News in Brief 31 August 2023 |


    This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

    ‘Pervasive discrimination’ against people of African descent must stop: UN chief

    Countries must take urgent steps to dismantle entrenched racism and bring down the barriers preventing people of African descent from realising their human rights.

    That’s the message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the International Day for People of African Descent, marked on Thursday.

    He highlighted the contributions of people of African descent throughout history “in every area of human endeavour” and deplored the “pervasive discrimination” which they continue to face – a legacy of centuries of slavery and exclusion.

    The UN chief’s words were echoed by Verene Shepherd, chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, who warned of insufficient progress towards justice and equality for people of African descent. 

    Here she is, calling on States to develop anti-hate speech legislation as a measure against racism:

    “If we don’t criminalize hate speech, we’re not going to be able to address this trigger. Hate speech is a trigger to anti-Black racism and acts against people of African descent around the world.”

    Refusal to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines violates human rights

    Staying with the topic of racial discrimination: UN rights experts have called on States in the global North to forgo intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in the name of human rights.

    The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) adopted a decision on Wednesday under its “early warning and urgent action” procedures, stating that developed countries’ refusal to waive COVID-19 vaccine IP rights – such as patents and trademarks – violated non-discrimination guarantees under international human rights law.

    According to the latest data from the UN World Health Organization (WHO), while some 32 per cent of the global population have received at least one COVID-19 booster, in developing countries that proportion stands at less than one per cent.

    The Committee urged States to incorporate a mechanism that commits governments to suspend intellectual property rights in a health crisis, in the draft pandemic treaty currently under negotiation at the WHO.

    ‘Last line of defence’ against extinction: UNESCO World Heritage sites under climate change threat

    From the Everglades in Florida to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the climate clock is ticking on iconic spots that are home to thousands of endangered species.

    The UN’s education, science and culture agency (UNESCO) published new research on Thursday showing that sites protected under the World Heritage Convention harbour some 20 per cent of all of the planet’s biodiversity within just one per cent of the Earth’s surface.

    UNESCO warned of the urgent need to strengthen conservation measures at the sites, as global temperature increases could double the number of endangered species.

    The UN agency said that the 1,157 World Heritage sites are the “last line of defence” against extinction and safeguard up to one-third of all elephants, tigers and pandas worldwide. 

    Given their role as vital biodiversity hotspots, the sites must be protected “at all costs” by the States Parties of the Convention, the UN agency said.

    UNESCO called on countries to scale up conservation measures and prioritize the sites as part of their national biodiversity strategies. The agency also said that by 2025, all World Heritage site managers will be trained in climate change adaptation strategies, and by 2029 all sites will have their own climate adaptation plan in place.

    Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer, UN News.

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