This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Urgent investment needed to improve conditions for key workers: ILO
Essential workers who kept families, societies and economies going while the world was on COVID lockdown need better pay and conditions urgently, if countries are to future-proof themselves from the next global crisis, UN labour experts said on Wednesday.
According to a new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) drawing on data from 90 countries, key workers remain severely “undervalued” and their contributions insufficiently recognized.
The study focuses on workers in sectors such as health, retail, food systems, security, sanitation and transport.
ILO’s findings show that during the COVID-19 crisis, these key workers suffered higher mortality rates than others, because of their greater exposure to the coronavirus.
Many essential workers also continue to earn less than two-thirds of the average wage.
Here’s Richard Samans, director of ILO’s research department:
“This is an opportunity for obtaining a two-for-one payoff: both improving the working conditions, reducing the social justice deficits faced by many of these categories of workers, but also for strengthening the resilience of economies, their ability to withstand shocks of whatever nature, whether it be a future pandemic, a natural disaster, or other.”
Humanitarian needs soar in Syria, soars as conflict enters 13th year
As the Syrian conflict officially enters its 13th year on Wednesday, top UN humanitarian leaders stressed that the country remained one of the world’s “most complex humanitarian and protection emergencies”.
More than 15 million people across Syria need humanitarian assistance this year – the highest number since the start of the conflict – said the UN aid coordinators for Syria and the region, El-Mostafa Benlamlih and Muhannad Hadi.
In addition, 6.8 million are displaced inside the country and roughly the same number live as refugees outside Syria.
The humanitarian officials said that millions of Syrians were being pushed to the brink of survival amid a collapse of basic services, an ongoing cholera outbreak, increasing food and energy prices and an economic crisis.
The 6 February earthquakes only compounded this suffering, affecting an estimated 8.8 million people in the country.
UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said that in the aftermath of the earthquakes there was now a “collective humanitarian imperative” to depoliticize relief efforts in terms of access and resources.
Countries should stop undermining work of human rights’ defenders: Expert
Officials in many countries “vilify and target” human rights defenders instead of recognizing their crucial work which helps build fairer societies, a UN-appointed independent expert said on Wednesday.
In a report to the Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor said that “States can and should do more to protect defenders”. The expert stressed that 25 years after States agreed on a Declaration to promote and protect the work of human rights defenders, their contributions were often ignored.
The expert also reminded the Council that in 1998, the Declaration on human rights defenders was adopted by consensus and they had all “agreed to respect and implement it”.
Ms. Lawlor highlighted the challenging circumstances in which human rights defenders operated worldwide:
“It is exactly because defenders peacefully confront powerful vested interests, because they expose corruption, because they refuse to accept injustice, because they challenge criminal gangs, because they talk about issues governments want to hide, because they tell the truth, and because they make good things happen that they are attacked.”
Despite these challenges, rights activists have achieved positive change – the Special Rapporteur noted – including in changing legislation, getting people released from prison or calling out corruption.
Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer, UN News.