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Eight Catastrophic Risks That Threaten Humanity — And How International Cooperation Might Stop Them

3. August 2020 - 18:03

There is a certain category of disaster, whether manmade or natural, that poses an existential threat to humanity.  These are called global catastrophic risks. Some of these are fairly obvious, like nuclear war, and some may seem more the realm of science fiction like an asteroid impact.

My guest today, Jens Orback is the CEO of the Global Challenges Foundation, a Sweden based group that is seeking to prevent these catastrophes or mitigate their impact through enhanced international cooperation.

The Global Challenges Foundation recently released a report identifying eight global catastrophic risks and the current state of global governance or international cooperation to deal with them.

This includes: nuclear warfare, biological and chemical warfare, catastrophic climate change, ecological collapse, pandemics, asteroid impact, super-volcanic eruptions, and the misuse of Artificial Intelligence

As Jens Orback argues, what binds each of these risks is not only their potential to decimate human life, but also that they can be mitigated through stronger international cooperation and global governance.

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The post Eight Catastrophic Risks That Threaten Humanity — And How International Cooperation Might Stop Them appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Crisis in Mali

30. Juli 2020 - 16:08

Mali is in the midst of its most serious political crisis in years. Thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent days, demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The situation is so volatile that the Presidents of six countries in Africa flew to the capitol of Mali to try and mediate a solution to this crisis, though their intervention did not quell the protest movement.

Why is Mali in a deep crisis?

In 2012, Ethnic Tuareg separatists in northern Mali declared independence and launched an offensive to take control of territory they claimed as part of their new country. For a time, they joined forces with hard-core Jihadi groups and succeeded in evicting government forces from large swaths of northern Mali, including the city of Timbuktu. Soon, though, the partnership between the Islamists and the ethnic separatists frayed, with Islamist groups wresting control of captured territory from the Tuareg separatists, imposing harsh Islamist rule in areas under their control.

Soon, the Jihadist forces renewed their offensive against the government of Mali. It was at this point that the Malian government asked for international assistance. The French military intervened directly on their behalf, beating back the Jihadist insurgency. Meanwhile, a UN Peacekeeping force, now known as MINUSMA, deployed to stabilize areas that were formerly controlled by insurgents.

In 2015, a peace agreement negotiated between President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and key armed groups affiliated with the Tuareg separatists ushered in a new constitutional order. Since then, the country has nevertheless been beset by instability. It is, for example, the deadliest UN peacekeeping mission–by far.


The June 2020 Protest Movement in Mali

This recent history provides useful context and background for this Global Dispatches podcast conversation with Amadou Bocoum. He is the Mali Director for the NGO Search for Common Ground and I caught up with him from Bamako, the capital city which is in the south of the country.

Since June, there have been a number of major protests in Bamako against president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. These protests are united under an umbrella group called the June 5 Movement, which was the day of the first protest. But on June 11th, these protests escalated quickly–and became deadly. Several protesters were killed in what has become the worst political crisis in Mali since that 2015 peace accord.

In our conversation, Amadou Bocoum describes how these protests were sparked by a court decision to annul the results of parliamentary elections of 31 opposition candidates. But as he explains the discontent that is driving these protests runs much deeper.

This is a very useful conversation about a crisis that is very much unfolding at the present time — and is one that is of profound regional and international significance.


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The post Crisis in Mali appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Another Devastating Humanitarian Crisis is Colliding with COVID-19 in South Asia: Monsoon Floods.

28. Juli 2020 - 16:35

More than 9.6 million people in India, Bangladesh and Nepal have been affected by flooding from this year’s devastating monsoon rains. Homes and crops have been destroyed, families have been stranded, and by government counts, at least 550 people have lost their lives so far.

Monsoon season, usually from June to September, brings a downpour of heavy rain every year in South Asia, which is important for the region’s agriculture. But according to the New York Times, scientists say that climate change is affecting the rainfall patterns: Instead of steady but less intense rains, there have been more frequent extreme rains, causing more flooding and even cyclones. Some say this year’s is even worse than usual.

 “A third of Bangladesh is under water in what has been the worst monsoon season in at least a decade,” Mostak Hussain, Humanitarian Director of Save the Children Bangladesh, said in a press release. “Extreme weather events are becoming much more frequent.”

Scientists have warned that Bangladesh, which suffers from frequent flooding and land degradation, may lose more than 10 percent of its land to rising sea levels due to climate change, forcing up to 18 million people from their homes.

Hussain says that right now, entire communities have been cut off, people are being swept away and drowning in overflowing rivers and snake bites have also become a serious concern. In Nepal, Save the Children’s Senior Humanitarian Manager, Sanjeeb Kumar Shakya says years of environmental degradation and land erosion have resulted in more dangerous landslides this year.

The IFRC reports that nearly one-third of Bangladesh has been flooded, with more to come. In India, flooding has been concentrated in the northern states of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Meghalaya, affecting more than 6.8 million people. Additionally, many communities in Bangladesh and India are still recovering from Cyclone Amphan two months ago, which hit more than 260,000 homes, farms and infrastructure. On top of all that, this year’s monsoon season is coinciding with COVID-19.

“People in Bangladesh, India and Nepal are sandwiched in a triple disaster of flooding, the coronavirus and an associated socioeconomic crisis of loss of livelihoods and jobs,” said Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “Flooding of farm lands and destruction of crops can push millions of people, already badly impacted by the COVID-19, further into poverty.”

As the floods have left millions homeless, social distancing has also become more difficult. In India, which has been easing lockdown measures, experts are worried that waterlogging will undermine containment efforts, resulting in an uptick in infections. In addition, epidemiologists warn that the country has yet to hit its peak in COVID-19 infections, meaning the worst is likely still to come for the country’s already overburdened health system.

For humanitarian workers, COVID-19 is complicating flood relief efforts, as they struggle to address the converging crises, particularly for women and children who are among the most vulnerable because of access to health services is limited, and many are in need of protection from domestic abuse during lockdown.

“We have worked with children and communities to build their resilience to floods and other extreme weather,” said Save the Children India’s Policy Director, Anindit Roy Chowdhury, in a press release, “but nothing could have prepared us for the complexity of the situation we are facing right now.”

The post Another Devastating Humanitarian Crisis is Colliding with COVID-19 in South Asia: Monsoon Floods. appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Why Foreign Aid and Global Development Donors Should Publish What They Fund

27. Juli 2020 - 15:47

Billions of dollars are spent each year on foreign aid and global development. In the past, the exact amount of aid that is being spent, where is it is being spent, by whom it is being spent–and to what end is the aid serving has been very difficult for outsiders to parse.

But that has been changing in recent years.

Aid agencies in government and multi-lateral institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations are becoming increasingly transparent — not least because they have been spurred to do so by my guest today, Gary Forster.

He is the executive director of Publish What You Fund — the global campaign for aid and development transparency. The organization publishes an annual index of 47 aid agencies from the public sector and private philanthropy which assess how open each entity is in regards to its operations.

In our conversation, Gary Forster explains why transparency in aid is so important and identifies some of entities that rank highest and lowest on the aid transparency index.  The data compiled by Publish What You Fund also offers a very good birds-eye view of aid and development spending, so we also discuss some of the broad trends that he has seen in recent years among donors. This includes the impact of COVID-19 on foreign aid and development assistance.

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The post Why Foreign Aid and Global Development Donors Should Publish What They Fund appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Quest for a COVID-19 Vaccine Becomes More Promising

21. Juli 2020 - 16:10
Oxford immunologist on coronavirus vaccine: our early results look highly promising Numstocker/Shutterstock

Rebecca Ashfield, University of Oxford

A vaccine against COVID-19 is urgently needed if we’re to stop the virus spreading and prevent potentially millions of further deaths. We’re now one step closer to that goal.

We have published early results from our clinical trial of the vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (also known as AZD1222), designed by the University of Oxford and developed in partnership with AstraZeneca. The preliminary data shows that it is safe and induced a strong antibody response in all vaccinated volunteers, suggesting that an effective vaccine could be within reach.

This trial was the first time that the vaccine had been given to humans: 543 healthy adults aged 18-55 were vaccinated with a single dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. A further 534 people were given a control vaccine that gives similar minor reactions, including injection site redness and mild pain. Volunteers are having their immune response (both antibodies and T cell levels) monitored for at least 12 months, and will also be observed to see whether or not they develop COVID-19.

The preliminary data from the trial clearly demonstrates that the vaccine induces an antibody response within 28 days. This response is in a similar range to that in individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, providing encouragement that the vaccine will be able to protect the majority of people against infection.

Ten volunteers were also given a second “booster” dose of the vaccine. This increased the antibody response to even higher levels, and 100% of blood samples from this group showed neutralising activity against COVID-19 infection in a laboratory setting.

The vaccine also induced T cells that specifically recognise SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s encouraging to see both antibody and T cell responses, as together this is the right kind of immune response that could lead to protection against the virus. Importantly, the vaccine demonstrates an acceptable safety profile, with no vaccine-induced severe adverse events – that is, no major side-effects.

We were confident testing the vaccine in humans after encouraging trials with mice and rhesus macaque monkeys. These had shown that the vaccine was safe and induced a robust immune response. Significantly, the vaccinated monkeys were protected from severe disease after they were challenged with a much higher dose of SARS-CoV-2 than humans would encounter through natural exposure.

How does this vaccine work?

Vaccines work by training the immune system to recognise and fight off infectious agents (pathogens), such as bacteria and viruses. Vaccines do this by presenting the immune system with a readily identifiable part of a pathogen, which the immune system remembers so that it can quickly respond should it encounter that same pathogen in the future.

Most vaccines in development for SARS-CoV-2 – including this one – focus on presenting the spike protein that decorates the surface of the virus. It’s this protein that allows the virus into human cells by binding to a molecule on their surface called ACE2.

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, with its spike proteins shown in red.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Wikimedia Commons

There is a broad range of approaches to vaccine design; ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is what’s known as a viral vector vaccine. To make this vaccine, particles of a different, harmless virus (called ChAdOx1) are loaded with the portion of SARS-CoV-2 DNA that instructs cells how to build the spike protein.

When these ChAdOx1 particles infect human cells, the coronavirus DNA is then “expressed”, building the spike protein for the immune system to respond to. Importantly for vaccine safety, the viral vector can’t replicate and cause an ongoing infection.

The ChAdOx1 viral vector has been used to make eight vaccines already in clinical trials for other human diseases, including Mers (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome), a coronavirus that is related to SARS-CoV-2.

What happens now?

Crucially, we need to demonstrate that the vaccine is effective – that it results in significantly lower (ideally zero) cases of COVID-19 in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccinated group versus the control group. Falling infection rates in the UK are an excellent outcome for the health of the nation, but may compromise the ability to show this.

If there are no cases of COVID-19 in the group receiving the control vaccine, comparing that group to the vaccinated group would be meaningless. Deliberately infecting people with the virus may be possible in future (after careful consideration of the ethical implications), but is not currently allowed.

For this reason, a second trial has been launched in approximately 10,000 UK individuals, focusing on health workers, and further trials are being conducted in Brazil and South Africa, where infection rates are much higher. The expanded UK trial will include children and older adults to estimate vaccine efficacy in these age groups. Immune responses in people over 70 are often lower than those in younger adults.

It’s essential to follow the vaccine-induced immune response over a period of at least one year, to estimate whether booster injections will be required, and if so how often. My personal prediction – based on decreases in antibody levels in individuals infected with other types of coronavirus, rather than data from the current vaccine trial – is that we’re likely to need yearly boosters, similar to annual flu jabs.

Finally, if the vaccine proves effective, rapid manufacture of potentially billions of doses would be required to supply the world. To facilitate this, AstraZeneca has already initiated a large-scale vaccine manufacturing programme, aiming to have hundreds of millions of doses with delivery starting by the end of 2020. Agreements are in place to provide the vaccine to low-income and middle-income countries and also to the UK, Europe and the US.

Rebecca Ashfield, Senior Project Manager, Jenner Institute, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ed note. The agreement to provide the vaccine to low and middle income countries is a deal negotiated between AstraZeneca and two key international vaccine organizations and one private manufactured. On June 4th, AstraZeneca entered into a partnership with  the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness an the GAVI–the global vaccine alliance. Both entities will support the distribution and manufacture of the disease, so it can reach populations in poor and middle income countries. To that end, they have partnered with a generic vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, to produce 2 billion doses should the vaccine prove safe and effective. If this vaccine is going to be widely available around the world, it will be through these kinds of partnerships between drug manufacturers, researchers and public-private partnerships like GAVI and CEPI.

The post The Quest for a COVID-19 Vaccine Becomes More Promising appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How Slumping Oil Prices and COVID-19 Are Shaking Up the Geopolitics of the Middle East

20. Juli 2020 - 17:09

As the Coronavirus Pandemic tore through the world this spring, it resulted in sharply lower demand for oil, driving down prices. Added to this, Russia and Saudi Arabia got into an oil price war that brought the price of oil to near historic low levels.

Needless to say, the low price of oil has deeply impacted countries in the region who rely on oil wealth. This includes not only oil-rich gulf countries, but also governments and other groups that rely on aid derived from oil largesse.

My guest today, Mohammed Soliman is a Non-Resident Scholar with the Middle East Institute and a member of the McLarty Associates MENA Practice. We kick off discussing how wealthy Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar used their oil wealth in the wake of the Arab Spring to shore up domestic stability and pursue their regional foreign policy goals. We then have an extended conversation about the ways in which COVID-19 and slumping oil prices are shaking up the foundations of the geopolitics of the Middle East.


This episode was recorded as a live taping of the podcast, produced in partnership with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, YPFP.

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The post How Slumping Oil Prices and COVID-19 Are Shaking Up the Geopolitics of the Middle East appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

WHO and UNICEF: “Alarming Decline” in Childhood Immunizations Due to COVID-19

17. Juli 2020 - 17:55

For months, health experts working in underimmunized areas have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is interrupting life-saving vaccination campaigns, particularly in poor countries. Now, a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF confirms there has been an “alarming decline” in childhood immunizations against diseases like measles, tetanus and diphtheria around the world.

More children than ever are being immunized, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press release, but the pandemic is putting those gains at risk. “The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself,” he said.

Of the 82 countries who responded to a survey cited by the report, three-quarters reported that their immunization programs had been disrupted by COVID-19 as of May 2020. At least 30 measles vaccination campaigns were or are at risk of being canceled, which could lead to more outbreaks this year. And data from January to April suggests that for the first time in 28 years, the world could see a drop in the number of children receiving three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) – a marker for immunization coverage within and across countries. In 2019, 85 percent of children globally received their third DTP3 dose, but that still left nearly 20 million children – mostly in Africa – vulnerable to those vaccine-preventable diseases.

The survey also revealed a variety of reasons why immunization numbers are down: Half of the respondents mentioned that parents are reluctant to visit vaccination centers because they are afraid of being exposed to COVID-19. One-third cited other challenges, including limited public transport, lockdown measures and physical distancing policies. Health care workers have also been less available because of a lack of personal protective equipment, travel restrictions or being reassigned to COVID-response duties.

“COVID-19 has made previously routine vaccination a daunting challenge,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a press release.

The WHO and UNICEF are particularly worried because even before the pandemic, progress toward universal vaccination coverage (Sustainable Development Goal 3.b.1) was stalling and uneven. According to the report, there is a less than 20 percent chance that a child born today will be fully vaccinated with all the globally recommended vaccines by the time they’re five years old. Two-thirds of the 14 million children who missed out on life-saving vaccines last year are concentrated in 10 middle- and low-income countries: Angola, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Some countries, South Asia, have recorded significant progress over the last decade, increasing coverage for the third dose of DTP3 by 12 percentage points. That is now at risk of being reversed by COVID-19. But even more worrisome are regions like Latin America and the Caribbean, where coverage used to be high but has dropped precipitously over the last decade (by 14 percentage points in Brazil, Bolivia, Haiti and Venezuela).

In response, the WHO and UNICEF say they are helping countries safely deliver immunization services during the pandemic, communicate how services have been reconfigured for safety, fill gaps in coverage and continue to expand services.

“We must prevent a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and urgently resume vaccination programs before children’s lives are threatened by other diseases,” said Fore. “We cannot trade one health crisis for another.”

To learn more about how COVID-19 is disrupting routine childhood vaccinations worldwide, listen to this Global Dispatches podcast episode with Barbara Saitta, a nurse with Doctors without Borders  Medicines Sans Frontiers who specializes in vaccination campaigns: 

The post WHO and UNICEF: “Alarming Decline” in Childhood Immunizations Due to COVID-19 appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Kosovo, Serbia and Rising Authoritarianism in the Balkans

16. Juli 2020 - 17:09

Since the Kosovo War of 1999, the status of Kosovo as a country independent of Serbia has not been resolved. Many countries, including the United States and most of Europe, recognize Kosovo as an independent country. But others do not–including Russia, which has blocked Kosovo’s aspirations to join the United Nations.

This has been the status quo for many years. But in recent months there has been some renewed momentum in diplomacy intended to find an agreement that would satisfy both Serbia and Kosovo and lead to Kosovo’s formal independence.

To that end, on June 24th, The president of Kosovo set off for Washington, D.C. for high level talks at the White House. But mid-air, the flight turned around when a special court unsealed an indictment against him for war crimes committed decades ago during the war.

This indictment is the latest wrinkle in the long effort to secure an international agreement over Kosovo’s status. Another key issue is ongoing protests in Serbia and that country’s ongoing democratic backsliding.

On the line with me to explain the significance of these recent events in the Balkans is Jasmin Mujanović . He is a limited term professor of political science and policy studies at Elon University and host of the Sarejvo calling podcast.

We kick off with discussing the Kosovo-Serbia talks and then have a conversation about the implications of rising authoritarianism in Serbia.

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The post Kosovo, Serbia and Rising Authoritarianism in the Balkans appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Why Does Chile Have Such Bad Air Pollution — And How to Fix It

13. Juli 2020 - 22:32

Chile has some of the worst air pollution in the Western Hemisphere. It is partly a matter of geography  — many cities are in valleys that trap pollution. But it is also the consequence of how many Chileans heat their homes. Wood burning home heat stoves are very common in much of Chile, and these stoves burn dirty and emit harmful pollution.  

My guest today, Carlos Chavez, is a professor of economics at the School of Business and Economics at Universidad de Talca in Central Chile. His research has focused on the use of wood-burning heating stoves in Chile and government policies that could reduce the prevalence of wood-burning stoves and improve air quality.   In our conversation, we discuss why so many people in Chile heat their homes this way and how he was able to create a research project that suggests some effective policy remedies.   

Chile is a higher income country, yet the way that many households create energy by burning wood is something far more common in poorer countries — it is generally not associated with countries at Chile’s level of wealth.  This makes Chile an interesting case study that I am glad to bring you today.

The post Why Does Chile Have Such Bad Air Pollution — And How to Fix It appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Hong Kong Braces for Troubled Times After China Imposes New National Security Law

9. Juli 2020 - 16:17

On June 30th, China imposed a new law on Hong Kong that severely curtailed political freedom and freedom of expression. The new National Security Law criminalized most forms of dissent and protest, adding criminal offenses for things like “subversion” and “collusion.” Police in Hong Kong were swift to enforce the new law, arresting people for the language on signs they held.

This move by Beijing is the latest in a series of efforts to quash a political and social movement in Hong Kong that has resisted China’s attempt to impose authoritarian rule on the historically independent city.

Hong Kong has seen this before

In recent years, as China has become more powerful on the world stage, the Chinese Communist Party has sought to erode Hong Kong’s political independence.  Last year at this time there were massive peaceful protests against a law that would permit the extradition of people from Hong Kong to China. In the year since, police and pro-Beijing authorities have cracked down on protests. And now, with this powerful new law, people are being arrested for the signs they are waving.

“This law,” says my guest Victoria Tin-Bor Hui, “means the One China, Two Systems model is dead.”

Victoria Tin-Bor Hui is an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame. We discuss the content of the new National Security Law before having a broader conversation about its political and social implications of this new era for Asia’s World City.

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The post Hong Kong Braces for Troubled Times After China Imposes New National Security Law appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How Different Countries Have Handled COVID-19, Ranked

7. Juli 2020 - 18:34
How Countries Responded to COVID-19

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have deployed drastically different responses. According to a new UN report, we’re still in the early phase of this crisis, but so far, South Korea has had the most effective response and the United Kingdom the worst.

The report, published last week by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranks the 37 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based on how well they’ve been able to contain COVID-19 and also minimize damage to their economies. South Korea topped the list, followed by Baltic countries and countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. and several western European countries rank on the bottom of the list.

The OECD’s member countries and key partners make up about 80 percent of world trade and investment, according to the group, so their ability  (or not) to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 has big global implications.


Specifically, the index compared the countries’ death rate per 1 million population, which range from below 10 per 1 million people in countries like Australia (3.88 – the lowest), New Zealand (4.34), Slovakia (4.77) and South Korea (5), to above 100 per 1 million, like in Belgium (761.55 – the highest), Spain (575.26), Sweden (319.99) and the U.S. (246.98).

The index also looked at how well countries have suppressed the pandemic during this early phase. Some countries, like South Korea and New Zealand managed to suppress transmission of the virus in March and April. In others, transmission is ongoing, like in the U.S., which has the highest “effective reproduction rate” of the countries analyzed.

Finally, the index assessed the efficiency with which countries have been able to control the pandemic. South Korea, for example, was able to suppress transmission with minimal economic fallout by employing a more targeted strategy, including isolating or quarantining infected individuals, contact tracing, quarantining people exposed to carriers of the virus and wearing face masks. Other countries, like the U.S. and Italy have had to “resort to the cruder and costlier approach of economic lockdowns,” the report’s authors wrote. Although the economic disruption has been “enormous,” they say, strict and prolonged lockdowns on social and economic activities was “most probably the right policy response for countries lacking [personal protective equipment] and with lower testing and hospital intensive care capacities,” and likely saved thousands of lives.

Although countries at the top of the index have performed better than others, the report makes clear that all countries are still highly vulnerable to new outbreaks, because no country has acquired “herd immunity” yet. Just this week, South Korea has reported several consecutive days of more than 60 coronavirus cases.

COVID-19 and the Sustainable Development Goals

The report also notes that COVID-19 will likely have “severe” short-term negative impacts on most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially progress toward no poverty (SDG 1), no hunger (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8) and reduced inequalities (SDG 10). The only silver lining, though the impact is still unclear, is that the economic lockdowns seem to have been a reprieve on the environment. As economic activity resumes, it’s important that we don’t revert to our “old patterns of environmental degradation,” the report’s authors wrote.

In terms of how well countries are progressing overall toward the SDGs, the report also includes its annual ranking of all 193 UN member states. Since the SDGs were adopted in 2015, East and South Asia as a region has earned the title of most improved, while Venezuela, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo have regressed the most because of conflicts and other economic and social problems. As in previous years, Sweden, Denmark and Finland topped the index, yet even these countries are not on track to achieve all the SDGs. The U.S. ranked 31, behind Italy, Spain and others. Additionally, the report found that high-income countries are severely undermining other countries’ ability to achieve the SDGs because of their trade and consumption practices.

Because of the delay in data, the SDG index doesn’t account for the impact of COVID-19. But according to another UN report published Tuesday, the pandemic is reversing decades of progress:

An estimated 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty this year – the first increase in global poverty since 1998.

Disruptions to health, vaccination and nutrition services means deaths of children under age 5 could increase by hundreds of thousands this year, and maternal mortality could jump by tens of thousands. Global education has also been severely disrupted as school closures have kept 90 percent of students out of classrooms – with that, more than 370 million children have missed out on school meals they depend on. Additionally, as families fall below the extreme poverty line, their vulnerability to exploitation will rise. Child labor, for example, is likely to increase for the first time in 20 years.

However, both reports note that the SDGs offer a framework for recovering from the pandemic in a way that builds back better. Specifically, if countries cooperate with each other and focus on transforming (1) education and skills, (2) health and wellbeing, (3) clean energy and industry, (4) sustainable land use, (5) sustainable cities and (6) digital technologies, they can achieve all 17 SDGs. Achieving the SDGs will, in turn, prepare the world to better respond to future crises, including other pandemics and perhaps the greatest crisis of all – climate change.

Want to learn more about what accounts for different countries’ responses to COVID-19? Listen to this podcast interview with a political scientist who specializes in comparative politics

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The post How Different Countries Have Handled COVID-19, Ranked appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Sustainable Finance for Peace and Climate Security | Climate Security Series – Taped Live

6. Juli 2020 - 16:24

This episode is part three of a six-part series examining the relationship between climate and security, produced in partnership with CGIAR, the world’s largest global agricultural innovation network. This episode was taped live in front of a virtual audience and featured five panelists discussing how sustainable finance can support peace and climate security.

In the context of our conversation, sustainable finance is something of an umbrella term for harnessing private sector capital in the service of social and environmental goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals. The conversation that unfolds over the course of about 50 minutes includes examples of innovative financial products, a discussion of the role of traditional development aid, and a broad conversation about what else needs to be done to scale up private sector investment in climate security.


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The post Sustainable Finance for Peace and Climate Security | Climate Security Series – Taped Live appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Sudden COVID Death of Burundi’s Strongman Ruler, Pierre Nkurunziza — and What Comes Next

2. Juli 2020 - 18:25

Burundi’s longtime ruler Pierre Nkurunziza died suddenly on June 8th, quite possibly from COVID-19. This would make him the first serving world leader to succumb to the virus. His death came just days after an election was held, which his handpicked successor easily won. 

Nkurunziza has been president of Burundi since 2005, and in recent years his rule became firmly authoritarian. Political opposition has been suppressed and civil society organizations shut down. This spring, Nkurunziza even booted the World Health Organization from Burundi amidst the country’s worsening outbreak.  

On the line with me today is Yolande Bouka, a professor of political studies at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. We discuss the legacy of Pierre Nkurunziza and what this chaotic moment means for Burundi and the surrounding region. 

We kick off discussing the circumstances surrounding Nkurunziza’s death. We then discuss his fraught time in power This includes a key moment in 2015 when he engineered for himself a constitutionally dubious third term in office and survived a coup attempt. The conflict surrounding that episode lead to the displacement of 400,000 people — the impact of which is being felt across the region today. We also discuss the background of the new president of Burundi, Évariste Ndayishimiye and what his rule may bring for the country.   


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The post The Sudden COVID Death of Burundi’s Strongman Ruler, Pierre Nkurunziza — and What Comes Next appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Global Health and the Future We Want — A UN 75 Consultation

29. Juni 2020 - 16:01
Part 3: A Consultation about Global Health

The United Nations turns 75 year this year. Rather than celebrate with a diamond jubilee, the United Nations is instead embarking on a listening tour. The UN is seeking feedback from as many people in as many communities as possible, all around three big questions:

What Kind of World do We Want to Create?

Are We on Track? What is Needed to Bridge the Gap?

Here in the United States, the United Nations Association is hosting “global consultations” around these questions. They are gathering groups to solicit input that will be relayed to leadership at the United Nations ahead of a major meeting in September to mark the UN’s anniversary.

Today’s episode is part three of a three part series that gives listeners an inside look into how the UN is commemorating its anniversary. In part one of this series, I moderated a global consultation that discussed those big questions, but using the lens of gender equality. In part two, we used discussed those questions in the context of climate and the environment. 

In today’s episode, I moderate a consultation about global health. This episode kicks off with my 15 minutes interview with Kate Dodson, Vice President for Global Health at the United Nations Foundation. We discuss the COVID-19 pandemic  — specifically how the World Health Organization and other United Nations entities are responding. We also discuss what reforms might make the WHO more effective at responding to future global health emergencies.

After that interview concludes, the consultation begins. For the podcast, I edited this down to include some of the questions and answers discussed.


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Take the UN75 survey

The post Global Health and the Future We Want — A UN 75 Consultation appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A Brief History of the UN Charter

26. Juni 2020 - 7:07

On June 26, 1945, after months of negotiations in the city of San Francisco, representatives from 50 countries signed the Charter of the United Nations. In October that year, after the requisite number of countries ratified the charter, the United Nations was born. 

The UN Charter is the founding treaty of the United Nations.  The document itself spells out the rules and procedures of today’s UN. But it stands for much more. The charter brought to life a longstanding idea that collective security and international cooperation can be sought through an international organization that represented all humanity.   

To mark the 75th anniversary of the signing of treaty that created the United Nations — UN Charter Day —  I am re-leasing a conversation I had with author Stephen Schlesinger who wrote the definitive book about the 1945 San Francisco Conference, Act of Creation

Stephen Schlesinger and I recorded this conversation exactly five years ago, when the UN turned 70. We discuss the unique history of the UN Charter, some of the key players that drove diplomacy in San Francisco in 1945 and the post-war diplomatic intrigue that lead to its signing. 


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Here is the preamble to the Charter, which reflects the determination of the international community, in the wake of World War Two, to build a better world and design the future they wanted.

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to regain faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

AND FOR THESE ENDS…to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS…Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

75 years on, the United Nations is still trying to achieve the ideals reflected in this pre-amble.  To that end, the UN has launched a massive survey available in nearly every language, asking “we the peoples” to help determine the future of the UN. You can find that here.

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Kategorien: english

A Dramatic Turn of Events in the Libya Conflict

25. Juni 2020 - 17:26

The civil war in Libya is to a large extent a proxy war pitting some major global rivals against each other. On one side of the conflict is the UN-backed government in Tripoli, known as the Government of National Accord.  On the other side is a renegade general named Khalifa Haftar who leads a group called the Libyan National Army, or LNA.

In April 2019, Haftar’s forces, which controlled much territory in the east of Libya, mounted an attack on the UN-backed government in Tripoli. At the time Haftar had military backing from Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. France offered a degree of political support and the United States also appeared to give a green light to the assault.

But Haftar’s attack on Tripoli did not go as planned. His forces ended up in a long stalemate, unable to capture key parts of the city and unable to gain broader international support. In December, the tables seemed to turn when Russia began investing more heavily in the fight, sending in mercenaries and other military advisors. But in response, Turkey promised to more heavily support the Government of National Accord.

By the end of 2019, a proxy war was poised to escalate between Russia and Turkey, a NATO member.

That was the tense scene in Libya when I last spoke to Mary Fitzgerald, a longtime researcher. Libya was poised to be a major crisis as we entered 2020. And it had been a calamity — even as the world has been more focused on COVID-19 and global economic calamity.

In June the tide turned very sharply against Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army. Turkey’s intervention in the conflict proved to be decisive. Haftar’s forces lost a series battles around Tripoli and effectively ended their assault. These forces are now on the retreat and Haftar’s foreign support may be drying up.

This is a decisive moment for the crisis in Libya.

Mary Fitzgerald back on the Global Dispatches podcast to explain the current state of play of the conflict and offer insights into what next may unfold in this internationalized civil war.


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Kategorien: english

The 10 Most Neglected Refugee and Displacement Crises in the World

22. Juni 2020 - 17:34

Millions of people are forced to flee their homes every year as a result of conflict and persecution. But not all these emergencies receive the same amount of attention. In 2019, nine out of the top 10 most neglected displacement crises were in Africa, according to a recent report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and at the top of the list was Cameroon for the second year in a row.

“The deep crises represented by millions of displaced Africans are yet again the most underfunded, ignored and deprioritized in the world,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the NRC, in a press release. “They are plagued by diplomatic and political paralysis, weak aid operations and little media attention. Despite facing a tornado of emergencies, their SOS calls for help fall on deaf ears.”

Last year, Jan Egeland appeared on the Global Dispatches podcast to explain why Cameroon is experiencing such a profound displacement crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee their homes.


The NRC looked at crises in 41 countries – each with more than 200,000 displaced people – and ranked the top 10 based on three criteria: lack of political will, lack of media attention and lack of international aid. According to the report, the most neglected displacement crises in 2019 were:


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Burkina Faso




South Sudan


Central African Republic (CAR)



China and North Korea were not included in the NRC’s analyses “due to lack of information and reliable figures.”

In Cameroon, three different crises caused mass displacement across the country in 2019. First, clashes worsened last year between the government and militant group Boko Haram, which carried out more than 100 attacks in the Far North region. Nearly half a million people were forced to flee by the end of the year. Second, violent political conflicts in the northwest and southwest of the country have given rise to a quickly deteriorating humanitarian crisis over the last three years. In November, UNICEF reported that nearly 2 million people were in need – 80 percent more than the year before. Almost 700,000 people were internally displaced, according to the NRC, while another 52,000 fled the country altogether. Third, food insecurity and violence from neighboring CAR caused 230,00 refugees to flee to eastern Cameroon by the end of the year. An agreement between the two countries and the UN Refugee Agency only managed to help about 3,000 refugees return home to CAR.

Despite facing three intensifying crises, Cameroon received scant international media attention last year – partly due to limited access for journalists – which contributed to being one of the lowest-funded humanitarian appeals in the world. By the end of the year, only 43 percent of the appeal was funded The report says the year was also “devoid of successful mediation and saw little pressure on conflict parties to stop attacking civilians.”

The situation wasn’t much better in the other nine countries that made the NRC’s list. For example, conflict has displaced 6.4 million people within the DRC, second only to Syria (13 million). Last year, it also faced the second largest hunger crisis in the world after Yemen and major disease outbreaks, including Ebola and measles. Yet, only 37 percent of the UN’s aid appeal for the country was funded by the end of the year. This was Burkina Faso and Niger’s first time on the list.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the world entered 2020 with nearly 80 million people displaced from their homes. Now, as the virus makes its way across Latin America and Africa, wreaking health and economic devastation, the NRC report says these countries need more support than ever.

“COVID-19 is spreading across Africa, and many of the most neglected communities are already devastated by the economic shocks of the pandemic,” said Egeland. “We need solidarity with these conflict-stricken communities now more than ever, so the virus does not add more unbearable disaster to the myriad of crises they already face.”

The report provides recommendations to policymakers, donors, journalists, humanitarian organizations and the public on ways to raise awareness of the world’s most neglected crises, especially as these countries face more uncertainty and instability in 2020.

The post The 10 Most Neglected Refugee and Displacement Crises in the World appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How Big Data and New Technologies Can Advance Climate Security

22. Juni 2020 - 17:17

How can data and novel technologies can be put to better use in the service of peace building, resilience, and other aspects of climate security? In part two of the Climate Security Series, produced in partnership with CGIAR, we examine how big data can advance progress on climate security.

Four panelists from diverse fields grapple with how data and technology can support climate security.


Elisabeth Gilmore, Associate Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy Program in the Department of International Development, Community, and Environment at Clark University. She is also a Senior Associate Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo PRIO and Visiting Scientist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development COMOD  

Andy Jarvis, Associate Director General, Research Strategy and Innovation, The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT

Enrica Pocari, Chief Innovation Officer and Director of Technology at the UN World Food Programme

Maarten van Aalst, Director of the International Federation of the Red Cross Climate Center

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Kategorien: english

How the Black Lives Matter Movement Went Global

18. Juni 2020 - 17:14

The Black Lives Matter movement has spread quickly around the world. Over the last several weeks, there have been BLM demonstrations in nearly every major city in Europe. Tens of thousands of people showed up for protests in Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and London, just to name a few. There were also many protests across Latin America, Australia–even Asian cities like Seoul and Tokyo saw Black Lives Matter protests.

So how did the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota spark an anti-racism and civil rights movement that extends far beyond the United States?

My guest today, Dominique Day, is in a unique position to analyze that question.  She is an American who serves as vice-chair of the “Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent,”  a UN human rights entity that monitors anti-black racism around the world.  The Working Group regularly releases reports based on fact finding missions to countries around the world. These reports provide rich illustrations of the ways in which people of African descent are discriminated against in different places around the world, while also offering concrete policy recommendations to combat racism.

We kick off with a discussion of how the Working Group operates and how anti-black racism manifests itself differently around the world.  We then have a broader conversation about what is motivating the Black Lives Matter movement outside the United States.

We recorded our conversation one day before a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council devoted to anti-Black racism and police brutality. That meeting was called at the behest of African countries and is yet another example of the transnational impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

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Kategorien: english

Climate Change and the Future We Want — A UN 75 Consultation

15. Juni 2020 - 17:51
Part 2: A Consultation about Climate Change

The United Nations turns 75 year this year. Rather than celebrate with a diamond jubilee, the United Nations is instead embarking on a listening tour. The UN is seeking feedback from as many people in as many communities as possible, all around three big questions: What Kind of World do We Want to Create? Are We on Track? And What is Needed to Bridge the Gap?

Here in the United States, the United Nations Association is hosting what are called global consultations around these questions. They are gathering groups to solicit input that will be relayed to leadership at the United Nations ahead of a major meeting in September to mark the UN’s anniversary.

Today’s episode is part two of a three part series that gives listeners an inside look into how the UN is commemorating its anniversary. In part one of this series, I moderated a global consultation that discussed those big questions, but using the lens of gender equality. In today’s episode, I moderate a consultation about climate change and the environment.

This episode kicks off with my 15 minutes interview of Julie Cerqueira who is the Executive Director of the U.S. Climate Alliance, which is a coalition of US states committed to climate action. Our conversation focuses on the Paris Agreement and what sub-national groups, like individual states, are doing to advance the climate change agenda in the face of inaction at the federal level.

After that interview concludes, the consultation begins. And for the podcast, I edited this down to include some of the questions and answers discussed.


Get the podcast to listen later Apple Podcasts  | Google PodcastsSpotify  |  Stitcher  | Radio Public

The post Climate Change and the Future We Want — A UN 75 Consultation appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english