‘Today is an historic day,’ says Ban, as 175 countries sign Paris climate accord

April 22, 2016 – As 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement at United Nations Headquarters today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the next critical step is to ensure that the landmark accord for global action on climate change enters into force as soon as possible.

“Today is an historic day,” Mr. Ban told reporters at a press conference following the opening ceremony of the signing event. “This is by far the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.”

According to the UN chief, the participation by so many countries and the attendance by so many world leaders leaves “no doubt” that the international community is determined to take climate action. He also welcomed the strong presence of the private sector and civil society, saying they are “crucial to realizing the great promise of the Paris Agreement.”

Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as (COP21) last December, the Agreement’s objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification.

“If all the countries that have signed today take the next step at the national level and join the Agreement, the world will have met the requirement needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force,” Mr. Ban highlighted, congratulating the 15 Parties that have already deposited their instruments for ratification.

These Parties include Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Palau, Palestine, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Somalia and Tuvalu.

Speaking alongside the Secretary-General, French President François Hollande applauded all those who made it possible to reach the second stage of the process – the signing of the document.

“I want to underscore that in Paris, it wasn’t just a single agreement that was brought about and needs to be ratified,” Mr. Hollande told the press. “In Paris, there were also four initiatives that were launched: the International Solar Energy Alliance, the development plan for renewable energy, the innovation mission with [United States] President Obama, and finally the high-level coalition to set a price for fossil fuels and coal.”

He insisted that France needs to be role model and set the example, not just because it was the place where the accord was reached, but because the country contributed to the solution.

“France should be an example to show that it wants to be the first – or one of the first – not just to ratify but also to implement the contents of the Agreement,” Mr. Hollande stated, noting that his country will increase its annual financing for climate from three to five billion euros per year between now and 2020.

Meanwhile, in two weeks, the UN chief will co-host the Climate Action 2016 meeting in Washington D.C., which is expected to bring together leaders and experts from many fields, including government, business, civil society and academia, ahead of the next COP in Morocco in November.

Following the press conference, in remarks to an Informal High-Level event on promoting the early entry into force of the Agreement, Mr. Ban encouraged all countries to move forward quickly with their own domestic processes to accept and ratify the accord.

“As you are well aware, we need at least 55 countries and 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Having 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions may be a little bit shorter and easier if the United States and China […] ratify or join. Then it will add to almost 40 per cent. I call on the countries gathered here to use this opportunity to announce your timeline for joining the Agreement as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr. Ban said that it is imperative that strong political momentum continues to build, as the spirit of Paris is still continuing. “I will do all that I can this year to ensure that the Paris Agreement enters into force as soon as possible,” he said.

Ecuador: UN food convoy heads to quake-ravaged areas

19 April 2016 – The United Nations food relief agency has sent a convoy to assist some 8,000 people severely affected by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the coast of Ecuador, leaving more than 400 people dead and thousands more in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

At the request of Ecuador’s Government, the World Food Programme (WFP) and authorities organized truckloads with enough food to feed 8,000 people for 15 days in the worst-hit areas. WFP has also mobilized an emergency team to the quake-affected areas to assess the humanitarian and food security situation, the agency said in a press release.

Because the region was bracing itself for the impact of El Niño, emergency food assistance kits had been ready to go. The kits, including quinoa, rice, pasta, tuna, sardines, oatmeal and lentils, were designed months ago by WFP and the country’s Secretariat for Risk Management as the most effective type of assistance for people living in the coastal areas.

“This first delivery of food assistance will make a tremendous difference in the lives of people who are overcoming such hardship,” said WFP Country Representative Kyungnan Park. “WFP was ready to react swiftly to this emergency thanks to joint efforts with the Ecuadorian Government to prepare a response to the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is currently affecting the country.”

Additional food assistance will be delivered to 12,000 people and more than 1,000 hospital patients also affected by the earthquake. As more information about the extent of the damage and food needs becomes available, further assistance will be provided upon the Government’s request.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is reporting that at least 150,000 children are affected by the April 16 earthquake. According to preliminary Government reports, the earthquake damaged 119 schools, affecting 88,000 children. Some 805 buildings have been destroyed and 608 have been damaged. Two hospitals have entirely collapsed in Portoviejo and Chone.at will be airlifted to Quito by

In some of the worst hit areas, UNICEF says that mudslides are causing further damage to infrastructure and hindering access of relief teams and supplies. Some cities are still without full power and only 40 per cent of communication lines are working.

UNICEF is concerned about health, water and sanitation conditions in the coastal areas – which are already considered hotspots for Zika, Dengue, Malaria and Chikungunya.

“We are in a race against time to protect children from disease and other risks common in such emergencies,” said Grant Leaity, UNICEF Representative in Ecuador.

In Washington, Ban urges multilateral action to aid refugees, close infrastructure gaps

April 16, 2016 – Addressing the global challenge of forced displacement and fostering greater investment in infrastructure were the main topics of discussion today as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to leaders in Washington, D.C., at the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

“Supporting States in addressing large movements of refugees and migrants is an issue ripe for more concerted multilateral action,” the Secretary-General told the 93rd meeting of the Development Committee. He was joined by President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong King, and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

“We must strengthen international cooperation mechanisms, and boost our collective work,” he said, noting that Governments are struggling for solutions and often responding by shutting borders, detaining asylum seekers and migrants, and other measures.

To strengthen support, the UN will hold a high-level discussion on 19 September in New York to discuss ways to address large movements of refugees and migrants.

In addition, next month, Mr. Ban will convene the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, for world leaders to come together with the private sector, civil society, academia and others, to find new ways to address the root causes of humanitarian challenges. As part of the Summit, there will be a high-level round table on forced displacement, and a special session on migration.

In today’s speech, Mr. Ban pointed to six areas for “immediate action” to share challenges and obligations while maintaining the international community’s commitment to sustainable development.

He called for countering xenophobic narratives and sharing responsibilities in a more equitable, predictable and transparent way.

“We must better support countries that are hosting large numbers of refugees, including through your excellent new initiative of offering concessional loans to middle-income countries hosting large refugee populations,” he said.

This includes, for example, the World Bank’s recent announcement that it will offer Jordan $100 million in financing at rates usually reserved for poorest countries, to create some 100,000 new jobs for Jordanians and Syrian refugees over the next five years.

Mr. Ban also highlighted the need to create “safe, orderly and regular pathways” for refugees and migrants, enhancing cooperation to fight traffickers and smugglers, and continuing to fund humanitarian and development projects hand-in-hand.

Calls for investment in infrastructure

Earlier today, Mr. Ban spoke at an inaugural meeting of the Global Infrastructure Forum on the need for more investment to close gaps in electricity, water and sanitation access.

The Forum is one of the major deliverables of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development held last year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was created to identify and address infrastructure gaps, highlight opportunities for investment and cooperation, and work to ensure that projects are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Mr. Ban said that together, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Climate Change Agreement which will be signed in New York this Friday, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda are international commitments “to transform the global economy, expand opportunities, and leave a healthier planet for future generations.”

The Forum’s role is to improve alignment and coordination among established and new infrastructure initiatives, bringing together multilateral and national development banks, UN agencies, development partners and the private sector.

All of which allows “for a greater range of voices to be heard,” he underscored.

Mr. Ban urged international support to bridge existing infrastructure gaps, particularly in vulnerable developing countries.

He noted also that the Forum should also work to ensure that all infrastructure investments are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Least Developed Countries have ‘untapped potential’

Also today, Mr. Ban addressed the Ministerial Meeting of the Least Developed Countries. Addressing the so-called LDCs, which also include a group known as the Small Island Developing States, Mr. Ban called for their voice to be heard in all global decision-making and norm setting processes.

The LDCs “are disproportionately affected by environmental challenges, health emergencies, natural disasters, poverty and hunger, and youth unemployment,” Mr. Ban said, but they also represent “enormous reservoirs of untapped potential.”

The UN chief urged the participating Governments to attend a high-level meeting in Antalya, Turkey, at the end of May, which will focus on the development of LDCs.

United Nations begins informal briefings to select next Secretary-General

Kicking off what he has called a “new and transparent process,” General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft today opened informal dialogues with candidates for the next United Nations Secretary-General, for the first time providing an opportunity for substantive and open engagement with the candidates – for the full UN membership and the public.

“We are sailing into uncharted waters here,” said Mr. Lykketoft addressing the press ahead of the start of the informal dialogues.

Calling the process a “potential game-changing exercise,” he said the informal briefings were part of a “very transparent, very interesting discussion about the future of the United Nations.”

Over the course of the next three days, the official candidates – currently eight of them – will answer questions related to promoting sustainable development, how to improve efforts to create peace, how to protect human rights, how to deal with huge humanitarian catastrophes, and how to resolve challenges defined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Watch live the informal dialogues with the candidates for UN Secretary-General

At the end of the process, Mr. Lykketoft said, expressing his personal view, one single candidate could emerge, making it difficult for the Security Council – which is tasked with making the official selection, as stated in the UN Charter – to choose another candidate.

Defining some of the qualities in who would be the “best person” for the job, Mr. Lykketoft stressed independence, strong moral authority, great political and diplomatic skills, and some experience in being at the head of a huge administration.

As part of the informal dialogues, each candidate will have a televised and webcast two-hour timeslot, starting with a short oral presentation. Representatives from Member States will then ask questions, followed by the President of the General Assembly, who will ask a few of the more than 1,000 questions submitted by the general public on social media under the hashtag #UNSGcandidates.

The three candidates who will go before the General Assembly today are listed below, in order of appearance.

Igor Luksic is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. He is nominated by the Government of Montenegro.

Irina Bokova is currently the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. She is nominated by the Government of Bulgaria.

Antonio Guterres was most recently the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He is nominated by the Government of Portugal.

Following their sessions, each candidate will have the opportunity to speak with the press. The events can be followed live on UN WebTV.