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News in Brief 20 July 2020

News in Brief 20 July 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Inequality has reached crisis proportions: UN chief landmark address

Inequality has reached crisis proportions around the world, fuelled by the COVID crisis, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said, in a hard-hitting speech in honour of the late Nelson Mandela.

Listing global risks that have been ignored for decades – from inadequate health systems to welfare gaps, systemic discrimination, environmental degradation and the climate crisis – Mr. Guterres warned that the “world is in turmoil” and “economies are in freefall”.

“Entire regions” had also seen progress in eradicating poverty set back years by the coronavirus, the UN chief said on Saturday, Mr. Mandela’s birthday.

He explained that COVID-19 had been likened to an X-ray:

“...Revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built. It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere: the lie that free markets can deliver healthcare for all; the fiction that unpaid care work is not work; the delusion that we live in a post-racist world; the myth that we are all in the same boat. Because while we are all floating on the same sea, it’s clear that some of us are in superyachts while others are clinging to the floating debris.”

Although climate change is a global problem, its effects are felt most keenly by those countries which are least to blame, Mr. Guterres insisted.

To improve everyone’s prospects, he called for a “New Social Contract” which would allow young people to live in dignity, women to have the same prospects and opportunities as men and protection for the vulnerable.

Improving fuel-hungry air conditioning units could save years of emissions

Switching to more efficient, “climate-friendly” air conditioning units could make a huge dent in environmentally harmful emissions, UN researchers have said.

Around 3.6 billion cooling appliances are in use globally today, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and that number is growing by up to 10 devices every second.

Together with the International Energy Agency (IEA), the UN agency said that making air conditioners twice as efficient as they are now, could cut up to 460 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the next four decades.

That is equivalent to around eight years of global greenhouse gas emissions.

This action would make a major contribution towards getting on track to limiting the overall global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is critical to minimizing the disastrous impacts of climate change, the study found.

Sudan coronavirus fears grow amid stigma, denials and misinformation

Concern is growing over rising numbers of COVID-19 infections in Sudan, where UN humanitarians say that stigma, denials, misinformation and rumour are key obstacles in halting transmission.

At the beginning of the month, federal authorities confirmed that nearly 10,000 people had contracted the virus, including more than 600 deaths.

Although more than 70 per cent of confirmed cases are in or around the capital, Khartoum, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), expressed concern on Sunday that COVID-19 has spread throughout the country.

Central and eastern states are worst hit, the UN office said, highlighting “extremely low testing capacity” of around 800 samples per day, which is the lowest in the region, and increasing the likelihood that true numbers of infections are unknown.

“Despite …efforts to increase awareness about the risks of COVID-19 and how to prevent transmissions, social or physical distancing and other practices” have not been widely followed,” OCHA said in a statement.

It warned that the health crisis comes against a backdrop of increasing humanitarian needs, as communities grapple with “multiple and simultaneous shocks”.

These include an ongoing economic crisis, years of conflict, back-to-back drought and flooding.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • Keynote Guterres speech slams inequality
  • Alarm raised over AC units and carbon emissions
  • Scale of COVID crisis in Sudan unknown
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
Photo Credit
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe