UN chief ends Europe trip with visit to ‘vessels of hope’

Completing his trip to Europe on Saturday, UN chief António Guterres oversaw the departure of two ships involved in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a UN-brokered operation to bring urgently needed hunger relief to the Horn of Africa.

Mr. Guterres flew into Istanbul on Saturday morning from Chisinau, Moldova – where he was hosted for a working dinner with President Maia Sandu the previous evening – and boarded a pilot boat in the Sea of Marmara, where he sailed next to the M/V Brave Commander, the World Food Programme (WFP) ship which picked up more than 23,000 of wheat in the port of Yuzhny/Pivdennyi, before making her way to deliver the precious cargo to the Horn of Africa, to help people on the verge of famine.

The Secretary-Genera, along with a group of inspectors from the Black Sea Grain Initiative UN Joint Coordination Centre for the Initiative (JCC), also boarded the vessel SSI INVINCIBLE II. The ship is on its way to Chornomorsk in Ukraine to load close to 50,000 tonnes of grain – the largest shipment to leave Ukraine since the start of the war.

Joined by the Turkish Minister of Defence, Hulusi Akar, the Secretary-General toured the Joint Coordination Center. He met the Russian and Ukrainian delegations to the JCC separately, and then for an official session of the JCC, where he thanked all of the participants for their professionalism and humanity in ensuring that this initiative is a success for people around the world.

Pivotal role of Türkiye

In a press conference with Minister Akar, the Secretary-General thanked the government of Türkiye for their pivotal role in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The collaborative work of the teams sitting around the table at the JCC embodies what we can achieve with political will, top operational expertise, and collective effort, Mr. Guterres told journalists.

He described the ships that he had just seen in the Marmara Sea and Istanbul is only the more visible part of the solution. The other part of this package deal, he said, is the unimpeded access to the global markets of Russian food and fertilizer, which are not subject to sanctions.

“Without fertilizer in 2022, there may not be enough food in 2023,” said Mr. Guterres. “Getting more food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia is critical to further calm commodity markets and lower prices for consumers.”

Ukraine’s contribution to human rights

The Secretary-General’s trip began on Wednesday, 17 August , when he arrived in Lviv, Ukraine, having travelled from New York via Warsaw, Poland.

Prior to a trilateral meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and President of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Türkiye, the Secretary-General briefly visited the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv.

He was greeted, and given a tour, by Volodymyr Melnyk, the rector of the university, which is considered a centre for the study of human rights.

Mr. Melnyk explained the important contributions to the world’s science, international law and diplomacy made by the university and its scholars. One of the graduates of the School of International Law, Louis Son, is co-author of the UN Charter and Raphael Lemkin, another graduate, coined the term genocide.

Students from this University were later judges in the International Criminal Court or nominated to Nobel Prizes, including Jan Karski, the famous Polish diplomat who alerted the world to the on-going holocaust during World War II.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Secretary-General noted the links between the United Nations and the university adding that today “more and more the contribution of civil society and the contribution of academia are essential in the development of modern democracies.”

‘Full solidarity with the Ukrainian people’

In his remarks to the press after the trilateral meeting, the Secretary-General, reiterated that the United Nations will go on working in full solidarity with the Ukrainian people to mobilize all of its capacities and resources – alongside national partners – to continue to provide humanitarian support to people in need wherever it is required.

He also underscored that the positive momentum on the food front reflects a victory for diplomacy and multilateralism. Getting food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia in larger quantities is crucial to further calm commodity markets and lower prices. “It is essential to provide relief to the most vulnerable people and countries,” he added.

The Secretary-General said he had discussed the investigation of the tragic incident in a detention facility in Olenivka, eastern Ukraine, on 29 July, in which more than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in a blast.

Mr. Guterres announced that he is appointing General Carlos dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead a fact-finding mission into the killings. In order for the mission to work, he told the press, it needs to have the necessary assurances to guarantee secure access to the site and any other relevant locations. To put it simply, the Secretary-General said, a fact-finding mission must be free to find the facts.

The UN chief is on his way back to New York.

Source: United Nations

The world’s cotton supply is shrinking hit by drought and heat

Extreme weather is wreaking havoc upon virtually all of the world’s largest cotton suppliers.

In India, the top-producing country, heavy rains and pests have cut into cotton crops so much that the nation is importing supplies. A heat wave in China is raising concerns about the upcoming harvest there.

In the US, the largest exporter of the commodity, a worsening drought is ravaging farms and is set to drag production to the lowest level in more than a decade. And now Brazil, the second-largest exporter, is battling extreme heat and drought that have already cut yields by nearly 30 percent.

This confluence of extreme weather events brought on by climate change has sent cotton prices soaring by as much as 30 percent.

Earlier this year, they touched the highest level since 2011, squeezing the margins of clothing suppliers around the world and threatening to raise the costs of everything from t-shirts, to diapers, to paper and cardboard.

The outlook for Brazil is anything but helpful. The drought there has already dried up an estimated 200,000 metric tons of supply, according to Abrapa, a group representing growers. With the nation’s 2021-2022 harvest close to complete, production is now seen at 2.6 million tons — or less.

Bom Futuro group, one of Brazil’s largest cotton producers accounting for about 10 percent of the nation’s planted area, has seen yields fall 27 percent compared with the previous season. Julio Cezar Busato, a grower in Sao Desiderio, Bahia state, has suffered from a similar decline.

Dryness is reducing the number of cotton bolls, making them lighter across all of the country’s main growing regions, he said.

Meanwhile, US output is set to plunge 28 percent in the season that began this month. The US expects production to hit the lowest level since the 2009-2010 season, sending stockpiles to near-historic lows, because of a drought that has become so extreme that the US government is rationing water from the Colorado River. Together, the US and Brazil account for half of the world’s cotton exports.

The decline in global supplies has become so steep that it’s overshadowing demand headwinds. The US government and analysts have been projecting a drop in demand due to a slide in clothing purchases and slowing economies, especially in Europe and Asia. And yet all signs point to “much higher cotton prices in the coming months with crops shrinking, said Andy Ryan, senior relationship manager for Hedgepoint Global Markets in Nashville.

Busato, who also serves as the head of Abrapa, sold 75 percent of what he expected to harvest in advance and ended up largely missing out on the big surge in prices. Because of the weather, he only produced enough to meet his already-existing contractual obligations. “I could have made a mountain of money,” he said.

The weather has created a secondary headache for the cotton buyers of the world. Untimely rains in regions including Australia, Pakistan and even Brazil have also diminished the quality of the stock, said Peter Egli, director for Plexus Cotton Ltd.

So as not to be blindsided for another season, Brazilian farmers are set to increase their cotton-growing areas by 100,000 hectares to 1.7 million hectares for the 2022-2023 season, with plantings beginning in January.

Now that most of the current crop there has been sold, farmers are looking to start hedging the 2023 harvest more aggressively. “We don’t want to lose Asian markets that we gained recently,” Busato said.

Source: Nam News Network

On Humanitarian Day, UK will fund £36 million to help people in Ukraine, East Africa and Syria

The UK has announced £36 million (approx. US$ 42 million) in UK humanitarian funding to help people in Ukraine, East Africa, and Syria.

People whose lives have been upended by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, drought and food shortages in East Africa, and conflict in Syria will be among those to benefit from £36 million in UK humanitarian funding announced Friday.

The announcement comes on United Nations World Humanitarian Day (Friday 19 August) as parts of the globe come under increasing strain from lasting effects of the pandemic, the increasing impact of climate change, and conflicts in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Local aid workers are at the forefront of the effort to alleviate the disastrous consequences of these crises as they provide humanitarian assistance for communities across the world. The UK’s funding announcement will support them to continue their essential work.

In Ukraine and Poland, where the majority of Ukrainians who have fled the conflict have travelled, £15 million in UK funding will support up to 200,000 of the most vulnerable impacted by Russia’s invasion. This includes children, older people and those with disabilities. International aid organisation Mercy Corps will work with grassroots civil society groups to provide emergency assistance to cover basic needs, including food, water and sanitation, psychological support and childcare services.

In East Africa, where severe food insecurity threatens over 48 million people, the UK has allocated an additional £14 million to the countries on the frontline of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. This new spending, which will work immediately to save lives and prevent more people experiencing famine-like conditions, includes:

– £5 million boost to the UK Somalia programme, which is providing life-saving health, nutrition, food security and water and sanitation assistance to over half a million people in some of the most vulnerable families

-£6 million for the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund which will provide vital assistance to under-funded emergencies across Ethiopia, including drought and conflict-affected regions

-£3 million in emergency humanitarian funding to the World Food Programme, Sudan, helping reach approximately 120,000 vulnerable people with food assistance

Minister of State for South and Central Asia, North Africa, UN and the Commonwealth and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “In 2022 millions more people are now in desperate need of humanitarian support. UK funding is ensuring that the UN and local partners can reach those affected by Russian aggression in Ukraine, drought in East Africa and ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. We thank those on the ground who so often risk their own lives to help and protect them.

”Britain has a proud humanitarian tradition, and we will continue to support the most vulnerable, wherever they are”.

The Russian invasion is exacerbating the world food crisis, which is hitting the poorest hardest, particularly in East Africa. The UK and its allies have pushed hard for the UN grain initiative and the world is watching to ensure that Russia complies, so food continues to flow from Ukraine and feed the hungry.

The UK is also providing £1.5 million to deploy technology to identify whether grain sold by Russia on the world market has been stolen from Ukraine. A package of rail support to Ukraine will also ensure grain trains can run. Moreover, the UK is providing Ukraine with the military capability to help protect its ports, essential for the grain deal to be a success.

The UK is also announcing a £7 million package to support Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict to Lebanon, delivered through the World Food Programme. This funding will help provide more than 150,000 people with food, water and nutrition. This is part of the UK’s pledge to provide up to £158 million earlier this year at the Brussels Pledging Conference or the Syria Crisis, which will support food production, protect women and girls from violence and ensure humanitarian access to the North East of Syria, where the situation is deteriorating.

The UK is the third largest bilateral donor to the crisis in Syria, having committed over £3.8 billion to date in our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis. This includes support to the governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to cope with the protracted refugee presence by supporting displaced Syrians until they can return safely to Syria.

The UK has consistently been one of the largest bilateral humanitarian donors globally and have been at the forefront of driving more effective and innovative approaches to crisis prevention, preparedness, and response.  Since 2015, the UK has reached 32.6 million people with humanitarian aid, saving lives and alleviating suffering in places like Syria, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan.

Now in Ukraine, the UK is working alongside trusted partners to deliver its £220 million humanitarian pledge.

Source: Nam News Network