Access to COVID-19 vaccines continues to pose a serious problem for Africa, with fewer than 10% of populations fully vaccinated in most countries, said Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria, in his address to the Davos Agenda 2022. He called for patent waivers to permit African countries to manufacture vaccines locally.
Osinbajo complimented COVAX and other global vaccine alliances for their contribution but noted that the price tag for vaccinating the entire world is just $50 billion, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. “This is affordable, he said, but we should not allow this opportunity “to slip through the cracks”.
“Now is a good time to test global will,” he said, in building international cooperation to prepare for new, possibly worse pandemics to come.
He called for natural gas – which Africa has in abundance – to be accepted as a transitional fuel. Africa is the continent that contributes least to climate change yet has been most negatively affected by it, he said. This situation cannot be compounded by rules that hamper Africa from adapting.
“For many gas-rich African countries, one of the biggest shocks is the notion that fossil fuels including gas should be defunded, especially by international financial institutions.” He added: “We think that gas as a transition fuel is absolutely crucial, not just for an effective transition but also for our economies.” He made it clear that gas is “without doubt the only pathway” for Africa to transition out of more hazardous fuels such as coal and heavy oil.
Osinbajo claimed that Nigeria is “probably the first country in Africa to develop an energy transition plan and to cost it out”. The plan, which he said will be launched in the next couple of weeks, includes connecting 5 million homes to solar power, requiring more foreign investment in manufacturing panels and components.
He said there is a “unique opportunity” for companies to invest in Nigerian renewable energy and that the government is providing debt for those who wish to do business in the sector. He also called on developed economies to honour their long-standing pledge to provide $100 billion annually in climate finance to developing countries.
Peace and security on the continent are seriously threatened by global terrorist franchises from the Sahel to the Horn to Southern Africa, Osinbajo said. As with coronavirus, “terrorism anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere” and he warned global partners not to sit by and allow Africa to be overrun by such extremists. “It is imperative for the international community to make more robust interventions to clear terrorists from Africa just as it did in the Middle East.”
Despite the enormous challenges of tackling COVID-19, climate change and terrorism, Osinbajo remained upbeat about economic prospects for Africa and Nigeria. The sub-Saharan economy grew by 3.7% in 2021 and is projected to continue this trajectory into 2022. Nigeria’s National Development Plan 2021-2025 envisages investments totalling $840 billion, of which 86% is expected to come from the private sector.
In the next three decades, the global population will swell by 2 billion people; 1 billion of those will come from Africa, which now has the world’s fastest growing working-age population. “Africa has the potential to become the factory of the world,” he said.
UNICEF urges leaders to keep schools safe following deadly Texas shooting
Governments must take greater action to ensure school remains a safe place for boys and girls, the head of the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said on Wednesday, following the latest deadly school shooting in the United States.
At least 19 children and two teachers were killed on Tuesday when 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos opened fire at Robb Elementary School in the small city of Uvalde, Texas, located near the border with Mexico.
How many more?
“Tragedy after tragedy, shooting after shooting, young life after young life: how many more children will die before government leaders act to keep children and their schools safe? Because until they do, these horrors will continue,” she said in a statement.
Ms. Russell emphasized that outside of their homes, school is the one place where children should feel safest.
She noted that in addition to the lives lost, “many more children, teachers and school staff who witnessed the carnage will bear the emotional and psychological scars for the rest of their lives.”
Shock and sadness
UN Secretary-General António Guterres was deeply shocked and saddened by “the heinous mass shooting”, saying it was particularly heart-wrenching that most of the victims are children.
Mr. Guterres has extended his heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims and to the entire community, his Spokesperson said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed expressed her outrage in a post on Twitter.
“When children go to school, they should only be concerned about learning,” she wrote. “Children should not go to school fearing for their lives!”
Ms. Mohammed said her heartfelt prayers are with the families, classmates and teachers who are mourning this “devastating loss”.
Zimbabwean peacekeeper selected as UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year 2021 Award
A Zimbabwean peacekeeper who recently completed her assignment with the UN Mission in South Sudan, will receive the 2021 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.
Military Observer Major Winnet Zharare, 39, served in Bentiu, South Sudan in 2021-2022, and will receive the award from the Secretary-General António Guterres during a ceremony marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday, 26 May 2022.
Created in 2016, the United Nations “Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award” recognizes the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of UN peace operations.
Secretary-General António Guterres commended Major Winnet for her award. “Major Zharare is a role model and a trailblazer. Through her service, she has demonstrated the invaluable role that women play in building trust, advocating for change and forging peace,” he said. “Her example shows how we will all gain with more women at the decision-making table and gender parity in peace operations,” Mr. Guterres added.
Major Zharare expressed her gratitude and pride in receiving the award which, she said, “motivated [her] to maintain [her] course towards gender equality.”
“My parents gave us equal opportunities with my brothers, so I believe that equal opportunities should be given to both men and women in all aspects of life,” she added.
Major Winnet Zharare deployed to UNMISS in November 2020. Throughout her 17-month-long service, she advocated for gender parity and women’s participation, within her own ranks, among local military counterparts, and in host communities.
As the Chief Military Information Officer in UNMISS’ Bentiu field office, she helped ensure that patrols included both women and men to improve protection efforts as well as build trust between host communities and the Mission. Her efforts also contributed to an increase in gender-aggregated data so that issues raised by local women and girls would gain appropriate attention.
Advocating for gender parity and womens’ participation in an environment where they are traditionally excluded from decision-making, she encouraged local civilian and military authorities and community representatives to involve both men and women in meetings with the UN. Her diligence and diplomatic skills quickly gained her the trust of local military commanders who would systematically reach out to her on issues pertaining to women’s protection and rights. During her patrols and numerous community engagement initiatives, Major Zharare also successfully encouraged men and women to work together in farming and in the construction of dikes around Bentiu town to alleviate food shortages and prevent further displacement.
Major Zharare is the first Zimbabwean peacekeeper to receive this prestigious award.
‘New dawn’ for Europe as War in Ukraine Strengthens EU and Support for Enlargement
The European Union surprised the world, and even itself, with the speed, scale and unity of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This “new” Europe is ready to project both soft and hard power on the world stage, European leaders told participants at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022.
Christine Lagarde, President, European Central Bank, on the panel at the session, European Unity in a Disordered World?, said the Ukraine war has revealed how powerful Europe is collectively: “This is a new dawn for Europe.”
The war on Ukraine has also revealed weaknesses – including global supply chain vulnerabilities and over-reliance on Russian energy, she said, but Europe is addressing this and can begin to flex its muscles on the global stage. “Europe has untapped purchasing power, trading power, technology power, pension power and moral power.”
Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, reinforced the point. “This is Europe’s moment,” she said. “Europe can become the global project for peace.”
Mistakes of the past will be rectified, she said. “For way too long we did not seriously consider an energy union where we can rely on each other rather than on a country that can switch us off at any time.”
Referring to the EU’s support and defence of Ukraine, she was emphatic: “This is not the time to talk about face-saving for Russia or appeasement.”
Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of Slovakia, also on the panel, said: “If Ukraine falls to Russian aggression, Slovakia is next.” He added that we must continue to provide military support as well as step up humanitarian aid. “Above all we need to give Ukrainians hope.”
“Let’s not compromise – we must remain faithful to the values of the EU – freedom, rule of law, human dignity and equal rights.”
Micheál Martin, Taoiseach of Ireland, said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “The people of Europe have spoken. Enough is enough.” In response there is much stronger unanimity between member states and more support than ever to accept the accession of new members.
He continued: “We see the EU’s future in terms of the green economy and in terms of the digitalization but also in terms of enlargement.”
Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, called on European member states to continue to raise their defence spending. “The NATO alliance members are inseparable, but Europe must play its part,” he said. “This will help transform Europe from a soft power to a hard power.”
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