Tag Archives: SDGs

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

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

It unlocks opportunities and narrows inequalities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Policy Brief calls for action in four key areas:

First, reopening schools.

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

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

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

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

Second, prioritizing education in financing decisions.

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

This gap has now grown.

Education budgets need to be protected and increased.

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

Third, targeting the hardest to reach.

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

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

Fourth, the future of education is here.

We have a generational opportunity to reimagine education.

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

Introduction

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

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

Momentous changes in the gender development landscape

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

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

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

The UNDP gender journey 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The way forward

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 Ibid., para. 37.

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

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

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

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

25 June 2020

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

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

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

New York, 5 May 2020 (recorded 4 May)

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

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

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

This is exacerbated for those in humanitarian and fragile contexts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We cannot let this continue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All hands on deck to fight a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic

By António Guterres

Only by coming together will the world be able to face down the COVID-19 pandemic and its shattering consequences. At an emergency virtual meeting last Thursday, G20 leaders took

UNSG Antonio Guterres

steps in the right direction. But we are still far away from having a coordinated, articulated global response that meets the unprecedented magnitude of what we are facing.

Far from flattening the curve of infection, we are still well behind it. The disease initially took 67 days to infect 100,000 people; soon, 100,000 people and more will be infected daily. Without concerted and courageous action, the number of new cases will almost certainly escalate into the millions, pushing health systems to the breaking point, economies into a nosedive and people into despair, with the poorest hit hardest.

We must prepare for the worst and do everything to avoid it. Here is a three-point call to action — based on science, solidarity and smart policies — for doing just that.

First, suppress transmission of the coronavirus.

That requires aggressive and early testing and contact tracing, complemented by quarantines, treatment, and measures to keep first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact. Such steps, despite the disruptions they cause, must be sustained until therapies and a vaccine emerge.

Crucially, this robust and cooperative effort should be guided by the World Health Organization, a member of the United Nations family; countries acting on their own – as they must for their people – will not get the job done for all.

Second, tackle the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis.

The virus is spreading like wildfire, and is likely to move swiftly into the Global South, where health systems face constraints, people are more vulnerable, and millions live in densely populated slums or crowded settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons. Fuelled by such conditions, the virus could devastate the developing world and then re-emerge where it was previously suppressed. In our interconnected world, we are only as strong as the weakest health systems.

Clearly, we must fight the virus for all of humanity, with a focus on people, especially the most affected: women, older persons, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups.

The United Nations has just issued reports documenting how the viral contagion has become an economic contagion, and setting out the financing needed to address the shocks. The International Monetary Fund has declared that we have entered a recession as bad as or worse than in 2009.

We need a comprehensive multilateral response amounting to a double-digit percentage of global Gross Domestic Product.

Developed countries can do it by themselves, and some are indeed doing it. But we must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the IMF, namely through the issuance of special drawing rights, and of the other international financial institutions so that they can rapidly inject resources into the countries that need them. I know this is difficult as nations find themselves increasing domestic spending by record amounts. But that spending will be in vain if we don’t control the virus.

Coordinated swaps among central banks can also bring liquidity to emerging economies. Debt alleviation must also be a priority – including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020.

Third, recover better.

We simply cannot return to where we were before COVID-19 struck, with societies unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis. The pandemic has reminded us, in the starkest way possible, of the price we pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protections and public services. It has underscored and exacerbated inequalities, above all gender inequity, laying bare the way in which the formal economy has been sustained on the back of invisible and unpaid care labour. It has highlighted ongoing human rights challenges, including stigma and violence against women.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and other global challenges. The recovery must lead to a different economy. Our roadmap remains the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations system is fully mobilized: supporting country responses, placing our supply chains at the world’s disposal, and advocating for a global cease-fire.

Ending the pandemic everywhere is both a moral imperative and a matter of enlightened self-interest. At this unusual moment, we cannot resort to the usual tools. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. We face a colossal test which demands decisive, coordinated and innovative action from all, for all.

The article first appeared in The Guardian.

The author is Secretary-General of the United Nations

United Nations Secretary-General launches plan to address the potentially devastating socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 Establishes global fund to support low- and middle-income countries

PRESS RELEASE

NEW YORK, 31 MARCH 2020—The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods. The potential longer-term effects on the global economy and those of individual countries are dire.

In a new report, Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic

UNSG Antonio Guterres

impacts of COVID-19, the United Nations Secretary-General calls on everyone to act together to address this impact and lessen the blow to people.

The report describes the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the societal and economic disruption of COVID-19, which has so far claimed the lives of 33 257 people, with 697 244 confirmed cases in 204 countries, areas and territories.

“COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”

The report comes after the IMF has announced that the world has entered into a recession as bad or worse than in 2009. The report calls for a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global GDP.

The United Nations system—and its global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, will support all governments and partners through the response and recovery.

To that end, the Secretary-General has established a dedicated COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries. Its approach underpins the reformed UN with a coordinated multi-agency, multi-sectoral response for priority national and local actions to address the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. It will count on the country leadership of Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams in swiftly supporting and enabling governments in this crisis, and recovery.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The shared responsibility and global solidarity roadmap calls for:
• Suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic.
• Safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods.
• Learning from this human crisis to build back better.

Suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic

The report warns that there is no time to lose in mounting the most robust and cooperative health response the world has ever seen. The strongest support must be provided to the multilateral effort to suppress transmission and stop the pandemic, led by the World Health Organization. At the same time there is great need for scientific collaboration in the search for a vaccine and effective therapeutics. This must be matched with assurances of universal access to vaccines and treatment. Throughout the report a people-centred approach is promoted that calls for engaging communities affected by COVID-19, respect for human rights and inclusion, gender equality and dignity for all.

Safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods

Recognizing that epidemics can expose and exacerbate existing inequalities in society, the road map shows it will be crucial to cushion the knock-on effects on people’s lives, their livelihoods and the economy. The report highlights examples of actions countries could take, such as direct provision of resources to support workers and households, provision of health and unemployment insurance, scaling-up of social protection, and support to businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job loss. The report strongly recognizes that women and girls must have a face in the response; and opportunities for young people, seriously affected, need to be preserved.

Learn from this crisis to build back better

The world will be faced with a choice in its recovery. Go back to the world we knew before or deal decisively with those issues that make everyone unnecessarily vulnerable to this and future crises. From stronger health systems and fewer people living in extreme poverty to achieving gender equality and taking climate action for a healthy planet, the report gives hope that lessons from this human crisis can build more just and resilient societies and deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Partnerships for progress

No single country or entity will win alone against the pandemic. A successful response and recovery will require international cooperation and partnerships at every level — governments taking action in lock step with communities; private sector engagement to find pathways out of this crisis. Partnerships based on solidarity will be the cornerstone for progress. Civil Society, women and grassroots organizations, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations will play a vital role. In assisting the most vulnerable populations, these networks are active in bringing economic and livelihood opportunities and adapting responses to the community context. These organizations, in many locations in the world, are the first, or only, point of reference for individuals and families as they seek to cope with the impacts of COVID-19 and for the recovery ahead.

Call to action

The COVID-19 Pandemic is a defining moment for modern society, and history will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family.

The United Nations and its global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, supported by established coordination mechanisms, will work with partners to ensure first and foremost that lives are saved, livelihoods are restored, and that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis.
The 129 UN Resident Coordinators and the UN Country Teams will provide comprehensive policy and operational support at the national level in support of a whole of society approach in countries. With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the beginning of a new type of global and societal cooperation.

Recommended measures to cope with the impacts of COVID-19:

1. Global measures to match the magnitude of the crisis
• Advocate and support implementation of a human-centered, innovative and coordinated stimulus package reaching double-digit percentage points of the world’s gross domestic product.
• Resist the temptation to resort to protectionist measures.
• Take explicit measures to boost the economies of developing countries.

2. Regional mobilization
A coordinated regional approach will enable collective examination of impacts, coordination of monetary, fiscal and social measures, and sharing best practices and the lessons learned. • Adopt DO NO HARM trade policies, preserve connectivity, and ensure regional monetary-fiscal coordination. • Engage with private financial sector to support businesses. • Address structural challenges and strengthen normative frameworks to deal with transboundary risks.

3. National solidarity is crucial to leave no one behind
The pandemic is hitting an already weak and fragile world economy. Global growth in 2019 was already the slowest since the global financial crisis of 2008/2009. According to ILO estimates, the world could lose between 5 million and 25 million jobs.
• Undertake fiscal stimulus and support for the most vulnerable.
• Protect Human Rights and focus on inclusion.
• Support to Small and Medium sized Enterprises.
• Support decent work.
• Support education.
• Prioritize social cohesion measures.

COVID-19 socio-economic estimates for 2020 as of March 2020
5 – 25 million jobs lost (ILO)

US$ 860 billion – US$ 3.4 trillion losses in labor income (ILO)

30% — 40% downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows (UNCTAD)

20% – 30% decline in international arrivals (UNWTO)

3.6 billion people offline (ITU)

1.5 billion students out of school (UNESCO)

 

A New Year’s Message from the United Nations

From here at the United Nations, I join you in welcoming the New Year.

We enter 2020 with uncertainty and insecurity all around.

Persistent inequality and rising hatred.

A warring world and a warming planet.

Climate change is not only a long-term problem but a clear and present danger.

We cannot afford to be the generation that fiddled while the planet burned.

But there is also hope.

This year, my New Year’s message is to the greatest source of that hope: the world’s young people.

From climate action to gender equality to social justice and human rights, your generation is on the frontlines and in the headlines.

I am inspired by your passion and determination.

You are rightly demanding a role in shaping the future.

I am with you.

The United Nations stands with you – and belongs to you.

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

We are launching a Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, our blueprint for a fair globalization.

This year, the world needs young people to keep speaking out. Keep thinking big.  Keep pushing boundaries.  And keep up the pressure.

I wish you peace and happiness in 2020.

Thank you.

Video message available here

United Nations Secretary Generals Op-ed on Investors’ Alliance

People around the world are taking to the streets to protest against rising living costs and real

UNSG Antonio Guterres

or perceived injustice. They feel the economy is not working for them — and in some cases, they are right. A narrow focus on growth, regardless of its true cost and consequences, is leading to climate catastrophe, a loss of trust in institutions and a lack of faith in the future.

The private sector is a critical part of solving these problems. Businesses are already working closely with the UN to help build a more stable and equitable future, based on the Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 global goals were agreed by all world leaders in 2015 to address challenges including poverty, inequality, the climate crisis, environmental degradation, peace and justice, by a deadline of 2030.

There has been some progress in the four years since the global goals were adopted. Extreme poverty and child mortality are falling; access to energy and decent work are growing. But overall, we are seriously off-track. Hunger is rising; half the world’s people lack basic education and essential healthcare; women face discrimination and disadvantage everywhere.

One reason for the faltering progress is the lack of financing. Public resources from governments are simply not enough to fund the eradication of poverty, improve the education of girls and mitigate the impact of climate change. We need private investment to fill the gap, so the UN is working with the financial sector. This is a critical moment for business and finance, and their relationship with public policy.

First, businesses need long-term investment policies that serve society, not just shareholders. This is starting to happen — some major pension funds are cutting fossil fuels from their portfolios. And more than 130 banks with $47tn in assets have signed up to the Principles for Responsible Banking, designed in collaboration with the UN. They represent an unprecedented commitment to business strategies that align with the global goals, the 2015 Paris Agreement to prevent global temperatures from rising, and banking practices that create shared prosperity. I urge all financial institutions to sign up to this transformation.

Second, we are finding new ways for the private sector to invest in sustainable growth and development. In October, 30 leaders of multinational companies launched the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance at the UN. Top executives at Allianz and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are among those who have publicly committed to acting as agents of change in their own companies and more widely. They are all already backing major sustainable infrastructure investments including clean, accessible energy projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the use of innovative financial instruments to mobilise billions of dollars for food security and renewable energy. They will now take on an even bigger role in channelling capital towards sustainable development, matching opportunities with investors.

I hope all business leaders follow their lead, investing in the economy of the future: clean, green growth that provides decent jobs and improves people’s lives for the long-term. Business must move further and faster if we are to raise the trillions of dollars required to meet the global goals.

Third, we call on business leaders to go beyond investment and push for policy change. In many cases, companies are already leading the way. Sustainability makes good business sense. Consumers themselves are exerting pressure. One investor described sustainable finance as a “megatrend”. But private finance is often battling subsidies for fossil fuel that distort the market and entrenched interests that favour the status quo. Major investors including Aviva warn that subsidies for fossil fuels could decrease the competitiveness of key industries, including in the low carbon economy. Governments lag behind, reluctant to change outdated regulatory and policy frameworks and tax systems. Quarterly reporting cycles discourage long-term investment. Fiduciary duties of investors need updating to include broader sustainability considerations.

We need business leaders to use their enormous influence to push for inclusive growth and opportunities. No one business can afford to ignore this effort, and there is no global goal that cannot benefit from private sector investment.

It is both good ethics and good business to invest in sustainable, equitable development. Corporate leadership can make all the difference to creating a future of peace, stability and prosperity on a healthy planet.

About the Author; Antonio Guterres, is the current Secretary General of the United Nations.