Rio negotiations; UN Report on Africa; Myanmar; FAO

Rio negotiations: Countries today started the last round of talks to come to an agreement on the draft outcome document on environmental, economic and social issues at the heart of the upcoming conference in Rio.

“These last three days are going to be absolutely crucial for diplomats,” the Executive Coordinator of Rio+20, Brice Lalonde, said in an interview. “Delegations are going to be working day and night, dividing themselves into splintered groups to work more thoroughly on each issue, which is something that they have accepted to do only for the last few days.”

The talks are the third and final session of Rio+20’s Preparatory Committee, which will continue deliberations until Friday. The Committee’s various groups will discuss issues such as the management of water, education, health, sustainable transport, desertification and climate change, among others.

Mr. Lalonde stressed that the groups will help accelerate negotiations on the outcome document – but warned that this may make it harder for small delegations with only a few members to follow them.

UN Report on Africa
: A new UN report released today, the Economic Report on Africa 2012, produced by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union, notes that African economies quickly rebounded from the 2008 financial crisis as commodity prices rose and export revenues returned to pre-crisis levels, enabling them to finance the necessary investments.

Turmoil in North Africa and the euro area crisis combined to slow growth in 2011, but despite uncertainties some African countries have grown at double digits, reflecting higher commodity prices and strong domestic demand, it adds.

Entitled “Unleashing Africa’s Potential as a Pole of Global Growth,” the report states that Africa’s governments need to push through growth-promoting macroeconomic policies in the short run, while adopting long-term development strategies. Specifically, they should increase investments in high-quality education, health and infrastructure that can enhance long-term growth potential.

: UN independent human rights expert today warned that escalating violence among communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state represents a serious threat to the country’s future.

“The underlying tensions that stem from discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities pose a threat to Myanmar’s democratic transition and stability. I urge all sides to exercise restraint, respect the law and refrain from violence,” the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, said in a news release. “The Government should also address these concerns alongside its efforts to make progress on other human rights issues,” he added.

The FAO’s key partners today called on companies and organizations around the world to join in SAVE FOOD, a global initiative designed to cut down on food losses and waste.

“With 900 million hungry people in the world and one trillion dollars at stake, joint action in reducing losses and waste can improve livelihoods, food security, and minimize the environmental impact,” the Director of FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division, Gavin Wall, said in a news release.

Established in 2011, SAVE FOODthe Global Initiative on Food Losses and Waste Reduction aims to reduce the estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food that is lost or wasted every year, with annual losses valued at nearly $1 trillion. The campaign currently has over 50 partners.