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‘Global solidarity’ needed, to find affordable, accessible COVID-19 vaccine

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In the race to end the coronavirus pandemic, the UN chief reminded a virtual medical conference on Thursday that “a vaccine, by itself, is not enough”.  

“We need global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message to the Global Vaccine Summit, convened to find and fund collective solutions for COVID-19-related vaccines and to strengthen routine immunization commitments and resources for other preventable diseases. 

COVID-19, the greatest public health crisis of the generation, has skyrocketed vaccines to the top of the global agenda.

‘Lifesaving miracle’

As “the most important public health intervention in history”, Mr. Guterres credited the “lifesaving miracle” of vaccinations, for saving tens of millions of lives each year, eradicating smallpox and preventing outbreaks of diseases like measles, rubella and tetanus.  

He maintained that a COVID-19 vaccine must be seen as “a global public good – a people’s vaccine”.

The UN chief lauded the “incredible work” of GAVI, the vaccine alliance, and its partners in allowing people of all ages and income levels throughout the world to access vaccines.  

“The United Nations is proud to be part of this effort towards universal health coverage”, he upheld, reiterating its commitment to being part of the next phase, “because there is still much work to do”. 

Against the backdrop of 20 million children missing their full complement of vaccines and one-in-five having received no vaccines at all, Mr. Guterres pointed out that under the shadow of COVID-19, “their plight is even more desperate”. 

He painted a picture of halted immunization campaigns and broadening gaps in global vaccine delivery.

Three commitments required

The Secretary-General appealed for three main commitments, beginning with finding safe ways to continue delivering vaccinations, “even as COVID-19 spreads”.  

Secondly, he asked that vaccine-delivery networks be used to deliver a range of other primary health services.  

And finally, when the COVID-19 vaccine does become available, that it reaches everyone.

“Disease know no borders”, concluded the UN chief, “that is why a fully funded GAVI will be critical to ensure we continue to progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. 

World leaders chime in

Chaired by the United Kingdom, leaders from around the world outlined their latest thinking during the summit, on the need for, and progress towards, an equitable vaccine

“Vaccines work, and 86 per cent of the world’s children have been reached by routine immunization”, said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “In the midst of a global pandemic it has never been more important to build capacity to respond to disease outbreaks and work with organizations to deliver vaccines”.

The King of Jordan, Abdullah bin Al Hussein, called guaranteed equal access “not only the moral and just approach, it is also in the interest of the entire international community… It is our responsibility as an international community to make sure the most vulnerable are not left behind”.

Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, maintained that it was “pivotal” not to allow the pandemic to affect the importance of fighting other infectious diseases or “to exert collective efforts to resume immunization campaigns against vaccine-preventable diseases”. 

Ethiopia President, Sahle-Work Zewde, underscored the importance of inoculations by saying that her country had boosted routine immunization from 30 per cent in 2000, to 72 per cent today, spelling out that “since 2018, 1.1 million girls have been spared from the scourge of cervical cancer due to the introduction of the HPV vaccine”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed Germany’s continued support, saying, “We want to increase the chance for more than 300 million young people to have a healthy life. We are talking about 300 million individual lives – not just a number.”

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Global collaboration is key to recovery and achieving the SDGs

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The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the advancement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). It is creating many challenges, yet also it unveils opportunities to build back better. In this context, inclusive and sustainable industrial development, which is at the core of SDG9, is expected to play a critical role in overcoming the crisis and setting countries back on the path of economic development.

The achievement of the SDGs in a post-COVID-19 world will require a holistic approach, including strong commitments towards the promotion of structural changes across all sectors of society. In this context, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) jointly organized a virtual event that addressed how the pandemic is impacting the SDGs, specifically SDG 9, and the Agenda 2030 

UNIDO’s Director General, LI Yong, opened up the event by emphasizing how Agenda 2030 is and still should be the roadmap to recovery. He also touched on the importance of achieving SDG9 to create a more sustainable industrial future and the need for reliable statistics and data, including UNIDO’s Industrial Analytics Platform and SDSN’s new data platform, SDGs Today. Li stated, “We must seize the opportunity to use the disruptive impact of the pandemic on the global economy to seek collaborative solutions to drive the 2030 Agenda.”

Gerhard Küntzle, Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN in Vienna, stated, “It is crystal clear that we must make the next ten years a decade of action and aim to mainstream evidence-based policymaking in the development agenda.”

SDSN President, Jeffrey Sachs, highlighted the need for global collaboration, and how the world should turn toward six transformation pathways to achieve the SDGs amidst the pandemic. Sachs specifically highlighted the need for the first transformation relating to education, gender and inequality, and the sixth transformation relating to a Digital Revolution for Sustainable Development.

“No child can have a future without education,” Sachs said, noting how access to the tools for free digital education for children is achievable with the right global collaboration.

Lastly, Sachs highlighted the need for decarbonizing industry: “Renewable energy is our theme and we must get to zero.” 

As Ethiopia has undergone an industrial revolution from agricultural to manufacturing, the next speaker, Arkebe Oqubay, Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, discussed lessons learned for the world to apply to achieve progress toward the SDGs. Oqubay highlighted three lessons: 1) Leadership and policymaking will need to be redefined in the new environment; 2) A commitment to green and carbon-neutral industrialization is vital; 3) Smart technologies will enable the wider application and use of green industries.

Last but not least, Professor Oqubay noted that global collaboration has become the foundation for averting global threats and maximizing opportunities.

Ann Rosenberg, co-founder of SDG Ambition UNGC, provided aprivate sector perspective and echoed Oqubay’s insights that all companies need to redefine production lines and industries. She said, “The hope from larger companies is that these smaller businesses and entrepreneurs will come up with new, redefined ways of doing things…There is a collective responsibility for everyone to help.”

Rosenberg stated that it is up to countries to figure out how to collaborate and how to access technology, so that all companies can advance industrially and toward the SDGs. Moreover, Rosenberg highlighted the need for tools to know where we are, so we know how we can close the gap to achieve the SDGs.

Ambassador Martha Lungu Mwitumwa, Permanent Representative of Zambia to UNIDO and to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, remarked on the need for more concentrated efforts towards achieving the SDGs, “With the crisis upon us, it will be far more difficult for Least Developed Countries and other low-income countries to achieve SDG 9. In this Decade of Action, we – as Ambassadors in Geneva – have a crucial role to play, in advocating the importance of industry and innovation, in mobilizing more resources towards it, and in fostering partnerships for leveraging trade, investment and technology to achieve that goal. And, as representatives of our countries to key UN institutions, we can foster greater UN coherence in these matters.”

It was clear that all panellists agreed that global collaboration is imperative to take the world through the recovery from COVID-19. Once out of recovery, panellists stressed how the focus should be on embracing the new, digital world to further three key initiatives: to bring access to education for all, to build sustainable industrialization, and to reach net-zero emissions.

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Make the Reskilling Revolution a Priority in the Recovery

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“There has been a lot of talk during the last few years, but very, very limited action” on education, reskilling and upskilling efforts, said Alain Dehaze, Chief Executive Officer, Adecco Group, Switzerland, in a session on Transforming Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning at the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit today. “Efforts must include a range of stakeholders “because reskilling, upskilling and training are not [just] an individual question or a business questions or a governmental question.”

The Palestinian National Authority has launched a novel effort aimed at “the rehabilitation of university graduates” through entrepreneurship, said Mohammad Ibrahim Shtayyeh, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. Many graduates end up unemployed because their degrees did not provide them with marketable skills. “We are teaching them to become computer coders, and we have introduced other vocational training courses,” he said. “Students must stop relying on a job with the private sector or a job with the government. I want them to be self-employed.”

“I’m so glad to hear that we have a national leader who really recognizes that entrepreneurship education is a priority, and it’s something which can be taught,” said Asheesh Advani, President and Chief Executive Officer, JA Worldwide, USA.

Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, London Business School, United Kingdom, agreed, adding that efforts to accelerate advances in education, training, reskilling and upskilling must be a multistakeholder effort, and inclusive: “Otherwise, in 10 years’ time, we won’t have the right people sitting in the right jobs.” She noted that such efforts should “leverage technology” and that new credentials need to be established and recognized for the attainment of emerging skills.

Inclusion should extend beyond diversity “to include young boys and girls growing up across the world,” said Mariéme Jamme, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, iamtheCODE, United Kingdom. “The starting point is actually to make sure their human rights are respected” and then giving them the tools they will need in the workplace.

“With today’s kids, the thing they want to learn most … are things like coding and computer science,” said Hadi Partovi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Code.org, USA. “Computer science and entrepreneurship are not only the skills that students need the most, but also the things they want the most.”

With regard to credentials, Advani noted that they are partnering with employers to recognize a new micro-credential, encouraging young people to add it to their online jobs profile, and working with governments to get access to schools.

Advani also noted that “Even after doing an entrepreneurship programme, [students] don’t become entrepreneurs. Soft skills, communication skills and adaptability skills become so important in the job market, knowing that young people are going to have potentially seven careers” during their lifetime.

Among the initiatives launched at the summit, government officials in Turkey today announced the launch of a Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator, joining 10 countries through the Forum platform in applying a similar framework to rapidly upskilling their workforce.

“Rapid technological progress, globalization and now COVID-19 are revolutionizing how we work. There will be a new set of skills needed to adapt and prosper. As policy-makers, we are obliged to ensure a smooth and equal transition that works for all. I trust that the Accelerator Network will further enhance real sector collaboration among nations. Turkey is ready to capture the opportunities of the new normal with its favourable demographics, flexible and skilled workforce,” said Mustafa Varank, Minister of Industry and Technology of Turkey.

“In today’s world where information and technology are changing rapidly, technology has gained a great momentum to become the new normal of our daily life with the pandemic process. This rapid momentum has made it inevitable to integrate new skills into our lives. This skills change will take place with a qualified education and, in this context, everyone from public institutions to non-governmental organizations has a great duty. I believe that the Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator Programme will play a role in strengthening cooperation in the new normal process and triggering the power of learning together,” said Ziya Selçuk, Minister of Education of Turkey.

“By adopting an industry-oriented workforce transformation approach and seizing the demographic window of opportunity, the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services strives to prepare Turkey to meet the future labour market needs and challenges. With a view to leaving no one behind, we will improve the use of technology, ensure more productive and safer workplaces for emerging new types of work, and improve the digital skills of our workers within the perspective of tripartite dialogue,” said Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, Minister of Family, Labour and Social Services of Turkey.

In January 2020, the World Economic Forum launched the Reskilling Revolution, a multistakeholder initiative aiming to provide better education, new skills and better work to 1 billion people around the world by 2030. It serves as a platform for connecting and coordinating initiatives within specific countries, industries, organizations and schools. In the past months, it has supported stakeholders in adjusting their efforts to the new context of the pandemic and promoted rapid exchange of best practices between initiatives. We invite leaders and organizations to contribute to the platform.

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Step up action to achieve COVID-19 ceasefire- Guterres

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Since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, UNIFIL and its peacekeeping troops have maintained their daily operational activities along the Blue Line in South Lebanon. UNIFIL

The UN’s 75th anniversary this Saturday, which falls as countries continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, is an opportunity to accelerate action to achieve a global ceasefire during the crisis, Secretary-General António Guterres has said. 

The UN chief initially issued the appeal for combatants to lay down their arms shortly after the pandemic was declared in March. 

“In our world today, we have one common enemy: COVID-19”, said Mr. Guterres in his message for UN Day on 24 October. 

“Now is the time for a stepped-up push for peace to achieve a global ceasefire.  The clock is ticking.” 

UN mission ‘more critical than ever’ 

UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter, the Organization’s founding document. 

The treaty outlines the UN’s goals of promoting human dignity, protecting human rights and saving humanity from conflict. 

That founding mission “is more critical than ever”, said the Secretary-General. 

Also crucial is the need to “make peace with our planet”, he added, stating “We must mobilize the whole world to reach carbon neutrality – net zero emissions of greenhouse gasses by 2050.” 

Europe turns UN blue 

Despite the constraints imposed by the global pandemic, countries are celebrating the UN’s historic birthday. 

More than 180 iconic buildings across Europe will be lit up in blue, the Organization’s official colour: from monuments to museums, to bridges and beyond. 

The initiative is a symbolic attempt to unite people worldwide, and to promote peace, sustainable development and human rights. 

As the Secretary-General stated, more must be done to end poverty, inequality, hunger and hatred, and to combat discrimination based on race, religion, gender or any other distinction. 

He drew attention to the situation of women and girls, as the pandemic has led to “a horrific rise” in gender-based violence. 

A blueprint for better recovery 

The UN chief also underlined the need to “build on progress”, pointing to the global collaboration currently underway to develop a safe, affordable and accessible COVID-19 vaccine. 

This banner year has also seen the start of a Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their promise of a better future for all people and the planet. 

For Mr. Guterres, the 17 SDGs provide an inspiring blueprint for recovering better after the pandemic. 

Solidarity and a shared vision 

Although the world faces colossal challenges, the UN chief was adamant that they can be overcome through global solidarity and cooperation, saying: “That’s what the United Nations is all about.”  

Mr. Guterres asked people everywhere to unite on this UN anniversary. 

“Together, let us uphold the enduring values of the United Nations Charter”, he declared.  “Let us build on our advances across the decades. Let us realize our shared vision of a better world for all.”

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