75 year anniversary

Looking forward to next year, the UN will celebrate its 75th anniversary and, to mark the occasion, will launch the “biggest-ever global conversation” about the future of the planet, as part of the events marking next year’s 75-year anniversary of the Organization.

This will involve dialogues to be held around the world, allowing people to express their hopes and fears, and the UN to learn from their experiences. The views and ideas generated, will be presented to world leaders, and senior UN officials, at a high-profile event held in September 2020.

Find more information on the UN’s plans to mark its 75-year anniversary, and how to get involved in the global conversation on the world’s future, here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Decade in Review three-part series.

If you enjoy podcasts, as 2019 draws to a close we have updated podcast offerings, so you can now enjoyed our flagship series “The Lid is On”; our new hit series, Uncomplicated; and all our news-making and often inspiring interviews. You will find them wherever you get your podcasts.

In Pictures: Take a look at what happened at the United Nations during 2019


Haiti: Food insecurity expected to rise next year, UN humanitarian agency reports

OCHA reports that deteriorating economic conditions this year—including low growth rate, high inflation and an increase in the cost of basic food items—have had a negative impact on the humanitarian situation in the Caribbean nation. 

At the same time, insecurity and social tensions meant aid workers had limited access to a large part of the country. 

As a result, the number of Haitians facing food insecurity rose to 3.7 million this year, up from 2.6 million in 2018. 

OCHA expects the figure will reach 4.2 million by March, with some 1.2 million Haitians likely to experience “emergency levels” of food insecurity. 

“The situation is expected to remain unstable in the coming months, which will further weaken the country’s economy and, consequently, the ability of the poorest Haitians to meet their basic needs as well as the capacity of the State to provide essential services,” the agency said. 

OCHA and its partners supported 455,000 people in Haiti during the first nine months of the year. 

However, lack of funding prevented them from reaching even more. 

A $126 million humanitarian plan for Haiti, launched in February, was only 32 per cent funded: among the lowest in the world, according to OCHA. 

Humanitarians are seeking $252 million to support more than two million people in Haiti in 2020. 

Overall, 4.6 million citizens, or around 40 per cent of the population, mainly women and children, will require urgent assistance. 

Pakistan blasphemy death sentence ‘travesty of justice’, say UN experts 

Thirty-three-year-old Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, was sentenced to death – despite last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in which Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi was tried and condemned to hang for blasphemy but was later acquitted.

“The Supreme Court ruling in the Asia Bibi case should have set a precedent for lower courts to dismiss any blasphemy case that has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the experts said.

Moreover, they raised concerns in an urgent appeal to the Government over the legal merits of the case

“In the light of this ruling, the guilty verdict against Mr. Hafeez is a travesty of justice, and we condemn the death sentence imposed on him”, spelled out the independent experts.

“We urge Pakistan’s superior courts to promptly hear his appeal, overturn the death sentence and acquit him.”

International law permits the death penalty only in exceptional circumstances, and requires incontrovertible evidence of intentional murder, the experts noted.

“The death sentence imposed on Mr. Hafeez has no basis in either law or evidence, and therefore contravenes international law”, they continued, adding that “carrying out the sentence would amount to an arbitrary killing,” they said.

They expressed their serious concern that blasphemy charges are still being brought against people “legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression”.

Prolonged solitary confinement

Mr. Hafeez was arrested on 13 March 2013 and charged for allegedly making blasphemous remarks during lectures and on his Facebook account.

Carrying out the sentence would amount to an arbitrary killing – UN experts

He has been in solitary confinement since his trial began in 2014, seriously affecting his mental and physical health. The death sentence was imposed by a district and sessions court in Multan on 21 December 2019.

“Prolonged solitary confinement may well amount to torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” the experts said.

Mr. Hafeez’s case has gone through lengthy trials in Multan, with the prosecution failing to provide convincing evidence of his guilt, they pointed out, while also noting that “some documentary evidence submitted to the court was never subjected to independent forensic review despite allegations it had been fabricated, and that a lawyer representing Mr. Hafeez in 2014, Rashid Rehman, was murdered and the killers have not been brought to justice”.

“There seems to be a climate of fear among members of the judiciary handling this case, which may explain why at least seven judges were transferred during this lengthy trial”, the UN experts concluded.

The independent experts are the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

General Assembly approves $3 billion UN budget for 2020

This is an increase of approximately $8 million on what was initially requested by Secretary-General António Guterres.

It also marks the first time since 1973 that the UN is adopting an annual budget instead of a two-year one.

The General Assembly’s Fifth Committee, which covers administrative and budgetary matters, had discussed and approved the budget earlier in the day. The Assembly then moved further to consider and adopt it, based on the committee’s reports.

In congratulating the committee for the successful conclusion of its work, General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande stated that the budget adoption and other major decisions by the committee would be critical to the good functioning of the UN.

He said: “The proposed programme budget for 2020, which provides necessary resources to the UN Secretariat to implement its various tasks, also prepares us well for entry into the Decade of Action for SDG implementation.” 

All UN Member States are expected during the coming year to step up efforts towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are designed to bring about a better world for all people while also protecting the natural environment.

The 17 goals include ending poverty and hunger, achieving gender equality and taking urgent action to combat the effects of climate change.

World leaders agreed the SDGs in 2015 with a deadline of 2030 to achieve them.


Accelerating towards a fairer future

‘A much deeper, faster and more ambitious response is needed’

There are 10 years left to achieve the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious plan to create a better future for people and the planet.

However, at the first Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit, which took place at UN Headquarters in New York in September 2019, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world is set to miss the Agenda deadline, citing deadly conflicts, the climate crisis, gender-based violence and persistent inequality.

“Half the wealth around the world is held by people who could fit around a conference table”, Mr. Guterres told the delegates, “and at the current pace, almost 500 million people could remain in extreme poverty by 2030”.

The 2019 SDG report showed growing momentum for positive change, but also identified several areas that need urgent collective action, notably the climate crisis, human suffering, quality education, and gender discrimination.

“A much deeper, faster and more ambitious response is needed”, said the report, “to unleash the social and economic transformation needed to achieve our 2030 goal”

In a bid to bring about that transformation, the UN Secretary-General called for a “Decade of Action”, with the three main pillars of global action, centred around greater leadership, and increased resources; local action, such as sustainable city plans; and people action, which brings in elements of society including youth, the media, academia and the private sector.

The Secretary-General’s call has been answered by a host of countries and other stakeholders, who have decided to undertake “SDG Acceleration Actions”, in order to help speed up the process of making the 2030 Agenda a reality.

WMO/Tapio Niemi
Late September sunrise as seen from Paalijärvi observation tower in Alajärvi, Finland.

Cutting child mortality in Brazil

In Brazil, for example, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Public Health Institute has partnered with a range of organizations, including the São Paulo local government, São Paulo University, the Novartis Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, to create a forum aimed at reaching the goal of cutting one-third of premature mortality caused by noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, by 2030, and improve Brazil’s level of universal health coverage.

According to the partnership, the forum is a neutral ground for the public and private sector to collaborate and learn from each other, and work together for sustainable and scalable solutions that have a real impact.

So far, the forum has led to joint public-private programmes on noncommunicable disease, increased opportunities for the private and public sectors to participate in discussions with civil society, and an alliance for advocacy in cardiovascular care.

Making waves in the finance sector

UN News/Conor Lennon
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) banners outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York. 20 September 2019.

Without financing, there is no chance of bringing about the 2030 Agenda.

The UN estimates that $7 trillion dollars’ worth of investments needs to be redirected toward businesses that are aligned with Agenda goals, every year for the next 10 years.

In Stockholm, Sweden, a team of students, machine learning enthusiasts and bankers have created Waves, an online tool that allows investors to choose a portfolio that matches their values, and the SDGs they are passionate about – from gender equality, to clean water and fighting the climate crisis.

As the users make money, the tool helps to measure impact. For example, if they decide to invest in Beyond Meat – a company whose production of plant-based “meats” was designated as a 2018 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Champion of the Earth – Waves will show how many tons of harmful greenhouse gas emissions have been saved.

Finland to be a carbon-neutral country in 15 years

Although the 2019 COP25 UN Climate Conference was seen by many as a lost opportunity to raise global climate action ambition, several important announcements were made, such as the European Union’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Finland, however, has gone even further as the country’s Government pledged to go carbon neutral by 2030, and then work to go “carbon negative”. This means actively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can involve nature-based solutions, such as planting more trees, or technology to directly removing CO2 from the air.

In describing its SDG Acceleration Action, the Finnish Government notes the importance of a “just transition” to a clean economy, taking into account the impact on employment when evaluating emission-reduction solutions, ensuring that the measures are fair from a social and regional perspective, and involving all sectors of society.

Governments, businesses and other stakeholders with innovative, ambitious and impactful commitments, can register their plans here. Each one will be reviewed by the UN Department on Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and presented on a portal that displays details of the initiatives and follow-up information on their impact on specific SDGs.

UNFCCC/James Dowson
Visitors atttend COP25 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain.

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