Sunday, April 26, 2020

The United African Congress and partners invite you to the second in their series of webinars on the Coronavirus in Africa

You are cordially invited to join an important webinar on Thursday, April 30, 2020, on the topic of the Coronavirus in Africa. 

In this webinar, we explore the impact of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and Human Rights violations on Africa, Africans and Black and Brown people in different parts of the world in this era of Coronavirus.

The President of Ghana will Speak at Webinar on Crisis Management for African Business Leaders

Johannesburg, South Africa, April 24, 2020 – / The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, will address what is possibly the largest ever gathering of senior African business leaders.  The media holding company,, has produced a webinar series, Crisis Management for African Business Leaders, to address the unprecedented challenges African executives are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 3,000 participants are expected from 81 countries – 41 countries on the African continent + 40 countries throughout the world. 

President Akufo-Addo will be the lead speaker on a panel moderated by Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Chairman of FSDH Holding Company, and Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer of Business Administration.  The panel, “This Isn’t the West – How Africa’s Informal Sector Responds to COVID-19” will also feature The Honorable Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, Nigeria; Ahmed Mushfiq Mobrarak, Professor of Economics, Yale University; and Amandla Ooko-Ombaka, Senior Engagement Manager, McKinsey & Co. 

The participants in the webinar are comprised of many of the most senior private sector players on the continent, most of whom carry one of the following titles: CEO, chair, managing director, president, principal, partner, CFO, chair, finance director, chief, director, executive director, group head, general manager or manager.   In addition, participants include senior government officials, leading academics, and heads of non-profit organizations. Chair and CEO Teresa Clarke commented:

“President Akufo-Addo’s leadership of the pandemic has been tailored to the unique social, economic, and cultural conditions of his country.  We are very pleased that President Akufo-Addo has accepted our invitation to address the pan-African business community about this critical issue, and provide his perspective on how African leaders in both the public and private sectors may navigate these complex choices.”

“This isn’t the West – How Africa’s Informal Sector Reacts to COVID-19” will take place on Wednesday, April 29 at 9:00 EDT (New York |14:00 WAT (Nigeria/UK)  15:00 CAT (South Africa) |16:00 EAT (Kenya).  

The panel discussion is part of a four-part series on crisis management developed by and faculty members from Harvard Business School. For more information and free registration, 

please visit

About is a media holding company with an array of platforms that reach a global audience interested in African business and lifestyle. Interests include Business Publishers’ Network, the website at, the website at, email newsletters, various social media platforms, and internet domain names ending with the “” extension. operates from Johannesburg, Lagos, and New York, and has a presence in Cape Town and Nairobi.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

We are all in this Together: Human Rights and COVID-19 Response and Recovery

Secretary-General António Guterres (second from left) attending the opening of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council, where he launched his Call for Action for Human Rights. UN Photo/Violaine Martin

23 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency — but it is far more.

It is an economic crisis.  A social crisis.  And a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.

In February, I launched a Call to Action to put human dignity and the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the core of our work.

As I said then, human rights cannot be an afterthought in times of crisis — and we now face the biggest international crisis in generations.

Today, I am releasing a report highlighting how human rights can and must guide COVID-19 response and recovery.

The message is clear:  People — and their rights — must be front and centre.

A human rights lens puts everyone in the picture and ensures that no one is left behind.

Human rights responses can help beat the pandemic, putting a focus on the imperative of healthcare for everyone.

But they also serve as an essential warning system — highlighting who is suffering most, why, and what can be done about it.

We have seen how the virus does not discriminate, but its impacts do — exposing deep weaknesses in the delivery of public services and structural inequalities that impede access to them.  We must make sure they are properly addressed in the response.

We see the disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.

Against the background of rising ethnonationalism, populism, authoritarianism, and a pushback against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic.

This is unacceptable.

More than ever, governments must be transparent, responsive, and accountable.  Civic space and press freedom are critical.  Civil society organizations and the private sector have essential roles to play.

And in all we do, let’s never forget:  The threat is the virus, not people.

We must ensure that any emergency measures — including states of emergency — are legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory, have a specific focus and duration, and take the least intrusive approach possible to protect public health.

The best response is one that responds proportionately to immediate threats while protecting human rights and the rule of law.

Looking ahead, we need to build back better.  The Sustainable Development Goals — which are underpinned by human rights — provide the framework for more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.

Strengthening economic and social rights bolsters resilience for the long haul.

The recovery must also respect the rights of future generations, enhancing climate action aiming at carbon neutrality by 2050 and protecting biodiversity.

We are all in this together.

The virus threatens everyone.  Human rights uplift everyone.

By respecting human rights in this time of crisis, we will build more effective and inclusive solutions for the emergency of today and the recovery for tomorrow.

COVID-19 and Human Rights: We are all in this together

Source: UN.Org 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Gender equality in the time of COVID-19

Women in a World Food Programme (WFP)-backed school kitchen in Aden prepare lunch packs. Photo: WFP/Mohammed Nasher

Clearly, we must fight the virus for all of humanity, with a focus on people, especially the most affected: women, older persons, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups – Secretary-General António Guterres

In a report published earlier this week, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) points out that disease outbreaks affect women and men differently, and pandemics make existing inequalities for women and girls worse.

With women representing 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally, special attention should be given to how their work environment may expose them to discrimination, as well as their sexual and reproductive health and psychosocial needs as frontline health workers, the report says.

In times of crisis, women and girls may be at higher risk of intimate partner violence and other forms of domestic violence due to increased tensions in the household.

Also, sexual and reproductive health and rights is a significant public health issue that requires high attention during pandemics. Safe pregnancies and childbirth depend on functioning health systems and strict adherence to infection prevention, the report says.

“Clearly, we must fight the virus for all of humanity, with a focus on people, especially the most affected: women, older persons, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups,” Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed throughout the pandemic.

Five things governments can do

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) encourages Governments to take five specific measures.

A group of healthcare professionals treats #COVID19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit at Greenwich Hospital, USA. Photo: Greenwich Hospital

First, ensure that the needs of female nurses and doctors are integrated into every aspect of the response effort.

“At a minimum, this means ensuring that menstrual hygiene products such as sanitary pads and tampons are available for female caregivers and frontline responders as part of personal protective equipment,” says UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia.

Second, ensure that hotlines and services for all victims of domestic abuse are considered “essential services” and are kept open and law enforcement is sensitized to the need to be responsive to calls from victims. Follow the example of Quebec and Ontario, which have included shelters for women survivors in the list of essential services.

Third, bailout and stimulus packages must include social protection measures that reflect an understanding of women’s special circumstances and recognition of the care economy. This means ensuring health insurance benefits for those most in need and paid and/or sick leave for those unable to come to work because they are taking care of children or elders at home.

Fourth, leaders must find a way to include women in response and recovery decision-making. Whether at the local, municipal, or national level, bringing the voices of women into decision-making will lead to better outcomes. The Ebola response benefited from the involvement of women’s groups.

Refugees and migrants at reception centres in Bosnia are sewing masks for use by others at the centre. Photo: UNICEF/ IOM Bosnia & Herzegovina

Fifth, policymakers must pay attention to what is happening in peoples’ homes and support an equal sharing of the burden of care between women and men. There is a great opportunity to “unstereotype” the gender roles that play out in households in many parts of the world. One concrete action for governments, particularly for male leaders, is to join our campaign HeForShe.

Gender Equality in Action
United Nations country teams are also working to ensure that women’s needs are reflected in local COVID-19 responses.

In Guatemala, a key area of the UN team’s support is to prevent and address violence against women and girls, which is crucial when people are asked to stay at home.  Central America has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world, with violence occurring mostly at home, by an intimate partner.

In Argentina, UN Women, through the European Union-UN backed Spotlight initiative, is supporting national and local authorities to ensure continued service to victims of domestic violence.

When the coronavirus pandemic arrived in his country, Giorgi Kekelidze, the director of the National Library of Georgia, felt a new sense of urgency to promote men’s equal engagement in caregiving and household chores.

In Georgia, schools have been closed since 2 March, and a one-month state of emergency was declared on 21 March.  Prominent men – including actors, writers, athletes, and celebrities – are sharing videos of themselves reading stories to their children, an effort to encourage men to play more active roles in their families.

As an active participant in the MenCare campaign initiated by UNFPA, Mr. Kekelidze is doing his part. Videos of him reading children’s books have been broadcast on Channel One of the Public Broadcaster of Georgia, following just after the afternoon news. They are also shared on the MenCare campaign’s Facebook page.

Journalist and teacher Giorgi Liparishvili play with his son Tevdore. Photo: UNFPA Georgia/Guram Kapanadze

“By reading fairy tales to children who are stuck at home, we can use these magical fictitious stories to take their minds off the worrying reality,” said Mr. Kekelidze, who is also a writer. “And we men, who have pretty seldom been doing this kind of reading, will now realize what a pleasant occupation it is.”

Journalist and teacher Giorgi Liparishvili also support the MenCare campaign, saying that men are realizing how difficult it is to be a caregiver “now that every parent is a teacher, and every house is a school”.

“Participating in this campaign is a way to show women that they are not alone, and to let children feel the support of fathers, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, friends, and teachers,” he added.

A study commissioned by UNFPA last year found that fewer than 18 percent of Georgian fathers had daily involvement in caring for children under age 6. The number dropped to less than 5 percent as children reached their teenage years.

This story of Georgian fathers reported by UNFPA is an illustration of how the impacts of COVID-19 are hitting women hard, not just in that country, but around the world.

In a recent statement, Secretary-General António Guterres called for the prevention and redress of violence against women to form a key part of national response plans for COVID-19.

Source: UN.Org 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

April 22, 2020 will mark 50 years of Earth Day.

The enormous challenges — but also the vast opportunities — of acting on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.

At the end of 2020, nations will be expected to increase their national commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The time is now for citizens to call for greater global ambition to tackle our climate crisis. Unless every country in the world steps up – and steps up with urgency and ambition — we are consigning current and future generations to a dangerous future.

Earth Day 2020 will be far more than a day. It must be a historic moment when citizens of the world rise up in a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.

The first Earth Day in 1970 mobilized millions of Americans for the protection of the planet. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

Earth Day led to the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Many countries soon adopted similar laws, and in 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day to sign the Paris Climate Agreement into force

Photo Credit: the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability via Flickr

New York City’s Fifth Avenue is filled with thousands of people when the street was closed to motor traffic for the First Earth Day on April 22, 1970 Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS | Photo Credit: Tommy Japan via Flickr

Climate strikers take to the streets of New York City in September 2019 for global strikes coordinated by the Fridays for Future youth climate movement | Photo Credit: Inma Galvez-Shorts

“Despite that amazing success and decades of environmental progress, we find ourselves facing an even more dire, almost existential, set of global environmental challenges, from loss of biodiversity to climate change to plastic pollution, that call for action at all levels of government,” said Denis Hayes, the organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970 and Earth Day Network’s Board Chair Emeritus.

“Progress has slowed, climate change impacts grow, and our adversaries have become better financed,” said Earth Day Network president Kathleen Rogers. “We find ourselves today in a world facing global threats that demand a unified global response. For Earth Day 2020, we will build a new generation of environmentalist activists, engaging millions of people worldwide.”

When is Earth Day 2020?
Earth Day is April 22 of every year. April 22, 2020, will mark 50 years of Earth Day.

What is the theme for Earth Day 2020?
The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary.

Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.

What is the history of Earth Day?
Earth Day was a unified response to an environment in crisis — oil spills, smog, rivers so polluted they literally caught fire.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet.

The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

What was the result of the first Earth Day?
The first Earth Day in 1970 launched a wave of action, including the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States. The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were created in response to the first Earth Day in 1970, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many countries soon adopted similar laws.

Earth Day continues to hold major international significance: In 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day when the historic Paris Agreement on climate change was signed into force.

What can I do for Earth Day 2020?
On Earth Day 2020, we seize all the tools and actions that we have, big and small, to change our lives and change our world, not for one day, but forever.

While the coronavirus may force us to keep our distance, it will not force us to keep our voices down. The only thing that will change the world is a bold and unified demand for a new way forward.

We may be apart, but through the power of digital media, we’re also more connected than ever.

On April 22, join us for 24 hours of action in a global digital mobilization that drives actions big and small, gives diverse voices a platform and demands bold action for people and the planet.

Over the 24 hours of Earth Day, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day will fill the digital landscape with global conversations, calls to action, performances, video teach-ins and more.

While Earth Day may be going digital, our goal remains the same: to mobilize the world to take the most meaningful actions to make a difference.

No matter where you are, you can make a difference. And you’re not alone, because together, we can save the Earth.

Visit on April 22 as we build an Earth Day unlike any other — We’re flooding the digital landscape with live-streamed discussions, a global digital surge, and 24 hours of actions that you can take, right now and from wherever you are.

Source: EarthDay.Org 
1752 N. Street NW
Suite 700
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Monday, April 20, 2020

Sustainable growth and Covid-19

An elderly woman observes social isolation in her home in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, on Sunday. AFP PIC

IN response to the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations launched the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, a coordinated effort between several agencies led by the World Health Organisation.

The plan provides a platform to synchronize efforts, avoid duplication, reduce response times, and provide faster and more efficient relief to those hardest hit. This is critical to rein in the outbreak and halt the spawning of new crises, thus, stabilizing the situation and in keeping with the targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework 2016-2030. How is this so?

Also known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDGs were adopted by UN member states in 2015 as a basis for shared prosperity and peace. At the heart of it all is the call for action by all countries in fostering a sustainable future.

The more critical ones are “sustainable health”, which encompasses a number of SDGs. For example, SDG 1 is no poverty; 2 is zero hunger; 3, good health and wellbeing; 4, quality education; 5, gender equality; 6, clean water and sanitation; 10, reduced inequality; 13, climate action and 16, peace and justice and strong institutions.

All these must go hand in hand in order to arrive at a state of health that is sustainable. It is not merely the “absence” of disease but beyond that as expressed by the relevant SDGs. With specific reference to the COVID-19 outbreak, SDG 6 seems to be vital as a means to “wash out” the virus, in order to achieve SDG 3. This, in turn, is related to SDGs 1, 4 and 5, and so on, where the lack of each can hamper the previous goal.

Ultimately, it is about establishing SDG 16 in ensuring health is institutionally sustainable, supported by SDGs 2 and 10. SDG 13 is an interesting feature given the anecdotal evidence related to the mandatory lockdown showing the substantial lowering of environmental gas emissions due to reduced human activities in transportation and open burning, for instance.

However, this may be temporary depending on the duration of the restricted mobility. On the contrary, the amount of solid and clinical wastes tends to increase, many times the normal quantity given the sheer numbers of those infected. In other words, the management of the outbreak must be meticulously executed.

In relation to this, SDG 11, which is sustainable cities and communities, may have a particular impact in the context of “social distancing” and overcrowding. So is SDG 17 on “partnership”, which in the final analysis is crucial to offset the dire lack of medical supplies at almost all levels.

To summarise, the role of the SDGs is greatly heightened by the pandemic as a trajectory to shape the future through education for sustainable development (ESD). Indeed, to most, the coronavirus seems to be the “transformational” agent in the way that it disrupts just about everything that humans are used to.

Of interest is the realm of ESD that has been promoted for some 15 years as a whole-institution transformational model led by Unesco. It is supported by a think-tank at the UN University, Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies based in Tokyo in ushering a novel educational model known as the Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) for ESD.

This is apparent where schools and institutions of higher education are at the receiving end as “victims” of the viral attack, unable to cope with the disruptions that they are facing. It goes back to the issue of cleanliness, hygiene, and sanitation — both mental and physical, an age-old precept that has fallen behind in the virtual world. In some places, the IT facilities are better kept than the toilets!

Undoubtedly, the ethos of education must be revisited. This was done in 2005 at the dawn of the UN Decade on ESD (2005-2014) with the establishment of the RCEs worldwide and acknowledged by UNU as a harbinger of the “new” education.

In Malaysia, there are five such centers with the latest called RCE Greater Gombak based at the International Islamic University Malaysia. All are raring to bring forth the ESD flagship as a humane response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: New Straits Times 

The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector

What Will COVID-19 Do to the Sustainable Development Goals?

A child is seen in the Balukhali Rohingya Refugee camp on February 1, 2018, in Chittagong district, Bangladesh. UN Women/Allison Joyce

The economic impact of COVID-19 could increase global poverty for the first time in three decades, pushing more than half a billion people – or 8 percent of humanity – into poverty, according to a new paper published last week by the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER).

“We were surprised at the sheer scale of the potential poverty tsunami that could follow COVID-19 in developing countries,” one of the study’s authors, Andy Sumner of King’s College London, said in a press release.

The study estimates the impact on global poverty levels based on three scenarios of low (5 percent), medium (10 percent) and high (20 percent) short-term declines in per capita income (or consumption, depending on available country data). In the worst scenario of a 20 percent economic decline, 419 million more people would be living in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day. But that number would increase to 500 or 600 million people if using the lower-middle-income country poverty line of $3.20 per day or the upper-middle-income poverty line of $5.50 per day. Meanwhile, if per capita income or consumption contracts just 5 percent, 85 to 135 million people would be pushed below the international poverty lines. In essence, COVID-19 could reverse a decade of global progress on reducing poverty, the study’s authors say.

“Our findings point towards the importance of a dramatic expansion of social safety nets in developing countries as soon as possible – and more broadly – much greater attention to the impact of COVID-19 in developing countries and what the international community can do to help,” said Sumner.

Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is at least for now lagging behind Europe and the U.S. in coronavirus infections and deaths, but the economic impacts are already being felt. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are projecting that for the first time in 25 years, the region will go into a recession. Especially with the continent’s extremely large informal economy, in which most workers survive on daily wages and have no savings or stockpiles of food, social distancing measures are far more economically devastating than in developed countries. At the same time, because daily work is a matter of survival for so many, authorities in some countries are having a difficult time enforcing lockdowns. Additionally, millions of migrant workers now no longer have the means to send money back home to family members in poorer countries who depend on those remittances.

According to the study, 80 to 85 percent of people “newly living in poverty” – on less than $1.90 a day in the case of a 10 percent contraction – would be in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. But East Asia will also be hit particularly hard, especially if a broader definition of poverty – living on less than $3.20 or $5.50 – is applied.

“This study shows that the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, and in particular, the [Sustainable Development Goals] on no poverty and zero hunger, is under considerable threat,” Kunal Sen, the Director of UNU-WIDER, said in a press release. “The need of the hour is to bring together development agencies, national governments, civil society and the private sector in a global effort to protect the livelihoods and lives of the poorest of the poor in the Global South.”

Oxfam International, for example, called on world leaders last week to implement an Economic Rescue Plan for All that would mobilize at least $2.5 trillion dollars to “support developing countries to stop the pandemic and prevent global economic collapse.” The plan includes the immediate suspension of $1 trillion in debt repayments by poor countries, a $1 trillion stimulus by the IMF and an additional $500 billion in aid.

This week, the Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers and central bank governors publicly announced they would suspend about $20 billion worth of debt repayments for 76 of the world’s poorest countries. G20 finance ministers endorsed a suspension at least until the end of the year.

“We can only beat this virus through coming together as one,” wrote Oxfam. “Developing countries must act to protect their people, and demand action from rich nations to support them. Rich country governments must massively upscale their help – led by the G20.”

Without a massive injection of relief, the charity warned, “over half the global population could be living in poverty in the aftermath of the pandemic.”


Joanne is a freelance journalist dedicated to covering global poverty and inequality. Her work has appeared in Humanosphere, the Guardian and War is Boring

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Hatred going viral in ‘dangerous epidemic of misinformation’ during COVID-19 pandemic

As the world battles the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and people are searching for clear facts and answers to questions, that could help save countless lives, “a dangerous epidemic of misinformation” is also spreading, the United Nations chief warned on Tuesday.

Secretary-General António Guterres describes the impact of the coronavirus as “the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War”, leaving millions scared, and seeking clear advice on how best to protect themselves and their families.

While it is a time for science and solidarity, a “global ‘misinfo-demic’ is spreading”, he said in a video message.

Falsehoods ‘filling the airwaves’

New Yorkers are being encouraged to practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. “Harmful health advice and snake-oil solutions are proliferating”, Mr. Guterres spelled out. “Falsehoods are filling the airwaves. Wild conspiracy theories are infecting the Internet. Hatred is going viral, stigmatizing and vilifying people and groups”.

Underscoring that the world must also unite against COVID-19, he prescribed “the vaccine” of trust.

First, he urged, “trust in science”. He also saluted the journalists and others who are fact-checking the mountain of misleading stories and social media posts.

Social media company responsibilities

“Social media companies must do more to root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19”, he stressed.

Secondly, he advocated for trust in institutions that are grounded in responsive, responsible, evidence-based governance and leadership.

And finally, he emphasized that we need “trust in each other”, with mutual respect and human rights as our “compass” to navigate this crisis.

“Together, let’s reject the lies and nonsense out there”, asserted the UN chief.

To this end, he announced a new UN Communications Response initiative “to flood the Internet with facts and science”, while countering the growing scourge of misinformation, which he maintained is “a poison that is putting even more lives at risk”.

Busting myths

Even before the pandemic officially began, UNESCO issued warnings over some of the orchestrated misinformation campaigns designed to erode fact-based journalism.

“There seems to be barely an area left untouched by disinformation in relation to the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from the origin of the coronavirus, through to unproven prevention and ‘cures’, and encompassing responses by governments, companies, celebrities, and others”, UNESCO Director for Policies and Strategies Guy Berger told UN News earlier this week.

And the scale of the problem has prompted the UN agency leading the COVID-19 response, the World Health Organization (WHO), to add a “mythbusters” section to its online coronavirus advice pages.

Among the claims it refutes are that drinking potent alcoholic drinks, exposure to high temperatures - or conversely, cold weather - can kill the virus.

“With common cause for common sense and facts, we can defeat COVID-19, and build a healthier, more equitable, just and resilient world”, concluded the Secretary-General.

Source: UN NEWS


Monday, April 13, 2020

During this COVID - 19 pandemic, ‘fake news’ is putting lives at risk: UNESCO

Unreliable and false information is spreading around the world to such an extent, that some commentators are now referring to the new avalanche of misinformation that’s accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘disinfodemic’.

And fears are growing that this phenomenon is putting lives at risk, prompting some with symptoms to try unproven remedies in the hope of ‘curing’ themselves. UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is leading efforts to counter falsehoods and promote the facts about the virus.

‘Barely an area left untouched by disinformation’

Well before the outbreak of the virus, UNESCO was issuing warnings of the impact that political, technological, economic, and social transformation has had on how we exchange information in recent years, referring to the “contamination” caused by some orchestrated misinformation campaigns, which pose a threat to fact-based journalism and, particularly during the current pandemic, people’s lives.

Guy Berger is the Director for Policies and Strategies regarding Communication and Information at UNESCO, and one of the agency’s lead officials on the subject of disinformation. In an interview with UN News, he explained that falsehoods related to all aspects of COVID-19, have become commonplace.

“There seems to be barely an area left untouched by disinformation in relation to the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from the origin of the coronavirus, through to unproven prevention and ‘cures’, and encompassing responses by governments, companies, celebrities, and others.”

He added that “in a time of high fears, uncertainties and unknowns, there is fertile ground for fabrications to flourish and grow. The big risk is that any single falsehood that gains traction can negate the significance of a body of true facts.

“When disinformation is repeated and amplified, including by influential people, the grave danger is that information which is based on truth, ends up having an only marginal impact.”

Mythbusting, and the dangers of promoting unproven medicines

Because of the scale of the problem, the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the UN’s response to the pandemic, has added a “mythbusters” section to its online coronavirus advice pages. It refutes a staggering array of myths, including claims that drinking potent alcoholic drinks, exposure to high temperatures, or conversely, cold weather, can kill the virus.

Mr. Berger noted that some people believe, wrongly, that young people or those of African descent are immune (some disinformation has a racist, or xenophobic, tone), and that those in warm climates or countries where summer is on its way, do not need to worry too much. The likely consequence, he says, is complacency, which could fuel more premature deaths.

The UNESCO official also pointed to a more harmful example of disinformation: encouraging the taking of medication, approved for other purposes, but not yet clinically proven as being effective against COVID-19.

The good, the bad, and the gullible

Sadly, says Mr. Berger, some have capitalized on the pandemic, to spread disinformation for the purposes of advancing their own agendas: “The motives for spreading disinformation are many, and include political aims, self-promotion, and attracting attention as part of a business model. Those who do so, play on emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance, and claim to bring meaning and certainty to a reality that is complex, challenging and fast-changing.”

But, he adds, not everyone responsible for spreading untruths is doing so maliciously. Well-intentioned people are also uncritically circulating dubious content. Whatever the reasons, her warns, the outcome is the same: “These different motives require different responses, but we should not lose sight of the fact that irrespective of intention, the effect of sharing falsehoods is to disinform and disempower the public, with deadly potential.”

Supplying and demanding the truth

Against this, what can be done to ensure that truthful, helpful and potentially life-saving information gains wider prominence? UNESCO’s answer, says Mr. Berger, is to improve the supply of truthful information, and ensure that the demand is met: “We are underlining that governments, in order to counter rumors, should be more transparent, and proactively disclose more data, in line with Right to Information laws and policies. Access to information from official sources is very important for credibility in this crisis.”

“However, this is not a substitute for information supplied by the news media, so we are also intensifying our efforts to persuade authorities to see free and professional journalism as an ally in the fight against disinformation, especially because the news media works openly in the public sphere, whereas much disinformation is under-the-radar, on social messaging apps.”

UNESCO, continued Mr. Berger,  is particularly urging governments “not to impose restrictions on freedom of expression that can harm the essential role of an independent press but to recognize journalism as a power against disinformation even when it publicizes verified information and informed opinion that annoys those in power. There is a strong case to be made that the media deserves to be recognized and supported by governments as an essential service at this time.”

To satisfy the demand for authoritative facts, UNESCO is circulating as much reliable public health information as possible, via the media, channels, in partnership with agencies like WHO.

UNESCO is also working to help people become more critical of what is being presented to them online and elsewhere, as fact, so that they are less likely to believe, and spread, falsehoods. The agency is using the hashtags #ThinkBeforeSharing, #ThinkBeforeClicking, and #ShareKnowledge, and promoting the view that the rights to freedom of expression and access to information are the best remedies to the dangers of disinformation.

These rights, says Mr. Berger, “enable governments and the public to make evidence-based decisions about reality, and to put in place responses that are founded on both science and human rights values, and which can get us through the pandemic in the best way.”

Source: UN NEWS

Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID-19: Be part of the response

COVID-19: Be part of the response

The COVID-19 pandemic is poised to have a catastrophic impact on the world’s poorest communities and hunger is becoming a larger problem in these vulnerable communities. There is a need for us to provide the resources they need to survive.

Make a difference! The need now is more urgent than ever to provide:

• Nutritious food, water, and adequate health care

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