World leaders join new drive to beat non-communicable diseases

 February 17, 2018 @ 9:46 am   

 WHO is announcing today a new high-level commission, comprised of heads of state and ministers, leaders in health and development and entrepreneurs. The group will propose bold and innovative solutions to accelerate prevention and control of the leading killers on the planet – noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like heart and lung disease, cancers, and diabetes.

The WHO Independent Global High-level Commission on NCDs is co-chaired by President Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay; President Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka; President Sauli Niinistö of Finland; Veronika Skvortsova, Minister of Healthcare of the Russian Federation; and Sania Nishtar, former Federal Minister of Pakistan.

Seven in 10 deaths globally every year are from NCDs, the main contributors to which are tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity. More than 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 70 years die from NCDs annually. Low- and lower-middle income countries are increasingly affected, with half of premature deaths from NCDs occurring in those countries. Many lives can be saved from NCDs through early diagnosis and improved access to quality and affordable treatment, as well as a whole-of-government approach to reduce the main risk factors.

Read more at: World Health Organisation

Commonwealth SG welcomes UN decision on Guyana-Venezuela border controversy

 February 14, 2018 @ 3:16 pm   
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, welcomes the decision of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Gutteres, to refer the long-standing border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The Secretary-General recalled that at the September 2017 meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Group on Guyana, Ministers noted Guyana’s concerns that this longstanding controversy has impacted on the country’s economic development.

The Secretary-General further recalled that at the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in Malta in November 2015, the leaders noted that “the Geneva Agreement of 1966 between the Parties provides a range of mechanisms for an expeditious solution to the controversy arising from Venezuela’s contention of invalidity of the 1899 Arbitral Award. The Heads expressed their full support for the United Nations Secretary-General to choose a means of settlement in keeping with the provisions of the Geneva Agreement 1966, to bring the controversy to a definitive end.”

The Secretary-General reiterated the unequivocal and collective support of Commonwealth member governments for the maintenance and safeguarding of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. (Commonwealth Secretariat Press Release)

CDB, UNICEF partner to improve quality of early childhood education in the Caribbean

 February 15, 2018 @ 11:29 am   
Students of the Beacon Light of the Nazarene School, Antigua and Barbuda hand over newly launched Caribbean Early Childhood Development Good Practice Guide to (from left to right) Ms. Monica La Bennett, Vice-President (Operations), Caribbean Development Bank; Hon. Michael Browne, Minister Education, Antigua and Barbuda; Dr. Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF Representative, Office for the Eastern Caribbean. (Photo via CDB)

February 15, 2018, ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda– International and Regional academicians, researchers and practitioners have convened in Antigua and Barbuda to discuss opportunities and plans for improving the quality of and access to early childhood education for Caribbean children ages zero to five. The three-day Early Childhood Development Regional Research Conference, themed ‘Early Moments Matter – Nurturing Care in the Early Years’, takes place February 13 to 15.

Despite a strong correlation between investment in early childhood development (ECD) and high levels of social and economic development, research suggests that the Caribbean still invests too little, or not at all, in early education. According to data collected by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), 25 percent of the Region’s children, mainly those from poor and vulnerable families, do not have access during critical developmental years. CDB and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have therefore partnered to produce the Caribbean Early Childhood Development Good Practice Guide, which launched officially on Tuesday during the opening ceremony of the Conference.

“CDB has taken a policy decision that early childhood education will be a priority for 21st century education. To this end, the Bank will deliberately work with our Borrowing Member Countries to reconfigure available capacity at the primary level to accommodate additional ECD places, establish standalone nursery schools and pilot model ECD centres to accommodate new classes in parallel with the training of early childhood teachers,” Monica La Bennett, Vice-President (Operations), CDB told attendees.

Research shows that every dollar spent on ECD results in a return of seven dollars, and highlights a strong correlation between countries that invest heavily during these early years, and those with high levels of economic and social development. Citing this data, La Bennett called for greater collaboration and cooperation among Regional stakeholders, including between donors and borrowers.

The cost of inaction, says Dr. Aloys Kumaraguye, UNICEF Representative for the Eastern Caribbean Area, is enormous, and has profound implications.

“The evidence compels action,” he said. “Inequity begins in the first days of life, and so must our efforts to close the gaps that prevent scores of children from realizing their right to develop fully and thrive.”

Supported by scientific evidence that nurturing care and protection in the earliest years can positively boost developmental outcomes, Dr. Kumaraguye noted that “Early Moments Matter” is more than a campaign.

“It is a rallying call to development partners, governments, the private sector and caregivers as a whole, to place our youngest citizens at the centre of development,” he added.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is prepared to answer that call said the Hon. Michael Browne, Minister of Education.

“We are in the process of building a modern early childhood institute, and it is not just teachers who are going to be trained,” he said. “We are opening up the opportunity so that scholarships can be given to the elderly and retired in our communities, who would otherwise be babysitting, to have an opportunity to train, then go back to their homes with the understanding that these are the values that you impart to youngsters.”

The programme promotes quality teaching, quality tools and a quality environment, three pillars upon which Antigua and Barbuda is building to facilitate improved ECD.

Across the Region, UNICEF’S capacity-building efforts in ECD include support for child-centered and developmentally appropriate environments for quality early experiences, establishing social protection systems to improve the lives of children in vulnerable situations, and engaging with parents and families to strengthen their capacity to provide nurturing and responsive care.

In addition to partnering with UNICEF to produce the Good Practice Guide, CDB’s Vice-President told Conference delegates that the Bank will, over the next five years, support ECD projects, including the construction of 22 pre-primary schools in Belize. CDB, she said, will also collaborate with some of its Borrowing Member Countries to support the customization and implementation of early stimulation and emergent learning programmes to benefit approximately 7,400 pre-schoolers.

CDB’s and UNICEF’s efforts align with the Region’s ongoing drive to meet Goal 4 under the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

UN Steps up Action to Make Urban Spaces More Climate-Resilient

 February 16, 2018 @ 2:21 pm   
UNFCCC photo for resilient cities article

UN Climate Change News, 15 February 2018 –  The 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur concluded this week with a call to use the new urban agenda as an accelerator to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and support climate action.

According to the UN, the world’s urban population is expected to grow by 2.5 billion by 2050, with over 90 per cent of this growth to take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

This presents an unprecedented opportunity to re-define urban development, including inventing in livable, low-carbon and resilient cities.

Experts at the meeting recognized the fact that climate change will exacerbate the vulnerability of human settlements to natural and man-made hazards globally. This will especially be the case in developing countries, coastal and delta regions, and Small Island Developing States.

Read more at: United Nations Framework on Convention on Climate Change