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News in Brief 23 July 2020

News in Brief 23 July 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

COVID-19: Threats, but also opportunity for conflict resolution in Arab world

All Arab states face difficulties in responding to COVID-19, but the pandemic could also provide a chance to resolve long-standing conflicts and address structural weaknesses, the UN Secretary-General said on Thursday.

António Guterres’s comments accompanied the release of a policy blueprint to help Arabian States to recover and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline.

Every country in the region – whether oil-rich, middle-income or least developed – faced difficulties in responding to the pandemic, Mr. Guterres said:

“The regional economy is expected to shrink by more than five per cent - with some countries facing double-digit contractions. With millions more pushed down the economic ladder, fully one quarter of the Arab population may live in poverty.

In a region already rife with tensions and inequalities, this will have profound consequences on political and social stability.”

Arab nations – which collectively number more than 430 million people – have seen a sharp drop in oil revenues, remittances and tourism.  

Mr. Guterres noted that communities hardest hit by the global health crisis included women and migrants.

They represent 40 per cent of the workforce, the UN chief said, before highlighting the struggles of 55 million people who already rely on lifesaving humanitarian aid.

Despite these challenges, the Secretary-General suggested that the COVID-19 crisis could be a turning point for the region.

His recommendations included prioritising life-saving health care to COVID-19 victims, respecting his global ceasefire call, ensuring assistance to refugees, displaced and host communities and providing emergency support to individuals and households.

Temporary Basic Income to protect world's poorest, could ease COVID-19 surge

Introducing a temporary basic income for the very poorest workers will enable them to buy food and medicine and help to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said on Thursday.

It would cost Governments upwards of $199 billion per month, to provide what UNDP called “a time-bound, guaranteed basic income”, to 2.7 billion people living below or just above the poverty line, in 132 developing countries.

In a new report, the agency insisted that the “feasible” measure was urgently needed as the pandemic infects more than 1.5 million people a week.

The impact of COVID-19 is most severe in developing countries, where seven out of 10 workers make a living in the informal sector, meaning that they cannot earn money if they stay at home.

“Many of the huge numbers of people not covered by social insurance programmes are informal workers, low-waged, women and young people, refugees and migrants, and people with disabilities – and they are the ones hardest hit by this crisis”, UNDP said.

Education funding boost to help nearly 900,000 youngsters in emergencies

A welcome development finally, with the news that $19 million in funding has been secured to help nearly 900,000 refugee children and youngsters living in conflict and disaster zones continue their education, amid school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Youngsters in 10 countries in crisis will benefit from Bangladesh to Zambia, according to UN-partner organization Education Cannot Wait (ECW).

Its COVID-19 response for three to 18-year-olds now spans 33 countries, but ECW has appealed for $310 million to reach more vulnerable girls and boys, displaced by armed conflicts and climate-induced disasters.

Backing this appeal, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, called on Thursday for stronger measures to ensure that every refugee child has access to quality learning.

They are “especially at risk and doubly affected by COVID-19”, Education Cannot Wait Director, Yasmine Sherif, said in a statement.
Well over a billion children have been left out of school since the coronavirus outbreak began, on top of the 75 million youngsters already impacted by emergencies and protracted crises.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • COVID threats and opportunities for Arab region: Guterres
  • Temporary Basic Income proposal: UNDP
  • School funding boost for 900,000 youngsters
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Photo Credit
© UNICEF/Omar Albam