UN Photo

11 October is observed as the International Day of the Girl Child. According to a UN estimate, there are more than 1.1 billion girls under age 18 globally. These girls are poised to become the largest generation of female leaders, entrepreneurs, and change-makers the world has ever seen. The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl-Child is “My Voice, Our Future.” Girls are not just victims; they are also agents of change, as many girls in different parts of the world are proving today.

 As educators, parents, and society, we must continue to empower our girl-child to have confidence in themselves, to believe that they can achieve their dreams if they put minds to it. As part of an event leading up to the International Day of the Girl, SNDatUN co-sponsored the second day of the 11 Days of Action Twitter campaign organized by the International Day of the Girl Summit to amplify young women’s voices worldwide on girls’ issues. Our Twitter chat, which too took place on 2 October, focused on keeping girls safe and the power of educational equity. We believe that improved education help girls achieve economic parity and counter gender-based violence by teaching all children.


UN Photo
  • Worldwide, nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15–19 years is neither employed nor in education or training compared to 1 in 10 boys of the same age. By 2021 around 435 million women and girls will be living on less than $1.90 a day — including 47 million pushed into poverty as a result of COVID-19.
  • 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence. Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has INTENSIFIED.
  • At least 60% of countries still discriminate daughters’ rights to inherit land and non-land assets in either law or practice. (From UN Women)

Read more:

International Day of the Girl Child: https://bit.ly/3eiOQ5d

19 Days Activism Kit (November 1-19) for Prevention of Abuse and Violence Against Children and Youths:  https://bit.ly/35V7sEK


Extreme poverty is a violation of human rights. It strips an individual of his or her God-given human dignity. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity.” Persons living in poverty experience many interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that prevent them from realizing their rights and perpetuate their poverty. Some of the apparent deprivations suffered by people living in poverty are; dangerous work conditions, unsafe housing, lack of nutritious food, unequal access to justice, lack of political power, limited access to health care, etc.

On 22 December 1992, the UN General Assembly, in resolution 47/196, declared 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The theme for this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty addresses the “challenge of achieving social and environmental justice for all.” The growing recognition of the multi-dimensionality of poverty means that these two issues cannot be separated. Social justice cannot be fully realized without aggressively fixing environmental injustices at the same time. Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, also stressed this fact that: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time, protecting nature.” (LS #139) Evidence has shown that extreme weather events resulting from climate change have more devastating impacts on people living in poverty.

Poverty and other forms of injustice also breed unrest and violence. The former President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama, hinted at this in his formal address to the UN General Assembly in September 2016, as he reminded world leaders that “a world where 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the bottom 99% will never be stable.” As coronavirus continues to ravage many communities worldwide, it has also exposed the economic and social inequities in many countries. Extreme poverty poses a threat to the social and political stability of any society. Governments must, therefore, focus on implementing social programmes to address injustices and alleviate poverty rather than forcefully or, in some cases, violently clamping down on protesting youth, as was the recent experience in Nigeria and other countries.  

Read more:

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: https://bit.ly/3edbsUE

Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston: https://bit.ly/2TKx3dV


Achieving women’s rights and gender equality is among the top priorities of the United Nations.  The 75th session of the UN General Assembly convened a high-level meeting on 1 October to mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (also known as Beijing Women’s Conference), and the adoption of the  Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with the theme, ‘Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” The Beijing conference, which drew women from across the globe, was a landmark event in the quest for gender equity and women’s rights.

In his opening remarks during the high-level meeting on 1 October, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, noted that though progress such as a reduction in maternal mortality by nearly 40% and more girls in school than ever before in history have been made, more needs to be done. He highlighted some of the issues still being faced by women and girls globally. These include:

  • Twelve million girls are married off before their 18th birthday every year.
  • High prevalence of femicide in some parts of the world; for example, in 2017, an average of 137 women around the world were killed by a member of their own family every day.
  • The exclusion of women from peace negotiations, climate talks, and decision-making roles of all kinds, at local, national and international levels.
  • Women on the average, have just 75 percent of the legal rights of men on a global level.
  • The World Bank estimates that it could take 150 years to achieve gender parity in lifetime earned income. And that closing that gap would generate $172 trillion in human capital wealth. That is what we are losing.

Mr. Guterres added that under his leadership, the UN has achieved gender parity in top positions of the organization.

Read more: High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women: https://bit.ly/3mInTLl


Sr. Josephine Tor, SNDdeN

By Sr. Josephine Tor, SNDdeN; Nigeria, Teacher: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global economy and altered all aspects of our lives. The education of about half a billion children around the world has been impacted. According to a UNICEF report in August 2020, at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren (463 million) were unable to access remote learning at the peak of the COVID-19 schools’ lockdown. A vast majority of these children were from low-income countries and families. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child affirms all children and young people’s right to education. However, this right has not always been easily accessible to children from low-income families in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

A deserted Notre Dame School, Enugu, Nigeria

Schools in Nigeria were shut down in March to limit the spread of the COVID-19. Though many states across the country adopted broadcast learning for children in public schools, children in rural areas where many learners are located have neither the electricity nor the digital technology to benefit from this form of learning. The prolonged closure of schools has exacerbated the existing inequity in educational opportunities between children from well-off and low-income families, especially those living in rural areas. Inequity in access to quality education in Nigeria predates the coronavirus pandemic. Because public schools in the country are poorly funded, parents who have the financial means send their children to private schools to receive a better education. During the coronavirus school closure, children from wealthy families continued to learn from their homes because they can access digital technology. While many children from low-income families spent most of their time supporting their families in the fields or at home running chores. Sadly, some of the girls may have been forced into marriage and will not be able to return school again.

An empty classroom

I am feel deeply concerned about the impacts of the disruption in the education of millions of children in my country and entire Africa. Some children may not return to school this academic year without support. As a Congregation that is committed to the education of children, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur will continue to provide quality education for children everywhere, especially those living in poverty. We are working hard to ensure that children in our schools can safely return to classes as schools reopen soon. We already have plans for a catch-up and accelerated programs to help children who have missed out so much on learning during this long period. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the Nigerian government to provide quality and free primary and secondary education for every child. The coronavirus pandemic has forever changed the way we do things, including learning. Access to technology must no longer be considered a luxury but necessary tool for schools and students


Human activities are destroying nature at a rate much faster than it can replenish itself. A report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warns that; “over one million species are at risk of extinction, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded, and 66 percent of oceans, 50 percent of coral reefs, and 85 percent of wetlands have been significantly and negatively altered by human activity.” Biodiversity is essential for human survival. It provides us with food, clean water, medicines, and protection from extreme events. “We did not inherit the planet from our ancestors; we only borrowed it from our children.” We all therefore, have a moral obligation to protect our it. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted how our ecosystems and human health are innately connected.  

Seventy-one world leaders have signed the Leaders Pledge for Nature to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. The UN Biodiversity Summit convened by the President of the General Assembly on 30 September 2020 highlighted the crisis facing humanity, from the degradation of biodiversity and the urgent need to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development. The Summit also provided heads of state and government and other leaders the opportunity to raise ambition to develop the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which will be adopted at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021. The conference, which was initially scheduled to take place in October 2020, in Kunming, China, has been rescheduled for 17-30 May 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more:

Convention on Biological Diversity: https://bit.ly/3jj0uie

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: https://bit.ly/3n1CiTX


All 193 Member States of the UN unanimously adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on 25 September 2015. The Global Agenda for Sustainable Development is a plan of action to end poverty and hunger in all forms; to ensure dignity and equality, to protect our planet’s natural resources and climate for the future generation, to ensure prosperous and fulfilling lives in harmony and nature, and to foster peace, just and inclusive societies. 

With just ten years to 2030, achieving the SDGs is now a race against time for many countries. How would you rate your country’s performance on each of the 17 Goals? And as a citizen/educator, how would you rate your knowledge of the SDGs? Our leaders pledged in 2015 to implement these goals in their different countries by 2030. As citizens, we are responsible for holding them accountable to their pledge to the global community to achieve the SDGs by 2030?

The UN Secretary-General has declared 2020-2030 as a ‘decade of action.’ To save our people and the planet, governments, in partnership with all stakeholders, must commit to achieving the SDGs by 2030. The ongoing global pandemic has amplified the urgency.

The SDGs were very much in the spotlight during the 75th GA. The  Sustainable Development media zone hosted series of conversations on current burning issues, including the impact of COVID-19, the development and availability of a vaccine, virus misinformation, myths, gender equality, and the urgent need to protect the world’s diminishing biodiversity.

Learn more:

UN SDGs media zone: https://bit.ly/33k4Dgo

Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform: https://bit.ly/2GjjVJu


The 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened on 15 September. The UNGA, which brings heads of state and governments from around the world to the UN HQ, took an unprecedented virtual form this year due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Leaders were not present in person at the sessions to deliver their speeches. Instead, they were each invited to send the pre-recorded video of the speech, which was broadcast “as live” after being formally introduced by a New York-based representative, who was physically present in the GA Hall.

A high-level event to commemorate the UN’s 75th anniversary was convened by the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on 21 September. The theme was, “The Future We Want; the UN We Need.” The event was aimed to generate renewed support for multilateralism; an issue all agrees is crucially needed to deal with the growing threat from climate change, the global pandemic, the threat from nuclear proliferation, and other global problems. In his opening remarks at the event, Mr. Guterres reminded Member States that multilateralism is not an option for the UN, but a necessity. He emphasized that no other international body gives people hope for a better world than the UN, as he affirmed the organization’s continued efforts to pursue its principal objectives – peace and security, development, and human rights.

Pope Francis also addressed the 75th session of the UNGA on 25 September via a video message. This was exactly five years (2015) since the Pope was at the HQ to address world leaders on the occasion of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.  In his message to the 75th UNGA, the Pope urged world leaders to rethink of the future of our Common Home in light of the current global crisis. He also called for the reforms of the UN, for strengthened multilateralism, cooperation, and respect for human dignity. Read the full message here

The 75th UNGA was undoubtedly different in several ways. Something that was missed was the informal diplomacy among leaders, which happens on the margins of the GA. On the other hand, New York City residents did not miss the usual traffic jam often caused by the endless presidential motorcade, especially around the First and Second Avenues.

Learn more:

Five things you need to know about the 75th UNGA: https://bit.ly/3cFBJdD

Video – Pope Francis to the UNGA: https://bit.ly/3j8sYes

Video – Leaders Event for Nature and People: https://bit.ly/2HGLTzg


6Designated by the United Nations, 30 July is observed as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This day is intended to raise awareness and educate people on the evil of human trafficking. Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes in the history of humanity. It strips victims of their inherent human dignity and human rights. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime describes human trafficking as the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud, or deception to exploit them. The critical role that first responders play in times of crisis is being acknowledged and appreciated globally in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN also chose to highlight the role of first responders such as social workers, law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals, NGO staff, and many others, in the fight against human trafficking as the theme for the 2020 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The coronavirus pandemic, with the resulting economic and social impacts, has exacerbated incidences of human trafficking around the world.

On another note, the US Department of State on 25th June launched the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). This was also the 20th annual TIP report. The TIP report, according to the Department of State, is the government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. The US 2019 TIP report focused primarily on human trafficking that happens within the borders of countries. Below is an excerpt from the report:

Each instance of human trafficking takes a common toll; each crime is an affront to the 7basic ideals of human dignity, inflicting grievous harm on individuals, as well as on their families and communities. Yet, if it were possible to hold human trafficking up to a light like a prism, each facet would reflect a different version of the crime, distinct in context but the same in essence. Together they would show the vast and varied array of methods traffickers use to compel adults and children of all genders, education levels, nationalities, and immigration statuses into service in both licit and illicit sectors. Traffickers may be family members, recruiters, employers, or strangers who exploit vulnerability and circumstance to coerce victims to engage in commercial sex or deceive them into forced labor. They commit these crimes through schemes that take victims hundreds of miles away from their homes or in the same neighborhoods where they were born. – US 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Lastly, the UN celebrates 20 years since the adoption of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  This is one out of the three protocols to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes. The Convention is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crimes. The protocol on trafficking was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 15 November, 2000.

Here are some facts and figures on human trafficking from the International Labour Organization;

  •  An estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage. This means that out of every 1,000 people in the world, 5.4 are victims of modern-day slavery; 1 in 4 of victims of modern-day slavery are children. Out
  • Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture, 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
  • Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors


Read more:

2019 US Trafficking in Persons Report (PDF): https://bit.ly/2Wa4h86

UN World Day Against Human Trafficking: https://bit.ly/33hsBJp

UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes: https://bit.ly/3jYodVO



4Member States of the UN meets annually for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) since the adoption of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. The 2020 forum was, however, held virtually from 7 – 16 July, because of the COVID-19 restrictions. The HLPF serves as an annual stock-taking event to track progress on the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the Member States. An integral part of the forum is usually the Voluntary National Views (VNR). The VNR is a process where the Member States share progress made in the implementation of the SDGs in their respective countries. Forty-seven countries gave their voluntary national views during the 2020 HLPF. Among these were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Peru, and a host of others.

The theme for the 2020 HLPF was “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: 5realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development. With just ten years left to 2030, the race against time for achieving the SDGs has begun. The UN Secretary-General declared “a decade of action” during the SDG Summit in September 2019, and called on world leaders to accelerate sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest challenges such as poverty, and gender, climate change, inequality, and host of others.

In the speech given by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed, to mark the closing of the 2020 HLPF, she cautioned that the world was “off the track in achieving the SDGs by 2030, even before the COVID-19 crisis erupted.” Ms. Mohammed recommends increasing investment in public services, showing solidarity on financing, and ‘reshaping’ how people work, learn, live, and consume as some of the measures required to turn the tide around. She urged governments to listen to young people, who are demanding justice and equality, and to invest in an inclusive, networked multilateralism, with the United Nations at the center.

The world is currently at a crossroads – the achievement of the 2030 Agenda is possible but requires accelerated action. The economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have once again underscored the necessity for governments to prioritize investment in the implementation of the 17 SDGs as a matter of urgency.  The COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to humanity, but it also provides an opportunity for change and innovation towards sustainability, if governments show the political will.


Read more:

UN Secretary-General’s 2020 Report: https://bit.ly/39WwCnL

2020 HLPF:  https://bit.ly/2PxY1TJ







Hiroshima 1945 UN Photo/Eluchi Matsumoto

3On 6 August 1945, the US bomber dropped a uranium bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Another bomb was dropped on a second city (Nagasaki), three days later. It is estimated that the two bombs killed about 214,000 people. The long-term impacts of radiation exposure on both humans and the environment are incalculable. Speaking during the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima to mark the 75th anniversary of the horrific event, the mayor of the city, Mayor Kazumi Matsui, recalled how a single atomic bomb destroyed the city on 6 August 1946. He also recalled how it was rumored at the time that “nothing will grow in Hiroshima for 75 years, yet, the city recovered, and has become a symbol of peace.” Mayor Kazumi Matsui urged nations to reject selfish nationalism and unite to fight all threats.

The threat from another nuclear disaster is always present in our world, but very few people recognize this, probably because it is an invisible threat. Yet, the vulnerability to cyber-terrorism, accidents, or even slip up from an erratic, intolerant leader of a country with nuclear capability makes this threat very real. As stressed by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in a video message to commemorate the occasion, “the only way to totally eliminate nuclear risk is to eliminate nuclear weapons.” Mr. Guterres said that he is looking forward to the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an essential new element. A nuclear-weapon-free world is possible!

Read more:

The UN Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: https://bit.ly/3gLLZC4