Author Archives: Charles Nonde

About Charles Nonde

Public Information Assistant at UN Information Centre, Lusaka Zambia.

The UN at 75: Now is the Time to “Build Back Better”

Photo: Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser on the Preparations for the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations, at a commemorative event to mark the 74th anniversary of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations. New York, 26 June 2019. ©UN Photo/Manuel Elias

The United Nations turns 75 this year. It is a time of great upheaval for the world, as it was in 1945 when the Organization was founded. Many of the trends we grapple with today could not have been imagined by people back then: that human actions would fuel global temperature rise, posing an existential risk to our species and a million others. That new technologies would radically reshape how we live, work and interact with each other. That greater affluence and longevity would be accompanied by challenges of their own.

But many of the problems we face would have been all too familiar: from conflict to mass displacement, big power rivalries to corrosive nationalism, and inequality to pandemics. The experience of the 1918 H1N1 flu outbreak, estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population, would still have been present in many people’s minds.

We have come a long way over the past seven decades, with huge strides forward in education, and in tackling extreme poverty and hunger. We have moved from a world in which a third of the population lived in non-self-governing territories and most women did not have equal voting rights to one that is freer by many measures.

We have won great victories. The eradication of smallpox—spearheaded by the World Health Organization, with sustained political and financial support from the international community—alone has saved millions of lives. It remains the only infectious disease to have been wiped out.

Yet progress has been uneven, and failures well-documented and tragic. As we mark the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, it is important that we remember not only our successes, but also the lows that continue to haunt us. After three decades in the field, I carry with me the privilege and burden of both.

The United Nations represents people’s aspirations. Its creation gave hope to the world that countries would work together to prevent future wars, and the factors that lead to conflict, such as poverty and human rights abuses. But it was also a pragmatic response by world leaders, who realized that cooperation and compromise were less costly than war. Multilateralism is, and always has been, an interplay of national and shared concerns.

Increasingly, though, the line between global and national interest is blurring. We are now more interconnected than ever. Our economies, our societies, the things we rely on in our daily lives, all depend on countries working together. So does tackling the challenges we face. Pandemics, climate change and cybercrime do not respect borders. They cannot be solved by any one country alone, no matter how big or powerful. We need international cooperation to galvanize action and to harness the opportunities the future holds, whether that’s leveraging the benefits of new technologies or building a zero-carbon world.

COVID-19 has shown how crucial it is for us to cooperate across borders, sectors and generations. It has laid bare our underlying dependencies. We are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us. We cannot beat this crisis without working together.

We need a whole-of-society response: to share information and research, to address the damage to lives and livelihoods, and to ensure we build back better. We need to engage youth. The crisis is having a huge impact on young people, mentally and physically. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), more than 90 per cent of the world’s students are impacted by the closure of facilities. Prior to the pandemic, the World Bank estimated that in developing countries an extra 600 million jobs would be needed by 2030 to keep pace with population growth. Job prospects are now even more uncertain. We also need to engage older people, who have, so far, been worst affected by the virus.

Member States’ responses have shown that transformations that seemed impossible just months ago can be achieved in a short time frame when political leadership is aligned with support from stakeholders and the public. In seeking to recover from this crisis, the Secretary-General has called for “a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and the many other global challenges we face”.

Now is the time to end business as usual. Now is the time to put into practice the commitment to future generations that is central to the Charter of the United Nations, and to make progress on the United Nations we need for the future we want, as envisaged in the Sustainable Development Goals.

That is the spirit in which the United Nations 75th anniversary was conceived by the Secretary-General last year: not as a celebration, but as a moment of reflection, of listening, of coming together as a human family to discuss how we can overcome the big trends shaping our future, from the rapid changes in the make-up of our population to popular discontent in many parts of the world.

In January, the UN75 team launched the “world’s largest conversation” – a United Nations system-wide initiative to gather public opinion and crowdsource solutions to the challenges we face. The initiative has five strands:

A short survey, to give as many people as possible the chance to make their voice heard
Conversations within communities, to allow for deeper discussion—online, via phone, radio or messaging service, and, where possible, in person Formal opinion polling, to give us statistically sound, representative data, Media and social media analysis, to give us a snapshot of what people think when they are not being asked a question, Academic and policy research analysis, to provide input from experts and practitioners. Together, these five routes will give us insights into the public’s hopes, fears and priorities for the future, as well as ideas on actions we can take to create the world we want.

To date, over 13 million people have taken part. More than 350 dialogues have been held and over 70,000 people in nearly all United Nations Member States have completed our survey (live results are available here). The initial results, featured in our first report, show overwhelming—and increasing—support for global cooperation, across all age and social groups. They show that people think climate change will be the defining trend shaping our future, with conflict and health at numbers 2 and 3. And early indications are that universal access to health care, rethinking the global economy and greater solidarity between people and nations are the top priorities for recovering better from the pandemic.

The results will be presented by the United Nations Secretary-General to world leaders in September 2020, when Member States will adopt a declaration on the 75th anniversary. Amidst the pandemic, the declaration has taken on even greater significance as a vehicle for leaders to set out an inspiring vision, anchored around concrete actions, that sends a powerful message of hope to people across the world.

Ahead of that moment, we invite people from all regions, backgrounds and walks of life to contribute their views. We continue to seek partners who can help us reach young people, marginalized communities, and those who may not typically engage, including our critics. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind. Now is the time to lift everyone up and build a better future for all.

24 April 2020

About the author
Fabrizio Hochschild is Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Preparations for the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations.

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

UN Resident Coordinator Joins COVID-19 Sensitisation in Chawama

PRESS RELEASE

Lusaka, 12 May 2020: The UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Dr Coumba Mar Gadio today joined COVID-19 sensitization efforts in Lusaka’s Chawama compound where she used a Mobile Public Address-mounted vehicle to make announcements urging community members to adhere to prescribed prevention measures as guide by the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, UN Zambia Resident Coordinator at Chawama Level One Clinic as part of the community outreach on COVID-19

“Joined by the World Health Organization Representative and other members of the UN Country Team, I decided to support Risk Communication and Community Engagement activities in Chawama led by the Government through the Ministry of Health and the Zambia National Public Health Institute,” said Dr Gadio.

“A lot is being done in terms of giving information to the public as well as listening to them and we need to continue and tailor messages accordingly as the pandemic evolves. No one should be left behind. Community members have a key role in fighting COVID-19 so it is important that we encourage them to follow the prevention guidelines,” she added.

Under the lead of World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations has supported the Government on the development of a multisectoral contingency plan and assessment of the socio-economic impact of the pandemic in Zambia. The UN will continue supporting the Government with resource mobilisation and Risk Communication and Community Engagement.

Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, UN Zambia Resident Coordinator with Dr. Nathan N. Bakyaita W.H.O. Zambia Representative during the COVID-19 community sensitisation drive in Chawama.

With support from cooperating partners, the UN has contributed to ongoing efforts by the Government including training of technical staff and helping strengthen surveillance in communities, procurement of personal protective equipment and essential medicines, promoting Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in health facilities and strengthening infection prevention and control.

Additional support has gone towards strengthening health systems to effectively deliver health services, including supporting human resources for health to provide antenatal care, safe delivery and addressing sexual and Gender-Based Violence, which increases in times of crises.

For more information, please contact: 

United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lusaka, Mark Maseko, National Information Officer, P: +260-211-225-494 | M: + 260-955767062 | E: masekom@un.org

The Secretary General- Global Appeal to Address and Counter COVID-19-Related Hate Speech

COVID-19 does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction. We need every ounce of solidarity to tackle it together. Yet the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering.

Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred. Migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus — and then denied access to medical treatment. With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable. And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.

We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate. That’s why I’m appealing today for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.

I call on political leaders to show solidarity with all members of their societies and build and reinforce social cohesion.

I call on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when billions of young people are online – and when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.

I call on the media, especially social media companies, to do much more to flag and, in line with international human rights law, remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content.

I call on civil society to strengthen outreach to vulnerable people, and religious actors to serve as models of mutual respect.

And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness.

Last year, I launched the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech to enhance United Nations efforts against this scourge. As we combat this pandemic, we have a duty to protect people, end stigma and prevent violence.

Let’s defeat hate speech – and COVID-19 – together.

The Secretary General Remarks at Launch of Policy Brief on Persons With Disabilities and COVID-19

New York, 5 May 2020 (recorded 4 May)

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting every aspect of our societies, revealing the extent of exclusion that the most marginalized members of society experience.

Today, I would like to highlight how the pandemic is affecting the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities.

Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access education, healthcare and income opportunities or participate in the community.

This is exacerbated for those in humanitarian and fragile contexts.

People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and they experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.

The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities — and producing new threats.

Today we are launching a report that recommends a disability-inclusive response and recovery for everyone.

People with disabilities are among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

They face a lack of accessible public health information, significant barriers to implement basic hygiene measures, and inaccessible health facilities.

If they contract COVID-19, many are more likely to develop severe health conditions, which may result in death.

The share of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes — where older people with disabilities are overrepresented — ranges from 19 per cent to an astonishing 72 per cent.

In some countries, healthcare rationing decisions are based on discriminatory criteria, such as age or assumptions about quality or value of life, based on disability.

We cannot let this continue.

We must guarantee the equal rights of people with disabilities to access healthcare and lifesaving procedures during the pandemic.

Persons with disabilities who faced exclusion in employment before this crisis, are now more likely to lose their job and will experience greater difficulties in returning to work.

Yet, only 28 per cent of people with significant disabilities have access to benefits — and only 1 per cent in low-income countries.

People with disabilities — particularly, women and girls — face a greater risk of domestic violence, which has surged during the pandemic.

I urge governments to place people with disabilities at the center of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and to consult and engage people with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities have valuable experience to offer of thriving in situations of isolation and alternate working arrangements.

Looking to the future, we have a unique opportunity to design and implement more inclusive and accessible societies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

 Last year, I launched the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy to ensure the UN system is doing its part.

The Strategy represents the UN’s commitment to achieve transformative and lasting change.

When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we are investing in our common future.

COVID-19: A double burden for women in conflict areas, on the frontline

By: 

NJOKI KINYANJUI

Since COVID-19 broke out in December 2019, it has continued to spread across the globe unabated, with countries at different phases along the curve

Public health emergencies worldwide, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impacts, affect women and men differently, but take a disproportionate toll on women.

Even more so in conflict-affected countries and post-conflict contexts, where the existing gender inequalities and exclusion of women from all decision-making, including on peace and security issues, are severely deepened.

In these contexts, women are often on the periphery of the community’s solutions, especially peace and political solutions; and have limited access to critical information and decision-making power on social, economic, health, protection and justice outcomes.

Yet, with all these challenges, women remain on the frontline agitating for meaningful and full political participation and in other socio-economic arenas, including in health.

It is therefore very positive that the Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire to enable COVID-19 responses in fragile and crisis settings has been endorsed by many Member States, regional organizations and civil society groups including women’s organizations.

There is already documented evidence on the rise of violence against women, particularly domestic violence. In his recent message on Gender Based Violence and COVID-19, Mr. Guterres notes that “over the past weeks as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence” and issued a rallying call to end violence against women in their homes.

Women on the frontline

It is well recognized that globally, women predominantly carry the burden of providing primary healthcare,. About 70 per cent of global health workers are women and emerging statistics show that health workers are increasingly getting infected by COVID-19.

Women are also employed in the service industries and the informal sector, which are amongst those hardest-hit by the measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission. They are also paid less and are most often the ones doing unpaid care work.

Women’s networks and organizations are key partners in UN peacekeeping. They provide innovative community approaches to resolve conflicts, and wage peace and reconciliation. It is these same networks that are critical vehicles for women’s participation in COVID-19 decision-making, prevention and responses and elevated advocacy for the global ceasefire call. This is particularly critical at the local level, where COVID-19 prevention and response measures are anchored in community engagement, participation and sharing the right information.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix recently emphasized that peacekeepers, both women and men, are playing a key role in providing credible information along with their protection and conflict resolution work, in partnership with national authorities in fragile environments further strained by the pandemic.

As 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the multiple impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequalities it lays bare are a stark reminder of how women can lead to turn the tide, as actors and decision-makers at all levels, in the health sector, but also more broadly on peace and political processes in their respective countries.

It is a time to come together and use the momentum created by the endorsement of the global ceasefire call, to protect women, safeguard the gains towards the fulfillment of their rights and lead as protectors of peace.

 

Ms. Kinyanjui is the Chief of Gender Unit and Senior Gender Adviser, UN Department of Peace Operations

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

 

COVID-19: Bright colours to ‘soften the pain’

By: 

FRANCK KUWONU

Mounia Lazali, is a professional designer and a painter based in Algeria. Like, others around the African continent, she is playing her part in helping contain the COVID-19 pandemic. With many countries facing face mask shortages, Ms. Lazali is sewing hundreds of them using colorful fabrics to donate to fellow Algerians. She spoke to Africa Renewal’s Franck Kuwonu about her initiative:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Mounia Lazali and my artist’s name is MYA. I am 43 years old and I live in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria. I am a graduate of the École supérieure des Beaux-Arts (College of Fine Arts) in Algiers and the University of Language and Culture in Beijing, China. I’m also a professional painter as well as a textile, furniture and graphic arts designer.

When did you start producing face masks?

I started making face masks on 18 March this year. I remember that day because immediately I made the first batch, I published a photo of myself wearing the colourful face masks on Facebook. I like to share all my creations instantly on social media networks because I find it an interesting way to interact with other people, raise awareness about something and to share creative content.

What drove you to making the face masks?

My whole life revolves around beauty and aesthetics. Personally, I did not want to wear the usual surgical mask at this time of confinement because it reminds me of difficult phase of my life where I was sick for a long time and had to wear one. So, I thought that the colourful textiles I use for my designs could help soften all this fear and pain around this pandemic.

I had gone to China for my studies a few months after the end of SARS. That allowed me to adapt quickly to the hygiene measures prescribed, including wearing face masks. I remember that masks were worn during periods of great pollution too so I was familiar with this kind of accessory and other personal protection measures against such diseases.

On the other hand, when COVID-19 broke out, I knew we were facing a shortage of masks in Algeria, as was the case elsewhere. I’m good at sewing and I had a stock of fabrics I had brought from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, so I took the plunge!

How many masks do you produce per day?

I make more than 300 masks, some of which are distributed to friends, neighbours, local merchants, associations and medical staff. Others are sold for a small amount.

What materials do you use to make the masks?

I use African prints cotton and cotton waxed fabrics. They are also lined. To ensure that they are safe for use to make masks, the fabrics are first machine-washed at 60°Celsius, ironed several times during the creation process, and disinfected one more time by the last ironing.

How do you distribute the masks?

People come to my house and ring the intercom to make an order. I then pack the masks in an envelope and put them at the entrance of the house with the customer’s names on it. When it is a small quantity, I leave them in the mailbox for people to collect. It is very important for me to respect the safety and social distancing measures required around COVID-19, especially because of my health history, but also for my customers coming to collect their masks.

What role are women in Algeria playing in the fight against COVID-19?

At the moment, women are helping to raise awareness on social networks. This is not to forget that we have women medics – doctors and nurses – who are on the frontline in this fight against COVID-19. They risk their lives for us every day.

What is your message to fellow Algerians at this time of COVID-19?

Let us maintain solidarity! Let us remain aware of the changes we are experiencing, because from now on nothing will ever be the same again. Let us be more respectful of nature, wildlife and everything that makes up our ecosystem.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

The Secretary General- Video Message on World Press Freedom Day 2020

“Journalism Without Fear or Favour”

New York, 3 May 2020

Journalists and media workers are crucial to helping us make informed decisions. As the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, those decisions can make the difference between life and death.

On World Press Freedom Day, we call on governments — and others — to guarantee that journalists can do their jobs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

As the pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories.

The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.

But since the pandemic began, many journalists are being subjected to increased restrictions and punishments simply for doing their jobs.

Temporary constraints on freedom of movement are essential to beat COVID-19. But they must not be abused as an excuse to crack down on journalists’ ability to do their work.

Today, we thank the media for providing facts and analysis; for holding leaders – in every sector – accountable; and for speaking truth to power.

We particularly recognize those who are playing a life-saving role reporting on public health.

And we call on governments to protect media workers, and to strengthen and maintain press freedom, which is essential for a future of peace, justice and human rights for all.

 

 

AUDA-NEPAD’s COVID-19 response plan aims to improve health access and protect economies

By

KINGSLEY IGHOBOR

The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) has launched a COVID-19 Response Plan of Action to assist African countries to improve access to sustainable and resilient health services and protecting economies. In this interview with Africa Renewal, the CEO of AUDA-NEPAD Ibrahim Mayaki discusses the scope of this initiative. These are the excerpts.

What exactly is the AUDA-NEPAD COVID-19 Response Plan of Action?

The AUDA-NEPAD COVID-19 Response Plan of Action is a comprehensive, proactive and multidimensional plan that will help tackle both the current COVID-19 challenges and the post-pandemic repercussions. It is a direct response in improving access to sustainable and resilient health services, while ensuring the protection of Africa’s economic foundations.

Aiming to cover the ecosystem that would be affected by the crisis, the response plan will mainly focus on seven thematic areas: Health Service Delivery; Human Resources for Health; Research & Development Innovation and Local Manufacturing; Education and Training; Skills and Employability; Food and Nutrition Security; and Financing.

How long will the response plan last?

It is meant to last for as long as COVID-19 exists and then three years after the pandemic. The idea is to ensure that, as long as this crisis lasts, Africa has the means and tools to fight against it and, on the other hand, anticipate the big economic losses, as well as the lessons learned for a brighter African continent.

How do you plan to implement the response?

We have set up multidisciplinary teams covering four core dimensions: data collection and analysis innovation and transfer of knowledge; implementation, and monitoring of impactful projects in the response to COVID-19; private sector engagement, and communication and advocacy.

We will need to work with our Member States and Regional Economic Communities for the implementation. Basically, we play the role of facilitator and a platform of transfer of expertise and technology from and to our Member States with the help of our traditional partners such as financial institutions, the private sector, and foundations.

For the immediate term, which areas will you focus on?

We are focusing on key thematic areas including health service delivery; capacity building for healthcare human resources; research, development, and innovation to enhance local manufacturing; education and training skills and employability; food and nutrition security; and financing.

Our Member States faced challenges in addressing the issues of shortage of vital sanitary and medical equipment, while increasing lockdowns in countries have worsened the situation. The high prevalence of endemic diseases such as HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, etc. already overstretch an important number of health systems in Africa. So, together with our Member States, we need to focus on the containment of the pandemic with aggressive preventive measures. The ultimate objective is to facilitate the construction of reliable public health systems based on the principle of shared responsibility and collective solidarity.

Any plan on the local production of medical equipment?

As the world faces a big supply crisis, Africa needs to prioritize the production of equipment for domestic markets. We have put in place an e-learning platform, including production modules and open-source licenses, to benefit manufacturers who are willing to produce vital sanitary equipment.

Also, AUDA-NEPAD is in the process of launching a platform to enhance “Made in Africa” ventilators, masks and sanitizing gels gathering all African producers and initiatives to see how they can benefit countries, either through material supply or technology transfer. We organized a very successful webinar on Monday 13 March which gathered more than 450 participants from pharmaceutical private sector companies, policymakers, philanthropists and potential investors, and was focused on the best conditions for local production.

What are your post-COVID-19 projects?

First, we are focusing on reforms of the continent’s food systems by prioritizing regional value-chains, health, and wellbeing of consumers, reducing food waste and promoting a culture of sustainable use of food.

Secondly, a focus on skills development and employment is an opportunity for national governments to reflect on prioritizing entrepreneurship and innovation.

Third, we intend to implement an intervention to provide technical support to countries to mitigate the social and economic effects of school closures during the COVID-19.

Fourth, we are prioritizing national planning and data systems, that is, making use of sound data and evidence for planning developmental programs and to mitigate unforeseen future crises such as epidemics and natural disasters.

Lastly, we hope to create the first reference system, synthesizing good practices and responses, to offer African countries the tools to respond to this pandemic, as well as anticipate future risks and threats to the tourism sector.

Is there any support for the poorest countries?

Poorest countries are a priority for the African Union and a big chunk of our portfolio of projects target them. It is à question of solidarity. We need to support the poorest countries if we want to attain the objectives of regional integration.

How does your response plan align with the AU Anti-COVID-19 Fund and the ones by the UN?

AUDA-NEPAD will play its natural role as an interconnecting platform, a technical interface between AU Member States and partners. Remember that AUDA-NEPAD, as a part of the African Union, is also connected to the AU Anti-COVID-19 Fund. Hence, I would like to emphasize the importance of having a collective response plan and to unite our efforts to act as one in this fight against the pandemic. The AUDA-NEPAD COVID-19 Response Plan of Action was based on research and initiatives of the AU and the UN.

Moreover, it is the AU leaders who created the Anti-COVID-19 Fund. I believe this concrete instrument will help tackle immediate challenges for the most-affected countries, the poorer countries and bring direct aid to the most vulnerable.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

 

The Secretary General- Video Message to Launch Policy Brief on Older Persons

New York, 1 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world.

The fatality rate for older people is higher overall, and for those over 80, it is five times the global average.

Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries.

As an older person myself, with responsibility for an even older mother, I am deeply concerned about the pandemic on a personal level, and about its effects on our communities and societies.

Today we are launching a policy brief that provides analysis and recommendations to address these challenges. Our response to COVID-19 must respect the rights and dignity of older people.

There are four main messages.

First, no person, young or old, is expendable. Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else.

Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.

Second, while physical distancing is crucial, let’s not forget we are one community and we all belong to each other. We need improved social support and smarter efforts to reach older people through digital technology.

That is vital to older people who may face great suffering and isolation under lockdowns and other restrictions.

Third, all social, economic and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions.

The majority of older people are women, who are more likely to enter this period of their lives in poverty and without access to healthcare. Policies must be targeted at meeting their needs.

And fourth, let’s not treat older people as invisible or powerless.

Many older people depend on an income and are fully engaged in work, in family life, in teaching and learning, and in looking after others. Their voices and leadership count.

To get through this pandemic together, we need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people.

As we look to recover better, we will need ambition and vision to build more inclusive, sustainable and age-friendly societies that are fit for the future.

UN Peacekeepers Must Stay the Course

April 23, 2020

by Atul Khare and Jean-Pierre Lacroix

United Nations peace operations promote stability and security in some of the world’s most dangerous and fragile places. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, overstretched UN peacekeepers—civilian, military,  and police—were a thin blue line helping to protect civilians, support peace agreements and contain conflicts in hot spots and war zones across the globe.

If—or more likely when—the COVID-19 virus further spreads in countries already weakened by war and poverty, it will not only threaten the lives of the thousands, but could also tip the balance from tenuous peace back to conflict and despair. Communities recovering from conflict often live right at the survival line, every day facing poverty and the lack of basic health services. For these societies, the stakes could not be higher and the importance of UN assistance has never been greater.

To extend the global fight against COVID-19 to areas struggling to emerge from conflict, we need to continue sustaining and promoting peace and stability. Together with our partners, UN peacekeeping missions are working to achieve four objectives: (1) supporting local efforts to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, (2) keeping UN personnel safe and ensure they receive the best available care by enhancing medical testing and treatment capabilities, (3) ensuring that peacekeepers are able to continue their work without spreading the virus by practicing social distancing and other mitigation measures, and (4) advancing their difficult mandates to support peace and contain conflict even as COVID–19 spreads.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently told the Security Council, this pandemic could potentially lead to an increase in social unrest, a lapse in state authority and even violence that would greatly undermine our collective capabilities to fight the virus. For countries that have a handful of ventilators for millions of people, the possibility that one in 1,000 could contract COVID-19 and 15 percent of those could need care in an intensive care unit, is staggering. The brutal statistics of COVID-19 do not just reflect a global health crisis—they signal a fundamental threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.

We are committed to ensuring that our UN peace operations do everything they can to be an integral part of the solution to the pandemic. From the Central African Republic to Lebanon, from Somalia to Mali, our personnel continue to deliver. They are doing so bravely and with dedication, staying on the front lines even as they worry about family back home, even as air links and supply lines are stretched by the global response to COVID-19, even as cases are appearing in host countries.

The strength of our peacekeeping partnerships—whether other UN actors, NGOs, or regional organizations like the African Union (AU)—has never been more important. Despite the increasing demands on our peacekeepers to deliver their mandates, we must recognize that our partners also face the risks of this pandemic. Our peacekeeping missions offer a medical infrastructure that can support all UN personnel at risk of the virus while they continue their work. Protecting ourselves is key to being able to protect others.

We are also doing everything we can to keep our supply chains resilient. Our logistics experts have developed a business continuity plan for life-support needs, while ensuring the planning, provision, and delivery of goods and services critical for the implementation of peace mandates. Personal Protective Equipment is being made available in all our missions; we are supplying our own respiratory ventilators and ensuring that the capacity of intensive care units and supplies is sufficient to ensure that we do not strain already stretched local resources. We are also strengthening medical evacuation capabilities in close collaboration with our partners and UN member states. Strict social distancing measures are in place, and missions are reducing our “footprint” by lowering population density among uniformed personnel and civilian staff.

While our missions must protect themselves from COVID-19, they continue to reach out to local communities, protecting civilians and assisting host governments to contain the virus. Radio Okapi, the UN’s radio station in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has launched a nation-wide, multilingual campaign to inform the local population about COVID-19, focusing on dispelling rumors and countering misinformation.

In Darfur, our operation is raising awareness among vulnerable groups on the importance of precautionary measures to control the spread of COVID-19, including in camps for internally displaced persons in the north and central parts of the state, where the risks of infections spreading is heightened. In Cyprus, our mission is working with women’s organizations to support those suffering from domestic violence during the quarantine.

At the same time, blue helmets continue to carry out their pre-COVID-19 tasks: protecting civilians, supporting political processes, and helping to build government capacity. In the DRC, peacekeepers recently helped free 38 civilians, including women and children, who had been abducted by an armed group in the country’s east, as they helped the national army to repel an attack. In Mali, two weeks ago, when the government decided it was important to press ahead with legislative elections, our mission provided critical logistical and operational support and helped secure polling stations on election day. In Somalia, the UN has been supporting AU soldiers and the government to develop their own COVID-19 preparedness and response plans, while working to ensure that terrorist groups do not seize the opportunity to strike while attention is focused on the pandemic. The struggle against COVID-19 may be a “second front” for the peacekeepers, but both battles continue.

Last week, the UN secretary-general decided to suspend the rotation of all our troops and police until June 30th. Such measures will keep our blue helmets on the ground, where they are needed most, and will help protect and reassure communities and UN colleagues alike by postponing the movement of thousands of personnel to and from home countries and transit points. This is a decision not taken lightly given the remoteness, hardship, and dangers often faced by peacekeepers. Staying in the field is a sacrifice for personnel who expected to return home after an arduous tour of duty. We are grateful that the countries that provide these police and military personnel have agreed to this measure so that our peace operations can maintain their operations, keeping the peace while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 contagion. We are doing everything possible to support our brave women and men, so they can keep themselves and their host communities safe.

As the UN secretary-general said when he called for a global ceasefire, there should only be one fight in the world today: our shared battle against COVID-19. For UN peacekeeping, this includes our unwavering commitment to the health and safety of our personnel and the people we serve. This is why UN peacekeepers must continue their important work. And it is why, now, more than ever, they need our full support.

Atul Khare is the Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Operational Support. Jean-Pierre Lacroix is the Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Peace Operations.

Picture credit: In Kananga, DRC, MONUSCO policewomen organized an awareness campaign against COVID-19 on April 18, 2020 in four markets in the city, in collaboration with the provincial Ministry of Gender, the town hall and the National Police.(MONUSCO/Twitter)