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.
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.5 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
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.
1 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.
7 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.
by Nicolas de Rivière, President of the Security Council for the month of June 2020 and Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations.
“Reconciling the requirements of the ideal with the possibilities of the real”: this is how Georges Bidault, Minister for Foreign Affairs and head of the French delegation to the San Francisco conference, summed up the objective pursued by the drafters of the Charter of the United Nations. On the still living ashes of the Second World War, the fathers of an Organization charged with developing friendly relations between nations, promoting human rights and economic and social progress were less utopian than visionary. They understood that the community of States should have a common constitution. It has been tested by conflict, crisis and upheaval, but its resilience and strength have shaped the very structure of contemporary international relations.
The Charter brings us together. It defines the United Nations as “a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations”, where each member is treated as an equal across social, economic or political differences. With the quadrupling of the number of contracting parties since its inception, the Charter, which has become universal, truly expresses the values and aspirations of Humanity. That is why France attaches so much importance to ensuring that diversity—cultural, legal and linguistic—is duly reflected within the Organization, in its staff and in the way it operates: the United Nations has the heavy but noble task of ensuring the participation of all peoples in international discussion. As revealed by the major consultation under way in the context of the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary, 95 per cent of our contemporaries believe that only international cooperation will make it possible to respond to the challenges of today and tomorrow. But it must also reflect their voice.
The Charter is the summit of an international order based on law: Article 103 gives it primacy over other international legal instruments. In the most difficult negotiations, it remains the frame of reference, and the precious Blue Booklet is never far away. It binds States as well as the principal organs of the United Nations. The Security Council thus exercises its responsibility as guarantor of the maintenance of international peace and security within the strict framework of the Charter, when deciding on measures to combat arms proliferation, establishing peacekeeping operations, authorizing the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria or referring situations to the International Criminal Court. These decisions must be respected by all Member States in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter.
The Charter protects us. The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for multilateralism, because the virus knows no borders, and no one is spared. The global and cross-cutting nature of the health crisis logically points to the United Nations as the only truly universal and multisector forum for responding to it.
It is France’s profound conviction that whenever we accept that the resolution of international crises takes place outside the multilateral framework, chaos threatens to prevail. That is particularly true today in the Middle East, where the risk of conflagration has never been greater. At a time when civilian populations have already suffered too much from the scourge of war and terrorism, we need more than ever to prevent a military spiral and to put an end to the serious human rights violations and humanitarian disasters that continue to take place, in this region as in other parts of the world.
As President Macron said in his address to the General Assembly on 24 September 2019, in a world that has become multipolar, we must reinvent “strong multilateralism”, as opposed to the temptation of national withdrawal. It was on the basis of that conviction that last year France, together with Germany, launched an Alliance for Multilateralism, a flexible framework bringing together countries of good will that wish to promote both the multilateral method and concrete initiatives in various areas that illustrate its importance.
To be strong, the multilateralism that we embody here in New York must be effective. It must address without delay the greatest challenges of our time, all of which are global: climate change, health and food security, the protection of biodiversity, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, inequalities, migration, massive violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, and the new challenges posed by technology. The Charter, in its profound modernity, set the goal, 75 years ago, of achieving international cooperation in solving international problems in all these areas. France has taken the initiative to mobilize the international community on these issues, whether by launching the One Planet Summit with the United Nations and the World Bank, or by co-organizing the Generation Equality Forum in the near future, 25 years after the Beijing conference. In the face of global challenges, international cooperation is the only possible way forward; if we do not move forward, we will retreat.
The Charter is the foundation of our collective action. It offers a method, rules and tools. It enshrines negotiation as the main way forward. The principles it lays down, and in particular the universality of human rights, are non-negotiable. It provides several means of action, including peacekeeping operations and international sanctions. The specific prerogatives that it confers on certain members should not be received as licenses but as responsibilities. That is why France, together with Mexico, has, since 2013, called for the suspension of the veto in the event of mass atrocities in the form of a political, voluntary and collective commitment by the five permanent members of the Security Council. To date, 105 Member States have joined this initiative.
The Charter in no way prevents the necessary modernization of the Organization, which, on the contrary, has been constantly reinventing itself. The decompartmentalization of the various pillars and components of the United Nations galaxy, as reflected in the vision of “Delivering as One”, is necessary for the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. The efforts undertaken in that regard, in particular the triple reform undertaken by the Secretary-General (reform of the peace and security architecture, development reform and management reform), must be supported. Each of the principal organs must play its part by optimizing its work.
Like a robust building that has stood the test of time, the Charter can be amended to better reflect the realities of the contemporary world. In that regard, France would like the Security Council to be expanded, as it was for the first time in 1963, to take into account the emergence of new Powers and to allow for a stronger presence on the African continent.
For 75 years, the Charter has been our highest common denominator. Its relevance remains unaltered. Sometimes a home, sometimes a bulwark, it allows the pursuit of an ideal of peace and prosperity towards which we must strive, with modesty but also with courage. It is incumbent upon us to pass on its values and promises to future generations.
26 June 2020
Featured photo credit: Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Great Lakes region. New York, 3 October 2019. UN Photo/Laura Jarriel
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.
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.
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.
by António Guterres
From COVID-19 to climate disruption, from racial injustice to rising inequalities, we are a world in turmoil.
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
By Leonardo DiCaprio
In 1997, a dramatic scene played out near Los Angeles as a newborn grey whale was discovered stranded in Marina del Rey. It had become separated from its mother during the annual migration from Alaska to Mexico. Hundreds of volunteers commandeered boats and moving vans and used makeshift stretchers to move this lone baby female whale over 100 miles to San Diego in a desperate attempt to save her life.
Named JJ by her rescuers, she arrived weak, dehydrated and disoriented-but after 18 months in care, she was restored to health and released back into the wild. While many celebrated that day, the challenges JJ overcame were nothing compared to the threats she and her entire grey whale species now face 20 years later.
THAT THREAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE.
Today, our oceans are under immense pressure as their waters absorb much of the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pumped into the air by human activity, resulting in a 30 per cent increase in acidity. The progress of the human race, particularly since the Industrial Revolution, has resulted in devastating impacts to our entire climate, and those impacts are particularly prevalent in our oceans.
Seashells are weaker, massive ancient coral formations are bleaching and essential ecosystems are dying. The marine food chain is endangered: clams, oysters, lobsters and crabs, which are a dietary staple for large sea creatures such as seals, otters and walruses, are under the threat of extinction. Most worrisome of all, plankton, amphipods (tiny shrimp-like creatures) and other microscopic organisms that sustain mighty whales and fish of all types and sizes are becoming harder to find. This frightening trend means JJ will likely starve to death before the end of her normal lifespan, and much of the sea life that billions of humans depend on will disappear.
Unlike other threats to the ocean, such as plastic pollution and overfishing, these changes are not always easy to see, but there are obvious warnings. More than half of the world’s 17 penguin species are now endangered, largely due to climate change-related declines in their food supply. Common clams are smaller than ever-quite literally disappearing before our eyes-and humans, too, will suffer from that loss. A protein found in a common clam shell has been shown to cure cancers. Where do we turn when it’s gone?
As a result of climate change, the world’s oceans are already warming to the point where they can no longer absorb our pollution, meaning efforts to cut carbon emissions will have to go far beyond the levels laid out by the 2015 Paris Agreement if we are to avoid the most catastrophic impacts.
Sea level rise and the damage to coastal regions from more intense and long-lasting storms have already wiped out vulnerable, low-lying communities and the livelihoods of local fishers, tourism workers, farmers and so many others. Our thirst for oil has led to massive oil spills that hurt even more.
BUT THERE IS HOPE.
The Paris Agreement paved the way to a more sustainable future for the planet and especially its oceans. My foundation has supported research at The Solutions Project (http://thesolutionsproject.org) that shows the world could be powered by 100 per cent clean, renewable energy by 2050. In Viet Nam, mangroves are being restored along the coast to absorb carbon, provide nurseries for countless fish species and buffer the coast from violent storms. And in the same waters near Los Angeles where JJ was found two decades ago, volunteers are replanting vital giant kelp forests that are home to 800 species of other plants and animals, and that provide oxygen to the planet for everyone.
Will it be enough? Hundreds of volunteers came together to rescue JJ-people from all walks of life, all ages, all backgrounds. They checked their egos and agendas at the beach and dove in, quite literally, to save a creature in dire need. We can do so again for our oceans, for ourselves, and for our future. But just as we made a conscious decision to rescue JJ once upon a time, we are now making another equally profound choice of whether she lives a full, normal life, or whether further ocean degradation will starve her, prematurely, to death. If that happens, we are also condemning our children to a much bleaker quality of life than the one we take for granted today.
We know that humankind is powerful enough-and apparently foolish enough-to change the very chemistry of two thirds of the planet. The same alarm and urgency that arose to save JJ in 1997 needs to happen today as the massive threat to her and an entire class of marine biodiversity increases. United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 asks us to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development”. Let’s remember that this goal cannot be achieved merely by limiting the number of fish we take from the sea or ending risky oil exploration in coastal waters, but also by eliminating the threats posed to our oceans from climate change and the emissions we drive here on land.
Author bio: Leonardo DiCaprio is an Academy Award-winning actor, producer and activist. He founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 for biodiversity and habitat conservation, and climate change solutions. Mr. DiCaprio is a United Nations Messenger of Peace for climate change, and a recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award and the World Economic Forum Crystal Award. He serves on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas, Oceans 5, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
By Isabella Lövin
In 2016, the First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, also known as the World Ocean Assessment I, was published. The introduction of the report is fascinating. It states that 70 per cent of the planet’s surface is covered by water and that the average depth is 4,000 metres. These oceans contain 97 per cent of all water on Earth, which is the equivalent of approximately 1.3 billion cubic kilometres. This can seem like an infinite amount.
But the report also states that there are now more than 7 billion people on Earth. If we divided all of this water equally between us, we would only have one fifth of a cubic kilometre each. And in 2050, when there will be some 10 billion people on Earth, we will only have one eighth of a cubic kilometre per person. This relatively small amount of water is what will provide each person with all ecosystem services, including food and oxygen. But this is also where some of our emissions, our waste and our rubbish will end up.
Oceans, however, happen to be borderless and are also unevenly distributed across the planet. We cannot protect our share of the ocean with walls; instead, we must cooperate in a spirit of solidarity if we are to succeed in preserving and protecting the water that we have at our joint disposal. We must work together with our closest neighbours and cooperate at a global level, between countries.
The importance of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be stressed enough. They light our way through the darkness that is currently shrouding the world. Progress is being made on many of the SDGs, but one of the goals for which developments are unfortunately moving in the wrong direction is SDG 14, which calls on the international community to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
This is why the Government of Sweden, together with the Government of Fiji, took the initiative to host the Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017. The Conference will be the first high-level forum to focus on one single goal in the 2030 Agenda, and we are enthusiastic to see growing engagement among the countries of the world.
One of the many issues demanding immediate attention at the Conference is the impact of climate change on the global marine environment. Although the ocean is the single largest habitat on our planet and is a system that is inextricably linked to human survival, climate change and the impact of increasing carbon dioxide emissions on the oceans have been largely overshadowed in the climate change debate. The oceans—which produce half of all our oxygen, regulate the Earth’s climate and temperature, give us food and water, and are home to hundreds of thousands of species-have for a long time been our best ally in efforts to curb climate change. More than 93 per cent1 of all the heat people have added to the planet since the 1950s has been absorbed by the oceans—but at a price we are just beginning to understand. Rising ocean temperatures and increased acidification are now becoming apparent in melting Arctic sea ice and coral bleaching. Immediate action is needed here and we must use our entire toolbox at once: mitigation, protection, restoration and adaptation.
The warming of the oceans over the past 60 years has taken place on such a scale that it is difficult to take in. A 2015 analysis produced by the Grantham Institute shows that if the same amount of heat that was added to the top two kilometres of the oceans between 1995 and 2010 had instead been added to the bottom ten kilometres of the atmosphere, we would have seen the temperature on Earth rise by 36 degrees Celsius. So the oceans have protected us from the worst effects of climate change. But there is great uncertainty regarding the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide in future. If the oceans have so far been our best friend, there is now the risk in the foreseeable future that they will begin to send us the bill: a large proportion of the emissions we have caused since the 1900s, now stored in the oceans, may return to the atmosphere.
Ocean acidification can be called the chemical crisis of the global climate. Alongside global warming, ocean acidification risks pushing marine life beyond catastrophic limits. Since industrialization, acidification of ocean surface water has increased by almost 30 per cent.2 Coral reefs will be one of the most immediate victims of climate change if we do not take action very quickly. Although coral reefs make up just 1 per cent of the surface of the oceans, as much as 25 per cent of marine species are dependent on them. The breakdown of coral reef ecosystems also affects the protection of coastal zones, fisheries and tourism. Without a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, by 2050 almost all of the world’s coral reefs may have been subjected to such acidic conditions that they will be only marginally able to form calcium and continue growing.
Researchers have estimated that the oceans are home to up to 1 million different species.3 Increased ocean temperatures risk causing the mass migration of species, resulting in the global homogenization of biodiversity. This would mean a decline in the numbers of species in the warmer water regions and a drastic increase in the colder regions around the poles. This kind of change could have a very serious impact on global fisheries and aquaculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that fish now account for 20 per cent of the animal protein source for around 3 billion people. Along with population growth, poor fisheries management and increased fish exports, changes in the local fish fauna can have enormous consequences for food security, especially in poor coastal countries where many people depend on fishing for their daily living.
Climate change also threatens the supply of oxygen in the oceans in two different ways. Firstly, warm water cannot hold as much oxygen as cold water, so as the oceans warm up, oxygen levels drop. Secondly, warmer water has lower density, making it more difficult for the oxygen-rich water near the surface to sink and circulate. Consequently, deep oceans face a particularly great risk of oxygen depletion. Fish that are dependent on oxygen will grow more slowly, decrease in size and reproduce less. Larger fish such as tuna, swordfish and shark, which are dependent on a large amount of oxygen, will be driven to more oxygen-rich surface waters, as will a large proportion of their prey. This will lead to increased food competition. Creatures living in or on the seabed will also need to seek out shallower waters. The knock-on effect of this will be a clear risk of even more overfishing, as more sea creatures will inhabit smaller and more easily accessible areas, becoming more readily fished.
One example of a ‘hot spot’ for the effects of climate change on oceans is the Arctic. Here, both warming and acidification are occurring particularly rapidly and to a greater extent than in many other places in the world. Scientific findings show an increased risk of crossing large-scale tipping points in the Arctic, such as the collapse of summer sea ice, melting ice sheets and methane emissions from melting permafrost, which may all have very significant global consequences-not least with regard to rising sea levels. The biodiversity and ecosystems in the Arctic are irreplaceable assets of global importance. Many Arctic species, ecosystems and habitats are at risk of disappearing completely, or remaining only as isolated fragments. As the ice sheet melts, increasingly large areas in the Arctic are now opening up for shipping and extracting natural resources such as oil, gas and fish. In November 2016, the planet sent perhaps its clearest warning yet, when the temperature in the Arctic was measured at a shocking 20 degrees Celsius warmer than what is normal for that time of year. The abrupt warming of the Arctic entails a dramatic change in life conditions not only around the North Pole, but also for the rest of the planet. Permanent ice at the North and the South Poles is a prerequisite for a stable planet. A self-heating Arctic will have major effects on global climate. Let us therefore hope that this was the last alarm bell from the planet before we humans came together and succeeded in reversing the trend.
It is impossible to estimate the economic value of living oceans for us humans; they are in essence the actual prerequisite for human existence. It is beyond doubt, however, that the effects of climate change on the oceans will entail major economic costs. For example, the cost of reduced tourism due to coral bleaching has been estimated to be as much as $12 billion annually. If lost ecosystem services from reefs are included, the annual cost is estimated to reach $1 trillion by the year 2100.4 But the truly great costs will be measured in the form of reduced human health and security.
Keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, and aspiring to 1.5 degrees Celsius under the Paris Agreement, is fundamental to mitigating the impact of climate change on our oceans. Sweden is prepared to take a leading role in international climate efforts and has the goal of being one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare nations. Sweden has also doubled its contributions to multilateral climate financing in recent years and is now the largest per capita donor to many of the multilateral climate funds, including the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility and the Adaptation Fund. Climate change is also central to much of Sweden’s bilateral cooperation and we want to work proactively to strengthen initiatives that are linked to the impact on oceans. Immediate and dramatic cuts in carbon dioxide emissions will buy us time to strengthen the resilience of oceans, ecosystems and species, that is, their ability to adapt to the negative impact of climate change and the inevitable stressors already in operation in our oceans. Fish that can easily migrate will be able to find new habitats, and organisms with short reproductive cycles such as plankton can evolve to adapt to the new conditions.
Drastic measures must be employed to strengthen the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems. It is still possible to preserve large, relatively unaffected marine ecosystems if measures are taken now. Sweden has allocated substantial funds to protect valuable marine environments in national waters and meet the commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity, but protection of marine environments is also an important issue in regional and international cooperation. Moreover, the impacts of climate change must be considered in assessments of threatened species and in formulating advice on which measures need to be taken.
In the light of the various stress factors acting on our oceans, the sustainable management of marine resources-not least measures to ensure improved food security—is more important than ever. Forceful measures are essential to stop overfishing and illegal fishing, and ensure a move from industrial fishing to small-scale fishing in coastal nations where many people are dependent on fish for their daily living. Further forceful measures are necessary to prevent and reduce marine pollution, including marine debris and the inflow of nutrients. Finally, we must also invest more in research to increase our scientific knowledge in all these areas.
The impact of climate change on our oceans can no longer be described in isolated, individual stories about bleached coral reefs; it involves fundamental changes to ecosystems and marine life on a scale we are only just beginning to imagine. We must act now and put oceans at the centre of our climate efforts. The great interest in the Ocean Conference from all parts of the United Nations system, the science and business sectors, and civil society demonstrates that the international community is ready to take forceful action.
1 Sydney Levitus and others, “World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0-2000m), 1955-2010”, Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 39, No. 10 (17 May 2012).
2 Richard A. Feely, Scott C. Doney and Sarah R. Cooley, “Ocean acidification: present conditions and future changes in a high-CO2 world”, Oceanography, vol. 22, No. 4 (December 2009), pp.36-47.
3 Ward Appeltans and others, “The magnitude of global marine species diversity”, Current Biology, vol. 22, No. 23 (4 December 2012), pp. 2189-2202.
4 Jean-Pierre Gattuso and others, “Contrasting futures for ocean and society from different anthropogenic CO2 emissions scenarios”, Science, vol. 349, No. 6243, (3 July 2015), pp. aac.4722-1-4722-10.
Author bio: Isabella Lövin is Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden.
Lilongwe. 21 November 2014 – Some of Malawi’s most inspiring speakers gathered last weekend for the second edition of TEDxLilongwe, with support from UNICEF Malawi, as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For the people who could not make it to Lilongwe, the talks were livestreamed at the Mzuzu University Auditorium and in the UNICEF Innovation Hub in Blantyre Polytechnic.
As this year marks the 50th anniversary of Malawi Independence, the speakers came up with ideas to help shape the next 50 years. On Saturday, “50/50 Vision” was the theme around which discussions and talks were triggered.
Malawi is a young country. Over half its population is aged under 18 years, and the young people aged 19 – 24 years swell the numbers to 60% of the total population. In recognition of this youth bulge, a special TEDyouth event was held on Sunday. In Lilongwe and other cities across the world, remarkable young people had their say under the worldwide theme ‘Worlds imagined’.
Children and young people are often the ones who are most acutely aware and deeply concerned about the challenges facing their communities. They have increasingly been participating in these communities, helping to re-imagine the future. They have their own views and have the right to express them. And they definitely did at TEDyouth, where taboos were broken and innovations were spread.
UNICEF Representative Mahimbo Mdoe said at the event:
This weekend’s series of TEDx Talks in Malawi is highlighting our own home-grown talent in innovation and showing how even in a low-resource setting we can develop ways of overcoming the challenges of underdevelopment and poverty.
One of the innovators at the event was Jamie Stuart. He is using technology to address Malawi’s educational challenges. The number of students in the country is growing, and this places an increased demand on educational resources such as qualified teachers, classrooms and teaching and learning materials. Shortage of such resources has led to a declining quality of the education provided, resulting in low levels of academic achievement across the country. With Jamie’s “oneclass”, personalised learning is delivered to each child in their own language inside a simple, solar-powered classroom. Groups of children from Standard 1 and 2 can practice on tablets without adult supervision, and the progress is monitored individually for every child. With the applications on these tablets, young children in Malawi can acquire the fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy, which give them a good foundation for their further education.
Another impressive speaker was Alinafe Botha, who shared the touching story of her life. A story of abuse and neglect, of the repercussions of HIV and destitute poverty, of being pressured to marry and making brave choices. When Alinafe refused to marry at the age of twelve, she lost the financial support and love of her family. In Malawi, at least half of all girls younger than 18 is married, and 55% experience some form of violence while growing up. Alinafe carried through, despite the hardship she experienced. She joined the Jacaranda School for Orphans, where she is in Form 4 now, and was even chosen to represent the girls of Malawi at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “I believed in myself and I believed I can do it and become somebody in future,” Alinafe said on Sunday. This strong girl can become a voice for the many girls who have been silenced on gender based violence, child marriage and education. She is a beacon of hope to Malawian girls, and a source of inspiration to every one of us.
The young speakers demonstrated new ways of achieving a future in which all children can exercise their rights. This is a future we all strive for, which was highlighted on November 20, the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On this day, UNICEF launched the report The State of the World’s Children, which points out the work of remarkable young innovators who are already reimagining the future.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the CRC, UNICEF Malawi has collected 25 photos which tell the story of child rights in Malawi. Children under five, for instance, have 70% more chance to reach their 5th birthday than in 1990, but 42.4% of them are affected by stunting, which can slow down physical growth and development. The photos highlight the country’s challenges and successes in realizing children’s rights, and they might have inspired even more young innovators to join this rising movement to advance the rights of every child.
Remarks by Martin Clemensson, UN Zambia Acting in the interim Resident Coordinator and Director of the ILO in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique
UNITED Nations Zambia Acting in the Interim Resident Coordinator Martin Clemensson says
despite the country and Africa having abundant natural resources in terms of minerals and wildlife, poverty has remained high.
Speaking during the 20th inter-governmental committee of experts (ICE) meeting in Livingstone
yesterday, Mr. Clemensson said there was also criticism in Zambia about the mining industry not contributing enough to the economic and social well-being of the people.
“In the political arena, concerns are often raised that too few jobs are being created by the companies and about reduced or limited support to social infrastructure,” Mr. Clemensson said.
He said mining companies claimed they were in business and that it was not their responsibility to build roads, clinics and schools, insisting the taxes they paid to Government should be used for such purposes.
Mr. Clemensson said because of such issues, there was a climate of mistrust among key actors in the sector that had impeded progress.
“As a result the situation is becoming increasingly tense with the possible result that mining companies may choose other locations than Zambia for their operations and all parties will lose out,” he said.
He said the UN in Zambia was engaging with the ministries of Mines and Labour, the chamber of commerce including and other stakeholders to facilitate dialogue between the mining sector and Government.
Secretary to the Treasury Fredson Yamba said the natural resources the Southern African region had were of high quality and that they were on global demand.
Mr Yamba, however, said that the trans-boundary resources such as wildlife, water, forestry and fisheries required a regional approach to management.
He said there was need for stronger regional integration for collective exploitation and management.
“The vast natural resource endowments have enabled Southern Africa to become the epicenter of economic activity in Africa with a combined Gross Domestic Product in excess of US$7 billion, which is much higher than any other African region,” Mr Yamba said.
He said despite these developments, the natural resources-driven economic growth had been accompanied by high poverty levels and income inequalities in most countries in Southern Africa.
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