UNGA Conference 2020: Five Years of Action Towards the SDGs

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UNGA Conference 2020: Five Years of Action Towards the SDGs



On the Occasion of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, the Journalists and Writers Foundation and its Global Partners organized the 5th Annual UNGA Conference, entitled; “Transforming Our World: Five Years of Action Towards the SDGs”. Organized by 35 Global Partners from 24 countries, the UNGA Conference 2020 hosted 21 distinguished panelists from 11 countries who shared their knowledge and years of experience in advocating for women empowerment and gender equality, implementing the SDG Goal #16: peace, justice, and strong institutions, and assessing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 500 participants from 47 countries actively contributed the discussions with their questions, arguments, and comments from different points of views.

The UNGA Conference 2020 started with the Welcome Remarks by Mehmet Kilic, President of the Journalists and Writers Foundation. Mr. Kilic said: “The year 2020 is historic time as we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration that focus on women empowerment and gender equality. The UNGA Conference 2020 aimed at reviewing the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals five years after the adoption of the UN Global Agenda 2030 in 2015.” It is an opportunity for us to look back on the achievements and look forward to the challenges we face as humanity and deliver sustainable solutions.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Kilic told the participants that a conference declaration will be prepared and disseminated within the United Nations, the UN Member States and other relevant bodies as a policy recommendation for the assessment of the implementation of the SDGs. The UNGA 2020 Conference Proceedings, including speakers’ papers and presentations will be published and shared with multiple stakeholders as a point of reference to rethink and realign implementation policies and practices for higher levels of outcomes considering the new normal in the post-COVID era.

Honorable Prof. Bob Carr, a professor and a career diplomat who served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia, delivered his Keynote Speech with his greetings from Sydney, Australia. Prof. Carr stated that we are living at a time of substantial global challenges: global warming and the challenge of producing a world where there is peace, justice and strong institutions. He said: “The persistent challenge of climate is very valid but the problems we face in achieving peace, security and robust institutions is all the greater than the climate change. We’ve witnessed tragically a retreat of the civic space where we thought people could operate independent of government and make criticisms and seek information and fight for their rights.” The right to speaking out and advancing the frontiers of freedom are being restricted, the civic space is becoming restricted and is not being expanded. He suggested that world leaders can solve such challenges by ensuring the norms of political contestability and pluralism, respecting the views of others, and not persecuting people for holding dissident opinions.

In the 21st century, the civilized world and societies celebrate the culture of being dissident; instead of turning the forces of the state against dissidents, governments and leaders should not to resort to the easier task of closing down dissident voices, of limiting the room for difference or not permitting people who think they discriminated against or repressed to speak out and draw attention to their case. This has particular sensitivity to people already disadvantaged, in many cases women and girls, immigrants, including those who suddenly find themselves without a nationality seeking a new home and persons of color, many times in the context of increasing conflicts and violence.

Prof. Carr also stressed the importance of access to public information, in particular journalists, reporters, and human rights defenders. He said that too many journalists are in prison where people have lost their freedom simply to obtain access to information. Human rights defenders also face challenges and risks to advocate for people who’ve been dispossessed and are at risk. Human rights defenders need our support and we need to deliver the guarantees for them to carry on fight for peace, justice, and equality. “Member states, national human rights organizations and civil society need to speak again about the integration of human rights to create peaceful and just and strong institutions.” he added.

Prof. Bob Carr also stated that promoting democratic values is integrally linked to SDG #16. The public should have confidence in judicial systems and public ethics in public institutions. According to Freedom House, there are 14 consecutive years in which global freedoms have declined that undermines strong and respected global institutions. According to the Freedom of the World 2020 report, “the unchecked brutality of autocratic regimes and the ethical decay of democratic powers are combining to make the world increasingly hostile to fresh demands for better governance.”

According to the United Nations Report 2019, a total of 397 additional killings of human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists were recorded and verified in 41 countries. He called on UN Member States and intergovernmental organizations have to protect human rights defenders, journalists, reporters or the recorders of fundamental rights being undermined or corroded. It is vital for the world to make the right decisions about the condition of life on the planet. Prof. Carr encouraged the panelists and the participants to push the UN Global Agenda 2030, to push the human rights frontiers to protect the people at risk and the planet.

Dr. Wayne Henry, Director General, Planning Institute of Jamaica delivered his Keynote Speech on COVID-19 and Beyond: Perspectives from Jamaica’s experience in integrating the SDGs in the implementation of Vision 2030 Jamaica, a National Development Plan from 2015 to 2020. Dr. Henry examined areas of progress, strengths and gaps sharing early insights on the way forward with Jamaica’s motto, “Out of Many One People” that represents integration, equity and inclusion as core principles in advancing a vision for Jamaicans and the rest of the world. Vision 2030 Jamaica provides a framework for the achievement of a secure and prosperous future where “Jamaica becomes the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.” It is geared towards the achievement of four synergistic and interdependent sustainable development goals which cascade into 15 National Outcomes.

Dr. Henry stated that the SDG implementation has been aligned with the goals and outcomes of Vision 2030 Jamaica and targets of the SDGs with strategic priorities such as coordination, partnerships, capacity building in planning, monitoring and evaluation, data and statistics, communications and advocacy. However, due to the coronavirus “COVID-19” pandemic, Jamaica had experienced mixed results with performance and gains made in human capital development, macro-economic stability, and governance while challenges were experienced in security and safety, environmental sustainability and the rate of non-communicable diseases.

According to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Jamaica was ranked 6 of 180 countries with positive performance on key international governance indicators such as freedom of speech, accountability, and government effectiveness. Jamaica continued its focus on advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality within the framework of the National Policy for Gender Equality (NPGE, 2011) and alignment with the Beijing Platform.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Henry stated that COVID-19 has created cracks in global systems and structures which pose threats and present opportunities for change and growth. In Jamaica, COVID-19 had deleterious effects on lives and livelihoods with an estimated economic shrinkage of 10.0 per cent for the fiscal year, which increased different types of vulnerabilities for the majority of the population with public health and economic survivability concerns. To overcome the negative effects of COVID-19, Jamaica depends on public-private and other partnerships, and the role of civil society and non-governmental actors that are critical to ensuring that the necessary capital, expertise and ownership of policies and programs for sustainability, equity and resilience. Realignment of national policies and practices with the framework of the SDGs ensures human capital development and social protection by embracing a “new normal” that “leaves no one behind.”

Panel 1: Women Empowerment and Gender Equality: 25 Years after the Beijing Declaration

Panel 1 addressed current challenges and constraints on women empowerment and gender equality in policymaking and decision-making mechanisms with a comparative analysis of how technological advancements influence women empowerment with opportunities and challenges, and understand how women’s empowerment, leadership, and participation contribute to social and economic development.

The Panel 1 started with Opening Remarks by Mr. Mehmet Kilic, President of the Journalists and Writers Foundation: “Women empowerment and gender equality are not a singular issue that emphasizes only on the rights of the women. Rather promoting and protecting women’s rights ensure peaceful and inclusive societies and contributes to social and economic development.” The UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres made “gender parity and equality” a priority in his agenda that turned the United Nations into a gender-equal organization with 50/50 percent representation of women and men in the senior leadership levels. This policy change in the senior leadership has inspired millions of women and girls around the world.

Donna Orender was the moderator of the Panel session and started off the session with her introductory remarks. Mr. Orender’s passionate pursuit of working on behalf of women and girls is a result of her personal journey as a professional athlete, corporate executive, leader of an iconic women’s business the WNBA, and a board member and founder of Generation W. Ms. Orender stated that COVID-19 literally turned the world upside down as the pandemic continues to impact women and girls disproportionately with inequalities, and the challenges have not lessened despite oui joined efforts. She expressed her sadness about the recent loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsbery who has been one of the champions, leaders, and warriors of women empowerment, gender equality, social justice, and equality for all.

Ms. Orender stressed the importance of including multiple stakeholders and voices in the policy development and decision-making processes that produce better results proven by research. Women are great leaders, innovators, healthcare professional and first responders to COVID-19 pandemic effectively. A person’s knowledge, skills, and talents are needed to build a competent team of responders during the times of crisis.  Read more…

Houry Geudelekian, the Chair of the NGO CSW talked about the review of the Beijing Declaration from 1995 to 2020. The NGO CSW had organized the largest gathering in March of 2020 in New York City during Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The ultimate goal is to bring voices of women and girls globally to the UN Headquarters. In March 2020, around 20,000 women signed up to come for the CSW64 events, which was going to be the second coming of Beijing Platform for Action as we celebrate the Beijing Declaration +25. NGO CSW team alone had organized 520 panel discussions in the two weeks that the CSW64 until the arrival of silent enemy Covid-19.

It was not surprising to most of us that COVID-19 has affected us so deeply because the world was not on the right track of taking care of people and the world. We were not realizing the interconnectedness; on the contrary, we were abusing this planet and each other and really buying into this patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism. So, here we are again at the UNGA Conference for rethinking, re-galvanizing, and re-bringing women and girls and our allies, our men and boys who are on board with us because we obviously cannot do this without the collaboration of men and women. Read more…

Mohna Ansari, a Member of the National Human Rights Commission of NEPAL spoke about Gender Perspectives and Women’s Leadership in Policy Making. 25 years after the Beijing Declaration, Nepal has gone through major challenges in the last two decades following a decade long conflict and a peace process, which started in 2006 that transformed the country into a secular, republican, secular state. Women had a significant role in this transformation. The first elected constituent assembly in 2008 had 197 women members out of 601 members. The second constituent assembly had 176 of women. Nepal’s Constitution has ensured women’s representation in federal and provincial parliaments, as well as local government bodies 32 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Currently, 90 of the 275 MPs are women in Lower House. The Upper House has 22 women members of the 59 members. Six of the 10 parliamentary committee are headed by women lawmakers. Election Act has ensured 50 percent women candidates in leadership position of the local boards. In 2016, local election was elected as a deputy chair or mayor of a seven hundred local bodies of the 753, also 18 women were elected as a mayor or Chair. Based on the act, over 6500 women were elected in a local body, these are Dalit women, and we all know in South Asia that Dalits are highly oppressive caste group.

According to 2019 survey that looked over women’s representation in the parliament, Nepal ranked second in entire Asia. This is a significant achievement compared to 1999’s parliament, which only had 5.8 percent women in parliament. Reservation policy and electoral reform had been instrumental in promoting women’s participation in policymaking roles. In the Civil Service Act, women have 33 percent reservation of the total 45 percent inclusive quota. Army and Police Act has also made a reservation for women; however, the inclusion of the women from the socially excluded group is still a major challenge for us. Read more…

 Prof. Diane Elson, Emeritus Professor at the Department of Sociology from University of Essex in U.K., spoke about Inclusive Economies for Women’s Empowerment. Prof. Diane Elson discussed the meaning inclusive economies for women’s empowerment and new challenges COVID-19 pandemic posed on inclusive economies and women’s empowerment. Prof. Elson claimed that the sustainable development agenda has no goal or target that specifically focus on economic inclusion and women’s empowerment. In other words, sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth don’t actually mean women’s empowerment. SDG Goal #5 requires governments to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls but it doesn’t actually mention economic inclusion of women. However, it holds governments accountable to undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources. I think we need to focus more on the issue of rights, not just participation, to ensure that economic inclusion really empowers women.

What do we mean by inclusion? In reality, there are many forms of inclusion of women in economies that can be harmful. For instance, forcible inclusion, forced labor and modern slavery, injurious inclusion, unsafe working conditions, long and exhausting hours of work, impoverished inclusion where earnings are not above the poverty level, precarious inclusion where employment is insecure, segregated inclusion, and inclusion in low paying occupations at the bottom of the jobs hierarchy. Read more…

Diya K. Wynn, an AI/ML Ethicist in Emerging Technologies & Intelligent Platforms GSP at Amazon Web Services, talked about Technological Advancements for Women’s Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges.Ms. Wynn started her speech by sharing her story of a little girl from a single parent, poverty-stricken home in the South Bronx, in NY. She was awarded with a computer for her accomplishment in school, which fascinated her in science and technology, which opened up a world to study and pursue a career in computers and technology. In the stories she read and the movies she watched, there were no role models of women or girls with jobs and careers in computers and science. The media and the society portrayed women with roles as homemakers, teachers, and nurses.

Ms. Wynn said that her story is not uncommon to many women and girls around the world. Exposure and access to education and technology is critical in building sustainable systems, developing effective policies, and changing socio-cultural norms and patriarchal structures that are embedded in the mindset of the society towards women empowerment and gender equality. She also added that the challenges are coupled with racism and discrimination against black African American women in America. To achieve women empowerment and gender equality adopted in the Beijing Declaration and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we have to address the systemic and institutional barriers against women, girls, and people from marginalized communities to ensure equality, equity, and social justice for all worldwide. Read more…

Dr. Marina Sorokina, Head of the Department of History at Alexander Solzhenitsyn Center for the Study of the Russian Diaspora, spoke about Russia`s best practices on implementing the SDG #5: Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering all Women and Girls. Marina’s presentation gave a careful but precise reflection on women scholars in exile, women and immigration. Russians has had three major waves of migration abroad since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. During this Bolshevik Revolution and civil war many people were forced to migrate as refugees. The second wave was during the World War II and the third migration came after the Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost (1984). The underlying factor for migration of Russians out of their homeland and traditional environment was the pressure of the political persecution. They found new homes in many countries in the world, in Latin America, especially in Brazil. From these migrants a number of schools were founded and scientists have emerged from these emigrants.

It is because of these scholars in exile that attention is drawn towards, especially in relation to the larger immigration wave that hit Europe during the Nazi regime (1934-1945). The academic works have faithfully kept records of immigrants out of Europe to the rest of the world. In Contrast, there is very little scholarly information on the Russian academic migration in the 20th century. Read more…

Panel 2 – Implementing SDG #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Panel 2 Session undertakes a review of five years of action and the progress made in implementing SDG Goal #16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Moderated by Ms. Paula Boland, speakers discussed children’s human rights and digital environments with global considerations, decline of democratic values and rise of autocracy globally, rise of violence against journalists and right to access information for strong institutions, and access to justice for transparency and accountability in governance.

Paula Boland is an attorney specializing in environmental law and international affairs and serves as the President of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area and the Chair of the UNA-USA National Council. Ms. Boland moderated Panel Session 2 that focused on Implementing SDG #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Through Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG #16, member states have committed to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and being effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. When the international community look back on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), governance emerged as a critical element in explaining the uneven progress across these goals in many countries. One of the lessons from the MDGs was that democratic governance, peace and security and the rule of law, including protection of human rights, are critical to sustainable development. A human rights approach helps identify who is vulnerable or being left behind and the ways in which those who are marginalized can be empowered to overcome their vulnerability.

The 2030 Agenda presents a shift, a significant shift and radical new approach to transforming our world, focusing on the integrated pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. It is universal, including issues such as inequality, access to justice, peace and security, and aims at leaving no one behind. Moreover, the SDG Agenda has an additional complexity in terms of its implementation and requires a mix of national ownership, flexibility, innovation, political acumen, high quality technical support and collective multi-stakeholder effort at all levels in order to become progressively a reality. Read more

Natalia Marcela Molina is a criminal judge and member of the International Association of Women Judges and Second Vice President of the Women Judges Association in Argentina. Ms. Molina spoke about children’s human rights and digital environments, global considerations. Her mission today is to inspire those who were thinking about being actively involved on campaigns that inform and promote the importance of children’s human rights.

Key points raised from her speech were as follows:

  • The consequence of the Covid19 pandemic, has made online education and communication to increase drastically. Children have been seriously threatened from the exposure to digital environment.
  • There has been a rise in the production and distribution of child sexual abuse content and online harassment. In most countries this is treated as serious crime, yet the abuse is growing.
  • The social media has been identified as the instigator of these crimes.
  • Once this image or videos are online, they automatically become a part of an enormous child sexual abuse network that not only exposes the pain of these victims to millions, but puts at risk, once again, their physical and psychic integrity.
  • Even in Latin America which is, at the moment, the most advanced region in the implementation of this new measures, we are still learning and facing challenges.
  • There is no doubt, this problem needs to be a part of the agenda for action in all countries. Those countries which have not implemented laws to ensure there is justice for victims and develop a long-term preventive measure.
  • Cyber-crime, organized or not, has no boundaries and expands fast. That is why we need a world that is united, with international collaboration and fluent communication on this topic.

All people are called upon to expose this cyber-crime on children by conscientizing communities we come from.

Michael Collins, Executive Director of the Americas of Institute for Economics and Peace, spoke about the Decline of Democratic Values and Rise of Autocracy Globally. Mr. Collins presented findings from a recent Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) Report, with regards to reducing violence in line with targets and indicators related to SDG #16. The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP)is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute. They dedicate their work to shifting the World to focus on peace as a positive, tangible and achievable measure of human well-being and progress. This is the 14th year of the Global Peace Index and it ranks 163 countries according to their relative state of peace. The definition of peace in the index is the “lack of violence or fear of violence.” 

And we track that using 23 different indicators. And the methodology for doing that is developed by IEP, but it is sort of overseen by an international panel of experts. The indicators are largely distributed in three domains namely:

  • Domestic and international conflict.
  • Measures of safety and security within society
  • The degree of militarization.

Some of the key findings for the 2020 are presented as follows. The countries in red are the least peaceful countries and those in green are the most peaceful. Overall, findings show the average level of peacefulness has deteriorated by 0.34 percent. It is the ninth deterioration in the last 12 years. 81 countries became more peaceful, 80 countries deteriorated and improvements were driven by the impact of terrorism, homicides by weapons imports and exports, and deteriorations by the political Tarasco refugees, 90 percent intensity of internal conflict. Read more…

Waqar Gillani, a senior journalist and special correspondent for the News on Sunday (Pakistan) spoke about the Rise of Violence Against Journalists and Right to Access Information for Strong Institutions. Gillani presented on the Rise of Violence against Journalists and Right to Access to Information for Strong Institutions in a country like Pakistan. The subject area touched on freedom of expression which is facing multiple challenges.

He said that Pakistan was trying to effectively pursue the targets and the sustainable development goals derived by the United Nations, especially SDD 16, targets and indicators. Pakistan, along with the civil society, helps build some institutions and make them last. And particularly in their sections for SDG 16.10, which is actually “access to information and press freedom” and respect to my subject. There are efforts to make more better laws for access to information and also some guidelines and policies for the safety and protection of journalists. But Target 16.10 of the SDGs specifically aims to promote access to information and freedom, by making laws and policies and strengthening institutions. Target 16.10 calls all to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.

Despite the efforts by many, Pakistan has not been able to reduce crime and violence against journalists as SDG 16.10 indicates. An effective legislator and the proper implementation of laws related to access to information is still required. There is need to create this supporting environment that helps the growth of independent media rather often one sided, a polarized approach. We cannot bring behavioral changes either in the state institutions or in the civil society without having a consensual and balanced approach towards SDGs, making institutions better policies and laws. There is need for the proper regulatory framework that helps in freedom of expression. Read more…

Dr. Shekh Mohammad Altafur Rahman is a human rights lawyer and faculty member of the School of Global Studies, Thammasat University, Thailand. Dr. Rahman spoke about the importance of Access to Justice for Transparency and Accountability in Governance. Dr. Rahman discussed the meaning and components of access to justice that is directly related to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #16. He explained that the SDG #16 and the access to justice component have a clear characteristic of overlapping feature, which cannot stand alone as an achievable component. In another words, there is a clear relationship between strong institutions and the notion of judicial system.

The second component is the meaning of access to justice that is not uniformed everywhere and has different kind of connotation for people in different parts of the world. For example, for a person in a hierarchical society, the notion of access to justice is very different than the person who is living in a free society. Similarly, the interpretation of access to justice is also used by dominant political forces in a country that works best in their own benefit, which is impacting the human rights conditions.

The indicator used to assess the access to justice is based on the SDG targets 16.3.1 and 16.3.2. SDG 16.3.1 is about the idea of political crime and crime repartition and the SDG 16.3.2 is about unsentenced detainee. There are minimum 135 indicators regarding the rule of law, however, SDG #16 includes only 2 out of 135 indicators to assess the access to justice in a country. Therefore, there is an enormous gap in reporting criminal prosecution and the detainee without understanding the entire state of access to justice. Read more…

Panel 3 – Lessons Learned from Covid-19 Pandemic: Evolving Social and Economic Development for Sustainability

Panel Session 3 discussed the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic with evolving social and economic development for sustainability. Moderated by JJ Green, panelists shared their expertise on responding to global emergencies and best practices from covid-19, the new era of online engagement: evolving economic development and private sector, refugee rights during the pandemic, and covid-19 and right to life in prisons: Turkey case.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Mehmet Kilic, President of the JWF stated that we are living in an unprecedent time in the history of humanity that we face a global health crisis: COVID-19. He said: “We must remember that this is not only a health crisis, but a social, economic, and environmental crisis.” The COVID-19 taught us at least one lesson that diseases, disasters, and crisis do not discriminate people by race, ethnicity, gender, or socio-economic background. It doesn’t matter if you are a developed or a developing country; when it hits, it hits everybody hard!

To overcome this disease, we need collective efforts and actions to fight against the coronavirus that is targeting our health, our economy, and our security. It is important that we work together in this fight because we are stronger together! But of course, we are not pessimistic about the future. On the contrary, we are hopeful for the future; if we all work together, we can come out of this crisis even stronger!

Hon. Mr. Anton Morozov is a Member of Parliament at the State Duma and a Member of the High Council of the LDPR (RUSSIA). Morozov delivered a keynote address on “Ongoing communication and engagement strategies in combating the Pandemic”. On behalf of the State Duma (Lower House of the Russian Parliament), he used the opportunity to bring you greetings from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Russian people. our people he acknowledged that humankind had never faced so many global challenges as it does today. In addition to regular ones, the COVID-19 pandemic has already become a real global health and economic crisis.

Russia was affected by COVID-19 as many other countries and became a part of the ongoing pandemic of this disease. There are many speculations about origin of that disease; some sources insist that this virus is a part of some kind of bioweapon. However, all scientific analyses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise artificially engineered.

It was confirmed, that the virus came to Russia on January 31, 2020 with two Chinese citizens visiting Tyumen (Siberia) and Chita (Russian Far East). Both Chinese were tested positive for the virus. As the first step to prevent virus spreading, the extensive testing had started and the border with China was closed. Read more…

JJ Green is the National Security Correspondent at WTOP Radio based in the U.S. and he moderated Panel Session 3 on Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Pandemic: Evolving Social and Economic Development for Sustainability. Green, a long serving and renowned journalist, with rich experiences across the globe, gave these statistics. Over one million people had died from COVID-19 by September 23, 2020, that is about 5 thousand a day. There are 1440 minutes in each day. There are 86,400 seconds in a day. During the next five minutes, while I’m speaking, MANY people will lose their lives to COVID-19. By 22nd September 2020, the US death toll from COVID-19 reached 200,000. Friends and family died, needlessly in some cases, because of bad information or no information in one of the most developed countries in the world. It made him and others like him to commit their rime to work tirelessly to help bring an end to this pandemic and prevent another from happening.

As racial tension, COVID-19, on-going conflicts, and political chaos test the cohesiveness of our planet. Our world faces unprecedented challenges that; day by day, degree by degree, undermine the ability to perform the vital work of truth-seeking and responsible and inclusive reporting. Those challenges are existential threats to our industry, our constituents and our world. He encouraged all people to work and defeat those challenges. Key among them are distortion of facts and efforts to discredit and harm journalists. People are dying in the U.S. and around the world because they are confused about what is true and what is not about the spread of COVID-19. People are dying because they can’t get access to the care they need. People are dying because they’ve lost their jobs, family members to the disease and they’ve lost their hope. We have work to do. This work involves exposing the lies, threats to our safety and security, promoting understanding of them, and helping to create mechanisms to overcome them.

Jeff Schlegelmilch is the Director for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute spoke about Responding to Global Emergencies and Best Practices from COVID-19. There is a very uneven experience with Covid-19 that is driven by ecological conditions to the natural spread of the disease to population density and movement, seasonal effects that aren’t fully understood as well as within communities themselves.

According to the report by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, the data shows that marginalized communities are historically disenfranchised or bearing a disproportionate burden of the Covid-19 disease. In New York, there is an outsized number of cases among African Americans and Hispanic and Latino populations compared to other social groups. They are bearing the brunt of chronic diseases due to structural inequities and structural racism based on discriminatory policies. Unfortunately, where people live predisposes people to outsized effects of disasters and infectious diseases. Many marginalized groups are essential workers who have to go to work when many other people could stay home or work remotely.

Also, there’s this false narrative to either shut down the economy or keep it going. When it comes to fighting with the diseases, you have to do the opposite, which is bad for the economy. For instance, in comparative countries in Europe, we observed lockdowns much more aggressively and much more uniformly and temporarily. Initially, it depressed economic activity but it bounced back faster than the U.S. after the spread of the disease in under control. That’s the way pandemics work like in waves. Controlling disease spread creates options for the economy: opening the businesses, traveling with some restrictions, and for individuals to take responsibility on social distancing and personal hygiene. Read more…

Basma Alawee is the State Refugee Organizer of Florida Immigrant Coalition in the USA. Ms. Alawee spoke about the Refugee Rights during the Pandemic. Today, nearly 80 million people are forcibly displaced, which is more than one percent of the world population. There are 26 million refugees and more than 4 million asylum seekers globally. Nearly 46 million people are internally displaced. Nearly 90 percent of refugees live in developing and low-income countries with the fastest growing infection rates, which makes refugees more vulnerable. During Covid-19, there is a lot of deficiencies in medical supplies, health services, and accurate information during the Covid-19 pandemic. Vaccine nationalism pose risks of limited access for refugees and migrant populations who are often not included in country specific pandemic reopening plans.

Refugees are impacted not just by Covid-19, but also by the fear that is causing around the world. In response to the pandemic, it is estimated that 164 countries across the globe have limited or cut off access to asylum. In some cases, governments have clearly weaponize public health concerns to advance nationalist political agenda, including the United States.

World Health Organization and the UN Refugee Agency are trying to partner with governments to strengthen public health services to millions of forcibly displaced people. UNHCR launched a global 255 million appeal to lessen the impact of Covid-19 outbreaks within refugee communities. Limited entry into and exit from refugee camps hinder efforts to allow refugee professionals within foreign nationals to serve as essential health workers. Read more…

Burak Haylamaza human rights expert at the Human Rights Solidarity in the United Kingdom, spoke about COVID-19 and Right to Life in Prisons: Turkey Case. Burak gave an overview of the announcement of COVID-19 as a global pandemic and response from the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). CPT immediately produced a set of principles for Member States to follow in their approach to people who are deprived of their liberty. As one of the signatory countries of the Council’s European Convention of Human Rights, Turkey is one of the addressees of these principles.

These principles were endorsed by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights by calling upon governments to respect fundamental freedoms and democratic standards while devising and implementing measures to fight the pandemic).

The key recommendations, Member States are required;

  • First, to improve the conditions of prisons to the level of international health and safety standards, i.e. all medical and hygienic needs of detainees and convicts;
  • Second, to ensure that prisoners have the access to medical care, medical equipment and medical staff at any time;
  • Third, to ensure that restrictive measures can only be taken if they are necessary and proportionate. (such as video communication in lieu of family visit).
  • Fourth, to ensure that the absolute nature of Article 3 ECHR (prohibition of torture and ill-treatment) is not violated. Hence, no limitation or excuse is acceptable if a taken measure lead to the infringement of the prohibition.
  • Last but not least, MSs are required to use alternative means of deprivation, such as early release, probation, house arrest, if applicable. Read more…

Shiv Vikram Khemka is Vice-Chairman of SUN Group and Executive Chairman, The Global Education & Leadership Foundation in India. He spoke about the New Era of Online Engagement: Evolving Economic Development and Private Sector. Mr. Khemka said that the private sector is going through unprecedented times with the issue of jobs. It is a new era of online engagement with considerable risks and some opportunities. Most people are working remotely over 50 percent of those in the working population. Some recent surveys showed that 70 percent of people are actually not complaining and believe their efficiency may be going up whereas 30 percent are unhappy.  Many jobs have been lost and many more jobs could be lost depending on how long this recession goes on.

Mental health and interpersonal relationships have excessive burden on women in terms of dealing with the work from home. In terms of education, more than 1.2 billion young people are out of school where students are accessing e-learning. The reality is that only 59 % of the world’s population has access to internet whereas 41 % still doesn’t have access to the Internet. So, there’s a huge digital inequality that could have significant repercussions over the next few years.

Creating enough jobs is another challenge that pose multiple effects in society and impact on the economy by slowing down economies. People are either losing their jobs or have little job stability whereas the loss of entry of jobs is also being exacerbated by technology. Technology is also coming in at the same time digitalization artificial intelligence and many other things which will create many jobs but are also destroying many jobs at the same time. It’s going to be a big challenge for the people and lose their jobs to learn and adapt and reskill for the new economy. Read more…

Closing Remarks

Mr. Mehmet Kilic, President of the JWF closed the UNGA Conference 2020 discussion with his closing remarks. He said that the panel discussions have been very fruitful and productive with so many information to digest, learn, and act on in the next 10 years. Mr. Kilic reiterated Journalists and Writers Foundation’s and its Global Partners’ commitment to inclusive, transformative, and achievable UN Development Agenda for humanity and the planet that help achieve our global mission of Leaving No One Behind.

The UNGA Conference hosted 21 speakers from 11 countries with over 520 participants from 48 countries. Partnership is one of the highlights of the conference that 35 global partners from 24 different countries put their efforts to make this conference a success. Mr. Kilic thanked global partners for their leadership, dedication, and support in organizing the UNGA Conference 2020.

Mr. Kilic closed the session by announcing the Pioneers in SDGs Awards that pay tribute to outstanding individuals and organizations contributing to sustainable peace and development through innovative and creative projects. Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies; protecting human rights, the rule of law, and democratic values; empowering women, girls, and youth for social justice and equal opportunities play an essential role in achieving sustainable development goals worldwide.

The Pioneers in SDGs Awards Ceremony was held on September 24, 2020 at 12:00pm-1:30pm EST. The Journalists and Writers Foundation and its 35 Global Partners acknowledged the contributions of projects to society serving as an exemplary model that inspires others towards positive social change while contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This is a remarkable opportunity for project participants to share their project as best-practices w