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29 Oct

More women in Latin America are working, but gender gap persists, new UN figures show

  • 29 October 2019 |

More women are entering the workforce across Latin America, with an increase in 11 per cent in the last thirty years, putting the region ahead of the curve when it comes to growth in female labour force participation, according to new data published by the United Nations on Monday. 

The research gathered jointly by the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International  Labour Organization (ILO), spotlights the array of factors influencing women’s labour participation in the region, while highlighting the social and economic benefits of women in the workforce. 

Women’s access to paid opportunities, and the narrowing of gender gaps are “crucial for growth, equality and poverty reduction in the region,” the authors highlight in the new study. 

Despite a closing disparity  between the number of working men versus women, the new figures demonstrate that the gap between women’s labour participation versus that of men still amounts to more than 25 per cent on average. Further, a deeper dive into pay scale shows that for each hour worked, women’s earnings are on average 17 per cent below those of men, of the same age and education and economic status. 

Large differences also exist among countries in the region when it comes to pace of growth, and the levels of female participation achieved, with figures lagging significantly in developing countries.

In 2018 overall, over half of all women (aged 15 or over) in eighteen countries in the region were working, with Peru taking the lead at 68.7 per cent, followed by Bolivia with 63 per cent, and among the lowest, Costa Rica at 45.1 per cent, and 43. 5 per cent in Mexico.

One of the main factors underpinning a growing working women population is higher education-the study demonstrates a positive correlation between number of school years completed, with rates of labour participation. In Peru, for example, 90 per cent of women with advanced education (which in this case refers to schooling beyond high-school level), were working, and 80 per cent in Venezuela, with similar correlations in neighboring countries. 

The gaps can be attributed to an array of circumstances; from national economic status, to social and cultural expectations, the authors note, and it is “crucial” to take into account that the decision to work, in turn, has an impact on other facets of life. 

Greater work opportunities do not necessarily imply greater participation or, better quality of life, the study indicates. The amount of unpaid work to be done within the household, along with working for economic earnings, can double a women’s workload if unpaid duties are not balanced. 

Broadening women’s participation in the labour market, therefore, “necessitates major changes in society.” 

Technology, equal access to education, declining fertility rates, and greater levels of average income have levied the time needed to carry out domestic tasks, which have collectively contributed to greater numbers of working women in the region, Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, and Juan Felipe Hunt, the ILO’s acting Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean stated in the document's foreward.

“Progress has also been achieved in terms of political rights and social norms. However, some areas that could limit the growth of labor participation are still lagging, “ she said, “these include gender gaps regarding expected educational achievement and cultural aspects that promote women’s reproductive and caregiving role.”

Greater participation of women in the workforce pursues gender equity goals, as established in the UN’s Sustainable Development target (SDG 5), which highlightlights that gender equality is not only a human right, but a prerequisite to achieving a peaceful and sustainable world, the report highlights.

16 Oct

30 business titans join UN push to scale up private sector investment for sustainable development

  • 16 October 2019 |

 16 October 2019 – The United Nations announced today that thirty influential leaders from the corporate world will work together over the next two years in a bid to free up trillions of dollars from the private sector to finance the Sustainable Development Goals.

Convened by Secretary-General António Guterres, the Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance is co-chaired by Oliver Bäte, CEO of Allianz, and Leila Fourie, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and includes the heads of Bank of America, Citigroup, ICBC, Infosys, Investec, Santander, UBS and other prominent international corporations. (see complete list below.)

“We face widening inequality, increased devastation from conflicts and disasters and a rapidly warming Earth. These leaders have seized our sense of urgency, recognising that our pace must be at a run, not a crawl,” Guterres said. “They are committing to cooperate across borders, across financial sectors and even with their competitors, because it is both ethical and good business sense to invest in sustainable development for all people on a healthy planet.”

The High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development held during the recent UN General Assembly brought to attention the urgent need for increasing government spending on crucial sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, and climate change. Most developed countries have not met their commitments to ODA, while factors like poverty, corruption, and tax evasion limit domestic resources in developing countries.

Development finance needs estimated at trillions of dollars

The development finance needs are estimated at trillions of dollars per year, and even if funding from all public sources is maximised, there will still be a significant shortfall, making financing from the private sector imperative.

“As responsible companies, we can create long-term value by embedding sustainability into our core business,” said Bäte. “Investing in the stable development of societies across the globe is not only the right thing to do, it also includes economic opportunities. We are convinced that investments in emerging markets can foster sustainable growth without losing sight of our customers’ interests.”

The UN’s research suggests that there is no shortage of money from the private sector which could be invested in sustainable development. However, a combination of factors, including the policy environment, incentive structures and institutional conditions, tend to discourage the kind of long-term commitment that is needed.

"The establishment of the GISD Alliance acknowledges the scale of the challenges we face collectively and the role that the finance sector has to play in meeting these challenges,” said Fourie. “Exchanges are a vital part of the financing ecosystem – promoting relevant disclosure, enabling effective price discovery, and ultimately mobilising funds to productive ends. We all have much work to do, and the time to start is now.”

The Alliance aims to use their expertise, influence and business acumen in devising ways to stimulate long term investment in development and speed up progress towards achieving the SDGs.

Over the next two years, the group will:

  • Deliver solutions to unlock long-term finance and investment in sustainable development both at company and system-wide levels; 
  • Mobilize additional resources for countries and sectors most in need;
  • Find ways to increase the positive impact of business activities; and
  • Align business practices with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The move comes amidst a growing recognition in the corporate community that the continued success of their companies is inextricably linked to a sustainable future for the world.

The Secretary-General has established a timeline for actionable results over the life of the Alliance. Its work will be coordinated by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs.


  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
  • The GISD Alliance is part of the UN’s strategy on financing for sustainable development, informed by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The Action Agenda provides a global framework for financing sustainable development by aligning all financing flows and policies with economic, social and environmental priorities. It includes a set of policy actions, with measures that draw upon all sources of finance, technology, innovation, trade, debt and data, in order to support achievement of the Sustainable Development


 Full list of companies that joined the alliance





Allianz SE


Mr. Oliver Bäte, CEO



Mr. Ronald Wuijster, CEO



Mr. Maurice Tulloch, CEO

Banco Santander


Ms. Ana Botin, Group Exec. Chairman



Mr. Juan Carlos Mora Uribe, CEO

Bank of America


Mr. Brian Moynihan, Chairman & CEO

Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec


Mr. Michael Sabia, President & CEO

California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS)


Ms. Marcie Frost, CEO



Mr. Zafrul Aziz, Group CEO & ED



Mr. Michael Corbat, CEO

Consejo Mexicano de Negocios


Mr. Antonio Del Valle Perochena, President

Eaux Minerales d’Oulmes


Mrs. Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, CEO

Emirates Environmental Group


Ms. Habiba Al Mar’ashi, Co-Founder & Chairperson

Enel S.p.A


Mr. Francesco Starace, CEO & GM

First State Super


Ms. Deanne Stewart, CEO

Government Pension Investment Fund


Mr. Hiro Mizuno, Exec. MD & Chief Investment Officer



Mr. Shu Gu, President & ED



Mr. Salil Parekh, CEO & MD

Investec Group

South Africa

Mr. Fani Titi, Co CEO

Johannesburg Stock Exchange

South Africa

Ms. Leila Fourie, CEO



Mr. Vijay Advani, CEO

Pal Pensions





Mr. Emmanuel Roman, CEO



Mr. Michael Joseph, CEO a.i.

Sintesa Group


Ms. Shinta Widjaja Kamdani, CEO

Standard Chartered


Mr. José Viñals, Group Chairman



Mr. Patrick Antonio Claude de Larragoiti Lucas, Chairman

Swedish Investors for Sustainable Development


Mr. Richard Gröttheim, CEO, AP7

TDC Group A/S


Ms. Allison Kirkby, Pres. & Group CEO

UBS Group AG


Mr. Sergio P. Ermotti, Group CEO


11 Oct

Climate emergency: City mayors are 'world's first responders', says UN chief

  • 11 October 2019 |

City bosses are “the world’s first responders to the climate emergency” UN chief António Guterres declared on Friday, at an international mayors’ summit in Copenhagen.

In his opening remarks to the C40 World Mayors Summit – a forum for member cities to present innovative actions to slow global warming – the Secretary-General noted that cities, which contain more than half the world’s population, and have an “enormous climate footprint”, are “on the frontlines of sustainable and inclusive development”.

Urban citizens, he continued, look to mayors to make cities havens for diversity, social cohesion and job creation.

Reminding delegates of the existential threat to humanity posed by the climate emergency, and the need to dramatically boost climate action at all levels, Mr. Guterres said that, at the UN Climate Action Summit in September, some 70 countries, and around 100 cities, announced plans to enhance their national plans to cut harmful emissions by 2020.

However, some of the countries responsible for the biggest greenhouse gas emissions have not yet committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and, with business, cities and society moving faster than governments, the UN chief called on the urban leaders to continue putting pressure on national authorities to increase climate ambition.

Cities, emphasised the UN chief, are at the heart of the race to reduce emissions, and the consequences of growth without climate-conscious planning will be profound. Mr. Guterres welcomed efforts currently undertaken by C40 member cities, such as promoting healthier, more climate-friendly diets, and curbing air pollution.

The Secretary-General also highlighted the importance of a “just transition” to low carbon societies, where no one is left behind, to ensure that public opinion solidly supports the initiatives necessary for reaching carbon neutrality. This means implementing social policies that address the anxieties of those who could be detrimentally affected by climate action, such as those who work in the fossil fuel industry, and take their interests into account.

The two-day summit began on Thursday, with a commitment by 14 member cities to implementing sustainable food policies that will address the climate emergency. The mayors of these major cities pledged to work with their citizens to achieve a “Planetary Health Diet” for all, by 2030, with balanced and nutritious food, reflective of the culture, geography, and demography of their citizens.

Research commissioned by C40 in June 2019 shows that eating a sustainable diet and avoiding food waste could cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60 per cent.

Source: UN News

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08 Oct

One billion people have preventable eye conditions, increasingly linked to lifestyle choices: UN health agency

  • 08 October 2019 |
A staggering 2.2 billion people already suffer from eye conditions and visual impairment today, but the global need for eye care is set to increase “dramatically”, with lack of exercise a key factor, the UN health agency said on Tuesday, unveiling its first ever report on vision across the world.

While welcoming recent successes in eliminating common conditions such as trachoma in eight countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted evidence indicating that eye problems are increasingly linked to lifestyle choices, including screen time.

Youngsters are among those at risk, WHO’s Dr Alarcos Cieza told journalists in Geneva:

“In children, one of the factors that may influence the increased number of children with myopia, is that children do not spend enough time outdoors. It is a trend that is already observed in some countries like in China”, she said. “But of course, it is a trend that we can predict in other countries if they are an everyday habit, especially with child populations.”  

Eye ‘never relaxes’ indoors

The problem with staying inside, is that the lens in your eye rarely relaxes, WHO’s Dr Stuart Keel explained.

“When you’re indoors, the lens inside your eyes is in a complete flex state, or it’s flexed but when you’re outside, it’s nice and relaxed.”

Pointing to recent scientific data from China investigating the “clear link” between time spent outdoors and the delayed onset of later-stage short-sightedness, Dr Keel cautioned that studies on “near-task” activities such as watching video on a tablet computer, were “not as conclusive at this stage”.

According to the WHO’s World Report On Vision, the burden of impairment tends to be greater in low and middle-income countries.

Women also suffer disproportionately, along with migrants, indigenous peoples, and those with disabilities and rural communities.

“Eye conditions and vision impairment are widespread, and far too often they still go untreated,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “It is unacceptable that 65 million people are blind or have impaired sight when their vision could have been corrected overnight with a cataract operation, or that over 800 million struggle in everyday activities because they lack access to a pair of glasses.”

EGXSpayWoAAasb4Population growth and ageing - along with lifestyle changes and urbanization -  will also “dramatically increase” the number of people with eye conditions, vision impairment and blindness in the coming decades, WHO’s report shows.

One of the study’s main findings is that prevention is key, since at least one billion people are living with sight problems that could have been avoided with timely treatment.

Addressing this backlog of vision impairment or blindness owing to short and far-sightedness, and cataracts, will require $14.3 billion, the agency notes.

It points out that prevention is particularly important in low-income regions including western and eastern sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where blindness rates are on average eight times higher than in high-income nations.

The combination of a growing and ageing population will also “significantly” increase the total number of people with eye conditions, but this too could be turned around with preventative measures.

Typical conditions that could be treated if diagnosed early, include diabetic eye disease, along with cataracts and glaucoma.

“Vision impairment should not be seen as part of the ageing process,” Dr Cieza insisted, “because if you receive the appropriate care, for example, in the case of glaucoma, you can prevent the vision impairment associated with glaucoma, or if you receive cataract surgery, you can avoid the visual impairment associated with cataracts.”

High-quality eye care for all

Another key thrust of WHO’s report is that high-quality eye care should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their income and location.

To do this, treatment should be included in countries’ national health plans as an essential part of the overall aim of achieving effective universal health coverage, it says.

For the most part, eye conditions that can cause vision impairment and blindness –cataracts, trachoma and refractive error – are the main focus of national prevention strategies.

Nevertheless, other eye conditions that do not typically cause vision impairment – including dry eye and conjunctivitis – should not be overlooked, WHO says, noting that they “are frequently among the leading reasons for presentation to eye health care services all countries”.


Source: UN News


04 Oct

UN’s Guterres: Broad climate ‘movement’ has begun, but there’s a long way to go

  • 04 October 2019 |

When it comes to the climate emergency, “we have a long way to go. But the movement has begun,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared in a widely-distributed opinion piece on Thursday, reaffirming his concern over the threats posed by a warming world, unless more urgent action is taken. 

In his op-ed, published by a consortium of more than 170 news outlets under the banner Covering Climate Now, which has an audience of hundreds of millions, he recalled that “on the eve of the September UN Climate Action Summit, young women and men around the world mobilized by the millions and told global leaders: ‘You are failing us.’” 

“They are right,'' he lamented.  

“The science is undeniable” Mr. Guterres continued, and while some come to understand the climate crisis through data, those suffering its effects “can simply look out the window.”  

Last week, as world leaders convened for the start of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, talks kicked off with the first-ever summit devoted to Climate Action, for which Mr. Guterres urged delegates to come with concrete plans for achieving carbon neutrality and slashing emissions, rather than “beautiful speeches”. 

Meanwhile, millions of the world’s youth mobilized in protest of government inaction, for the largest climate demonstration in history.  

September’s Climate Action Summit aimed to “serve as a springboard” to fast-track Member States “to crucial 2020 deadlines established by the Paris Agreement”, the Secretary-General explained.  

“And many leaders - from many countries and sectors - stepped up”, he added, noting that more than 70 countries committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while 100 cities, including several of the world’s largest, pledged to do the same.  

The UN chief’s challenge for States to act, was fruitful; an additional 70 countries announced intentions to boost national plans; Small Island Developing States promised to move to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030; countries across the globe vowed to plant more than 11 billion trees; and some of the world’s richest pledged to invest in carbon-neutral portfolios. Mr. Guterres stressed that “these steps are important - but they are not sufficient.”  

He said he will continue to encourage more action for climate solutions now that the Summit has concluded. Radical change will not happen overnight, he writes, and to “avoid the climate cliff”, we must gain momentum in responding to science-cutting emissions by 45 per cent by the year 2020, and live in a carbon-neutral world, come 2050.  

A follow up UN Climate conference in Santiago, Chile, set for early December, will be an opportunity to hold the private sector and local authorities’ accountable for commitments made at the General Assembly, Mr. Guterres said.  

At the current rate of global heating, we face an increase of “at least 3 degrees Celsius” in global temperature by the end of the century. “I will not be there, but my granddaughters will”, he said. “I refuse to be an accomplice in the destruction of their one and only home.”  

“We have a long way to go.” he cautioned. “But the movement has begun.” 

02 Oct

Peace icon Mahatma Gandhi’s message of ‘mutual understanding, equality’ reverberates on Day of Non-Violence

  • 02 October 2019 |

On Wednesday, the global community marks the International Day of Non-Violence, which this year coincided with the 150th anniversary of the birth of the global peace icon who led India to independence, Mahatma Gandhi.

“His vision continues to resonate across the world, including through the work of the United Nations for mutual understanding, equality, sustainable development, the empowerment of young people, and the peaceful resolution of disputes”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message commemorating the day.

“In today’s turbulent times”, he continued, “violence takes many forms: from the destructive impact of the climate emergency to the devastation caused by armed conflict; from the indignities of poverty to the injustice of human rights violations to the brutalizing effects of hate speech.”

Moreover, the UN chief pointed out that both on and off-line, “we hear loathsome rhetoric directed at minorities and anyone considered the ‘other’”. To address this growing challenge, the United Nations has launched two urgent initiatives.

The first is a global plan of action against hate speech and the other a plan for the benefit of Member States, to protection and secure religious sites.

“Last week, I issued a global call for a decade of action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), our roadmap away from violence and towards peace, prosperity and dignity on a healthy planet”, Mr. Guterres said.

He recalled that before his assassination in January 1948, after the bloody partition of India the previous year, Gandhi constantly highlighted “the gap between what we do, and what we are capable of doing”.

“On this International Day, I urge each and every one of us to do everything in our power to bridge this divide as we strive to build a better future for all”, concluded the UN Secretary-General.

Back in 2007, the General Assembly established the day, which is marked annually on 2 October, to "disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness” and reaffirm the desire "to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence".

The three main categories of non-violent action are protest and persuasion, including marches and vigils; non-cooperation; and non-violent intervention, such as blockades and occupations, according to the United Nation.

150-year pillar of peace 

"There's no better hero than anyone who says no to violence ", General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria told a commemorative event at UN Headquarters on Tuesday. 

And Gandhi’s message not only resounds on the international day, but always, as was illustrated just last week during the launch of a UN-issued commemorative stamp to honour the global leader on the 150th anniversary of his birth. 

“Gandhiji’s vision and philosophy are pillars of the work of the United Nations”, said the Secretary-General. “Part of his genius lay in his ability to see the interconnectedness and the unity between all things”.  

While his political achievements included using peace, love and integrity to lead the movement ending colonial rule in India, Mr.  Guterres outlined how Gandhi’s vision went “far beyond politics to encompass human rights and sustainable development”.

“Gandhi promoted non-violence not just as a philosophy and a political strategy, but as a means to achieve justice and change”, he said.  “Many of his ideas foreshadow the holistic thinking behind the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.  

The UN chief gave the example of his advocacy and action around the issue of sanitation for clean drinking water and hygienic facilities – when the issue was still “deeply taboo”, and stressed that Gandhi’s ideas drive the work of the UN for “equality, empowerment and global citizenship every day”.  

“Gandhi’s enduring legacy is his continued relevance to our thinking and action on a broad sweep of issues, from protecting the environment to promoting justice, from education to inequality.  His teaching remains fresh and thought-provoking, including his emphasis on the importance of facing up to the truth with courage”, Secretary-General Guterres concluded.



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