Sustainable Energy commitments at Rio; UNESCO/Syria; Climate change; Rights to peaceful assembly and association

SEFA Commitments in Rio: Speaking in Rio today, the Secretary-General  announced that more than 100 commitments and actions have been already mobilized in support of the UN’s global Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Mr. Ban said, “Achieving sustainable energy for all is not only possible, but necessary – it is the golden thread that connects development, social inclusion and environmental protection.”  Among the commitments agreed upon by Governments, private sector, financial institutions, and NGOs, and others, some highlights:

Brazil has committed to investing a further $4.3 billion to achieve universal energy access at a national level by 2014.

Microsoft has committed to going carbon neutral and will be rolling out an internal carbon fee that will apply to Microsoft’s business operations in over 100 countries.

Bank of America has set a ten year $50 billion environmental business goal, while the World Bank Group has committed to doubling the leverage of its energy portfolio by mobilizing private, donor and public contributions to World Bank-supported projects, as well as supportive policies to expand energy access, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Members of the rock band Linkin Park have launched a campaign urging world leaders at Rio+20 to end energy poverty, while India’s Energy and Resources Institute has committed to expanding lighting services to households in several developing countries, using solar and other clean energy technologies, by 2018.

UNESCO/Syria: The head of the UN agency tasked with defending press freedom today called for Syrian authorities to probe the recent deaths of five citizen journalists killed during shelling, and to take steps to ensure the safety of media workers in the country.

“I call on the Syrian authorities to fully investigate the circumstances of their deaths,” the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said in a news release, in which she also condemned the killings. The five lost their lives while trying to inform the Syrian people of the tragic events taking place in their country. The deaths bring to total to 11 citizen journalists killed in Syria since February.

Climate change: According to a new UN report released today, climate change can play a role in driving people from their homes into areas of conflict and potentially across borders.

“They did everything they could to stay at home, but when their last crops failed, their livestock died, they had no option but to move; movement which often led them into greater harm’s way,” said the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who introduced the report while attending Rio+20.

Rights to peaceful assembly and association: The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are violated or at risk in a number of countries, an independent UN expert said today, calling on governments to establish minimum standards to protect these rights.

“It is astonishing how often States have encroached upon the right of individuals to assemble peacefully by also violating their rights to life and to be free from torture, rights which allow no limitation,” the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, said in a news release.

Presenting his annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mr. Kiai stressed that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are essential components of democracy. Among his recommendations, the Special Rapporteur calls on states to ensure that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are enjoyed by everyone, including women, youth, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, minorities or groups at risk.