Category: Asia

UN chief: $1 billion pledge a ‘quantum leap’ in commitment to Afghanistan.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday hailed significant international financial support pledged to the people of Afghanistan following a meeting in Geneva, which nearly doubled the initial $606 million flash appeal for the country.

“Today, we have already heard clearly more than $1 billion in pledges, it represents a quantum leap in relation to the financial commitment of the international community towards the Afghan people,” said Mr. Guterres.

UN relief chief Martin Griffiths confirmed in his closing remarks to the meeting that more than $1.2 billion in humanitarian and development aid in total had been promised, incorporating both Monday’s appeal, and the regional response.

A ‘lifeline’ for Afghans

The funding will throw a lifeline to Afghans who lack those services; to the small children that Henrietta Fore of UNICEF spoke of, who face the risk of acute malnutrition.

And to the many women and girls who could lose their access to reproductive health services, and much more,” said the Emergency Relief Coordinator, and head of the UN humanitarian affairs office.

In an encounter with journalists on the sidelines of the high-level ministerial meeting, the UN Secretary-General noted that the fact that nearly 100 Member States had taken part in helping Afghanistan,

This in addition to more than 30 regional and international organisations, underscored that the crisis in Afghanistan remained a crucial issue for the global community, according UN News.

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United Nations Security Council urges Taliban to provide safe passage out of Afghanistan.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Monday that calls for the Taliban to facilitate safe passage for people wanting to leave Afghanistan, allow humanitarians to access the country, and uphold human rights, including for women and children.

Thirteen of the 15 ambassadors voted in favour of the resolution, which further demands that Afghanistan not be used as a shelter for terrorism.

Permanent members China and Russia abstained.

Airport attack condemned

Member states condemned in the strongest terms the deadly blasts at Kabul airport on Thursday, which killed more than 150 people and injured upwards of 200 more. 

The terrorist group Islamic State in Khorosan Province claimed responsibility.

The attack targeted people fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover two weeks ago, and international forces assisting the evacuations.

Thousands of Afghans have been trying to escape from the country ahead of the full withdrawal of the United States by its self-imposed Tuesday deadline, according UN News.

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United Nations: The ‘energy patriots’ bringing electricity to Indonesia’s remote villages.

For millions of villagers in Indonesia’s remote areas, a 12-hour-per-day erratic electricity supply is the norm.

With students studying by candlelight at night and health centres not running at full capacity, these communities face an uphill struggle to improve their well-being

But a recently launched UN-led initiative could change that, thanks to a group of Indonesians dubbed “energy patriots” who have been tasked to boost the use of clean energy resources, with the goal of improving access to healthcare, education and economic development in rural villages.  

An urgent need for clean energy

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, urgently needs clean energy capacity: the blistering pace of economic development over the past decade has lifted millions out of poverty, but it has also dramatically increased the demand for energy

The government has pledged to phase out all coal-fired power stations by 2055, but some 30 million people out of the country’s population or around 267 million do not have adequate access to electricity, according UN News.

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Viet Nam: Help of the United Nations by facing the pollution challenge ‘Dragon’s Jewels’.

A community-led project to manage some 28,000 tonnes of plastic waste and prevent 5,000 tonnes from ending up in the ocean is being supported by the UN in one of the most popular tourist attractions in Viet Nam.

The waste in Ha Long Bay, an area which is known as the Dragon’s Jewels, is generated mainly by the local tourism and fishing industries.

So far, 1000 tonnes of plastic waste have been properly separated, and 150 tonnes collected by freelance waste workers as part of a Global Environment Fund project, which is implemented by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“Previously, we didn’t know how to separate the waste, how to compost or why we need to reduce plastic”, says farmer Đinh Thị Luyến.

“We have been provided with material and equipment; we are so thankful.”

You can find out more about Ha Long’s plastic waste challenge, and how it is being tackled by the local community, here, according UN News.

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United Nations: ‘Thailand uses financial muscle to tackle climate crisis’.

“Social responsibility and sustainable profit” can go hand in hand according to the chief of Thailand’s government pension fund. 

The UN, and some of the biggest players in the Thai economy, are working together to support efforts by the country’s finance and banking institutions to speed up the South East Asian country’s transition to a net zero carbon economy.

It is increasingly recognized that the finance and banking sectors can have a huge influence on the economy, through the way that they decide to invest in, and fund, businesses, and in Thailand, the UN is helping the government to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable finance.

Ahead of a UN-backed event aimed at encouraging Thai finance leaders to adopt sustainable business practices, Eric Usher, the head of the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative, spoke with Srikanya Yathip, Secretary General of the Thai Government Pension Fund and Kattiya Indaravijaya, CEO of Kasikornbank, according UN News

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The UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Myanmar called for a “COVID ceasefire” on Tuesday.

He urged the UN Security Council and Member States “to use all the tools of the UN”, including adopting resolutions, to demand Myanmar’s military rulers, known officially as the State Administrative Council, stop all attacks, particularly against healthcare professionals. 

“Too many in Myanmar have needlessly perished and too many more will die without action by the United Nations”, he warned. 

Member States of the United Nations cannot afford to be complacent while the junta ruthlessly attacks medical personnel as COVID-19 spreads unchecked.

They must act to end this violence so that doctors and nurses can provide life-saving care and international organizations can help deliver vaccinations and related medical care.” 

Resolution on ceasefires 

Myanmar’s military seized power in February, sparking countless pro-democracy protests across the country which were met with violent crackdowns, and widespread human rights abuses. 

Mr. Andrews said the junta has murdered at least 931 people, while some 5,630 others are being held in arbitrary detention where they are at risk of coronavirus infection.

Another 255 people have been sentenced for “trumped up crimes”, he added, with 26, including two minors, being sentenced to death. 

In February, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for ceasefires in all conflict areas so that COVID-19 vaccinations could take place, and to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarians and medical personnel. 

“This resolution represented a principled framework to address the outbreak of COVID-19 in States experiencing unrestrained violence.  

Given this escalating crisis, these demands must now be focused specifically on Myanmar.  

Doing so will save untold numbers of lives,” said Mr. Andrews. 

Of course, the best outcome would be for the junta to stand down so that a legitimate civilian government can lead a coordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis,” he added.  

“But in the immediate term, the junta’s relentless attacks and detentions must end. For this to be possible, the people of Myanmar need the UN and its Member States to step up with strong, principled action.”  

Special Rapporteurs, like Mr. Andrews, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor specific countries or thematic issues.   

They serve in their individual capacity and are not UN staff, nor do they receive a salary from the Organization according UN News.

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United Nations: ‘Lack of global solidarity’, slow vaccination rates put Indonesia in COVID glare.

A “lack of global solidarity” including the hoarding of vaccines by richer nations as well as slow vaccination rate has contributed to Indonesia becoming the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Asia, according to the UN’s top official in the country.

Indonesia, like many of countries in South East Asia, had until recently been successful in mitigating the worst health impacts of COVID-19; some form of physical distancing measures have long been in place.

Since taking up my post here in Indonesia in October 2020, I’ve only met most of my colleagues on screen and have almost entirely avoided Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams.

Still, the non-health impacts of the pandemic are stark.

Indonesia has made remarkable progress in alleviating poverty over the past decade, but COVID-19 has set back some of those vital gains.

As elsewhere, COVID-19’s economic burden has fallen disproportionately on women, and other marginalized groups.

Since May, however, the health crisis has become increasingly urgent. New COVID-19 cases have risen five-fold over the past month.

On July 17, Indonesia reported more new daily infections than both India and Brazil, causing multiple news outlets to dub it Asia’s new COVID-epicentre.

And on July 21, the UN’s World Health Organization there had been more than 77,500 deaths in the country.

Indonesia’s total of some 3 million confirmed cases is still far below the more than 31 million India has recorded since the start of the pandemic.

But comparisons have inevitably been made with India’s tragic spring surge. In some areas, overflowing hospitals have been forced to turn away patients and volunteer groups have mobilized to locate oxygen tanks and build coffins.

How did things get so bad so quickly?

It’s down to several factors. The surge is being driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant and we’re also seeing rising case numbers across the region and in many other countries. But on a deeper level, there just hasn’t been a sense of collective wisdom during the pandemic.

The same oversights that occurred in one country were repeated in another. Global experience has demonstrated that strict enforcement of public health measures is critical to containing outbreaks, and that these measures must be guided by accurate surveillance of the transmission of the virus. That didn’t happen in India. What we are seeing here in Indonesia is also in part a result of mass gatherings and travel when the rate of infection was still high.

On top of that, vaccinations haven’t been rolled out quickly enough. As of July 17, six out of every hundred people among Indonesia’s population of 270 million had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with low coverage among the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

Indonesia has secured a relatively good supply of vaccinations, including from the COVAX facility—which is supported by organizations such as WHO and UNICEF—and is ahead of other countries in the region.

But there has been a global lack of solidarity despite the UN Secretary-General’s calls for equitable vaccine access.

Rich countries hoarded vaccines.

As sad as it is, Indonesia is certainly not the worst off; only 1.1 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one vaccination dose according UN News.

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Coronacrisis to push global unemployment over 200 million people in 2022.

The economic crisis caused by the COVID pandemic is expected to contribute to global unemployment of more than 200 million people next year, with women and youth workers worst-hit, UN labour experts said on Wednesday according UN NEWS:

The International Labour Organization (ILO) also maintained in a new report that although the world’s nations “will emerge” from the ongoing health crisis, “five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone” nonetheless.

“We’ve gone backwards, we’ve gone backwards big time,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “Working poverty is back to 2015 levels; that means that when the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was set, we’re back to the starting line.

The worst-affected regions in the first half of 2021 have been Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, all victims of uneven recovery.

Unemployment over 200 million people in 2022

The Geneva-based organization also projected a “jobs gap” increase of 75 million in 2021, which is likely to fall to 23 million in 2022 – if the pandemic subsides.

The related drop in working-hours, which takes into account the jobs gap and those working fewer hours, amounts to the equivalent of 100 million full-time jobs in 2021 and 26 million in 2022.

Mr. Ryder said: “We need a comprehensive and co-ordinated strategy, based on human-centred policies, and backed by action and funding.

There can be no real recovery without a recovery of decent jobs.”

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