The year 2020 is ending with the world caught up in an unprecedented human and economic crisis. The pandemic has contaminated 75 million people and killed 1.7 million. With the lockdowns, the global economy has suffered the worst recession in 75 years, causing the loss of income for millions of people. In such a bleak environment, what will the new year bring? Whilst uncertainty is the only certainty, eight points are likely to be key in the year ahead:
At the end of this year, we must pay our respects to the nearly 1.5 million people who have died from the Coronavirus.
COVID 19 has inflicted extensive damage beyond human casualties, exposing the frailties of governments, societies, economies and health systems, particularly in those countries that chose to ignore the warnings and advice of the WHO.
I recently visited rural areas of Bangladesh amid the COVID-19 pandemic and returned to Dhaka with a new understanding of the impact that COVID-19 is having on child marriage, a harmful practice that is a global challenge. The fundamental shift that I saw was that child marriage, which has typically been encouraged by struggling parents, is now being encouraged by struggling girls. This worrisome trend underscores a new burden of the pandemic on the poor.
While Afghanistan ends a historic year, filled with the hope for peace as the government and Taliban sat down for almost three months of consecutive peace talks for the first time in 19 years, it was also a year filled with violence with provisional statistics by the United Nations showing casualties for this year being higher than 2019.
Africa, compared to Asia, Europe and the US, has largely escaped the devastating death toll of COVID-19, accounting for a fraction of the world’s 63 million cases
In Jamaica, school playgrounds are deserted, filled only with phantom shrieks of delight. Blackboards remain devoid of arithmetic and uniforms hang wrinkle-free in closets. When the first case of Covid hit Jamaican shores in early March, the government closed primary and secondary schools and over 500,000 children transitioned to remote learning. The majority of schools have yet to resume face-to-face classes since the March 13 closure.
Education and health care were high on the agenda when the United Nations vowed to work toward a better future by setting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be met by 2030.
Just before the World Health Assembly (WHA), an 18 May open letter
by world leaders and experts urged governments to ensure that all COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests are patent-free, fairly distributed and available to all, free of charge.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign
marked the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (25 November to 10 December 2020) at a time when COVID-19 exacerbated the conditions women operate under.
Decades of aggressive efforts to create equal opportunities for women, shatter the glass ceiling and build a more inclusive society only ends up in failure, when the key stake holders refuse to acknowledge discriminatory laws, socio-cultural and religious set ups that continue to threaten progress made by the female work force.
Economic growth is the time-tested method of raising living standards and, if not accompanied by large increases in inequality, lowering poverty. Since World War II, economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, including in South Asia.
One day in February 2020, Accra-based coffee and cocoa trader Meron Dagnew visited the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to introduce herself, even before the Secretariat was fully operational.
The current pandemic is probably the first global event in the history of the human race. By ‘global’ I mean it has affected almost everybody
, regardless of country of residence or social class.
COVID-19 has in some nations been converted into a noxious, political issue. One of many worrying examples is the rhetoric of Brazil´s president. On 10 November, when Brazil´s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 162,000 victims – the numbers have continued to raise and are now 179,032 second only to USA´s 296,745 – Jair Bolsonaro minimized the effects of COVID-19 by stating: ”All of us are going to die one day. There is no point in escaping from that, in escaping from reality. We have to cease being a country of sissies.” Bolsonaro actually said maricas
, which like sissies
is slang for gay people. Both expressions originally indicated ”small girls” – marica
is a diminutive of Maria and sissy of “kid sister”. Bolsonaro thus defined homosexuality as effeminacy
by associating gay men with affectation and cowardice. By connecting disease, fear, and femininity the Brazilian president not only ignored the strength and courage women throughout history have demonstrated by enduring childbirths and caring for others, it also shows a strong disregard for gender equality and the rights of women and gay people.
The Pacific Island Developing State of Vanuatu has emerged as one of the region’s great success stories. Vanuatu has joined the ranks of Samoa and the Maldives as one of only six countries to graduate from being a least developed country, since the category was introduced by the United Nations in 1971.
On Human Rights Day, civil society calls for the protection of civic space as a fundamental freedom, as more than 80% of the world’s population live in countries where civic space is closed, repressed or obstructed.
On 10 December every year, we celebrate Human Rights Day, marking the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration guarantees a spectrum of human rights that belong to each of us equally, and unite us as a global community and upholds our humanity.
Education is not a privilege. It is a fundamental human right. Yet, education is undervalued even at the best of times. We often fail to connect the dots between the right to education and the realization of all human rights. As noted by the Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen, we have failed to give ‘this massive potential in transforming human lives’ the attention it deserves.
In just over a day, on 9 December, Indonesia holds 270 simultaneous local elections for executive office. This involves nine of the republic’s 34 governors, 224 of 416 bupati
(district chiefs) and 37 of 98 mayors. The polling was initially scheduled for 23 September but the independent KPU (General Elections Commission) put the date back to 9 December due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After ten years without a strong La Niña weather phenomenon in Colombia, the climate pattern, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, could create a vacuum in food production and supply. Multilateral organizations, along with the Colombian government, are trying to implement measures to reduce malnutrition risk. Still, the population is already overwhelmed by a year of struggles that have deepened socio-economic differences.