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India elected non-permanent member of UN Security Council

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, June 17: The United Nations General Assembly has elected India with an overwhelming majority of 184 out of 192 votes as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the two-year term beginning January 1, 2021. The strong support at the election demonstrates the confidence that the international community has reposed in India’s capability to strengthen the Council.

Besides India, Mexico, Ireland and Norway were elected to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday. But the 193 UN member states must return on Thursday to continue voting to fill one more vacant seat between Kenya and Djibouti as there was no clear winner.

Mexico and India were elected unopposed. Canada lost out to Ireland and Norway in a hotly contested election.

The UNGA also elected - unopposed - Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir as the president of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. He will take up the role later this year.

President of the United Nations General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande announced the results of the elections of the President of the 75th session of the General Assembly, non-permanent members of the Security Council and members of the Economic and Social Council.

The following 18 States are elected members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for a 3-year term beginning on 1 January 2021: Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal, Solomon Islands, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

The voting took place in a phased manner for the first time in the world body’s 75-year history. Member countries were allowed on to the floor of the general assembly, where the voting takes place, in smaller groups of 20 or so because of the social distancing norms in place because of Covid-19. New York city, where the UN is headquartered, was, and remains, the epicenter of the US coronavirus epidemic and has only recently started lifting restrictions on businesses and public life.

India is a founding member of the United Nations, having signed the UN Charter in San Francisco on 26 June 1946. This will be the 8th time that India will be serving in the Security Council, bringing its rich experience and legacy to bear on the work of the Security Council.

Previously, India was elected for 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and most recently in 2011-2012, when Hardeep Singh Puri, now India’s Minister for Housing & Urban Affairs and Civil Aviation, was India’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

The UN Security Council election has taken place in the shadow of one of the most pressing crises this generation has faced. COVID-19 has made us rethink how we can use multilateralism and international cooperation to make this a better world a better place. The current crisis offers India a window of opportunity to make critical contribution to the Security Council’s work, guided by Prime Minister Modi’s vision for reformed multilateralism.

India will be guided by the five priorities under the overarching theme of NORMS: New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System. These priorities were launched by the External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and includes inter alia new opportunities for progress, effective response to international terrorism, reforming multilateral systems, comprehensive approach to international peace and security, and technology with a human touch.

As India celebrates the 75th anniversary of the United Nations this year, and later, the 75th anniversary of India’s independence in 2022, India’s presence in the Security Council will help bring to the world our ethos that the world is one family - Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

Covid to wipe out child labour gains: UN

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, June 12: Huge gains made towards ending child labour over the last 20 years, risk being reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN said on Friday, in an appeal for governments to continue investing in measures that have helped reduce the number of youngsters working, by 94 million, since 2000.

Existing global estimates indicate that 152 million children are being put to work, but the figure is due to be updated next year, once the wider impact of coronavirus lockdown precautions become clearer.

“As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family incomes, without support, many could resort to child labour”, said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), marking the World Day Against Child Labour.

“Social protection is vital in times of crisis, as it provides assistance to those who are most vulnerable,” he added.

Echoing that message, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Henrietta Fore, explained how child labour was “a coping mechanism for many families” in times of crisis.

She added: “As we re-imagine the world post-COVID, we need to make sure that children and their families have the tools they need to weather similar storms in the future. Quality education, social protection services and better economic opportunities can be game changers.”

Of particular concern is growing evidence that child labour has risen in line with school closures linked to the pandemic, with more than one billion youngsters in some 130 countries impacted to date.

“Even when classes restart, some parents may no longer be able to afford to send their children to school”, ILO and UNICEF warned in a joint statement, adding that children “may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions” as the pandemic continues.

“More children could be forced into exploitative and hazardous jobs…(and) gender inequalities may grow more acute, with girls particularly vulnerable to exploitation in agriculture and domestic work”, they said in a new report.

More worrying still, more may be forced “into the worst forms of labour…as households use every available means to survive”, it warned.

The report - “COVID-19 and child labour: A time of crisis, a time to act” – also cites research showing that a one percentage point rise in poverty can lead to “at least a 0.7 per cent increase in child labour” in some countries.

Echoing the alert, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that more than seven in 10 children – 108 million – work in agriculture.

It explained that progress in eliminating child labour in the sector has been slow owing to limited Government legislation and oversight in hard-to-reach areas, a fragmented labour force and lack of unionization, plus the fact that the majority of child labourers work as unpaid family labour without formal contracts, in keeping with longstanding traditional practices.

The problem is particularly acute in Africa, where one in five children is involved in child labour – which the FAO defines as “activities that could physically and mentally harm and/or deprive children of their education, childhood and the potential to have a healthy and promising future”.

Commonly, youngsters work on small family farms or in large plantations, caring for domestic animals, weeding and harvesting, or collecting fodder and fuel.

Progress in tackling child labour on the continent appears to have stalled, despite targeted policies to combat child labour, FAO said.

This has been the case notably in sub-Saharan countries that have been hard-hit by successive drought, increasing violence linked to extremist groups and, more recently, devastating desert locust swarms.

As countries continue to push to fulfil their pledge to eradicate child labour by 2025, ILO and UNICEF proposed a number of recommendations to achieve this.

They include more comprehensive social protection; easier access to credit for poor households; the promotion of decent work for adults; measures to get children back into school - including free schooling - and more resources for labour inspections and law enforcement.

UN chief Guterres underlines need to protect refugees and migrants in Corona pandemic

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, June 3: The UN Secretary-General has expressed hope that the COVID-19 crisis will lead to a rethinking of how the world supports refugees, migrants and internally displaced people.

António Guterres on Wednesday launched the latest UN policy briefing on the pandemic, which reminds countries of their obligation to protect people on the move, who number more than 70 million globally, according to data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

“No country can fight the pandemic or manage migration alone. But together, we can contain the spread of the virus, buffer its impact on the most vulnerable and recover better for the benefit of all”, he said in a video message accompanying the launch.

While the pandemic continues to shatter lives and livelihoods across the globe, it is the most vulnerable who are being hit the hardest.

This population includes refugees, internally displaced people and migrants in precarious situations, who are facing three crises rolled into one, according to the Secretary-General.

COVID-19 is at first a health crisis, and people on the move can be exposed to the virus in crowded conditions where health care, water and sanitation are often hard to find, and physical distancing is “an impossible luxury”.

They are also confronting a socio-economic crisis, especially those working in the informal sector who have no access to protection schemes.

“In addition, the loss of income from COVID-19 is likely to lead to a colossal $109 billion drop in remittances”, said Guterres.

“That’s the equivalent of nearly three-quarters of all official development assistance that is no longer being sent back home to the 800 million people who depend on it.”

The final crisis surrounds protection, with more than 150 countries imposing border restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. The majority make no exceptions for people seeking asylum.

“At the same time, fear of COVID-19 has led to skyrocketing xenophobia, racism and stigmatization”, he added.

“And the already precarious situation of women and girls is ever more dire, as they face higher risks of exposure to gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation.”

For the UN Secretary-General, the pandemic provides an opportunity to “reimagine human mobility”.

However, that will mean taking four key understandings into consideration, starting with acknowledging that exclusion is expensive.

“An inclusive public health and socio-economic response will help suppress the virus, restart our economies and advance the Sustainable Development Goals”, Guterres explained.

The UN chief also called for upholding human dignity in the face of the crisis, suggesting that lessons can be learned from those countries which have implemented travel restrictions and border controls while respecting international principles on refugee protection.

He also repeated a core message of the crisis: no one is safe until everyone is safe, and that medicines to diagnose and treat COVID-19 must be accessible to all people.

Finally, he underlined that “people on the move” are part of the solution, and called for countries to explore pathways that would regularize migration and reduce remittance transaction costs.

“We all have a vested interest to ensure that the responsibility of protecting the world’s refugees is equitably shared and that human mobility remains safe, inclusive, and respects international human rights and refugee law”, said Guterres.

 

 

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