ANTI-TRAFFICKING IN PERSON: 2020 WORLD DAY AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND MORE

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

 

ACCELERATED ACTION AND TRANSFORMATIVE PATHWAYS: REALIZING THE DECADE OF ACTION AND DELIVERY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

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

 

 

 

 

 

75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HIROSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER: THE QUEST FOR A NUCLEAR WEAPON FREE WORLD

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

THE UNITED NATIONS AT 75!

1This is a significant year in the history of the United Nations, as the global organization celebrates the 75th anniversary of its foundation.  The UN Charter was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the end of the United Nations Conference on International Organizations. It came into force on 24 October 1945. The signing of the Charter marks the birth of the United Nations. As the foundational Treaty of the UN, the Charter clearly outlines the principles of the UN, which is to foster peace and security among nations, promote social progress and better standards of living for all people, and to ensure the human rights and freedoms of people everywhere.

In his speech to commemorate the UN Charter Day on 26 June, the UN Secretary-General, 2Mr. Antonio Guterres, noted that the principles of the UN ring just as valid today as it was 75 years ago. Even with its flaws, the UN remains a global force for good. The UN Agencies and Programmes continue to provide much-needed medical and humanitarian relief to millions of individuals and communities in low- income and conflict or disaster affected regions of the world at every given time. At this moment, when humanity is experiencing multiple challenges such as the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism, nuclear arms race, and other transnational criminal activities, the UN offers the space for multilateralism required in tackling these global issues.

The preamble to the UN Charter begins with the phrase “We the Peoples of the United Nations …” Therefore, “We the Peoples” must continue to support and challenge the UN to live up to her principles as we move into the future.

ACTIONS:

On 14-15 May at the UN75 People’s Forum, with participants from 75 countries around the world in attendance online, H.E. Mr. Tijani Muhammad-Bande, President of the UN General Assembly, formally received the UN75 People’s Declaration and Plan for Global Action. The Declaration concludes, “Let the Member States, on this 75th anniversary, join hands with the peoples of the world to inspire the action so urgently needed to realize the vision of the United Nations Charter finally.”

 

  1. As the UN marks the 75th Anniversary of the UN Charter, we (Civil Society Partnership For the UN We Need) invite you to click on the following link to read endorse the UN75 People’s Declaration in your capacity as an individual and or on behalf of your organization https://bit.ly/33LPAfY

 

  1. The United Nations is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great challenge, including the worst global health crisis in its history. Will it bring the world closer together? Or will it lead to greater divides and mistrust? Your views can make a difference. Click on the link below to have your say on the future you want as a global citizen. Your responses to this survey will inform global priorities now and going forward https://un75.online/#s2

 

Read more: 

The United Nations: https://bit.ly/2DBpIbr

UNSG Message on UN Charter Day: https://bit.ly/2YLRlqJ

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE: WORLD REFUGEE DAY

Each year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes to escape violent conflict, 6persecution, or natural disaster. Some of the people cross the borders of their countries, while many end up in camps within their countries. Whether displaced within or outside one’s country, people on the move face untold hardships.

The United Nations observes 20 June as World Day for Refugees. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), World Refugee Day celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. It is also an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives. The UNHCR estimates the number of refugees globally to be 79.5 million in 2019, with about 10 million people fleeing in the past one year.

While acknowledging refugees to be among the most vulnerable population around the world, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, also commended the efforts of refugees in stepping up on the frontlines of response to the coronavirus pandemic in their host communities.  In his video message to mark the 2020 World Refugee Day, Mr. Guterres noted that from camps in Bangladesh to hospitals in Europe, refugees are working as nurses, doctors, scientists, teachers, and in other essential roles, protecting themselves and giving back to their communities.

7The Office of the UNHCR was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. And in 1951, the UN Member States adopted the Convention on Refugees. The Convention is the key legal document that informs the work of the UNHCR. The core principle of the Convention on Refugees is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

 ***Some basic rights contained in the 1951 Convention include:

  • The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions;
  • The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State;
  • The right to work;
  • The right to housing;
  • The right to education;
  • The right to public relief and assistance;
  • The right to freedom of religion;
  • The right to access the courts;
  • The right to freedom of movement within the territory;
  • The right to be issued identity and travel documents.

Some basic rights, including the right to be protected from refoulement, apply to all refugees. A refugee becomes entitled to other rights, the longer they remain in the host country, which is based on the recognition that the longer they remain as refugees, the more rights they need.  (The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees)

Read more:

UN World Refugee Day: https://bit.ly/2Z1Xnm1

The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol: https://bit.ly/3hTVLTJ

 

 

 

WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOUR: IMPACTS OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON CHILD LABOUR

512 June is observed as World Day against Child Labour. The 2020 World Day Against Child Labour focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on child labour. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 152 million children are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour. Although progress has been made in reducing incidences of child labour in the past 20 years, the Director-General of the ILO, Mr. Guy Ryder, however warns that this progress may be lost as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.  This is especially true for many families and economies in low and middle-income countries. In a virtual event to commemorate the 2020 World Day Against Child Labour, the ILO and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)  jointly launched a paper titled, “COVID-19 and child labour: A time of crisis, a time to act.” The paper looks at some of the ways that the pandemic is likely to affect progress towards the eradication of child labour.

 More:

ILO Publication: Ending Child Labor by 2025: A review of policies and programmes: https://bit.ly/3dGLV4f

Joint statement by the ILO and UNICEF to mark the World Day Against Child Labour: https://bit.ly/2Y2C97Y

 

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY. WORLD OCEANS DAY

3The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. Hence, to care for humanity, we must care for nature. In his message to mark the 2020 World Environment Day, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Mr. David Boyd warns that countries should take urgent action to protect the environment and stop climate disruption, biodiversity loss, toxic pollution and diseases that jump from animals to humans. He noted that at least 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 are crossing from the wild to people.  June 5 is observed as World Environment Day. First launched in 1974, this day, according to the UN, has grown to become the UN’s biggest annual event, advocating for environmental action and raising worldwide awareness of the need to increase protection for the planet’s long-term survival.  The main focus of the 2020 World Environment is on biodiversity. Colombia was the global host of the 2020 World Environment Day.

8 June is also observed as World Oceans Day. Oceans are described as4 the lungs of the planet because it provides 70 percent of the oxygen on the earth planet.

Did you also know that?

§  Oceans absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, thereby buffering the impacts of global warming.

  • Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein
  • Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. (UN World Oceans Day)

Read more:

2020 World Environment Day virtual event. https://bit.ly/2MzhDoY

World Oceans Day; https://bit.ly/3dfdlOy

 

 

 

COVID-19 PANDEMIC: UNMASKING THE INEQUALITIES IN OUR SOCIETIES

1The coronavirus pandemic has unmasked the entrenched systemic inequalities that exist within many countries. In the early weeks of the pandemic, it was said that the COVID-19 disease is an equalizer. But this has proven not to be entirely the case. Stories emerging from different countries has revealed that rather than being an equalizer, the pandemic has unmasked the structural socio-economic inequalities that exist in many countries.  In countries like the US, UK, France, to mention a few, the so-called minority ethnic groups (Blacks, Indigenous Peoples, Asians, Latinos, migrant population, and older persons in nursing homes) have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

The painful experience from the devastating economic and social impacts of the coronavirus, in addition to the brutal murder of Mr. George Floyd, an African-American man by a White police officer in the US city of Minneapolis, sparked off global protests against police brutality and conversations about an age-old demon – racism. People of African descent have suffered centuries of human rights abuses and systemic racism resulting from the long history of transatlantic slave trade, enslavement, and colonialization in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean.

The cry of George Floyd, “I can’t breathe,” found resonance in the streets of Minneapolis,2 New York City, Washington DC, London, … among a people who have been denied justice and unleased anger, sadness and rage. The protests we have witnessed across the globe are the cries of the unheard, “the public processing of pain…, and an intentional and communal act of expressing grievance by the victims.” Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Now is that time. It is no longer just enough to claim not to be a racist, an ethnic bigot, or a homophobe. But we must act and speak out against all forms of bigotry, and become “anti” to everything that promotes the exaltation or supremacy of a group over another. Racism and all forms of discrimination are the sins of humanity. Consequently, the work of truth, reconciliation, and justice awaits all of us.

After a three-month COVID-19 enforced break, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva reconvened its 43rd session on Monday, 15 June, with a rare and urgent debate on racism and police brutality in response to the murder of George Floyd. The debate was sponsored by the African Group.

 

SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME de NAMUR: RESPONDING IN TIME OF A GLOBAL CRISIS

6As the saying goes, “we are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us.” The COVID-19 pandemic has once more highlighted the inequalities that exist within and among many countries. While coronavirus does not discriminate against who to attack, stories from around the world indicate that the most vulnerable; the elderly and people living in poverty are among the most impacted by the pandemic.  According to the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the grave weaknesses in the delivery of public services and structural inequalities that impede access to them. The coronavirus pandemic is more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis which is attacking societies at their core. The health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to struggle to survive unprecedented hardships. Individuals, communities, businesses, and organizations around the globe are stepping up to fill the gaps where governments have failed. Among these groups are the Catholic Religious Congregations of women and men – including the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. While some of these women and men are in the frontlines as medical professionals, others offer spiritual, emotional, and material support.

7

Sr. Elizabeth Chinamo at work in the hospital

In Harare, Zimbabwe, Sr. Elizabeth Chinamo, SNDdeN, volunteered to be part of a team that cleaned up a hospital donated by the Little Sisters of Mary for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in the area. Since the hospital had not been in use for several years, it required some repairs, deep cleaning, and the moving and rearrangement of furniture to make it fit for the patients. Sr. Elizabeth and her team worked assiduously to clean and get the hospital in good shape to receive the coronavirus patients.

With over 65 percent of the population in the informal

8

Sr. Esther Ocheme offering a hot meal to a couple

economy, the lockdown in Nigeria and other parts of Africa left many families in dire need of necessities of life. Many can no longer afford as much as one decent meal a day. Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in some parts of the country have organized and distributed food items such as rice, beans, and cooking oil to needy families around them. On a few occasions, Sisters have prepared hot meals in their kitchen to offer those desperately in need.

9

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Peru

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, in Lima and Tambogrande, Peru, support efforts of their respective local parishes in reaching out to those in need. They collect food items from willing donors to stock up their food pantry and then redistribute these to low-income families and students. Sisters also offer psychological and spiritual support to the sick and bereaved families.

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in the United States continue to be committed to the10 welfare of immigrant families in the country. Migrants and refugees around the world are among the most vulnerable population and continue to be disproportionately impacted by this global pandemic.  Sisters in the US collaborate with others to offer needed relief assistance to the migrants at the Southern borders of the country.

11

Sr. Vivien in full protective gear in the hospital ward

As a Registered Nurse (RN), Sister Vivien Echekwubelu, SNDdeN, is among the many medical professionals in the frontline, caring for coronavirus patients. Sr. Vivien is the nurse in-charge of the neuro-critical care unit at Saint Agnes Health Care, Baltimore, Maryland, where they still have many coronavirus patients. As the nurse in charge of the unit, and as a Catholic Religious Sister, Vivien does not only care for the physical wellbeing of her patients; she also offers emotional and spiritual support to her staff.  The stress and the fear of contracting the disease takes an emotional toll on the medical professionals who care for COVID-19 patients.

Perhaps, the most crucial role is played by hundreds of retired elderly Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur around the world. These Sisters have continued to participate in the mission of the Congregation through prayer. I believe the prayer of these incredible women and many like them around the globe brings peace, relief, and comfort to those who suffer during these challenging times.

WORLD EARTH DAY: CLIMATE ACTION – 50 YEARS ON

422 April is observed as World Earth Day. The first Earth Day was marked 50 years ago (1970) in the United States of America. Half a century on, the state of our Common Home continues to deteriorate mainly because of human activities. The theme for the 2020 Earth Day is “climate action.” From the Amazonia in South America to the Congo Basin in Central Africa, human beings continue to ravage the Mother Earth, often for greedy-selfish reasons. The impacts of human activities on the environment – from extreme weather events to natural disasters continues to be felt, especially by the most vulnerable populations in the more impoverished regions of the world. The world is currently facing the greatest health and economic challenge in recent history. It is not rocket science to figure out the correlation between the coronavirus pandemic and human activities on the environment. As long as humans continue to invade the natural habitat of other species, the prospect for cross-transmission of viruses like the COVID-19 from animals to humans is inevitable. The earth, like a good mother, continues to nourish us; it is, therefore, imperative that as responsible children, we care for her.5

On 24 May, we commemorate the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical, Laudato Si. To celebrate the richness and challenges of Laudato Si, the Pope invited the 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide to join a week (May 16-24) of celebration and action in commemorating the fifth anniversary of “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

Read Pope Francis’ Post-Amazonia Synodal Exhortation, Querida Amazonia https://bit.ly/2KPynrt