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United Nations, NGO and General News Round-Up

The UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, called Tuesday on Kabul and its international supporters to forge a ‘new deal' to push forward progress for the Afghan people. Afghanistan and more than 80 countries and international organizations helping with post-Taliban reconstruction meet in Paris on June 12. Afghanistan hopes leaders will pledge some USD 15 billion to help rebuild a nation wracked by poverty and the Taliban insurgency. French officials stress that the conference is not just about money as it will close with a declaration meant to guide aid strategy through 2013, including an increase in international coordination under the watch of UN representative Kai Eide.

A new atlas published by the UN charts Africa's rapidly changing environmental landscape from disappearing glaciers in Uganda to a vanishing lake in Mali. Comparing photographs from the present day and 30 years ago, it shows how economic development, climate change and conflict have all taken their toll, the BBC reports. The atlas from the UN Environment Program surveys every African nation. There are also examples of things changing for the better, like in Niger where trees are being replanted.

The UN humanitarian chief John Holmes defended on June 9 the policy of working with Myanmar's military government after last month's cyclone, saying trying to deliver aid by force would not have helped the victims. Holmes said he believed the cooperation set up with the reclusive junta could ultimately assist international efforts to bring democracy to the Asian country, Reuters said. Cyclone Nargis, which killed at least 134,000 people after striking in the first days of May, sparked widespread condemnation of the ruling generals for initially blocking international aid workers from entering the country.

Researchers have been undercounting new cases of HIV infection in the US, meaning the rate is probably 25 percent higher at 50,000 people per year, the nation's top AIDS doctor said on June 10. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the rate of infection was not increasing but that new methods of calculation showed infections were more common than previous estimates, Reuters reports. Fauci, attending the UN's 2008 High Level Meeting on AIDS, told reporters the previous methods had shown the rate of new infections in the US had hit a plateau at around 40,000 per year for the past 14 years.

The Government of Sri Lanka needs to stamp out a recent wave of disappearances in which women and humanitarian aid workers are among those who have gone missing, a group of United Nations human rights experts said June 11. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said it has formally communicated its concerns to the Sri Lankan authorities that over the last two months 22 people have disappeared, 18 of them in May. The Group is also concerned that both women and humanitarian aid workers are being targeted.

United Nations officials, government leaders and education experts are gathering in Kathmandu, Nepal, June 11 for the start of a two-day conference examining how to improve gender equality in schools across the Asia-Pacific region. The meeting has been set up by the Global Advisory Committee of the UN Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) to measure the progress so far to boost girls' access to schooling, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Source: Global Development Briefing, the Largest Circulation Publication Serving the International Development Community.