Category Archives: COVID19

Articles on the latest news about the Coronavirus/COVID19

COVID-19: What You Should Know About Masks

About the author

Tabitha Kwon is a student at Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. From January through April 2020, she served as a United Nations intern working in the UN Chronicle Unit, Outreach Division, Department of Global Communications.

A few months ago, some of my fellow United Nations interns and I enjoyed a meal at a Vietnamese restaurant in the East Village neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York City. The very next day, a woman wearing a yellow face mask—the kind now commonly worn to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus—was allegedly called “diseased” and physically attacked by a man at the Grand Street Subway station,1 not far from where we had dined. The virus doesn’t discriminate, but antagonism against people thought to have the virus seemed to be escalating. Strikingly, I found that many hate crimes occurring worldwide were being committed against people wearing masks.

My home country, the Republic of Korea, was one of the first epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by Italy, Spain and the United States. When the case counts exponentially soared there in late February 2020, my parents cried on the phone that they were relieved that I was in the United States. Masks, which were once very easy to find in Korea, were being worn compulsively by anyone needing to leave their homes, and in just a few weeks had thus become difficult to purchase. On a designated day each week, my parents had to stand in queue for hours to buy a mask, often only to find out that they were too late. On such occasions, they would inevitably have to wear the disposable masks they’d already worn for days, afraid that they would be stared at if they didn’t.

While the curve started to flatten in the Republic of Korea, the number of confirmed cases began to skyrocket in New York. My parents called again, this time urging me to put on a mask whenever I had to leave the house. But unlike back home, where disposable masks are normally sold in every pharmacy, I could not find a single mask in any of the well-known pharmacies in New York. Not only were masks uncommon in the United States, but many Asians wearing them were being wrongly identified as virus infectors. I was too afraid to stroll around the streets with a mask on and refused to do so. While the press in the United States announced that masks should only be worn by those who had symptoms, the public in my home country were baffled by the fact that many Westerners were busily heading to grocery stores without wearing masks at all.

Culture matters

In late January, the citizens of the cities of Asan, Jincheon and Icheon in the Republic of Korea finally decided to welcome its residents coming home from Wuhan, China, where the pandemic is thought to have begun, instead of opposing their entry. “If it is guaranteed that necessary preventive measures would be made, I’ll delightfully wish the best for their health. They weren’t in Wuhan [on] purpose”, citizens said.2 The Government continued to embrace Chinese entrants, explaining that border shutdowns not only have no practical benefits, but also among all confirmed patients in the country, very few were Chinese.3 Without the kind of strict cross-border restrictions and lockdowns that were imposed in other countries, the Republic of Korea was able to lower its infection rate by mid-March. This was made possible not only by the country’s well-founded health-care system, but also through extensive tracking and transparency. The movements of a confirmed patient could be retraced immediately so that the Government could test or quarantine all other contacted persons. Based on the data collected from surveillance camera footage and credit card usage, a COVID-19 patient’s movements could be recreated and delivered to people nearby via text message. Apps providing visual maps derived from the released information were also easily accessible.4

Although cross-border restrictions may exist, they should not divide our unity to fight this virus together.

The willingness and consent of the people of the Republic of Korea to sacrifice privacy rights in the interest of public safety and the resulting epidemiological survey conducted during the national emergency demonstrate the collectivist mindset inherent in the culture. The English word “conflict” comes from the Latin word confligere, which means “strike together” or “fight”. Conflicts are often compared to fire and referred to as something to be extinguished. The word “conflict” in Korean refers to a situation in which two different types of climbing plants that tend to twine in opposite directions are entangled.5 To solve such “conflicts”, it is important to “disentangle the skein of thread”. Thus, in the Republic of Korea, someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19 is not seen as someone to cut off, but rather to disentangle as part of the whole. Exhaustive monitoring and publication of information, and not missing or excluding one single person, as in acupuncture, in which needles are inserted into the whole body for blood circulation, were crucial in the Korean perspective. In the same vein, each individual’s responsibility to wear masks to partake in protecting the whole society, including the vulnerable, was an obvious virtue in my country.

In the more individualistic Western countries, which are more familiar with surgery than acupuncture, containment strategies that include lockdowns are being extensively utilized. Along the same lines, in the United States, masks have traditionally been seen as a means to sort out the sick, or in some cases, even indicated that the wearer was a menacing person. As evident in the fact that many States and the European Union have a history of considering or actually enacting anti-mask laws for decades, the anxiety about face covering is prevalent in Western society. With this in mind, it is understandable that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a month to rethink and eventually reverse its guidance on wearing masks to deal with the pandemic.

A bottle of hand sanitizer provided for public use, attached to a COVID-19 health advisory sign in the Republic of Korea. Photo provided by Tabitha Kwon.

Time for solidarity

Neither culture is superior; rather, they are complementary. Every culture has a vital role in defeating COVID-19 today. The term “social distancing” is being widely used these days; the practice is seen as key to slowing the spread of the virus and saving the vulnerable. As odd as this phrase seems, composed of two words of opposite meanings, it embraces both collectivism and individualism. It emphasizes that keeping physical distance for the sake of others is necessary amid the global pandemic.

All cultures are worthy of respect, and many cultures worldwide are changing and creating new phenomena, as we see in the decision by Germany to require mask usage outdoors. A day after Philadelphia’s transit authority announced a policy barring passengers without face coverings from using its services, however, a video of a man without a mask being forcibly dragged off of a city bus surfaced online. The video provoked outrage from many, while others argued that the police action was a necessary measure considering the global crisis. The transit authority later amended its policy, stating that face coverings were no longer mandatory, but recommended.6

People are bound to be confused in the midst of shifting cultural norms. Indeed, it stands to reason that people may feel anxious in such a state of uncertainty and change. However, with a better understanding of other cultures, perceptions and situations, humanity can overcome hatred and abandon the need to scapegoat. It is time for solidarity and global cooperation for world peace and well-being. Although cross-border restrictions may exist, they should not divide our unity to fight this virus together. For the sake of the most vulnerable, including the elderly among us, refugees in camps and the homeless in the streets, the international community should come together and demonstrate global citizenship to fight this virus in these unprecedented times.

Notes

1 David K. Li, “Coronavirus hate attack: Woman in face mask allegedly assaulted by man who calls her ‘diseased’”, NBC News, 5 February 2020. Available at https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/coronavirus-hate-attack-woman-face-mask-allegedly-assaulted-man-who-n1130671.

2 Jong-gu Han, “’Please Make Yourself at Home,’ Asan Citizens’ Campaign on Social Media to Welcome Evacuees from Wuhan,” Yonhap News, 31 January, 2020. Available at https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20200131072100063.

3 Sungmin Yoon, “‘This is not to please China:’ President Moon’s 5 reasons for not imposing travel ban on China,” Joongang Ilbo, 27 February 2020. Available at https://news.joins.com/article/23717377

4 Max Fisher and Sang-Hun Choe, “How South Korea Flattened the Curve,” New York Times, 23 March 2020. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/world/asia/coronavirus-south-korea-flatten-curve.html.

5 Soo-Young Kwon, “[Reasons and Reflections] Why We Should Not Cut off Relationships, but Solve Conflicts,” The Kyunghyang Shinmun, 10 January 2020. Available at http://news.khan.co.kr/kh_news/khan_art_view.html?art_id=202001102101035

6 Cailtin O’Kane, “Philadelphia transit officials change policy on masks after video shows man being dragged off bus,” CBS News, 13 April 2020. Available at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-philadelphia-bus-septa-face-mask-policy-video-shows-man-being-dragged-by-police/.

25 June 2020

Feature photo credit: A street scene from the Republic of Korea during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo provided by Tabitha Kwon.

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 Zambia provides Digital equipment to support Government operations during COVID-19

By Mark Maseko, National Information Officer, UNIC Lusaka

UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Coumba Mar Gadio (middle) hands over digital equipment to Zambia’s National Development Planning Minister Alexander Chiteme to support government operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Moses Zangar Jr/UNDP/Zambia/2020

As part of support in response to COVID-19, the United Nations in Zambia on 9 July 2020 contributed an assortment of digital equipment worth USD 300,000 to the Government of the Republic of Zambia to ensure that critical Government operations are not disrupted during the COVID-19 outbreak. The equipment, which includes 60 laptops and 1,500 wireless routers, will be distributed to nine government departments and agencies. The equipment was procured through funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Zambia. In addition, the UN partnered with mobile phone service provider, MTN Zambia, that provided the wireless routers and initial data bundles.

Speaking during the handover ceremony, which also marked the launch of the Pilot Phase of the Digital Initiative, at the Ministry of National in Lusaka, UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Coumba Mar Gadio called for continued adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures.

“COVID-19 is real. COVID-19 is here. We know through our work in communities that citizens are generally becoming less cautious and not fully adhering to prevention measures. I ask that we heighten our vigilance as we have many examples across the world of how confirmed cases can raise quickly and overwhelm the system and undermine our collective good work. This is not time to relax but time to increase our adherence to the guidelines that have been given by the Ministry of Health,” said Dr Gadio.

And UNDP Zambia Resident Representative Lionel Laurens underscored the importance of digital technology if the fight against COVID-19. “This reminds us of the importance of digital technology. UNDP is proud to partner with the private sector, MTN Zambia, as part of the UN support to the Government’s COVID-19 Multisectoral Contingency Plan, to launch the pilot phase of the digital service project,” he said.

And Minister for National Development Planning Alexander Chiteme said that the equipment would support government communication and operations in line with the need for improved service delivery as outlined in the Seventh National Development Plan. Thanking the United Nations for the contribution, Mr Chiteme said the equipment was timely as the country had commenced preparations of the 8th National Development Plan which needed broad stakeholder consultations.

At the same event MTN Zambia Acting General Manager for the Enterprise and Business Unit Mildred Chica said that MTN was happy to partner with the UN and Government is ensuring business continuity during the COVID-19 period.

Digital equipment provided by the UN in Zambia to support government operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Moses Zangar Jr/UNDP/Zambia/2020

Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet and National Coordinator for Smart Zambia Martine Mtonga said the systematic ICT and E- Government implementation has culminated in the establishment of the state-of-the-art National data centre to consolidate e-services.

The United Nations in Zambia is supporting Zambia’s multisectoral response to coronavirus by working across sectors to provide assistance. As part of its support to the government, the UN in Zambia will strongly advocate for both leveraging digital solutions in the fight as well as their mainstreaming in any national recovery or development plans post COVID. It is hoped that the equipment will help minimise disruption in the provision of vital government services to the citizens, in particular, to the most vulnerable people and the most in need.

The country has so far recorded 2, 283 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 84 deaths and 1, 434 recoveries.

Progress Towards Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: The UNDP Journey

About the author

Esuna Dugarova is Gender Specialist at the United Nations Development Programme in New York, where she leads research and analysis on the Gender Team. She is originally from the Republic of Buryatia, Russian Federation, and holds a PhD in Asian Studies from Cambridge University.

Introduction

Khatera Atayee is one of the first cohorts of Afghan women who arrived in Kazakhstan in 2019 to prepare for their university studies in the country. This is part of a multi-year initiative of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that enables women to receive education and acquire vital skills for the labour market. Khatera is determined to embrace this opportunity to grow as a professional and contribute her knowledge and experience towards gender-equal development back home.

Achieving gender equality is central to development progress. Research shows that gender equality has multiplier spillover effects. For example, reaching gender-equal educational attainment and labour force participation would add $4.4 trillion, or 3.6 per cent, to global GDP by 2030, which could improve human capital, lead to higher productivity, and reduce poverty.1

Momentous changes in the gender development landscape

Twenty-five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, we see some promising practices around the world. More laws have been adopted to advance gender equality, with 131 countries making legal changes over the last decade.2 The number of girls out of school has dropped by 79 million in the past 20 years,3 and more women today enter political office. The UNDP 2019 Human Development Report reveals that progress in gender equality has in fact been faster in basic areas such as voting and self-employment. But as women move to the top of the hierarchy, they experience more pushback and gender gaps widen—because it disrupts the status quo of gender roles.4

At the root of this imbalance are historically shaped power asymmetries that, even in the twenty-first century, still perpetuate gender inequality. Amid the recent global trends—from burgeoning inequalities and backsliding democracies to intensifying climate change and violent conflict—the rights of women have come under fire, amplifying gender-based discrimination. The COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated the gendered impacts of the multidimensional crisis by increasing women’s economic and social insecurity, unpaid care work, and domestic violence, risking a reversal of hard-won gains.

Yet, the crisis presents an opportunity to revisit the ways in which we think, live and work, reiterating the call for systemic change and reconstruction of power relations. Women are playing a central role in this crisis response as health and care providers, leaders in societies and communities, and key actors in the economy. In the post-COVID era, a new gendered pathways approach is not only a development imperative but also a prerequisite for a moral and ethical world order.

The UNDP gender journey 

Gender equality lies at the heart of the work of UNDP. Against the global trends, UNDP has reinvigorated efforts to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment across its portfolios. As the largest development actor, UNDP holds a key responsibility to ensure progress towards gender equality and sustainable development. The UNDP Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021 provides a roadmap to guide the organization’s gender journey. It places emphasis on removing deep-rooted barriers to gender equality and advancing women as decision makers. It ensures that those on the margins of society and facing intersectional discrimination are empowered and have the agency to participate and lead in the development of their communities. As such, UNDP support strives to elevate the status of women from beneficiaries to agents of transformative change.

With UNDP support, 23.4 million women had gained access to basic services, financial services and non-financial assets by 2019.

UNDP is more than halfway down the path in its strategic plan period. While the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the global development landscape with far-reaching implications, UNDP achieved solid results at the mid-point across key priority areas: (i) women’s political participation and leadership in decision-making; (ii) gender-responsive climate action; (iii) women’s economic empowerment; (iv) addressing gender-based violence; and (v) gender-responsive humanitarian action. Let me share some highlights.

Firstly, UNDP promotes gender-egalitarian democratic societies to ensure that women’s voices are heard and represented in the political space. In 2018-2019, 48 per cent of all registered voters in 39 countries supported by UNDP electoral assistance were women.For example, in Pakistan, a nationwide campaign and voter registration helped to bridge the voter gender gap, with 4.3 million women obtaining their identity cards to be able to vote.6

Secondly, being at the forefront of climate action, UNDP supports countries to pursue gender-responsive, low-carbon and resilient development. In 2019, 74 countries integrated gender equality into their environment and climate policies, and 97 countries strengthened women’s leadership in natural resource management.7 For example, Zambia’s Central Province now requires gender balance in local governance committees that manage indigenous forests, and women hold executive positions making decisions on community-led activities for land management.8

Thirdly, UNDP makes further strides in women’s economic empowerment. With UNDP support, 23.4 million women had gained access to basic services, financial services and non-financial assets by 2019. In Paraguay, UNDP, together with partners, contributed to a nationally led effort to modify a law on domestic employment in 2019, which now entitles domestic workers—who are often young migrant women—to receive a minimum wage while maintaining access to health insurance.9

UNDP also enables women to become economically self-sufficient through training, mentorship, employment and entrepreneurial skills development. For example, in 2018, UNDP support in India benefited more than 450,000 women who participated in micro-enterprise development activities.10 This support includes helping women farmers transition from traditional to organic farming, which contributes to generating higher profits and improving the sustainability of ecosystems.

In 2019, UNDP worked in 26 countries to ensure that 1.7 million women gained access to jobs and improved livelihoods in crisis or post-crisis settings.

Fourthly, relentless efforts are made to address gender-based violence, including through the European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative. In 2019, UNDP provided support to 80 countries to adopt and implement legal reforms, multi-sectoral services and awareness-raising campaigns on this issue.11 In the Sudan, for example, UNDP undertook a multi-pronged approach within a broader justice intervention that enhanced the capacities of the Bar Association and civil society, and established new Justice Confidence Centres for internally displaced persons and vulnerable groups.12

Fifthly, UNDP promotes gender-responsive humanitarian action while making concerted efforts to advance women as agents of peace and development. In 2019, UNDP worked in 26 countries to ensure that 1.7 million women gained access to jobs and improved livelihoods in crisis or post-crisis settings.13 And with the support of UNDP, UN-Women and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Somali Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development adopted the landmark Women’s Charter for Somalia, which ensures equal participation across political, economic and social spectrums.

It’s clear that UNDP wouldn’t be able to get this far without trustful partnerships and innovative solutions—from coalition-building in political participation in Latin America to transforming the future of work in Asia and the Pacific or designing survivor-centred approaches to addressing gender-based violence in Europe and Central Asia. Notably, the UNDP Gender Equality Seal for Public and Private Enterprises crystallized public-private partnerships to promote gender-responsive business policies in 16 countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, supporting 750 companies with 1.5 million workers.14 In Kyrgyzstan, grassroots-level collaboration with religious leaders resulted in their support for community awareness against bride kidnapping, an initiative that contributes to changing discriminatory stereotypes and practices.15

The author (third from left) poses with members of the Om Sai self-help group, which is developing businesses including catering, wedding decorations and agricultural production using solar panels in rural India.©Esuna Dugarova

In addition to development results, UNDP has strengthened its institutional performance and leadership to advance gender equality within the organization. In 2019, UNDP was rated one of the best-performing organizations within the United Nations based on the System-wide Action Plan for Gender Equality. It also scored high in the 2020 Gender and Health Index, excelling in organizational commitment to gender equality, workplace gender equality policies, gender parity in senior management, and gender-disaggregated monitoring and evaluation.

The way forward

Moving forward, UNDP is renewing its commitment and galvanizing its energy to advance gender equality. In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, this entails working with governments, UN agencies, private companies and civil society to ensure that gender considerations are duly integrated in COVID-19 response and recovery. Vital support, from gender analysis and capacity-building to programme implementation and policy advice, is critical to addressing the gendered impacts of COVID-19. For example, during this pandemic, the Women’s Resource Centres in Azerbaijan, established by UNDP and the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs, are providing online business development training for rural women. In Fiji, UNDP is improving access of women farmers to the digital marketplace.16

It also means taking one step further, addressing not only immediate practical needs but also creating a gender-responsive development ecosystem and institutional culture. This will contribute to enhanced capabilities and enable women to exercise their freedoms and life choices. Such an environment will empower young women like Khatera and allow them to thrive as inspiring and impactful leaders in their societies and communities.

While there is no magic bullet that can make it happen overnight, a bold and holistic approach is needed to promote a new generation of policies that prioritize shifting social norms, discriminatory practices and unequal power relations.17 We should act urgently, however, so that we can deliver on our promise of leaving no one behind, as we enter the Decade of Action en route to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. After all, gender equality and sustainability reinforce each other and offer powerful tools for reimagining the future in a way that embraces social, economic and environmental justice.

As this year the world marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—the most visionary agenda for gender equality—it is an opportune time to reflect on a long, arduous, but nonetheless worthwhile journey towards a more gender-equal world, one in which we would choose to live.

Notes

Esuna Dugarova, “Gender equality as an accelerator for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”, Discussion Paper (New York, United Nations Development Programme and UN Women, 2018), p.p. 12, 62.
Available at http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/gender/Gender_equality_as_an_accelerator_for_achieving_the_SDGs.pdf.

2 World Bank Group, Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform (Washington, D.C., 2019), p.p. 1, 3, 10. Available at https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/31327/WBL2019.pdf?sequence=4&isAllowed=y.

3 United Nations Children’s Fund, UN Women and Plan International, “A new era for girls: taking stock of 25 years of progress”, Report (New York, 2020), p. 11. Available at https://www.unicef.org/media/65586/file/A-new-era-for-girls-2020.pdf.

4 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Human Development Report 2019. Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century (New York, 2019), p. p. 149-151.
Available at http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/hdr2019.pdf.

5 United Nations, Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, Annual report of the Administrator on the implementation of UNDP gender equality strategy in 2019, Annual session 2020, 1-5 June 2020, New York (DP/2020/11), para. 30. Available at https://undocs.org/DP/2020/11.

6 United Nations Development Programme, Pakistan, “Building Inclusive Societies”, 14 March 2019. Available at https://www.pk.undp.org/content/pakistan/en/home/library/newsletters/nl17-march2019-building-inclusive-societies.html.

United Nations, Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, Annual report of the Administrator on the implementation of UNDP gender equality strategy in 2019, para. 7.

8 Ciara Daniels, “The results are in! 5 things we’ve learned about making progress on environmental objectives while addressing gender equality”, United Nations Development Programme, 26 July 2018. Available at https://medium.com/@UNDP/the-results-are-in-2093b5b66eab.

9 United Nations, Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, Annual report of the Administrator on the implementation of UNDP gender equality strategy in 2019, para.9, Box. 2.

10 United Nations, Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, Annual report of the Administrator on the implementation of UNDP gender equality strategy in 2018 (DP/2019/11), para. 16.

11 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Annual Report 2019 (New York, 2020), p. 29.

12 United Nations, Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, Annual report of the Administrator on the implementation of UNDP gender equality strategy in 2019, para. 25.

13 Ibid., para. 37.

14 The information is provided by the UNDP Gender Equality Seal for Public and Private Enterprises.

15 United Nations, Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, Annual report of the Administrator on the implementation of UNDP gender equality strategy in 2019, para. 60.

16 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch,” May 2020. Available at https://sway.office.com/D3iKJNUtKSOgzl05?ref=Link.

17 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “2020 Human development perspectives. Tackling social norms: A game changer for gender inequalities” ( New York, 2020).

25 June 2020

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.  

Learning begins at home with play

By The United Nations Resident Coordinator to Zambia, Dr Coumba Mar Gadio

For those of us with school age children, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the amazing and skilful work done by teachers. Many of my colleagues and a huge number of people in Zambia have had to combine day jobs with looking after children and trying to help them learn, even away from school. It’s certainly been a challenge.

Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio .

But this leads me to a wider point. Even before we’d ever heard of the coronavirus disease; mothers, fathers and other caregivers were always children’s first “teachers”. That’s because children are learning and developing even while in the womb, and the first three years of life are the period in life where unrepeated levels of brain development take place. Recent advances in neuroscience provide new evidence about a baby’s brain development during this time: We now know that in their earliest years, babies’ brains form new connections at an astounding rate – more than 1 million every single second – a pace never again repeated.

In the brain-building process, neural connections are shaped by both genes (nature) and life experiences (nurture). This combination of nature and nurture establishes the foundation of a child’s future. Yet too many children are still missing out on the ‘eat, play, and love’ their brains need to develop. Put simply, we don’t care for children’s brains the way we care for their bodies.

Globally there are an estimated 15.5 million 3-4-year-olds with whom an adult does not engage in any cognitive or socio-emotional caregiving activities, such as reading books, telling stories, singing songs or playing with the child. This all goes to show why parenting is the most important job in the world. Parents and caregivers combine the roles of provider, protector, and yes, teacher.

Around the world, parents and care givers often still make the distinction between ‘learning’ and ‘play’ as if they are very different things. And yet the science is very clear: play helps children become collaborative, creative and curious – essential abilities for life and work in the 21st century.

To underline this point, in June one of our United Nations agencies, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), supported the Government of Zambia to launch a new parenting campaign entitled ‘I play, I learn, I thrive’, with the backing of the LEGO Foundation. With government ministries and NGO partners working on early childhood development, we want to get the word out there that stimulation and play are incredibly beneficial to our children, boosting children’s cognitive, physical, social, creative and emotional development.

Many people in Zambia, particularly our forefathers, knew many of these things already. That’s why the campaign is highlighting local proverbs including ‘Imiti ikula empanga’ (Bemba), ‘Ng’ombe ni matole’ (Nyanja) and ‘Mabiya afwida kumubumbi’ (Tonga) that highlight the importance of investing in the early years of our children.

Children are intrinsically motivated to play, which makes it fertile ground for learning and developing new skills. During play, children can take charge, making choices about what they do and how. Play can be a highly social activity, allowing for opportunities to learn from and about others. Thus, play can provide many opportunities for learning.

As adults, there’s no shame in getting involved. We can create a safe environment for play, and also join in with simple games, baby talk, singing, cuddling, tickling and other such things.

So, let’s spread the word about play, and let’s dedicate time to interacting with our children. And if we want to give them the best start in life, let’s give them the nutrition, protection and stimulation that they need to have healthy and powerful brains. Because when children play, they learn, and they thrive.

Reflections on the Charter of the United Nations on its 75th Anniversary

by Mona Juul, seventy-fifth President of the Economic and Social Council and Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations.

This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, written and signed during a period of great global change. Today, the world is again shifting beneath our feet. Yet, the Charter remains a firm foundation for our joint efforts.

These uncertain times of global disruption shine a light on the interdependences of our world. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the inequality it has exposed, are a global challenge that we must solve through global solutions. These solutions call for more, not less, cooperation across national borders.

Global cooperation is the enduring promise of the Charter of the United Nations. I am honoured to preside over the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the principal organs of the United Nations, at its 75th anniversary.

In January 1946, 18 members gathered for the inaugural meeting of ECOSOC under the leadership of its first President, Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar of India. ECOSOC was vested with a powerful mandate, to promote better living for all ­­by fostering international cooperation on economic, social and cultural issues.

The Charter recognizes the value of social and economic development as prerequisites for stability and well-being. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld once said that “while the Security Council exists primarily for settling conflicts […] the Economic and Social Council exists primarily to eliminate the causes of conflicts.”

For me, this is a reminder that sustainable peace and prosperity rely on global solidarity and cooperation.

Today, this unity of purpose to reach those furthest behind first is also the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda is our shared road map to transform the world as we recover better, protect our planet and leave no one behind. With ECOSOC serving as the unifying platform for integration, action, follow-up and review of the SDGs, our promise to eradicate poverty, achieve equality and stop climate change must drive our actions.

ECOSOC has the unique convening power to make this happen. It brings together valuable constituencies such as youth and the private sector to enhance our work and discussions. ECOSOC also remains the gateway for civil society engagement with the United Nations. Civil society has been central to progress on international economic, social and environmental cooperation, from the small but critical number of organizations present in San Francisco when the Charter was signed in 1945, to the 5,000-plus non-governmental organizations with ECOSOC consultative status today.

The Charter also outlines that ECOSOC should promote universal respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. While much has shifted in our world, this mandate remains just as important today as in 1945. After all, human rights are a part of the foundation of the United Nations, quite literally. When Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General and fellow Norwegian, laid the cornerstone of United Nations Headquarters at Turtle Bay in October 1949, it contained, together with the Charter, a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights have always been a part of the work of ECOSOC. The Human Rights Commission was one of the first functional commissions created within ECOSOC and was charged with drafting the Universal Declaration. Today, ECOSOC remains committed to playing its part to promote all rights: civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

Wilhelm Munthe Morgenstierne, Ambassador to the United States, member of the delegation from Norway, signing the Charter of the United Nations at the Veterans’ War Memorial Building in San Francisco, United States on 26 June 1945.UN Photo/McLain

In stark contrast to the 18 men who formed the first meeting of ECOSOC in 1946, I am proud to be the third consecutive female president of ECOSOC and one of five female presidents in its 75-year history. Although slow, this is progress, especially compared to 1945, when out of the 850 international delegates that convened in San Francisco to establish the Charter of the United Nations, only eight were women, and only four of them were signatories to the Charter. Today, the Secretary-General has achieved gender parity in all senior United Nations positions, and the Commission on the Status of Women is perhaps the highest profile part of the work of ECOSOC. The Commission’s annual session is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

ECOSOC must work to place gender equality at the heart of all our work. Women’s rights and gender equality are imperative to a just world. In all my endeavours, I strive to promote and advance these rights with a vision of a more prosperous, peaceful and fair world, for the benefit of women and girls—and men and boys alike.

Before the current crisis, more people around the world were living better lives compared to just a decade ago. More people have access to better health care, decent work and education than ever before. Nevertheless, inequality, climate change and the lasting negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening to undo these gains. While we have technological and financial resources at our disposal, unprecedented changes will be needed to align resources with our sustainable development objectives. The United Nations must remain at the forefront of our collective efforts guided by our commitment to the Charter.

The true test of our success will be whether persons, communities and countries experience improvement in their lives and societies. The United Nations must be of value to people. To our family. To our neighbours. To our friends. Unless we achieve this, our credibility is at stake.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, let us remind ourselves of the promise it embodies, to help the world become a more prosperous, just, equitable and peaceful place.

To me, the opening words of the Charter, “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS”, are a humble and empowering reminder of our capability to overcome current and future challenges. Even in troubling times, there remains great hope in the power of working together. That is the founding spirit of the United Nations—and in this 75th anniversary year, as we face grave and global challenges, it is the spirit we must summon today.

26 June 2020

About the author
Mona Juul is the seventy-fifth President of the Economic and Social Council and Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations.

Feature Photo Credit: Inga Rhonda King (left), Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations and seventy-fourth President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), hands over the gavel to Mona Juul, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations and newly-elected seventy-fifth President of ECOSOC, at the opening meeting of the 2020 session of ECOSOC. New York, 25 July 2019. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

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.

Global Wake-Up Call

by António Guterres

From COVID-19 to climate disruption, from racial injustice to rising inequalities, we are a world in turmoil.

Antonio Guterres

At the same time, we are an international community with an enduring vision – embodied in the United Nations Charter, which marks its 75th anniversary this year. That vision of a better future — based on the values of equality, mutual respect and international cooperation — has helped us to avoid a Third World War that would have had catastrophic consequences for life on our planet.

Our shared challenge is to channel that collective spirit and rise to this moment of trial and test.

The pandemic has laid bare severe and systemic inequalities both within and between countries and communities. More broadly, it has underscored the world’s fragilities – not just in the face of another health emergency, but in our faltering response to the climate crisis, lawlessness in cyberspace, and the risks of nuclear proliferation. People everywhere are losing trust in political establishments and institutions.

The emergency is compounded by many other profound humanitarian crises: conflicts that are continuing or even intensifying; record numbers of people forced to flee their homes; swarms of locusts in Africa and South Asia; looming droughts in southern Africa and Central America; all amid a context of rising geopolitical tensions.

In the face of these fragilities, world leaders need to be humble and recognize the vital importance of unity and solidarity.

No one can predict what comes next, but I see two possible scenarios.

First, the “optimistic” possibility.

In this case, the world would muddle through. Countries in the global North would engineer a successful exit strategy. Developing countries would receive enough support and their demographic characteristics – namely, the youth of their people – would help contain the impact.

And then perhaps a vaccine would appear in the next nine months or so, and would be distributed as a global public good, a “people’s vaccine” available and accessible to all.

If this happens, and if the economy starts up progressively, we might move towards some kind of normality in two or three years.

But there is also a second, bleaker scenario in which countries fail to coordinate their actions. New waves of the virus keep occurring. The situation in the developing world explodes. Work on the vaccine lags — or even if there is a vaccine relatively soon — it becomes the subject of fierce competition and countries with greater economic power gain access to it first, leaving others behind.

In this scenario, we could also see greater movement toward fragmentation, populism and xenophobia. Each country could go it alone or in so-called coalitions of the willing to address some specific challenges. In the end, the world would fail to mobilize the kind of governance needed to address our shared challenges.

The result may well be a global depression that could last at least five or seven years before a new normal emerges, the nature of which is impossible to predict.

It is very difficult to know if we are moving in one direction or the other. We must work for the best and prepare for the worst.

The pandemic, as horrible as it is, must be a wake-up call that prompts all political leaders to understand that our assumptions and approaches have to change, and that division is a danger to everyone.

This understanding could lead people to recognize that the only way to address global fragilities is through much more robust mechanisms of global governance with international cooperation.

After all, we cannot simply return to the systems that gave rise to the current crisis. We need to build back better with more sustainable, inclusive, gender-equal societies and economies.

In doing so, we must reimagine the way nations cooperate. Today’s multilateralism lacks scale, ambition and teeth — and some of the instruments that do have teeth show little or no appetite to bite, as we have seen in the difficulties faced by the Security Council.

We need a networked multilateralism, in which the United Nations and its agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, regional organizations such as the African Union and European Union, trade organizations and others work together more closely and effectively.

We also need a more inclusive multilateralism. Governments today are far from the only players in terms of politics and power. Civil society, the business community, local authorities, cities and regional governments are assuming more and more leadership roles in today’s world.

This, in turn, will help lead to an effective multilateralism with the mechanisms it needs to make global governance work where it is needed.

A new, networked, inclusive, effective multilateralism, based on the enduring values of the United Nations Charter, could snap us out of our sleepwalking state and stop the slide towards ever greater danger.

Political leaders around the world need to heed this wake-up call and come together to address the world’s fragilities, strengthen our capacity for global governance, give teeth to multilateral institutions, and draw from the power of unity and solidarity to overcome the biggest test of our times.

António Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations

The Secretary General- Video Message Marking The 75th Anniversary of The Adoption Of The Charter Of The United Nations

Opening remarks by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the commemoration of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations – General Assembly.

“I send my warmest greetings to “we the peoples”.

Those first three words of our founding Charter, adopted 75 years ago today, give the United Nations its vision and its mission.

We exist to serve people — and we work as one for the benefit of all.

The Charter was adopted as the Second World War was in its final months and winding down.

We mark the anniversary of that milestone as global pressures are spiraling up.

The Charter brought rules and hope to a world in ruins.

It remains our touchstone for a world mired in a pandemic, torn by discrimination, endangered by climate change and scarred by poverty, inequality and war.

Agreement on the Charter closed one era and opened another.

Gone were the genocidal Nazi regime and their allies; in came the prospect of human rights.

Out went the rampant nationalism and precarious balance of power that produced two catastrophic world wars; in came the promise of collective security and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

And where an earlier attempt at international organization dissolved, the new United Nations started life on firmer ground built on norms and the lessons of hard experience.

The post-war multilateral arrangements have compiled a solid record of service – saving millions of lives, advancing the human condition and fulfilling its cardinal task of preventing World War Three.

But there have been painful setbacks.

And today’s realities are as forbidding as ever.

COVID-19 has touched everyone, everywhere – precisely the kind of global challenge for which the United Nations was founded.

At the same time, people continue to lose trust in political establishments. Today’s marches against racism were preceded by widespread protests against inequality, discrimination, corruption and lack of opportunities all over the world – grievances that still need to be addressed, including with a renewed social contract.

Meanwhile, other fundamental fragilities have only grown: the climate crisis, environmental degradation, cyberattacks, nuclear proliferation, a pushback on human rights and the risk of another pandemic. It is not difficult to imagine a new virus transmitted as easily as COVID-19 but as deadly as Ebola.

The delegates in San Francisco in 1945, having themselves lived through a global pandemic, depression and war, seized their opportunity to plant the seeds of something better and new.

Today, we must do the same.

To achieve that watershed moment, we need to reimagine multilateralism, give it teeth to function as the founders intended, and ensure that effective global governance is a reality when it is needed.

We must also bring others to the table in an inclusive and networked multilateralism, since governments are only part of today’s political realities. Civil society, cities, the private sector and young people are essential voices in shaping the world we want.

Like those who drafted the Charter, we must look without illusion at today’s injustices, their roots and the suffering they engender.

Yet there is also much to encourage us and drive us onward:

The heroism and solidarity of the pandemic response;

The global embrace of the Sustainable Development Goals;

The millions of young activists and global citizens pushing to advance equality, climate action, a green economy — and to take control of their destiny.

I am inspired by so much that has been built and achieved across 75 years.

I pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of thousands of United Nations peacekeepers, staff and others who, across the world and across the years, gave their lives while advancing the causes and values of the United Nations.

The Charter’s vision stands the test of time and its values will continue to carry us forward.

Now is the time to persevere, press ahead, pursue our goals, show responsibility for our world, and take care of each other.

It is up to us to rise to the test of this pivotal moment for our future.

Thank you”

 

 

Solidarity needed to stop COVID increasing illicit drug threats to poor and vulnerable

By Ghada Waly

More people are using drugs, and more illicit drugs are available than ever. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed our fragility, with health systems strained and social safety nets stretched to the

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

limit. The economic downturn caused by the global pandemic may drive more people to substance abuse or leave them vulnerable to involvement in drug trafficking and related crime.

We have been here before. In the global recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis, drug users sought out cheaper synthetic substances and patterns of use shifted towards injecting drugs, while governments reduced budgets to deal with drug-related problems.

Vulnerable and marginalized groups, youth, women and the poor have been harmed the most. Now facing the gravest socio-economic crisis in generations, governments cannot afford to ignore the dangers illicit drugs pose to public health and safety.

All over the world, the risks and consequences of drug use are worsened by poverty, limited opportunities for education and jobs, stigma and social exclusion, which in turn helps to deepen inequalities, moving us further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While more people use drugs in developed countries than in developing countries, and wealthier segments of society have a higher prevalence of drug use, people who are socially and economically disadvantaged are more likely to develop drug use disorders.

Only one out of eight people who need drug-related treatment receive it, according to the World Drug Report 2020 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Some 35.6 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally.

One out of three drug users is a woman but women represent only one out of five people in treatment. People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.

Around 269 million people used drugs in 2018, up 30 per cent from 2009, with adolescents and young adults accounting for the largest share of users. While the increase reflects population growth and other factors, the data nevertheless indicate that illicit drugs are more diverse, more potent and more available.

At the same time, more than 80% of the world’s population, mostly living in low- and middle-income countries, are deprived of access to controlled drugs for pain relief and other essential medical uses.

Governments have repeatedly pledged to work together to address the challenges posed by the world drug problem, in the SDGs, and most recently in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration adopted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. But data indicate that support has actually fallen over time, imperilling government commitment as well as regional and global coordination.

Development assistance dedicated to drug control fell by some 90% between 2000-2017. Funding to address drugs may be provided under other budget lines, but there is little evidence of international donor attention to this priority. Assistance for alternative development – creating viable, licit forms of income to enable poor farmers to stop growing illicit opium poppy or coca – also remains very low.

Balanced, comprehensive and effective responses to drugs depend on shared responsibility. I urge governments to live up to their commitments and provide support.

Leaving no one behind requires greater investment in evidence-based prevention, as well as treatment and other services for drug use disorders, HIV, hepatitis C and other infections.

We need international cooperation to increase access to controlled drugs for medical purposes, while preventing diversion and abuse, and to strengthen law enforcement action to dismantle the transnational organized crime networks.

Expanding knowledge about the impacts of drugs on women and men, young and old, and different social groups can improve care. Use of alternatives to conviction and punishment for appropriate cases, in line with the international drug control conventions, can improve the chances for successful rehabilitation and reintegration.

Health-centred, rights-based and gender-responsive approaches to drug use and related diseases deliver better public health outcomes. We need to do more to share this learning and support implementation, most of all in developing countries, including by strengthening cooperation with civil society and youth organizations. We need to know more and care more.

As we seek to overcome and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, our societies cannot risk compounding illicit drug threats through inattention and neglect. We need drug strategies addressing the country level, as well as regional and interregional challenges. Governments need to mobilize financial resources, and more importantly, societal and institutional support – not one sector or one ministry but all efforts concerted and consolidated to achieve impact.

We need all countries to show greater solidarity, to address and build resilience to drug problems so the world can build back better from the pandemic.

Ghada Waly is the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

The Secretary General- Video Message on World Refugee Day 2020

Nearly 80 million women, children, and men around the world have been forced from their homes as refugees or internally displaced people. Even more shocking: ten million of these people fled in the past year alone.

On World Refugee Day, we pledge to do everything in our power to end the conflict and persecution that drive these appalling numbers.

Today, we also recognize the generosity and humanity of host communities and countries that often struggle with their own economic and security concerns. We owe these countries our thanks, our support and our investment.

We must all work to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime, and to implement the pledges made at the Global Refugee Forum, so that refugees and host communities receive the support they need.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic poses an additional threat to refugees and displaced people, who are among the most vulnerable. My recent Policy Brief on COVID-19 and People on the Move called on governments to ensure that they are included in all response and recovery efforts.

Refugees and displaced people are also prominent among those who are stepping up to make a difference on the frontlines of the response.

From camps in Bangladesh to hospitals in Europe, refugees are working as nurses, doctors, scientists, teachers and in other essential roles, protecting themselves and giving back to the communities that host them.

On World Refugee Day, we thank refugees for their resourcefulness and determination to rebuild their own lives, and to improve the lives of those around them.

Today and every day, we stand in unity and solidarity with refugees and recognize our fundamental obligation to shelter those fleeing war and persecution.