The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health :: Education :: Heritage Stewardship ::
Sustainable Development
__________________________________________________
Week ending 26 December 2020 :: Number 347

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortia and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
Editor
GE2P2 Global Foundation – Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice
david.r.curry@ge2p2center.net

PDFThe Sentinel_ period ending 26 Dec 2020

Contents
:: Week in Review  [See selected posts just below]
:: Key Agency/IGO/Governments Watch – Selected Updates from 30+ entities   [see PDF]
:: INGO/Consortia/Joint Initiatives Watch – Media Releases, Major Initiatives, Research:: Foundation/Major Donor Watch -Selected Updates
:: Journal Watch – Key articles

Secretary-General Vows to Help Strengthen Epidemic Preparedness after COVID-19, Stressing Importance of Science in First International Day Message

Epidemic Preparedness

Secretary-General – Statements and Messages
Secretary-General Vows to Help Strengthen Epidemic Preparedness after COVID-19, Stressing Importance of Science in First International Day Message
SG/SM/20513 24 December 2020
Following is UN Secretary General António Guterres’ message for the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, observed on 27 December:

This first observance of the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness falls at the end of a year in which a scenario many had feared came tragically true.

With COVID-19 having now killed more than 1.7 million people, devastated economies, upended societies and exposed the world’s vulnerabilities in the starkest ways, the value of health emergency preparedness has hit home like never before. As we strive to control and recover from the current pandemic, we must think about the next. Unfortunately, it is easy to imagine a virus just as infectious but even more lethal.

We can already draw many lessons from the experiences of the past year.

Preparedness is a sound investment, costing far less than emergency expenditures. Societies need stronger health systems, including universal health coverage. People and families need more social protection. Communities on the frontlines need timely support. Countries need more effective technical cooperation. And we need to pay greater attention to the encroachment of people and livestock into animal habitats; 75 per cent of new and emerging human infectious diseases are zoonotic.

Across this work, science must be our guide. Solidarity and coordination are crucial, within and among countries; no one is safe unless all of us are safe.

The United Nations system, including the World Health Organization (WHO), is strongly committed to supporting Governments and all partners in strengthening epidemic preparedness as a crucial part of our broader work to build a healthier world and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This International Day falls on the birthdate of Louis Pasteur, the French biologist responsible for ground-breaking work on vaccinations. In honouring his work, I salute today’s medical professionals, front-line personnel and essential workers who have carried the world through this emergency with such remarkable commitment. As we recover from the pandemic, let us resolve to build up our prevention capacities so that we are ready when the world faces the next outbreak.

Comment by UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Marta Hurtado on US presidential pardon for contractors jailed for killing Iraqi civilians

Justice, Pardons

Comment by UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Marta Hurtado on US presidential pardon for contractors jailed for killing Iraqi civilians
GENEVA (23 December 2020) – We are deeply concerned by the recent US presidential pardons for four security guards from the private military firm Blackwater who were convicted for killing 14 Iraqi civilians.

These four individuals were given sentences ranging from 12 years to life imprisonment, including on charges of first-degree murder. Pardoning them contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future.

By investigating these crimes and completing legal proceedings, the US complied with its obligations under international law. Victims of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law also have the right to a remedy. This includes the right to see perpetrators serve punishments proportionate to the seriousness of their conduct.

The UN Human Rights Office calls on the US to renew its commitment to fighting impunity for gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as to uphold its obligations to ensure accountability for such crimes.

UNHCR welcomes Turkmenistan’s decision to grant citizenship to 2,580 stateless people

Statelessness

UNHCR welcomes Turkmenistan’s decision to grant citizenship to 2,580 stateless people
22 Dec 2020
In a significant step to end statelessness on its territory, Turkmenistan has granted citizenship to 2,580 people, following issuance of a Presidential Decree on the subject this month.

Sixty per cent of those intended to benefit from the Decree are stateless women, representing 19 ethnic backgrounds.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warmly welcomes this measure, the latest in a series of steps taken by the Central Asian state to address statelessness.

Over the last 15 years, Turkmenistan has granted citizenship to 26,000 refugees and stateless people. These include some 13,000 stateless people who have been naturalized since the country acceded to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons in 2011.

In July this year, a new Law on Civil Status Acts helped to prevent childhood statelessness by ensuring that all children born in the country – including those with undocumented parents – have their births registered. The new law and the resolution of existing cases of statelessness follow on commitments Turkmenistan made at a high-level event on statelessness UNHCR convened in 2019.

In the framework of the global #IBelong Campaign to eradicate statelessness by 2024, UNHCR has been working closely with the Government of Turkmenistan on statelessness prevention and resolution efforts.

“Turkmenistan has once again shown its strong leadership when it comes to eradicating statelessness, ending a plight of invisibility for thousands of people. We are confident that it will follow through to resolve statelessness and integrate each and every stateless person on its territory in the coming years, hopefully by 2024,” said Mr. Hans Friedrich Schodder, UNHCR Representative for Central Asia.

Statelessness affects millions of people around the world, often denying them access to basic rights that citizens take for granted. Some 4.2 million stateless people appear in the statistical reporting of 79 countries, but UNHCR estimates the actual extent of statelessness to be much higher.

Satellites can reveal global extent of forced labor in the world’s fishing fleet

Featured Journal Content

PNAS – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/
[Accessed 26 Dec 2020]
Satellites can reveal global extent of forced labor in the world’s fishing fleet
Gavin G. McDonald, Christopher Costello, Jennifer Bone, Reniel B. Cabral, Valerie Farabee, Timothy Hochberg, David Kroodsma, Tracey Mangin, Kyle C. Meng, and Oliver Zahn
PNAS first published December 21, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2016238117
Significance
Forced labor in fisheries is increasingly recognized as a human rights crisis. Until recently, its extent was poorly understood and no tools existed for systematically detecting forced labor risk on individual fishing vessels on a global scale. Here we use satellite data and machine learning to identify these high-risk vessels and find widespread risk of forced labor in the world’s fishing fleet. This information provides new opportunities for unique market, enforcement, and policy interventions. This also provides a proof of concept for how remotely sensed dynamic individual behavior can be used to infer forced labor abuses.

Abstract
While forced labor in the world’s fishing fleet has been widely documented, its extent remains unknown. No methods previously existed for remotely identifying individual fishing vessels potentially engaged in these abuses on a global scale. By combining expertise from human rights practitioners and satellite vessel monitoring data, we show that vessels reported to use forced labor behave in systematically different ways from other vessels. We exploit this insight by using machine learning to identify high-risk vessels from among 16,000 industrial longliner, squid jigger, and trawler fishing vessels. Our model reveals that between 14% and 26% of vessels were high-risk, and also reveals patterns of where these vessels fished and which ports they visited. Between 57,000 and 100,000 individuals worked on these vessels, many of whom may have been forced labor victims. This information provides unprecedented opportunities for novel interventions to combat this humanitarian tragedy. More broadly, this research demonstrates a proof of concept for using remote sensing to detect forced labor abuses.

Joint statement calling for urgent country scale-up of access to optimal HIV treatment for infants and children living with HIV

HIV Treatment – Infants and Children

Joint statement calling for urgent country scale-up of access to optimal HIV treatment for infants and children living with HIV
22 December 2020
United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Unitaid, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).

Global partners that are committed to ending paediatric AIDS have come together to call on countries to rapidly scale up access to optimal, child-friendly HIV treatment for infants and children…

Children living with HIV continue to be left behind by the global AIDS response. In 2019, only 53% (950 000) of the 1.8 million children living with HIV (aged 0–14 years) globally were diagnosed and on treatment, compared to 68% of adults. [1] The remaining 850 000 children living with HIV have not been diagnosed and are not receiving life-saving HIV treatment. Two thirds of the missing children are aged 5–14 years and do not routinely attend traditional health facilities. Engaging communities and the families of people living with HIV, tuberculosis and other related diseases and offering family services are needed in order to find and start on treatment those missing children.
An estimated 95 000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2019, in part due to lack of early diagnosis of HIV among infants and children and immediate linkage to optimal HIV treatment regimens. Untreated, 50% of infants infected with HIV during or around the time of birth will die before the age of two years. [1].

The United States Food and Drug Administration recently gave tentative approval for the first generic formulation of dolutegravir (DTG) 10 mg dispersible tablets. [2] This approval was the result of an innovative partnership between Unitaid, CHAI and ViiV Healthcare, together with generic suppliers, which accelerated the timeline of development by several years. The approval was quickly followed by the announcement on World AIDS Day of a groundbreaking agreement negotiated by Unitaid and CHAI that reduces the cost of HIV treatment by 75% for children in low- and middle-income countries, where the DTG 10 mg dispersible tablets will be available at a cost of US$ 4.50 for a 90-count bottle. [3]

This now means that WHO-recommended, preferred first-line DTG-based antiretroviral treatment is now available in more affordable and child-friendly generic formulations for young children and infants as young as four weeks of age and weighing more than 3 kg. [4] Rapid transition to this treatment, in combination with improved HIV diagnosis for children and other supportive measures, will help to urgently reduce the 95 000 preventable AIDS-related deaths in children.

DTG-based HIV treatment leads to better outcomes for children. DTG is less likely to be affected by drug resistance and achieves viral load suppression sooner; child-friendly dispersible tablets improve adherence due to a lower pill burden and being easier to administer. These factors help children achieve and maintain viral load suppression, the gold standard for measuring the effectiveness of HIV treatment. DTG-based treatment is the standard of care for adults. Starting on this regimen from infancy reduces the need for changes in treatment as they mature through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Fewer regimens and regimen changes simplifies management of health care, improves stock management and reduces wastage.

WHO has recommended DTG-based HIV treatment for all infants and children since 2018 [4] and provided dosing recommendations for infants and children over four weeks of age and more than 3 kg in July 2020. [5]

Suppliers have indicated their ability to meet global scale-up ambitions. Accurate forecasts of demand are critical to inform production planning and delivery timelines. It is therefore critical that national programmes start including DTG 10 mg dispersible tablets in their new procurement plans, review stocks and orders for existing non-DTG treatment for children, share forecasts with HIV treatment procurement partners and suppliers and place orders as early as possible.

The partners are committed to support national governments as they develop rapid transition plans from existing suboptimal HIV treatment to DTG-based treatment for infants and children, including advocacy for political commitment, mobilizing international and domestic resources, new policies and guidelines, managing medicine supply, distribution and stock, training health-care workers and sensitizing and engaging affected communities to ensure demand and treatment literacy for children living with HIV and their caregivers in order to ensure rapid uptake of these new formulations.

Further guidance for national programmes and partners is available from WHO. [5] The CHAI HIV New Product Introduction Toolkit has dedicated resources to help countries transition to paediatric DTG. [6]

Coronavirus [COVID-19] Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

EMERGENCIES

Coronavirus [COVID-19]
Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

Weekly Epidemiological and Operational updates
Last update: 5 December 2020, 9:02 am GMT-5
Confirmed cases :: 78 604 532 [week ago: 74 299 042] [two weeks ago: 69 808 588]
Confirmed deaths :: 1 744 235 [week ago: 1 669 982] [two weeks ago: 1 588 854]
Countries, areas or territories with cases :: 222

::::::

22 December 2020
Weekly epidemiological update – 22 December 2020
Overview
Globally in the past week, new COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to increase to approximately 4.6 million new cases and over 79 000 new deaths. This brings the cumulative numbers to over 75 million reported cases and 1.6 million deaths globally since the start of the pandemic.

21 December 2020
WHO – Weekly operational update on COVID-19 – 21 December 2020
[Excerpt]
Partnerships
The Global Health Cluster -GHC
The Global Health Cluster released three new GHC COVID-19TaskTeam tools and guidance to support COVID-19 response operations in humanitarian settings:
:: Ethics: key questions to ask when facing dilemmas during COVID-19 in humanitarian settings
:: Essential Health Services: A guidance note How to prioritize and plan essential health services during COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings
:: Health workforce estimator tool to estimate workforce as relevant in humanitarian settings

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POLIO Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC); WHO/OCHA Emergencies

Emergencies

POLIO
Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

Polio this week as of 23 December 2020
:: The19th report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has been published. The IMB notes the strong resumption of polio campaigns following the temporary pause due to COVID-19 and commends the programme for supporting COVID-19 response efforts. The IMB points to several pivotal challenges which the programme must tackle with urgency to achieve success and offers a set of 17 key recommendations to capitalise on the momentum of resumed immunizations.

:: The GPEI has published a global cVDPV resource document aimed at providing a high-level overview of cVDPVs, their importance to the programme and strategy for responding to them, including nOPV2. Available here in various languages, this resource can be used at global, regional and country levels, for high-level advocacy with government counterparts, internal staff, donors or other partners, as appropriate.

:: On a wintery November day, vaccinators across Afghanistan wrapped up warm, checked that they had facemasks and hand sanitizer, and headed out into the cold morning. Their mission? To reach 9.9 million children with polio vaccines, before snowfall blocked their way. Read more

Summary of new WPV and cVDPV viruses this week (AFP cases and ES positives):
:: Afghanistan: two WPV1 and 23 cVDPV2 positive environmental samples
:: Pakistan: one WPV1 and 11 cVDPV2 cases
:: Benin: one cVDPV2 positive environmental sample
:: Burkina Faso: six cVDPV2 cases
:: Chad: two cVDPV2 cases
:: South Sudan: 10 cVDPV2 cases and one cVDPV2 positive environmental sample

::::::

The World is Waiting :: 19TH REPORT – INDEPENDENT MONITORING BOARD – GLOBAL POLIO ERADICATION INITIATIVE
December 2020 :: 78 pages
Conclusions [excerpt]
The Polio Programme is at a pivotal moment in its history. The weaknesses and failures that led it backwards, over a period of two years, from a place that felt close to the global interruption of poliovirus transmission, to the current epidemiological debacle, are still present.

The Global Polio Programme: a failure of adaptation
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988, with the passion, energy and fundraising tenacity of Rotary International behind it, together with fellow founding partners (WHO, UNICEF, CDC);
it has been hugely successful for most of its lifetime. Other generous donors (major governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi) have become key partners in the endeavour.

This partnership, its organisational structure, its operating procedures, and its impressive infrastructure on the ground, has driven polio almost to extinction.

That this polio eradication endeavour has faltered over recent years should not come as a surprise. It has been tightly controlled and managed by a global entity, the GPEI. It stands or falls by how this global organisation operates. The GPEI is now 32 years old.

Outside the world of health, and well before 32 years are reached, there are many examples of successful businesses and corporations that have run into serious difficulties, and not just because of their longevity. Crucially, it is because their organisational structure, culture, and business model has not adapted to a changing external environment. Perhaps, also, they have looked back at past glories
and not accepted the need to change because they are “too good to fail.”

The GPEI seems to have reached a similar point in its history.

For some time, it has been clear that the world in which the Polio Programme is embedded has changed around it.

The humble drops of oral polio vaccine are given against a constantly fluctuating geopolitical backdrop. Political unanimity on the importance of polio is much more difficult to secure than it was 32 years ago.

The oral polio vaccine has greater value than its disease preventive potency: as a powerful bargaining tool for factional interests wanting something from their governments.

Some communities have become so hostile to the Polio Programme, and so opposed to letting their children have the vaccine, that negative attitudes may have reached the point of no return. Violence, territorial blockades, murders and intimidation, in some geographies, are directed against polio eradication activity, in marked contrast to most other humanitarian programmes.

Countries have received steady streams of external funding and extensive global involvement and facilitation. This has not always encouraged them to take absolute responsibility and regard polio as their country’s problem.

Finding solutions to these fundamental and deep-rooted barriers to eradication is what is now necessary in order to finish the job. This means the Polio Programme doing things very differently from how it made its name.

Its success came from operating as a technical, disease control programme and this took it a long way. It became overmedicalized in the way that it approached the tasks of eradication. It was not skilled in the tasks of modern management, such as: inspiring people; gathering soft intelligence; managing performance; quality improvement; and daily use of data to devise insightful metrics. In particular, social data were greatly undervalued compared to epidemiological data.

Until late in the day, there was no real belief in alternative delivery models, such as integration. There were regular and unsuccessful vertical programme dashes to try to reach the finishing tape.

These are all reasons why the GPEI – from global to regional to national to local level – needs to adapt and do things differently.

At last, the GPEI has started to talk about this. A six-month long strategy formulation process has been facilitated by external consultants with wide stakeholder involvement. It is set to produce “headlines”
in December 2020.

It is essential that this strategy goes beyond problem diagnosis and pointing out what needs to be done. The problems are already well-established and the steps that need to be taken are very clear.

The GPEI, at the request of polio donor countries, carried out and published a governance review. That has not yet been implemented.

There is a great deal of conversation at the moment, within the GPEI leadership and among the donors and wider polio partners, about these matters. It is using up much emotional energy. Some are saying that these reviews and discussions are not on the critical path to eradication.

The revision of the governance of the GPEI, the revision of the strategy of the GPEI, and the revision of the structure of the GPEI are well overdue.

It is important that there is a new, much more effective, and fully accountable GPEI.

Meanwhile, the task of helping the GPEI to move quickly to face, head-on, the task of finding and implementing definitive, transformational and sustainable solutions to its most intractable barriers to
eradication rests with the GPEI leadership and the leaders of the national polio programmes…

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WHO Grade 3 Emergencies [to 26 Dec 2020]

Democratic Republic of the Congo – No new digest announcements identified
Mozambique floods – No new digest announcements identified
Nigeria – No new digest announcements identified
Somalia – No new digest announcements identified
South Sudan – No new digest announcements identified
Syrian Arab Republic – No new digest announcements identified
Yemen – No new digest announcements identified

::::::

WHO Grade 2 Emergencies [to 26 Dec 2020]
Afghanistan – No new digest announcements identified
Angola – No new digest announcements identified
Burkina Faso – No new digest announcements identified
Burundi – No new digest announcements identified
Cameroon – No new digest announcements identified
Central African Republic – No new digest announcements identified
Ethiopia – No new digest announcements identified
Iran floods 2019 – No new digest announcements identified
Iraq – No new digest announcements identified
Libya – No new digest announcements identified
Malawi Floods – No new digest announcements identified
Measles in Europe – No new digest announcements identified
MERS-CoV – No new digest announcements identified
Mozambique – No new digest announcements identified
Myanmar – No new digest announcements identified
Niger – No new digest announcements identified
occupied Palestinian territory – No new digest announcements identified
HIV in Pakistan – No new digest announcements identified
Sao Tome and Principe Necrotizing Cellulitis (2017) – No new digest announcements identified
Sudan – No new digest announcements identified
Ukraine – No new digest announcements identified
Zimbabwe – No new digest announcements identified

::::::

WHO Grade 1 Emergencies [to 26 Dec 2020]

Chad – No new digest announcements identified
Djibouti – No new digest announcements identified
Kenya – No new digest announcements identified
Mali – No new digest announcements identified
Namibia – viral hepatitis – No new digest announcements identified
Tanzania – No new digest announcements identified

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::::::

UN OCHA – L3 Emergencies
The UN and its humanitarian partners are currently responding to three ‘L3’ emergencies. This is the global humanitarian system’s classification for the response to the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crises. 
Syrian Arab Republic
:: Syrian Arab Republic: COVID-19 Humanitarian Update No. 22 As of 23 December 2020
:: Recent Developments in Northwest Syria – Situation Report No. 23 – As of 21 December 2020

Yemen – No new digest announcements identified

::::::

UN OCHA – Corporate Emergencies
When the USG/ERC declares a Corporate Emergency Response, all OCHA offices, branches and sections provide their full support to response activities both at HQ and in the field.
COVID-19
:: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Weekly Epidemiological Update (22 December 2020)

East Africa Locust Infestation – No new digest announcements identified

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::::::

The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health :: Education :: Heritage Stewardship ::
Sustainable Development
__________________________________________________
Week ending 19 December 2020 :: Number 346

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortia and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
Editor
GE2P2 Global Foundation – Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice
david.r.curry@ge2p2center.net

PDFThe Sentinel_ period ending 19 Dec 2020

Contents
:: Week in Review  [See selected posts just below]
:: Key Agency/IGO/Governments Watch – Selected Updates from 30+ entities   [see PDF]
:: INGO/Consortia/Joint Initiatives Watch – Media Releases, Major Initiatives, Research:: Foundation/Major Donor Watch -Selected Updates
:: Journal Watch – Key articles

Global Launch of the 2020 Human Development Report – 2020

Global Launch of the 2020 Human Development Report
The next frontier :: Human development and the Anthropocene
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
2020 :: 412 pages
PDF: http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/hdr2020.pdf

Back Page:
We may be entering a new geologic age called the Anthropocene in which humans are a dominant force shaping the planet’s future. That future is already taking frightening shape in many ways, from climate change to plunging biodiversity to the epidemic of plastics in our oceans.

The strain on the planet mirrors the strain facing many societies. Indeed, planetary and social imbalances reinforce one another. As the 2019 Human Development Report made plain, many inequalities in human development continue to increase. Climate change, among other dangerous planetary changes, will only make them worse.

The Covid-19 pandemic may be the latest harrowing consequence of imbalance writ large. Scientists have long warned that unfamiliar pathogens will emerge more frequently from interactions among humans, livestock and wildlife, squeezing ecosystems so hard that deadly viruses spill out. Collective action on anything from the Covid-19 pandemic to climate change becomes more difficult against a backdrop of social fragmentation.

Consciously or not, human choices, shaped by values and institutions, have given rise to the interconnected planetary and social imbalances we face. The good news, then, is that we can make different choices. We have the power to embark on bold new development paths that allow for the continuing expansion of human freedoms in balance with the planet.

That is what the concept of human development, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, can contribute to the complex predicaments that this new age poses to each of us. And that is the central message of this year’s global Human Development Report. Human development is not just possible in the context of easing planetary pressures; it is instrumental to doing so.

The Report calls for a just transformation that expands human freedoms while easing planetary pressures. For people to thrive in the Anthropocene, new development trajectories must do three things: enhance equity, foster innovation and instill a sense of stewardship of the planet. These outcomes matter in their own right, and they matter for our shared fu¬ture on our planet. All countries have a stake in them.

The Report organizes its recommendations around mechanisms for change: social norms and values, incentives and regulation, and nature-based human development. Each mechanism of change specifies multiple potential roles for each of us, for governments, for firms and for political and civil society leaders.

The Report goes on to explore new metrics for a new age. Among them is a planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index, which adjusts the standard Human Development Index (HDI) by a country’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint. The Report also introduces a next generation of dashboards, as well as metrics that adjust the HDI to account for the social costs of carbon or for natural wealth.

A new normal is coming, one that is more than uncertain; it is unknown. And it cannot be “solved” neatly. The Covid-19 pandemic is just the tip of the spear. Nothing short of a wholesale shift in mindsets, translated into reality by policy, is needed to navigate the brave new world of the Anthropocene, to ensure that all people flourish while easing planetary pressures. This year’s 2020 Human Development Report helps signpost the way.

Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass – Nature

Featured Journal Content

Nature
Volume 588 Issue 7838, 17 December 2020
http://www.nature.com/nature/current_issue.html

Article | 09 December 2020
Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass
Emily Elhacham, Liad Ben-Uri[…] & Ron Milo
Abstract
Humanity has become a dominant force in shaping the face of Earth1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. An emerging question is how the overall material output of human activities compares to the overall natural biomass. Here we quantify the human-made mass, referred to as ‘anthropogenic mass’, and compare it to the overall living biomass on Earth, which currently equals approximately 1.1 teratonnes10,11. We find that Earth is exactly at the crossover point; in the year 2020 (± 6), the anthropogenic mass, which has recently doubled roughly every 20 years, will surpass all global living biomass. On average, for each person on the globe, anthropogenic mass equal to more than his or her bodyweight is produced every week. This quantification of the human enterprise gives a mass-based quantitative and symbolic characterization of the human-induced epoch of the Anthropocene.

UN partnership set to prevent more than 140 million unintended pregnancies, 320 thousand maternal deaths by 2030, but major investment required

Reproductive Health

UN partnership set to prevent more than 140 million unintended pregnancies, 320 thousand maternal deaths by 2030, but major investment required
UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK, 14 December 2020 — As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, announces today the next phase of the UNFPA Supplies Partnership, which seeks to secure the essential contraceptive supplies and maternal health medicines required by millions of women and adolescent girls over the next decade.

Between now and 2030, the renewed Partnership, which is the only United Nations programme dedicated to family planning, has the potential to prevent 141 million unintended pregnancies, 328,000 maternal deaths and 42 million unsafe abortions. But to achieve this, it requires an estimated investment of US $2.5 billion by 2030.

“The global community must act now with commitments to support women and girls. Failing to do so will have dire consequences: more unintended pregnancies, more unsafe abortions and more women dying from preventable causes,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “With countries leading the charge, we must rally to improve women’s health and well-being globally, especially at this time of heightened vulnerabilities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Despite mitigation efforts, COVID-19 has slowed or even reversed many countries’ decades of progress in family planning, while pandemic-related restrictions such as lockdowns, together with fears of contracting the virus, have led to fewer women seeking reproductive health services.

The Government of Canada has committed CAD$25 million (US$19.6 million) over five years to support the next phase of the UNFPA Supplies Partnership and an additional CAD$14 million (US$11 million) to cover urgent needs for contraceptives and maternal health medicines in response to COVID-19. These funds will be used to help prevent stock-outs of contraceptives and other reproductive health commodities and to support health systems to deliver them, with a focus on underserved and vulnerable populations in rural and lower-income countries.

“The pandemic has pushed public health systems to the brink and intensified inequalities. The UNFPA Supplies Partnership is uniquely positioned to address these challenges by supporting countries in their efforts to strengthen health systems and enhance resilience,” said Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister of International Development. “A more inclusive and prosperous world can only be achieved by addressing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people, and that’s exactly what we’re working towards in this Partnership.”

Countries and partners around the world are making bold commitments to support the next phase of the programme. The Government of the Netherlands has also announced a commitment of US$56 million to the Partnership. Additional donors include the Governments of: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom, together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Kühne Foundation.

Since 2007, the UNFPA Supplies programme has mobilized over US$1.8 billion. To date, contraceptive and maternal health commodities supplied by the programme had the potential to avert: 89 million unintended pregnancies, 227,000 maternal deaths; 1.4 million child deaths; and 26.8 million unsafe abortions.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE and DEMOCRATIC VALUES :: The AI Social Contract Index 2020 (AISCI-2020)

Technology Governance

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE and DEMOCRATIC VALUES :: The AI Social Contract Index 2020 (AISCI-2020)
Center for AI and Digital Policy, Michael Dukakis Institute for Leadership and Innovation
Boston, MA, Washington, DC
December 2020 :: 382 pages

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Purpose and Scope
Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values: The AI Social Contract Index is the first global survey to assess progress toward trustworthy AI. The AI Index 2020 has these objectives: (
1) to document the AI policies and practices of influential countries, based on publicly available sources,
(2) to establish a methodology for the evaluation of AI policies and practices, based on global norms, (3) to assess AI policies and practices based on this methodology and to provide a basis for comparative evaluation,
(4) to provide the basis for future evaluations, and
(5) to ultimately encourage all countries to make real the promise of AI that is trustworthy, human-centric, and provides broad social benefit to all.

Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values focuses on human rights, rule of law, and democratic governance metrics. Endorsement and implementation of the OECD/G20 AI Principles is among the primary metrics. Opportunities for the public to participate in the formation of national AI policy, as well as the creation of independent agencies to address AI challenges, is also among the metrics. Patents, publications, investment, and employment impacts are important metrics for the AI economy, but they are not considered here.

The first edition of Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values examined AI policies and practices in the Top 25 countries by GDP and other high impact countries. These countries are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States. High impact countries include Estonia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Rwanda, and Singapore.

Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values will be published on an annual basis and will evolve as country practices change and new issues emerge.

Findings
:: The OECD/G20 AI Principles have Framed the Global Debate over AI policy. There are hundreds of frameworks for ethical AI, but only the OECD/G20 Principles have significantly shaped the policies and practices of national governments. Over 50 governments have formally endorsed the OECD/G20 AI Principles.

:: Governments have Both National Ambitions and Collaborative Goals. National AI policies typically reflect ambitions to be a leader in AI, to establish centers of AI excellence, and to promote economic growth. Many of these ambitions will set countries in competition for investment, personnel, and deployment. At the same time, countries recognize the need for global cooperation in such areas as public health, climate change, and sustainable development.

:: AI Safeguards Build on Data Protection Law. AI policy safeguards follows from other laws and policy frameworks, most notably data protection. The GDPR (Article 22), the Modernized Council of Europe Privacy Convention (Article 9), and the recently adopted California Privacy Rights Act in the US include explicit provisions for AI. The Global Privacy Assembly, the international conference of data protection officials, has recently adopted a sweeping resolution on the need for AI accountability.

:: Facial Surveillance as an AI “Red Line.” Few AI applications are more controversial than the use of AI for surveillance in public spaces. The use of facial recognition on a general population has raised widespread controversy with many NGOs stating it should be prohibited. Other controversial AI applications include the scoring of citizens, criminal sentencing, administrative service decisions, and hiring assessments.

:: Concern About Autonomous Weapons Remains. The risk of lethal autonomous weapons was among the first AI issues to focus the attention of government policymakers. Although many other AI policy issues have emerged in the last few years, concerns about autonomous weapons remains.

:: NGOs are Powerful Advocates for the Public. In Europe, civil society groups have published substantial reports on AI policy, documented abuses, and called for reform. Their advocacy has also strengthened democratic institutions which must now consider legal measures to address public concerns.

:: AI Policy is in the Early Days, but the Pace is Accelerating. AI research can be traced back to the 1950s but the effort of national governments to develop formal frameworks for AI policy is a recent phenomenon. Governments around the world are moving rapidly to understand the implications of the deployment of AI as more systems are deployed. We anticipate that the rate of AI policymaking will accelerate in the next few years.

Recommendations
1. Countries must establish national policies for AI that implement democratic values
2. Countries must ensure public participation in AI policymaking and also create robust mechanisms for independent oversight of AI systems
3. Countries must guarantee fairness, accountability, and transparency in all AI systems
4. Countries must commit to these principles in the development, procurement, and implementation of AI systems for public services
5. Countries must halt the use of facial recognition for mass surveillance

Executive Order on Ensuring Access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines

Vaccine Nationalism

Executive Order on Ensuring Access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines
The White House, USA
Issued on: December 8, 2020
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. Through unprecedented collaboration across the United States Government, industry, and international partners, the United States expects to soon have safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available for the American people. To ensure the health and safety of our citizens, to strengthen our economy, and to enhance the security of our Nation, we must ensure that Americans have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines developed in the United States or procured by the United States Government (“United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines”).

Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to ensure Americans have priority access to free, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccines. After ensuring the ability to meet the vaccination needs of the American people, it is in the interest of the United States to facilitate international access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines.

Sec. 3. American Access to COVID-19 Vaccines.
(a) The Secretary of Health and Human Services, through Operation Warp Speed and with the support of the Secretary of Defense, shall ensure safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are available to the American people, coordinating with public and private entities — including State, territorial, and tribal governments, where appropriate — to enable the timely distribution of such vaccines.
(b) The Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the heads of other executive departments and agencies (agencies), as appropriate, shall ensure that Americans have priority access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines, and shall ensure that the most vulnerable United States populations have first access to such vaccines.
(c) The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall ensure that a sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses is available for all Americans who choose to be vaccinated in order to safeguard America from COVID-19.

Sec. 4. International Access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines. After determining that there exists a sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses for all Americans who choose to be vaccinated, as required by section 3(b) of this order, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States International Development Finance Corporation, the Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and the heads of other agencies, shall facilitate international access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines for allies, partners, and others, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

Sec. 5. Coordination of International Access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines. Within 30 days of the date of this order, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs shall coordinate development of an interagency strategy for the implementation of section 4 of this order.
Sec. 6. General Provisions.

(a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary,
administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE
December 8, 2020

Statement on COVID-19 Immunization and Equitable Access to Vaccines — WFPHA: World Federation of Public Health Associations

Vaccine Multilateralism

Statement on COVID-19 Immunization and Equitable Access to Vaccines
WFPHA: World Federation of Public Health Associations
Dec 17, 2020
PDF: https://drive.infomaniak.com/app/share/141741/8c4e56c4-6620-4c77-8095-e967707d8c8a/17300/download
Purpose
The Global Taskforce of the WFPHA understands the importance of equity as a determinant of health outcomes and is concerned that the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines may not be
done on an equitable basis.

Immunisation
Immunisation is one of the most successful public health measures. According to a World Health Organization report on the prevention of infectious diseases, it is second only to clean water as a preventive health measure (WHO 2008). Annually immunisation prevents an estimated 2.5 million deaths globally and considerably reduces disease-specific treatment
costs (WHO 2018).

Prevention
For all the devastation caused by COVID-19, an important lesson is that the balance needs to shift from treating disease to preventing it. Immunisation has an important role to play in prevention not only for infants but throughout life as a key component of healthy ageing. It saves, prolongs and improves the quality of lives. At the same time, by saving time and other resources, immunisation leads to sustainable healthcare systems (UK Chief Medical Officers’ Guidelines 2011). Additionally, immunisation has positive long-term impacts, contributing to make communities healthier and promoting social and economic development.

GAVI, WHO and UNICEF have warned that 80 million children under the age of one are at risk of disease due to disruptions to vital immunisation programmes because of COVID-19
(GAVI 2020a). Specific to COVID-19, almost everyone is at risk and may require vaccination if given the opportunity. Hence, it is likely that demand will surpass supply. The concern of the WFPHA Immunisation Taskforce is the tendency for the rich to acquire and pay for the limited supply of available efficacious vaccines to the detriment of the populations genuinely at-risk, particularly in low-income settings.

COVID-19 Vaccines and Information
Not surprisingly, the race to produce a safe and efficacious vaccine for COVID-19 has been on-going and early distribution in the United Kingdom and the United States indicates
success may not be too far away. In the course of immunisation programs, member states need to tirelessly work to ensure that all information with respect to vaccine distribution is
stored in secure, audited and updated immunisation information systems. This promotes central reporting, transparency, equitable distribution across the population and informed
decisions leaving no one behind.

An important lesson from previous immunisation programs is that, even when effective and safe vaccines are available, vulnerable persons in low-income settings usually do not have
access to these vaccines for some time, if at all. There is a myriad of reasons for this state of affairs. These include (among others) high cost of vaccination programmes for countries, health systems, families and individual, individual’s poor geographical access to vaccination
centres, and inadequate supply of available vaccines due to competition.

The Global Immunisation Taskforce of the WFPHA supports the efforts of COVAX, a global collaboration of governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, private
sector, civil society and philanthropy, in its aim for a global solution to this pandemic by ensuring equitable access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines to all countries no matter their wealth (GAVI 2020b).

Therefore, the WFPHA Global Immunisation Taskforce recommends:
1. The international community should continue the process of collaboration to support research and development of effective COVID-19 vaccines from multiple centres
2. The international community should establish a COVID-19 vaccination fund to support needy but resource-constrained countries
3. Support for the World Health Organization in its efforts to coordinate the response to COVID-19 and in the development of an appropriate vaccine
4. National authorities financially support the WHO and invest in strengthening national health systems with a particular focus on sustainable immunisation programs
5. Support for COVAX in its efforts to ensure equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world with special focus on vulnerable populations, particularly in resource-constrained countries.

Coronavirus [COVID-19] Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

EMERGENCIES

Coronavirus [COVID-19]
Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

Weekly Epidemiological and Operational updates
Last update: 5 December 2020, 9:02 am GMT-5
Confirmed cases :: 74 299 042 [week ago: 69 808 588] [two weeks ago: 65 257 767]
Confirmed deaths :: 1 669 982 [week ago: 1 588 854] [two weeks ago 1 513 179
Countries, areas or territories with cases :: 222

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15 December 2020
Weekly epidemiological update – 15 December 2020

14 December 2020
Weekly operational update – 14 December 2020

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POLIO Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC); WHO/OCHA Emergencies

Emergencies

POLIO
Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

Polio this week as of 09 December 2020
:: The EB reports on both polio eradication and polio transition planning/post-certification are now available here under “148th Executive Board”. These reports will help inform the discussions on polio eradication by Member States at the upcoming EB to be held on 18 – 26 January 2021.
:: Revision to WHO global poliovirus containment guidance – Following a Containment Advisory Group (CAG) recommendation, revision to WHO’s chief guidance document for poliovirus containment – GAPIII– has been initiated. The aim is to harmonize GAPIII requirements with other relevant biorisk management standards and CAG recommendations, through wide stakeholder engagement. Comments are still being received; contact hsingh@who.int for more information. The revised draft is expected to be ready for publication in Q1 2021, with critical review and endorsement of the document by CAG to follow.
:: New online tool to identify and assess potentially infectious material – A Potentially Infectious Materials (PIM), Poliovirus Identification and Assessment Digital Online Tool has been developed to assist all labs to identify samples or collections as PIM and carry out appropriate measures. The tool, to be available in Q1 2021, is to be used in conjunction with WHO’s PIM guidance. Thanks to facilities which helped pilot the tool.

Summary of new WPV and cVDPV viruses this week (AFP cases and ES postitives):
:: Afghanistan: 54 cVDPV2 cases
:: Pakistan: three WPV1 and two cVDPV2 positive environmental samples
:: Chad: two cVDPV2 cases
:: Democratic Republic of the Congo: two cVDPV2 cases
:: Nigeria: two cVDPV2 cases and one positive environmental sample
:: South

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::::::

WHO Grade 3 Emergencies [to 19 Dec 2020]

Democratic Republic of the Congo – No new digest announcements identified
Mozambique floods – No new digest announcements identified
Nigeria – No new digest announcements identified
Somalia – No new digest announcements identified
South Sudan – No new digest announcements identified
Syrian Arab Republic – No new digest announcements identified
Yemen – No new digest announcements identified

::::::

WHO Grade 2 Emergencies [to 19 Dec 2020]
Iraq
:: WHO hands over essential health commodities to the Ministry of Health to contain COVID-19 in Iraq
Baghdad, 16 December 2020 – The World Health Organization (WHO) has today handed over essential medical supplies to the Iraqi Ministry of Health to strengthen its capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The supplies, which included personal protective equipment (58 800 face shields, 9800 protective goggles, 10 600 isolation gowns and 28 000 N95 face masks), were handed over to the Ministry of Health by the WHO Representative in Iraq, Dr Adham Ismail….

Burkina Faso
:: Améliorer la prévention et le contrôle de infections (PCI) dans les structures…17 décembre 2020
:: Réglementation des médicaments et produits de santé : L’OMS appuie à distance l’autoévaluation de l…16 décembre 2020

Measles in Europe
:: Republic of Moldova launches campaign to raise awareness about vaccines and encourage catch up on missed immunizations 16-12-2020

Myanmar
:: 12 December 2020 News release Closer to Measles and Rubella elimination from Bangladesh, 34 million children will be immunized within 6 weeks

Afghanistan – No new digest announcements identified
Angola – No new digest announcements identified
Burundi – No new digest announcements identified
Cameroon – No new digest announcements identified
Central African Republic – No new digest announcements identified
Ethiopia – No new digest announcements identified
Iran floods 2019 – No new digest announcements identified
Libya – No new digest announcements identified
Malawi Floods – No new digest announcements identified
MERS-CoV – No new digest announcements identified
Mozambique – No new digest announcements identified
Niger – No new digest announcements identified
occupied Palestinian territory – No new digest announcements identified
HIV in Pakistan – No new digest announcements identified
Sao Tome and Principe Necrotizing Cellulitis (2017) – No new digest announcements identified
Sudan – No new digest announcements identified
Ukraine – No new digest announcements identified
Zimbabwe – No new digest announcements identified

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WHO Grade 1 Emergencies [to 19 Dec 2020]

Kenya
:: Keeping to the universal health coverage path in Kenya 11 December 2020

Chad – No new digest announcements identified
Djibouti – No new digest announcements identified
Mali – No new digest announcements identified
Namibia – viral hepatitis – No new digest announcements identified
Tanzania – No new digest announcements identified

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UN OCHA – L3 Emergencies
The UN and its humanitarian partners are currently responding to three ‘L3’ emergencies. This is the global humanitarian system’s classification for the response to the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crises. 
Syrian Arab Republic – No new digest announcements identified
Yemen – No new digest announcements identified

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UN OCHA – Corporate Emergencies
When the USG/ERC declares a Corporate Emergency Response, all OCHA offices, branches and sections provide their full support to response activities both at HQ and in the field.
COVID-19
:: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Weekly Epidemiological Update (13 December 2020)

East Africa Locust Infestation
:: Desert Locust situation update 19 December 2020

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The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health :: Education :: Heritage Stewardship ::
Sustainable Development
__________________________________________________
Week ending 12 December 2020 :: Number 345

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortia and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
Editor
GE2P2 Global Foundation – Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice
david.r.curry@ge2p2center.net

PDFThe Sentinel_ period ending 12 Dec 2020

Contents
:: Week in Review  [See selected posts just below]
:: Key Agency/IGO/Governments Watch – Selected Updates from 30+ entities   [see PDF]
:: INGO/Consortia/Joint Initiatives Watch – Media Releases, Major Initiatives, Research:: Foundation/Major Donor Watch -Selected Updates
:: Journal Watch – Key articles

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights :: Press Conference – 9 December 2020

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Press Conference opening statement
9 December 2020

2020 is a year none of us will ever forget. A terrible, devastating year that has scarred so many of us, in so many ways.

At least 67 million people infected, and 1.6 million dead, in a pandemic that is far from over.
A devastating impact on countries’ economies and on employment, income, education, health and food supply for hundreds of millions of people.

A massive setback to development, to efforts to alleviate poverty and to raise the status of women and girls.

2020 has taken its toll not only across all regions and virtually all countries, but also on the full range of our human rights, be they economic, social, cultural, civil or political. COVID-19 has zeroed in on the fissures and fragilities in our societies, exposing all our failures to invest in building fair and equitable societies. It has shown the weakness of systems that have failed to place a central focus on upholding human rights.

Recent weeks have seen extraordinary progress in vaccine development. This is testimony to the ingenuity and determination of humans in a time of crisis. But vaccines alone cannot resolve the pandemic, or heal the damage it has caused.

States need not only to distribute these vaccines equitably all over the world – they need to rebuild economies, repair the damage done by the pandemic, and address the gaps that it has exposed.

We face three very different possible futures:
:: We can emerge from this crisis in an even worse state than when it began – and be even less well prepared for the next shock to our societies.

:: We can struggle mightily to get back to normal – but normal is what brought us to where we are today.

:: Or we can recover better.

The medical vaccines that are being developed will hopefully eventually deliver us from COVID-19, albeit not for many months yet. But they will not prevent or cure the socio-economic ravages that have resulted from the pandemic, and aided its spread.

But there is a vaccine to hunger, poverty, inequality, and possibly – if it is taken seriously – to climate change, as well as to many of the other ills that face humanity.

It is a vaccine we developed in the wake of previous massive global shocks, including pandemics, financial crises and two World Wars.

The name of that vaccine is human rights. Its core ingredients are embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 72nd anniversary we celebrate tomorrow, on Human Rights Day. The Universal Declaration is made actionable through the obligations that almost all States have undertaken by ratifying one or both of the International Covenants spanning all five areas of human rights.

The Universal Declaration also gave birth to other important international treaties to better protect the rights of specific groups such as children, women, people with disabilities and migrant workers; and ones aiming to tackle forms of discrimination which lead to the greater inequalities, poverty and lack of development that have fed and fertilized the socio-economic devastation caused by COVID-19.

COVID-19 has shone a stark spotlight on our failure to uphold those rights to the best of our ability, not just because we couldn’t, but because we neglected to – or chose not to.

The failure of many countries to invest sufficiently in universal and primary healthcare, in accordance with the right to health, has been exposed as extremely short-sighted. These vital preventive measures are costly, but nothing like as costly as failing to invest in them has proved to be.

Many governments failed to act quickly or decisively enough to halt the spread of COVID-19. Others refused to take it seriously, or were not fully transparent about its spread.

Astoundingly, even to this day, some political leaders are still playing down its impact, disparaging the use of simple measures such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings. A few political figures are even still talking casually of “herd immunity,” as if the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives is a cost that can be easily borne for the sake of the greater good. Politicizing a pandemic in this way is beyond irresponsible – it is utterly reprehensible.

Worse still, rather than bringing us together, the response to the pandemic has in some places led to further division. Scientific evidence and processes have been discounted, and conspiracy theories and disinformation have been sown and allowed – or encouraged – to thrive.

These actions have plunged a knife into the heart of that most precious commodity, trust. Trust between nations, and trust within nations. Trust in government, trust in scientific facts, trust in vaccines, trust in the future. If we are to bring about a better world in the wake of this calamity, as our ancestors undoubtedly did in the wake of World War II, we have to rebuild that trust in each other.

It has been shocking, but sadly not at all surprising, to see the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on individuals and groups who are marginalized and suffer discrimination – in particular people of African descent, those from ethnic, national or religious minorities, and indigenous peoples. This has been the case in some of the world’s richest countries, where the mortality rate of some racial and ethnic minorities has been up to three times that of the overall population.

When COVID-19 hit, members of discriminated groups and indigenous peoples were over-exposed to contagion because of their low-paid and precarious work in specific industries. Many of the people we suddenly started to recognize and refer to as essential – health care workers, cleaners, transport workers, shop employees – come from such minorities.

They were also under-protected because of limited access to health-care and social protections, such as sick leave and unemployment or furlough pay. They were less able to isolate themselves once infected – due to inadequate living conditions, limited access to sanitation, the inability to work from home. This meant the virus could spread much more easily within their communities, and from those communities back into wider society.

Over the past 11 months, the poor have become poorer, and those suffering systemic discrimination have fared worst of all.

Children in homes with limited or no Internet access or computer equipment have fallen behind in their education, or dropped out of it altogether, with girls especially badly affected. In terms of basic economic security, employment, education, housing and food, the pandemic is having a negative impact that is so vast and so wide-ranging it is almost impossible for us to grasp its enormity.

Had adequate social and economic protections been in place for a much higher proportion of the world’s population, in poor countries and in rich ones – had we applied the human rights vaccine – we would not be in such a bad state as we are today. COVID-19 has very clearly demonstrated that inequalities and discrimination not only harm the individuals who are directly affected, and unfairly impacted – they create shock waves that ripple across the whole of society.

This was shown most graphically when the coronavirus ripped its way through shockingly ill-prepared and underequipped institutions such as care homes for older people and people with disabilities, orphanages, migrant dormitories and prisons. A compelling case, if ever there was one, for better regulated institutions and increased alternatives to incarceration.

Those who were most critical to saving lives were themselves inexcusably put at risk, with shortages of masks and protective clothing as the pandemic surged through the wards. Health workers are only some 2-3 percent of national populations, yet they comprise around 14 percent of COVID cases reported to the WHO.

The impact on women has been particularly devastating. Because of the horrendous increase in domestic violence all across the world, and because a large proportion of women work in the informal sector and in health care. And because many were left with no choice but to withdraw from the labour market in order to care for children no longer able to go to school, and for older people and the sick. In some areas, women’s rights risk being set back decades, including through more limited access to sexual and reproductive rights.

If we are to recover better, women will need to play a much greater role in decision-making and priority-setting. It is no coincidence that in a world where so few countries have women leaders, several of the countries viewed as having handled the pandemic most effectively were in fact led by women.

Discrimination also lies at the heart of another of 2020’s defining features, when racial injustice and police brutality were brought sharply into focus by the killing of George Floyd and the worldwide protests that followed. In many countries, we saw a burgeoning realization of persistent racial injustice and systemic racism, raising unresolved histories of racist oppression, and demanding far-reaching structural changes.

In countries in conflict, COVID has added an additional layer to already multi-faceted human rights calamities. In Yemen, a perfect storm of five years of conflict and violations, disease, blockades, and shortage of humanitarian funding, set against an existing backdrop of poverty, poor governance and lack of development, is pushing the country remorselessly towards full-scale famine. There has been no shortage of warnings about what will happen in Yemen in the coming months, but a distracted world is doing little to prevent this very preventable disaster.

Rights to free expression, to assemble and to participate in public life have been battered during the pandemic. Not because of warranted restrictions on movement to constrain the spread of COVID, but by the actions of some governments taking advantage of the situation to shut down political dissent and criticism, including by arresting civil society actors and journalists. Some appear to have also been using COVID fears and restrictions as a way to tilt elections in favour of the ruling party.

The contribution of civil society to surviving the pandemic and recovering better once it is over, will be absolutely vital, and the curtailing of civil society’s contributions is one of the surest ways of undermining that recovery, by removing one of the key remedies.

The pandemic has left us exposed, vulnerable, and weakened. Yet, in its devastation, it has also provided clear insights on how we can turn disaster into an opportunity to reset our priorities and improve our prospects for a better future.

Even with stretched resources, the main ingredient that we need to build that future is political will. The will to put our money where it is most needed – not wanted, needed. The will to fight corruption, because in many countries, even very poor countries, there is more money available, but much is lost when it goes straight into the pockets of a few. We need to address inequality, including with tax reforms that could help fund major socio-economic improvements.

Similarly, richer countries need to help poorer countries survive this crisis and recover better. Repairing the frayed system of multilateralism will be essential to manage the recovery. The work must begin at home, but leaders in powerful countries need to once again recognize that, more than ever, our world can only meet global challenges through global cooperation.

Narrow nationalistic responses will simply undermine collective recovery. The first test of this will be our ability to ensure that new COVID vaccines and tools reach everyone who needs them. The pandemic has highlighted over and over again that no one is safe until everyone is safe.

Will we seize this moment to devise ways to recover better? Will we properly apply the human rights vaccine that can help us build more resilient, prosperous and inclusive societies? Will we take the immediate necessary steps to combat the biggest existential threat of all, climate change?

Let’s hope so. Because if we do not, especially with regard to climate change, 2020 will simply be the first step on the road to further calamity.

We have been warned.

UNESCO joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence as observer

Global Governance – AI

UNESCO joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence as observer
10/12/2020
UNESCO has joined, as the only other international institution besides the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Council and the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) as an observer with the possibility of actively participating in the work of these bodies.

The first meeting of the GPAI Council, organized on 4 December 2020, was opened by Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, and Emmanuel Macron, President of France, and attended by Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Social and Human Sciences. This ministerial-level body provides strategic direction to GPAI and is responsible for all major decisions, including on membership and participation.

In her intervention, Gabriela Ramos underscored the importance for GPAI to address the challenges derived from AI and COVID and to maximize the impact of AI to tackle other challenges for humankind such as climate change. She also insisted on diversity and inclusion in AI technologies, including gender and the global south, and proposing co-creation and tailor-made solutions. Moreover, she offered support in enlarging GPAI membership with representatives from Africa, given UNESCO’s engagement with the region.

Gabriela Ramos appealed to GPAI members to ensure synergies with important international initiatives, and in particular UNESCO’s work on a Recommendation on Ethics of AI, the first global standard-setting instrument currently in the process of being elaborated. She also highlighted the tools proposed in the Recommendation, including an ethical impact assessment and readiness index.

GPAI is a multistakeholder initiative bringing together leading experts from science, industry, civil society, international organizations and government that share values to bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.

The GPAI initiative was conceived by Canada and France during their G7 presidencies and launched in June 2020. It counts 15 founding members, including 14 countries and one international organization: Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Four more countries are to join following the first meeting of the Council: Brazil, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. GPAI intends to enlarge its membership in the future to include other countries and regions.

GPAI is supported by a Secretariat hosted by the OECD and two Centres of Expertise: one in Montreal (the International Centre of Expertise in Montreal for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) and one in Paris (at the French National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology or INRIA).