Op-Eds

Second chances

By Ola Almgren

In 2002, 19-year-old Radam Jalani, who lived in the small seaside village of Mercedes in Zamboanga City, was resigned to being a seaweed farmer for the rest of his life. When he was 12 years old, Radam’s father asked him to quit school to help his family scrape out a living from planting seaweed. The 10 years that followed stretched out like a lifetime for Radam, taking him farther and farther away from school. And yet, just six years after contemplating a future he thought he could not escape, Radam began to live the life he had chosen for himself.

Radam returned to school. As a teacher.

Through the Department of Education (DepEd)’s Alternative Learning System (ALS), Radam completed his Bachelor of Elementary Education (BEEd) degree. He has been teaching the second grade class at his old school since June 2018.

The UNICEF Education Programme in the Philippines supports the ALS program by enhancing the capacity of the Government to provide holistic, equitable and inclusive education for all children and adolescents. UNICEF Philippines has developed priority actions targeting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged girls and boys, who have limited access to learning opportunities due to poverty, armed conflict, social discrimination or health issues.

Not too far away from Radam, Rijal Ibrahim Rasul and Jewelyn Baguio watched helplessly as their lives were turned upside down by the 2013 Zamboanga siege. Rijal had dropped out of college to sell fish with his father. When the conflict had passed, Rijal tried to find better work but he found his options severely limited by his age, religion and inadequate education. Jewelyn took a long time to recover from the trauma of hearing gunshots and had to stop working.

Rijal and Jewelyn needed to make a living but the disruption in their lives had affected their ability to find decent work. Help came through the United Nations (UN) Peacebuilding Support Office, where the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped young people like Rijal and Jewelyn to find jobs and sustainable livelihoods in Zamboanga.

The ILO worked with industry partners to transform education by matching skills with the demands of employers, thus enhancing youth employability. Rijal and Jewelyn were among those trained under a special course in hotel management. As they gained knowledge and skills, they also developed a positive mindset, which boosted their confidence. When Rijal and Jewelyn completed the course in 2017, they were immediately hired by one of the largest hotels in Zamboanga.

The Philippines has achieved near-universal primary enrolment rate at 94.2 as of 2017. Furthermore, in the past two years, the Government has substantially increased completion rates for primary and secondary education, by 8.4 and 10.3 percentage points, respectively. We commend the Government for progress on this front. However, we need to turn our attention to Filipino children and youth who should be in school, but are not.

According to the latest Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS), one out of every 10 Filipinos aged 6 to 24 was out of school, and the prevalence has generally been higher among the older age groups. Of the 3.6 million out of school children and youth, 83.1 percent were 16 to 24 years old, 11.2 percent were 12 to 15 years old and 5.7 percent were 6 to 11 years old.

The high cost of education accounts for why many of the country’s children and youth are not in school. According to the APIS, financial difficulty was one of the top three reasons (17.9 percent), for not attending school. About half of all out-of-school children and youth belongs to the poorest 30 percent of Filipino families, most of whom live in rural, agricultural areas. In many instances, boys and girls have missed classes – or skipped school entirely – to help their families to put food on the table.

Yet, while poverty factors largely in school-leaving, it is not the foremost reason.

Early marriage and family matters topped the list of reasons, at 37 percent, followed by lack of interest, at 24.7 percent.

It is notable that the proportion of out-of-school children and youth was also higher among females (63.3 percent) than males (36.7 percent), and that for over half of all girls and young women that have had to leave school, early marriage or family matters were the leading causes. In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which has the highest percentage of out-of-school children and youth in the country, girls have a particularly hard time staying in school. Household chores, and poor menstrual hygiene management, including the lack of appropriate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities in school, have driven girls to distraction, causing them to miss classes and thereafter to stay away from school.

In order to reduce drop-out rates, it is necessary to curb the high incidence of early pregnancy  among young Filipinos. The Department of Education, with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is leading the implementation of an age- and development-appropriate Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum that will also be implemented in Alternative Learning Systems (ALS).

CSE is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about cognitive, emotional, physical, and social aspects of sexuality and reproductive health. It will equip young Filipinos with the correct information and appropriate life skills that would enable them to make responsible decision-making and respectful behavior, protecting their health, well-being and dignity. Apart from reducing the incidence of early pregnancy, CSE also seeks to address violence, particularly bullying, and HIV infection.

By adopting the 2030 Agenda, UN Member States, including the Philippines, have committed to Leave No One Behind in their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All people, regardless of their backgrounds, have rights and responsibilities to fulfill their potential in life, including out-of-school youth.

Tacking the persistent disparities in education participation and promoting education enrollment and quality is also a government strategy to address the challenges to inclusive growth, as highlighted in the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of the Duterte Administration: “Invest in human capital development, including health and education systems, and match skills and training to meet the demand of businesses and the private sector.”

Beyond the classroom, opportunities for young people who are not in school are growing. There are now many ways to transition from school or out-of-school to work or event entrepreneurship. Non-formal education should not be seen as an alternative to formal education, but rather recognized for its complementariness in providing a more fully rounded and skills-based approach, to equip young people to meet the competing demands of the workforce. Youth engagement is crucial to bringing about more relevant, equitable and inclusive education.

On August 12, we celebrate International Youth Day. This year’s theme, “Transforming Education,” resonates in the work that the Government and UN agencies are doing to make education fit the learner, and not the other way around. To find solutions to ensure that children and young people who have fallen back are not left behind. To give the Radam Jalanis of this country the one thing that could turn their life around: a second chance. [Ends]

Ola Almgren is the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the United Nations in the Philippines.

This op-ed was published on 12 August 2019, International Youth Day.

The United Nations stands with Pride

by Ola Almgren*

This Pride Month, the United Nations (UN) in the Philippines stands in solidarity with the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) Filipinos, their families, friends and allies in their pursuit of equality, inclusion and pride.

The struggle for the rights of LGBTQI people is a core part of the struggle for the full and equal enjoyment of human rights by all.

The very first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

All human beings – not some, not most, but all.

Continue reading 

UN Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, 26 June 2019

The world drug problem is one of the most challenging issues we face. It has wide-ranging impacts on the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities, as well as on the security and sustainable development of nations.

Therefore, preventing and addressing drug challenges in all their complexity is essential to delivering on a fundamental global pledge, enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals: to leave no one behind.

National priorities may differ, but the international community shares a common goal to protect people’s security and well-being, while striving for the progress and dignity of all.

I welcome the theme of this International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking – “health for justice, justice for health” – underlining the importance of a holistic approach involving health, human rights, criminal justice and social service institutions.

This comprehensive response guided the drug policy launched by my government when I was Prime Minister of Portugal two decades ago.

Earlier this year, at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Member States committed to “working together for rights- and health-based responses to drugs so that people can live in health, dignity and peace, with security and prosperity”.

I call on all governments to live up to this pledge. This means cracking down on drug trafficking and those who profit from human misery, including by enhanced international cooperation and intelligence-sharing across the entire drug supply chain. It also means human rights-based, gender- and age-sensitive prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug use and HIV, offered without stigma or discrimination. It also means law enforcement approaches that protect people from violence and criminal exploitation.

Families, schools and communities play a crucial role, especially in supporting youth who may be affected by drug abuse with terrible and long-lasting consequences. Let us work with and for young people to prevent drug use and help young people lead healthier lives and navigate life choices with strength and resilience.

On this International Day, let us show our commitment to fulfilling our promise to ensure health and justice for all.

[Ends]

Ambitions are affordable for Asia and the Pacific

by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

Three years of implementation of the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific shows the region has some catching up to do.

Despite much progress, the region is not on track to reach the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set out in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We are living in a time of booming prosperity, yet many are getting left behind. Basic needs, such as the freedom for all from hunger and poverty, ill-health and gender-based discrimination, and equal opportunity for all are elusive. Economic, social and planetary well-being has a price tag. Calculations by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) show that it is mostly affordable for the region.

Realizing ambitions beyond growth

What will it take to realize the ambitious 2030 Agenda focused on strengthening the three pillars of sustainable development?

The 2019 edition of the ESCAP’s flagship publication Economic and Social Survey for Asia and the Pacific is asking for the region to raise ambitions beyond mere economic growth. Countries facing high and growing levels of inequality and environmental degradation will have to change course from pursuing a growth path that neglects people and the planet.

The 2019 Survey forecasts continuing robust growth in the region which remains the engine of the world economy. Amid rising global uncertainty that challenges the Asia-Pacific region’s economic dynamism, there is a need for investments that not only sustain growth but also build social and environmental capital.

ESCAP analysis shows the region needs to invest an additional $1.5 trillion every year to reach the Goals by 2030. This is equivalent to about 5 per cent of the region’s GDP in 2018, or about 4 per cent of the annual average GDP for the period 2016‒2030.

At $1 per person per day, this investment is worthwhile. It could end extreme poverty and malnutrition for more than 400 million people. A quality education for every child and youth would become possible, as would basic health care for all. Better access to transport, information and communications technology (ICT) as well as water and sanitation could be ensured. Universal access to clean and modern energy, as well as energy-efficient transport, buildings and industry could be achieved. Climate and disaster-resilient infrastructure could be built. Resources could be used more effectively, and the planet protected.

Most of this investment is needed to protect and nurture people and the planet. Making a better world for our people by ending poverty and hunger and meeting health and education Goals, requires some $698 billion per year. Protecting our planet by promoting clean energy and climate action and living in harmony with nature, requires $590 billion per year. Another $196 billion per year is needed to invest in improving transport and ICT infrastructure as well as access to water and sanitation services.

Of course, in a region as diverse as ours, investment needs vary considerably. Least developed countries need to invest the most at 16 per cent of GDP while South and South-West Asia has an investment need of 10 per cent of GDP to reach the Goals by 2030. More than two-thirds of the investment in these countries will be in reducing social deficits – poverty, malnutrition, lack of health care and education as well as job creation. Landlocked developing countries need to invest most in improving transport and ICT infrastructure as well as water and sanitation services. East and North-East Asia and, to a lesser degree, South-East Asia, need to focus on clean energy and climate action investment.

Paying the bill

It should be remembered that the Goals support each other and an investment in one area has a positive effect on another. Good health depends not only on access to healthcare services but also nutrition, safe water, sanitation and good air quality. Education for all also promotes gender equality. Resource efficiency supports climate change mitigation.

Besides harnessing these synergies, sustainable development financing strategies will have to turn to public and private finance. The good news is that most countries in the region have the fiscal space to invest in the Goals. There is also a massive untapped pool of private financial assets estimated at $51 trillion in developing Asia-Pacific countries alone. Enhanced regional cooperation would also help the region offset external risks and build resilience by tapping into regional resources.

Above all, leadership will be crucial in making the transition to a development strategy that balances all dimensions of human and planetary well-being. The 2019 Survey aims to stimulate a regional dialogue and offers guidance on accelerating progress towards the Goals in the region.

MsArmida Salsiah Alisjahbana is United Nations UnderSecretaryGeneral and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Mga nag-aaklas para sa klima, inspirasyon para sa susunod na pagpupulong ng UN

Sinulat ni Antonio Guterres

Ika-15 ng Marso 2019

Salin ng UNIC Manila mula sa Ingles*

Libu-libong kabataan ang tumungo sa mga lansangan noong Biyernes upang ipahatid sa mga lider ng bansa ang mensaheng ito: kumilos na kayo upang sagipin ang ating mundo at kinabukasan laban sa climate change.

Naiintindihan ng mga kabataang ito ang isang bagay na di makuha ng mga nakatatanda: tayo ay nakikipagkarera para sa ating buhay, at tayo ay natatalo. Ang pagkakataong makaungos sa karerang ito ay mabilis na nauubos. Di tayo maaaring magpatumpik-tumpik pa. Ang pagpapaliban sa aksyon para sa klima ay mas peligroso kaysa sa pagtanggi dito.

Bigo ang aking henerasyon na gawan ng solusyon ang climate change. Ito ay dama ng mga kabataan kaya nga sila ay nagagalit.

sa kabila ng ilang taon ng pag-uusap at pagpupulong, ang binubuga nating greenhouse emissions ay pinakamataas ngayon at di humuhupa. Ang nakaraang apat na taon ang pinakamainit sa kasaysayan. Sa nakalipas na 50 taon, ang temperatura sa Arctic ay tumaas nang 3-4 antas sentigrado. Ang lalim ng ating karagatan ay tumataas, nagkakamatayan ang ating mga koral, at naguumpisa na nating makita ang kahilahilakbot na tama ng climate change sa ting kalusugan, dahil sa polusyon, matinding init at banta sa tuluyang pagkakaroon ng pagkain.

Salamat na lamang at nariyan ang Paris agreement–isang mapangarapin at pasulong na balangkas na nagsasaad ng dapat nating gawin upang pigilin ang pagkasira dulot ng klima at salungatin ang mga epekto nito. Subalit ang Paris agreement ay walang-saysay kung walang pagkilos.

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit pupulungin ko ang mga lider ng bansa sa isang climate action summit ngayong taon. Tinatawagan ko ang mga lider na tumungo sa New York sa Setyembre, bitbit ang mga konkreto at makatotohanang mga plano upang mapaigting ang kanilan nationally determined contributions pagsapit ng 2020, ayon sa layuning bawasan nang 45% ang ating green house gas emissions pagsapit ng susunod na dekada, at gawing net zero pagdating ng 2050.

Pagsasamahin sa summit na ito ang mga estado, pribadong sektor, civil society, lokal na awtoridad, at mga samahang pandaigdigan upang makalimbag ng mga ambisyosong solusyon sa an im na larangan: renewable energy; emission reductions; sustainable infrastructure; sustenableng agrikultura at pamamahala sa kagubatan at karagatan; paglaban sa tama ng klima; at pamumuhunan sa green economy.

Ayon sa mga mga pinakabagong pagsusuri, kung kikilos tayo ngayon mapapababa nating ang carbon emissions sa loob ng 12 taon at di na hihigit sa 1.5C ang global warming. Subalit kung magpapatuloy tayo sa nakagawian, ang kahihinatnan natin ay mahirap na mahulaan.

Ang paglaban sa climate change ay mahalaga para sa ating buhay, ngunit mayroon din itong kaakibat na halaga. Hindi maaaring ang pagkilos ay magresulta sa pagkatalo para sa ilan, o di pagkakapantay-pantay sa ekonomiya. Kailangang patas ang pagkilos at magbunga ng oportunidad para sa mga tatamaan habang patungo tayo sa pagbabago.

Kaakbay natin ang negosyo. Ang mabilisang pagharap sa climate change ay makapagpapalakas sa ating mga ekonomiya at makapaglilkha ng trabaho, habang nililinis ang ating hangin, pinananatili ang ating biodiversity, at pinangangalagaan ang ating kapaligiran.

Ang mga bagong teknolohiya at solusyong inhinyero ay nakalilikha na ng enerhiya na mas mura kaysa sa enerhiyang galing sa krudo. Ang enerhiyang nagmumula sa araw at hangin ay siyang pinakamurang pinagmumulan ng malakihang pinagkukunan ng enerhiya sa halos lahat ng malalaking ekonomiya ngayon. Ngunit kailan pa ring tayo ang magpasimuno sa radikal na pagbabago.

Kinakailangang alisin na natin ang mga subsidiya na pumapabor sa krudo at sa uri ng agrikultura na malakas gumamit ng krudo at lumipat na sa renewable energy, mga sasakyang tumatakbo sa kuryente, at mga gawi na tinatawag na climate-smart. Kinakailangan din nating bigyan ng kaukulang presyo ang binubuga nating karbon. At kinakailangan nating pabilisin ang pagsasara sa mga planta ng karbon at palitan ang mga trabaho ng mas maiging alternatibo upang ang pagbabago ay makatarungan, ingklusibo at kapakipakinabang.

Sumisigla na ang pagkilos, nakikinig na ang mga tao, at mayroon nang bagong pagpupuniyagi upang ipakita ang mga posibilidad sa Paris agreement. Ang climate summit ang panimula sa pagtatayo ng kinabukasan na kailangan nating lahat.

Magtatapos ako sa pamamagitan ng isang mensahe sa mga nag-aklas noong Biyernes. Alam ko na kaya ng kabataan na baguhin ang mundo.

Marami sa inyo ang nababahala at natatakot sa kinabukasan, at naiintindihan ko ang inyong mga alalahanin at galit. Subalit alam ko rin na maraming pwedeng maabot ang sangkatauhan. Ang mga boses niyo ay nagbibigay sa akin ng pagasa.

Habang namamalas ko ang inyong pagkilos at pangako, lalong napapalagay ang loob ko na tayo ay magwawagi. Tulong-tulong, at sa pamamagitan ng inyong ayuda, makakayanan nating talunin ang bantang ito at lumikha ng mas malinis at mas ligtas na mundo para sa lahat.

Si Antonio Guterres ang secretary-general ng United Nations

*Ang op-ed na ito ay isinulat sa Ingles, na may titulong, “The climate strikers should inspire us all to act at the next UN summit,” at inilathala ng The Guardian noong ika-15 ng Marso, 2019.

 

Open Letter of Women Leaders on International Women’s Day 2019

We join our voices as women colleagues who have worked in governments and in multilateral organizations in support of promoting humanitarian relief, advocating for human rights principles and normative policies, advancing sustainable development, and resolving some of the world’s most complex conflicts. We ourselves have leveraged multilateralism in order to drive positive change for peoples and our planet. Now we collectively call attention to the need to achieve full gender equality and empowerment of women across all ambits of society and the critical importance of multilateralism as a vehicle in support of that.

As women leaders in our respective fields, we have struggled locally and globally to respond to challenges ranging from the elimination of hunger to achieving peace and security, and from the provision of emergency humanitarian aid in the aftermath of natural and human-induced disasters to the promotion of human rights, including those of women, children, marginalized populations, and those living with disabilities. Our work at its best was based on the principles of sustainable development and the need to build long term resilience. It has also been underpinned by our determination to have a positive impact on the lives of those with and for whom we work, particularly the most vulnerable. We are deeply convinced that for peace to be achieved and sustained, the full participation and potential of women must be unleashed.

Our shared sense of purpose and responsibility to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment derives from our experiences. Despite decades of notable advances, a reality in which opportunities, freedoms, and rights are not defined by gender has not been universally attained. Even more concerning, we are seeing in some places that the basic rights of women are interpreted as direct and destabilizing challenges to existing power structures. That can lead to efforts to roll back hard-won rights and frameworks agreed on in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment, not least those encapsulated in the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 and Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

As women increasingly occupy meaningful spaces in local, national, and international political structures and in socio-economic, scientific and sustainable development debates, and as we engage through civil society in many campaigns, we see now, close to a quarter of a century after Beijing, more movements gaining traction which seek to halt the gains made and erode the rights won by women.

This regression is what fuels our collective effort now under the banner of “Women Leaders – voices for change and inclusion”. As women leaders, we call on leaders in governments, the private sector, and civil society to reinvest in policies and in legal and social frameworks that will achieve gender equality and inclusion. Ours is a call for a redoubling of current efforts which are insufficient in many places. Above all, we seek to underscore that the risk posed by politics that seek to halt and erode gender equality is a risk not only to women, but also to all of humanity because half the population is prevented from contributing to its full potential.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement, the Convention on the Eradication of Discrimination Against Women, and many other global agreements, treaties, and conventions have been achieved through multilateralism and demand our collective effort in order to realize their ambitious vision. They represent the hopes and aspirations of current and future generations. Yet, these transformative agendas and agreements are increasingly and disconcertingly called into question.

We attach our names to this open letter in the belief that, by bringing together our voices and leveraging our experiences, as women leaders from diverse backgrounds, we will amplify the reach and impact of our message.

In the coming weeks and months, we will speak through different means and publish a series of opinion pieces and essays in publications around the world that draw on our diverse – and yet shared – experiences and perspectives as women leaders in our respective fields. It is our hope that this compilation of work will serve not only to impart insights on the importance of women as multilateral actors, but also to be a call to action to the women leaders and advocates of tomorrow. The space that we collectively occupy as women leaders in our fields across the public, private, and civil society spheres was not opened up easily and can never be taken for granted. It is the result of the sacrifices and struggles, of generations of women. Political forces today threaten to erode the progress that we have made at both the national level and through landmark global agendas. Whether those forces succeed will depend on whether the women leaders and advocates of today and tomorrow and all who stand with them recognize the urgency and peril but also the opportunity of this current moment and act accordingly.

Shamshad Akhtar                                             Amat Alsoswa

Valerie Amos                                                     Zainab Bangura

Catherine Bertini                                              Irina Bokova

Gina Casar                                                          Margaret Chan

Helen Clark                                                         Radhika Coomaraswamy

Ertharin Cousin                                                  Christiana Figueres

Louise Frechette                                                 Cristina Gallach

Rebeca Grynspan                                               Noeleen Heyzer

Elisabeth Lindenmayer                                      Susana Malcorra

Aïchatou Mindaoudou                                        Flavia Pansieri

Navi Pillay                                                              Mary Robinson

Josette Sheeran                                                    Fatiah Serour

Ann Veneman                                                       Sahle-Work Zewde

 

United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons (30 July 2015)

By Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Conflict, terrorism, economic turmoil, natural calamities, disease: we are living in an era of unprecedented crises and troubles, as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned.

Record numbers of people are fleeing war and persecution, and the international community is grappling with acute migration challenges in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, in the Andaman Sea, Latin America and Africa.

For human traffickers, these hardships represent business opportunities.

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An Action Agenda for Our People and Our Planet

By Mr. Nikhil Seth *

2015 marks the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations. It is also the year when countries will come together to adopt the next generation of goals for our people and their only home – planet Earth. 2015 will also see the hosting of a Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa and the Climate Conference in Paris. It will be a historic inflexion point for the global approach to development.

This new agenda will stage the transition from the Millennium Development Goals—the MDGs—to the next generation of Sustainable Development Goals, with a new time horizon of the year 2030. The new sustainable development goals will build on the MDGs which covered poverty, gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability, but in a way which is deeper, more integrated and policy relevant. They also include nine more goals to cover the broader scope of the sustainable development agenda which include more economic issues, such as growth, employment, infrastructure and inequality; environmental concerns that include water, energy, terrestrial and marine ecosystems; and most importantly a goal with targets promising more peaceful, better governed and inclusive societies.

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