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Rohingya crisis: Donors pledge $344 million at UN-backed conference to support aid efforts

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A United Nations-supported humanitarian conference today raised more than $344 million to fund critical relief programmes for Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh.

The exodus – which began in late August – continues unabated, making the crisis the fastest growing refugee emergency in the world today. As of Sunday, some 603,000 refugees are estimated to have arrived in Bangladesh and thousands more reportedly remain stranded in Myanmar without the means to cross the border.

“Humanitarian donors have today expressed their solidarity and compassion with the families and communities in need,” said Mark Lowcock, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“These very generous pledges must now quickly translate into life-saving relief for the vulnerable refugees and support to host communities who have been stretched to the limit,” he added.

Since the crisis began, UN agencies have ramped up their relief efforts, including conducting a massive immunization campaign that inoculated more than 700,000 people against cholera, as well as providing food assistance to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

However, the scale of the crisis has overwhelmed the response, and emergency shelters, blankets, clean water, health care and other forms of aid are urgently needed. Adding to the complexity is that Bangladesh was already hosting about 200,000 Rohingya refugees prior to the crisis.

“More than 800,000 stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh aspire to a life that meets their immediate needs for food, medicine, water, and shelter. But beyond that, a life that has hope for the future where their identity is recognised, they are free from discrimination, and are able to return safely to their homes in Myanmar,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“As we come together in solidarity, I want to thank Bangladesh and its refugee-hosting communities and the donors for supporting them,” he added.

There were a total of 35 pledges made today, including money pledged and committed since 25 August as well as new announcements. Several donors also announced in-kind assistance worth more than $50 million. Fundraising campaigns are also underway in several countries.

One such initiative is the UN World Food Programme’s app ShareTheMeal, which launched a worldwide campaign on Sunday to raise funds to feed Rohingya refugee children and provide them with vital nutrition with a simple tap on their phones.

The pledging conference was co-organized by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). It was co-hosted by the European Union and the Government of Kuwait.

Also speaking today, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing underscored that while sustainable life-saving assistance for the refugee population in Bangladesh needs to be ensured, the root causes of the crisis need to be addressed.

“We must urge international leaders to support the peaceful resolution of this decade-long crisis in Myanmar and insist that the authorities create conditions of safety, security and dignity in Rakhine state to one of the world’s most persecuted populations,” he said.

Adding that the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission offer a way forward to peaceful co-existence, Mr. Swing underscored that the implementation must start immediately and that the first step is to allow humanitarians to resume their work in the northern part of Rakhine state.

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UNIDO advocates for sustainable energy at EUSEW

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photo: UNIDO

For the second consecutive year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) took an active part in the European Union’s Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) in Brussels, which focused on ‘Shaping Europe’s Energy Future’. “Ongoing research and collaborative actions between the European Union and Africa are crucial to renew the partnership”, said UNIDO Climate Change Expert Cassandra Pillay. “The aim of this event is to facilitate policy debates and strengthen partnerships between the two continents across private and public sectors”.

Pillay participated in the session “EU-AFRICA Long term Partnership on Sustainable Energy: The Role of Research & Innovation”, with UNIDO also contributing to the “Transport, Energy and Digitalisation – City and Industry Views” session, which was jointly organized by ERTICO-ITS Europe, EUROCITIES, ORGALIM and UNIDO. The session addressed the synergies between the transport, energy and digital sectors to achieve sustainable energy policy goals and aimed at enhancing the value of actions and cross-sectoral work programmes.

The EUSEW is a flagship event organized by the European Commission to bring awareness about renewable and efficient energy use across Europe, which brings together public authorities, private companies, NGOs and consumers to promote initiatives to save energy and move towards renewables for clean, secure and efficient power. More than 4,000 registered participants attended.

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EU mobilises over €18 million for the Central African Republic in 2019

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As many people continue to suffer in the Central African Republic (CAR), the European Union continues to stand in solidarity with the people in need in the country and announces €18.85 million in humanitarian assistance for 2019. This additional support brings EU humanitarian assistance in CAR to more than €135 million since 2014.

Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said: ‘For the EU, the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic is not a forgotten crisis. We will continue providing assistance to bring life-saving relief to the people in need. We remain, however, concerned about violence levelled against civilians and aid workers in the Central African Republic. Innocent people and humanitarian workers are not a target.’

EU humanitarian funding in the Central African Republic aims at:

helping conflict-affected people whose basic survival depends on humanitarian assistance. Internally displaced people, host communities and returnees are provided with food aid, emergency health and nutrition treatment, water and hygiene, shelter, basic essential items, education, and support to their livelihoods;

preventing violence and providing medical, psychosocial and legal support to victims of violence and human rights breaches;

tackling the food and nutrition crisis with assistance for families in need and for people at high risk of undernutrition, and support to the health sector to step up malnutrition prevention and treatment;

supporting the delivery of aid to areas where poor infrastructure and ongoing fighting make access difficult for humanitarian workers.

The Central African crisis has also an impact on the entire region as 592,000 refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring countries to which the EU is providing support as well.

Background

Since 2013, violent conflict has plunged the Central African Republic into turmoil and a protracted humanitarian crisis. Despite a new peace agreement signed in February 2019, people continue to be affected by violence. Attacks against civilians have been a major driver of the humanitarian situation in the country, leading to mass displacements and a total rupture of their means of subsistence, mainly agriculture.

More than half of the Central African Republic’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance to survive and a quarter of the population is displaced. An estimated 1.8 million people are suffering from a severe lack of food, and almost 38% of children under five years suffer from chronic malnutrition. Almost two thirds of the population has no access to health care, while access to basic social services remains largely dependent on humanitarian actors.

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International Labour Conference ends with adoption of key Convention and Declaration

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photo: ILO

The Centenary Conference of the International Labour Organization  (ILO) ended on Friday with the adoption of an unprecedented Convention and accompanying Recommendation  to combat violence and harassment in the world of work, as well as a Declaration  charting the way towards a human-centred future of work.

The ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, 2019 , is a reaffirmation of the relevance and importance of the ILO’s mandate in the changing world of work, a strong statement of intent, a mobilizing call, and a road map for action by the ILO itself.

“What we have adopted today is a roadmap, a compass to take us forward in the future of this Organization, because the future of work is the future of our Organization,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

The Declaration looks to the future of work with a human-centred lens. It has a strong focus on enabling people to benefit from changes in the world of work, by strengthening the institutions of work to ensure adequate protection of all workers, and by promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth and full and productive employment.

Specific areas for action identified include:

  • The effective realization of gender equality in opportunities and treatment
  • Effective lifelong learning and quality education for all
  • Universal access to comprehensive and sustainable social protection
  • Respect for workers’ fundamental rights
  • An adequate minimum wage
  • Maximum limits on working time
  • Safety and health at work
  • Policies that promote decent work, and enhance productivity
  • Policies and measures that ensure appropriate privacy and personal data protection, and respond to challenges and opportunities in the world of work relating to the digital transformation of work, including platform work.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres  joined some three dozen world leaders who, in the course of the two-week International Labour Conference (ILC), delivered strong messages of support for the ILO and its social justice mandate.

“You are carrying forward the torch that was lit one hundred years ago to help build a new world – a world based on social justice, founded on a model of inclusion – with governments, workers and employers at the decision-making table together,” Guterres said.

Guterres told delegates that the Declaration “marks an historic opportunity to open a door to a brighter future for people around the world.”

“The Declaration is ambitious – setting out the basis for delivering the ILO’s mandate in its second century. But the Centenary Declaration is much more than a statement of wishes or intent. The Declaration proposes a shift in the paradigm of how we look at development,” he said.

Guterres also welcomed the adoption of the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019, which is accompanied by a Recommendation.

The Convention recognizes that violence and harassment in the world of work “can constitute a human rights violation or abuse…is a threat to equal opportunities, is unacceptable and incompatible with decent work.” It defines “violence and harassment” as behaviours, practices or threats “that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.” It reminds member States that they have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance”.

The new international labour standard aims to protect workers and employees, irrespective of their contractual status, and includes persons in training, interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, jobseekers and job applicants. It recognizes that “individuals exercising the authority, duties or responsibilities of an employer” can also be subjected to violence and harassment.

The standard covers violence and harassment occurring in the workplace; places where a worker is paid, takes a rest or meal break, or uses sanitary, washing or changing facilities; during work-related trips, travel, training, events or social activities; work-related communications (including through information and communication technologies); in employer-provided accommodation; and when commuting to and from work. It also recognizes that violence and harassment may involve third parties.

Ryder welcomed the adoption. “The new standards recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, “he said. “The next step is to put these protections into practice, so that we create a better, safer, decent, working environment for women and men. I am sure that, given the co-operation and solidarity we have seen on this issue, and the public demand for action, we will see speedy and widespread ratifications and action to implement.”

Conventions are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member States, while Recommendations serve as non-binding guidelines. Declarations are resolutions of the ILO’s member States used to make a formal and authoritative statement.

During the Conference, the Committee on the Application of Standards  adopted conclusions on 24 individual cases  related to issues arising from the implementation of Conventions by ratified by member States.

The Conference outcomes “empower the ILO to perpetuate its commitment to social justice in support of peace in the world,” said Conference President Jean-Jacques Elmiger, head of International Labour Affairs at Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. “Let us dare admit it, our conference will mark history.”

The two-week ILC was attended by about 6,300 delegates, representing Governments, workers and employers from 178 of the ILO’s member States, as well as observer national and international non-governmental organizations.

A number of thematic forums on future of work issues  took place during the Conference, featuring heads of United Nations and multilateral agencies and high-level government, workers’ and employers’ representatives.

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