Category Archives: News

Urgent action needed over artificial intelligence risks to human rights

States should place moratoriums on the sale and use of artificial intelligence (AI) systems until adequate safeguards are put in place, UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet said.

Urgent action is needed as it can take time to assess and address the serious risks this technology poses to human rights, warned the High Commissioner: “The higher the risk for human rights, the stricter the legal requirements for the use of AI technology should be”.

Ms. Bachelet also called for AI applications that cannot be used in compliance with international human rights law, to be banned. “Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times. But AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights”.

“The power of AI to serve people is undeniable, but so is AI’s ability to feed human rights violations at an enormous scale with virtually no visibility. Action is needed now to put human rights guardrails on the use of AI, for the good of all of us,” Ms. Bachelet stressed. More

Make mental health a priority across the board, UN chief urges

Mental health and psycho-social support must be seen as integral to all humanitarian, peace-building and development programmes across the UN, the Secretary-General said at at a high-level event on Mental Health Interventions for Peace-building in Conflict and Humanitarian settings. 

“Vulnerability and mental health problems are part of our collective human experience and should be treated as seriously as physical health issues, including during a global pandemic”, he said.

The goal of the high-level event was to discuss successes in the field, highlighting best practices and outlining a way forward that could be applied to all areas of the UN’s work. More

From locusts to cyclones: The human cost of interlinked disasters

Many extreme environmental events have a devastating effect on people’s lives, and a new UN report reveals that many of them are linked by the same underlying causes. On the day the study is released, we look at the impact of a locust swarm on a Kenyan farmer, and the ways that Cyclone Amphan affected an Indian worker.

The huge locust swarm which hit the Horn of Africa in the Spring of 2020, and Cyclone Amphan, which struck the border region of India and Bangladesh in May that year, might not seem, on the face of it, to be connected, but a report released on Wednesday by UN University, the academic and research arm of the UN, shows that there were connected underlying causes: greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, which are affecting the environment in unpredictable ways, and a lack of sufficient disaster risk management.

Both disasters took place in 2020, with the world in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant that the effectiveness of the response to both disasters was reduced, with movement restricted for both humanitarians and victims, who also found themselves more financially vulnerable. More

UN warns of ‘urgent imperative’ to avoid acute Afghan food insecurity

With food aid running out, Afghanistan is facing the collapse of basic services, said UN agencies on Tuesday, releasing a flash appeal for more than $600 million to support around 11 million across the crisis-wracked country to the end of the year.

The unfolding situation has caused significant disruption and threatens Afghanistan’s critical winter wheat season, which is about to begin, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned, ahead of a major fundraising conference which is slated to take place in Geneva on 13 September.

OCHA is seeking $606 million to assist nearly 11 million people during the four remaining months this year, which includes two million people not previously covered in the overall humanitarian response plan, the agency announced on Tuesday.  More

Shared ‘grief and anxiety’ a powerful unifying factor in COVID fight

The General Assembly on Tuesday held a High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace, focused on building resilience and a fair recovery against the continued ravages of COVID-19.

Opening the event, the President of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, said “the global pandemic has arguably brought humanity closer together.”

Peace is much more than the absence of conflict. It is a conscious effort by each of us to talk, listen and engage. Peace is a deliberate effort that speaks to the core of our societies & communities, affecting – and affected by – our values, attitudes, traditions & behaviours. More

Critical gaps in refugee education, only 34 per cent attend secondary school: UNHCR

Two-thirds of refugee children might never get to secondary school, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned on Tuesday, as it called for an international effort to confront “critically low” levels of school and university enrollment.

Recent progress “is now under threat,” said UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, describing it as “a task we cannot afford to shirk”.

The call comes as UNHCR launched its 2021 Education Report, Staying The Course: The Challenges Facing Refugee Education, which highlights the stories of young refugees around the world as they try to keep learning despite unprecedented disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The right of all children, including refugees, to access secondary education and be part of national educational systems must be guaranteed by all States, UNHCR said, acknowledging that nations hosting large numbers of displaced people need building capacity assistance, including learning materials, facilities for teenage girls, and investment in technology and connectivity to close the digital divide.  More

Drop coal or climate change will ‘wreak havoc’ across Australian economy

Climate change will “wreak havoc” across the Australian economy if coal is not rapidly phased out, a senior UN official warned on Monday. 

In a pre-recorded speech to an Australian National University forum, UN Special Adviser on Climate Change Selwin Hart joined calls for Australia’s Government to adopt more ambitious emissions reduction goals.

He reiterated the need for countries of the intergovernmental economic organization OECD , including Australia, to stop using coal by 2030 and by 2040 for all others.

Most developed countries have signed up to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Due to its reliance on coal-fired power, Australia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted committing to a timeline to set a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050.  More

Enhancing youth participation in peacebuilding

The UN Development Programme and International Labor Organization (ILO), in partnership with the Government of Solomon Islands, have transferred 20 youth caucuses from the grassroots at the community level to the Solomon Islands National Youth Congress.

These youth caucuses have now become an integral part of the National Youth Congress and will function under its provincial branches, the Provincial Youth Councils.

With the aim to empower youth, prevent conflict and sustain peace at community and provincial levels, back in 2019, UNDP has joined forces with the Government to establish and operationalize more than 20 youth caucuses in three target provinces of Solomon Islands including Guadalcanal, Western and Malaita provinces. More

No Denying It episode 2: Edward Norton Introduces Nzambi Matee

In the second episode of the UN climate action podcast, No Denying It, actor Edward Norton introduces Nzambi Matee, a young Kenyan entrepreneur, who is rethinking how waste is managed and reused, with the aim of building a better society.

Ms. Matee’s company, Gjenge Makers, produces sustainable low-cost construction materials made of recycled plastic waste and sand. She has partnered with different manufacturers of plastics bottle tops and seals in the beverage and pharmaceutical industries in Kenya to collect offcuts and scraps.

In this episode, Ms. Matee, a recipient of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Young Champion of the Earth for Africa award, talks about how to tap into existing systems to improve waste management, and how to export these ideas to other nations facing these issues. More

Secretary-General’s message on the International day of clean air for blue skies

Today, as many as nine out of ten people breathe polluted air, leading to some 7 million premature deaths each year, of whom 600,000 are children.

Unless we act decisively, this number could double by 2050.

Like many societal ills, air pollution reflects global inequalities, with most deaths related to air pollution occurring in low- and middle-income countries, and in poorer neighborhoods in wealthier nations

Poverty forces people to live close to sources of pollution, like factories and highways.

And poverty makes 3 billion people continue to burn solid fuels or kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting.

The pollution that is damaging our health is also driving the climate crisis.

But air pollution can be solved. Continue reading