Tag Archives: COVID19

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.

As UN marks 75 years, let us work together to realize the opportunities in African unity

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations. She spoke to Africa Renewal about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking a milestone year in the fight for women’s rights and reflections on the African Union’s relationship with the UN in its 75th year. Here are the excerpts:

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations

How is COVID-19 affecting Africa’s priorities such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063?

As you are aware, Agendas 2030 and 2063 are very much aligned. Priority areas such as ending poverty and hunger, achieving food security and addressing some of the broader socio-economic challenges in health, education and employment, particularly for the most vulnerable, have been greatly impacted in ways that were not foreseen even a year ago. The pandemic has forced us to refocus our attention in some areas and re-allocate resources. COVID-19 has shown us how interconnected the world is. No individual, country or region is immune to this reality.

How has it impacted your work?

Just like everyone else, we have had to reorganize to ensure we are able to deliver on our commitments and our mandate. We shifted some priorities. It was important to understand the pandemic and its implications and try to overcome the hurdles that come with it.

Africa’s continent-wide response slowed the spread of the pandemic earlier this year. How can the countries better deal with this challenge?   

The advantage for Africa with the pandemic has been two-fold. First, drawing lessons from the Ebola outbreak, many African countries quickly put in place measures for curbing the spread of COVID-19 well ahead of time. Second, in terms of timing, the pandemic hit the continent at a time when many other regions were already going through the worst of it. So, we had ample time to learn from the experiences of others.

Currently, through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Union (AU) is supporting public health institutions across the continent through innovation and strategic partnerships.

We are coordinating and providing integrated solutions to our public health systems particularly where there is weak or inadequate infrastructure by offering training and equipment so that countries are better prepared to respond to future health emergencies and disasters.

How can Africa recover better from the pandemic?

The biggest blow for most African countries is that socio-economic gains have been hindered. The impact on economic development is devastating. Beyond the impact on health and education, economic stress on people is of major concern.

Countries should use this experience as an opportunity to rebuild better and stronger. The impact on jobs, businesses, and family incomes means that responses and strategies we put in place must focus on ways and means to support those hardest hit. We need smart investments and policies that can eradicate extreme poverty and provide access and equal opportunities for all.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is making a case for the bridging of inequality in a post-COVID-19 development order. How could the AU, including your office, help actualize the SG’s vision for the benefit of the continent?

Partnership between the AU and the UN is a top priority for us. The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, strongly supports the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for collective action against this scourge and for a global ceasefire. We can only contain the pandemic if we work together. The AU Observer Mission to the UN will continue to support the vision and the priorities of both institutions.

Several studies show that women are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. What is the role of women in the recovery process?

It is true that even before the pandemic hit, we advocated for women’s full participation in decision making. Economies are stronger and peace processes more successful with women’s active participation. Women can achieve success, from the lowest community level and up. I would encourage women to continue to speak up against injustices and for one another. This pandemic has increased incidences of gender-based violence, which should not be tolerated. If we truly want to make a change, we, men and women, must keep advocating, educating and exposing perpetrators of gender-based violence.

2020 is a milestone year for women—with Beijng+25, UNSC Resolution 1325+20, and 15 years since the Maputo Protocol entered into force—all of which challenge old stereotypes about the role of women in society. To what extent have African countries achieved progress in gender equality?

The progress made by Africa since the Beijing 4th Conference on Women in 1995 is commendable, but we still have a long way to go. We have strong, progressive, global and continental policies, strategies and action plans on women, peace and security. Yet women and girls continue to bear the brunt of conflicts in Africa. They are the victims of sexual violence and other forms of abuse and they are underrepresented in peace processes at the local, national and continental levels. The AU’s strategy on gender equality is aligned with the UNSC Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security agenda.

However, implementation still remains a challenge, including the meaningful participation of women in peace and security activities. This milestone should revitalize the need for women’s voices to be heard in the peace and security agenda. There is no doubt that the AU’s partnership with women’s organizations across the continent is the vehicle for concrete actions.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council recently adopted the Continental Framework on Youth, Peace and Security. How do you envisage the role of young people in the attainment of peace and security in Africa?

Despite the adoption of the framework you referred to, we are still at the very beginning of this journey. Today’s youth—the largest generation of young people in history—are marginalized, excluded, exploited and easily drawn into conflict. Many young people, especially young women, lack resources and opportunities to realize their potential and participate in political, peace and security processes. Instead, they are vulnerable, especially during conflicts.

The framework itself reinforces the call for action on youth, peace and security in Africa. Its adoption is a recognition that young people are Africa’s greatest asset. It helps expand possibilities for active youth involvement in decision-making processes as well as planning and programming.

The UN is supporting the AU’s campaign on ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020.’ What does it mean for Africa when the guns are silent and how is your office working with the international community to achieve this goal?

Let me put the question into context: The Silencing the Guns (STGs) in Africa initiative was a pledge by African leaders in May 2013 to end all wars on the continent by 2020. As you know, STGs is a critical element of Africa’s Agenda 2063, and the AU Peace and Security Council later adopted a Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to silence the guns by 2020. The roadmap emphasizes structural interventions in several areas such as socio-economic development, youth and women’s empowerment, employment, education, climate change and governance.

We are working with partners to shift the narrative and ensure sustainable peace on the continent. But we still have a lot of work to do in carrying the international community along. Silencing the guns in Africa means being able to develop and move forward and build a peaceful and prosperous continent for our people.

As the UN turns 75, how critical has the organization been to Africa’s peace, security and development?

The partnership between the AU and UN in peace and security is very relevant.  The two organizations work together in many areas. We have annual consultations, a joint taskforce, we go on joint field visits and carry out mediation efforts. We also cooperate on electoral matters and governance, as well as the protection of human rights, among others.

Africa continues to make a case for more representation on the UN Security Council (UNSC). What is the strongest argument for such a case?

As you are aware, Africa has a common position on the UNSC reform. Africa has consistently made the case for representation in the “Permanent” category of the Council. Also, there is a need for more African representation in the “non-Permanent” category in order to achieve true and meaningful reform of the UN Security Council. Equitable geographical representation in line with the principles, objectives and ideals of the UN Charter can only lead to a fairer and more equitable world.

At any one time, there are three African states holding non-Permanent seats in the UN Security Council, the so-called A3. What would you say are the three top achievements of the A3 in recent times in advancing Africa’s agenda?

First, there has been stronger coordination among the members, particularly in the last couple of years. This has helped in championing Africa’s common positions, interests and concerns on issues of peace and security that are on the UN Security Council’s agenda.

Second, we have now established annual meetings between AUPSC [African Union Peace and Security Council] and the UNSC. It demonstrates a commitment by the two councils to work together on matters of peace and security in Africa. The A3 ensures effective consultations.

Third, the A3 has helped create opportunities for alliances with other member of the UNSC, ensuring that they support our global cause for world peace.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is touted as Africa’s next big thing. Why should Africans be hopeful?

The objective of the AfCFTA is to leverage the opportunity of a huge population of approximately 1.3 billion people and an estimated combined GDP of $3.4 trillion by creating a single market for goods and services, facilitating free movement of goods and people, accelerating investments and potentially establishing a Customs Union.

The AfCFTA could lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035. So, why should African not be hopeful? The AfCFTA is our ambition for collective progress and development. Of course, there are policies and regulatory measures that need to be in place, but some of these are already being put in place in countries and the sub-regions.

What message of hope do you have for Africans during this trying period?

As we mark the 75th year of the UN, we must reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic and work together in combating it and cooperating for sustainable recovery. As I said earlier, the pandemic has exposed many gaps, but it has also reinforced the fact that we live in an interconnected world. As Africans, we must recognize the potential and opportunities in African unity and work together.

We are all part of humankind. We cannot ignore the fact that the world is hurting. Collective action, mutual respect, and regard for international rules and norms are crucial if we must achieve our common objectives.  In short, multilateralism matters.

Article first appeared in Africa Renewal on 29 September 2020.

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.

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. 

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.

UN Charter 1945

Marking 75 Years of the Charter of the United Nations

UN Charter Day – 26 June 2020

The Charter of the United Nations has been a constant presence in my life. My awareness of it started with the usual brief introduction to the basics of the United Nations as an organization that many young people receive in school. Later, as my political awareness took shape against the backdrop of military rule in Portugal and my country’s status as a colonial power, the Charter’s calls for self-determination and other freedoms registered with urgency. During the time I spent as a volunteer in the poor neighbourhoods of Lisbon, the Charter’s vision of social justice was equally resonant. In subsequent service as a parliamentarian and then as Prime Minister, I was privileged to have an opportunity to advance not only national progress but one of the Charter’s other main objectives: international cooperation. Across a decade as High Commissioner for Refugees and now in my current role, the Charter’s power inspires me onward every day in serving “we the peoples”, including the most vulnerable members of the human family, who have a special claim on that landmark document’s provisions and protections.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, United States, the city in which the Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945. ©Kishan Rana

The adoption of the Charter of the United Nations was a pivotal and historic moment. The document enshrined a determination to establish a new international order built with the purpose of avoiding a third world war following two such cataclysms that took place within the space of a single generation. Over the past seventy-five years, the Charter has proven to be a solid yet flexible framework. Its ideals have endured, and its legal foundation has progressively adjusted to new situations and needs. Amidst crisis and complexity, the Charter has remained the touchstone we all refer to and rely upon to uphold our shared responsibilities and achieve our global commitments.

In an era of spreading hatred and impunity, the Charter reminds us of the primacy of human dignity and the rule of law. And in a time of rapid transformation and technological change, the Charter’s values and objectives endure: the peaceful settlement of disputes; the equal rights of men and women; non-intervention, self-determination and the sovereign equality of Member States; and clear rules governing the use of force, as set out in Article 2, paragraph 4, and Chapter VII of the Charter.

These principles are not favours or concessions. They form the bedrock of international relations and are central to peace. They have saved lives, advanced economic and social progress and inspired the further elaboration of international law, encompassing key areas such as human rights, the environment and international criminal justice.

When these principles have been flouted, put aside or applied selectively, the results have been catastrophic: conflict, chaos, death, disillusion and mistrust. Our shared challenge is to do far better in upholding the Charter’s values. One of the most effective ways to fulfil our commitments is to invest in prevention, as envisaged in the Charter’s Chapter VI. Another is by working more closely with regional organizations, as foreseen in Chapter VIII. And while peacekeeping is not mentioned in the Charter, it epitomizes the kind of collective action for peace that the Charter envisions and is an indispensable tool that merits strong international support.

Resilient and visionary, the Charter of the United Nations speaks to all people; it belongs to everyone, everywhere. At a time when the world is wrestling with the COVID-19 pandemic, rising geopolitical tensions and growing climate disruption, the Charter points the way to the solidarity we need today and across generations. As we strive to maintain international peace and security, protect human rights, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and strengthen multilateralism, we must return to fundamental principles; we must return to the framework that has kept us together; we must come home to our Charter.

25 June 2020

About the author
António Guterres is the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Feature Photo Credit: António Guterres, laying his left hand on the Charter of the United Nations, takes the oath of office as Secretary-General of the United Nations for a five-year term that began on 1 January 2017. Peter Thomson, then President of the General Assembly, administers the oath. 12 December 2016. 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.

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

By Ghada Waly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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