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Global wildlife pact meeting moves to Geneva after Sri Lanka attacks



was cancelled in Sri Lanka because of recent suicide attacks will instead be held in Geneva in August, the organisers

said on Thursday.

The meeting of 182 countries who have signed on to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

was supposed to be held from May 23 to June 3 in Colombo.

However, the plans shifted after 257 people were killed in suicide attacks in three churches, three luxury hotels and two

other locations in Sri Lanka in April.

The CITES Secretariat in Geneva said it decided to relocate the conference to the Swiss city, “considering the security

and other concerns’’ expressed by many member countries.

It will now be held from August 17 to 28.

The 1973 CITES pact regulates trade with around 35,000 at-risk animal and plant species to ensure they do not become



Countries, organizations pledge support for global vaccine accessibility




Countries and organizations on Thursday pledged their support for vaccinations to save millions of lives in the poorest countries during a virtual global vaccine summit hosted by Britain.

The summit, to raise funds for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to ensure vaccine accessibility worldwide, drew pledges of 8.8 billion U.S. dollars from governments and organizations, far more than its target of 7.4 billion dollars.

The funds will not only protect children from deadly diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles and save up to 8 million lives, but also be directed to accelerating research, development, production and distribution of a vaccine for COVID-19.

Speaking at the summit attended by leaders from over 30 countries and heads of international organizations, including the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that China will continue to support the core role of the WHO in coordinating vaccine research, while making its contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

In dealing with the COVID-19 infection, China has put people’s lives first, effectively containing the epidemic by making arduous efforts, Li said.

However, the pandemic is not over, said Li, adding that no country is immune from the virus, and that the health and safety of the various populations are closely connected.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “diseases know no borders. That is why a fully-funded GAVI will be critical to ensure we continue the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.”

COVID-19 is the greatest public health crisis of our generation. Right now, there is no vaccine. As we work together to develop one, there is an important lesson we need to understand. A vaccine, by itself, is not enough. We need global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access,” said Guterres.

“A vaccine will be essential for controlling COVID-19. But vaccines only realize their true power when they are deployed to protect the poorest and the most vulnerable,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who opened the summit, urged countries and organizations to “join us to fortify this lifesaving alliance and inaugurate a new era of global health cooperation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavour of our lifetimes.”

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the European Union has been at the GAVI‘s side since the very beginning in 2000, and the GAVI “has brought life-saving vaccines to millions of families that could not afford them.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “GAVI is not just a global alliance, it is also a symbol of global solidarity and a reminder that by helping others, we can also help ourselves … India values the work of GAVI.”

“We’re meeting at a unique time in history. Never have more people been more aware of the importance of vaccines. As we race to develop the COVID-19 vaccine, we must also renew our commitment to delivering every life-saving vaccine there is to every child on Earth,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Also on Thursday, the GAVI launched the GAVI Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (GAVI Covax AMC), a new financing instrument aimed at incentivizing vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of eventual COVID-19 vaccines, and to ensure access for developing countries.

“Today’s launch moves us one step closer to the essential vision of equitable access for all,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of the GAVI Board.

“By de-risking the cost of investing in high volumes of manufacturing against an unknown outcome — and making sure those investments are made now — the GAVI Covax AMC increases the likelihood that when we have a successful vaccine or vaccines, it will be available in sufficient quantities and affordable to developing countries,” she said.


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Interview: China’s global stewardship key to revitalizing biodiversity conservation: UNEP




The international community can leverage on China‘s ecological stewardship to revitalize conservation of biodiversity amid threats linked to a warming planet and human activities, head of UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Thursday, ahead of World Environment Day to be marked on June 5.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP, said that China‘s track record in nature conservation that has been accompanied by rapid economic growth should serve as an inspiration to community of nations in their quest to protect biodiversity hotspots from harm.

China has done a lot of very important work domestically on environment, including turning around what was 15 to 20 years ago, largely decreasing population of pandas,” Andersen said during an online interview with Xinhua.

“What we would like to see now is China really showing the way in global leadership to help other countries come to a strong and viable new agreement on protecting nature,” She added.

She said the 2020 World Environment Day whose theme is biodiversity will serve as a clarion call for governments, corporations and multilateral institutions to rally behind efforts to protect ecosystems that underpin human survival.

Andersen said that the health of biodiversity globally has been declining in recent years, adding that a robust multilateral system with China at the driver’s seat, is key to reversing the worrying trend.

“The state of biodiversity is not where we would like to have it. So we can do more as a global community and look forward to the next Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to be held in Kunming, China, and hope the world will agree on stronger commitments to protect species,” said Andersen.

She said that China hosting the global biodiversity summit will be a reaffirmation of Beijing’s commitment to providing leadership that is required to restore ecosystems and advance green development.

“We are very pleased that China has volunteered to be the host of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity. We look forward to China’s leadership in COP 15, and to the realization of ambitious targets to protect habitats,” said Andersen.

She said that China‘s ability to strike a balance between economic development and ecosystems protection should be emulated to help heal a planet grappling with climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.

Andersen highlighted China‘s program of restoring degraded ecosystems, adding that the ecological civilization model espoused by Beijing could serve as a template for guiding the global biodiversity conservation agenda.

“Ecological civilization plays a significant part in Chinese direction,” said Andersen.

“And we look forward to that strategic direction forming a part of the global direction, where we need an ecological balance with our planet,” she added.

Andersen said the international community looks forward to tangible commitments that could inject vitality in the global biodiversity conservation agenda during the meeting in Kunming, capital city of southwest China’s Yunnan Province.


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UN chief hopes for COVID-19 vaccine as global public good




United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday expressed the hope that a COVID-19 vaccine will be seen as a global public good, or a people’s vaccine.

COVID-19 is the greatest public health crisis of our generation. Right now, there is no vaccine. As we work together to develop one, there is an important lesson we need to understand. A vaccine, by itself, is not enough. We need global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access,” Guterres said at a virtual global vaccine summit.

A COVID-19 vaccine must be seen as a global public good, a people’s vaccine, which a growing number of world leaders are calling for,” he added.

At the summit, Guterres called on participants to make three key commitments: find safe ways to continue delivering vaccinations, even as COVID-19 spreads; use the networks of vaccine-delivery to deliver a range of other primary health services; make sure a COVID-19 vaccine reaches everyone when it becomes available.

“Diseases know no borders. That is why a fully-funded GAVI (Vaccine Alliance) will be critical to ensure we continue the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Guterres.

Twenty million children are missing their full complement of vaccines, and one in five has received no vaccines at all, he noted.

Under the shadow of COVID-19, their plight is even more desperate, he added, warning that the gaps in global vaccine delivery could grow wider. 


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UK PM urges funding, global cooperation in virtual Global Vaccine Summit




British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the Global Vaccine Summit virtually on Thursday, urging countries and organizations to pledge funding for vaccinations to save millions of lives in the poorest countries and protect the world from future outbreaks of infectious diseases.

The summit hosted by Britain aims to mobilize at least 7.4 billion United States dollars for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in additional resources to protect the next generation with vaccines, reduce disease inequality and create a healthier, safer and more prosperous world.

Addressing attendees from over 50 countries and organisations, Johnson said in his opening speech that the summit is a moment “when the world comes together to unite humanity in the fight against disease”.

“I urge you to join us to fortify this lifesaving alliance and inaugurate a new era of global health co-operation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavour of our lifetimes,” he added.

Britain is contributing 1.65 billion pounds (about 2.07 billion dollars) to Gavi over the next five years, according to Johnson.

In specific, the summit is expected to raise money to immunize a further 300 million children in world‘s poorest countries by 2025, protecting them from deadly diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles, and also helping ensure the global recovery from COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world focuses on tackling novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Gavi have warned that the pandemic is disrupting routine immunization, affecting approximately 80 million children under the age of one across the world.

Health experts have warned that if coronavirus is left to spread in developing countries, this could lead to future waves of infection reaching the developed countries including Britain.

If a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine is developed, Gavi will have a role in its delivery around the world.

Also on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China will provide support to relevant international organizations within its capacity and make contributions to vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

Zhao announced Wednesday that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang would deliver a speech at the virtual Global Vaccine Summit Thursday.

Zhao said the Chinese government upholds the vision of building a community with a shared future for humanity and attaches great importance to the development of global public health security.

China will offer support to international organizations including the WHO and Gavi within its capacity, and make contributions to boosting vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries, as well as the building of a community of health for all, he added.


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Uganda braces for slump in global vanilla prices amid market surplus, COVID-19




Uganda’s ministry of agriculture on Thursday said the country is bracing itself for a slump in global vanilla prices by focusing on quality.

Aggrey Bagiire, minister of state for agriculture told reporters here that the surplus in the global market is attributed to the increase in supply from Madagascar, which was previously hit by a cyclone. Madagascar is the world‘s largest producer of vanilla.

“There is now a clear downward trend in global prices as a result of increasing supply from Madagascar and other vanilla producing countries,” he said.

“This trend means that our farmers and exporters may receive much lower prices for their vanilla in the coming seasons,” the minister added, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic may also further lower the price.

He said in order to harness the best opportunities of such a global vanilla market situation, farmers and exporters need to focus on quality.

We in Uganda, must of necessity, identify and emphasize strategies that guarantee high quality of vanilla that we put on the market in order to ensure a sustainable and better price for farmers.”

The minister said farmers must harvest their vanilla when it is fully mature — that is nine months after pollination.

He noted that traders and processors need to adhere to the professional vanilla handling and processing standards to attain the highest possible vanillin content that the market requires.

Bagiire warned that anyone found flaunting the regulations would face prosecution. Uganda accounts for about five percent of the global production.


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Global Funds gives Zambia over 315 mln USD to combat HIV, TB and Malaria




The Global Fund has given Zambia over 315 million U.S. dollars to finance programs to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, the country’s agency coordinating HIV programs said on Thursday.

The funds will help Zambia build resilient and sustainable systems for health for the next three years from 2021 to 2023.

National AIDS Council (NAC) Chairperson Bishop Paul Mususu said the funds have been increased from the previous funding of about 263 million dollars for the period 2018 to 2020.

He said during a press briefing that the increase in funding was an indication of the partners’ continued confidence in the country’s health sector.

Zambia instituted the application process last year, he added.

According to him, the Global Fund was also offering catalytic matching funds amounting to 12.3 million U.S. dollars for other programs such as adolescent girls and young women and men in high prevalence settings.


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SON begins harmonising locally produced ventilators to meet global standards



The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) says it has begun harmonising the production of ventilators developed across the country to conform with the international standards toward containing COVID-19 pandemic.

Its Director-General, Osita Aboloma, made this known in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos, following the unveiling of locally manufactured ventilators produced by Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro in Ogun.

Aboloma was represented by SON Coordinator, Ogun Office 1, Mr Jerome Umoru, at the unveiling.

The SON director-general urged various inventors to ensure compliance with ISO 5080601/2/12/3020 and Medical Electrical Equipment part 11 for clinical care.

According to him, adherence to the standard will ensure ease during the process of conformity assessment and product certification.

He added that the certification of locally produced ventilators, air purifiers and hand sanitiser machines would put the nation in its pride of place globally.

“We are partnering with the institute in ensuring that various machines produced in the country meet the required standards so as not to end up in the shelves,” Aboloma said.

He said the standards body of the unification was also aimed at saving the nation’s foreign exchange spent on importation of ventilators to fights against COVID-19.

Aboloma advised private sector investment in such innovations to enable inventors to go through the next stages of clinical trials and obtain the Nigerian Industrial Standard (NIS) mark.

He reiterated SON’s support toward sustaining local production of essential materials to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through quality assurance.

“In our efforts to address the ongoing pandemic, we have diligently assigned officers to inspect the ventilators and alcohol-based hand sanitisers under production.

“We have one common standard for each product. We want to ensure that what we are producing meets the standard and once it does, we will certify it.

“We will also continue to monitor activities so that they do not rest on their oars in producing quality goods.

“I have presented a copy of the Standard to the Rector of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, and it is the ‘golden rule,” he said.

Aboloma promised that the moment the institute was able to meet the basic parameter on requirements, certification of the innovations would be fast tracked.

SON is ready to partner with all technical institutions, especially those involved in the production of life saving equipment and materials at this time.

“This is so that their products will meet minimum requirements of the relevant Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS), and undergo certification under the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) scheme,” he said.

The SON director-general revealed that in no distant time, consumers would be empowered through product authentication scheme to determine the quality and conformance of products at the point of purchase.

He said that those without necessary certifications would be rejected.

Responding, the Rector, Olusegun Aluko, said that possible partnership with private sector could help boost the production of ventilators against the high cost of importation.

Aluko explained that the institution had also designed a disinfectant cubicle (just like the security screening cubicles at points of entry in banks).

He said this would disinfect anyone passing through it within a space of 20 seconds.

Aluko said that the invention was critical at a time when the government was planning to open up the economy.

He further showcased a handling room disinfecting machine produced by the institute.

The rector said it could conveniently be used to disinfect classrooms, offices, and banking halls.

He solicited for more government supports on the innovations to fight COVID-19 as well as boost the investors’ confidence.

“We also invented a multiple outlet of handwashing and sanitising machine.

“This will be useful in supermarkets, schools and other public places that accommodate crowds.

“We want patronage from different sectors to deploy the machines to the wellness of Nigerians,” the rector added.

Aluko noted that the materials for manufacturing the ventilators were sourced locally.

He said it would support the noble innovation and make it more accessible and cheaper compared to imported one’s which were scarce, costly and took longer to deliver.

Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Global environment body grants Zambia 6 million USD for climate-resilient projects




The Global Environment Facility has given Zambia a grant aimed at helping the country build resilience in areas prone to negative effects of climate change, a government official said on Wednesday.

Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata said the grant of 6,185,000 U.S. dollars has been given following the approval of Zambia’s proposal.

She said the government has been working with the global environment body since 2017 for the project called Building the Resilience of Local Communities in Zambia through the introduction of Ecosystem-based adaptation and that the approval of the proposal was a step in the right direction.

The project, she said, involves building the capacity of communities living in wetlands and forests to respond to negative effects of climate change.

“The project proposal was aimed at mobilizing funds for the sustainable management of wetlands and strengthening communities to be resilient to the impact of climate change,” she told reporters during a press briefing.

The Green Environment Facility will serve as the implementing agency of this project, she added.

According to her, the project will also address the climate change vulnerability of ecosystems in rural communities, with the aim of reducing the vulnerability.

This, she noted, will be achieved by strengthening the capacity of government and supporting rural communities living in wetlands and forests to adapt to climate change effects.


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Floyd’s death sparks global outrage




Outrage over the death of unarmed African American George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis has been growing across the United States, and now, beyond.

Floyd, 46, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes until he stopped breathing.

In a video footage, the victim was heard saying “I can’t breathe” while three other police officers stood by.

The incident has triggered massive protests against racial discrimination and police abuse across the country, prompting U.S. mayors and governors to impose curfews in more than 40 cities, while thousands of people have been arrested so far.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for restraint from the authorities in responding to demonstrators, said his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, adding that Guterres hopes to see peaceful protests in the United States over the death of Floyd.

The tragedy has also set off protests outside the United States. In neighboring Canada, protesters took to the streets in Montreal to denounce racial profiling and police brutality.

In Greece, hundreds of members of the youth wing of the Greek Communist party KKE protested peacefully on Monday outside the United States Embassy in Athens and the United States Consulate in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Raising banners of “I can’t breathe,” protesters outside the U.S. embassy chanted slogans such as “No to a system giving birth to crises, wars, and racism.”

We join Greek people’s voice with the voices of all people across the world against the barbarity … We join our voice with the U.S. people who are giving a struggle these days for their rights, to be able to breathe,” KKE General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas said earlier.

In Britain, thousands of people gathered in London and Manchester to protest over the death of Floyd, despite an official ban of mass gatherings.

Chanting “no justice, no peace,” the protesters gathered in London’s landmark Trafalgar Square shortly after 1 p.m. before marching through Westminster to Downing Street.

From the French capital city of Paris to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, and from the Dutch city of The Hague to the Australian city of Sydney, demonstrators have rallied to voice support and demand improvement in race relations.

The killing of Floyd has sparked diplomatic concern around the world.

Josep Borrell, the European Union (EU)’s foreign policy chief, reportedly described the incident as an “abuse of power.”

We here in Europe, like the people of the U.S., we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd and I think that also societies must remain vigilant against the excess of use of force,” Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

“This is an abuse of power and this has to be denounced as we combat (it) in the States and everywhere. We support the right to peaceful protest and also we condemn violence and racism of any kind and, for sure, we call for a de-escalation of tensions,” said Borrell.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the anti-discrimination protests in the United States are “understandable and more than legitimate.”

Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat called on authorities in the United States to intensify their efforts to “ensure the total elimination of all forms of discrimination based on race or ethnic origin.”

“I strongly condemn the murder of George Floyd that occurred in the United States of America at the hands of law enforcement officers, and wishes to extend my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones,” he said in a statement.

The AU Commission firmly reaffirms and reiterates its rejection of the continuing discriminatory practices against Black citizens of the United States of America,” he added.

Ghana’s President Nana Akuffo-Addo condemned the killing on his official Facebook account, saying that “Black People, the world over, are shocked and distraught by the killing of an unarmed man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in the United States of America. It carried with it an all too painful familiarity, and an ugly reminder.”

“We stand with our kith and kin in America in these difficult times, and we hope that the unfortunate, tragic death of George Floyd will inspire a lasting change in how America confronts head on the problems of hate and racism,” said Akuffo-Addo.


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