This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Time to ‘grow back better’ from e-car revolution
Developing countries which own most of the raw materials used to make batteries for cars and telephones should act swiftly and ethically to take advantage of accelerating demand, UN trade experts UNCTAD said on Wednesday.
According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the worldwide market for some lithium ion battery components is expected to see an eightfold increase between now and 2024, with a value of nearly $60 billion.
At a virtual press conference, UNCTAD's director of international trade, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, said that poorer countries needed outside investment to give them the infrastructure and know-how required to make the most of their natural wealth.
Some 65 per cent of global production of another key e-car commodity – cobalt – takes place in southern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The UN believes that 40,000 boys and girls are involved in extracting the metal in dangerous conditions, Ms. Coke-Hamilton said, in a call for better industrial oversight:
“If companies that are investing know that this is happening, they need to be held to account, they need to be subject to some kind of sanctions and they need to be exposed. Because the truth is, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not the one that owns the investment in many of these areas.”
World risks being ‘blown off course’ by COVID-19, warns UNAIDS chief
An appeal now from the head of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, who’s urged countries to learn the lessons from the fight against HIV and apply them against COVID-19.
At a meeting in which she warned that the HIV epidemic is still “urgent, unfinished business”, she said that millions of people died from AIDS-related illnesses while there were medicines available that could have saved their lives.
Leaving access to medicines to pharmaceutical companies resulted in prices that were too high for people in developing countries, the UNAIDS Chief Executive insisted, before repeating her call for a “People’s Vaccine” for COVID-19.
This should be backed by an international agreement that any vaccines and treatments discovered for the new coronavirus be made available to all countries, so that developing countries are not “priced out”.
In a call for coordinated action against both HIV-AIDS and COVID-19, Ms. Byanyima said that the new pandemic “risks blowing us way off course”.
The objective should be to “to beat both pandemics and foster safe, equitable and resilient societies”, she maintained.
Stranded migrant workers need protection, say UN labour experts (ILO)
Finally, a call from the UN labour agency ILO for more countries to offer greater protection to stranded migrant workers - and ensure that those who do make it home, get the help they need.
According to the International Labour Organization, millions of workers from third countries have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
In addition to the difficulty many have faced in getting home, they have also found that their Governments are already grappling with weak economies and rising unemployment.
For migrant workers stranded in host countries, ILO warned that they have little or no social protection and few means to pay for food or accommodation.
Even those with jobs may be taking reduced wages and living in cramped accommodation, where social distancing is impossible, putting them at greater risk of contracting the virus.
It is estimated there are 164 million migrant workers worldwide, nearly half of them women, almost five per cent of the global labour force.
Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Equality Department, urged Governments to work together “to avert a worse crisis”, as work-based migration was usually a cooperative arrangement between countries.
ILO recommends putting in place social protection measures for vulnerable migrant workers or giving others assistance to reintegrate into national labour markets once they arrive home. In a new report, the UN body noted that returning migrant workers “bring skills and talent that can help their home economies rebuild better after the pandemic”.
For this to happen, countries needed to have a “rights-based and orderly return and reintegration systems, access to social protection, and proper skills recognition,” ILO maintained.
Daniel Johnson, UN News