Rabat – The Ministry of Energy, Mining, Water, and Environment organized a ceremony to launch the environmental police on Thursday, 23 February in Rabat.The ceremony, which was led by Hakima El Haite, the Minister Delegate in Charge of the Environment, will involve the handing over of environmental inspector’s cards and the presentation of technical monitoring equipment and vehicles for the environmental police.The creation of regional environmental brigades to protect against environmental damage was first announced in September 2013 by the General Directorate of National Security. The missions of the environmental police, set by Decree No. 2-14-782 of 30 on May 19, 2015, include the raising of awareness of environmental issues and the inspection, research, investigation, verbalization and detection of environmental infringements.The offenses that the environmental brigades will police are as numerous as its mission: deposits of waste on private or public land, possession obsolete products or contraband drugs, transport of dangerous goods without authorization.Offenders may face fines ranging from MAD 100 to MAD 2 million as well as possible imprisonment. Once the infringement has been established by the environmental inspector, this latter is responsible for determining the seriousness of the infringement and the penalty for the infringement.According to the decree, environmental police officers “perform their functions voluntarily, or at the request of the governmental environmental authority, or as part of a national environmental supervisory board set up for purpose of environment protection. “The national control plan in particular aims to identify “sectors and industries, environmental activities, which must be submitted as a priority to environmental control,” adding that an annual report should be sent to the Head of Government.Since November 2013, a brigade of 14 environmental police elements have been deployed in Casablanca, Rabat and Mohammedia. From January to July 2014, 414 offense tickets were registered.
PreviousNextUN News: Can you tell us about the current socio-economic development snapshot of the region and how this has changed over the past 70 years?Shamshad Akhtar: Asia-Pacific is a very vibrant and dynamic region. It has come a long way since ESCAP was created in 1947 to assist countries emerging from the devastation of World War II. I have to say that the region has witnessed economic and social achievements beyond expectations – it is the region that led the drive for poverty reduction and is today known for being the driver of the global economic recovery. Asia-Pacific is the region that today accounts for 40 per cent of global trade.UN News: That said, Asia and the Pacific also has its fair share of challenges. Can you elaborate?Shamshad Akhtar: Of course the region has challenges. Because the region is growing very fast, pollution is a major concern. Greenhouse gas emissions from Asia-Pacific account for over half of the total greenhouse gas emissions around the world [and this is] just based on the performance of few countries.There are about 400 million people still poor in the region. This number rises to 900 million if measured using the multi-dimensional poverty index. So reducing poverty is a major issueSecondly, the region has been at the frontier of export-led development. Now it is time for it to move towards domestic-driven growth. Given its potential and the value-added relationships that it has developed, Asia-Pacific has the potential to further stimulate the regional demand.Another challenge is poverty. There are about 400 million people still poor in the region. This number rises to 900 million if measured using the multi-dimensional poverty index, so reducing poverty is a major issue.Furthermore, some larger economies in the region are undergoing rebalancing from excessive structural surpluses to stimulating more domestic demand-led growth.Also, there is the question on how to absorb the growing workforce because there will be significant demographic changes that the region will face – both in terms of further growth in population as well as in terms of the rise in the aging population. A train snakes its way through Seoul, Republic of Korea. Photo: Kibae Park Sala Santithan, the complex that housed the headquarters of the then ECAFE, in Bangkok, Thailand, prior to the construction of its current offices. Photo: ESCAP archives A shopkeeper at a local grain market in Tachileik, Myanmar. Photo: Kibae Park U Nyun, Executive Secretary of the then ECAFE, delivering an address at the twenty-first session, held in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1965. Photo: ESCAP archives UN News: In light of these challenges, as well as for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, what has ESCAP been doing to assist its members?Shamshad Akhtar: For the 2030 Agenda, ESCAP’s intergovernmental focus and work programme has been transformed to support the development of a cohesive, coherent and coordinated institutional framework, which is called the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.Also, our member States have worked with us to develop a regional road-map for implementation of the 2030 Agenda and they have also given mandates to have a regional follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. We are updating our analysis of regional cooperation and integration to help strengthen the sustainable development agenda. This will in turn, help the region get connected in a much more sustainable mannerWe will carry on this work while continuing to support the implementation of sustainable development through our second core mandate – Regional Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific. We are also updating our analysis of regional cooperation and integration to help strengthen the sustainable development agenda. This will in turn, help the region get connected in a much more sustainable manner. At the same time, the 2030 Agenda includes a number of transboundary goals so we hope to leverage regional cooperation and integration to fast-track implementation of these particular goals. We are also supporting the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda: We have a track for financing for development in Asia-Pacific where we are raising awareness on the significance of, as well as on the means of, boosting domestic resource mobilization, in particular the tax-to-GDP ratio as well as formulating tax policies that are supportive of the sustainable development agenda.We also continue to work on infrastructure financing and capacity building, and also looking at climate change, financial inclusion, science, technology and innovation, and a range of other issues.UN News: You mentioned the fact that the Asia-Pacific region is very diverse. How are you able to cover the entire region while operating out of Bangkok? Shamshad Akhtar: The ESCAP region covers a lot of countries. It has 53 member countries and nine associate members. Given the diversity of the region, we have subregional offices across the region: one in Suva, Fiji, for the Pacific; in Incheon, Republic of Korea, for North and North-East Asia; in Delhi, India, for South and South-West Asia; and in Almaty, Kazakhstan for North and Central Asia.These offices both maintain relationships with the countries as well as coordinate and conduct core work programmes in their respective subregions. The work programme of the subregional offices and the functional divisions [at ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok] are aligned, making sure that leadership comes from the principal office in Bangkok and support from the subregional offices.UN News: The Commission will be holding its seventy-third session during the week of 14 May. What are the major issues on the agenda?Shamshad Akhtar: The session will be revolving around issues concerning sustainable development as well as the regional cooperation and integration agenda. We will also be discussing a thematic report on energy efficiency. Having expanded our work programme to include energy, this will help us promote sustainable energy for all, while enhancing energy connectivity in the region and diversifying energy sources to include renewable sources.We will also be discussing the overall economic and social situation in the region in addition to our core mandate of sustainable development and how they mutually support each other. Representatives from the then ECAFE member States attend the sixth session of the Commission (1950). Photo: ESCAP archives A worker at an integrated resource recovery centre aerates organic waste to speed up the composting process. Matale, Sri Lanka. Photo: ESCAP Delegates attend the seventy-second session of the Commission in May 2016. Photo: ESCAP Video: Ms. Akhtar highlighting progress made by the Asia-Pacific region and the challenges before it. As Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Shamshad Akhtar leads an entity with a geographical scope that stretches from Turkey in the west to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in the east, and from Russia in the north to New Zealand in the south, and covers a region that is home to 4.1 billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population.Founded in 1947, as the then Economic Commission for Asia and the Far-East, to assist the region’s countries with economic reconstruction in the devastating aftermath of the Second World War, the Commission’s geographical scope and mandate were expanded in the 1970s to reflect changes on the ground.When ESCAP convenes its 73rd session next week at its headquarters in Bangkok, top government officials will discuss further strengthening the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).In addition, member States will deliberate on regional cooperation for sustainable energy, an issue vital in a region where millions suffer from severe energy insecurity and lack of access. Also on the agenda are exchanges on infrastructure development in least developed, landlocked developing and Pacific island developing countries, applications of space technology for environment and resilience against water-related disasters.UN News spoke to Ms. Akhtar, a Pakistani national and seasoned economist, about development efforts in the region, including ongoing challenges, as well as the work of ESCAP and what is expected during the upcoming session. ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. The UN Conference Centre is in the foreground and the ESCAP secretariat building is in the back. Photo: ESCAP A park in Bangkok, Thailand, where accessibility and assistive features such as detectable guides and warnings have been installed. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe A student at the Tailulu College in Nukua’lofa, Tonga, where broadband internet connectivity has been installed, transforming the way students access information. Photo: Tom Perry/World Bank PreviousNextUN News: What are the major outcomes expected this year?Shamshad Akhtar: Deliberations at the Commission will provide us with greater understanding on what support the region and the countries need from ESCAP. The Commission will guide us on what we can do for the member States to further support them in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and other mandates that have been assigned to us. But the ultimate test will be how we can match the demand with the supply.UN News: Would you like to add anything else?The regional commissions are a very important arm of the UN. However, because they are not based in New York, they often are not so visibleShamshad Akhtar: One thing I would like to mention is that regional commissions are a very important arm of the United Nations. However, because they are not based in New York, they often are not so visible.The technical work done at the subregional level or at the country level is actually being done by the regional commissions. We play a very important role in connecting the global with the national through the bridge of the regional commissions. We are going to be supporting a lot of knowledge-sharing and all kinds of technical work at the regional level, not for the sake of doing it, but to ensure that these are all consolidated with the discussions at the global level.
Darkness into Light is an annual fundraiser for Pieta House which aims to raise awareness about self harm and suicide. Tens of thousands of people took part in this year’s event, across 20 different venues in Ireland. Here, writer Adrian Millar recalls his experience. IT’S 2.15AM and it’s time to get up and get on my bicycle and cycle into Naas from Prosperous for the Darkness into Light walk, and I’m thinking, am I mad? Could I not just roll over in bed and say I forgot?But I haven’t forgotten, and now I’m dressed and on my bicycle, following the route into Naas along the canal. To my relief, the faint moonlight illuminates the rain-filled potholes, for I don’t have a light on my bicycle. Besides, I’m on red alert for ghosts, though there’s no sign of anything right now, just the sound of water and the wind in my ear – eerie enough. But I talk to the dead, anyhow: Frédérique in France, Tokunaga in Japan, Emile in Belgium, Kelley in the USA, and a few friends of mine from Clane and Prosperous, all of whom have lost their lives through suicide. “I’m doing this for you,” I tell them, but there is no answer, thankfully. Instead, a woodpigeon takes flight from among the bushes, frightening the life out of me.Soon, to my relief, I am leaving the darkness behind me and entering Sallins. I cycle like the clappers up Monread Road. I’m ten minutes late. I reach the gates of Naas Racecourse. I spot a few cars in the car-park. At least, I’m not the only fool up at 4am, I think to myself. And then I see them: dozens of cars, and then hundreds. I’m flabbergasted.I park my bicycle and fall in behind the tail-end of a small group of walkers – a few women with dogs in the yellow Darkness into Light T-shirts. “Which way has everyone gone?” I ask them. They direct me towards the Blessington Road.People young and old took to the streetsI pass a few walkers – mothers with children dragging their feet. My heart swells with admiration for them. A car comes up behind us. The driver winds down the window. “It’s well for some travelling by car,” one of the walkers shouts out to the driver. “Have you lost the power of your legs?” We chuckle. The driver is one of the organisers of the walk and is protecting walkers from traffic from behind.I catch up with a group of walkers – men and women. “It was worth getting up at 3am this morning …” I overhear a woman say to her husband as I pass them by, “… because seeing you at that time of the morning was like an apparition.” Their friends burst out laughing. I chuckle to myself. “It’s incredible how something like this can catch the public imagination,” a man says to his mates, and he’s right.Just then a sea of yellow comes into view – young people, old people, grannies with toddlers in prams. Thousands of people are here. People with their friends. Couples holding hands. Elderly people with walking-sticks. People walking alone. An early cock crows from a housing-estate. I check my watch: 4.20am and the streets of Naas are thronged as far as the eye can see.I pass Naas Hospital. The crowd winds it way up the street towards Naas Main Street like a festive yellow Chinese dragon. An ambulance exits the hospital and puts on its siren. The crowds silently step aside to make way for it.“Talk about the parting of the Red Sea!” a man says beside me, and there is more laughter.We reach the Main Street.A mother pulls her son towards her and places her arm around him. “You’ll soon be the same size as me,” she says. “Next year you’ll be up to here.” She points at her neck, and I’m warmed by her dream for her child.Blackbirds sing.Life’s little intamaciesWe pass the courthouse and make our way up the street past the town hall. I can see people all the way up to Marks and Spencer now, and beyond. I pass out two women. “My wedding ring and engagement ring don’t fit me anymore,” one of them says to the other. “I’m after starting to carry them around in my bag.”I take note.Life’s little intimacies at 4.30 in Naas.We reach the Blessington Road. A community on the move. A group of teenage girls cut in through the garage on the corner. “You’ll have to do the whole walk all over again,” the mother of one of them calls out to them as they rejoin the main group, and we all laugh some more.We reach the finishing line.“Well done! Well done!” a volunteer calls out to us as we pour into the pavilion at the racecourse. “Be sure to bring along all your friends next year and make it even bigger and better!”I promise myself to return with friends next year.I mill among the hundreds of people queuing up for sandwiches and refreshments, then take my leave.I cycle home. Hares bolt at the sight of me. A fox greets me in a nearby field. A fisherman takes his seat along the canal at 5.30am. Life is returning to the world. The darkness is receding. Rain comes on.Walking for everyone suffering from depressionAnd then it hits me: I’m not doing this trip for the dead. I’m doing this for the living. I’m doing this for all those who suffer from depression. I’m doing this for all those who have ever felt like ending it all, like I once did myself 20 years ago when I left the Jesuits and felt that my world was falling apart and I went down to the water’s edge in Dun Laoghaire.And I want them to be here next year with me. I want them to walk the streets of Naas.We all do.We want them to laugh.And they will.I did.Lots.Adrian Millar is a stay-at-home father of three daughters, with two PhDs and a passion for the beauty of everyday life. People follow his various shenanigans on Facebook, on Twitter, in his Dad’s World column in the Feelgood section of Friday’s Irish Examiner, and on Linkedin. Feel free to join them. You can also keep up to date with happenings at adrianmillar.ie. His novels have received praise from Marian Keyes, Patricia Scanlan and Cathy Kelly – and you can buy The Quiet Life, a family drama, much loved by Marian Keyes, on Amazon Kindle or in print at Lulu.com. It can also be downloaded to your iPad at Smashwords.com. TomaYto, TomaHto, his forthcoming novel, will be published in June 2013.