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Generations of progress for women and girls could be lost to COVID pandemic

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Generations of progress stands to be lost on women and girls' empowerment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: ILO

Highlighting the disproportionate and devastating socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on women and girls globally, The UN chief António Guterres called on Monday for a major push to prevent “years, even generations” worth of progress on women’s empowerment, from being lost to the pandemic. 

In an address to a virtual town hall with young women from civil society organizations, the Secretary-General said that the global pandemic has already reversed decades of limited and fragile progress on gender equality and women’s rights. 

“Without a concerned response, we risk losing a generation or more of gains”, he cautioned. 

Mr. Guterres underscored the vital role played by women, as healthcare workers, essential staff, teachers and carers, helping millions globally – both within and outside their homes.  

However, few are recognized due to persisting inequalities and biases. At the same time, many women working in the informal sector have been thrown into financial insecurity, without regular income or effective social safety nets. 

“The pandemic has exposed the extent of its impact on physical and mental health, education and labour force participation”, said Mr. Guterres, amid disturbing reports from around the world of skyrocketing gender-based violence, “as many women are effectively confined with their abusers, while resources and support services are redirected”. 

“In short, the pandemic is exposing and exacerbating the considerable hurdles women face in achieving their rights and fulfilling their potential”, he said. 

Monday’s town hall meeting is a regular fixture on the UN calendar, but generally organized on the side-lines of the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women. This year, however, it was postponed due to the pandemic and held virtually, with thousands of women activists and defenders of women’s rights participating remotely.  

Here to listen 

The Secretary-General underlined that his main objective during the town hall was to listen, not talk, and he encouraged participants to ask questions and share their opinions. 

Martha, an activist from Poland, spoke of the rise of populism and nationalism in Europe which is putting democracy and human rights at risk.  She wondered how to address this challenge, especially amid a global crisis. 

Like the UN chief, Nina from Georgia agreed that women’s work is undervalued, and that the pandemic has placed additional responsibilities on them. 

“While we are trying to unpack what a pandemic has caused, I think it is important for us to once again understand the invisible barriers that women are facing for their economic empowerment,” she said. 

Some participants submitted written questions which were read out by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of UN Women, the UN agency which promotes gender equality globally. 

Issues raised covered the rise in teenage pregnancy during the pandemic, protection of human rights defenders, support for people with disabilities, and the need to fight racism. 

“We are delighted that women across the world have this opportunity to speak to the UN Secretary-General at this time about their issues and concerns, and to hear from him”, said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, who served as the event’s moderator.   

“Civil society and the women’s movements are unflinching partners in the drive to name and tackle the inequalities that have grown under COVID-19, and to put women at the centre of recovery.” 

Women and girls at the centre of rebuilding 

In his remarks, the UN chief recalled the UN’s policy brief issued in April, which urged governments to put women and girls – their inclusion, representation, rights, and protection – at the centre of all efforts to tackle and recover from COVID-19. 

The first phase, Mr. Guterres said, was for nations to take a “holistic view” of the pandemic’s health impact.  

“All women have a right to quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health services. Governments have a responsibility to make sure women and girls can access these services, even during a crisis”, he said, calling for health systems that meet the needs and realities of all – including women and girls. 

“This means prioritizing and funding primary health care and Universal Health Coverage,” added the Secretary-General, while also prioritizing protection of women from gender-based violence in national COVID-19 plans. 

Mitigating social and economic impacts 

Equally important is putting money into the hands of women working in both formal and informal economies, the UN chief continued. 

“Cash transfers, credits and loans should be targeted at women, to mitigate the immediate impact of job losses and increased caring responsibilities”, he said. 

Governments should expand social safety nets and recognize the value of invisible and unpaid care work, as they inject stimulus funds to get their economies back to work. 

Doing so will address vulnerabilities women experience, ensure women’s central role in economic life, and in the long term, contribute to sustainable development and more inclusive and resilient economies, explained Mr. Guterres. 

Economic reset 

He highlighted that the pandemic has demonstrated “what we all know”, that millennia of patriarchy have resulted in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture that damages everyone – women, men, girls and boys. 

“It is clear that we cannot go back to the failed policies that have resulted in the fragility we see around us – in healthcare systems, in social protection, in access to justice. This is the time to rebuild more equal, inclusive, and resilient societies. Our roadmap is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, the UN chief declared. 

“We need to take the opportunity of an economic reset to ensure the rights to life, dignity, and security for everyone.” 

Recovery goes beyond governments 

Alongside governments, the private sector, academic institutions and civil society, should be fully engaged in recovering better, Mr. Guterres said.  

He called for protecting and expanding the civic space so that civil society organizations can play their full part. 

“We must also emerge from this crisis with women’s equal leadership and representation,” added the UN chief. 

He went on to recognize women leaders, officials and health workers for their empathy, compassion, communication and evidence-based decision-making, fighting the ravages of the coronavirus

“Their actions are showing the value of inclusivity. It stands to reason: doubling the resources, capacity and expertise we put into decision-making benefits everyone”, the UN chief said, calling for gender parity and bringing more women into leadership positions. 

A landmark year 

The Secretary-General noted that 2020 contains several important landmarks. It is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration; the twentieth anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security; and the first year of the Decade of Action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – key achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment. 

In that vein, he reinforced his determination to advance women’s priorities and to ensure their equal rights and participation in the peace and security agenda, on climate change, on building inclusive economies, and on reducing and eliminating the digital divide so that women have an equal role in designing technologies of the future. 

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New Social Compact

Inequalities between ethnic groups are stark -UN report

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In India, five out of six people in multidimensional poverty were from lower tribes or castes. UNDP India/Dhiraj Singh

Differences in so-called multidimensional poverty among ethnic groups are consistently high across many countries, according to a new analysis released this Thursday. 

The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), produced by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, also found that in nine specific ethnic groups surveyed, more than 90 per cent of the population is trapped in poverty.  

In some cases, disparities across ethnic and racial groups are greater than across regions within a country. More than that, the disparities across the Index for ethnicity, is greater than that across all 109 countries, and all other variables tested. 

Besides income, the Index measures poverty using various indicators, including poor health, insufficient education and a low standard of living. 

The research for the report was conducted across 109 countries, covering 5.9 billion people, and presents an ethnicity/race/caste disaggregation, for 41 nations. 

Regional differences 

Within a country, multidimensional poverty among different ethnic groups can vary immensely. 

For example, in Latin America, indigenous peoples are among the poorest. In Bolivia, indigenous communities account for about 44 per cent of the population, but represent 75 per cent of multidimensionally poor people.  

The figures are also stark in India, where five out of six people in this situation were from “lower tribes or castes”, according to UNDP.  

Solutions 

Proposing solutions for this problem, the authors point out the example of the two poorest ethnic groups in Gambia, that have roughly the same value in the Index, but have different deprivations, to show that different policy actions are needed to find effective solutions for different cases. 

Focusing on gender, the report shows that, worldwide, about two-thirds of multidimensionally poor people, or 836 million, live in households where no woman or girl has completed at least six years of schooling.  

Besides that, one-sixth of all people in this situation, about 215 million, live in households in which at least one boy or man has completed six or more years of schooling, but no girl or woman has. 

The report also finds that these women and girls are at higher risk of suffering intimate partner violence.  

Main findings 

Across the 109 countries studied, a total of 1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor.  

About half of them, 644 million, are children under age 18; and nearly 85 percent live in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia. More than 67 percent live in middle-income countries. 

Living in multidimensionally poverty can mean very different things. 

Around 1 billion people, for example, are exposed to health risks due to solid cooking fuels, another billion live with inadequate sanitation, and another billion have substandard housing. 

Around 788 million live in a household with at least one undernourished person, and about 568 million lack improved drinking water within a 30-minute roundtrip walk.  

For UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, this is a reminder “of the need for a complete picture of how people are being affected by poverty, who they are and where they live.” 

Mr. Steiner also highlighted the COVID-19 pandemic factor, saying the international community is “still grappling to understand its full impacts.” 

Progress 

Even though multidimensional poverty remains high, there were signs of progress in some countries, at least until the beginning of the pandemic.  

Of the 80 nations and five billion people for which there is data over time, 70 reduced their Multidimensional Poverty Index in at least one period. The fastest changes happened in Sierra Leone and Togo.  

The director of OPHI at the University of Oxford, Sabina Alkire, stressed the need to fix the structural inequalities that oppress and hinder progress. 

For her, disaggregating multidimensional poverty data by ethnicity, race, caste and gender “unmasks disparities and forms a vital guide to policymakers to leave no one behind in the last decade for action.” 

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Eurasian Women’s Forum Focuses on Significant Questions in Women’s World

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On October 13-15, Saint Petersburg will host the Third Eurasian Women’s Forum primarily to review how women have performed in men’s dominated world, identify challenges and roadblocks on their way to gender equality and fight for higher social status and, of course, outline new strategic goals for the future.

Women have come a long way, indeed, since first their conference held 1986 in Beijing, China and resultantly declared March 8 – as International Women’s Day marks annually throughout the world. Women have taken up the fight, sometimes collaborating with women-conscious men and thus paving the way up to the top echelon in all economic and social spheres. Women now have a structured organization from the grassroots, in all countries, and up to regional organizations and to the United Nations.

Eurasian Women, the largest women group in the region, meet at the initiative of Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko. The first forum held in 2015, and the second in 2018. The forum is generally held under the aegis of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

Its participants include female leaders from the CIS and other foreign countries, women representatives of executive government bodies, international organizations, business circles, the scientific community, public and charity organizations, and respected members of the international women’s movements and associations.

This forum has won wide recognition as an effective mechanism of interaction and dialogue for women who are influencing social, political and economic decisions. It facilitates the growing participation of women’s movements in resolving global challenges of our time.

The chosen theme of the third Forum “Women: A Global Mission in a New Reality” has much significance for today’s world. Boosting international cooperation to enhance the role of women in order to meet the goals of sustainable development, forming women’s agenda and new approaches to solving global problems in the new reality – these are the main objectives for participants and organizers.

The business programme of the third forum includes plenary and expert sessions organized by international organizations and associations, discussions, an offsite meeting of the Women 20 (W20), public and private sector talks, business dialogues, webinars, workshops, and business breakfasts and a number of other events.

The participants will devote key debates to the role of women in ensuring global security, the transition to new models of economic growth and social progress, overcoming the adverse consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, developing healthcare, balancing universal digitization, and addressing global environmental and climate problems.

Expert sessions will be for international organizations and associations. Those include field sessions of Women 20, the UN session on industrial development (UNIDO), the World Bank session, the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance meeting, international club of APEC BEST AWARD winners and participants, and International Club of Women Regional Leaders.

For the first time, the Forum will feature meeting of the International Working Group of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency on improving gender balance in the nuclear energy industry.

Throughout the world, there is a growing demand for female leadership. Research has shown that companies with women on their boards of directors enjoy better results. As new skills requirements are emerging, so educational programmes for female leaders are becoming critical. The ability to share experience at an international level of implementing such programmes can help foster joint initiatives. This is also tur about women in political sphere.

In the face of global challenges, there is an increasing need for a new paradigm, along with a renewed focus on changing attitudes to women. Women have made an enormous contribution to efforts to improve health, raise life expectancy, and improve quality of life. These are the first role as women in the family, and this is unchangeable fact in the world.

The BRICS Women’s Business Alliance was first presented at the 2nd Eurasian Women’s Forum. The leaders of Brazil, India, China, Russia, and South Africa gave their unanimous support to the initiative, and adopted the declaration on the establishment of the alliance. Last year (2020) saw the official launch of the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance.

The alliance seeks to implement multilateral cooperation projects aimed at consolidating and strengthening its role in the global economic agenda. The alliance’s areas of focus include the development of innovation, healthcare, food and environmental security, an inclusive economy, the creative industries, and tourism.

Women have been forging alliances and ahead of this forum for instance, the Women’s Business Association of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FLO FICCI), considered as the largest women’s business association in India, signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia. This collaboration aims at developing women’s entrepreneurship, social communications and at creating favourable conditions for cooperation between business circles in Russia and India.

It plans promoting entrepreneurship and professional excellence through seminars, conferences, lectures, trainings, and other events aimed at encouraging and stimulating the involvement of the skills, experience, and energy of women in all sectors and at all levels of economic activity.

The Eurasian Women Association has so many programmes and projects with other women’s groups and associations in the Eurasian region, in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The Eurasian Women forum will be offline using modern formats such as video conferencing and online broadcast. This form will ensure the extended outreach and provide audience engagement. The interactive format will be in strict accordance with safety measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19. It is drawn up by the organizing committee and in line with approved requirements from the World Health Organization.

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Covid 19: Why International Relations Need The Anthropocene

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Anthropocene has generated intense and ongoing debate over the last decade. From seemingly diverse disciplines such as climatology, geology, philosophy, and the visual arts, scholars have taken up the task of thinking through the new Anthropocene epoch. This means pursuing various avenues of measurement, criticism, and reflection on the origins of the Anthropocene, its present character, and what kind of future it foretells. While geological evidence is still debated to officially state the existence of the Anthropocene, a large body of science has recently emerged that accepts its general premise – that humans are geological agents – and tries to figure out how and why it matters. Since the Anthropocene taught us about Earth science, it also reflects a return to humankind. At a fundamental level, it interferes with intellectual and psychological conceptions of who we are as human beings and how we relate to the world around us.

The term of the Athropocene actually is matter of ages on a geological scale, the time when humans have moved from the Holesen. According to the definition spoken by the creator of the term, the Anthropocene is an era in which humans are more powerful than nature. Paul Crutzen who first coined this in his book Anthropocene: A New Epoch in Earth’s History, and also in further words Jason Moore in his article explaining the meaning of anthropocene actually has two purposes, the first Anthropocene is interpreted as a scientific concept and object in geological science, the second meaning is an idea that questions the truth and authenticity of natural science. Anthropocene in this second term questions the relationship between humans and non-humans. Furthermore, Anthropocene is a term that connects natural science and social science.

Anthropocene is actually a human crisis, each crisis leading the way out to a new state of stability. Anthropocene crisis is an ecological crisis and the ecological crisis is not something that happened suddenly, also cannot be fixed suddenly either. Since Rachel Carson’s 1962 essay Silent Spring, the environmental crisis has become the most obvious crisis facing humanity. He states that humans are rapidly approaching many limits of what the biosphere and ecosystems tolerate.

Covid and the Anthropocene

One of the signs that we have entered the Anthropocene period is the emergence of many new zoonotic diseases. Although in the 2016 UNEP frontier report it was stated that environmental degradation and global warming would cause the emergence of many zoonotic diseases within duration of every four months, this of course could change more quickly. Zoonotic diseases in crude sense are diseases that originates from animals and with certain process and duration can infect humans through an intermediary (carrier host), which will then cause health problems for humans and even death.

In the last few decades, many zoonotic diseases have emerged, AIDS, Anthrax, Ebola and Malaria are zoonotic diseases that have hit several regions of the world. At least 60% of the 335 diseases that emerged between 1960 and 2004 were animal diseases. Until throughout 2002 to 2012, two types of had been epidemic, in 2002 SARS appeared in Guandong Province, China and caused the death of 800 people, which is 10% of the number of sufferers. After the SARS disease subsided, MERS disease appeared in Saudi Arabia. Until the end of 2019, a new virus appeared again in China which later became a pandemic, called Covid 19. Until now, it has not been totaled and it is estimated when it will really subside, because several countries are still fighting against it. The three viruses (SARS, MERS, and Covid 19 or n-Cov) are viruses of the same type, namely the Corona virus which often causes coughs and colds.

Even though there are debates and researchs are still being carried out to date, one of the articles published by Cristina O’Callaghan-Gordo and Joseph M. Anto entitled Covid-19: The Disease of Anthropocene, concluded that Covid-19 is a disease that is Anthropocene disease. This is stated by the discovery that the covid 19 virus was produced from the transmission of changes in the DNA/RNA structure of the virus that occurred due to environmental damage and human economic activities.

Covid 19 has changed the world more or less in the last two years, until now, although several countries in the world have been freed from the Covid 19 emergency status, several other countries are still recovering, and other part else still struggling. Covid 19 not only causes disease outbreaks and is the cause of death for many people around the world, but Covid 19 also ravages the global economy. Its presence is believed to be one of the typical diseases of the Anthropocene era. This is because Covid 19 is believed to be the result of human superiority over existing natural resources which then results in an imbalance in nature (virus growth) which further causes the imbalance to arise and develop diseases and viruses. About how and in detail this happened several scientists in the field of virology and the environment explained in their own language.

IR Studies and International Relations

As yet,  it has remained largely absent from International Relations (IR) analysis. This is puzzling given the monumental stakes involved in tackling planetary change and the discipline’s primary focus on crises. This silence may exist, however, as contemporary studies of international relations are disrupted by the Anthropocene, which shifts basic assumptions about how humans live in the midst of perpetual danger, danger, and risk. Since the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, dramatic human-driven changes in the functioning of Earth’s systems have occurred.

International Relations has largely not successful yet to engage the Anthropocene challenge, the abundance of information emerging showing the scale and type of impact humans are having on the world, this is no longer sustainable. Because of the reason above, International Relations must reconsider some of its core understandings, in particular the relationship between the normative categories of humanity, change, but also by the emerging awareness of Anthropocene entanglement. As Morgenthau has said, the ‘struggle for power and peace’ will not go away once the International Commission on Stratigraphy returns its verdict on whether we are now, officially, in the Anthropocene epoch. However, if International Relations remained attached to Holocene thought, defined most acutely as the separation of man from the world, it would be disastrous; both reflexively, and for the world. Further, Anthropocene that debated in International Relations was strongly influenced by the post-humanist and materialist schools of thought, after which it became a general trend to reject the destruction of nature. Regardless of the mutual commitment.

In his article, Cameron Harrington proves that the natural/cultural divide is at the heart of the liberal Enlightenment project is wrong. The Anthropocene also got rid of the liberal aspirations of progress and promises of protection, even on the contrary, the Anthropocene promoted the politics of adaptation of resilience which is a post-political form, where humans stop transforming living conditions and have to survive with what is.

The Anthropocene represents the potential failure of modern human societies to preserve and sustain themselves and other forms of life. All of this also reflects the failure of the International Relations assumption to think of a different world; not in the utopian sense of building a perfect political community, but thinking through the realization that we exist in a world far more complex, interactive and diverse than ever imagined in International Relations. The discipline of International Relations can no longer deny these interconnected risks, threats, and physical effects, or maintain an outdated image of a world built on a clean separation of people, nations, and global systems. Given its claim to research ‘global’, International Relations is no longer just a sub-discipline of political science and economics, but also geophysics. Discussing the various ways in which the Anthropocene and International Relations can coexist is no easy task.

International Relations has indeed made many contributions  from researching the difficulties of building an effective environmental regime complex to the murky role of climate change in conflict, however, the absence of International Relations in contributing to the Anthropocene debate suggests something more complex and troubling, namely myopic tendencies. to see people, nature, and security, as divisible layers that meet each other instrumentally. Such views reflect past forms of modernism and materialism, which have contributed to the crisis in humanity today.

Therefore, the task of International Relations scientists will become even more difficult in the years to come. Given its history of depicting the uneven global process of modern politics, International Relations seems well placed to engage the Anthropocene, which emerged directly from that process. Furthermore, IR’s commitment to tragedy as a political center is reflected in the ‘apocalyptic tone’ prevalent in Anthropocene studies. However, the Anthropocene also presented ‘worldly’ problems to International Relations. This forced International Relations to think about what is called mass murder: the danger to, and the potential end of the world. Such thinking is fundamentally complex and requires a broader and deeper level of ecological reflection than we see today.

Conclusion

The presence of Covid-19 is an alarm for humans that actually humans are currently not in the Holocene period anymore, but have shifted to the anthropocene period, a time when humans are so powerful towards nature that it produces a sustainable and serious impact that cannot be repaired in a short time. The study of International Relations in the Holocene period separated humans, society and nature. However, the Anthropocene is a time of connectedness and interaction between social and non-social. Natural science and social science are interconnected. Social interaction and nature become objects that cause each other. However, International Relations has contributed a lot and taught human security studies, cooperation, and many other things. What needs to be underlined is that, in this anthropocene era, International Relations is required to work hard to regenerate assumptions and theories that will and have been obsolete.

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