This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
COVID-19: countries, businesses must protect people as virus spreads, urges UN rights chief
As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread globally, the UN’s top human rights official Michelle Bachelet appealed on Friday to countries and businesses to put rights “front and centre” to protect their most vulnerable citizens.
Her comments come as the World Health Organization (WHO) said that there were now almost 100,000 confirmed cases of the virus and that countries should continue to make containment “a priority”.
In a statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned that ‘people who are already barely surviving economically may all too easily be pushed over the edge” by lockdowns and quarantine measures that prevent them from working.
Stigma against those who have contracted the virus must also be stamped out, Ms. Bachelet warned.
In Geneva, here’s Liz Throssell from the Office of the High Commissioner: “There are plans in different countries to tackle crises, but I think we all would agree it is somewhat unchartered. And that’s why she’s encouraging States to share information on good practices; steps that they have taken to mitigate, to alleviate the impacts, the effects of the steps they take; steps that are in many cases extremely necessary to combat, to contain COVID-19.”
Ms. Bachelet, who is a medical doctor and a former Head of State of Chile, said that she understood the difficult choices that Governments had to make in combating the disease.
They needed to be ready to respond “to unintended consequences of their actions aimed at the coronavirus”, she insisted, before also calling on businesses to show “flexibility” towards their employees.
Europe sees warmest winter on record – UN weather agency
Staying with COVID-19, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that although the virus would likely have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions because of the expected global economic slowdown, it was too soon to say how great that impact might be.
Here’s WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis: “Any sort of depression in economic activity, you know, reduction in electricity production from coal-powered plants, a reduction in transport, will make a difference, but we also need to look at efficiency gains; if these plants are running at half-capacity, or if you’ve got planes flying which are a quarter full, that’s not really going to make a big impact.”
Ms. Nullis was speaking in Geneva, where she announced that the European region has just seen the warmest winter on record, and February was the second-warmest, both globally and for Europe.
From December to February, there was persistent mild weather over Europe, particularly in the north and east.
The average temperature was almost 1.4 degrees Celsius higher than that of the previous warmest winter from 2015 to 2016, when there was a strong El Niño effect.
This year’s record temperatures are an alarming 3.4 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 norm, according to WMO.
Americas first region to show more than 30 per cent of women parliamentarians – IPU
Finally, new UN data shows that the Americas is the only region to have more than three in 10 women members of parliament.
The findings from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) come a quarter of a century after The Beijing Platform for Action, whose goal was greater gender equality and women’s empowerment.
According to IPU, the only countries where women make up 50 per cent or more of their country’s parliamentary membership are Cuba, Bolivia, United Arab Emirates, and Rwanda.
Despite the slow pace of change, IPU head Martin Chungong, insisted that there has been a shift in the way people think since Beijing, in large part thanks to quota systems.
But he warned against “pushbacks” by men reluctant to see progress in women’s equality:
“That pushback has been there; in recent years it has become more pronounced..there are certain sectors that feel threatened.. I am sorry to say that there are some menfolk who say, I’m sorry, we have to fight for men’s rights too. I think that this is an excuse in not being forthcoming in
promoting women’s political rights. “
Mr. Chungong stressed the need to harness the potential of current youth activists like Greta Thunberg and the #MeToo movement.
Otherwise, he said, “it will take us more than a century to achieve gender equality.”
Daniel Johnson, UN News.