SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: BUILDING BACK BETTER AFTER THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

“Building back better” has become a very commonly used phrase at many United Nations (UN) and other international, regional, and national discourses since after the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. But what does building back better look like?  And how can it be done with sensitivity to the needs of people often left at the margins of society? These same groups of people bore the brunt of the pandemic – women and children, minority groups, the youth, people with disabilities, to name a few.

Increased poverty rate and hunger, decreased number of children in school, job losses, increased debt burdens, growing inequalities, and increased human rights violations were some of the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 highlighted by many participants at the just-concluded High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2021 (HLPF). The HLPF 2021 focused on the theme of “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.” As many have acknowledged, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the socio-economic disparities within and among countries around the globe.

Some of the solutions to ‘building back better’ proffered by several stakeholders at the HLPF 2021 focused on the importance of social protection systems, sustainable agriculture, digitization, creating new debt relief, financing architecture, and more robust partnership between civil society, the private sector, government, and the international community and many more. The Ministerial Declaration at the end of the HLPF 2021 underscored the need for a resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that can, over the long term, reinforce, stimulate, and advance the Sustainable Development Goals. To build back better, governments must consider the needs of every member of the society while respecting the human rights of all. No one must be left behind.

Read more:

Ministerial Declaration: https://bit.ly/3CxMvix

UNITED NATIONS DECADE ON ECOSYSTEMS RESTORATION: “PREVENTING, HALTING, AND REVERSING THE DEGRADATION OF ECOSYSTEMS WORLDWIDE.”

 As part of an effort to turn around the trajectory on the devastation of our biodiversity, the UN General Assembly, in a resolution adopted on 1 March 2019, declared 2021 -2031 as a “decade on ecosystems restoration.” Clear evidence from the Amazonia in Latin America to the Congo Basin in Central Africa and other regions of the world indicates that our precious ecosystems are being depleted at an alarming rate. This trend spells doom for humanity because ecosystems support all life on Earth. And the healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet – and its people. As Sister Dorothy Stang had often warned, “the death of the forest is the end of our life.”

We can become part of the solution by doing something (no matter how little) to remedy the situation. So, take action by clicking on this link https://bit.ly/3xK6tUc to pledge to “Restore the Planet.”

Learn more:

UNGA Resolution on Decade on Ecosystems Restoration; https://undocs.org/A/RES/73/284

Advocating for ecosystems restoration in the DRC: https://bit.ly/3A7RMfJ

UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE (COP26): LEADERS SUMMIT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

There was an enormous sense of relief among stakeholder countries, organizations, and individuals worldwidewhen Mr. Joe Biden announced on his first day in office as the President of the United States of America that his office will return the United States to the Paris Agreement. The United States and China are the two biggest carbon emitters. Hence, these two powerful economies have a moral obligation to lead in the global fight against climate change.

So far in his administration, many believe that President Biden is giving this global crisis the serious attention it deserves.  He convened a two-day virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change on 22-23 April, with forty world leaders.  Other stakeholders invited to make a presentation during the Summit include Pope Francis, some city mayors, climate activists, indigenous leaders, climate and environment ministers from some countries, etc.  According to the US Department of State, the Leaders’ Summit on Climate was aimed to highlight the urgency – and the economic benefits – of more critical climate action.  It will be a crucial milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow.

Some of the key focus of the Summit were:

  • Galvanize efforts by the world’s major economies to reduce emissions during this critical decade to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5C within reach.
  • Mobilize public and private sector finance to drive the net-zero transition and help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts.
  • Highlight the economic benefits of climate action, with a strong emphasis on job creation.
  • Encourage transformational technologies that can help reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.
  • Showcase subnational and non-state actors committed to green recovery and an equitable vision for limiting warming to 1.5C.
  • Discuss opportunities to strengthen capacity to protect lives and livelihoods from the impacts of climate change, address the global security challenges posed by climate change and the effect on readiness, and address the role of nature-based solutions in achieving net-zero by 2050 goals

In one of his remarks during the event, President Biden cautioned that the signs of the impacts of climate change are unmistakable, the science undeniable, and the cost of inaction keeps mounting. He committed the US to cut its carbon emissions by 50% by the end of the decade.  Some other world leaders also announced additional ambitious climate targets. But as the saying goes, “the taste of the pudding is in the eating.” So, we shall see how far these leaders are willing to walk their talk in the coming years.

Read more:

A Summary of the 2021 Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change:  https://bit.ly/3gCwmQp

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming; https://bit.ly/3eA1Y6E

UN Climate Change Conférence UK 2021 : https://ukcop26.org/

ON THE PATH TO A NUCLEAR FREE WORLD: THE TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMES INTO FORCE

At this moment in history, when many people around the world yearn for justice, peace, and security, here is a milestone worth celebrating. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force on 22 January 2021. The Treaty is the first legally-binding international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons entirely. The coming into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons implies that henceforth; the development, production, testing manufacture, acquisition, possession or stockpiling, transfer, control or receipt, use or threat to use, stationing, or deployment of nuclear weapons are now considered illegal.

Below are some facts about the Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, prepared by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nukewatch, and The Nuclear Register:

  • The United Nations approved the Treaty in July 2017 by 122 nations.
  • According to the terms of the Treaty, 50 nations had to ratify it (or accede to it) before it would enter into force. Entry into force would automatically happen 90 days after the 50th ratification was deposited at the UN.
  • As of 1 November 2020, 84 states have signed the Treaty.
  • On 24 October 2020, Honduras became the 50th nation to deposit its ratification at the United Nations.
  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into force on 22 January 2021.
  • None of the nuclear weapons (US, Russia, England, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea) have signed the Treaty. Legally, the terms of the Treaty will not apply to them until they have signed the Treaty. None of the “umbrella states” – those countries protected by agreements with nuclear powers have signed the Treaty.
  • The Treaty outlaws the development, manufacture, testing, possession, transfer, acquisition, stockpiling, use or threat of use, control receipt, stationing or deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • The entry into force of the Treaty will make nuclear weapons illegal under International Law.
  • The Entry into Force will pressure umbrella nations, especially nations with US/NATO nuclear weapons deployed on their soil (Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Turkey) and nations that permit nuclear weapons in there, controlled waters, or on US bases on their soil, to reconsider their responsibilities under the Treaty.
  • Five of the nuclear weapons states (US, England, France, China, Russia) have been obligated under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (since 1970) to pursue disarmament “in good faith” “at an early date.” The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an expression of the impatience of non-nuclear states with the failure of NPT states to meet their obligation to disarm.
  • According to Article 6 of the US Constitution, international treaties to which the US is a signatory are the “Supreme Law of the Land” and supersede state laws.
  • With the Entry into Force of the TPNW, Nuclear Weapons will now be in the same category as land mines, cluster munitions, chemical and biological weapons, and poison gas.
  • As of September 2020, the nuclear weapons states possess 13,400 nuclear weapons.

 *The breakdown is as follows –

Learn more:

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: https://bit.ly/3qG8AVh

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR EDUCATION

UNESCO Photo

The coronavirus pandemic has not only disrupted the social and economic lives of billions of people around the world, it has also interrupted the education of over one billion children and adolescents in almost all the countries of the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that the closures of schools, universities, and other learning institutions and the interruption of many literacy and lifelong learning programmes, have affected the lives of 1.6 billion students in over 190 countries. In the wake of this unprecedented disruption in education, the United Nations observes the International Day for Education. In his message to mark the 2021 International Day for Education, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres paid tribute to the resilience of students, teachers, and families in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic that, at its peak, forced almost every school, institute, and university to close its doors.

The right to quality education is a human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 26) and affirmed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2015, all Member States of the UN unanimously adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals with the pledge to ensure quality education for every child by 2030. Education offers children an opportunity out of poverty and a fair chance in life. But sadly, a staggering 265 million children and adolescents around the world still do not have the prospect to enter or complete school, according to a UN report. The report also indicates that; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math, less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school, and about four million children and youth refugees are out of school.

As we commemorate the International Day for Education, the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, has urged governments to advance Sustainable Development Goal 4 to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Learn more: International Day for Education:https://bit.ly/2NH8q21

SPOTLIGHT ON GLOBAL ISSUES: PARTICIPATE IN VIRTUAL UN MEETINGS IN 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted how most organizations worldwide, including the United Nations, functioned in 2020.  The UN convened virtually for most of the meetings and conferences because of the travel restrictions and prohibition on large gatherings. A few others were either canceled or postponed to a later date. With yet no known cure for the virus and access to the new vaccine not assured to the broader global population very soon, the UN will most likely continue to maintain virtual meetings, at least through the first quarter of 2021.

 The good news about virtual meetings is that it allows for broader participation. More people can follow the proceedings from anywhere in the world, as long as they have the digital technology and electricity to connect. With the use of digital technology, millions of people in different places worldwide were able to access many life-saving services during this period of the pandemic. On the other hand, so many people are left behind for lack of access to either digital technology or steady electricity. In a report released in August this year by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an estimated 463 million learners could not access remote learning at the peak of the COVID-19 schools’ lockdowns. The inequity in access to digital technology starkly revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic impelled the UN Commission on Social Development to take the issue as the topic for deliberation during its 59th Session, 8-17 February 2021.

If you wish to participate in any UN meetings listed below, please send an email to SNDatUN@SNDDEN.org. You will also be able to follow some of the sessions on http://webtv.un.org/

  • 8 – 17 February 2021: 59th Session of the Commission on Social Development (New York). Priority theme: “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.” Read more:   https://bit.ly/3pP0tGx
  • 15 – 26 March 2021: 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (New York).
    Priority theme: “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” Read more: https://bit.ly/2J4Pt72
  • 19 – 30 April 2020: 19th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) (New York). Theme: “Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16.” https://bit.ly/3mUJwsb

2020 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD: MY VOICE, OUR EQUAL FUTURE

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.

DID YOU KNOW?

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

BEIJING +25: ‘‘ACCELERATING THE REALIZATION OF GENDER EQUALITY AND THE EMPOWERMENT OF ALL WOMEN AND GIRLS.”

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

IMPACTS OF THE COVID-19 ON CHILDREN AND THE INEQUITY IN THE ACCESS TO QUALITY EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

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

THE 2030 GLOBAL AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: TEN MORE YEARS TO GO

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