Access to Drinking Water; Clean energy; Sudan/South Sudan; Women in Business; and more

Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation:  The goal of reducing by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water has been achieved, well ahead of the 2015 deadline for reaching the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals, the UN said today.  Between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells, according to a joint report by UNICEF and the WHO.

The report estimates that by 2015, some 92 per cent of the global population will have access to improved drinking water. However, the report also confirms that in cases where water supplies are not readily accessible, the burden of carrying water falls disproportionately on women and girls.

Clean Development Mechanism
: Rural households in developing countries will soon be able to swap kerosene lamps and diesel generators for clean renewable energy thanks to a financial incentive provided under the emissions reduction mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it was reported today. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide. These CERs can be traded and sold, and used by industrialized countries to a meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol – an addition to the UNFCCC that contains legally binding measures to reduce emissions.

Sudan and S/Sudan
: The U.N. Security Council reprimanded Sudan and South Sudan on Tuesday for repeated cross-border clashes that were fueling tensions over oil exports and territory disputes and had become “a serious threat to international peace and security.”

The council expressed in a statement “grave concern about reports of repeated incidents of cross-border violence … including troop movements, support to proxy forces, and aerial bombardments, and views the situation as a serious threat to international peace and security.” The Council also demanded “that the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan take no action that would undermine the security and stability of the other, including through any direct or indirect form of support to armed groups in the other’s territory.”

Empowering Women in Business:
The Secretary-General today joined nearly 200 business leaders and representatives from civil society, governments and the UN to mark the second anniversary of ‘Equality Means Business,’ an initiative of the UN Women and the UN Global Compact that provides a roadmap on how business can empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

He called for greater efforts to remove barriers that hinder women’s full participation in the economy, citing lack of access to jobs, markets, credit and property as some of the impediments.

“The meaningful participation of women in business – from the inclusion of women-owned businesses in supply chains, to having significant representation of women on corporate boards – also translates into stronger performance.”

Religious discrimination:
State-sanctioned religions risk alienating minorities and discriminating against members of other faiths, an independent UN human rights expert warned today. Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva where he presented his latest report on freedom of religion or belief and recognition issues, Heiner Bielefeldt urged governments around the world to ensure that ‘official’ religions do not discriminate against communities of other faiths within their jurisdictions.

The new report distinguishes between three separate meanings of the concept of State ‘recognition’ of religion so as to avoid any potential misunderstandings which could affect freedom of religion or belief or even undermine it as a universal human right.

DR Congo
: The United Nations refugee agency today voiced concern over the recent displacement of several thousand people as a result of fresh attacks by the notorious Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Orientale province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The fresh attacks have caused 3,000 people to flee, according to Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There have been 20 new attacks since the beginning of this year, with one person killed and 17 abducted, she told reporters in Geneva.