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Global leaders and companies pledge to reduce the gender pay gap by 2030

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Global leaders from governments, private sector companies, trade unions and civil society pledged to take concrete action towards closing the gender pay gap by 2030. The global commitments – to ensure women in every sector of the workforce are paid equally to men for doing work of equal value – were made at the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) Pledging event held during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Globally, and in every sector of the workforce, women are paid less than men for doing work of equal value. Unequal pay is one of the most persistent barriers to women’s success at work and to economic growth, and is a critical problem that has been prioritized in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 8.5 and 5. Equal pay, in addition to empowering women, can have a significant impact on achieving other key goals, such as promoting inclusive societies, reducing poverty, and creating conditions for decent work and gender equality.

As Principals of the EPIC Secretariat, the Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurría, the Director General of ILO, Guy Ryder; and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, pledged to accelerate progress on reducing the gender pay gap by convening global leaders to share experiences, documenting and disseminating good practices, and drawing global political attention to the issue of gender pay inequality.

Secretary-General of the OECD, Angel Gurría, said, “Gender pay gaps are not only unfair for those who suffer them, but they are also detrimental to our economies. If you do not have equal pay productivity suffers, competitiveness suffers and the economy at large suffers.” He asserts that “it is in our power to make an immediate improvement in the quality of life of hundreds of millions of women and their families if we succeed in delivering equal pay for men and women.”

The Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, said, “The fact that women across the globe are still being paid less than men for work of equal value is one of the most visible, tangible and pervasive manifestations of discrimination. It is a matter of urgency to make sure the message is finally heard and things start to change.”

Global leaders will be in attendance including President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, and Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Panama Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado. Governments from Peru to Jordan to Switzerland to Canada demonstrated their shared vision to accelerate progress to achieve equal pay by pledging to:

  • implement legislation that prohibits unequal remuneration in the public and private sectors
  • establish National Commissions that monitor the compliance of equal remuneration laws
  • and launch national awareness campaigns on the importance of equal pay

The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said, “A strong social protection system is critical to reducing the gender pay gap – where women have access to paid maternity leave, to affordable child and elderly care services, and to sustainable infrastructure, we see an increase in women engaging in paid work. This will be the theme of next year’s Commission on the Status of Women, and I count on support from the EPIC to accelerate progress on improving social protection systems.”

Notable pledges made at the event include:

  • The President of Iceland, H.E. Guoni Th. Johannesson, committed to implement its Law on the Equal Pay Certification. The law prohibits discriminatory practices based on gender and requires that women and men working for the same employer shall be paid equal wages and enjoy equal terms of employment.
  • The International Trade Union Confederation has pledged to raise awareness of initiatives that aim to achieve equal pay through advocacy campaigns on investment of childcare, establishing minimum living levels, and guaranteeing social protection to care workers.
  • The International Organisation of Employers has pledged to strengthen its actions to promote gender equality and non-discrimination good practices as part of its commitment to preserve and defend Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, while paying special attention to gender-based discrimination in pay.
  • Civil Society organisations including Save the Children and CIVICUS pledged to support its members to reduce the wage gap and to conduct internal reviews of its pay policies to ensure internal equity between men and women.

Global companies also participated, including IKEA, Deloitte, Pepsi Co, Nestle and Novartis AG, who expressed their allegiance to EPIC’s mission by committing to, for example:

  • reviewing hiring and promotional practices to reduce unconscious bias and structural barriers
  • identify and promote best practices that ensure fairness for all workers
  • and to implement policies prohibiting discrimination based on gender

EPIC, an initiative launched in 2017 to work towards closing the gender pay gap, has brought together key actors from across the world to raise momentum and help ensure that equal pay for work of equal value is fully realized. EPIC is led by the OECD, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and UN. The EPIC secretariat will support global leaders to ensure these commitments are fully implemented and realized.

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Africa Today

Insecurity and bureaucracy hampering aid to Ethiopia’s Tigray region

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photo: UNFPA/Sufian Abdul-Mouty

Nearly three months after the start of conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, hundreds of thousands of people have yet to receive assistance, the United Nations reported on Wednesday, citing information from its humanitarian coordination agency, OCHA.

“Humanitarian assistance continues to be constrained by the lack of full, and safe, unhindered access to Tigray, caused by both insecurity and bureaucratic delays”, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists

“The UN and its humanitarian partners in Ethiopia urgently call on all parties to allow the immediate safe passage of humanitarian personnel and their supplies to the Tigray Region to be able to reach all people who desperately need assistance.” 

Over two million in need 

Mr. Dujarric said the UN continues to receive alarming reports of civilians being injured and killed in rural areas in Tigray, as well as of violations against civilians, though verification remains a challenge.  

“Aid workers have been able to deliver assistance in some areas, mainly in cities, where access has been granted by the authorities. However, the number of people reached is extremely low compared to the 2.3 million people we estimate are in need of life-saving assistance”, he said. 

The situation is particularly critical for newly displaced people and refugees, especially those who were living in two camps that remain inaccessible, according to OCHA

Humanitarians further warn that the majority of the 270,000 people receiving benefits through the Government’s Safety Net Programme have also been without assistance as banks in most rural areas have been closed since before the crisis began. 

“These are extremely vulnerable people who rely on monthly cash transfers to meet their basic needs,” said Mr. Dujarric.

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Africa Today

Mali transition presents opportunity to break ‘vicious circle of political crises’

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UN peacekeepers patrol the Menaka region in northeast Mali. MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko

The current political transition period in Mali offers an opportunity to “break out of the vicious circle of political crises followed by coups d’état”, the UN envoy in the country told the Security Council on Wednesday.  

Following the 18 August mutiny that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said the country was now four months in, to a planned 18-month transition period, leading to presidential and legislative elections. 

“However, it is never too late to reach a minimum consensus on the essentials of peace and stability, because the future of Mali is at stake”, he stated. 

‘Positive dynamics’ 

Against this backdrop, Mr. Annadif said the UN, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and others have always stood ready to support Mali’s institutional transitions. 

He said that several missions and meetings had taken place in Bamako since the August coup and described consultations between the Government and the signatories of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation “encouraging”. 

The Malian Government has been seeking to restore stability and rebuild following a series of setbacks since early 2012 that fractured the country, including a failed coup d’état, renewed fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical extremists. The weakening of central institutions, loss of confidence in political actors and the rise of religious leaders demanding change, were among the factors leading up to last August’s events. 

As one positive example of political progress being made, the UN envoy drew particular attention to the “positive dynamics” of key officials who visited the restive city of Kidal to organize a “solemn swearing-in hearing of the new Governor” on 31 December, flagging that “such an event has not taken place in Kidal for almost ten years”. 

Interim parliament at helm 

Mr. Annadif said that despite a hold up in State appointments, the National Transitional Council (CNT) had been established on 3 December, with Transitional President Bah N’Daou having appointed 121 members who are now acting as a de facto government towards restoring full constitutional order. 

Serving as an interim parliament that will vote on political, institutional, electoral and administrative reforms, the UN envoy called their role “crucial for the consolidation of democracy and the success of credible elections allowing a return to constitutional order, as provided for in the Transition Charter”. 

Successes and challenges 

While pointing to “successes” of the international force, the MINUSMA chief acknowledged that security in border areas of Mali – which remains the deadliest UN peacekeeping mission of all – and in the country’s centre, remains “worrying and unpredictable”. 

However, he said that MINUSMA continues to “adapt” to these multifaceted challenges and “strengthen its capacity” to better respond. 

Moreover, the missions “adaptation plan” to better protect civilians and promote community reconciliation in central Mali is producing “significant results” with additional temporary bases and the intensification of dedicated joint patrols “to advance the reconciliation processes between communities in local conflict zones”, said Mr. Annadif. 

Foundation laid 

The MINUSMA head lauded the efforts of Malian forces to improve their rights performance and underscored that reforms are a key dimension in ensuring the legitimacy of the next elected government. 

He reassured the Ambassadors that the foundation has been laid for a successful political transition in the country as well as reliable security arrangements for its diverse regions. 

However, he stressed that the transition’s success depends upon “the successful completion of political, institutional, electoral and administrative reforms with the aim of inclusive, credible elections, the results of which will be accepted by the majority of Malians and Malians”.

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Human Rights

UNICEF: Closing schools should be ‘measure of last resort’

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Teachers and students wear face masks and maintain physical distance at a school in Cambodia. © UNICEF/Chansereypich Seng

The head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) underscored on Tuesday that “no effort should be spared” to keep children in school, as the coronavirus pandemic continues into a second year. 

“Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, too many countries have opted to keep schools closed, some for nearly a year”, Henrietta Fore said in a statement

A high cost 

The UNICEF chief highlighted that the cost of closing schools has been devastating, with 90 per cent of students globally facing shutdowns at the peak of the COVID disruptions last year, leaving more than a third of schoolchildren with no access to remote education. 

“The number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million, to a level we have not seen in years and have fought so hard to overcome”, she said. 

“Children’s ability to read, write and do basic math has suffered, and the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy have diminished”, Ms. Fore added. 

Closure a ‘last resort’ 

Keeping children at home puts their health, development, safety and well-being at risk – with the most vulnerable bearing the heaviest brunt, she said. 

She pointed out that without school meals, children are “left hungry and their nutrition is worsening”; without daily peer interactions and less mobility, they are “losing physical fitness and showing signs of mental distress”; and without the safety net that school often provides, they are “more vulnerable to abuse, child marriage and child labour”. 

“That’s why closing schools must be a measure of last resort, after all other options have been considered”, stressed the top UNICEF official. 

Evaluating local transmission 

Assessing transmission risks at the local level should be “a key determinant” in decisions on school operations, Ms. Fore said. 

She also flagged that nationwide school closures be avoided, whenever possible. 

“Where there are high levels of community transmission, where health systems are under extreme pressure and where closing schools is deemed inevitable, safeguarding measures must be put in place”, maintained the UNICEF chief. 

Moreover, it is important that children who are at risk of violence in their homes, who are reliant upon school meals and whose parents are essential workers, continue their education in classrooms. 

After lockdown restrictions are lifted, she said that schools must be among the first to reopen and catch-up classes should be prioritized to keep children who were unable to learn remotely from being left behind. 

“If children are faced with another year of school closures, the effects will be felt for generations to come”, said Ms. Fore.

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