July Digital News Recap

July was filled with news of the fantastic work that the UN and affiliated organisations and personnel have done and some of the greatest challenges to overcome.

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, displayed her gratitude and thrill as California’s reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – one of the leading causers of climate change – has reduced to below 1990 levels. At the same time, the economy has grown at a rate of 26% over the 12-year period between 2004 to 2016. As Mrs. Espinosa put, this achievement can serve as inspiration for other economies to develop both economically and environmentally.

Phumzile Mlambo tweeted her urge for wider education for women. The Executive Director for UN Women told how greater education would see the female population trillions of dollars better off and thereby close the gender equality gap. Women with primary education only earn around 15 percent more than women with no education at all, but those with secondary education earn almost double. Girls who complete secondary school consequently become healthier, more prosperous adults, with smaller families and children who are less at risk of illness and death and more likely to succeed. Conversely, a lack of education facilitates greater rates of poverty, higher rates of child marriage, increased fertility rates, and reduced engagement in personal, familial and community decision making.

Melissa Fleming tweeted a photo of herself with a group of Rohingya refugee boys. Around 700,000 refugees have fled the destruction of their homes and persecution in Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh in the last 12 months. The Rohingya, who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country, with the majority living in Rakhine state. However, the government of Myanmar – a predominantly Buddhist country – denies the Rohingya citizenship and even excluded them from the 2014 census, refusing to recognise them as a people; it sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The UN’s Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, declared his gratitude to Bangladesh for its hosting of the Rohingya refugees. Mr. Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim undertook a two-day visit to Bangladesh to seek support for the nearly-million Rohingya refugees in dire need as well as for their hosts – one of the world’s most natural disaster-prone countries. The two leaders visited the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, the largest and most densely populated refugee settlement in the world.

The World Bank announced prior to the visit of a half-a-billion US dollars grant-based support to help Bangladesh address the needs of the refugees and their hosts in areas including health, education, water and sanitation. While the Secretary-General said more funds are urgently needed as a key US$950 million UN humanitarian aid plan remains just 26 percent funded.

Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, received great support for the ILO’s Global Compact on Migration which works towards improving work for migrant workers. The Compact noted that when labour migration is well-governed, fair and effective, it can deliver benefits and opportunities for migrant workers, their families, and host communities alike. It can balance labour supply and demand, help develop and transfer skills at all skill levels, contribute to social protection systems, foster business innovation, and enrich communities both culturally and socially. Moreover, in contrast to recent trends against migration (most notably Brexit and the Trump presidency), studies have demonstrated the economic value of migrant workers, particularly in aging societies, not to mention the social benefits that new cultures, languages and thinking yield.

A great story of support for an Afghan asylum seeker in Sweden was highlighted by Roberto Valent, Special Representative of the Administrator – Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People, UNDP. Elin Ersson, a social work student at Gothenburg University who has been an activist for migration, successfully protested the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker on a flight from Gothenburg to Turkey. Sweden’s centre-left coalition government is keen to maintain asylum seekers’ expulsions whose applications have been turned down. Prior to the refugee crisis escalation in the last couple of years, Sweden was notably welcoming to refugees and has one of the highest proportion of migrant populations relative to total population. Yet, it has since made it much harder for refugees to get into the country and asylum applications have fallen sharply. In 2016 almost 29,000 people claimed asylum, followed by just under 26,000 last year. So far this year, asylum applications are running at about 1,500 a month.