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UN deputy chief calls for action to deliver sustainable development in Africa

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Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (file photo). ECA

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed highlighted the continued relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), during a meeting with the President of Tunisia, Kais Saied, held on Sunday.

Ms. Mohammed was in the country to attend the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), which concluded that day.

The conference has been organized by Japan since 1993, under the philosophy of “African Development for African people.” It is co-hosted by the UN, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, and the African Union Commission.

A new era

In welcoming the UN deputy chief, President Saied spoke of the new era in the world, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, but also in Tunisia, which has a new Constitution that he said will establish greater accountability for all.

The President said TICAD has already brought important results for Africa, and there will be much to do to implement agreements reached during this latest edition of the conference.

SDGs remain relevant

Ms. Mohammed recalled that the SDGs remain a very relevant framework in this new era, and TICAD has served as an important reminder. 

The 17 goals aim to bring about a more just and equitable world, including through ending extreme poverty, achieving gender equality, and spurring economic growth, while also tackling climate change and preserving the natural environment. 

They were adopted by world leaders in 2015 and have a deadline of 2030.

The UN deputy chief said that in many places, governments have not yet succeeded in delivering better public services, particularly for women and girls.  She added that the UN will continue to support countries, and give hope to people.

Transforming education

Ms. Mohammed reminded President Saied of the UN Secretary-General’s invitation to attend the upcoming UN General Assembly and the important Transforming Education Summit. 

The three-day event, which begins at UN Headquarters on 16 September, aims to set out a new vision for education that equips learners of all ages and backgrounds with the skills, knowledge, and values they need to thrive.

She said that as a professor, President Saied could help redefine and rethink education in Africa. 

The President confirmed his interest in attending, and mentioned that adapting education to this new era is fundamental. He said a Supreme Council for education and learning is included in his country’s new Constitution.

The meeting with the Tunisian President took place a day after Ms. Mohammed addressed the opening ceremony for TICAD8.

A ‘perfect storm’

In her remarks, the Deputy Secretary-General called for action to confront what she described as “the cascading impacts of multiple crises” facing the world today.

She said recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of the war in Ukraine, the climate emergency and the financial crisis, are placing already vulnerable populations under severe stress.

“This ‘perfect storm’ is, in turn, creating a fertile breeding ground exacerbating existing and future conflict and unrest, thus compromising our collective efforts to achieve the SDGs and save lives and livelihoods,” she added.

Three areas for action

Ms. Mohammed said countries have an unprecedented opportunity to overcome these challenges and address security and sustainable development in Africa.

She underlined the need to accelerate action across three main areas to benefit African economies and achieve the SDGs.

The first calls for ensuring universal access to energy and a just and equitable transition to renewables.

A comprehensive approach is necessary here to chart energy development pathways in Africa, grounded in sustainable investments and strong partnerships, such as TICAD.

“With the energy access gap impacting about 600 million people, Africa will need the ‘energy development space’ to keep pace with its ambitions for universal, reliable and affordable access to clean energy,” she told the conference.

“The current global rise in energy prices can also prompt African countries to maximize the continent’s great potential for renewable energy. But this will require timely investments at scale.”

Transform food systems

The second area is focused on the need to transform global food systems, which means achieving food security, nutrition, self-sufficiency and jobs for young people across the continent.

“Expanding Africa’s breadbasket requires enhanced agriculture productivity and food systems that leverage new technology of modern irrigation systems, the mechanization of farming and the reduction of post-harvest losses, which are high priorities for the continent,” said Ms. Mohammed.

She added that the TICAD partnership can drive this transformation, through the right investments, technology and affordable innovations at scale. 

Lastly, Ms. Mohammed stressed that there can be no solution to these interconnected crises unless countries address inequality and its underlying factors.

“There is need for a shift in the perception of Africa as dependent continent to one that is a key actor on the global stage, with the same rights and standing as any other region. Be it economic or political. The mobilization of adequate financing for sustainable development is an imperative,” she said.

Seize upcoming opportunities

Ms. Mohammed urged participants to seize the opportunity of the upcoming UN General Assembly, the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, the G20 Meeting and the UN’s COP27 climate change conference, to strengthen collective action to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic and respond to the impact of the continuing war in Ukraine.

Stating that “we are not starting from nothing”, she stressed the need for solid building blocks to achieve the ambition of delivering sustainable development for Africa.

The Deputy Secretary-General underlined the UN’s readiness to continue to accompany African countries in this journey.

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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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