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Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Diplomacy for Peace Day, #VaccinesWork, the cost of war on Afghans, tech and well-being

A mother in the remote village of Kombaka in Mali is handed a vaccination card after her child received an immunization administered by a health worker. (March 2019)
UNICEF/Seyba Keïta
A mother in the remote village of Kombaka in Mali is handed a vaccination card after her child received an immunization administered by a health worker. (March 2019)

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Diplomacy for Peace Day, #VaccinesWork, the cost of war on Afghans, tech and well-being

UN Affairs

Top news for Wednesday includes: the first-ever International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, the launch of World Immunization Week, civilians continuing to bear the brunt of ongoing violence in Afghanistan, the need for more regulation in the tech industry, a call for more exercise and less screen time for children, and a plea by the UN refugees High Commissioner not to let extremism divide us. 

Multilateralism’s ‘proven record of service’ is focus of first-ever International Day

The Sustainable Development Goals projected onto UN Headquarters, New York, in 2015

The International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace “underscores the value of international cooperation for the common good”, according to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres marking its first-ever observance on Wednesday.

The UN chief pointed out that for nearly 75 years, multilateral arrangements established after the Second World War have “saved lives, expanded economic and social progress, upheld human rights and, not least, helped to prevent a third descent into global conflagration”.

Read the whole story here.

World Immunization Week starts today

A polio immunization campaign being undertaken in Dahuk, Iraq in September 2014.

Amid a surge in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced on Wednesday a new social media campaign, emphasizing that “vaccines are safe, and they save lives”.

And on Wednesday night, UNICEF also published a new report, showing that more than 20 million children worldwide missed out on measles vaccine annually, in the past eight years. Full details in our story here.

To inspire confidence in the power and safety of vaccines, UNICEF is using the hashtag #VaccinesWork for the global campaign, centred around World Immunization Week, which runs from 24 to 30 April.

Listen to our interview with UNICEF immunization chief, Robin Nandy



Violence continuing to inflict ‘high levels of harm’ on Afghan civilians 

Children in Shade Bara village, Herat province, Afghanistan.

Although Afghan civilians are continuing to suffer high levels of casualties due to ongoing conflict, rates are at their lowest level since the beginning of 2013. 

That’s according to figures released on Wednesday by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, which documented 581 civilian deaths, and 1,192 injured during the first three months of this year. 

That represents a 23 per cent drop for the same period last year, driven by a fall in the number of suicide attacks, as well as an unusually harsh winter. 

UNAMA said it was “very concerned by the continuing targeting of civilians” and an increase in casualties from the use of non-suicide explosives by “anti-Government elements”. 

There was also a significant increase in casualties due to aerial and search operations, which led to an uptick in casualties at the hands of pro-Government forces. 

More regulation on new technologies needed: UN Human Rights chief says after visiting Silicon Valley 

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (file).

After an intensive four-day visit to Silicon Valley, in California, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has urged all States to adopt a "smart mix of measures to regulate new technologies”.  

 "Finding a smart mix in a digital, networked environment is particularly challenging and requires innovative thinking," Ms. Bachelet said, on Wednesday, adding that regulation needs to be “flexible and capable of evolving to address the changing needs of this sector." 

 Highlighting the urgency of finding solutions to some of the major threats to human rights posed by technological advances, the Human Rights chief said that technology “can, and should, be all about progress.” 

 But she warned that “hugely invasive powers” were being unleashed by tech innovation, which could do “incalculable damage” without enough checks. 

 Ms. Bachelet also announced a project to help technology companies incorporate established international human rights principles into their work. 

Under-fives' daily screen time should be kept to 60 minutes only, warns WHO

A 6 year-old and 4 year-old in front of a laptop, in the city of Podgorica, Montenegro, as part of the promotion of the “End Violence Online” campaign (2016)

Toddlers should spend no more than 60 minutes passively watching a screen every day, while babies under 12 months should have none, to ensure that they grow up fit and well, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, as part of a campaign to tackle the global obesity crisis. 

In recommendations specifically aimed at under-fives for the first time, the UN health agency said that some than 40 million children around the globe - around six per cent of the total - are overweight. Of that number, half are in Africa and Asia, it noted. 

Find the whole story here.

‘Violent extremism must not divide us’: UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Sri Lanka’s attacks 

Filippo Grandi.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, issued a statement on Wednesday expressing his “deep shock and sorrow” over the Sri Lanka attacks on Easter Day, and the rising death toll.  

The UNHCR chief said he felt “encouraged by the outpouring of solidarity and calls for unity from all corners of the world”, adding that “violent extremism must not divide us.” 

Mr. Grandi said the agency would stand by the government and people of Sri Lanka, “a country that has offered protection to refugees of diverse religions and nationalities, at the same time as it continues to recover from its own experience of division and conflict” during its long civil war.