Global perspective Human stories

News in Brief 26 July 2023

News in Brief 26 July 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

UNESCO calls for global ban on smartphones in schools

A new UN report raised concerns on Wednesday about the excessive use of smartphones, calling for them to be banned in schools worldwide. According to the UN's education, science and culture agency UNESCO, the over-use of mobile phones impacts learning.

UNESCO’s report on technology in education urges countries to carefully consider how technology is used in schools.

It emphasises the need for a "human-centered vision” where digital technology serves as a tool rather than taking precedence.

Speaking to UN News, UNESCO’s Manos Antoninis also warned of the danger of data leaks in educational tech, as only 16 per cent of countries guarantee data privacy in the classroom, by law.

“We know that vast amount of data are being used without the appropriate regulation so this data ends up being used for other non-educational purposes, commercial purposes and that’s of course a violation of rights that needs to be regulated."

The UNESCO report also highlights the disparities created by digital learning. During the COVID-19 pandemic, half a billion students worldwide were left out due to the shift to online-only learning.

Geographically, the report noted a significant imbalance in online resources favouring Europe and North America.

The UN body also urges countries to establish their own guidelines for technology use, to ensure that it complements teaching in person, which remains crucial to learning. 

UN calls on Uganda to repeal Anti-Homosexuality Act 

Uganda faced renewed calls at the UN on Wednesday to repeal legislation targeting same-sex relationships punishable by the death penalty and long prison sentences.

UN-appointed independent experts from the Human Rights Committee highlighted Uganda’s 2023 Homosexuality Act and voiced deep concern about discrimination and persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the country.

The independent human rights experts – who monitor international implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - also urged Uganda to address rising levels of hate speech and violence. Their recommendations echoed UN rights chief Volker Türk’s condemnation in March of the African nation’s Homosexuality Act as “probably among the worst of its kind in the world”.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, here’s the panel’s vice-chair, José Santos Pais:

“The grievous sanctions imposed on people that may use this kind of practice is something we can’t understand and which the state party couldn't justify.” 

Turning to Brazil, the Human Rights Committee condemned ongoing attacks and killings of indigenous peoples. Of particular concern, conflict over land-division and resource exploitation which puts vulnerable and marginalized communities in danger.

The panel also urged Brazil to uphold indigenous peoples’ rights to own their land.

FAO: Rate of mangroves loss slowed in last decade

Finally, a little bit of good news: mangrove forests which are a biodiversity treasure trove are in better shape than they’ve been for a long time.

On the world day dedicated to mangrove conservation, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, reported that 20 per cent have been lost globally in the last 40 years but the rate of loss has decreased by more than 20 per cent in the last decade.

More than 300,000 hectares of mangroves have also grown in that time, owing to their fast-spreading nature in the right conditions. 

Despite this positive development, three-quarters of all mangrove forests are still under threat.

This is a problem because they provide natural carbon sinks in over 123 countries. 

FAO emphasised the importance of prioritising mangrove restoration, their sustainable use and conservation as they play a key role in protecting coastlines and biodiversity.

Caitlin Kelly, UN News.

  • UNESCO calls for global ban on smartphones in schools
  • UN calls on Uganda to repeal Anti-Homosexuality Act, condemns killings of Indigenous in Brazil
  • FAO: Rate of mangroves loss slowed in last decade
Audio Credit
Caitlin Kelly, UN News - Geneva
Photo Credit
Unsplash/Onur Binay