Global response to poverty and environmental goals ‘not ambitious enough’

9 July 2019

The global response to realizing poverty and environmental goals agreed by world leaders in 2015 has not been “ambitious enough” according to the UN Secretary-General.

In his latest report on the progress towards meeting the targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, the UN chief António Guterres said that while a “wealth of action” had been taken by governments across the world “the most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most.”

The 17 SDGs commit countries to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. Read more here about the goals.

The report tracks progress across 17 goals in the UN’s 193 Member States and largely takes a global view, however while many trends regarding the SDGs are common to all regions, there are significant regional differences. Here are six things you need to know about progress towards some of the key SDGs.

Launching the report at UN Headquarters on Tuesday, at the start of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) chief, Liu Zhenmin, said that the clock for taking decisive action on climate change is ticking. He stressed the importance of strengthening international cooperation and multilateral action.

“The challenges highlighted in this report are global problems that require global solutions,” said Mr. Liu. “Just as problems are interrelated, the solutions to poverty, inequality, climate change and other global challenges are also interlinked.”

Climate change

UNICEF/Uddin
A family left homeless by cyclone Aila wait for assistance in Koira, Khulna District, Bangladesh.

 

Described by Mr Guterres last year as an “existential threat” to humanity, the outlook for meeting targets to reduce climate change is grim. With rising greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is occurring at rates much faster than anticipated and “its effects are clearly felt world-wide.”

The target, and remember this was agreed by world leaders, is to keep the rate of global warming to below 2°C and, if possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The average global temperature is already 1°C above pre-industrial levels but if not enough is done then warming will continue at an unsustainable pace and could well exceed 3°C by the end of the century.

While there are positive steps in terms of individual countries developing climate plans and the increase in the amount of money being found to finance those activities, Mr Guterres said that “far more ambitious plans and accelerated action is needed” on climate mitigation and adaptation.

Poverty

OCHA/Giles
A displaced family sits in their tent in the Khamir IDP settlement in Yemen. The father, Ayoub Ali, is 25 years old and has four children with his wife Juma’a.

 

Extreme poverty, which the UN defines as a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, continues to decline but the decline has slowed to the extent that the world is not on track to achieve the target of less than three per cent of the world living in extreme poverty, by 2030. It’s more likely on current estimates to be around six per cent; that’s around 420 million people, a situation of “grave concern” according to the UN chief.

Violent conflicts and disasters have played a role here. In the Arab region, extreme poverty had previously been below three per cent. However, the conflicts in Syria and Yemen have raised the region’s poverty rate and left more people hungry and homeless.

Historically speaking, there are reasons for optimism. The share of the world population living in extreme poverty was 10 per cent in 2015, down from 16 per cent in 2010 and 36 per cent in 1990.

Hunger 

OCHA/Meridith Kohut
A mother feeds her malnourished son at an Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

 

Hunger is on the rise again globally, with an estimated 821 million people undernourished in 2017, up from 784 million in 2015. So, one in nine people across the world are not getting enough to eat.

Africa remains the continent with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, affecting one fifth of its population, that’s more than 256 million people. Public investment in agriculture is declining globally, a situation that needs to be reversed according to the Secretary-General. “Small-scale food producers and family farmers require much greater support and increased investment in infrastructure and technology for sustainable agriculture, is urgently needed.”

The developing world is most acutely affected by this lack of investment. The share of small-scale food producers in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America ranges from 40 per cent to 85 per cent, compared to less than 10 per cent in Europe.

Health 

© UNICEF/Frank Dejongh
Mothers at the maternity health center in the village of Nassian, in the north-east of Côte d’Ivoire wait to have their children vaccinated against tuberculosis and other diseases. (file March 2017)

 

Major progress has been made in improving the health of millions of people, increasing life expectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality, and the fight against the most dangerous communicable diseases. Despite those improvements, an estimated 303,000 women around the world died due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth in 2015, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa.

Progress has stalled or is not happening fast enough in addressing major diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, while at least half of the global population, that’s some 3.5 billion people, do not have access to essential health services.

Mr Guterres said that “concerted efforts are required to achieve universal health coverage, sustainable financing for health and to address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases including mental health.”

Gender Equality 

UN Women/Lauren Rooney
In the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, Rawan Majali commemorates the opening ceremony of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women with her hand print pledge.

 

Gender violence persists. Globally, about a fifth of women aged 15 to 49, experienced physical or sexual partner-inflicted violence in the last 12 months. The prevalence is highest in the 47 poorest countries in the world, a group the UN calls the Least Developed Countries or LDCs.

While some indicators of gender equality are progressing, such as a significant decline in the prevalence of female genital mutilation and early marriage, the overall numbers continue to be high. Moreover, insufficient progress on structural issues at the root of gender inequality, such as legal discrimination, unfair social norms and attitudes, decision making on sexual and reproductive issues and low levels of political participation, are undermining efforts to achieve targets.

The UN Secretary-General has said “there is simply no way that we can achieve the 17 SDGs without achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.”

Jobs and employment  

World Bank/Enrico Fabian
Workers at an integrated youth development skills center in Delhi, India.

 

Experts agrees that economic growth which includes all sections of society and which is sustainable, can drive progress and generate the means to implement the SDGs. Globally, labour productivity has increased and unemployment is back to levels seen before the financial crash of 2008, however, the global economy is growing at a slower rate. And young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

Mr Guterres said that “more progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, particularly for young people, reduce informal employment and the gender pay gap, and promote safe and secure working environments to create decent work for all.”

Homicide kills far more people than armed conflict, new UN study shows

8 July 2019
Some 464,000 people across the world were victims of homicidal violence in 2017, more than five times the number killed in armed conflict over the same period, UN researchers said on Monday.

According to a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Central America is the most dangerous region to live, where the number of homicides – or unlawful killings – rises in some “hotspots”, to 62.1 per 100,000 people.

The safest locations are in Asia, Europe and Oceania (Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia), where murder rates are 2.3, 3.0 and 2.8 respectively – well below the 6.1 global average, the UN agency’s Global Study on Homicide 2019 shows.

At 13.0, Africa’s homicide rate was lower than the Americas (17.2), which had the highest percentage in 2017 since reliable data-gathering began in 1990, UNODC said, while also pointing to significant data gaps for some African countries.

Organized crime accounts for nearly one in five murders

One constant since the beginning of this century is the link between organized crime and violent deaths, according to the report.

Crime alone was responsible for 19 per cent of all homicides in 2017 and caused “many more deaths worldwide than armed conflict and terrorism combined”, said Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director.

Like violent conflict, organized crime “destabilizes countries, undermines socioeconomic development and erodes the rule of law”, according to UNODC, while Mr. Fedotov insisted that unless the international community takes decisive steps, “targets under Sustainable Development Goal 16 to significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates by 2030 will not be met”.

Young men at highest risk in all regions

From a gender angle, the UNODC report also finds that while girls and boys aged nine and under, are more or less equally represented in terms of victim numbers, in all other age groups, males make up more than 50 per cent of the toll, according to data from 41 countries.

In all regions, the likelihood of boys becoming victims of homicide increases with age, while those aged between 15 and 29 are at the highest risk of homicide globally.

In the Americas, for instance, the victim rate among 18 to 19-year-olds is estimated at 46 per 100,000 – far higher than for their peers in other regions, while firearms are also involved “far more often” in homicides in the Americas than elsewhere, the UN report maintains.

“High levels of violence are strongly associated with young males, both as perpetrators and victims,” the report says, “So violence prevention programmes should focus on providing support to young men to prevent them from being lured into a subculture of… gangs (and) drug dealing.”

Femicide ‘too often ignored’

While women and girls account for a far smaller share of victims than men, they continue to bear “by far the greatest burden” of intimate partner and family-related homicide, the report finds, adding that more than nine in 10 suspects in homicide cases are men.

“Killings carried out by intimate partners are rarely spontaneous or random,” Mr. Fedotov said, noting too that the phenomenon is often under-reported and “too often ignored”.

In a bid to help Governments tackle homicide, the UNODC report identifies several drivers of the problem, in addition to organized crime. They include firearms, drugs and alcohol, inequality, unemployment, political instability and gender stereotyping.

‘Targeted’ anti-corruption policies needed

The study also underlines the importance of addressing corruption, strengthening the rule of law and investing in public services – particularly education; these are “critical” in reducing violent crime, it insists.

Highlighting the report’s broad scope – which covers everything from lethal gang violence involving firearms to links with inequality and gender-related killings – Mr. Fedotov maintained that it “is possible” to tackle the threat from criminal networks with “targeted” policies.

These include community engagement and police patrols, as well as policing reform, whose aim is to strengthen trust in officers among the local population.

For those young men already caught up in criminal gangs, they need help “so that they can extricate themselves” through social work, rehabilitation programmes and awareness-raising about non-violent alternatives.

These efforts could be more effective if they took place in “certain countries in South and Central America, Africa and Asia” and “even in countries with high national rates of homicide”, the report insists.

“Killings are often concentrated in specific states, provinces and cities,” it says. “Bringing down overall homicide rates depends ultimately on tackling lethal violence in these ‘hotspots’”.

Although the UNODC study shows that the number of homicides increased from almost 400,000 in 1992 to more than 460,000 in 2017, it explains that the actual global rate has declined (from 7.2 in 1992, to 6.1 in 2017) when measured against population growth.

The Week Ahead at the United Nations: 8-12 July 2019

 

The Week Ahead at the United Nations: 8-12 July 2019

Monday 8 July

 

Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the opening session of an African Regional Conference on Counter‑Terrorism and Prevention of Violent Extremism in Nairobi.

 

DESA, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, hosts “Co-Ops 4 Decent Work” at UNHQ in observance of the International Day of Cooperatives.

 

UNODC, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, issues its Global Homicide Study with the Permanent Mission of Italy. Separately, it joins the Permanent Mission of Japan n hosting a discussion, “On the Road to Kyoto 2020: Advancing Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law Towards the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda.”

 

Tuesday 9 July

 

The Security Council holds an open debate on “Threats to international peace and security: Linkage between international terrorism and organized crime.” Its July forecast is here.

 

The launch of the annual Sustainable Development Goals report includes a discussion by USG for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin and Statistical Services Chief Francesca Perucci at UNHQ’s Noon Briefing.

 

Wednesday 10 July

 

Secretary-General António Guterres begins a two-day visit to Mozambique to visit survivors of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, and organizations working to help them recover.

 

The Security Council holds a debate on “UN peacekeeping operations: Strengthening triangular cooperation.”

 

Thursday 11 July

 

World Population Day

 

UN Global Compact CEO and Executive Director Lise Kingo briefs reporters at UNHQ about its survey of corporate progress on the SDGs and the 1.5°C business-mobilization campaign.

 

Friday 12 July

 

UNAIDS hosts Justice Edwin Cameron, a judge on South African’s Constitutional Court for a press briefing at UNHQ on Stigma, Discrimination and Decriminalization and its link to SDG 16.

                                                                   

In case you missed it:
·       For This Week at the UN in 60 Seconds, watch here.
·       Libya detention center airstrike could amount to a war crime says UN, as Guterres calls for independent investigation
·       UN Human Rights report on Venezuela urges immediate measures to halt and remedy grave rights violations
·       Grievous violations continue against Myanmar civilians, Human Rights Council hears
·       Security Council makes first-ever visit to Iraq, five years after ISIS declared caliphate
·       UN cultural agency removes birthplace of Jesus from its list of heritage sites in danger

For more information:

 

Syria: At least seven children killed in yet another airstrike

7 July 2019

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least seven children were killed in an airstrike against displaced civilians on Saturday on the village of Mhambel, in the outskirts of Idlib, in northwest Syria. News reports state that over 20 civilians were killed in this attack led by Government forces using missiles and barrel bombs.

© UNICEF/UN0318500/Watad
An injured boy rests on the ground of a makeshift camp in Syria’s Aqrabat village, 45km north of Idlib City, near the Turkish border. (June 2019)

“This latest outrage adds to the mounting child casualties caused by intensifying violence over the past few weeks, including in Al Wadihi, southern Idlib, northern Aleppo and northern Hama,” said UNICEF chief, Henrietta Fore, in a statement released on Sunday.

At least 140 children have been killed in northwest Syria since the start of this year.

“The obvious disregard for the safety and well-being of children evident in these attacks is appalling,” stated Ms. Fore who added: ”My heart breaks for the young lives lost and for all the children in the area who remain in harm’s way”.

The UNICEF Executive Director “strongly and unequivocally” urged the parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them “to ensure that children in the northwest and across the country are protected from the ongoing violence.”