First men on the moon ‘came in peace’ to UN Headquarters ‘for all mankind’

19 July 2019

As the world remembers Saturday’s 50th anniversary of the “giant leap for mankind” made by all those involved in the pioneering Apollo 11 space programme, we take a look back at the visit made by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, to UN Headquarters in New York, just a few weeks after their historic mission.

It was a sunny day on 13 August, 1969, when the first men to land on the moon appeared in the main plaza of the UN General Assembly building, welcomed by the Secretary General at the time, U Thant, as “three great pioneers” on behalf of the entire human race.

UN Photo/J. Grinde
American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Col. Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. and Col. Michael Collins of Apollo 11, the first men to land on the moon, visited the United Nations where they attended a ceremony in their honour at the North Plaza of the United Nations General Assembly Building. (13 August 1969)

Standing on a special outdoor podium, notably lacking any women in the front row, the Burmese UN chief – the first non-European to hold the position – hailed the heroes of the United States’ Apollo 11 moon landing programme as having “already taken their place in that select roster of men, who down through the centuries have demonstrated the power of man’s vision, man’s purpose, and man’s determination.”

I can tell that you share with us, the hope that we citizens of earth, who can solve the problems of leaving earth, can also solve the problems of staying on it – Commander Neil Armstrong at UN Headquarters

He told the crowd of delegates, diplomats, UN staff and journalists gathered there, that the whole human race had been able to share in their “great achievement” with everyone who had watched or listened, participating in a truly “unique moment in history”.

Watching the astronauts walking on the moon had “helped us vicariously to satisfy the age-old longing to get away from it all”, he quipped and the extraordinary  flight, moonwalk and return to earth had “brought to us a renewed realization of what we, as members of the human race, can accomplish on this planet, with our resources and our technology, if we are prepared to combine our efforts and work together for the benefit of all mankind.

Building on the theme of the power of collective effort, exemplified by the UN Charter, the Secretary-General said it was “particularly gratifying to me, that the plaque which the astronauts placed on the moon is inscribed: ‘we came in peace for all mankind’. The words are few, but they spell out the common identity of all the inhabitants on this planet and our never-ending search for peace”.

Taking the microphone, Commander Neil Armstrong, who uttered the immortal words “The Eagle has landed” as the lunar module touched down on the surface, addressed the crowd to warm applause as: “Distinguished representatives from the planet earth”.

He said it was “with great pride that we accept the honour of having the opportunity of seeing your warm smiling faces today” accepting on behalf of all the hundreds of dedicated scientists and NASA professionals involved in the Apollo programme, “your gracious words”.

His closing remark that day, was an eloquent testimony to the scale of their achievement, and the ambition of the whole United Nations: “I can tell that you share with us, the hope that we citizens of earth, who can solve the problems of leaving earth, can also solve the problems of staying on it”.

The astronauts brought an exact replica with them to the UN of the plaque left on the moon’s surface by them, engraved with the words: “Here men from the planet Earth set foot upon the Moon, July 1969. We came in peace, for all mankind.”

Another treasured memento of the Apollo mission, stored at UN Headquarters, ins a sample of lunar rock, gifted by former US President Richard Nixon, on July 20, 1970 when the international community celebrated the first anniversary of the lunar landing.

The three astronauts returned once more that day, to participate in a ceremonial handover of the moon relic.

UNICEF urges ‘transformative shift’ in family-friendly work policies to reap ‘huge’ benefits

18 July 2019

Because the “earliest years” of life are the most crucial, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a list of new family-friendly policy recommendations on Friday it says will likely reap “huge” benefits.

“There is no other time more critical to children’s lives than their earliest years”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, “which is why we need a transformative shift in how businesses and governments invest in policies and practices that not only support healthy brain development, but also strengthen the bond between parents and their children – and reap huge economic and social benefits in return.”

And yet, policies, such as paid parental leave, breastfeeding breaks and affordable childcare are not available for most parents around the world. Family-Friendly Policies: Redesigning the Workplace of the Future, outlines the latest evidence and new recommendations that lay the foundation for healthy development, success and poverty reduction.

Paid parental leave

According to UNICEF, a one-month increase in paid maternity leave in low-and-middle income countries has been found to reduce infant mortality rates by 13 per cent. In high-income countries, each additional week of paid parental leave is associated with more than a four per cent lower chance of single mothers living in poverty. Paid parental leave of six months also helps promote exclusive breastfeeding, according to the agency.

Moreover, it also contributes to lower staff turnover rates, lower recruitment and training costs, and retention of experienced employees. For countries that have had these policies in place for the past several decades, increases in female employment have boosted GDP per capita growth by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent.

UNICEF recommends at least six months of paid leave for all parents combined, with 18 weeks reserved specifically for mothers.

Breastfeeding

Regular breaks during working hours to breastfeed, or to express breastmilk in a supportive environment, contributes to lower rates of acute infant and chronic child illness as well as improved cognitive and educational outcomes, UNICEF says.

The benefits for mothers include lower rates of postnatal depression, improved physical health and a reduction in the lifetime risk of breast cancer. Optimal breastfeeding practices produce societal benefits in what UNICEF estimated to be a $35 to $1 return on investment.

And yet, the latest available data shows only 40 per cent of children under six months are exclusively breastfed, as recommended.

Because the workplace represents a substantial barrier to breastfeeding, with around 16 per cent of workplaces without any statutory requirements to support it, breastfeeding is another priority recommendation of the new policy manifesto.

“The gains of family-friendly policies far outweigh the cost of implementation: improved health outcomes, reductions in poverty, increased business productivity, and economic growth,” Ms. Fore asserted.

Universal childcare

Universal access to affordable, quality childcare from the end of parental leave until a child’s entry into the first grade of school is the brief’s third recommendation.

Children who receive quality and nurturing early childcare are healthier, learn better and stay in school longer, and have higher earnings as adults. Childcare provisions enable parents to meet their work obligations and be parents at home.

Child benefits

Expanded coverage of cash benefits should be part of all countries’ social protection system for young children.

​A recent analysis indicated that only one-in-three households globally receive child or family cash benefit that varied from 88 per cent in Europe and Central Asia, to 28 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and 16 per cent in Africa.

In translation, the majority of children in the poorest countries do not yet receive cash benefits to support their development.

“Investing in our families is smart social policy, but it’s smart economic policy as well”, concluded the UNICEF chief.

Carnage must stop in northwest Syria demands Lowcock, as attacks intensify

18 July 2019

After 80 days of intensifying attacks, many on health facilities, “the carnage must stop” in northwest Syria, said the UN relief chief on Thursday, noting that more than 70 civilians had been killed this month alone across the last rebel-held enclave of the country.

“People around the world have watched in horror as war planes and artillery shelling kill and injure civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure. In the last 80 days we have seen more than 350 civilians killed, many more injured, and 330,000 people displaced”, said Mark Lowcock, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of OCHA.

 

UNICEF/Aaref Watad
Families take shelter in a makeshift camp, 50 kilometers north of Idlib, in Syria. Since the beginning of September 2018, thousands of people have been displaced, following an escalation of hostilities in the country’s north-west.
Last September, in an effort to stave off a humanitarian disaster in and around Idlib, a deconfliction zone was established through a Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and Turkey, which separated pro-Government forces and militant opposition fighters.

But in the last three months, fighting has intensified again as extremists have become the dominant force within the rebel coalition, and the Government appears determined to recapture all territory lost during more than eight years of brutal conflict.

Since 1 July, at least six health facilities, five schools, three water stations, two bakeries, and one ambulance have been damaged or destroyed”, said Mr. Lowcock in a statement, after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors.

Entire villages have been destroyed and emptied. On 16 July we received reports of an attack on the main market street of Ma’ar Shureen village leaving 12 people dead, including a child, and 20 more injured. The carnage must stop”, he said.

He noted with particular concern, an attack on 10 July on Ma’arat National Hospital, which was carried out despite its coordinates and location being well known.

“Referrals from throughout the region stream into the hospital, and it manages as many as 20,000 cases a month. There were reportedly 250 people in the hospital when the attack took place, including many requiring emergency care. The hospital has now resumed functioning. I call again for it to be protected”, he said.

The relief chief condemned “the unjustified and unwarranted brutality that civilians are being forced to endure in Idleb”, noting that OCHA had significantly scaled up humanitarian cross-border operations “to ease the suffering and meet the needs of the population, particularly for the over 330,000 people who have fled to the northern part of Idleb during the current fighting.”

However, he warned that delivering humanitarian assistance in areas where military operations were ongoing “is difficult, and sometimes impossible”.

Mr. Lowcock called on all involved in the fighting to:

* End the killing of civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure.

* Respect, and investigate breaches of, international humanitarian law.

* And finally, ensure access to areas currently inaccessible to humanitarian assistance.

World ‘off track’ to meet most Sustainable Development Goals on hunger, food security and nutrition

18 July 2019

Key parts of the Global Goals agenda linked to achieving zero-hunger are “off-track”, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday, in an appeal for much greater public investment in farming.

Four years since the international community agreed to implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – whose objectives include tackling food insecurity and poor nutrition – FAO says that a lack of progress “is the norm”.

In a new report focusing on Goals 2 (Zero Hunger), 6 (Clean Water And Sanitation), 14 (Life Below Water) and 15 (Life On Land), the agency also warns of unsuccessful efforts to make farming sustainable, as well as the long-term management of land and ocean-based resources.

According to the study, Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania – excluding Australia and New Zealand – registered the lowest levels of investment in the agricultural sector, which includes fisheries and forests.

Key findings from the study that covers some 230 countries include data that more than 820 million people are going hungry around the world.

That number has been rising for three years in a row “and is back to levels seen in 2010-2011”, FAO says.

The percentage of hungry people has also slightly increased between 2015 and 2018, to 10.8 per cent.

Six in 10 livestock breeds ‘at risk of extinction’

Among the report’s other findings is the warning that 60 percent of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction in the 70 countries for which information is available.

This means that out of more than 7,000 breeds that are found in only one country, almost 2,000 are threatened, FAO says.

Examples include Fogera cattle from Ethiopia or Bali’s Gembrong goat, according to FAO.

It notes too that there has been “no progress” in conserving the animal DNA that would be needed to create new herds in case of extinction, with less one per cent of their genetic blueprint currently stored, with ongoing efforts to preserve these resources proving to be “inadequate”.

Plant conservation more successful

While there has been more success in conserving the genetic material of plants, with global stocks held in 99 countries and 17 regional and international centres totalling 5.3 million samples, FAO cautioned nonetheless that crop diversity is still too limited.

“Efforts to secure crop diversity continues to be insufficient,” the report states, “particularly for crop wild relatives, wild food plants and neglected and underutilized crop species.”

Investing in sustainable fisheries ‘is worth $32 billion annually’

Highlighting the need to invest in sustainable fishing, the report also warns that one-third of marine stocks are overfished today, compared with 10 per cent in 1974.

“Despite some recent improvements in fisheries management and stock status in developed countries, the proportion of stocks fished within biologically sustainable levels has decreased significantly in developing countries,” the UN agency says.

Around 30 per cent of countries still have a relatively low implementation record of key international instruments designed to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, FAO maintains.

All countries should “urgently” implement transformational changes in fishery management and governance, FAO recommends, as rebuilding overfished stocks could increase annual fishery production by 16.5 million tonnes and annual revenues from fishing by $32 billion.

All continents face water stress, forest clearance ongoing

Among the report’s other findings are that water stress affects countries in every continent.

Nonetheless, the majority of countries that have registered high water stress since 2000, are mainly in Northern Africa, Western Asia and Central and Southern Asia.

In addition, between 2000 and 2015, the world lost an area of forest the size of Madagascar, owing mainly to agricultural use. Most of this loss was in the tropics of Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.

On a more positive note, the rate of forest loss slowed down globally from 2010-2015, the FAO report notes, and this loss was partly compensated by the increase forest in Asia, North America and Europe.

© FAO/ Egypt
Sun drying tomatoes by local women in Luxor, Egypt, as part of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) activities on reducing food loss along the tomato value chain.