VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS: “A CALL FOR CEASEFIRE AMID HORRIFYING GLOBAL SURGE”

6One of the ramifications of the lockdown policy imposed by many governments around the world to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus is an alarming increase in the number of domestic violence incidences. According to the United Nations (UN), reports from countries in every region suggest that restrictions in movement, social isolation, coupled with increased social and economic pressures are leading to an increase in violence in the home. In an interview with the UN News, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Ms. Anima Mohammed pointed out that when women and girls are ‘locked down’ in their homes with abusive partners, they are at much greater risk than ever before.” On 5 April, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, took to Twitter to call for peace in homes around the world. “Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for COVID-19 face violence where they should be safest – in their own homes,” Mr. Guterres tweeted. He then urged governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes violence against women and girls as a significant public health problem, as well as a fundamental violation of women’s human rights.

Read more: UN chief calls for domestic violence ‘ceasefire’ amid ‘horrifying global surge: https://bit.ly/2yepYL7

COMMEMORATING THE ERADICATION OF SMALLPOX: A LEGACY OF HOPE FOR COVID-19 AND OTHER DISEASES

2On 8 May 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO), commemorated the 40th anniversary since the eradication of smallpox. The 33rd World Health Assembly officially declared the world and all its peoples free from smallpox on 8 May 1980. This declaration, according to the global body, marked the end of a disease that had plagued humanity for at least 3000 years, killing about 300 million people in the 20th century alone.

The remarkable achievement in eradicating smallpox after three long millennia gives hope to humanity in the current fight against the coronavirus pandemic that this battle can also be won.  The above sentiment was echoed in the opening speech by the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a virtual event hosted at the WHO-HQ, involving key players in the eradication efforts.  According to Dr. Tedros, “as the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity’s victory over smallpox is a reminder of what is possible when nations come together to fight a common health threat.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/2SRrUAw

 

 

 

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: LAUNCH OF A GLOBAL COLLABORATION TO ACCELERATE COVID-19 HEALTH TECHNOLOGIES

1The COVID-19 virus is a common threat that can only be defeated with a common approach. The above statement was contained in an opening remarks by the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during the launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative – Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, on 24 April, 2020. The launch of this global initiative was co-hosted by the Director-General of the WHO, along with the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – in collaboration with major global health actors, private sector partners, and other stakeholders. Dr. Tedros described Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) as a landmark global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for the COVID-19.

Also, in his speech to mark the launch of ACT, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, emphasized the importance of making any vaccine or treatment for the COVID-19 virus accessible and affordable for everyone in all parts of the world. According to Mr. Guterres, “A COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Not a vaccine for one country or one region — but a vaccine that is affordable, safe, effective, easily-administered, and universally available — for everyone, everywhere.” No country or community is entirely free or safe from the coronavirus until everyone is free of the virus.

Watch the virtual WHO global solution launch: https://bit.ly/3cS23Qr

 

 

 

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: “I AM GENERATION EQUALITY: REALIZING WOMEN’S RIGHTS.”

8 March is observed as International Women’s Day (IWD) around the world. According to4 UN Women, IWD is a day to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. Many of us can recall one or more such women in our life. The theme for the 2020 IWD is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.” The 2020 International Women’s Day is crucial as the world takes stock of women’s rights, 25 years since after the Beijing Women’s Conference, and the adoption of the Beijing Platform of Action. This year also marks 20 years since the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of UN Women.

In his message on the International Women’s Day, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, noted that transforming the balance of power is essential, not only as a question of human rights, personal development, health, and well-being, but it is critical to solving some of the most damaging and intractable problems of our age.

Read more:  International Women’s Day: https://bit.ly/2x5Lhh4

UN Secretary-General’s message: https://bit.ly/2IoD1eP

64TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN: “WOMEN 2000: GENDER EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT, AND PEACE FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY.”

3As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recommended a scaled-down, shortened session of the 64th UN Commission on the Status of Women, with the participation of only New York-based delegation. All parallel and side events scheduled to take place during the commission were cancelled. The cancellation was quite understandable, yet disappointing for the over 12,000 people who registered to attend the event from different parts of the world. New York-based Member States delegates convened on 9 March and adopted a political declaration on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women entitled; “Women 2000: Gender equality, development, and peace for the twenty-first century.” Some civil society representatives were also present.

Click HERE to read the political declaration.

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: WE ARE ALL IN THE FIGHT TOGETHER!

The current COVID-19 pandemic has once more highlighted the interconnectedness and2 vulnerability of the human race and our ecosystem. One of the lessons from the tragic coronavirus pandemic is that what affects people living even in the remotest parts of the planet has ramifications for others thousands of miles away. We live in such a globalized world where walls, no matter how high or secure they may be, can no longer shield any community from the impacts of the misery or good fortunes of their neighbors or even people in ‘far away’ lands. The other is the devastating consequences of human activities on the environment to human health, and the ecosystems –human health and global planetary health are interconnected.

We will be “playing the ostrich” if we merely concern ourselves with just what happens within our borders without being troubled by what is happening in other parts of the world. Lesson 101 from the current coronavirus pandemic is that we are all in this boat together.  And to survive, we must paddle in synch. This reality has several advantages, as well as challenges. But I believe the benefits far outweigh the difficulties if individuals, communities, and governments would reach out to the other in the spirit of *ubuntu.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, consistently calls for a global corporation in tackling the coronavirus. According to Dr. Tedros, global solidarity is an absolute necessity if we must win the war against the COVID-19. There have been heartwarming stories from around the world about individuals, organizations, and communities reaching out to others in creative ways during this challenging period, despite fears and concerns for personal safety. With the significant advances made in the fields of science and technology, the human race is better equipped in this 21st Century to respond effectively to any pandemic, with concerted efforts of the stakeholders.

The quote below is from an American philosopher of religion, Loyal D. Rue, which I think speaks to our current reality:”The universe is a single reality – one long sweeping spectacular process of  interconnected events. The universe is not a place where evolution happens; it is evolution happening. It is not a stage on which dramas unfold; it is the unfolding drama itself… This (great cosmological) story shows us in the deepest possible sense that we are all sisters and brothers -fashioned from the stellar dust, energized by the same star, nourished by the same planet, endowed with the same genetic code, and threatened by the same evils. This story … humbles us before the magnitude and complexity of creation … It bewilders us with the improbability of our existence, astonishes us with the interdependence of all things, and makes us feel grateful for the lives we have. And not the least of all, it inspires us to express our gratitude to the past by accepting solemn and collective responsibility for the future.” (Loyal D. Rue)

*Ubuntu: A Zulu term meaning “humanity”, but often used in a more philosophical sense to indicate “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”

 

TACKING COVID-19 – THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)

1As the UN agency tasked with the responsibility to coordinate global public health issues, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to play a leading role in managing the COVID-19 pandemic by offering technical and logistical assistance to countries and communities around the world.  The Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and his team give regular live updates on the coronavirus pandemic on the UNWEBTV. You can also access the latest information about the COVID-19 from the WHO website: https://www.who.int/

 

AN EMPOWERED WOMAN, EMPOWER OTHER WOMEN

6By Madame Batata Annie: Coordinator of GSEC, Pelende, Democratic Republic of Congo: We just had our women’s group meeting. The attendance was excellent. We reflected on our lives and our roles as women in the family and the community.   We went home after the meeting with greater awareness of our strengths, and how we must become leaders in our struggle for dignity. It is the woman that must lead in the fight for her dignity and gender equality. This implies that as women, we do not wait for others to liberate us from the outside; we must work to free ourselves from the inside.

Even when a woman has suffered rape, abuse, or humiliation, she must not let these injustices define who she is or her capacity to overcome those adversities. This is the work that Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are doing with women in the three rural parishes of Kwango Province (Kitenda, Pelende, and Intenga). Sisters Isabelle Izika and Marie Josephine Ibanda are training us not to wait to be liberated by other people but to be the actors in our liberation.

The experience of our country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is proving it. Women7 are in charge of the economy of many families.  Every day the woman gets up early in the morning to go to the fields, to the market, and different workplaces often in very challenging conditions so that she could provide for the education, healthcare, and other needs of her children. It requires heroism to be able to contribute to sustaining an entire family in our country, considering the circumstances. But millions of women are doing it.

The strategies Sisters apply in the training program is simple but time demanding.  It consists of personalized development: this means, discovering the economic potential of each woman, and helping her to acquire competencies in the area where she can excel. An empowered woman, in turn, empowers her family and community. Sisters teach us to become leaders in our communities so that we can also help other women. We collaborate with local political administrators, religious and traditional leaders in our women’s leadership training programs.

 

 

ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS: A GLOBAL PROBLEM

4By Ms. Salma Sahnoun: Student, University of Central Missouri: Illicit financial flows is a global problem; however, lower-income countries suffer disproportionately from its impact. According to a report from a High-Level Panel of African Ministers of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development chaired by the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, Africa loses more than $50 US billion through illicit financial flows annually.

The UN Economic and Social Council held a high-level meeting on international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on asset return on 16 May 2019. The goal was to foster sustainable development. In her opening statement, the President of the Economic and Social Council of the UN, Ms. Inga Rhonda King (the Permanent Rep. of Saint Vincent and the Grenadine to the UN), stressed the importance of enlarging the definition of illicit financial flows to include all cross-border financial transfers, which contravene national or international laws. These would comprise all types of financial transfers, made for different reasons, such as:

  • Funds with a criminal origin, for instance, including corruption;
  • Funds with an illegal destination, such as bribery, terrorist financing or conflict financing;
  • Funds associated with tax evasion; and
  • Transfers to, by, or for, entities subject to financial sanctions.”

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Yuri Fedotov, shared the following disturbing findings:

  • 65% of illicit flows come from commercial activities, 5% are due to corruption, and only 3% crime.
  • In Africa, 22 to 50 billion USD disappear every year without a trace. This represents 22 to 50 billion dollars of resources that could have been invested to foster development in the continent. He noted that multinational corporations are the main actors behind the flourishing of illicit financial flows in Africa because they are the primary beneficiaries of tax evasion practices.

On his part, the founding executive director of Tax Justice Network-Africa, Alvin 5Mosioma, opined that the eradication of illicit financial flows should start with the incorporation of tax avoidance as well as money laundry to the definition of illicit financial flows. He argued that multinational corporations should also be taxed in countries where they source the raw materials; otherwise, it would result, as it is the case right now, in more than 200 billion dollars of tax evasion from the African continent. Mr. Mosioma claimed that the problem of illicit financial flows is a global issue, and made a distinction between “the old view of corruption which is often seen as a problem faced only by lower-income countries.” According to Mr. Mosimo, the new view of the phenomenon is that there is likely more corruption in high-income countries due to tax avoidance, tax evasion, and money laundry.” He urged the assembly to make efforts to implement the UN Tax Convention for all countries and all income levels. This would set the ground for an international agreement to track all illicit financial flows and eradicate the practice.

Read more: Report of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa: https://www.uneca.org

 

58TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: “AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND SOCIAL PROTECTION SYSTEMS FOR ALL TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS.”

2The 58th United Nations Commission on Social Development with the theme, “Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness,” was unique because it was the first time that the UN in its 75-year history explicitly addressed the issue of homelessness. A home is one of the basic human needs, without which an individual or, in some cases, an entire family lives in a very precarious situation, making the individual vulnerable to violence and abuse.  Homelessness has become a global challenge as increasingly, many people have no longer a place to call home. Violent conflict, natural disasters resulting from climate change, and migration are some of the factors for homelessness. Some people also lose their homes because of economic misfortune, mental or physical illness, and so on. But for whatever reason, a home is a human right as affirmed by two distinct UN human rights instruments; the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).  Each of these UN human rights mechanisms clearly articulates the right of individuals to adequate housing, yet, the UN-Habitat in 2015 estimates that over 1.6 billion people worldwide are homeless or live in inadequate housing.

During the 2020 Commission on Social Development which took place at the UN Headquarters in New York from 9-20 February, Member States representatives, civil 3society organization representatives, and other stakeholders, including people experiencing homelessness deliberated and proffered solutions on how to end, or at least reduce incidences of homelessness. One concrete solution for states to end homelessness is to ensure social protection for every individual within its territory. All Member States unanimously adopted resolution on the priority theme on “affordable housing and social protection system for all to address homelessness” at the end of the Commission. Click HERE to read the resolution.