“Whether caused by fighting or a breakdown in Government control, the damage to the environment has devastating consequences for people’s health and well-being […] it is not a new problem, but is one that can last for decades,” said Mr. Guterres in a message on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.“Areas of Europe are still affected by heavy-metal contamination from munitions used during the First World War.” In his message, the Secretary-General also highlighted the importance of a healthy environment for people to rebuild their lives once fighting stops, noting that the shared management of natural resources can also provide avenues to maintain or improve relations. Given the importance of the environment and natural resources for sustainable development, the UN chief called for steps to reduce the collateral damage from conflicts and protect them. “The UN is committed to protecting the environment as an essential pillar of peace, security and sustainable development,” he stressed. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), conflicts over natural resources are among the greatest challenges confronting today’s world, with serious threats to human security. Furthermore, at least 40 per cent of all internal armed conflicts over the past 65 years have had an important natural resource dimension. Since 1989, more than 35 major armed conflicts have been financed by revenues from conflict resources, and there are fears that in the coming years, extreme climate stresses could double the risk of violent conflict. However, despite these risks, there are also “significant opportunities” linking the environment and peacebuilding, added UNEP. “Let us not forget the power of environmental cooperation to drive peace and prosperity,” said UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim. Also today, joining forces with the Environmental Law Institute, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Duke University, and the University of California at Irvine, UNEP opened the enrolment at the online course, Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace, which aims to build a community of 10,000 practitioners that can make natural resources a reason for global cooperation. The course covers a range of natural resources, from extractives to land and water, as well as a range of tools and approaches from conflict and gender sensitivity to assessments, meditation and spatial planning.
In a meeting with the Iranian Human Rights Commission we had a frank discussion about the women’s rights, the death penalty, prisoners, rights for gay and lesbian people, drugs and stonings.“Human rights was very much on the agenda,” she said, adding that it was “hard to believe” the reasons given by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny as to why he didn’t raise human rights issues during his trade mission to Saudi Arabia trip in the first week of January.Read: Government to reopen Vatican embassy, 26 months after closing it>Read: The human rights issues which aren’t being discussed on Taoiseach’s Gulf visit> INDEPENDENT TD MAUREEN O’Sullivan has said that the decision to close the Irish embassy in Iran was a “big mistake” stating that while she was on a diplomatic trip to Iran recently it was raised repeatedly.Speaking to TheJournal.ie after her trip, she said there is “no doubt in my mind that closing the embassy in Iran was a big mistake. It is always good for diplomatic relations to have a presence in countries. I think it was very short-sighted,” she said.O’Sullivan said that embassy closure was “looked upon as a slight” adding that the issue was raised in each meeting they had.Reassure the Iranians“We had to reassure the Iranian officials constantly that it was for economic reasons that it was closed and it was not for any other reasons, but I have my doubts,” she said.She added that she did make a point of it at the Foreign Affairs Committee.Yesterday, the Government announced that it is to reopen its embassy at the Vatican as part of a wide-scale reorganisation of Ireland’s diplomatic missions abroad. It was closed 26 months ago, as was the Iranian embassy and the Irish embassy in East Timor.In a statement, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said new embassies in Nairobi, Zagreb, Jakarta, and Bangkok as well as The Holy See. There will also be new consulates in Austin, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo. All of the new offices will have a staff of between one and three people.There was no mention of the Iranian embassy.Irish embassiesGilmore added that while there are 300 diplomats promoting Ireland’s economic and strategic interests in 73 locations abroad, countries like Norway, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands have a far greater global presence which leaves Ireland at a distinct disadvantage when trying to compete in both emerging and established markets, he said.Addressing the issues of human rights and Iran, O’Sullivan said there was no issue that they could not discuss with Iranian officials while there. She said:
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