News from the UN # 119

In his video message for Earth Day 2021 Pope Francis noted that nature teaches us interdependence as well as what we need to do to create “a fair, equitable, environmentally safe planet”. Noting that both global catastrophes, COVID and climate change, show that there is no time to lose, he made an appeal to world leaders “to act with courage, to act with justice and to always tell people the truth” so that people know how to “protect themselves from the destruction of the planet, and how to protect the planet from the destruction that we very often trigger”. In this issue of News from the UN we highlight recent UN sessions and related events that address our relationship to Mother Earth – our common home.

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News from the UN # 118

When the pandemic struck the world in March 2020 and COVID lockdowns were enforced around the world, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 64) was the first official UN annual meeting to feel its impact. An inclusive 13 day conference was reduced to official, pro-forma opening and closing sessions with the cancellation of the intervening sessions, the commemoration of Beijing + 25 and the entire accompanying programme.

This year CSW 65 was held in a hybrid format from 15 – 26 March 2021, with limited, socially distanced participation of one delegate per member state at the opening and closing session. Almost all the remaining formal and informal sessions of the Commission meeting were held virtually, as were the negotiations that led to a final Agreed Conclusions, approved by consensus on the evening of 26 March, after several all-night sessions.

NGO CSW organized more than 700 Parallel events on a virtual platform with more than 25,000 people from more than 150 countries registered, participating in more than 16 time zones. Twenty six years after the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, it was evident that the ongoing struggle for Gender Equality was alive and well around the world!

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News from the UN # 117

“A Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and the well-being of all” was the theme of the 2021 meeting of the United Nations Commission for Social Development held 8 – 17th February. Although the theme was chosen in February 2020, it could not have been more relevant, given the context of the global COVID pandemic a year later. All sessions except the opening and closing were held virtually. As was highlighted many times during the Commission, in a world where 3 billion people are not yet online, digital inclusion needs to be named and recognized as a human right. The digital cooperation roadmap launched by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in 2020 called for action to CONNECT, RESPECT, and PROTECT all people in the digital age and highlighted the goal of universal connectivity by 2030, by which time everyone should have safe and affordable access to the internet. The call to bridge the digital divide was recognized in the resolution approved by consensus at the end of the Commission meeting.

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News from the UN # 116

“No one is safe unless everyone is safe”. COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator that was launched in April 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO), together with the European Commission and France. COVAX, is a global initiative aimed to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level with a goal of securing access to 2 billion doses of safe and effective, approved vaccines during 2021. The first ones are expected in Africa by March. On January 15th, UN Secretary General called for more global solidarity and full funding for the COVAX initiative. “Vaccines are reaching high income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all,” he said, calling for greater global solidarity and warning about the dangers of “vacci-nationalism”.

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News from the UN # 115

12th December 2020 marked the 5th anniversary of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. To highlight the importance of the day, the UN partnered with France, UK (the COP 25 and COP26 Presidencies) to host the virtual 2020 Climate Ambition Summit. A total of 70 Heads of State and Government along with local government and major business leaders, made pledges, setting out stronger commitments under at least one of the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and finance. Some countries promised ambitious dates to reach net zero carbon emissions: e.g. Finland by 2035, Austria by 2040 and the Holy See by 2050 while Pakistan committed to no more new coal-fired plants. Financial commitments to assist in adaptation of poorer countries were generally lacking. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres challenged G20 leaders noting that their COVID recovery packages included spending 50% more on fossil fuel and CO2 intensive sectors than on low CO2 and renewable energy. “The trillions of dollars needed for COVID recovery is money that we are borrowing from future generations. This is a moral test. We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.”

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