Geneva, Jun 28 (Canadian-Media): The repression of “fundamental freedoms” by the Chinese Government prompted nearly 50 UN independent experts on Friday to express their continuing alarm, urging the country to “abide by its international legal obligations”, UN reports said.
The skyline of Hong Kong harbour. Image credit: Unsplash/Man Chung
After having “repeatedly communicated” their concerns, they highlighted the repression of protests and democracy advocacy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR); impunity for excessive use of force by police; the alleged use of chemical agents against protesters; the alleged sexual harassment and assault of women protesters in police stations; together with the alleged harassment of health care workers.
The experts also raised their “grave concerns” on issues ranging from the collective repression of specific communities – “especially religious and ethnic minorities, in Xinjiang and Tibet” – to the detention of lawyers and prosecution - in addition to disappearances - of human rights defenders across the country.
Moreover, they expressed alarm over allegations of forced labour in both formal and informal sectors of the economy, as well as arbitrary interferences with the right to privacy, cybersecurity laws that authorise censorship; and anti-terrorism and sedition laws, applicable in Hong Kong.
The independent experts also voiced their concern for journalists, medical workers and those speaking out about COVID-19 online inside China, who have allegedly faced retaliation from the authorities, including being charged with “spreading misinformation” or “disrupting public order.”
‘Violation’ of legal obligations
Most recently, say the experts, and without meaningful consultation with the people of Hong Kong, China has drafted a national security law that would undermine the right to a fair trial, and open the door to a “sharp rise in arbitrary detention”, undermining the “one country, two systems” governance framework that was introduced at the end of British rule; enabling the Chinese Government to establish “agencies” in Hong Kong “when needed.”
If adopted, the law would “violate China’s international legal obligations and impose severe restrictions on civil and political rights in the autonomous region”, according to the independent experts.
“The draft law would deprive the people of Hong Kong…the autonomy and fundamental rights guaranteed them under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration”, they maintained.
The experts urged China to "withdraw the draft national security law for Hong Kong”.
Standing up, speaking out
After actions taken by the Government towards Hong Kong, Xinjiang minorities, the Tibet Autonomous Region, and rights defenders across the country, the independent experts are calling for “renewed attention on the human rights situation in the country”.
They urged China to invite civil and political rights monitors to conduct independent missions “in an environment of confidentiality, respect for human rights defenders, and full avoidance of reprisals” and encouraged the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to urgently monitor Chinese human rights practices.
Click here for the full list of names of the UN experts.
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based HRC to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honourary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
#UN; #TortureVictims; #HumanRights
Geneva, Jun 26 (Canadian-Media): Torture is an “egregious abuse of human rights”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday, the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, UN reports said.
After surviving military enslavement in Guatemala, Maria Ba Caal received help through an emergency grant from the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
Image credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Although international law “unequivocally prohibits torture in all instances”, the UN chief pointed out that it nevertheless continues in many countries, “even those where it is criminalized”.
Torture seeks to annihilate a victim’s personality and denies a human being of his or her inherent dignity.
Concerns about protecting national security and borders are increasingly used to allow torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment.
And its pervasive consequences often go beyond the isolated act on an individual to be transmitted through generations, leading to cycles of violence.
From the outset, the UN has condemned it as one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings.
“On this International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, human rights defenders and survivors of torture around the world take the opportunity to speak out against this abhorrent denial of human dignity and they act to remember and support its victims”, Mr. Guterres said in his message.
No legal basis
Torture is absolutely banned under all relevant legal instruments and cannot be justified under any circumstances.
Its prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties that expressly prohibit the practice or not, according to the UN.
Moreover, the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.
“Torture diminishes everyone and everything that it touches, including torturers and the systems and States where it occurs”, maintained the top UN official. “Torturers must never be allowed to get away with their crimes, and systems that enable torture should be dismantled or transformed”.
To transition from horror to healing, victims of torture require prompt and specialized programmes.
“Victims and survivors and their families must be empowered and assisted to seek justice for their ordeal”, Mr. Guterres asserted.
The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, channels funding to assist victims of torture and their families by awarding hundreds of grants to civil society organizations worldwide for medical, psychological, legal, social and other assistance.
It contributes to the rehabilitation, reparation, empowerment and access to remedies for nearly 50,000 torture survivors each year.
“To that end, I commend the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and call for its replenishment”, added the UN chief.
The dedicated day offers an opportunity for everyone, everywhere, to unite in support of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been tortured and those who are still being abused today.
“On this International Day, let us honour the victims of torture and commit to work to achieve a world where such abuse cannot happen”, the Secretary-General concluded.
Geneva, Jun 19 (Canadian-Media): Conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is “a brutal crime” that is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN chief underscored on Friday, the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN reports said.
Mainly perpetrated against women and girls, CRSV also affects men and boys.
“It reverberates throughout communities and societies, perpetuating cycles of violence and threatening international peace and security”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the day.
And the already dramatically under-reported crime has been buried further by the coronavirus during national lockdowns, limiting the ability of survivors to report incidents, further intensifying existing structural, institutional and socio-cultural barriers to reporting the crimes.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages through regions of the world suffering through armed struggle, Mr. Guterres commended “frontline staff who are finding ways to support those affected, despite lockdowns and quarantines”.
“On this International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we stand in solidarity with survivors”, he continued, vowing to “listen to them and act on their experiences and decisions”.
The UN chief concluded with the words: “We must prevent and end these crimes; place survivors at the centre of our response; hold perpetrators accountable; and expand support for all those affected”.
Combatting CRSV crimes
Combatting impunity for sexual violence is central in deterring and preventing CRSV crimes. It is also an essential component in redress for victims.
Among many other aspects, COVID-19 is significantly and detrimentally impacting the rule of law, including by limiting the availability and capacity of law enforcement and judicial authorities to respond to CRSV.
Moreover, the pandemic hinders the processing of reports on incidents of sexual violence and risks deprioritizing services needed by survivors, including in shelters, health care services, police and justice sector services.
Closed shelters, cancelled counselling services and diverted resources are also severely impacting a range of medical, psychosocial and legal services required to support CRSV survivors.
And fear of the virus spreading adds to barrier in accessing services.
Survivors of sexual violence may be less willing to seek help because of perceived risks of contracting COVID-19, fearing infection and potentially transmitting the virus to their families.
Detail from a work of art by Noorulhuda Nadheer.Lockdown violence Stay-at-home restrictions have also contributed to an increase in domestic and gender-based violence.
Women and girls already in abusive situations are more exposed to increased control and abuse, with little or no recourse to seek support.
Marking the occasion
On this sixth official observance of the International Day, a virtual event was co-hosted on Friday by the UN Offices on Sexual Violence in Conflict and for Children and Armed Conflict, along with Argentina’s Mission to the UN.
Among other things, it outlined the toll of the coronavirus on the lives of survivors, delivery of services and the UN’s work as a whole.
The Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, told the meeting that “the current crisis is a test of our resolve”.
“We must not allow it to reverse the gains we have made in recent decades to combat gender-based discrimination as a root cause of gender-based violence in times of war and peace”, she said.
Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, noted that while COVID-19 is impacting her office’s monitoring, reporting and verification capacity, teams on the ground are “evaluating the situation and developing mitigation measures”.
“It is critical that we do not forget children affected by armed conflict when responding to the pandemic”, underscored the UN envoy, maintaining that the “protection, release and reintegration” of children “remains more important than ever”.
‘I am my brother’s keeper’, Philonise Floyd tells UN rights body, in impassioned plea for racial justice
Geneva, Jun 17 (Canadian-Media): The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday heard powerful testimony from the brother of George Floyd, whose death, captured on video, while a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, has sparked worldwide protest, UN reports said.
Philonise Floyd, the brother of the George Floyd, addresses the Human Rights Council remotely. Image credit: UN Geneva
In a pre-recorded appeal to the Council to set up an international probe to investigate killings of Black people in America, and violence against demonstrators, Philonise Floyd urged the United Nations to act.
Echoing that message, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said: “Today, people are saying, loudly and movingly, ‘Enough.’ The United Nations has a duty to respond to the anguish that has been felt by so many for so long.
“This cause is at the heart of our Organization’s identity. Equal rights are enshrined in our founding Charter. Just as we fought apartheid years ago, so must we fight the hatred, oppression and humiliation today.”
‘I am asking you to help us. Black people in America
’Mr. Floyd delivered his message in the Council’s first Urgent Debate on racism, alleged police brutality and violence against protesters, who have marched by the million, after being sickened by the manner of George Floyd’s death, called by the African Group of nations.
“You watched my brother die. That could have been me,” he said in an impassioned recording. “I am my brother’s keeper. You in the United Nations are your brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in America, and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd. I am asking you to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us. Black people in America.”
Addressing the Council at the start of the debate, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, struck a similarly urgent tone. “Time is of the essence. Patience has run out,” she said. “Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. The lives of people of colour matter. All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights and that is what this Council, like my Office, stands for.”
Reminding the Council’s delegates of the circumstances surrounding his 46-year-old brother’s death on 25 May in Minneapolis, Mr. Floyd noted that even after he was “unconscious, stopped moving and stopped breathing, the officer kept his knee on my brother’s neck for another four minutes as many witnesses kept begging the officer to take his knee off of my brother’s neck and save his life.
‘No mercy, no humanity’
“The officers showed no mercy, no humanity and tortured my brother to death in the middle of the street in Minneapolis with a crowd of witnesses watching and begging them to stop, showing us black people the same lesson yet again: black lives do not matter in the United States of America.”
Ms. Bachelet called for the reform of specific institutions and law enforcement agencies across the world, and measures to address the “pervasive racism that corrodes institutions of government, entrenches inequality and underlies so many violations of human rights”.
‘Lethal harm’ results ‘too often’
“Gratuitous brutality has come to symbolise the systemic racism that harms millions of people of African descent”, she said, adding that it causes “pervasive, daily, life-long, generational and too often lethal harm”.
The urgent debate, only the fifth to take place since the Council began its work in 2006, was initiated by the Council’s African Group, after a call from more than 600 rights groups to investigate alleged police violence after Mr Floyd’s death.
“The African Group is profoundly worried by recurring acts of racial murder and police brutality and by recurring violations of human rights against people of African heritage in some parts of the world,” said African Group representative, Ambassador Léopold Ismael Samba (Central African Republic). “The African Group condemns firmly the senseless and unjustified killing of George Floyd.”
In a call for reform and notably a renewed commitment to the implementation of key pledges taken to combat racism in in 2002 at the Durban World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Ambassador Samba added that it was “unacceptable” to still have to be “talking about and fighting for equality for some people 72 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims that all people are born free and in dignity”.
In a session marked by expressions of sympathy for the family of George Floyd, speakers also addressed the issue of violence against protesters – a matter also raised by Philonise Floyd.
Protestors, journalists ‘beaten and blinded’
“When people dared to raise their voice and protest for my brother, they were tear-gassed, run over with police vehicles, several people lost eyes and suffered brain damage from rubber bullets, and peaceful protestors were shot and killed by police,” he said.
“Journalists were beaten and blinded when they tried to show the world the brutality happening at the protests. When people raise their voices to protest the treatment of black people in America they are silenced; they are shot and killed.”
Highlighting how the many protests around the world had been “the culmination of many generations of pain and long struggles for equality,” Ms. Bachelet noted that “too little has changed over too many years. We owe it to those who have gone before, as well as those to come, to seize this moment, at long last, to demand fundamental change and insist upon it.”
Criminal acts by some among the protests
Nonetheless, the High Commissioner for Human Rights underlined how she had been “disturbed by the criminal acts undertaken by a small number of people amid the many peaceful protests around the world, which have often harmed property of racial and ethnic minorities in acts of fresh victimization. Video evidence has also shown excessive use of force against protestors by police, including during entirely peaceful protests. All these incidents should be investigated and those responsible should be brought to justice.”
Speaking for the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Amina Mohammed noted to Council delegates that he shared their “abhorrence of racism” and was committed to fighting it with every tool we have”.
The UN Deputy Secretary-General also pointed out that he had launched a one-year process to address grave staff concerns on the matter, before quoting from a recent letter he sent UN staff, in which he insisted that the “scourge violates the United Nations Charter and debases our core values”.
From personal experience and in likely reference to her joint Nigerian and British roots, Mrs Mohammed added: “The poison of racism still rages, and so the fight must still be waged. On a personal level, from my high school days in the United Kingdom through my career across the private sector, civil society and now international public service, I have grown thick skin.
“I have even become numb, to the extent that one has forgotten how to feel the injustice of racial slurs and my human right to live a life of dignity and of respect.”
#UN; #ChildrenInConflict; #brutality #HumanRights; #SexualExploitation;
Geneva, Jun 15 (Canadian-Media): Boys and girls used and abused in armed conflict have had their childhoods replaced by “pain, brutality and fear while the world watches”, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said on Monday, UN reports said.
On 26 May 2020 in Juba, South Sudan, children released from armed forces are seated on the ground while negotiations for their reintegration take place.
Image credit: UNICEF/Helene Sandbu Ryeng
Launching the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba maintained that parties to conflict often “neglect to protect children in the conduct of hostilities and deny them the vital aid they desperately need”.
The tragedy children face continued unabated throughout 2019, the report highlighted, disclosing that the UN had verified over 25,000 grave violations against children.
The overall number of grave violations, which remains similar to 2018, translates into some 70 recorded abuses per day.
“By violating the rules of war, parties endanger their own children”, she spelled out.
Citing 4,400 verified incidents, the report revealed a shocking 400 per cent jump in the denial of humanitarian access to children last year, which Ms. Gamba called “by far most worrisome trend in 2019”.
It also painted a picture of frequent violence against humanitarian workers, along with aggressions to impede their work in providing basic assistance to children, such as looting supplies and restricting movements, among many other disruptions.
The document spotlighted Yemen, Mali, the Central African Republic (CAR), Syria, Israel and Palestine as the most worrying situations.
Disrespect shown to fundamental rights within schools and hospitals is also extremely concerning, particularly in in Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine and Syria where some 927 verified incidents of attacks were reported.
As a direct result of attacks, or closures for military use, millions of children during 2019 were deprived of both an education and effective healthcare.
“I call on all parties to conflict to immediately prioritize humanitarian access to children and vulnerable populations in situations of armed conflict, and to allow child protection experts and humanitarians to do their work”, said the Special Representative.
Throughout 2019, boys and girls continued to endure sexual violence and although 735 cases had been verified, according to the brief, these violations are vastly underreported.
Factors, such as impunity for perpetrators, and lack of access to justice; fear of stigma and lack of services for survivors; are largely the cause of under-reporting.
The largest verified incidents are occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia and CAR.
“I commend the courage and dedication of these humanitarian professionals and call on all Member States to support the work of child protection actors in the field”, said Ms. Gamba.
Denial of humanitarian access to children 'by far most worrisome trend in 2019' -- UN envoy
The cross-border nature of conflict is also greatly disturbing, including in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions.
To address the plight and vulnerability of girls and boys in Burkina Faso – where terrorist-related and inter-communal violence is rising fast - and Cameroon, the Secretary-General will include both, for the first time, as situations of concern in his upcoming report.
The Special Representative expressed the readiness of her office in continuing to support children throughout the regions.
Raising the alarm
Another cause for alarm is that 2,500 children are detained for their actual or alleged association with armed groups, including possible associations with those designated by the UN as terrorists.
The Special Representative reminded that children must be treated primarily as victims; that detention is used only for the shortest period and as a measure of last resort; and that alternatives to incarceration are actively sought.
“I call on Member States to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of children stranded in camps in Iraq and Syria to their countries of origin or to the countries of origin of their parents”, she concluded.
Citing ‘weight of history’, senior UN officials of African descent issue call to ‘go beyond and do more’ to end racism
#UN; #SystematicRacism; #UNAIDS; UNFPIA; #MINUSMA; #WHO; #UNCTAD; #UNFPA; #MONUSCO
Geneva, Jun 14 (Canadian-Media): A group of more than twenty senior leaders in the UN, who report directly to Secretary-General António Guterres, and who are African or of African descent, have put their names to a personal and hard-hitting statement published on Friday, expressing their outrage at pervasive and systemic racism, highlighting the need to ‘go beyond and do more’ than just offering condemnation, UN reports said.
An impromptu memorial for George Floyd, who was killed after being restrained by police, has been set up in Harlem, New York City. Image credit: Hazel Plunkett
The signatories include high-profile heads of UN agencies, such as Tedros Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Winnia Byanyima, Executive-Director of UNAIDS, and Natalia Kanem, who runs the UN sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA).
Grasping for breath. Begging for mercy. The entire world heard the tragic cry. UN African leaders op-ed
The editorial begins by evoking the death of George Floyd, the African-American man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes: “A desperate yearning for a long-departed mother. Reaching deep from the bowels of fragile humanity. Grasping for breath. Begging for mercy. The entire world heard the tragic cry”.
Citing the “deep trauma and inter-generational suffering” that has resulted from racial injustice, particularly against people of African descent, the opinion piece written in their personal capacity, declares that it is time to go further than simply condemning acts of racism, described as “a global scourge that has been perpetuated over centuries”.
Time to step up
The leaders call on the UN to “step up and act decisively to help end systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups”, citing Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, which stipulates that the UN promotes and encourages “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”.
Highlighting the historic role of the UN in pivotal struggles against racism –such as the ending of apartheid in South Africa, the emancipation of former African colonies, and the civil rights movement in the United States – the editorial calls on the UN to “use its influence to once again remind us of the unfinished business of eradicating racism, and urge the community of nations to remove the stain of racism on humanity”.
Acknowledging efforts by UN chief António Guterres to address systemic racism at all levels, including within the UN, the authors of the letter note that the Organization must lead by example, with “an honest assessment of how we uphold the UN Charter within our institution”.
An obligation to speak up
The expression of solidarity with peaceful demonstrations, such as the protests organized by Black Lives Matter and other groups arguing for racial justice, and “other mass demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality”, is, say the senior UN officials, “well in keeping with our responsibilities and obligations as international civil servants to stand up and speak out against oppression. As leaders we share the core beliefs and the values and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations that do not leave us the option to keep silent”.
The editorial goes on to say that the officials commit to harnessing their expertise, leadership and mandates, to “address the root causes and structural changes that must be implemented if we are to bring an end to racism”.
The opinion piece ends with quotations from renowned human rights and anti-racism activists, including Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s statement that “black liberation is an absolutely indispensable prerequisite to white liberation: nobody will be free until we all are free”.
All of the following UN officials signed the editorial in their personal capacity.
#ILO; #UNICEF; # COVID19Crisis; #ChildLaborIncreasing;
New York, Geneva, Jun 13 (Canadian-Media): Millions more children risk being pushed into child labor as a result of the COVID-19 crisis , which could lead to the first rise in child labor after 20 years of progress, according to a new brief from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and UNICEF, ILO reports said.
Image credit: © Sonali Pal Chaudhury / NurPhoto via AFP
According to COVID-19 and child labour: A time of crisis, a time to act , child labor decreased by 94 million since 2000, but that gain is now at risk.
Global estimates in 2017 showed that 152 million children were in child labor worldwide.
Children already in child labor may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, the report says. More of them may be forced into the worst forms of labor, which causes significant harm to their health and safety.
“As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family incomes, without support, many could resort to child labour," said Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
“As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family incomes, without support, many could resort to child labour,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder. “Social protection is vital in times of crisis, as it provides assistance to those who are most vulnerable. Integrating child labor concerns across broader policies for education, social protection, justice, labor markets, and international human and labor rights makes a critical difference.”
According to the brief, COVID-19 could result in a rise in poverty and therefore to an increase in child labor as households use every available means to survive. Some studies show that a one percentage point rise in poverty leads to at least a 0.7 per cent increase in child labor in certain countries.
“In times of crisis, child labour becomes a coping mechanism for many families,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “As poverty rises, schools close and the availability of social services decreases, more children are pushed into the workforce. As we re-imagine the world post-COVID, we need to make sure that children and their families have the tools they need to weather similar storms in the future. Quality education, social protection services and better economic opportunities can be game changers.”
“As poverty rises, schools close and th COVID-19 crisise availability of social services decreases, more children are pushed into the workforce, "Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said.
Vulnerable population groups – such as those working in the informal economy and migrant workers – will suffer most from economic downturn, increased informality and unemployment, the general fall in living standards, health shocks and insufficient social protection systems, among other pressures.
Evidence is gradually mounting that child labour is rising as schools close during the pandemic. Temporary school closures are currently affecting more than 1 billion learners in over 130 countries. Even when classes restart, some parents may no longer be able to afford to send their children to school.
As a result, more children could be forced into exploitative and hazardous jobs. Gender inequalities may grow more acute, with girls particularly vulnerable to exploitation in agriculture and domestic work, the brief says.
The brief proposes a number of measures to counter the threat of increased child labour, including more comprehensive social protection, easier access to credit for poor households, the promotion of decent work for adults, measures to get children back into school, including the elimination of school fees, and more resources for labor inspections and law enforcement.
ILO and UNICEF are developing a simulation model to look at the impact of COVID-19 on child labor globally. New global estimates on child labor will be released in 2021.
#UN; #HumanRights; #ChildLabor; #UNICEF; #WorldDayAgainstChildLabour; #FAO
Geneva, Jun 12 (Canadian-Media): Huge gains made towards ending child labour over the last 20 years, risk being reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN said on Friday, in an appeal for governments to continue investing in measures that have helped reduce the number of youngsters working, by 94 million, since 2000, UN reports said.
A boy who was forced to work in a factory in Hyderabad, India is pictured outside his home. Image credit: UNICEF/Prashanth Vishwanathan
Existing global estimates indicate that 152 million children are being put to work, but the figure is due to be updated next year, once the wider impact of coronavirus lockdown precautions become clearer.
“As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family incomes, without support, many could resort to child labour”, said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), marking the World Day Against Child Labour.
“Social protection is vital in times of crisis, as it provides assistance to those who are most vulnerable,” he added.
Child labour, a coping mechanism
Echoing that message, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Henrietta Fore, explained how child labour was “a coping mechanism for many families” in times of crisis.
She added: “As we re-imagine the world post-COVID, we need to make sure that children and their families have the tools they need to weather similar storms in the future. Quality education, social protection services and better economic opportunities can be game changers.”
Closed classrooms link to labour
Of particular concern is growing evidence that child labour has risen in line with school closures linked to the pandemic, with more than one billion youngsters in some 130 countries impacted to date.
“Even when classes restart, some parents may no longer be able to afford to send their children to school”, ILO and UNICEF warned in a joint statement, adding that children “may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions” as the pandemic continues.
“More children could be forced into exploitative and hazardous jobs…(and) gender inequalities may grow more acute, with girls particularly vulnerable to exploitation in agriculture and domestic work”, they said in a new report.
More worrying still, more may be forced “into the worst forms of labour…as households use every available means to survive”, it warned.
The report - “COVID-19 and child labour: A time of crisis, a time to act” – also cites research showing that a one percentage point rise in poverty can lead to “at least a 0.7 per cent increase in child labour” in some countries.
Agriculture, the key challenge
Echoing the alert, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that more than seven in 10 children – 108 million – work in agriculture.
It explained that progress in eliminating child labour in the sector has been slow owing to limited Government legislation and oversight in hard-to-reach areas, a fragmented labour force and lack of unionization, plus the fact that the majority of child labourers work as unpaid family labour without formal contracts, in keeping with longstanding traditional practices.
The problem is particularly acute in Africa, where one in five children is involved in child labour – which the FAO defines as “activities that could physically and mentally harm and/or deprive children of their education, childhood and the potential to have a healthy and promising future”.
Commonly, youngsters work on small family farms or in large plantations, caring for domestic animals, weeding and harvesting, or collecting fodder and fuel.
Progress in tackling child labour on the continent appears to have stalled, despite targeted policies to combat child labour, FAO said.
This has been the case notably in sub-Saharan countries that have been hard-hit by successive drought, increasing violence linked to extremist groups and, more recently, devastating desert locust swarms.
Recommendations to speed eradication
As countries continue to push to fulfil their pledge to eradicate child labour by 2025, ILO and UNICEF proposed a number of recommendations to achieve this.
They include more comprehensive social protection; easier access to credit for poor households; the promotion of decent work for adults; measures to get children back into school - including free schooling - and more resources for labour inspections and law enforcement.
#NationalAccessAbilityWeek; #CanadaFundsDisabledPersons; #EAF; #COVID19DisabilityAdvisoryGroup; #SocialDevelopmentPartnershipsProgram;
Ottawa, Jun 7 (Canadian-Media): The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the day-to-day obstacles that persons with disabilities face and the Government of Canada remains dedicated to working with partners across the country to build a more accessible and inclusive Canada.
Today, as part of National AccessAbility Week, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, announced an additional $1.1 million in funding to support national disability organizations through the Social Development Partnership Program - Disability Component to enhance their communications and engagement activities to better address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities.
National AccessAbility Week. Image credit: Website
The importance of accessible communications and the need for engagement with persons with disabilities during the pandemic is critical at this time and has been raised as a key issue by the disability community and the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group. The Advisory Group was created to advise Minister Qualtrough on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis, on disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps, on strategies, measures and steps to be taken in response, in keeping with a “nothing without us” approach.
Carla Qualtrough. Image credit: Twitter handle
Supporting the disability community to maintain communications and engagement during the pandemic will allow organizations to create a barrier-free, multi-lingual experience for persons with disabilities and ensure they receive accessible and relevant information to support them during this time.
As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government is committed to helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety and dignity. Since the beginning of National AccessAbility Week, the Government announced funding of up to $6.4 million over three years for up to 16 organizations across Canada through the disability component of the Social Development Partnerships Program. The Government also launched a call for proposals under the Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) small projects component for small-scale construction, renovation or retrofit projects for funding of up to $100,000. Young Canadians can also express their interest in volunteering and collaborating with local organizations in their communities through the Youth Innovation component of the EAF to secure funding up to $10,000 for accessibility projects.
On June 5, the Prime Minister announced additional supports in recognition of the extraordinary expenses faced by persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. These supports include a one-time payment of up to $600 to certificate holders of the Disability Tax Credit, a new investment of $15 million to create a National Workplace Accessibility Stream through the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, as well as new investments through the Accessible Technology Program.
“These last few months have been hard for everyone. We know that persons with disabilities face unique and heightened challenges and vulnerabilities during a pandemic including access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation and employment and income supports. That is why, in the spirit of “nothing without us,” the Government of Canada continues to work with organizations and persons with disabilities across the country, using a disability lens to address their concerns and challenges to provide the support they need during this difficult time,” said Qualtrough.
#UN; #India; #UNHumanRightsCouncil; #Covid19
India/UN, Jun 4 (Canadian-Media): The Indian Government must urgently comply with a Supreme Court order to ensure the wellbeing of more than 100 million migrant workers, after coronavirus measures left them jobless, forcing them to travel long distances home, UN independent human rights experts said on Thursday, UN reports said.
Migrant workers in India cook a meal. Image credit: World Bank/Curt Carnemark
“We are appalled at the disregard shown by the Indian Government towards internal migrant laborers, especially those who belong to marginalized minorities and lower castes”, said the Special Rapporteurs on the right to housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, and on extreme poverty, Olivier De Schutter.
Instead of protecting their rights, the experts maintained that the Government has not only failed to address migrants’ “dire humanitarian situation” but further exacerbated their vulnerability, “with police brutality and by failing to stop their stigmatization as ‘virus carriers’”.
After losing their income and with many migrants forced by their landlords to vacate their homes, the experts said many were living in intolerable conditions, hungry and without shelter, saying: “We hope the Supreme Court order will be promptly implemented and help to dramatically improve the situation of internal migrant workers”.
The Supreme Court has ordered the Government to properly register them, ensure free transportation and provide the migrants with shelter, food and water until they reach their homes.
Moreover, railway companies are mandated to ensure trains are available to transport them back to home villages, as requested by the Government.
Many internal migrants have also been assaulted by police for violating the sudden lockdown orders put in place by the Indian Government on 24 March, which, that took no account of the difficulties many vulnerable people faced in complying with them.
“While we applaud the Government’s efforts so far to provide ‘relief packages’ for people living in poverty, and to schedule extra train rides, these have been clearly inadequate and insufficient due to the vast majority of internal migrant workers not qualifying for relief packages, and the lack of coordination among state governments for the transportation of internal migrants”, the independent experts said.
Although the scale of the COVID-19 crisis in India is “testing the Government’s commitment to protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of society”, they maintained that by urgently assisting internal migrant workers, in compliance with Supreme Court’s order, “it will give the Government the opportunity to show its willingness to comply with its responsibilities under human rights law.”
The experts’ call, also conveyed directly to the Indian Government, has been endorsed by Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri; the Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, Dainius Pūras; and the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes.
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.