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28 Feb

Ensuring a credible and peaceful election is central to Guyana’s future development - UN Resident Coordinator

  • 28 February 2020 |

27 February 2020 - Guyana has a unique opportunity to establish a more prosperous and sustainable development path for all its citizens.

Ensuring a credible and peaceful election is central to the country’s future development. This is the time for all stakeholders to demonstrate commitment to democratic principles, processes and institutions and not lose sight of the fact that legitimate elections represent the voice and will of the people. 

I encourage all stakeholders to ensure an enabling environment for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Promoting a peaceful and calm atmosphere in respect of the rule of law is key for a credible poll. This includes respectful exchanges of partisan ideas without resorting to hateful and inflammatory speech through to the end of the electoral process. The dignified acceptance of the results by political parties will help to build confidence and trust in state institutions and create a foundation for cooperation beyond the election.

In this context, respect for human rights is an essential element for the holding of peaceful and inclusive elections. This means that all Guyanese - men, women, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTI community and other minorities - are able to exercise their full and equal right to participate in the electoral process without facing discrimination or other obstacles.

The UN System is committed to supporting Guyana in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The salient message of SDG 16 is that there can be no sustainable development without stable, secure and inclusive societies with respect for human rights, rule of law and effective governance.    

SDG 16 calls for further strengthening of institutions of governance, more inclusive and participatory processes as well as renewed commitment to end all forms of violence and insecurity, including gender-based violence.  

The UN will not observe the election as election observation is done exceptionally with a specific mandate from the Security Council or General Assembly and includes the deployment of a large team to systematically collect data on the electoral process over a period of time.  We are however closely monitoring political, security and human rights developments in the electoral context. 

In collaboration with other international partners, the United Nations stands ready to support all stakeholders in fostering an environment conducive to inclusive and peaceful elections. 

[ transcript of video message by Mikiko Tanaka, UN Resident Coordinator for Guyana]

 

 

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27 Feb

Make this the century of women’s equality: UN chief

  • 27 February 2020 |

The 21st century must be the century of women’s equality, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday evening, in a call to transform the world by ensuring equal participation for all. 

Speaking to faculty and students at The New School, a university in New York City, the UN chief declared himself a proud feminist and called for men everywhere to support women’s rights. 

“Just as slavery and colonialism were a stain on previous centuries, women’s inequality should shame us all in the 21st.  Because it is not only unacceptable; it is stupid”, he said. 

For the UN chief, gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls remains an overwhelming injustice across the globe. 

“From the ridiculing of women as hysterical or hormonal, to the routine judgement of women based on their looks; from the myths and taboos that surround women’s natural bodily functions, to mansplaining and victim-blaming – misogyny is everywhere”, he said. 

At the heart of the issue is power, as male-dominated power structures underpin everything from national economies, to political systems, to the corporate world and beyond.  But he pointed out that patriarchy also has an impact on men and boys, trapping them in rigid gender stereotypes, declaring that a systemic change is long overdue. 

“It is time to stop trying to change women, and start changing the systems that prevent them from achieving their potential.  Our power structures have evolved gradually over thousands of years. One further evolution is long overdue. The 21st century must be the century of women’s equality”, he said. 

Man-made problems, ‘human-led solutions’  


Dismantling gender inequality will transform the world, the UN chief stated, and is critical to solving intractable global challenges such as conflict and violence, and the climate crisis. 

It also will help close the digital divide, lead to fairer globalization, and increase political representation. 

“The opportunity of man-made problems – and I choose these words deliberately – is that they have human-led solutions”, he said.  

As the UN turns 75 this year, the global body is taking greater action to support women’s rights, he continued. 

Last month marked the start of a Decade of Action to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at building peaceful, prosperous and inclusive societies while also safeguarding the planet. 

The Decade of Action is aimed at transforming institutions and structures, broadening inclusion and driving sustainability. 

"Repealing laws that discriminate against women and girls; increasing protection against violence; closing the gap in girls’ education and digital technology; guaranteeing full access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights, and ending the gender pay gap are just some of the areas we are targeting", he said.

On a personal level, the Secretary-General pledged to deepen his commitment to highlighting and supporting gender equality over the remainder of his mandate. 

He will take steps at the global level, such as advocating for change among governments that have discriminatory laws on their books, and within the UN, by strengthening work on the links between violence against women and international peace and security.  

‘Transform and redistribute power’ 


“Gender equality is a question of power; power that has been jealously guarded by men for millennia.  It is about an abuse of power that is damaging our communities, our economies, our environment, our relationships and our health", said Mr. Guterres. 

“We must urgently transform and redistribute power, if we are to safeguard our future and our planet. That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality. And that is why I am a proud feminist”. 

Source: UN News

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24 Feb

With human rights under attack, UN chief unveils blueprint for positive change

  • 24 February 2020 |

People’s basic human rights – their birth-right – are “under assault”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, as he launched a Call to Action aimed at boosting equality and reducing suffering everywhere. 

People’s basic human rights – their birth-right – are “under assault”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, as he launched a Call to Action aimed at boosting equality and reducing suffering everywhere.

“Human rights are our ultimate tool to help societies grow in freedom,” he told Member States on the opening day of the UN Human Rights Council’s 43rd session in Geneva.

“To ensure equality for women and girls. To advance sustainable development. To prevent conflict, reduce human suffering and build a just and equitable world.

In his speech to the top UN right body, in which he detailed a seven-point blueprint for positive change, Mr. Guterres issued an appeal for solidarity.

“People across the world want to know we are on their side,” he said.

“Whether robbed of their dignity by war, repression of poverty, or simply dreaming of a better future, they rely on their irreducible rights – and they look to us to help uphold them.”

Echoing the call for change, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that although threats to human rights, development and peace were on the rise, so were the practical, actionable solutions to these issues.

In his pledge to utilize the full weight of his office and the UN family to fulfil the Call to Action, Mr. Guterres highlighted the enduring value of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This cornerstone of understanding between UN Member States was proclaimed in 1948, out of the ashes of the Second World War – and a desire to prevent such suffering from ever happening again.

Ms. Bachelet stressed that the human rights agenda offers guidance to resolve grievances and conflicts, improve lives, and create greater justice, more peace and more sustainable development.

“I ask you to harness these solutions, and the power of cooperative action, to ensure a more equitable and sustainable world – for all of us; for today's youth; and for tomorrow,” she told Member States.

 

Sovereignty ‘no defence for rights violations’ Highlighting the document’s proclamation that human rights are ‘humanity’s highest aspiration’, Mr. guterres insisted that all States had a responsibility to protect and promote people’s “dignity and worth”.

National sovereignty “cannot be a pretext for violating human rights”, Mr. Guterres insisted, while also maintaining that greater equality “strengthens States and societies, thereby reinforcing sovereignty”.

Positive change is possible, the UN chief insisted, recalling his own Experience living under dictatorship in Portugal, which finally gave way to a democratic movement when he was 24 years old.

Other “human rights struggles and successes inspired us”, the UN chief said, noting how these had secured the end of apartheid in South Africa and colonial rule.

One billion people have also been lifted out of poverty in a generation, he continued, and there have also been major advances in improving access to drinking water, along with big declines in child mortality.

Despite this, in the 75 years that the UN has strived for peace, security and development, myriad challenges persist, Mr. Guterres explained.

People bombed and starved


Chief among these challenges are several protracted, unresolved conflicts that have left families trapped in war-torn enclaves, “starved and bombed in clear violation of international law”, he said.

Human trafficking also affects “every region of the world”, the UN chief noted, leaving women and girls “enslaved, exploited and abused”, unable to realise their potential.

Journalists and civil society are also under threat, with activists jailed, religious groups and minorities – including indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and the LGBTI community – persecuted under “overly broad definitions of national security”.

Megatrends responsible for growing anxiety


Global hunger is also increasing, Mr. Guterres said, before highlighting a series of 21st century issues linked to huge problems that affect all countries: the climate crisis, population growth, urbanization and the dark underbelly of technological progress.

“People are being left behind. Fears are growing. Divisions are widening,” he said. “Some leaders are exploiting anxieties to broaden those gaps to breaking point.”

Introducing his Call to Action blueprint, Mr. Guterres explained that its aim was to “transform the ambitions of the Universal Declaration into real-world change on the ground”.

Sustainable development at core of rights blueprint


Heading the seven-point protocol is a call to put human rights at the core of sustainable development – a reference to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed to by the international community in 2015 under the Agenda 2030 banner.

 “The vast majority of the goals and targets correspond to legally binding human rights commitments made by every Member State,” Mr. Guterres said.

“When we help lift people out of abject poverty – when we ensure education for all, notably girls – when we guarantee universal healthcare…we are enabling people to claim their rights and upholding the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda to leave nobody behind.”

Violence against women must end


Among the other priorities, the UN Secretary-General highlighted that much more needs to be done to prevent violence against women.

“Violence against women is the world’s most pervasive human rights abuse,” he said, in a call to “every country” to support policies that promote gender equality, repeal discriminatory laws…ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights, and strive for women’s equal representation.

Underscoring the need for sustainable growth, President of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande also underlined the importance of gender equality, calling for its streamlining in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“When it comes to human rights, there are no exceptions to those whom are protected under the Universal Declaration,” he continued, stressing that it is therefore important to strengthen partnerships to ensure that human rights can be upheld for all, and “we rid the world of abuse, exploitation, marginalization, racism, torture and all exclusion.”

Climate crisis is biggest threat

Turning to 21st century challenges, Mr. Guterres reiterated that the climate crisis was “the biggest threat to our survival”.

It has already threatened human rights around the world and would continue to do so in future, he noted, before underscoring people’s right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable planet that the Call to Action is designed to achieve.

Young people will be empowered to participate in this process, the UN chief insisted, so that they do “not simply speak, but to participate and shape decisions that will affect their future”.

Online risks mar potential for progress


Finally, on the challenges posed to human rights by new technology, Mr. Guterres explained that progress in this field “are too often used to violate rights and privacy through surveillance, repression and online harassment and hate”.

Facial recognition and robotics should never be used to deepen inequality, he insisted, while also reiterating his call for online-ready human rights norms such as the Internet Governance Forum.

At the same time, the UN chief also repeated his call for a global ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems.

source : UN News

 

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19 Feb

‘Not a single country’ does enough to help children flourish, say health experts

  • 19 February 2020 |

The world’s survival depends on children being able to flourish, but no country is doing enough to give them a sustainable future, dozens of highly respected international health experts said on Wednesday. 

In a UN-backed report assessing the capacity of 180 countries to ensure that their youngsters can survive and thrive, the authors highlight numerous “immediate” threats to their health, environment and opportunities.

These include runaway greenhouse gas emissions, predatory advertising and deepening inequality in and among countries.

“No country in the world is currently providing the conditions we need to support every child to grow up and have a healthy future,” said Anthony Costello, Professor of Global Health and Sustainability at University College London, one of the lead authors of the report, commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Lancet medical journal.

“Especially, they’re under immediate threat from climate change and from commercial marketing, which has grown hugely in the last decade,” Professor Costello – former ;WHO Director of Mother, Child and Adolescent health – told journalists.

Growing inequality “in all countries” is also responsible for undermining children’s prospects, Professor Costello maintained.

This is the case even in wealthy industrialized nations like the United Kingdom, which had “very serious issues” with child poverty and inequality.

“The poorest countries have a long way to go to let their children be healthy, but the wealthy countries are threatening the future of all children through these excessive carbon emissions,” he said.

“We agree with Greta Thunberg when she says our world is on fire.”

250 million children under five at risk


An estimated 250 million children under five in low and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their development potential, said former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Commission, Helen Clark.

“But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures,” she stressed.

Data for the report – "A Future For The World’s Children" – was gathered according to criteria that included survival and death rates, educational achievement and nutrition.

National emissions forecasts for 2030 and levels of inequality were also taken into account for the global index:

 

Norway tops ‘wellbeing’ criteria – but trails on emissions

  • Norway leads the table for survival, health, education and nutrition rates - followed by the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands; Central African Republic, Chad and Somalia come bottom.
  • However, when taking into account per capita CO2 emissions, these top countries trail behind, with Norway 156th, the Republic of Korea 166th and the Netherlands 160th.
  • Each of the three emits 210 per cent more CO2 per capita than their 2030 target, the data shows, while the U.S, Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the 10 worst emitters.
  • The lowest emitters are Burundi, Chad and Somalia.
  • According to the report, the only countries on track to beat CO2 emission per capita targets by 2030, while also performing fairly – within the top 70 – on child flourishing measures are: Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Viet Nam.

Getting tough on harmful advertising


Citing a tenfold rise in child obesity since 1975 – from 11 to 175 million children –Professor Costello& maintained that “harmful advertising” encouraged children to buy things that affected their development and health, such as sugary snacks and drinks, fast food, alcohol and cigarettes.

And citing a huge expansion of vaping adverts, he added that in Brazil, China, India and Nigeria,& two-thirds of five and six-year-olds could identify at least one cigarette brand logo.

“We know that advertising preys on children, that in some countries they’re seeing 30,000 TV adverts a year,” he insisted. “In America (the U.S.) for example, a lot of children are seeing over four alcohol adverts a day.”

‘Surveillance capitalism’ the greatest fear


Despite these threats, the biggest fear& among health professionals now is the trend for“surveillance capitalism” that fuels social media advertising, along with “algorithmic targeting”, Professor Costello said.

“I’ve been rather horrified to learn that many of the games that are put out to young children are actually made by advertising companies who then will sell on all the data of those children without permission to major (online) companies,” he said.

Social media should send positive messages


Among the report’s recommendations is the addition of a new optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to help countries manage this practice, as well as the need to harness social media to share positive health messages too.

“Children have the right not to be bombarded every day on their phones with advertisements or to have their data stolen,” Professor Costello said.

Among its other recommendations, the report calls for Governments and communities to put children at the centre of investment in primary healthcare, education and universal healthcare, in line with the 17 universally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But even more important than this is meeting carbon emission targets to reduce global temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Professor Costello insisted.

“There’s an irrefutable ethical and economic case to invest in children throughout the lifespan and across generations and we should be doing far more to get that across to politicians, because countries that invest in their children are the most successful longer-term,” he added.

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12 Feb

PAHO prepares 8 Caribbean countries for laboratory diagnosis of new coronavirus

  • 12 February 2020 |

Washington D.C., 12 February 2020 (PAHO) – Virology experts from the Pan American Health Organization have travelled to the Caribbean region to ensure that laboratory specialists are trained and equipped to identify an respond to potential imported cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Providing countries with the reagents and knowledge needed to perform early diagnosis is key for outbreak response and protecting our populations.”

Training in the Caribbean began in Suriname, followed by Barbados and Haiti, and will continue later this week in Jamaica, Belize and Dominica. Next week, PAHO experts will travel to Bahamas and Guyana to complete this initiative in the sub-region. In addition to this, on 10 February the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago informed that its laboratory is ready to respond to the new coronavirus.

“As one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, the Caribbean must prepare to detect and respond quickly to imported cases of COVID-19” said Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and Eastern Caribbean Countries. “Providing countries with the reagents and knowledge needed to perform early diagnosis is key for outbreak response and protecting our populations.”

During the training, laboratories, which include both National Influenza Centers and Flu national labs, are provided with the diagnostic materials required to test for COVID-19. This includes primers, probes and positive controls. Participants are then trained in the main tests and protocols available and carry out a practical exercise of molecular detection.

Coronavirus preparation in Latin America and the Caribbean


The laboratory training currently underway in the Caribbean forms part of an overall initiative to ensure that 29 laboratories are ready to detect COVID-19 in the Region by 21 February 2020, with the US CDC in Atlanta serving as the regional reference laboratory.

“We know that a country’s health system is most likely to be the first point of entry for a suspected case of new coronavirus,” said Sylvain Aldighieri, Deputy Director of the Health Emergencies Department at PAHO. “The training being carried out by PAHO in influenza laboratories in the Region is the most effective way to equip countries with the ability to detect, monitor and respond to cases in a timely manner.”

 Laboratory training in the Region


As well as laboratories in the Caribbean, PAHO has also led training in Brazil, in collaboration with Fiocruz and the Ministry of Health, for 9 countries in South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay), as well as in Venezuela. This week, training will also be hosted by the Ministry of Health of Mexico for 6 countries in Central America (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), as well as in the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

Original story from : PAHO News

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10 Feb

With science ‘held back by a gender gap’, Guterres calls for more empowerment for women and girls

  • 10 February 2020 |

 Fewer than 30 per cent of the world’s scientific researchers are women: that’s just one of the statistics showing how many challenges remain for women and girls in the scientific field, as the world marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, on Tuesday.

Pledging to end the gender imbalance in science, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his  message for the Day that “dismantling gender stereotypes” was an essential step.

He highlighted the fact that “girls and boys perform equally well in science and mathematics, but only a fraction of female students in higher education choose to study sciences” and called for more supportive career development for women scientists and researchers.

Science can bring life-changing benefits


In her statement issued to mark the Day, UN Women’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, reinforced that message, specifying that “science and innovation can bring life-changing benefits, especially for those who are furthest behind – such as women and girls living in remote areas, the elderly and people with disabilities”.

Highlighting also the importance of science for decent work and jobs of the future, including in the green economy – essential to tackle the climate crisis - Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that there was a clear need to “break gender stereotypes that link science to masculinity”.

Paid less, published less


 According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are published less, paid less for their research and do not advance as far as men in their careers.

UNESCO data from 2014-2016 shows that globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in information and communications technology (ICT), where women represent only three per cent, and natural science, mathematics and statistics, where the figure is five per cent.

“If we are to be able to address the enormous challenges of the 21st Century – from climate change to technological disruption - we will need to rely on science and the mobilization of all our resources”,  ..UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay.

“It is for this reason that the world must not be deprived of the potential, the intelligence, or the creativity of the thousands of women who are victims of deep-seated inequality and prejudice.”

The International Day was established in 2015, following the adoption of a General Assembly resolution, signalling the international community’s interest in achieving equality and gender-parity in science for sustainable development, and recognizing that full access and participation in STEM subjects is imperative for the empowerment of women and girls.

Window of opportunity


 Marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a roadmap for the rights of women and girls, 2020 offers a fresh opportunity for progress towards gender parity.

genderbias

The UN Secretary-General said the anniversary was a chance to “bring new urgency to promoting women’s and girls’ access to science education, training and jobs”.

The UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign aims to accelerate gender equality actions and mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

With six diverse Action Coalitions to tackle the unfinished business of gender equality, one focus of the campaign is on “Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality”, which aims to “catalyse action for game-changing approaches that provide new opportunities to women and girls, while addressing barriers to connectivity, digital inclusion and digital equality”.

UN Women’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka added that “Generation Equality was also a chance to ensure that the business community, including those in the STEM sectors, has a stake in and a responsibility for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community”.

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10 Feb

With science ‘held back by a gender gap’, Guterres calls for more empowerment for women and girls

  • 10 February 2020 |

 Fewer than 30 per cent of the world’s scientific researchers are women: that’s just one of the statistics showing how many challenges remain for women and girls in the scientific field, as the world marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, on Tuesday.

Pledging to end the gender imbalance in science, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his  message for the Day that “dismantling gender stereotypes” was an essential step.

He highlighted the fact that “girls and boys perform equally well in science and mathematics, but only a fraction of female students in higher education choose to study sciences” and called for more supportive career development for women scientists and researchers.

Science can bring life-changing benefits


In her statement issued to mark the Day, UN Women’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, reinforced that message, specifying that “science and innovation can bring life-changing benefits, especially for those who are furthest behind – such as women and girls living in remote areas, the elderly and people with disabilities”.

Highlighting also the importance of science for decent work and jobs of the future, including in the green economy – essential to tackle the climate crisis - Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that there was a clear need to “break gender stereotypes that link science to masculinity”.

Paid less, published less


 According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are published less, paid less for their research and do not advance as far as men in their careers.

UNESCO data from 2014-2016 shows that globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in information and communications technology (ICT), where women represent only three per cent, and natural science, mathematics and statistics, where the figure is five per cent.

“If we are to be able to address the enormous challenges of the 21st Century – from climate change to technological disruption - we will need to rely on science and the mobilization of all our resources”,  ..UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay.

“It is for this reason that the world must not be deprived of the potential, the intelligence, or the creativity of the thousands of women who are victims of deep-seated inequality and prejudice.”

The International Day was established in 2015, following the adoption of a General Assembly resolution, signalling the international community’s interest in achieving equality and gender-parity in science for sustainable development, and recognizing that full access and participation in STEM subjects is imperative for the empowerment of women and girls.

Window of opportunity


 Marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a roadmap for the rights of women and girls, 2020 offers a fresh opportunity for progress towards gender parity.

genderbias

The UN Secretary-General said the anniversary was a chance to “bring new urgency to promoting women’s and girls’ access to science education, training and jobs”.

The UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign aims to accelerate gender equality actions and mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

With six diverse Action Coalitions to tackle the unfinished business of gender equality, one focus of the campaign is on “Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality”, which aims to “catalyse action for game-changing approaches that provide new opportunities to women and girls, while addressing barriers to connectivity, digital inclusion and digital equality”.

UN Women’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka added that “Generation Equality was also a chance to ensure that the business community, including those in the STEM sectors, has a stake in and a responsibility for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community”.

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09 Feb

Cities must be ‘at the heart’ of sustainable development - World Urban Forum

  • 09 February 2020 |

 

 

The official opening of the 10th Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF) took place in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, with UN chief António Guterres telling delegates that cities and towns were crucial to deliver sustainable development across the globe during the next decade. 

The Forum was officially opened by His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Executive Council, and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court ,accompanied by the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, in a colourful, high tech ceremony.  

In his video message, the UN Secretary-General thanked Abu Dhabi for hosting this first ever World Urban Forum in the Arab Region.  

He noted that urbanization is one of the megatrends of our times and steering it well, will help address global challenges such as climate change.   

“As we embark on a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s cities, towns and communities will be at the heart of this work”, said the UN chief.  

Make sustainable urbanization a reality


“The United Nations counts on local and national leaders, businesses, civil society and other partners to help provide solutions to global threats, including the climate emergency” Mr. Guterres added, urging participants to make sustainable urbanization a reality and ensure that no one and no place is left behind. 

Ms. Sharif said the Forum had truly come of age as the world’s premier gathering of thinkers and doers for sustainable urbanization, coinciding this year with the UN’s 75th anniversary. 

 The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, and the Chairman of the Department of Municipalities and Transport representing the Local Organising Committee of WUF10, Falah Al Ahbabi, were among the dignitaries at Sunday’s ceremony. 

Thanking the President of Afghanistan and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji for their continued support of UN-Habitat, Ms. Sharif said it was their sense of urgency, their ability to translate policy into practice and to regard urbanization in holistic terms that would ensure it could be transformed into opportunities for sustainable development. 

“Urgent, systematic and global action is required”, said President Ghani. “We have the tools and repertoire of techniques to solve the problem”, he added, noting that the world needed a State-level change of culture, as well as a fresh approach to the culture of global organizations.   

Old models are untenable


Mr. Bainimarama said the Forum offered the opportunity to discuss the role of cities in averting crises by making urban living synonymous with sustainability. 

 He said living standards in cities had grown remarkably, but that progress has come at the cost of a warming world.  

 “The old model of development is untenable; if we continue to urbanise on carbon-intensive industries, the world’s cities will crumble into hotbeds of inequality and extreme vulnerability”, he warned.  

 H.E. Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi thanked UN-Habitat for its support, guidance and vision in making the Forum in Abu Dhabi a reality. 

 “It is a privilege to see the world’s greatest minds in sustainability come together from more than 160 countries to challenge the conventional ways, to tackle crucial issues and discover new insights on urbanization”, he said. “With more than 18,000 registered participants and 580 speakers and 133 exhibitors, we have strengthened our capacity and remain united in our vision to create a better world for the next generation.” 

Concrete action essential


Speakers supported the UN-Habitat chief’s call for the Forum to come up with concrete action. 

“What I hope to see...is a set of declared actions. Commitments that we will make on a voluntary basis as individuals, communities, cities and countries; and even at local, regional and global levels that help mark this Decade of Action to accomplish the SDGs by 2030,” she said.

Source: UN News

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03 Feb

Coronavirus emergency: here's what we know so far

  • 03 February 2020 |

A new strain of coronavirus (officially named 2019-nCoV), which has caused respiratory diseases in China, and spread to at least 23 other countries, has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization (WHO). Here are the basic facts you need to know about the virus (figures correct as of February 3 2020).

At least 361 people have died from the novel coronavirus, which first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. More than 17,200 cases have been confirmed in China, and experts say they expect the numbers to rise in the coming weeks.

Although the vast majority of cases have been in China, the virus, which can cause pneumonia, is worrying global health authorities. Some 151 cases have been confirmed in 23 countries, and the first death outside of China was recorded in the Philippines. Most of those affected by the virus had travelled from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

This is only the fifth time that the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency of international concern.

What is a public health emergency of international concern?


A public health emergency of international concern is declared by the WHO in cases of “an extraordinary event” which constitutes “a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease” and potentially requires a coordinated international response”. 

This definition implies a situation that is “serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action”.

Speaking at a meeting of the WHO Executive Board on Monday, the agency’s chief, Tedros Gebreyesus, explained that the decision to announce a PHEIC was made because of signs of human-to-human transmission outside China, and WHO’s concern regarding what might happen if the virus were to spread in a country with a weaker health system.

International solidarity, preparedness, not panic


Mr. Ghebreyesus also noted the importance of containing the virus in China: “if we invest in fighting at the source, then the spread to other countries is minimal and also slow. If it’s minimal and slow, what is going outside can also be controlled easily. It can get even worse. But if we give it our best, the outcome could be even better”.

Several countries have already put travel restrictions in place, but Mr. Ghebreyesus pointed out that WHO is not recommending measures that "unnecessarily interfere with travel and commerce”. 

The WHO chief called on all countries to implement decisions that are “evidence-based and consistent”, support nations with weaker health care systems, accelerate the development of effective vaccines, and “invest in preparedness, not panic”. 

With the virus now present in some 23 countries, international solidarity is of utmost importance, said Mr. Tedros, because “we are all in this together, and we can only stop it together”.

What is Coronavirus?

 

Coronaviruses consist of a core of genetic material, enclosed within an envelope of protein spikes, which resembles a crown (or, in Latin, corona). They are a large group of viruses that cause respiratory diseases and, sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Diseases can range from the common cold to pneumonia, which can be fatal. In most people symptoms are mild, but some types can cause severe disease.

These include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), first discovered in China in 2003, or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012. MERS caused more than 2,400 cases and 850 deaths, and more than 800 people were killed by SARS.

It has been estimated that 20 per cent of patients infected with the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV have severe symptoms. People who have other health problems (such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease) are particularly vulnerable.

How deadly is novel coronavirus?


As of Monday February 3, 361 people had died from novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This represents about 2 per cent of cases. By comparison, around 25 per cent of MERS cases resulted in the death of the patient.

However, at this stage it is still too early to determine how deadly the virus is: thousands of patients are being tested, with around 2,110 in a serious condition, and it is not yet known how these cases will evolve.

Where does the virus come from?The first cases of novel coronavirus occurred in a group of people with pneumonia, linked to a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, where many fish, reptiles, bats and other live and dead animals were traded. The disease then spread from those who were sick, to family members and healthcare workers.

Coronaviruses circulate in a range of animals and can sometimes make the jump from animals to humans, via process known as a “spillover”, which can occur due to a mutation in the virus, or increased contact between animals and humans.

It is not yet known how novel coronavirus was first transmitted to humans: in the case of MERS, it is known that people caught the virus via direct or indirect contact with infected camels, and SARS originated in civet cats.

Is the virus transmitted from person to person?


The transmission of the virus from person to person has occurred mainly in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, but also in other parts of China and outside the country.

The exact way that the disease is transmitted is yet to be determined but, in general, respiratory diseases are spread via drops of fluids when someone coughs or sneezes, or by touching a surface infected with the virus.

According to Chinese scientists, people who get the virus are contagious even before they show symptoms. The incubation period – the period from when the infection occurs until symptoms develop – is between 1 and 14 days.

How fast is the virus spreading?


A large number of new cases are being reported on a daily basis (in the 24 hours period between February 1 and February 2, for example, over 2,590 new cases were confirmed in China), but this is not surprising, as more and more controls are being put in place to detect and confirm infections.

The total number of cases is expected to be much greater in the coming weeks.

What can I do to protect myself?

There is no vaccine currently available to treat novel coronavirus, but WHO is recommending several precautionary and hygienic measures. For example:
• Avoid direct contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections,
• Wash your hands frequently, especially after direct contact with sick people or their surroundings,
• Avoid direct contact with farm animals or wild animals, living or dead,
• People with symptoms of a severe respiratory infection should try to keep their distance from other people, and cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.

Detailed information on novel coronavirus, including daily situation reports, can be found on the WHO website.

Source: UN News

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31 Jan

IOM prepared to support on mobility aspects of Coronavirus outbreak

  • 31 January 2020 |

As concerns mount about the number of reported infections from a new coronavirus and its spread to at least 18 countries, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) stands ready to offer technical support to governments, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), to enable people to travel in a healthy manner and help enact public health measures with minimum impact on society and the economy.

“As new cases continue to be reported daily, much remains to be understood about this virus, but what is certain is that human mobility is a reality, and we have to find ways within that reality to keep everyone safe and healthy, while limiting the social or economic disruption,” said Jacqueline Weekers, Director of IOM’s Migration Health Division.

Global health officials gathered at the WHO in Geneva yesterday determined that the situation has now become a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), highlighting the need for "a coordinated international response". The Committee did “not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available”.

Based on international health regulations (IHR), although international travel restrictions may intuitively seem like the right thing to do, this is not something that is usually recommended given the social disruption that such restrictions tend to cause. IOM and WHO therefore recommend focusing more on preparedness and response measures.

“IOM has expertise in helping governments implement the necessary preparedness and response measures, including cross-border coordination, migrant outreach and education, and engagement of communities on the move, to break chains of transmission,” Weekers noted. “IOM has developed community networks with migrants and mobile populations all over the world that can be leveraged for risk communication activities, a key step in helping families be informed and stay healthy.”

Among various preparedness and response activities, IOM and partners have been supporting governments on questions of health and migration by providing trainings, developing guidance on best practices, improving the hygiene standards of certain facilities, and supporting the drafting of protocols at airports, border crossings and seaports.

For example, earlier this month, IOM, in partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) supported the Senegalese Government in carrying out a simulation exercise to strengthen the notification and management systems of the Dakar airport in case of a major public health emergency.

In addition to offering support and guidance, IOM reiterates the need for inclusive approaches and calls on countries to ensure that migrants and other non-nationals are taken into account in public health planning and messages.

In line with international health principles, WHO’s Emergency Committee also cautioned against actions that promote stigma or discrimination.

“Information is key, and this means continuing to share timely and accurate information, based on sound public health principles, is critical,” stressed Dr. Nenette Motus, IOM’s Regional Director for Asia-Pacific. “It is important that we work together to prevent the undue stigmatization of international travelers.”

Source: IOM News

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