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COVID-19 and the SDGs — April 8th Update

Written by Brady Press

On Monday, we looked at how COVID-19 is affecting the SDGs and how those involved with the Global Goals are contributing to the response.

Reliefweb.int, UNHCR: Staying and Delivering for Refugees Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Global Unity Is Needed to Fight COVID-19

Cooperation from all sectors, officials and individuals, is crucial in flattening the curve. This past week, UN officials, government leaders and organizations alike expressed concern about the further spread of COVID-19, but many also recognized the importance of a united front. Just as countries have partnered around the SDGs, we are seeing global partnerships around COVID-19. The SDG General’s Advocates and Alumni issued an official announcement that they stand in solidarity with those who have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) and offered that “fighting this pandemic, leaving no one behind, is the immediate priority for the SDG campaign.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, along with the heads of state from four other countries — Ethiopia, Ecuador, Jordan and Singapore — called for a global alliance to form and fight COVID-19 together, focusing on vaccine development, fair distribution of testing kits and medical equipment and ensuring that all are protected, including vulnerable groups.

A “Solidarity Trial” was announced last Friday by the World Health Organization, which will compare four potentially life-saving drugs and drug combinations that may help treat COVID-19. To date, 74 countries have responded to the WHO’s call to participate in the trial and more than 200 patients are enrolled.

Violence Amid a Global Pandemic

Along with calls for cohesion, there is encouragement for countries to stop violence in all its forms and put all efforts toward fighting the global pandemic.

Following his call on March 31st for a global ceasefire in light of COVID-19, UN Secretary General António Guterres issued a follow up message this week. While many countries have embraced the call to halt fighting and focus on tackling COVID-19, he declared, including war-torn nations such as Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, conflict remains and in certain instances has gotten worse. He recognized the need for “robust diplomatic efforts to meet these challenges” and announced:

“To silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace. I call on all governments and movements involved and their supporters to put an end to this catastrophic conflict and humanitarian nightmare — and come to the negotiating table…But it is essential that a permanent nationwide ceasefire take effect to allow for expansions in humanitarian access to all those suffering for the last decade.”

António Guterres also addressed the “horrifying surge” in domestic violence during this time of lock down, which is putting women and girls’ safety at risk and threatening progress toward SDG 5— gender equality. Acknowledging that for many, home is an unsafe place, he called for “peace in homes around the world” and “urged all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.”

This is proving to be a challenge, as healthcare providers and law enforcement are overwhelmed with COVID-19 response and many domestic violence shelters have even been converted into hospitals, creating a scarcity of resources for victims.

In his statement, Guterres offered recommendations for governments to reduce domestic violence cases, including increasing online services, deeming shelters as essential services, establishing emergency warning systems in pharmacies and grocery stores, and more.

UN women released an info-graphic showing concrete data around the growing number of domestic violence cases across the globe. The agency is also aiming to sustain the broader conversation of gender equality (SDG 5) while many are socially isolating and released “Nine Ways You Can Keep Up Your Activism from Your Couch.”

UN human rights experts appealed to States to enhance “child protection measures to help safeguard the welfare of millions of children worldwide who may be more exposed to violence, sale, trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.” According to Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and exploitation of children:

“Globally, confinement measures and the disrupted provision of already limited child protection services exacerbate the vulnerability of children living in psychiatric and social care institutions, orphanages, refugee camps, immigration detention centres and other closed facilities, as cases of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation of children confined in these premises are likely to go undetected.”

Experts emphasized the need for sufficient staff and trained law enforcement that is accessible to children, including “toll-free 24-hours hotlines, free texting services, remote psychological and social services, and mobile shelters for minors.”

Growing Concern for Displaced Persons

The Executive Director of UNICEF declared that a COVID-19 outbreak in “the world’s refugee camps, crowded reception centers or detention facilities where migrant families are sheltering” is likely approaching.

In high-conflict areas, UN Peacekeepers are working with local authorities to assist vulnerable populations by delivering critical equipment and supplies as well as technological support to enable digital communications and raise awareness of coronavirus.

There are growing concerns around the vulnerability of refugee and migrant communities. The millions of migrants and refugees from Venezuela got the attention of two UN agencies — UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) — both of which released a joint statement for the global community not to overlook these individuals and families.

Many countries have begun releasing political prisoners to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a decision the UN embraced last Friday. The UN’s top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, “urged States to release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views.”

Ensuring Recognition of Other Vulnerable Groups

Concerns also exist around systemic discrimination resulting in inequal access to healthcare for minorities, and thus higher death rates, specifically among people of African descent. Human rights experts called on governments to address racial discrimination and bias when forming COVID-19 policies, which is currently being overlooked.

World Autism Day was celebrated virtually on April 2nd with a message from the UN Secretary General, who acknowledged the vulnerability of people with autism and the need to consider their needs in COVID-19 response efforts, as well as how this community has been uniquely impacted:

“Persons with autism have the right to self-determination, independence and autonomy, as well as the right to education and employment on an equal basis with others. But the breakdown of vital support systems and networks as a result of COVID-19 exacerbates the obstacles that persons with autism face in exercising these rights. We must ensure that a prolonged disruption caused by the emergency does not result in rollbacks of the rights that persons with autism and their representative organizations have worked so hard to advance.”

This Week’s Events

The annual International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda was observed virtually on April 7th and the public was encouraged to share UN social media cards along with their messages of solidarity and the hashtags #PreventGenocide #Kwibuka.

The UN Secretary General connected the remembrance to the current environment, stating that Rwanda “demonstrated how to rise from the ashes, to heal and to rebuild a stronger, more sustainable society” and “encouraged everyone to take motivation from the ongoing lesson of Rwanda in meeting the SDGs” and reflected on today’s challenges, declaring that“only by recognizing that we are all one human family sharing the same planet, will we be able to rise to the many global challenges that confront us — from COVID-19 to climate change.”

April’s “Goal of the Month” feature highlights SDG 3 — Good Health and Wellbeing — and looks at the economic, social and environmental impacts of COVID-19 on the global agenda.

In addition, in honor of World Health Day on April 7th, the World Health Organization called upon civilians to thank the medical community. WHO also launched it’s first ever State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020. The report:

“Provides the latest, most up-to-date evidence on and policy options for the global nursing workforce. It also presents a compelling case for considerable — yet feasible — investment in nursing education, jobs, and leadership, forward-looking policy options for an agenda to strengthen the nursing workforce to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, improve health for all, and strengthen the primary health care workforce on our journey towards universal health coverage, and concludes with a call to Member States and other stakeholders to commit to this agenda.”

Today is the Virtual GIS Summit, at which “geospatial data users and providers across governments, the private sector, academia, students and the general public are invited to learn and share how the global community of geospatial scientists has been leveraging geospatial, Earth Observation and statistical data” to support COVID-19 response efforts. The event will showcase tools and GIS dashboards currently being used, with the hope of creating a network of geospatial health collaborators to respond to emergencies.

For helpful tools, information and resources regarding COVID-19 and the SDGs, check out:

Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data

This organization provides a “COVID-19 Resources” page that links to data resources, regional and country dashboards, visualization and maps, response and calls to action, research and analysis, and tools.

WHO Situation Reports

Updated daily, the WHO Situation Reports are a comprehensive and timely resource that provide highlights, surveillance data, maps and public recommendations around COVID-19.

To read more of our COVID-19 and the SDGs coverage, visit our earlier article here.

Brady Press is an Associate Director at Changing Our World, where she specializes in building strategic corporate citizenship programs. She is a consultant to SDGCounting and StartingUpGood, and is currently researching how COVID-19 is affecting the Sustainable Development Goals.

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