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ILO and Singapore moving forward to promote decent work in Southeast Asia

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(L) Mr Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary of the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, (R) Ms Tomoko Nishimoto, ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Singapore Ministry of Manpower have renewed their Partnership Agreement to promote decent work in Southeast Asia.

The ILO and the Singapore Ministry of Manpower have enjoyed a longstanding cooperation to foster the decent work agenda in Asia and the Pacific. Since 2011, they have developed their collaboration in the areas of occupational safety and health, tripartism and social dialogue, labour market information and labour migration.

Finalized in consultation with the workers’ and employers’ organizations of Singapore, the renewed partnership agreement runs until the end of 2020. It will enhance capacities of social partners in ILO and ASEAN member States in the field of labour and promote the Decent Work Agenda.

It will also strengthen Decent Work aspects of the ASEAN regional integration process through exchange of knowledge and South-South cooperation.

Joint activities will include the organization of Sub-Regional Workshop on the implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) for ASEAN Countries and Mongolia, from 10 to 13 July 2018 in Singapore, and the 11th ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour (AFML) 29-30 October 2018.

The agreement was signed by Ms Tomoko Nishimoto, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, and Mr Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary of the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, on Wednesday 6 June 2018 at a ceremony held during the 107th International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

“We are delighted that Singapore has renewed the partnership agreement with the ILO for the fourth time,” Ms Nishimoto said. “Our fruitful cooperation has benefited the region’s development, by integrating the three dimensions of sustainability – economic, social and environmental in our joint activities. While advancing social justice, in line with ILO’s mandate as it enters its second century, this renewed partnership will also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia.”

Mr Kam said: “Singapore is delighted to renew its partnership agreement with the ILO. We strongly believe that tripartism is the foundation for the promotion of decent work for all workers. Working with the ILO enables us to share our belief in tripartism with Asia-Pacific, and is our contribution to promoting decent work for all in the region.”

The Partnership Agreement between the ILO and the Singapore Ministry of Manpower was first signed in June 2011, and renewed in 2014 and 2016. Activities organized under the agreement included the organisation of the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health in Singapore in 2017, technical cooperation to improve occupational safety and health in Brunei, a workshop on resolving employment disputes for ASEAN countries, a Singapore-Norway Third Country Training Programme on the Decent Work Agenda, a training-of-trainers workshop on Risk Assessment in the Philippines, training for labour inspectors in Vietnam, study visits by Vietnamese and Cambodian delegations on the topics of industrial relations and the National Wages Council, as well as training on Labour Force Surveys for government delegates of Brunei Darussalam.

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Health & Wellness

Vaccine inequity triggers ‘huge disconnect’ between countries

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Although COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline globally for a second consecutive week, the UN health agency chief said on Monday that “a huge disconnect” is mounting between some highly vaccinated countries, which see the pandemic as largely resolved, while huge waves of infection continue to grip others where shots are scarce. 

“The pandemic is a long way from over, and it will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) told journalists once more, at the regular press briefing in Geneva. 

Still under threat 

Tedros pointed to “dramatic increases” in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, in places where the coronavirus had previously been contained and added that new variants, fragile health systems, relaxed public health measures – and shortages of oxygen, dexamethasone and vaccines – were compounding the problem. 

“But there are solutions”, he said, urging people to adhere to physical distancing, continue to wear masks and avoid large gatherings. “Even where cases have dropped, genetic sequencing is critical so that variants can be tracked and measures are not eased prematurely”. 

Urgent financial support needed 

Although WHO has been responding to the surge in India and other flashpoints, immediate additional funding is required to sustain support in all countries experiencing new waves of cases. 

The 2021 response plan is already underfunded, and the vast majority of it is “ring fenced” by donors for specific countries or activities, which is constraining WHO’s ability to provide “an adaptable and scalable response in emerging hotspots”, Tedros said. 

Urgent and flexible funding would allow the UN health agency to scale up support for countries and the ACT Accelerator.  

Set ambitious goals ‘collectively’ 

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) outlined a 190 million dose shortfall in the UN-backed COVAX vaccine initiative for equitable COVID inoculations. 

While COVAX has delivered 65 million doses to 124 countries and economies to date, the WHO chief called on manufacturers to publicly commit to sharing their vaccines with COVAX by lifting contractual barriers “within days not months”. 

He also pressed manufacturers to give the right of first refusal to COVAX on any additional doses and encouraged them to make deals with companies willing to use their facilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines. 

“We need to collectively set ambitious goals to at least vaccinate the world’s adult population as quickly as possible”, Tedros underscored. 

Road safety priorities 

Although pandemic lockdowns and telecommuting has led to fewer car journeys and road crashes, the WHO chief pointed to a converse problem caused by drivers’ speeding. This has meant the number of deaths had not decreased proportionately.  

Kicking off UN Road Safety Week, Tedros asked for national and local policy commitments “to deliver 30 kilometre per hour speed limits in urban areas and generate local support for low speed measures overall”. 

Addressing the risk of road traffic deaths is also fundamental to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically those affecting health security, sustainable cities and reducing inequalities among and within countries.  

And policies that tackle the of impact road traffic, and create environments for safe, sustainable and inclusive transport options, also unlock action for protecting the climate and gender equality.  

A paradigm shift in how streets are designed can make streets safe, accessible and equitable for all road users – delivering multiple benefits while accelerating action across interlinking SDGs, according to WHO.

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Environment

Virtual Ocean Dialogues 2021 to focus on climate, food and nature

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A resilient and abundant ocean is essential to tackling climate change and key to providing sustainable food and jobs that boost recovery around the world. Half of the world’s GDP is dependent on nature, according to the World Economic Forum, and more than 3 billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. As countries recover from the economic and social impacts of COVID-19, the ocean can be a major part of the solution.

To fast-track the innovations necessary for a healthy ocean, Friends of Ocean Action and the World Economic Forum are convening the second Virtual Ocean Dialogues event. On 25-26 May, government representatives, leaders from business, members of civil society and scientific communities will gather at this virtual global summit to highlight how a healthy ocean is critical to the sustainable development agenda. A healthy ocean is increasingly being seen as a solution to the many development challenges society is facing.

“It has never been more critical to fast-track solutions for a resilient and thriving ocean. A range of major global summits and forums in the coming months offer a moment to acknowledge the ocean’s transformative role in tackling climate change, supporting global food systems and rebuilding the health of the natural world,” said Kristian Teleki, Director of Friends of Ocean Action at the World Economic Forum. “I invite anyone with an interest in our shared future on this blue planet to tune into the livestreamed sessions and join the conversation.”

Sessions address the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, UN Food Systems Summit, UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), WTO negotiations to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit all taking place in 2021.

During the event, ideas and innovations for ocean health will also be shared on UpLink, the digital platform to crowdsource innovations to accelerate delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A new UpLink Ocean Challenge will be launched, to seek out new ideas to boost sustainable food from aquatic sources.

“Following the outstanding success of last year’s event, the Virtual Ocean Dialogues have become a key waymarker in global efforts to secure the ocean’s health,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, and Co-Chair of Friends of Ocean Action. “I am delighted to see this second iteration take to the airwaves.”

The 2021 Virtual Ocean Dialogues are part of a 3-day high-level virtual forum convened by the World Economic Forum, the Mission Possible Partnership and Friends of Ocean Action, together with the United Kingdom’s Presidency of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), the UN High-Level Champions for COP26 and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. The Climate Breakthroughs on 27 May seek to mobilize progress and sector breakthroughs to realize a 45% reduction in annual emissions by 2030 and net-zero global emissions before 2050, including a session on decarbonizing shipping with the Getting to Zero Coalition.

Friends of Ocean Action is a coalition of 65 ocean leaders who are fast-tracking solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the ocean. Its members come from business, civil society, international organizations, science and technology. It is hosted by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the World Resources Institute.

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Tech News

Ensure digital technologies are ‘a force for good’

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Although the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across the planet, millions worldwide still lack Internet access, the UN Secretary-General said on Monday, highlighting why information and communication technologies (ICTs) must be “a force for good.”

In his message for World Telecommunication and Information Science Day, celebrated annually on 17 May, the UN chief called for action to conquer both the pandemic and the digital divide.

Innovative and protective

“Digital technologies sustain life, work, health and learning for billions of people. In the face of COVID-19, businesses, governments and the digital community have proven resilient and innovative, helping to protect lives and livelihoods. These challenging times have accelerated the transformation everywhere,” he said.

However, the Secretary-General reported some 3.7 billion people, or nearly half the world’s population, remain unconnected to the Internet.  Most are women.

“They, too, must be included if we are to make the possibilities of 5G, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, digital health and other technologies truly transformative and sustainable,” he said.

“We must also protect against the dangers of digital technologies, from the spread of hatred and misinformation to cyberattacks and the exploitation of our data.”

Encouraging investment

World Telecommunication and Information Science Day marks the signing in 1865 of an agreement to form the International Telegraph Union (ITU), making it the world’s first modern international organization.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said the UN agency will use the Day to unite the world in pursuit of digital transformation in all areas of business and life. 

“It will be an opportunity to strengthen national strategies on ICT development, implement smart policies and effective measures to encourage investments in ICTs and digital skills, and upgrade our services with new technologies ranging from AI (Artificial Intelligence) to 5G that are central to the digital economy,” he said in a video message.

Inclusive and affordable for all

Last June, the UN launched a Roadmap for Digital Cooperation that lays out eight key actions, including achieving universal connectivity by 2030.

Mr Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said the Roadmap, together with the vital work of the ITU, aims to make the digital transformation equitable, safe, inclusive and affordable for all, while also respecting human rights. 

“On World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, let us commit to work together to defeat COVID-19 and ensure that digital technologies are a force for good that help us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind.” 

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