Category Archives: COVID19

Articles on the latest news about the Coronavirus/COVID19

Secretary-General António Guterres video message on World Food Day and 75th Anniversary of FAO

The award of this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace to the United Nations World Food Programme recognizes the right of all people to food, and our common quest to achieve zero hunger.

In a world of plenty, it is a grave affront that hundreds of millions go to bed hungry each night.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified food insecurity to a level not seen in decades.

Some 130 million people risk being pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of this year.

This is on top of the 690 million people who already lack enough to eat.

At the same time, more than 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, we need to intensify our efforts to achieve the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals.

That means a future where everyone, everywhere, has access to the nutrition they need.

Next year, I will convene a Food Systems Summit to inspire action towards this vision.

We need to make food systems more resistant to volatility and climate shocks.

We need to ensure sustainable and healthy diets for all, and to minimize food waste.

And we need food systems that provide decent, safe livelihoods for workers.

We have the know-how and the capacity to create a more resilient, equitable and sustainable world.

On this World Food Day, let us make a commitment to “Grow, Nourish, and Sustain.  Together”.

 

 

The Secretary General – Statement on Corruption In The Context of COVID19

Corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust.

It is even more damaging in times of crisis – as the world is experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The response to the virus is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need.

Governments may act in haste without verifying suppliers or determine fair prices.

Unscrupulous merchants peddle faulty products such as — defective ventilators, poorly manufactured tests or counterfeit medicines.

And collusion among those who control supply chains has led to outrageous costs of much-needed goods, skewing the market and denying many people life-saving treatment.

We must work together to stop such thievery and exploitation by clamping down on illicit financial flows and tax havens; tackling the vested interests that benefit from secrecy and corruption; and exercising utmost vigilance over how resources are spent nationally.

Together, we must create more robust systems for accountability, transparency and integrity without delay.

We must hold leaders to account.

Business people must act responsibly.

A vibrant civic space and open access to information are essential.

And we must protect the rights and recognize the courage of whistle-blowers who expose wrongdoing.

Technological advances can help increase transparency and better monitor procurement of medical supplies.

Anti-corruption bodies need greater support and empowerment.

The United Nations itself continues to prioritize transparency and accountability, in and beyond the COVID-19 response.

For many people in all regions, corruption has been a long-standing source of distrust and anger against their leaders and governments.

But corruption in the time of COVID-19 has the potential to seriously undermine good governance around the world, and to send us even farther off-track in our work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

I urge all governments and all leaders to be transparent and accountable, and to use the tools provided by the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

As an age-old plague takes on new forms, let us combat it with new heights of resolve.

 

The Secretary General Message on International Day of the Girl

New York, 11 October 2020

This year, we mark the International Day of the Girl against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and resurgent movements for social justice.

As we strengthen the response to the pandemic and plan for a strong recovery, we have an

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

opportunity to create a better, fairer, more equal world for girls everywhere. The best way to achieve this is by following the leadership of girls themselves.

This year’s theme, “My Voice: Our Equal Future” calls on us to amplify the voices of adolescent girls, and put their needs at the forefront of laws, policies and practices in every country and community around the world.

The gaps between girls and boys remain unacceptably wide. Adolescent girls are locked out of opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), not for lack of talent or ambition — but because they are girls. Globally, the percentage of women among graduates in these subjects is below 15 percent in over two-thirds of countries.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Generation Equality is our global campaign and call to commit to working with and for girls, everywhere.

We must support girls by giving them access to the tools they need to shape their own destinies. That includes the technological skills, connectivity and safety they need to thrive in a digital world.

We can all draw inspiration from the adolescent girls who are taking the lead and shaping better lives for themselves — and for others.

Teenage girls are the new leaders of our time, creating global movements for change. They’re ready for the challenge.

On this International Day of the Girl, let’s stand together with them and for them.

Let’s nourish their talents, amplify their voices and work together for a better, more equal future for us all.

Standing in Solidarity with Victims and Survivors of Terrorism in the Era of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Agustín Santos Maraver (at podium), Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, makes remarks at the launch of the photographic exhibition “Surviving Terrorism: The Power of Resilience” on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism. 21 August 2019. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

About the Author

Vladimir Voronkov is Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and Executive Director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre.

In December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 21 August as the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism (A/RES/72/165).  It was a momentous occasion for advocates of victims of terrorism and part of a series of developments at the international, regional and national level, which demonstrated that support to victims had finally moved beyond symbolic solidarity towards more action-focused initiatives to uphold their human rights and address their needs.

The International Day ensures that we pause every year to reflect, remember and reaffirm our commitment to supporting victims of terrorism, a group that all too often feels marginalized and overlooked. In the immediate aftermath of attacks, there is often an outpouring of grief, compassion and solidarity for victims, which may give the impression that their needs are being addressed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In today’s fast-paced news cycle, media attention on the victims quickly diminishes, with a greater focus on the perpetrator of the attack. This imbalance means many victims are left nameless, faceless and without a platform to seek justice, recognition and support.

Despite the good progress we have made in recent years in advocating for victims of terrorism, much work remains to be done by Member States to ensure victims’ needs and rights are adequately prioritized. Many victims receive emergency treatment, counselling and compensation in the immediate aftermath of an attack, but becoming a victim of terrorism has life-long consequences that can reverberate across generations. General Assembly resolution 73/305 of June 2019 calls on Member States to establish national assistance plans for victims that address their long-term relief and rehabilitation needs and take into account a gender perspective. My Office is looking at how we can operationalize this call by supporting Member States’ efforts to deliver real and sustainable improvements in addressing the long-term needs of victims and their families. For example, we are working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to develop model legal provisions to ensure that victims’ rights and needs are enshrined in national legal frameworks. This is an important step forward in our efforts to enable victims to participate in judicial processes, gain better access to basic medical (including psychosocial) services, and receive adequate compensation and reparations.

The new scourge of COVID-19 may dominate today’s headlines but global challenges such as terrorism continue to destroy lives and communities.

The COVID-19 crisis has added a new layer of complexity and concern for victims of terrorism. Many victims may find that the threats engendered by the pandemic can trigger traumatic reactions similar to those associated with a terrorist attack, including a shattering of their sense of safety and protection. At the same time, there are concerns that in understandably focusing on fighting the pandemic, Member States have diverted their attention and resources away from protecting, supporting, and remembering victims. This has had a detrimental impact on victims’ access to justice and the legal, financial, and psychosocial support available to them.

Secretary-General António Guterres attends the launch of the multimedia exhibition “Surviving Terrorism: Victims’ Voices” on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism (21 August). Mr. Guterres (second from left) greets Imrana Alhaji Buba, victim of terrorism from Nigeria, whose experience is highlighted in the exhibit. At left is Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism. 17 August 2018. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Mark Garten.

My Office continues to stand with victims of terrorism, particularly during this trying time, and we have called for tangible actions by Member States to ensure that victims’ rights and needs remain a priority. Nevertheless, we have heard from our partners, especially victims’ associations, that victims fear they are being forgotten and their voices cast aside. For this reason, the third commemoration of the International Day on 21 August 2020 will focus on honouring those who have lost their lives and remembering those who have survived. At a time when so many remembrance ceremonies and memorials have been cancelled or moved online, depriving victims of much-needed in-person support and comfort, the International Day will be an opportunity for the world to come together and stand in solidarity with all victims and survivors.

We have a moral duty and a responsibility to build on the progress made in recent years and increase our support to victims of terrorism, especially in times of crisis. At the international level, this progress can be seen in resolution 73/305, adopted last year, which calls for strengthened international cooperation to support victims of terrorism. It also recognizes the vital role that civil society organizations play in supporting the recovery of victims, which has unfortunately been disrupted by the pandemic as funding dries up and services are suspended or forced online. To ensure that victims are well-supported during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis, there needs to be decisive action at international and national levels, combining the resources and expertise of Member States, the private sector and civil society, including victims’ associations, human rights organizations and academia. The Group of Friends of Victims of Terrorism, an initiative of more than 40 Member State permanent missions to the United Nations in New York, and the establishment of a Civil Society Unit in my Office—the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism—are good examples of this strengthened collaboration.

The new scourge of COVID-19 may dominate today’s headlines but global challenges such as terrorism continue to destroy lives and communities. We owe it to every victim and survivor of terrorism to protect and promote their human rights, amplify their voices and uphold their dignity so they can heal, recover and rebuild their lives. Despite the many challenges we face during these uncertain times, supporting and remembering victims will always remain a top priority for my Office and for the whole United Nations. Only by acknowledging the tragic and devastating human impact of terrorism can we work towards the promotion of peace and a world without the scourge of terrorism.

19 August 2020

The UN Chronicle  is not an official record. It is privileged to host senior United Nations officials as well as distinguished contributors from outside the United Nations system whose views are not necessarily those of the United Nations. Similarly, the boundaries and names shown, and the designations used, in maps or articles do not necessarily imply endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Secretary-General António Guterres video message to launch the policy brief on ‘Education and Covid-19′

Education is the key to personal development and the future of societies.

It unlocks opportunities and narrows inequalities.

It is the bedrock of informed, tolerant societies, and a primary driver of sustainable development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever.

In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students.

At least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education in their critical pre-school year.

And parents, especially women, have been forced to assume heavy care burdens in the home.

Despite the delivery of lessons by radio, television and online, and the best efforts of teachers and parents, many students remain out of reach.

Learners with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students and those in remote areas are at highest risk of being left behind.

And even for those who can access distance learning, success depends on their living conditions, including the fair distribution of domestic duties.

We already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic.

More than 250 million school-age children were out of school.

And only a quarter of secondary school children in developing countries were leaving school with basic skills.

Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.

The knock-on effects on child nutrition, child marriage and gender equality, among others, are deeply concerning.

This is the backdrop to the Policy Brief I am launching today, together with a new campaign with education partners and United Nations agencies called ‘Save our Future’.

We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people.

The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.

This Policy Brief calls for action in four key areas:

First, reopening schools.

Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority.

We have issued guidance to help governments in this complex endeavour.

It will be essential to balance health risks against risks to children’s education and protection, and to factor in the impact on women’s labour force participation.

Consultation with parents, carers, teachers and young people is fundamental.

Second, prioritizing education in financing decisions.

Before the crisis hit, low and middle-income countries already faced an education funding gap of $1.5 trillion dollars a year.

This gap has now grown.

Education budgets need to be protected and increased.

And it is critical that education is at the heart of international solidarity efforts, from debt management and stimulus packages to global humanitarian appeals and official development assistance.

Third, targeting the hardest to reach.

Education initiatives must seek to reach those at greatest risk of being left behind — people in emergencies and crises; minority groups of all kinds; displaced people and those with disabilities.

They should be sensitive to the specific challenges faced by girls, boys, women and men, and should urgently seek to bridge the digital divide.

Fourth, the future of education is here.

We have a generational opportunity to reimagine education.

We can take a leap towards forward-looking systems that deliver quality education for all as a springboard for the Sustainable Development Goals.

To achieve this, we need investment in digital literacy and infrastructure, an evolution towards learning how to learn, a rejuvenation of life-long learning and strengthened links between formal and non-formal education.

And we need to draw on flexible delivery methods, digital technologies and modernized curricula while ensuring sustained support for teachers and communities.

As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education – the great equalizer – more than ever.

We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.

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.