1. GLOBAL OVERVIEW
Huge gains made towards ending child labor over the last 20 years risk being reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN said on 12 June, in an appeal for governments to continue investing in measures that have helped reduce the number of children working, by 94 million, since 2000. According to the brief COVID-19 and child labor: A time of crisis, a time to act jointly produced by ILO and UNICEF, COVID-19 could result in a rise in poverty and, therefore, an increase in child labor. Some studies show that a one percentage point rise in poverty leads to at least a 0.7 per cent increase in child labor in certain countries.
Managing the digital divide better has become a matter of life and death for people unable to access essential healthcare information during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Secretary General told a virtual high-level meeting on rapid technological changes on 11 June. Noting that the digital technology is central to almost every aspect of an effective pandemic response – including vaccine research, online learning models, e-commerce, and work-from-home tools – he pointed out that the digital divide between those on and offline, is threatening to become the new face of inequality, reinforcing the social and economic disadvantages suffered by women and girls, people with disabilities and minorities of all kinds. During the launch of UN’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, he called for closing the digital divide by growing human and institutional capacity for today’s digital age; upholding human rights in digital contexts; building cyber trust and security; and agreeing on a new global architecture for digital cooperation.
With nearly 1.2 billion children out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, inherent inequalities in accessing the internet and other tools threaten to deepen the global crisis in learning, the UNICEF warned on 5 June. UNICEF data reveals that in 71 countries worldwide, less than half the population has internet access. Yet, nearly three-quarters of governments in 127 reporting countries are using online platforms to deliver education during the pandemic.
On 9 June 2020, the Secretary General launched the Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition, which articulates three clear findings – (a) we must mobilize to save lives and livelihoods, designating food and nutrition services as essential, while implementing appropriate protections for food workers; (b) we must strengthen social protection systems for nutrition where countries need to safeguard access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups; and (c) we must invest in the future to build a more inclusive and sustainable world. The Secretary General has called for building food systems that better address the needs of food producers and workers, providing more inclusive access to healthy and nutritious food so we can eradicate hunger, and rebalancing the relationship between food systems and the natural environment by transforming them to work better with nature and for the climate.