Soualiga
Menu

Soualiga (9455)

Human Rights Council urged to support UN chief’s call for a ‘new social contract’ after COVID-19

INTERNATIONAL, 21 June 2021, Human Rights - UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Monday urged UN Member States to promote a more inclusive post-pandemic recovery to help the world’s most vulnerable recover from the impact of COVID.

Citing a rise in “extreme poverty, inequalities and injustice” in the last 18 months, Ms. Bachelet also warned that democratic and civic space has been eroded.

These were all problems that could be addressed if countries embraced the UN Secretary-General’s call for a New Social Contract, Ms. Bachelet said, on the opening day of the Human Rights Council’s 47th session in Geneva.

The initiative will be supported by a “New Global Deal of solidarity”, which shares “power, resources and opportunities more fairly”, in line with a plan for a UN-wide agenda that António Guterres intends to present to the UN General Assembly in September.

Trust in people, peace, development

“These are bold steps that place unprecedented emphasis on the power of human rights to ensure sound and inclusive development, sustainable peace, and societies grounded in trust”, Ms. Bachelet added.

“Navigating an…inclusive, green, sustainable and resilient future, will be the work of this generation of world leaders – or their downfall”, the High Commissioner for Human Rights maintained, while acknowledging that many countries were facing “collapsing global trade, falling remittances, turmoil in commodities prices and debt burdens”.

Nonetheless, Ms. Bachelet, who is a former two-time President of Chile, also said that it was possible to deliver on economic and social rights by using proven techniques to combat corruption and illicit financial flows, deploying progressive fiscal policies and increasing budget transparency, participation and accountability.

“The evidence is conclusive: countries that had invested in social protection have been better able to weather the crisis,” she said, adding that a New Social Contract would rebuild public trust “through stronger support for fundamental rights”.

It was vital to establish societies in which policymakers looked first to combat inequalities and promote rights to social protection, health, education, and more, the High Commissioner continued.

Outrages continue in Tigray

Displaced people in Adigrat town, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.
Displaced people in Adigrat town, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia., by © UNICEF/Zerihun Sewunet

As is the tradition on the opening day of a new session of the Council, Ms. Bachelet also used her opening statement to highlight her Office’s concerns in more than a dozen countries, from Afghanistan to the Philippines.

Among them, Ms. Bachelet reiterated her concerns over continuing violence against civilians in Ethiopia’s Tigray region “by all parties to the conflict”, more than six months since fighting began.

The High Commissioner noted reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations and abuses, all linked to clashes between central government troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

These included “extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence against children as well as adults and forced displacement”.

Eritrean soldiers remain

There were also “credible reports” that Eritrean soldiers were still operating in Tigray “and continue to perpetrate violations of human rights and humanitarian law”, Ms. Bachelet said, adding that the humanitarian situation remained dire and that an estimated 350,000 people faced famine.

The alert follows repeated warnings from humanitarian agencies that their access is regularly blocked and that an unknown number of people are in need and impossible to reach.

In her statement, Ms. Bachelet also told Member States that an investigation into the situation in Tigray had begun on 16 May, in partnership with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

The investigators’ work should conclude in August when their findings and recommendations will be made public, the High Commissioner said, before warning that “in many other parts of Ethiopia” there had been “alarming incidents of deadly ethnic and inter-communal violence and displacement” – all linked to longstanding grievances.

These complaints should be addressed through a nationwide dialogue, the High Commissioner said, before insisting that the ongoing deployment of military forces was “not a durable solution”. 

Read more...

Sustainability solution or climate calamity? The dangers and promise of cryptocurrency technology

INTERNATIONAL, 20 June 2021, Economic Development - The negative environmental impact of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin has been widely covered in the press in recent weeks and months, and their volatility has also been flagged as a cause for concern. Nevertheless, the UN believes that blockchain, the technology lying behind these online currencies, could be of great benefit to those fighting the climate crisis, and help bring about a more sustainable global economy.

A ‘pointless way of using energy’?

The amount of energy needed to power the Bitcoin network is staggering: Tim Berners-Lee, credited as the inventor of the World Wide Web, has gone so far as to describe “Bitcoin mining” as “one of the most fundamentally pointless ways of using energy.”

Bitcoins don’t exist as physical objects, but new coins are “mined”, or brought into circulation, through a process that involves using powerful computers to solve complex mathematical problems. This process requires so much energy, that the Bitcoin network is estimated to consume more energy than several countries, including Kazakhstan and the Netherlands. And, as fossil-fuelled power plants still make up a major portion of the global energy mix, Bitcoin mining can be said to be partly responsible for the production of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change (although, so far, the impact on the climate is far less than that of heavy hitters such as the agriculture, construction, energy, and transport sectors).

Another problem is the amount of energy needed for each transaction, which is enormous in comparison to traditional credit cards: for example, each Mastercard transaction is estimated to use just 0.0006 kWh (kilowatt hours), whilst every Bitcoin transaction consumes 980 kWh, enough to power an average Canadian home for more than three weeks, according to some commentators.

Waste-pickers scavenge through municipal landfills in Zambia.
UNDP Zambia
Waste-pickers scavenge through municipal landfills in Zambia.

An important driver of sustainable development?

Despite these issues, UN experts believe that cryptocurrencies and the technology that powers them (blockchain) can play an important role in sustainable development, and actually improving our stewardship of the environment.

One of the most useful aspects of cryptocurrencies, as far as the UN is concerned, is transparency.

Because the technology is resistant to tampering and fraud, it can provide a trusted and transparent record of transactions. This is particularly important in regions with weak institutions and high levels of corruption.

The World Food Programme (WFP), the largest UN agency delivering humanitarian cash, has found that blockchain can help to ensure that cash gets to those who need it most.

pilot programme in Pakistan showed that it was possible for WFP to get cash directly to beneficiaries, securely and quickly, without the need to go through a local bank. The project, Building Blocks, has also been successfully trialled at refugee camps in Jordan, ensuring that WFP could create a reliable online record of every single transaction.

If this can work for refugees, it can also work for other disadvantaged, vulnerable groups. The authors of a report by the UN environment agency, UNEP, suggest that the technology could improve the livelihoods of waste pickers, who eke out a living in the informal economy.

A transparent monitoring system, says the report, could accurately track where and how the recovered waste is used, as well as identifying who picked it, ensuring that the right people are rewarded for their efforts.

Air pollution is damaging our health, but there is often a lack of local data made available to identify solutions.
Unsplash/Chris LeBoutillier
Air pollution is damaging our health, but there is often a lack of local data made available to identify solutions.

Blocking environmental degradation

The potential of blockchain in protecting the environment has been tested in a number of other projects, by the UN and other organisations. These range from a tool to eliminate illegal fishing in the tuna industry, developed for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), to a platform (CarbonX) that turns reductions in greenhouse gas emissions into a cryptocurrency that can be bought and sold, providing manufacturers and consumers with a financial incentive to make more sustainable choices.

For UNEP’s DTU Partnership (a collaboration between UNEP, the Technical University of Denmark, and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), there are three main areas where blockchain can accelerate climate action: in transparency, climate finance, and clean energy markets.

Data on harmful greenhouse gas emissions in many countries, says the Partnership, is incomplete and unreliable. Blockchain solutions could provide a transparent, trustworthy way to show how nations are taking action to reduce their impact on the climate.

Climate financing – investments that contribute to slowing the rate of climate change – could be boosted, if carbon markets are scaled up, allowing businesses and industries to transition to low carbon technologies.

And blockchain could be an important part of accelerating the take up of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. As these sources are, by their nature, intermittent and decentralized, new forms of energy markets are needed.

Tools using blockchain technology can help create these markets, and end our dependence on fossil fuels.

Finding low-energy solutions

Despite all of these potential benefits, the huge energy consumption associated with the technology is one of the main hurdles that needs to be overcome, and many players in the industry are working on ways to address the issue.

For example, the Ethereum Foundation, the organization behind the Ethereum cryptocurrency, is working on a new way to verify transactions. By switching to a different method (called Proof of Stake, or PoS), the Foundation says that the energy cost of each transaction could be cut by 99.95 per cent.

At the same time, many players in the industry want to ensure that any energy consumed by the industry is entirely carbon-free.

In April 2021, three important organizations (the Energy Web Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute, and the Alliance for Innovative Regulations), formed the Crypto Climate Accord, which is supported by organizations spanning the climate, finance, NGO and energy sectors.

The aim of the Accord is to “decarbonize the industry in record time”, and achieve net-zero emissions in the global crypto industry by 2030.

Gold has always played an important role in the international monetary system.
Unsplash/Jingming Pan
Gold has always played an important role in the international monetary system.

The ups and downs of cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies are still in their infancy, and there are still many technical and political challenges to be overcome, as seen by the volatile nature of some of the best-known versions.

A single Tweet from tech billionaire Elon Musk, can cause the value of Bitcoin to surge or fall; El Salvador announced plans to make Bitcoin legal tender in June, a month after Beijing announced a crackdown on Bitcoin mining; whilst another crypto currency, Dogecoin, has also been extensively traded, with huge, widely reported jumps and dips in its value (again, partly thanks to pronouncements from Mr. Musk), despite the fact that it was created as a joke.

Nevertheless, many financial experts believe that these teething problems will eventually be ironed out, allowing cryptocurrencies, and other financial tools based on blockchain, to cross over into the mainstream: a number of central banks are planning their own digital currencies, and so-called “stablecoins”, which can be pegged to precious metals such as gold, or national currencies, could become, as the name suggests, stable and reliable investment opportunities.

If the most vulnerable are to benefit from the promise of blockchain technology, and if it is to truly make a positive impact on the climate crisis, more technical research is needed, as well as  more international dialogue, involving experts, scientists and policymakers.

“The UN should continue experimenting in the blockchain space”, says Minang Acharya, one of the authors of a recent UNEP foresight brief on the applications of blockchain. “The more we experiment, the more we learn about the technology. This is likely to improve our UN-wide knowledge on blockchain, our understanding of the environmental and social implications of mining operations, and improve our chances of coping with any problems the technology may bring in the future”.

 

Read more...

Refugees disproportionately exposed to COVID impact: Guterres

INTERNATIONAL, 19 June 2021, Migrants and Refugees - Everyone has a duty to help refugees rebuild their lives after a particularly difficult year for so many – that’s the message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June.

In an appeal for greater empathy for all those who’ve had to flee conflict, climate shocks, and harassment, through no fault of their own, Mr. Guterres, who has just been re-appointed for a second term, said that the pandemic had wiped out refugees’ livelihoods, and led to stigmatization and vilification.

Refugees had also been exposed disproportionately to the virus, the UN chief insisted, adding that once again, they had demonstrated their invaluable contribution to their host communities as essential and frontline workers. “We have a duty to help refugees rebuild their lives”, he said. “COVID-19 has shown us that we can only succeed if we stand together.”

Mr. Guterres, who spent ten years as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, before taking up his current position, called on communities and governments to do more to include refugees, in health care, education and sport, and to move together towards a more inclusive future, free of discrimination.

After a seven-month ordeal at sea, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar reunites with his sister (centre) in Aceh province, Indonesia.
© UNHCR/Jiro Ose
After a seven-month ordeal at sea, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar reunites with his sister (centre) in Aceh province, Indonesia.

The Secretary-General expressed his admiration for refugees and displaced persons, for their courage, resilience, and for “what they have taught us all about the power of hope and healing.”

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, the number of people in need of international protection rose last year to nearly 82.4 million people. This is a four per cent increase on top of the already record-high of 79.5 million, recorded at the end of 2019.

The refugee agency’s flagship Global Trends Report, revealed on Friday that, far from slowing forced displacement around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic may well have been partly responsible for the record levels of people fleeing war, violence, and human rights violations.

Read more...

COVID-19: Vaccines donated next year, ‘too late for those who are dying today’

INTERNATIONAL, 18 June 2021, Health - Millions more COVID vaccines need to be donated now to save lives and help the UN health agency reach the key global target of having 70 per cent of all national populations vaccinated, by the middle of 2022. 

That was one of the main messages relayed to reporters on Friday by World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said if richer countries and pharmaceutical companies wait to donate and produce more shots until next year, that will be “too late for those who are dying today.”

Lauding Guinea’s expected announcement on Saturday that its latest Ebola virus disease outbreak has been curbed after just four months, he said it showed what could be done on a much larger scale, with the coronavirus.

Global vaccine failure

“And yet even after 18 months, the ineffective use of public health and social measures, increased social mixing and vaccine inequity, continue to give COVID-19 an opportunity to mutate, spread and kill”, said Tedros. “The global failure to share vaccines equitably is fuelling a two-track pandemic that is now taking its toll on some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Every region has countries that are now facing a steep increase in cases and deaths, he noted, adding that Latin American nations are in dire straits, with cases in Africa, increasing by 52% in just the past week.

“And we expect things to only get worse. Less than one per cent of Africa’s population has been vaccinated. Vaccines donated next year will be far too late for those who are dying today, or being infected today, or at risk today.”

Firm targets

WHO’s global targets are to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September, at least 40 per cent by the end of 2021, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

“These are the critical milestones we must reach together to end the pandemic” said Tedros, comparing the current 20 per cent fully vaccinated rate in more than half of richer nations, with the chilling statistic that the same can be said of only three lower and middle-income countries. 

“We very much appreciate the vaccine donations announced by the G7 and others. And we thank those countries including the United States that have committed to sharing doses in June and July. We urge others to follow suit. We need vaccines to be donated now to save lives”, Tedros added.

Read more...

António Guterres secures second term as UN Secretary-General, calls for new era of ‘solidarity and equality’

INTERNATIONAL, 18 June 2021, UN Affairs - António Guterres was on Friday re-appointed to a second term as UN Secretary-General, pledging as his priority, to continue helping the world chart a course out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Taking the oath of office in the General Assembly Hall, Mr. Guterres said he was aware of the immense responsibilities bestowed on him at this critical moment in history. 

World at a crossroads 

“We are truly at a crossroads, with consequential choices before us. Paradigms are shifting. Old orthodoxies are being flipped,” he told ambassadors. 

“We are writing our own history with the choices we make right now. It can go either way: breakdown and perpetual crisis or breakthrough and prospect of a greener, safer and better future for all. There are reasons to be hopeful.” 

Mr. Guterres was the sole candidate from the UN’s 193 Member States to vie for its top job.  His first five-year term began in January 2017.   

He was nominated by his homeland, Portugal, and appointed by acclamation by the General Assembly, following prior endorsement by the UN Security Council, for a second term that runs from January 2022 to December 2026. 

Turn the tide 

Speaking in a mix of English, French and Spanish – three of the UN’s six official languages – Mr. Guterres detailed how COVID-19 has taken lives and livelihoods, while exposing inequalities.  At the same time, countries are confronting challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss.  

He stated it was crucial that the way out of the pandemic, as well as socio-economic recovery, should occur on a much more equitable basis, going forward. 

“Our greatest challenge - which is at the same time our greatest opportunity - is to use this crisis to turn the tide, pivot towards a world that learns lessons, promotes a just, green and sustainable recovery and shows the way via increased and effective international cooperation to address global issues”, he said in French. 

Momentum for transformation 

With the way forward filled with colossal tasks, the Secretary-General expressed confidence that they can be completed successfully, partly due to the incredible commitment of UN staff across the world, though underlining the need for continuous improvement, including through better data and analysis, and a reduction in “unnecessary bureaucracy”. 

Although the world has changed a lot, the UN’s promises remain constant, but countries have to work together in entirely new ways to keep them alive.  

He called for seizing momentum for transformation, while also stressing the need to bring other voices to the table, including civil society, the private sector and youth. 

Vaccine equity now 

“Ultimately, this transformation has to do with solidarity and equality”, Mr. Guterres said, this time speaking in Spanish. 

“But equity needs to start now: vaccines need to be available for everyone everywhere and we must create the conditions for sustainable and inclusive recovery both in the developed and developing world.  And there is still a long way to go.” 

Mr. Guterres warned that countries must overcome their current “trust deficit” if this is to be achieved. 

“In particular, we need to do everything we can to overcome current geostrategic divides and dysfunctional power relations. There are too many asymmetries and paradoxes. They need to be addressed head-on,” he advised. 

“We also need to be aware of how power plays out in today’s world when it comes to the distribution of resources and technology.” 

Fostering trust, inspiring hope 

Mr. Guterres vowed to use his second term to work towards ensuring “the blossoming of trust between and among nations” and to engage in confidence building. 

He will also seek to inspire hope that things can be turned around, or that the impossible might be made possible.

“The attitude is never to give up,” he said.  “This is not idealistic or utopian but grounded in knowledge of history when big transformations occurred and guided by the fundamental belief in the inherent goodness of people.  That breakthroughs are possible when we expect it the least and against all odds. That is my unwavering commitment.” 

Read more...

Forced displacement at record level, despite COVID shutdowns: UNHCR

INTERNATIONAL, 18 June 2021, Migrants and Refugees - The number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution, and human rights violations, rose last year to nearly 82.4 million people, a further four percent increase on top of the already record-high of 79.5 million, recorded at the end of 2019.

According to the UN Refugee Agency flagship Global Trends Report published on Friday, the restrictive COVID-19 pandemic did not slow forced displacement around the world, and instead could have left thousands of refugees and asylum seekers stranded and vulnerable.

The new ‘one percent’

Despite COVID-related movement restrictions and pleas from the international community for a concerted global ceasefire, displacement continued to occur – and to grow. As a result, more than one percent of the world’s population – or 1 in 95 people – is now forcibly displaced. This compares with 1 in 159 in 2010.

The agency explains that while the full impact of the pandemic on wider cross-border migration and displacement globally is not yet clear, data shows that arrivals of new refugees and asylum-seekers were sharply down in most regions – about 1.5 million fewer people than would have been expected in non-COVID circumstances, reflecting how many of those seeking international protection in 2020 became stranded.

82.4 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2020.
UNHCR
82.4 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2020.

New and old crises

According to UNHCR, several crises – some new, some longstanding and some resurfacing after years – forced 11.2 million people to flee in 2020, compared to 11.0 million in 2019.

The figure includes people displaced for the first time as well as people displaced repeatedly, both within and beyond countries’ borders.

By the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. Another 48 million people were internally displaced (IDPs) within their own countries.

Driven mostly by crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, Sahel countries, Mozambique, Yemen, Afghanistan and Colombia, the number of internally displaced people rose by more than 2.3 million.

When considering only international displacement situations, Syria topped the list with 6.8 million people, followed by Venezuela with 4.9 million. Afghanistan and South Sudan came next, with 2.8 and 2.2 million respectively.

Turkey continued to host the largest number of refugees with just under 4 million, most of whom were Syrian refugees (92%). Colombia followed, hosting over 1.7 million displaced Venezuelans.

Germany hosted the third-largest population – almost 1.5 million, with Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers as the largest group (44%). Pakistan and Uganda completed the top-5 hosting countries, with about 1.4 million each.

The COVID-19 crisis also hit the forcibly displaced hard, who faced increased food and economic insecurity as well as challenges to access health and protection services.

At the peak of the last year, over 160 countries had closed their borders, with 99 States making no exception for people seeking protection.

According to UNHCR, the dynamics of poverty, food insecurity, climate change, conflict and displacement are increasingly interconnected and mutually reinforcing, driving more and more people to search for safety and security.

A call to end the suffering

UNHCR is urging world leaders to step up their efforts to foster peace, stability and cooperation in order to halt and begin reversing nearly a decade-long trend of surging displacement driven by violence and persecution.

“Behind each number is a person forced from their home and a story of displacement, dispossession and suffering. They merit our attention and support not just with humanitarian aid, but in finding solutions to their plight”, reminded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

In a statement, Mr. Grandi underscored that while the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Global Compact on Refugees provide the legal framework and tools to respond to displacement, a much greater political will is needed to address conflicts and persecution that force people to flee.

“The tragedy of so many children being born into exile should be reason enough to make far greater efforts to prevent and end conflict and violence,” he added.

Girls and boys under the age of 18 account for 42 percent of all forcibly displaced. They are particularly vulnerable, especially when crises continue for years.

New UNHCR estimates show that almost one million children were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020. Many of them may remain refugees for years to come.

Low rate of return

The agency emphasized that over the course of 2020, some 3.2 million internally displaced and just 251,000 refugees returned to their homes –a 40 and 21 percent drop, respectively, compared to 2019. Another 33,800 refugees were naturalized by their countries of asylum.

Refugee resettlement registered a drastic plunge with just 34,400 refugees resettled, the lowest level in 20 years – a consequence of a reduced number of resettlement places and COVID-19.

“Solutions require global leaders and those with influence to put aside their differences, end an egoistic approach to politics, and instead focus on preventing and solving conflict and ensuring respect for human rights,” urged Grandi.

The UN Refugee agency reminded that 2020 is the ninth year of uninterrupted rise in forced displacement worldwide. There are twice as many forcibly displaced people than in 2011 when the total was just under 40 million.

Read more...

Myanmar: Timely support and action by Security Council ‘really paramount’, says UN Special Envoy

INTERNATIONAL, 18 June 2021, Peace and Security - The UN Special Envoy for Myanmar said on Friday she has called for timely action from the Security Council in response to the ongoing crisis in the Southeast Asian country stemming from the military coup in February. 

Speaking to journalists following her closed-door briefing to the Council, Christine Schraner Burgener described the situation in Myanmar as “very worrisome” and “very bad”.  

Alarming, on the ground 

Some 600 people have been killed in the nearly five months since the coup, she said, and 6,000 arrested, with 5,000 still in detention.  Around 100 people have “disappeared” without trace. 

The crisis has uprooted some 175,000 people, which has added to internal displacement that existed before the military seized power and detained political leaders, including President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Roughly 10,000 refugees have fled to India and Thailand. 

“I asked the Security Council for timely support and action; that it’s really paramount,” she said. “We have an alarming situation on the ground for all civilian people because the health system collapsed completely, and food security is also in danger.” 

Ms Schraner Burgener warned that around half the population could be living below the poverty line next year if the situation continues. 

“I urged the Council to speak in unity and especially against violence, and also that the political prisoners will be released as quickly as possible,” she said. 

Questioned about the lack of Council unity on Myanmar, the Special Envoy responded that she has also held bilateral talks with ambassadors.   

“Clearly not all share the same position, what they should do together, but my role is always to urge them to show action and to be united,” she said. 

Ms Schraner Burgener further reported that violations have increased in Myanmar, while violence is occurring in regions where it had not occurred before. 

Discussions and dialogue  

She said violence has also emanated “from the ethnic armed organizations who were attacked also by airstrikes from the army, or keep people from other regions under their protection, and therefore I think it’s important that we have an all-inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders”. 

“I am in contact with almost every ethnic armed organization to discuss how we can solve the overall problem in the country to find a peaceful solution. And I’m sure talking is always better than violence.” 

Ms Schraner Burgener will brief the UN General Assembly later on Friday, and will continue her engagement in the region.  She said she recently had an “open discussion” in Jakarta with the military’s commander-in-chief, and expressed hope that talks will continue. 

“Clearly, I can imagine that he would not like to see me now in Myanmar because the people know me…and they would probably be very encouraged by my presence, so I think this is not in the interest of the army,” she said.   

“But as long as I can have contact with them, that is the most important thing. And I will soon also contact them again to bring them also in a dialogue.”

General Assembly resolution 

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in New York on Friday which condemns the military’s use of lethal force and violence, and supports the efforts by the Special Envoy and regional bloc ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 

The UN has 193 Member States and 119 voted in favour of the resolution while one, Belarus, voted against it, and 36 abstained. 

Speaking ahead of the vote, General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said countries have borne witness to the deteriorating situation in Myanmar. 

“From the collapse of civilian rule, to arbitrary arrests, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians by the military, Myanmar is not a safe place for the people whom we have pledged to serve,” he said.  “As a result of the deteriorating political situation, humanitarian needs are growing.” 

Mr. Bozkir also drew attention to the broader impact of the crisis, which he said also affects the more than one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who have found shelter in Bangladesh. 

“They need their rights to citizenship and to freedom of movement to be upheld. Voluntary, dignified, and safe return is the ultimate goal, but this is contingent on conditions in Myanmar rapidly improving,” he said. 

The General Assembly President stated that the international community must continue to stand united in support of the people of Myanmar, and for peace and stability in the country. 

“A system built on brutality and bloodshed will not survive,” he said. “It is not too late for the military to reverse the negative trajectory on the ground, exercise restraint, and respect the will of its own people.”

Read more...

UN chief urges debt relief extension for middle-income countries

INTERNATIONAL, 17 June 2021, Economic Development - Innovative measures to address debt are required to help the world’s more than 100 middle-income countries expand their economies and exit the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the General Assembly on Thursday. 

Addressing a high-level meeting on these nations, which account for more than half of the UN’s 193 Member States, he underlined the need for financing to help them recover in the wake of the global crisis. 

He said that middle-income countries should have their debts suspended into 2022 to cope with the social and economic impact of the virus. 

Leaving no nation behind 

Many were already dealing with mounting debt before the pandemic, which has only further aggravated the situation. 

“In small island states, for example, the collapse of tourism has greatly hindered their capacity to repay debts. And while the global response to the debt crisis is rightly attempting to support low-income countries, middle-income countries must not be left behind”, he stated

Diversity defines the world’s middle-income countries, which were already home to some 62 per cent of the world’s poor prior to the pandemic. 

The list includes India, which has a population of more than one billion, and Palau, an archipelago in the Pacific island with less than 20,000 people. 

Besides population size, these countries also vary in economic activity, geography and income levels per capita, which ranges from $1,000 to $12,000 annually, meaning they often exceed per capita income thresholds for debt relief. 

Tackle longstanding weaknesses 

Mr. Guterres stressed the need for better mechanisms and international cooperation to address what he characterized as their mounting and unsustainable debt levels. 

“Even if these countries manage to avoid default, they will see long-lasting limitations on critical government spending on a variety of development and climate objectives in the years to come”, he warned. 

He underlined the need for “a new debt mechanism” that includes debt swaps, buy-backs and cancellations.   

'Tackle long-standing weaknesses’ 

“This is the moment to tackle long-standing weaknesses in the international debt architecture, from lack of agreed principles, to restructurings that provide too little relief, too late. 

“Innovative instruments to allow debt restructuring and meaningful debt reduction can help middle-income countries expand their fiscal space to boost investment and steer a resilient and sustainable recovery from the crisis.”  

This past March, the Secretary-General convened world leaders for a meeting to bolster support for action to stave off the debt crisis in developing countries. 

The UN chief was encouraged to see growing recognition around the need for new Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a type of foreign reserve asset developed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  However, he said unused SDRs must be re-allocated to support vulnerable nations, including middle-income countries. 

Last year, the G20 leading economies announced a debt service suspension initiative which allows the world’s poorest countries to temporarily halt bilateral credit payments. 

The Secretary-General said the measure should be extended into 2022 and “made available to highly indebted, vulnerable middle-income countries that request it.” 

Read more...

One in every 100 dies by their own hand, each suicide ‘a tragedy’ – WHO

INTERNATIONAL, 17 June 2021, Health - New research published by the UN health agency on Thursday revealed that suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide – taking more lives each year than HIV, malaria, breast cancer, war and homicide.

Based on its estimates that more than 700,000 people, or one-in-100, died by suicide in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced new LIVE LIFE guidelines to help countries reduce that rate by a third, no later than 2030.

“We cannot – and must not – ignore suicide”, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

COVID pressure

From job loss to financial stress and social isolation, the many risk factors triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic make suicide prevention “even more important now”, said the top WHO official.

The WHO guidance “provides a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts”, he added.

Suicide breakdown

Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence, according to the study: Suicide worldwide in 2019.

While rates varied between countries, regions and gender, the analysis shows that more than twice as many men kill themselves, than women.

Those rates are generally greater in high-income countries, while the highest suicide rates for women were found in lower middle-income countries.

Per 100,000 people, the 2019 global average of suicide rates stood at 9.0, while that number jumped to 11.2 in the WHO Africa region; 10.5 in Europe; and 10.2 in Southeast Asia. At 6.4, the Eastern Mediterranean region had the lowest rate.

“Each one is a tragedy”, said the WHO chief.

While the report showed a global suicide drop of 36 per cent between 2000 and 2019, the Americas Region witnessed a 17 per cent surge.

WHO said, “a significant acceleration” in suicide reduction is needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target by 2030.

Interventions

WHO’s guidance to suicide prevention, zeros in on four strategies: limiting access to the means of suicide; educating the media on responsible suicide reporting; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of those with suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

The guidance highlights that in the social media age, media reports can prompt copycat suicides, especially when surrounding a celebrity. It calls for suicide coverage to be counteracted with articles highlighting successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase awareness and remove harmful content.

Since half of all mental health conditions appear before children reach 14, adolescence is a critical period, according to WHO, which encourages anti-bullying programmes, support services and clear protocols for people working in schools when suicide risk is identified.

Prevent heartbreak

A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for a future suicide, said the UN health agency.

Healthcare workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up and crisis services should also be available to individuals in acute distress, according to the guidance.

“A comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all Governments”, said Alexandra Fleischmann, WHO suicide prevention expert, adding that “LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind”. 

Read more...

Guterres: Bring crimes of sexual violence in conflict out of ‘the shadows’, punish perpetrators

INTERNATIONAL, 17 June 2021, Human Rights - Sexual violence in conflict “reverberates down generations” and threatens both human and international security, the UN chief said on Thursday in his message for the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Already a “cruel tactic of war, torture, terror and repression”, Secretary-General António Guterres pointed to the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that “has made it even more difficult to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account”.

“Even as we respond to the pandemic, we must investigate every case, and maintain essential services for every survivor”, he said.

Tackle the root causes

Even as COVID-19 has triggered new obstacles for survivors to report crimes and access support services, the UN chief said that recovery must also include tackling “the root causes of sexual and gender-based violence”.

“We cannot allow this already underreported crime to slip further into the shadows. Perpetrators must be punished”, he said.

He concluded his message for the day by saying: “Let’s resolve to uphold the rights and meet the needs of all survivors, as we work to prevent and end these horrific crimes”.

Commemoration

Prior to the annual commemoration on 19 June, a virtual event was co-hosted by the Offices of the Special Representatives on Sexual Violence in Conflict  (SVC) and Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), along with the Argentinian Mission, to foster measures for an enabling environment that encourages survivors to safely come forward and seek redress.

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has laid bare intersecting inequalities that plague our societies, compounded by conflict, displacement and institutional fragility, the event framed “the only solution for these overlapping ills”, as an injection of political resolve and resources, equal to the scale of the challenge.

Key focus areas

CAAC Special Representative Virginia Gamba expressed concern for the children born of rape during conflict who face “distinct, sometimes life-threatening and enduring risks”.

To better protect children sexually abused “by, in and for armed conflict”, she stressed the importance of focusing on key areas, such as strengthening accountability measures to end cultures of impunity and ultimately prevent recurrences.

She underscored the need to recognize as “essential services”, the work of monitoring and reporting teams, and protection advisors for women and children, as priorities that must be adequately funded.

Finally, Ms. Gamba said there was an “urgent necessity to increase human and financial resources to reach child survivors, hear their stories and “secure the support they desperately need”.

Sparking ‘decisive change’

The Special Representative expressed her strong hope that this seventh annual commemoration would “spark decisive change” and that all children survivors of conflict-related sexual violence will be able to receive “tailored, gender-sensitive, age-appropriated services”.

“The post-pandemic world can only be built back better by including those affected the most. This is an imperative for societies if they wish to thrive and for peace to last”, concluded Ms. Gamba.  

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed

Soualiga Radio