The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health :: Education :: Heritage Stewardship ::
Sustainable Development
__________________________________________________
Week ending 9 January 2021 :: Number 349

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 9 Jan 2021

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

Assault on Capitol – Washington, DC, USA

Assault on Capitol – Washington, DC, USA

Comment by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday’s events in the USA
GENEVA (7 January 2021) – We are deeply troubled by Wednesday’s attack on the US Capitol, which demonstrated clearly the destructive impact of sustained, deliberate distortion of facts, and incitement to violence and hatred by political leaders. Allegations of electoral fraud have been invoked to try to undermine the right to political participation. We are encouraged to see that the process has continued in spite of serious attempts to disrupt it. We call on leaders from across the political spectrum, including the President of the United States, to disavow false and dangerous narratives, and encourage their supporters to do so as well. We note with dismay the serious threats and destruction of property faced by media professionals yesterday. We support calls from many quarters for a thorough investigation into Wednesday’s events.

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Statement from the OAS General Secretariat on Incidents in Washington, D.C.
Organization of American Statement, Washington, DC
January 6, 2021
The OAS General Secretariat condemns and repudiates the attack against institutions being carried out today in the United States by protesters who disavow recent electoral results. Democracy has as its fundamental pillar the independence of the powers of the State, which must act completely free of pressure.

The exercise of force and vandalism against the institutions constitutes a serious attack against democratic functioning.

We urge a return to much-needed rationality and a conclusion of the electoral process in accordance with the Constitution and the corresponding institutional procedures.

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Philanthropies Condemn Political Violence, Call on Leaders to Protect Democracy and Get Back to the People’s Business
Democracy Letter, 8 January 2021
https://democracyletter.medium.com/

As representatives of nonpartisan philanthropic institutions, serving rural, urban, and suburban communities across the nation, we condemn the violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol this week. The events in Washington are a stain on our nation’s history and a painful break in the peaceful transition of power that has been a defining hallmark of American democracy for more than 200 years.

The shameful events are the result of actions by President Trump and other political leaders who have recklessly fanned the flames of grievance. Those responsible for this deadly violence and insurrection must be held to account, and we call on Republican leaders, in particular, in government and media to unequivocally reject conspiracy theories and the actions of extremists who use violence. After hard-fought campaigns, extraordinary voter turnout, and the resolution of more than 60 election-related lawsuits, it is long past time for our nation to accept the results of the 2020 election so that our duly elected leaders — President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris and members of the 117th Congress — can move forward with addressing the nation’s pressing challenges.

Our organizations donate hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable causes each year to advance the common good. While we have different funding approaches, vary in our areas of focus, and are ideologically diverse, we share a belief in the importance of finding common ground to solve problems and serve people and communities. And while we may vary in our views on the size and scope of government, we share a belief that safeguarding the health, security, and rights of people and communities requires a government whose leaders can accept the election results, bridge divisions that have roiled our nation, work in good faith to forge solutions, and stand up for democracy.

As the U.S. faces the most dire global health emergency in 100 years, the worst economic crisis in modern history, and a racial reckoning overdue for centuries, it is time to move on from last year’s election, cease further delays in the transition of power, and turn to governance. To our duly elected leaders, we urge you to follow facts and let science lead the way toward solving the COVID-19 crisis. We encourage you to listen to diverse voices — including those of people who have been overlooked, forgotten, and excluded, and who are facing persistent threats to their lives and livelihoods. We call on you to repair our tattered social fabric and help our democracy live up to its ideals. And we stand ready to work with you to move our country forward and increase opportunity for all who call it home.

Signatories [some 100 signatories, updated on a rolling basis, listed here]

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The Washington Post
Jan. 7, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. EST
Opinion by Editorial Board
To heal America, we must repudiate not just Trump but also his politics of demonization
HOURS AFTER Sen. James Lankford’s speech challenging Arizona’s electoral college vote was interrupted as a mob of President Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, the Oklahoma Republican returned to the floor Wednesday night with a welcome, and far different, message. “We’re the United States of America,” he said. “We disagree on a lot of things, and we have a lot of spirited debate in this room. But we talk it out, and we honor each other — even in our disagreement. That person, that person, that person” — here the senator gestured to other senators, presumably of the other party — “is not my enemy. That’s my fellow American.”

We can rue that it took such a horrific event to remind Republicans such as Mr. Lankford of the foundational and precious values of our democracy, values undermined by their support for the president’s bogus claims about an election he lost. But we can also hope that the event will jolt them away, for the long haul, from Mr. Trump’s toxic politics of inflaming — not healing — the divides between Americans. That will require repudiating not only Mr. Trump himself but also his politics of untruth and demonization.

That Republicans and Democrats came together late Wednesday to renounce the violence that Mr. Trump had incited and condoned was both heart-rending and uplifting. “I was shaken to the core as I thought about the people I met in China and Russia and Afghanistan and Iraq and other places who yearn for freedom, and who look to this building and these shores as a place of hope. And I saw the images being broadcast around the world, and it breaks my heart,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has been a pillar of principle while much of his party caved to the whims of a dangerous president.

But an even more powerful coda to a day that was filled with so much shame and disgrace is how the men and women of Congress rallied to return to the halls that had been sullied by Mr. Trump’s hooligans to fulfill their constitutional duty to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris. “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. . . . Let’s get back to work,” said Vice President Pence, who had earlier made clear he would not go along with Mr. Trump’s demands that he throw out the electoral results.

Mr. Trump’s imminent departure will not undo the damage to our democracy that culminated with Wednesday’s violent assault on the Capitol. While Mr. Lankford and several other Republican senators opted to drop their ill-advised objections to electors of some states, others — most notoriously Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) — and more than 100 Republicans in the House voted against certifying results for Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris. They “will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy,” as Mr. Romney said.

During his campaign and since winning the election, Mr. Biden consistently has vowed to serve all Americans, not just those who voted for him. That will be a welcome change, but healing the divisions of the past four years will be a long-term, difficult process. Mr. Biden will have to do more than mouth the right words — he will have to reach across the aisle in a true spirit of citizenship and cooperation. And we hope that the Republicans who were confronted with the harm that words can do as they raced from Wednesday’s angry mob keep Mr. Lankford’s observation at the forefront: “We’re the United States of America . . . even in our disagreement. That person, that person, that person is not my enemy. That’s my fellow American.”

Secretary-General Mourns Legendary Official, Calling Sir Brian Urquhart Stalwart Servant of ‘We the Peoples’ Who Shaped United Nations, History Itself

United Nations

Secretary-General Mourns Legendary Official, Calling Sir Brian Urquhart Stalwart Servant of ‘We the Peoples’ Who Shaped United Nations, History Itself
3 January 2021 SG/SM/20521
I am deeply saddened at the passing of Sir Brian Urquhart, the legendary long-time United Nations official. I offer condolences to his family and to his legions of admirers within and beyond the United Nations.

Sir Brian’s imprint on the United Nations was as profound as that of anyone in the Organization’s history. As one of the Organization’s earliest employees, he set the standard for the international civil service: dedicated and impartial. As an aide to Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, he helped to define the UN’s scope of action in addressing armed conflict and other global challenges. And as a close associate of Ralph Bunche, the renowned UN official and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Sir Brian helped to establish and then propel international peacekeeping into wide-ranging use.

Across the decades, in service to several of my predecessors, Sir Brian was at the centre of formative global events, from the Congo to the Middle East. His involvement in global affairs continued well after the end of his UN career through extensive writings that included definitive biographies of Hammarskjöld and Bunche. He was also a mentor for UN staff and countless young people as they pursued their careers.

Writing in his memoir, A Life in Peace and War, about the earliest days of the United Nations, Sir Brian noted that “we were all optimists […] who believed in the possibility of organizing a peaceful and just world”. Sir Brian Urquhart maintained that optimism across his life, shaping the United Nations and history itself. We are grateful for his brilliant and incomparable contributions as a stalwart servant of “we the peoples”.

Foreign Ministers’ joint statement on arrests in Hong Kong – Australia, Canada United Kingdom, United States

Hong Kong

Foreign Ministers’ joint statement on arrests in Hong Kong
Statement by the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, and the United States Secretary of State on arrests of 55 politicians and activists in Hong Kong.
Updated: 9 January 2021
We, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, and the United States Secretary of State, underscore our serious concern at the mass arrests of 55 politicians and activists in Hong Kong for subversion under the National Security Law.

The National Security Law is a clear breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and undermines the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework. It has curtailed the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. It is clear that the National Security Law is being used to eliminate dissent and opposing political views.

We call on the Hong Kong and Chinese central authorities to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without fear of arrest and detention. It is crucial that the postponed Legislative Council elections in September proceed in a fair way that includes candidates representing a range of political opinions.

Featured Journal Content – Genetic/Genomic Research, IC, Ethics

Featured Journal Content

Current Protocols in Human Genetics
Volume 108, Issue 1 December 2020
https://currentprotocols.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/19348258/current
OVERVIEW
Informed Consent for Genetic and Genomic Research
Jeffrey R. Botkin jeffrey.botkin@hsc.utah.edu
First Published:17 November 2020
Abstract
Genetic research often utilizes or generates information that is potentially sensitive to individuals, families, or communities. For these reasons, genetic research may warrant additional scrutiny from investigators and governmental regulators, compared to other types of biomedical research. The informed consent process should address the range of social and psychological issues that may arise in genetic research. This article addresses a number of these issues, including recruitment of participants, disclosure of results, psychological impact of results, insurance and employment discrimination, community engagement, consent for tissue banking, and intellectual property issues. Points of consideration are offered to assist in the development of protocols and consent processes in light of contemporary debates on a number of these issues.

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Nature Genetics
Volume 53 Issue 1, January 2021
https://www.nature.com/ng/volumes/53/issues/1
Comment | 07 January 2021
Toward better governance of human genomic data
Here, we argue that, in line with the dramatic increase in the collection, storage and curation of human genomic data for biomedical research, genomic data repositories and consortia have adopted governance frameworks to both enable wide access and protect against possible harms. However, the merits and limitations of different governance frameworks in achieving these twin aims are a matter of ongoing debate in the scientific community; indeed, best practices and points for consideration are notably absent in devising governance frameworks for genomic databases. According to our collective experience in devising and assessing governance frameworks, we identify five key functions of ‘good governance’ (or ‘better governance’) and three areas in which trade-offs should be considered when specifying policies within those functions. We apply these functions as a benchmark to describe, as an example, the governance frameworks of six large-scale international genomic projects.
Kieran C. O’Doherty, Mahsa Shabani[…] & Wylie Burke

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Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Volume 48, Issue 1, pages 172–182 (Spring 2020)
doi: 10.1177/1073110520917007
Journal Article
From “Informed” to “Engaged” Consent: Risks and Obligations in Consent for Participation in a Health Data Repository
Jan 7, 2021
Elizabeth Bromley, Alexandra Mendoza-Graf, Sandra H. Berry, Camille Nebeker, Dmitry Khodyakov
Abstract
The development and use of large and dynamic health data repositories designed to support research pose challenges to traditional informed consent models. We used semi-structured interviewing (n=44) to elicit diverse research stakeholders’ views of a model of consent appropriate to participation in initiatives that entail collection, long-term storage, and undetermined future research use of multiple types of health data. We demonstrate that, when considering health data repositories, research stakeholders replace a concept of consent as informed with one in which consent is engaged. In engaged consent, a participant’s ongoing relationship with a repository serves as a substitute or adjunct to information exchange at enrollment. We detail research stakeholders’ views of the risks of engaged consent and suggest questions for further study about engagement and consent procedures in initiatives that aim to store data for future unspecified research purposes.

Global Economy to Expand by 4% in 2021; Vaccine Deployment and Investment Key to Sustaining the Recovery – World Bank

COVID – Global Economic Impacts

Global Economy to Expand by 4% in 2021; Vaccine Deployment and Investment Key to Sustaining the Recovery – World Bank
Development risks remain as economic activity, incomes likely to stay low for extended period
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2021 — The global economy is expected to expand 4% in 2021, assuming an initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout becomes widespread throughout the year. A recovery, however, will likely be subdued, unless policy makers move decisively to tame the pandemic and implement investment-enhancing reforms, the World Bank says in its January 2021 Global Economic Prospects.

Although the global economy is growing again after a 4.3% contraction in 2020, the pandemic has caused a heavy toll of deaths and illness, plunged millions into poverty, and may depress economic activity and incomes for a prolonged period. Top near-term policy priorities are controlling the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring rapid and widespread vaccine deployment. To support economic recovery, authorities also need to facilitate a re-investment cycle aimed at sustainable growth that is less dependent on government debt.

“While the global economy appears to have entered a subdued recovery, policymakers face formidable challenges—in public health, debt management, budget policies, central banking and structural reforms—as they try to ensure that this still fragile global recovery gains traction and sets a foundation for robust growth,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “To overcome the impacts of the pandemic and counter the investment headwind, there needs to be a major push to improve business environments, increase labor and product market flexibility, and strengthen transparency and governance.”

The collapse in global economic activity in 2020 is estimated to have been slightly less severe than previously projected, mainly due to shallower contractions in advanced economies and a more robust recovery in China. In contrast, disruptions to activity in the majority of other emerging market and developing economies were more acute than expected.

“Financial fragilities in many of these countries, as the growth shock impacts vulnerable household and business balance sheets, will also need to be addressed,” Vice President and World Bank Group Chief Economist Carmen Reinhart said. “The near-term outlook remains highly uncertain, and different growth outcomes are still possible, as a section of the report details. A downside scenario in which infections continue to rise and the rollout of a vaccine is delayed could limit the global expansion to 1.6% in 2021. Meanwhile, in an upside scenario with successful pandemic control and a faster vaccination process, global growth could accelerate to nearly 5 percent…

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 8 January 2021

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 8 January 2021
:: COVAX – set up by GAVI, CEPI and WHO in April last year – has now secured contracts of 2 billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which we are ready to rollout as soon as the vaccines are delivered.  
:: However, this is where the current challenge is. Rich countries have bought up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines.  Going forward, I want to see manufacturers prioritise supply and rollout through COVAX.  
:: If I said one thing to people in areas where there are high numbers of cases, it would be to do all you can to avoid mixing with people from other households, especially inside.  
:: This year is the year of the health and care worker. Let’s show our respect and appreciation for health workers by protecting each other and vaccinating all health workers everywhere now. 

COVAX – set up by GAVI, CEPI and WHO in April last year – has now secured contracts of 2 billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which we are ready to rollout as soon as the vaccines are delivered. And we also have the right of first refusal on an additional 1 billion doses.

However, this is where the current challenge is: At present, 42 countries are rolling out safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. 36 of these are high-income countries and six are middle-income.

So there’s a clear problem that low- and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet. This is a problem we can and we must solve together through COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator.

At the outset, rich countries have bought up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines. Now we’re also seeing both high and middle-income countries, that are part of COVAX, making additional bilateral deals. This potentially bumps up the price for everyone and means high-risk people in the poorest and most marginalized countries don’t get the vaccine.

And some companies and countries have not submitted critical data, which we need to issue Emergency Use Listings, which blocks the whole system of procurement and delivery.   

Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-defeating. But on the flipside, vaccinating equitably saves lives, stablises health systems and would lead to a truly global economic recovery that stimulates job creation…

…Going forward, I want to see manufacturers prioritise supply and rollout through COVAX.

I urge countries that have contracted more vaccines than they will need, and are controlling the global supply, to also donate and release them to COVAX immediately, which is ready TODAY to rollout quickly.

And I urge countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX. No country is exceptional and should cut the queue and vaccinate all their population while some remain with no supply of the vaccine.

Science has delivered, let’s not waste the opportunity to protect lives of those most at risk and ensure all economies have a fair shot at recovery…

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 30 December 2020
:: The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a deep global health and economic crisis. The Polio Oversight Board (POB) remains steadfast in its resolve to secure a polio-free world, while reaffirming its commitment that polio-funded assets are at the service of countries to respond to this public health emergency, especially in the critical next phase of COVID-19 vaccine introduction and delivery. Read more on the last POB statement of 2020.

Summary of new WPV and cVDPV viruses this week (AFP cases and ES positives):
:: Pakistan: one WPV1 case, seven WPV1 and 16 cVDPV2 positive environmental samples
:: Benin: one cVDPV2 positive environmental sample
:: Chad: one cVDPV2 case
:: Cote D’Ivoire: three cVDPV2 cases
:: Democratic Republic of the Congo: one cVDPV2 case
:: Mali: one cVDPV2 positive environmental sample

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POLIO OVERSIGHT BOARD :: STATEMENT ON NEXT PHASE OF GPEI SUPPORT FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE
04 January 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a deep global health and economic crisis. The Polio Oversight Board (POB) remains steadfast in its resolve to secure a polio-free world, while reaffirming its commitment that polio-funded assets are at the service of countries to respond to this public health emergency, especially in the critical next phase of COVID-19 vaccine introduction and delivery.

When the pandemic was declared, the POB issued a Call to Action for polio-funded assets to support the response, and for a pause in polio immunization campaigns to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The Call also emphasized the importance of maintaining essential polio eradication functions, including surveillance for poliovirus. Since then, the value of polio-funded staff and assets contributed to the COVID-19 response in more than 50 countries is estimated at USD $104 million. In June 2020, faced with a concerning rise in polio cases and disruption to essential immunization, GPEI issued guidelines for safe implementation of house to house vaccination campaigns, developed with immunization partners. With the support of donors, polio campaigns have restarted in nearly 20 countries since August, while polio staff continue to simultaneously support the COVID-19 response. In November, UNICEF and WHO issued a joint Call to Action to respond to polio and measles outbreaks and prioritize funding immunization in national budgets. Polio vaccination campaigns have served as an opportunity to educate communities about essential public health measures to protect against COVID-19 and to deliver other needed health interventions. The POB would like to express their appreciation to all polio-funded staff who have taken on these dual roles with unwavering commitment.

GPEI’s core competencies for the next phase of COVID-19 response – vaccine introduction and delivery.
The POB emphasizes the importance of maintaining GPEI’s focus on urgently eradicating all forms of poliovirus. In view of the overwhelming public health imperative to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the POB commits to the polio programme’s continued support for the next phase of COVID-19 response, COVID-19 vaccine introduction and delivery, through existing assets, infrastructure and expertise in key geographies.

More than thirty years of eradicating polio has taught us that for vaccines to be effective, their delivery must be rooted in rapid and equitable access for everyone, everywhere, and that no one is safe until we are all safe.

The polio programme has core expertise in important areas of collaboration in vaccine introduction that can help in this phase of the pandemic, including campaign planning and monitoring; data collection; programme advocacy and resource mobilization; community engagement; microplanning; frontline worker training and cold chain management. These are areas in which polio-funded staff at country level can add value, under the leadership of national governments.

In November 2020 the type 2 novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV2) was the first vaccine to receive a WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL) recommendation, and will be used to respond to circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 outbreaks. The rollout of nOPV2 under the EUL recommendation can provide lessons and experiences for countries introducing COVID-19 vaccine, if emergency regulatory pathways such as WHO EUL are used, including in the areas of monitoring readiness-verification, safety surveillance, and regulatory considerations. Levels of support will vary by country and will be determined based on discussions with host national governments, ACT-A and COVAX partners, and availability of sufficient financial resources to ensure simultaneous support for COVID-19 vaccine delivery without significant delays to the urgent polio eradication effort.

The POB is conscious that this decision may impact polio eradication, including programmatic and financial risks. However, the overwhelming need to end the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing impact on immunization coverage including polio, underlines the urgency of this action. The POB also believes that this will be mutually beneficial, as the polio programme can support COVID-19 response while also learning from the collaboration, including how best to integrate coordination, planning and service delivery.

To best support this decision the POB encourages countries, donors and polio stakeholders to:
:: Maintain certification-level disease surveillance as required for polio eradication.
:: Conduct, as feasible and required, high quality polio immunization campaigns in endemic and outbreak countries.
:: Seek opportunities actively to fund polio programme assets that can contribute to COVID-19 activities and future emergency response and continue to report to GPEI on the work of polio-funded staff in the COVID-19 response to ensure transparency and accountability for GPEI donors.
:: Protect children from polio, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases by continuing to ensure the recovery of immunization services from the disruption caused by the pandemic, and by including bOPV in preventive, multi-antigen, mass vaccination campaigns.

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Editor’s Note:
Continuing with this edition, we include information about the last apparent update evident on the WHO emergency country webpages, recognizing almost universal and significant interims between such updates regardless of the level of the emergency listed.

WHO Grade 3 Emergencies [to 9 Jan 2021]

Democratic Republic of the Congo – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 15 October 2020]
Mozambique floods – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 3 November 2020]
Nigeria – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 29 Jun 2020]
Somalia – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 17 July 2020]
South Sudan – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 4 February 2020]
Syrian Arab Republic – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 24 October 2020]
Yemen – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 30 June 2020]

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WHO Grade 2 Emergencies [to 9 Jan 2021]
Myanmar
:: 3 January 2021 News release Advancing Digital Health strategy in Bangladesh

Afghanistan – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 5 July 2020]
Angola – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 03 December 2020]
Burkina Faso – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 17 décembre 2020]
Burundi – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 04 July 2019]
Cameroon – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 22 August 2019]
Central African Republic – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 12 June 2018]
Ethiopia – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 22 August 2019]
Iran floods 2019 – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 12 March 2020]
Iraq – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 16 December 2020]
Libya – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 7 October 2019]
Malawi Floods – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 09 October 2019]
Measles in Europe – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 16-12-2020]
MERS-CoV – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 8 July 2019]
Mozambique – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 03 November 2020]
Niger – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 29 December 2020]
occupied Palestinian territory – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 4 September 2019]
HIV in Pakistan – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 27 August 2019]
Sao Tome and Principe Necrotizing Cellulitis (2017) – No new digest announcements
Sudan – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 24 June 2020]
Ukraine – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 1 May 2019]
Zimbabwe – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 10 May 2019]

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WHO Grade 1 Emergencies [to 9 Jan 2021]

Chad – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 30 June 2018]
Djibouti – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 25 novembre 2020]
Kenya – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 11 December 2020]
Mali – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 3 May 2017]
Namibia – viral hepatitis – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 20 July 2018]
Tanzania – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 21 October 2020]

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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 (5 January 2020)

East Africa Locust Infestation
:: Desert Locust situation update – 4 January 2021

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The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health :: Education :: Heritage Stewardship ::
Sustainable Development
__________________________________________________
Week ending 2 January 2021 :: Number 348

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 2 Jan 2021

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

Antonio Guterres wants to avoid a Great Fracture

Editor’s Note:
The end-of-year holiday period sees many international agencies, INGOs and foundations closed, with comparatively little announcement activity. We lead this edition – the first of 2021 – with a perspective essay by Antonio Guterres from November from The Economist, followed by an editorial on prospects for 2021 from the editorial board of The Financial Times. Both sources are a bit skewed from our typical content weighting…

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The Economist – The World in 2021
Antonio Guterres wants to avoid a Great Fracture
The leader of the UN says co-operation is more crucial now than ever
Nov 17th 2020

COVID-19 is a test of international cooperation—and it is a test the world is failing. With some notable exceptions, countries have focused on themselves and defined their own strategies, sometimes in contradiction to what their neighbours were doing. We have seen the results. As countries go in their own directions, the virus has gone in every direction. Populism and nationalism, where they prevailed, did not contain the virus and often made things manifestly worse.

Rich countries mobilised resources at unprecedented levels, but much-needed resources are not reaching developing countries, which could face crippling debt and a liquidity crisis. Now, as a new year looms, the challenges are clear: the pandemic response will consume 2021 and the climate crisis will drive the decade. A sensible, sustainable recovery must start now.

Many are pinning their hopes on a vaccine, but there is no panacea in a pandemic. The priority is ensuring that any vaccine is a global public good—a people’s vaccine available and affordable for everyone, everywhere.

We also need a vaccine for our overheating planet. The five-year period since the signing of the Paris agreement on climate change has been the hottest on record. Greenhouse-gas concentrations in 2021 will reach heights unseen in millions of years.

Ahead of the next United Nations climate conference in November 2021, I have urged world leaders to submit more ambitious national plans and long-term strategies aligned with the Paris agreement and the goal of limiting the average temperature rise to 1.5ºC. All countries, especially g20 members, should commit themselves to carbon neutrality by 2050. All companies, banks and cities should establish their own plans and benchmarks for a transition to net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

Technology and economics are on our side. A green economy fuels employment. Renewable energy generates three times more jobs than investments in fossil fuels. Bail-outs of industry, aviation and shipping should be conditional on aligning with the goals of the Paris agreement. It is time to end fossil-fuel subsidies, put a price on carbon and commit to no new coal.

Pandemic recovery is our chance to re-engineer economies and re-imagine our future. Recovery must also advance gender equality; no other single step could do more to fortify societies for the future. As vast sums are deployed to re-energise economies, how these funds are spent is a critical matter for people and planet alike. Covid-19 response and recovery also depend on silencing the guns and standing up for human rights. The fury of the virus shows the folly of war. A surge of hatred and misinformation has heightened the dangers. That is why I have called for a global ceasefire.

We must also avoid a new cold war, where the two largest economies split the world in a Great Fracture—each side with its own trade and financial rules, internet and artificial-intelligence capacities. Such divides risk turning into geostrategic and military splits.

International co-operation will be crucial. The arrangements agreed on 75 years ago prevented a much-feared third world war. But the world now needs a new generation of global governance with the UN at its centre. At a time of lawlessness in cyberspace, erosion of arms-control agreements, rising inequalities, a pushback on human rights and a global trading regime tilted against the poor, we are not keeping pace.

We do not need new bureaucracies. But we do need a networked multilateralism that links global and regional institutions. We also need an inclusive multilateralism that engages businesses, cities, universities and movements for gender equality, climate action and racial justice.

My plan for a new social contract focuses on the national level, with investments in social cohesion, a new generation of social protection and policies to promote resilience in the face of economic and environmental shocks. Education and digital technology must be two great enablers and equalisers in making this possible.

My proposed new global deal seeks to ensure that power, wealth and opportunities are shared more broadly. Fair globalisation, free and fair trade, and prioritising the well-being of future generations are all building blocks of this new model of global governance.

We face two critical tests—covid-19 and climate change—compounded by a third: fragility and fragmentation. Realising that solidarity is self-interest will help us end this crisis and emerge stronger together.

This article appeared in the International section of the print edition of The World in 2021 under the headline “It’s time to pull together”

Reasons for hope in 2021 – Vaccines, Biden and broader shifts give some grounds for optimism

Unto the Breach

Reasons for hope in 2021 –
Vaccines, Biden and broader shifts give some grounds for optimism
The Financial Times – Opinion: The editorial board – 1 January 2021

For many, 2020 will always be synonymous with misery; the pandemic will be remembered for isolation, anxiety and — in too many cases — loss. Yet beneath the surface there have been trends and shifts that give us, if not reasons to be cheerful for the coming year then, at least, more grounds for hope for the future.

The most positive prospect for 2021 is the rollout of coronavirus vaccines. These hold the promise of returning some sense of normality; if governments can ensure enough of their populations are vaccinated then social, family and working lives can start to be restored. The biggest challenge is ensuring this happens not just in the rich world, but across lower- and middle-income countries.

The defeat of President Donald Trump opens up the potential for a rejuvenation of multilateralism. American scepticism over international trade is likely to last. There is, however, a world of difference between a US that acts constructively and one that wishes to dismantle a rules-based system of international relations.

The EU’s response to coronavirus also showed the power of international co-operation. True, at first member states succumbed to nationalist instincts. But in stark contrast to the eurozone crisis a decade ago, they then managed to pull together and enhance the institutions of the trade bloc to become more responsive to shocks. What has been dubbed the “Next Generation EU” may, so far, be a branding exercise for the pandemic response fund, but it also demonstrates the bloc’s potential to renew itself.

European regulators have led what is becoming an international effort to rein in excessive power on the part of the tech giants, without undermining the benefits to society they have provided during the pandemic. In the US, so far, that seems to mean using existing antitrust powers — in December the Federal Trade Commission and a group of 48 attorneys-general sued Facebook, alleging it had abused its market power. In the UK and EU, new proposals for reforming competition law would attempt to shift how “digital gatekeepers” behave in the first place. If these attempts work they could help to make the internet closer to the free and open vision of its founders.

A critical mass has been building behind fighting climate change, too. China, the world’s biggest polluter, committed in September to reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2060. The People’s Republic is just the latest among many to set such a target. These pledges on their own will not do much to stop global warming. But they demonstrate that the world is taking the problem more seriously, and that advances in technology — renewable energy sources and batteries alike — are convincing governments a transition is less costly than once feared.

Progress will probably be slow in fighting racial and gender inequality, but the wave of protests following killings of black Americans by police officers has led businesses and individuals to reflect on current and historic injustices. The determination to create a fairer future will not disappear. Incoming US president Joe Biden’s cabinet is already set to be the most diverse in US history.

Moving forward on all these fronts may be difficult in economies devastated by the pandemic; public appetite for reform may be exhausted. Unemployed and destitute workers might turn against anything that suggests further self-sacrifice. Yet there are economic opportunities that can be seized, new forms of working emerging, and politicians across the world have pledged to “build back better”. If there is one reason above all for hope for the future it is that the past year has demonstrated, firmly, our ability to adapt.

Cultural institutions in crisis :: Museums and galleries face crippling pandemic losses as voices calling for restitution and greater social responsibility grow louder

Heritage Stewardship

Cultural institutions in crisis
Museums and galleries face crippling pandemic losses as voices calling for restitution and greater social responsibility grow louder
Rachel Spence
Financial Times, January 2 2021

The pandemic has devastated the culture sector as brutally as every other aspect of society. Covid-19 is hitting museums and galleries in the public sphere even harder than those in the commercial sector, which at least have the opportunity of online trading. Visitors to museums have dropped about 80 per cent this year, partly because of enforced closures, partly because of the public’s reluctance to travel or visit public places.

Tate recently announced that it expects to welcome one million visitors instead of eight million by the end of April. Its statement said: “For every £10 we were expecting to make this year, we are only receiving £4, and we expect to lose £56m in self-generated income.” In the US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has warned of a shortfall of at least $150m for the 2020-21 financial year. Visitor numbers are not expected to recover fully for at least two to three years.

Financial losses from Covid-19 are not the only challenges museums face. Well before the pandemic, environmental and social activists were holding western institutions vigorously to account. Museums were already struggling with issues of diversity — both in staffing and, more importantly, in representation in their collections — the status of objects in those collections and calls for restitution. The situation is further complicated by criticism of many traditional sources of philanthropic funding and ongoing concern for the environment.

The Black Lives Matter movement and other world events put a renewed spotlight on racism, illuminating the “white gaze” of western institutions. Even as museums scrambled to promise that change was afoot, they found themselves ensnared in further criticism. “Did our lives matter when you STOLE ALL OUR THINGS?” retorted writer Stephanie Yeboah when Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, tweeted solidarity for Black Lives Matter. Yeboah thus yoked racism into the charged question of restitution.

In Germany, the virtual opening of the mighty Humboldt Forum in Berlin, 10 years and €600m in the making, has fanned the flames of controversy about artefacts from the country’s Ethnological Museum, many of which will be displayed in the grand new museum. The issue of who holds and curates African heritage pieces came to the fore when Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany wrote last month to Chancellor Angela Merkel demanding the return of precious bronzes looted from Benin. Despite its ambition and splendour, it is hard not to feel that the Humboldt Forum is designed on a museum model already out of date.

Other countries are working to counteract the historic effects of that traditional model. In the Netherlands, new legislation is being drawn up to effect “unconditional returns” of objects to their countries of origin. Meanwhile, in France last month the National Assembly voted to return 26 colonial objects to Benin and one to Senegal. Such initiatives signal that calls for restitution are being taken more seriously than ever before.

These moves throw into relief the reluctance of other institutions to follow suit. The British Museum is yet to return a single bronze to Benin — it has about 800 of them — but has created a new strand entitled “Collecting and Empire” to illuminate and acknowledge the sometimes nefarious back stories to many of the institution’s eight million artefacts. But by omitting the Parthenon marbles and the Benin bronzes, critics say it is little more than window dressing. “It’s still fundamentally conservative,” says Alice Proctor, author of The Whole Picture: The Colonial Story of the Art in our Museums and Why We Need to Talk About It….

New Report Warns Number of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants could Rise to 7 million in 2021

Venezuela

New Report Warns Number of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants could Rise to 7 million in 2021
Organization of American States (OAS)
December 30, 2020
A new report prepared by the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) warns that the number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants could rise to 7 million in 2021 if the countries of the region reopen their borders and the regime in Venezuela remains in place.

The Situation Report , prepared by the Office of the OAS General Secretariat for this crisis, headed by David Smolansky, presents a balance of the year 2020 for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Among the report’s findings, it highlights that:
:: The Covid-19 pandemic worsened the Venezuelan migration crisis in 2020. Although the outflow slowed down due to border closures and mandatory confinement, these measures increased the difficulties faced by Venezuelan migrants and refugees and, therefore, the challenges of care, protection and integration.
:: The conditions of vulnerability in which Venezuelan migrants arrive in host countries are increasingly critical after the deepening crisis in Venezuela.
:: The remains of 33 Venezuelan migrants who fled their country by sea, including minors, have been found on the maritime border between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.
:: If borders reopen in the first quarter of 2021 and the illegitimate regime in Venezuela continues in power, the number of migrants and refugees could rise to 7 million.

After the publication of the document, Smolansky emphasized that “the only solution to stop this unprecedented human landslide in the region is for Venezuela to have a transition towards democracy and for Venezuelans to progressively regain their freedoms. This is the only way forced migration will stop and incentives for return will emerge.”…

Swarm intelligence for self-organized clustering

Featured Journal Content

Artificial Intelligence – An International Journal
Volume 290 January 2021
https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/artificial-intelligence/vol/290/suppl/C
Research article Abstract only
Swarm intelligence for self-organized clustering
Michael C. Thrun, Alfred Ultsch
Article 103237
Abstract
Algorithms implementing populations of agents which interact with one another and sense their environment may exhibit emergent behavior such as self-organization and swarm intelligence. Here a swarm system, called Databionic swarm (DBS), is introduced which is able to adapt itself to structures of high-dimensional data characterized by distance and/or density-based structures in the data space. By exploiting the interrelations of swarm intelligence, self-organization and emergence, DBS serves as an alternative approach to the optimization of a global objective function in the task of clustering. The swarm omits the usage of a global objective function and is parameter-free because it searches for the Nash equilibrium during its annealing process.
To our knowledge, DBS is the first swarm combining these approaches. Its clustering can outperform common clustering methods such as K-means, PAM, single linkage, spectral clustering, model-based clustering, and Ward, if no prior knowledge about the data is available. A central problem in clustering is the correct estimation of the number of clusters. This is addressed by a DBS visualization called topographic map which allows assessing the number of clusters. It is known that all clustering algorithms construct clusters, irrespective of the data set contains clusters or not. In contrast to most other clustering algorithms, the topographic map identifies, that clustering of the data is meaningless if the data contains no (natural) clusters. The performance of DBS is demonstrated on a set of benchmark data, which are constructed to pose difficult clustering problems and in two real-world applications.

Gavi welcomes final approval of U.S. support for global immunisation in Year-End Omnibus and COVID Supplemental Package

Gavi [to 2 Jan 2021]
https://www.gavi.org/
News releases
Gavi welcomes final approval of U.S. support for global immunisation in Year-End Omnibus and COVID Supplemental Package
Geneva, 28 December 2020
:: The United States has approved US$ 4 billion for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to ensure lower-income economies have equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines on the same urgent timeline as wealthier countries. These funds will help end this acute phase of the pandemic.
:: The United States also approved its Fiscal Year 2021 contribution of US$ 290 million for Gavi’s routine immunisation programmes. This funding is part of the multi-year pledge made to Gavi at the Global Vaccine Summit in June and will help provide life-saving vaccines to nearly half the world’s children.
:: Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi: “This support from the American people will help Gavi procure and deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses for lower-income economies through the Gavi COVAX AMC. It will also shorten this crisis, save lives and help restart the global economy. In today’s interconnected world, no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

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: 2 January 2021, 8:34 am GMT-5
Confirmed cases :: 82 356 727 [week ago: 78 604 532] [two weeks ago: 74 299 042]
Confirmed deaths :: 1 815 433 [week ago: 1 744 235] [two weeks ago: 1 669 982]
Countries, areas or territories with cases :: 222

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WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19
28 December 2020

Weekly epidemiological update – 29 December 2020
Overview
Globally in the past week, over 4 million new COVID-19 cases and 72 000 new deaths were reported. This brings the cumulative numbers to over 79 million reported cases and over 1.7 million deaths globally since the start of the pandemic.

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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 30 December 2020

Summary of new WPV and cVDPV viruses this week (AFP cases and ES positives):
:: Afghanistan: one WPV1 positive environmental sample and 26 cVDPV2 cases
:: Pakistan: five WPV1 positive environmental samples
:: Nigeria: one cVDPV2 case and two cVDPV2 positive environmental samples
:: Guinea: seven cVDPV2 cases
:: Liberia: two cVDPV2 positive environmental samples
:: Sierra Leone: three cVDPV2 cases

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Editor’s Note:
With this edition, we add information about the last apparent update evident on the WHO emergency webpage, recognizing significant interims regardless of the level of the emergency listed.

WHO Grade 3 Emergencies [to 2 Jan 2021]

Democratic Republic of the Congo – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 15 October 2020]
Mozambique floods – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 3 November 2020]
Nigeria – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 29 Jun 2020]
Somalia – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 17 July 2020]
South Sudan – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 4 February 2020]
Syrian Arab Republic – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 24 October 2020]
Yemen – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 30 June 2020]

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WHO Grade 2 Emergencies [to 2 Jan 2021]
Myanmar
:: 24 December 2020 News release
Bangladesh gradually resumes essential health services delivery disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Afghanistan – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 5 July 2020]
Angola – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 03 December 2020]
Burkina Faso – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 17 décembre 2020]
Burundi – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 04 July 2019]
Cameroon – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 22 August 2019]
Central African Republic – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 12 June 2018]
Ethiopia – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 22 August 2019]
Iran floods 2019 – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 12 March 2020]
Iraq – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 16 December 2020]
Libya – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 7 October 2019]
Malawi Floods – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 09 October 2019]
Measles in Europe – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 16-12-2020]
MERS-CoV – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 8 July 2019]
Mozambique – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 03 November 2020]
Niger – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 24 December 2020]
occupied Palestinian territory – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 4 September 2019]
HIV in Pakistan – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 27 August 2019]
Sao Tome and Principe Necrotizing Cellulitis (2017) – No new digest announcements
Sudan – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 24 June 2020]
Ukraine – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 1 May 2019]
Zimbabwe – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 10 May 2019]

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WHO Grade 1 Emergencies [to 2 Jan 2021]

Chad – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 30 June 2018]
Djibouti – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 25 novembre 2020]
Kenya – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 11 December 2020]
Mali – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 3 May 2017]
Namibia – viral hepatitis – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 20 July 2018]
Tanzania – No new digest announcements identified [Last apparent update: 21 October 2020]

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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

::::::

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 (29 December 2020)

East Africa Locust Infestation
:: Desert Locust situation update – 30 December 2020

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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.