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COVID-19 impact on tourism could deal $4 trillion blow to global economy: UN report

The estimate is based on losses caused by the pandemic’s direct impact on tourism and the ripple effect on related sectors, and is worse than previously expected. 

Last July, UNCTAD estimated that the standstill in international tourism would cost the global economy between $1.2 trillion and $3.3 trillion. 

The steep drop in tourist arrivals worldwide in 2020 resulted in a $2.4 trillion economic hit, the report said, and a similar figure is expected this year depending on the uptake in COVID-19 vaccines. 

Global vaccination plan crucial 

“The world needs a global vaccination effort that will protect workers, mitigate adverse social effects and make strategic decisions regarding tourism, taking potential structural changes into account,” said Isabelle Durant, the UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General. 

“Tourism is a lifeline for millions, and advancing vaccination to protect communities and support tourism’s safe restart is critical to the recovery of jobs and generation of much-needed resources, especially in developing countries, many of which are highly dependent on international tourism,” the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili added. 

Developing countries hit hard 

International tourist arrivals declined by about 1 billion, or 73 per cent, last year, while in the first quarter of 2021 the drop was around 88 per cent, the report said. 

Developing countries have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impact on tourism, with estimated reductions in arrivals of between 60 per cent and 80 per cent. 

They have also been hurt by vaccine inequity.  The agencies said the “asymmetric roll-out” of COVID-19 vaccines has magnified the economic blow to the tourism sector in these nations, as they could account for up to 60 per cent of global GDP losses. 

Rebound amid losses 

It is expected that tourism will recover faster in countries with high vaccination rates, such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

However, international tourist arrivals will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or later, due to barriers such as travel restrictions, slow containment of the virus, low traveller confidence and a poor economic environment.  

While a tourism rebound is anticipated in the second half of this year, the report expects a loss of between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 trillion in 2021, based on simulations which exclude stimulation programmes and similar policies. 

Likely outcomes 

The authors outline three possible scenarios for the tourism sector this year, with the most pessimistic reflecting a 75 per cent reduction in international arrivals. 

This scenario sees a drop in global tourist receipts of nearly $950 billion, which would cause a loss in real GDP of $2.4 trillion, while the second reflects a 63 per cent reduction in international tourist arrivals. 

The third considers varying rates of domestic and regional tourism.  It assumes a 75 per cent reduction in tourism in countries where vaccine rates are low, and 37 per cent reduction in countries with relatively high vaccination levels, mainly developed countries and some smaller economies.

Malian authorities urged to ‘break the cycle of impunity’ for human rights violations

Repeated attacks over the past six months by groups such as the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), as well as inter-communal violence, have resulted in numerous casualties, she said.  

At the same time, there has been a sharp increase in violations committed by national forces. 

‘Accountability must prevail’ 

“I again urge the Malian authorities to break the cycle of impunity and establish prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including those committed by the military. Accountability must prevail to ensure peace”, Ms. Bachelet stressed.  

“I note that the Malian Prime Minister recently said he is committed to ending impunity and so I call upon the Government to translate this commitment into action without delay,” she added. 

Ms. Bachelet cited data from the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, which showed that some 617 rights abuses by armed groups were recorded from January to June of this year, or a nearly 40 per cent increase over August to December 2020.   

The figure includes 165 killings: 147 men, nine women, seven boys and two girls.  

Sharp rise in abductions 

Mali has experienced two military coups over the past nine months, which have clouded efforts to restore an elected democratic government.  Transitional authorities have pledged to respect a calendar which calls for elections next February. 

Ms. Bachelet said the deteriorating human rights situation there is characterized by the steep rise in abductions, largely at the hands of community-based armed groups and militias in the central region, such as the Da Na Ambassagou militia, but also by armed groups such as JNIM. 

MINUSMA has documented at least 328 abductions during the first half of this year, which is significantly more than the 187 cases in 2020 and four-fold increase over 2019.  Again, most victims were men, who accounted for 307 of those captured, while 11 boys, nine women and a girl also were kidnapped. 

Respect the rule of law 

The UN mission also recorded a sharp rise in violations by State actors during the same period. Some 213 incidents were recorded, compared to 53 between August and December 2020. 

Most, or 155, were carried out by the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF), including extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of 44 civilians.  

“I urge the Malian authorities to ensure that the rule of law is respected and human rights upheld, and to take steps to enhance the gender balance in leadership roles during this transition period,” Ms. Bachelet said.  

She added that women account for just over 21 per cent of the transitional Government members, or six out of 28, which falls short of legislation that stipulates 30 per cent of positions filled by appointment or election must be held by women.

‘Remain vigilant’ against malicious technologies that could imperil future generations

“Digital technologies are increasingly straining existing legal, humanitarian and ethical norms, non-proliferation, international stability, and peace and security”, Izumi Nakamitsu warned the Estonian-led meeting, focused on peace and security in cyberspace.  

Moreover, she continued, they are lowering access barriers and opening new potential domains for conflict – giving both State and non-State actors the ability to wage attacks, including across international borders. 

Engagement by the Security Council on this issue is paramount — UN disarmament chief

Rising cybercrime 

By 2022, an estimated 28.5 billion networked devices will be connected to the internet, a significant increase from the 18 billion in 2017, according to the ODA chief. 

From disinformation to deliberate network disruptions, in recent years there has been a dramatic jump in malicious incidents targeting information and communications technology (ICT) that diminish trust between States and threaten critical infrastructure that depends on it. 

Ms. Nakamitsu recalled the Secretary-General’s concern over increasing cyberattacks on healthcare facilities during the COVOID pandemic, calling on the international community to do more to prevent and end them. 

“Online violent extremism and trafficking have an often-overlooked differentiated impact on women, men and children, as do other ICT-related threats such as cyberstalking, intimate partner violence and the non-consensual dissemination of intimate information and images”, she said, citing this as the reason why “equal, full and effective participation” of both women and men in decision-making in the digital arena must be prioritized. 

Fighting back 

While ICT threats are on the rise, so too are efforts to address them.  

For more than a decade expert groups at the government level have studied and made recommendations to address existing and emerging ICT dangers to international security, including confidence-building, capacity-building and cooperation measures while a so-called Open-ended Working Group has adopted “concrete, action-oriented recommendations”, the UN official said. 

Meanwhile, regional organizations are also undertaking efforts, from implementing voluntary, non-binding norms on States to pioneering regional confidence-building measures or adopting regional tools to reduce ICT risks. 

Photo: ITU

Photo: ITU

Everyone’s battle  

While the primary responsibility for international security lies with States, ICTs are an integral part of societies, and participants too have a role to play in securing cyberspace, the High Representative attested. 

“Perspectives from the private sector, civil society and academia contribute a unique and important part of the collective solution to cybersecurity that the international community is seeking”.  

Disarmament agenda 

Ms. Nakamitsu said the UN “stands ready to support States” and others in promoting a peaceful ICT environment, and cited the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation along with subsequent roundtable discussions that led to a Roadmap, which recommends actions for cooperation in the digital space. 

The UN chief’s Agenda for Disarmament, addresses new generation technologies that pose challenges to “existing legal, humanitarian and ethical norms; non-proliferation; and peace and security”, she added.  

The agenda calls for working with scientists, engineers and industry on technological innovation for peaceful purposes, and engaging with Member States to “foster a culture of accountability and adherence to emerging norms, rules and principles on responsible behaviour in cyberspace”. 

Council’s engagement ‘paramount’ 

As the digital space has come to underpin most aspects of daily life, the scale and pervasiveness of ICT “insecurity” is a major concern, the Disarmament chief said. 

She urged caution over assigning responsibility for ICT attacks, which could cause “significant consequences, including unintended armed responses and escalation”; States adopting “offensive postures” for hostile technology uses; and the development of “potentially destabilizing capabilities” by non-State armed and criminal groups, “with a high degree of impunity”.  

“Engagement by the Security Council on this issue is paramount”, concluded the ODA official.

Record-breaking ‘pressure-cooker’ heatwave hits Canada, US northwest

“An exceptional and dangerous heatwave is breaking in northwestern United States of America and western Canada; this is obviously a part of the world which is more accustomed to cool weather,” said Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “Temperatures are likely to reach as high as 45C by day for perhaps five or more days; so that’s a very long spell, with extremely warm nights in between.”

According to the UN agency, in 2018, vulnerable over-65s faced a record 220 million more “heatwave exposures” than between the 1986 and 2005 average.

All-time high

Canada’s all-time temperature record was broken on Sunday in Lytton, British Columbia, with a high of 46.6C. “This smashed the previous record – normally when you break a record, it’s by a small margin – this smashed the record by a full 1.6C,” Ms. Nullis said.

Less than 24 hours later, on Monday, Lytton broke the record again, this time measuring 47.9C, despite the fact that “it’s in the province of British Columbia, it’s to the Rocky Mountains, the Glacier National Park, and yet we’re seeing temperatures which are more typical of the Middle East or North Africa,” Ms. Nullis continued.

Extreme threats

Such extreme temperatures pose a major threat to people’s health, agriculture and the environment “because the region is not used to such heat and many people do not have air conditioning”, WMO said in a statement, before welcoming the fact that the authorities had issued a series of early weather warnings to limit the risk to those most vulnerable.

Mid-week peak

Citing Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan, WMO said that higher temperatures would likely peak early this week on the coast and by the middle of the week for the interior of British Columbia; afterwards, the baking heat is expected to move east towards Alberta.

“Yukon and North West Territories have recorded their all-time highest temperatures not just in June, but any point in the year. We are setting records that have no business in being set so early in the season,” said Mr. Castellan.

WMO’s Ms. Nullis explained that the extreme heat is caused by “an atmospheric blocking pattern” which has led to a “heat dome” trapped by low pressure either side.
“Normally you have the jet stream which is this vast high-moving belt of wind which …moves weather on, but it’s not happening this time…it’s almost like a pressure cooker effect and you’ve got very, very high heat.”

Early summer heat risk

The current heatwave follows another intensely hot period less than two weeks ago that baked the US desert Southwest and California, with hundreds of record highs.

Other parts of the northern hemisphere have also seen exceptional early hot summer conditions, including north Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, eastern Europe, Iran and the northwestern Indian continent.

Daily temperatures have exceeded 45C in several locations and passed 50C in the Sahara. 
Western Russia and areas around the Caspian Sea have also seen unusually high temperatures, the result of a large area of high pressure.

Moscow sizzler

Temperatures in the Moscow region are expected to reach mid-30C by day and remain above 20C at night, WMO said, while areas nearer the Caspian Sea are expected to experience temperatures reaching mid-40C and remain above 25C.

“It is likely that some all-time temperature records will be set during this heatwave,” WMO said, underscoring the impact of human-induced climate change, which has resulted in global temperatures being 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial levels.

Generation Equality: Alongside COVID lies an ‘equally horrific pandemic’ threatening women

On Wednesday, leaders from around the world will gather in Paris and online, in a massive push for gender equality. 

The Forum is a landmark event convened by UN Women, and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, in partnership with youth and civil society, to accelerate gender equality. 

In the early months of the pandemic, the UN projected that quarantines and lockdowns could lead to a shocking 15 million additional cases of gender-based violence every three months.  

“Sadly, those predictions appear to be coming true”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in an opinion piece for the UK-based Independent newspaper. 

Violence amidst lockdown 

One-in-three women experience violence in her lifetime, said the World Health Organization (WHO), and according to the Spotlight Initiative Global Annual Report, violence increased 83 per cent from 2019 to 2020, while cases reported to the police grew by 64 per cent. 

“From domestic violence to sexual exploitation, trafficking, child marriage, female genital mutilation and online harassment, violent misogyny has thrived in the shadow of the pandemic”, said the UN chief.  

The COVID pandemic has added to an “existing epidemic of violence against women and girls”, he added.  

The pervasiveness of violence against women and girls has led some to believe that it will continue forever.  

“This is as outrageous and self-defeating as it is plain wrong”, said the UN chief, noting that the Organization supported by its partnerships, have demonstrated that “change is possible”. 

At the Generation Equality Forum, the top UN official said he would call on States, companies and individuals to join in a global initiative “to end the fear and insecurity that threaten the health, rights, dignity and lives of so many women and girls”. 

Revealing data 

The Forum is a global movement convened by UN Women, and co-hosted by the Governments of Mexico and France to accelerate equality between women and men, girls and boys. 

To prepare for the discussions, the organizers shared some statistics highlighting where action is most needed. 

Although women make up half of the population, they hold only 20 per cent of its leadership, according to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  

This underscores the importance of feminist movements to advance women, including in leadership roles. 

And compared to men, women are 24 per cent more likely to lose their jobs and can expect their income to fall by 50 per cent more – making economic justice and rights imperative. 

At the same time, women are 10 per cent less likely than men to have internet access, leaving 433 million women globally on “mute”.  

Action now 

Action must be taken to ensure their equal access to technology and education so their voices can be heard. 

Turning to the climate crisis, women’s environmental activism receives just three per cent of philanthropic environmental funding – a miniscule sum for an enormous challenge. 

The organizers uphold that gender-equitable climate action must be built and the women who are disproportionally impacted by climate change heard. 

From Governments to corporations and youth-led groups to Foundations, forum participants aim to secure concrete, ambitious, and transformative commitments for gender equality, shaped the Action Coalitions, offer the world a roadmap for gender equality. 

‘Highest standards of conduct’ required for successful UN peacekeeping 

Therefore, “strengthening accountability for the conduct of peacekeeping personnel is…central to the Action For Peacekeeping initiative”, known as A4P, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message delivered at the meeting on Monday.  

Improvements underway 

Although the “vast majority” of UN personnel live up to the highest standards of conduct, any lapse not only has “a devastating impact on victims and survivors”, but also “undermines our operational efficiency and our global reputation”, explained Mr. Guterres. 

As the Organization works to increase transparency, strengthen internal accountability, and emphasizes the needs and rights of victims and survivors, steady progress has been made on improving training and reporting misconduct with Member States “vital partners in all these efforts”, he said. 

Go further  

To prevent misconduct, enforce standards and remedy harm, the top UN official underscored the importance of supporting victims and survivors, as well as children born from sexual exploitation or abuse by UN personnel. 

“This includes ensuring that peacekeepers who father children take full responsibility for them, by helping women to make paternity and child support claims”, he spelled out. 

Progress on this collective priority must continue by learning from and building on past lessons and ensuring accountability for UN personnel guilty of misconduct, said the UN chief. 

Making improvements 

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean Pierre-Lacroix reminded that conduct and discipline have been part of A4P since its inception. 

He also stressed the importance of being proactive in understanding where the gaps lie. 

While sharing good practices in prevention and enforcement, the top UN peacekeeper emphasized the need to “build on what is working and what demonstrates potential”. 

At the same time, he underscored the need to address challenges, such as timely investigations, ensure that sanctions are commensurate with the gravity of misconduct and support victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.  

Fulfilling the compact 

Turning to the Compact on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, the UN peacekeeping chief noted that 89 out of the 103 signatories to date are troop or police contributing countries.  

“The Secretary-General is clear that we must approach our efforts at protection from sexual exploitation and abuse across the United Nations system. Misconduct is not unique to peacekeeping and requires an integrated ‘one UN’ response, he said, calling on all Member States to join the Compact. 

The top UN peacekeeping official concluded by saying: “We cannot let up on our work to strengthen the conduct of peacekeeping personnel”.

Hospitals barely functioning, famine still looming in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

The development follows Monday’s reported entry into regional capital, Mekelle, of forces loyal to the opposition, after nearly eight months of heavy fighting.

In response to the pillaging of video equipment in Mekelle, UN Children’s Fund UNICEF on Monday, issued a statement denouncing those responsible, citing Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.

Earlier this month, the agency warned that 140,000 children are acutely malnourished and at risk of dying, unless aid access is forthcoming.

‘Extremely worried’

“We have seen reports that have come in and UNHCR is extremely worried about the latest developments inside Tigray, particularly in the capital Mekelle”, said Boris Cheshirkov, spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “Although we are thankful that our staff are all safe and accounted for, we are concerned about the lack of communication, as both electrical power and phone networks are not functioning.”

This made it “even more difficult for our staff to work and deliver humanitarian assistance”, Mr. Cheshirkov explained.

“We call for calm and restraint and appeal to all parties to the conflict to abide by international law to protect civilians, including people who have been displaced and to ensure that humanitarian workers can continue to exercise their duties and reach as many people as they can…in need of vital assistance right now.”

Reinforcing security: WHO

Echoing those concerns, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said that the UN agency was “taking measures to reinforce the security and wellbeing of our staff, but at the same time we are continuing to deliver activities where it is possible to do so”.

This includes camps for internally displaced people, access to essential health care and increasing the number of mobile health clinics operating in hard-to-access communities.

“We are obviously concerned about (the) potential for cholera, measles and malaria outbreaks in the region”, the WHO spokesperson said. “In addition, the Tigray region is also located in the meningitis belt and it is at risk of yellow fever outbreaks.”

After eight months of conflict between Ethiopian Government troops and those loyal to the dominant regional force, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), hospitals “are barely functioning”, people continue to be displaced and famine is “looming”, Mr. Jasarevic insisted.

There is also a serious danger of communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases spreading owing to a lack of food, clean water, safe shelter and access to health care. This risk is “very real”, the WHO official said. “All these factors combine – are literally a recipe – for larger epidemics.”

No place for children in conflict, UN chief tells Security Council 

Mr. Guterres urged warring parties to prioritize the prevention of violations against boys and girls, and called on countries to support their protection at all times. 

“There is no place for children in conflict, and we must not allow conflict to trample on the rights of children”, he said. 

Grave violations committed 

The Secretary-General presented his latest report on Children and Armed Conflict, which was published last week. 

It revealed that last year, grave violations were committed against some 19,300 youngsters affected by fighting in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Recruitment and use in hostilities remained the top violations, followed by killing and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access.  

“Moreover, new and deeply concerning trends emerged: an exponential increase in the number of children abducted, and in sexual violence against boys and girls”, Mr. Guterres said.  

“We are also seeing schools and hospitals, constantly attacked, looted, destroyed or used for military purposes, with girls’ educational and health facilities targeted disproportionately”. 

Challenges ‘magnified’ by pandemic 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for children worldwide, the crisis has magnified the challenges faced by those caught up in conflict, according to Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 

“We had hoped that parties to conflict would turn their attention from fighting each other, to fighting the virus”, she said, underlining why the agency supported the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. 

“Sadly, as this annual report shows, this call went unheeded”.  

Instead of laying down their arms, Ms. Fore said warring parties continued to fight, making it difficult for the UN and partners to reach children in need. 

“And lockdowns and travel constraints made the already challenging work of supporting these children all the more difficult”, she added, “affecting our ability to reach children with lifesaving support, constraining our work to release children from the ranks of armed groups, and slowing our efforts to trace and reunify children with their families and begin the long process of reintegration”. 

‘See the positive in us’  

The violations these youngsters have suffered come with long-lasting “invisible impacts”, including months or years of lost education, Academy Award-winning actor and activist Forest Whitaker told the Council. 

“Such gaps will turn into jeopardized careers and reduced opportunities”, he said. “And, in many cases, their opportunities will be also limited because of a second invisible impact of the grave violations, social stigma”. 

Mr. Whitaker is the founder of a peace and development initiative that has worked over the past decade in South Sudan, Uganda and other countries to rekindle the link between children affected by conflict and their communities. 

He spoke about one of the volunteers, a former child soldier called Benson Lugwar, who has become a respected figure in his community in northern Uganda. 

Though often stigmatized and marginalized, young people like him have a message of hope and resilience. 

“And they ask simple questions of us and the members of this assembly”, said Mr. Whitaker, who is also a Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

“They ask: ‘Will you take the time to listen to us? Will you work with us? Will you have the strength to see the positive in us?’ We must”. 

Violence against smuggled migrants widespread, but justice is lacking: UN report

The study focusses on transit routes in West and North Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and Central America. 

It also examines the differing types of violence inflicted on men and women, and presents factors and motivations behind abuse committed during smuggling operations. 

No reason for punishment 

“Our research showed that violence is used by the smugglers or other perpetrators as a form of punishment, intimidation or coercion, and often inflicted with no apparent reason”, said Morgane Nicot, who coordinated the development of the report. 

“We found that male migrants are primarily subjected to forced labour and physical violence while women are more exposed to sexual violence, leading to unwanted pregnancies and abortions. All genders can suffer from inhuman and degrading treatment.”  

Migrant smuggling is a profitable criminal activity, UNODC said, with desperate people paying to cross borders to escape natural disaster, conflict or persecution, or to seek employment, education or the chance to reunite with family members. 

Widespread violence, insufficient evidence 

Little is known about the violence or abuse they experience, or what impact it has on them, and how authorities handle these offences. 

“This is why we decided to conduct such necessary research”, Ms. Nicot said. “Our study also analyses how law enforcement officials respond to cases of aggravated smuggling and highlights how challenging it is to prosecute such crimes.” 

The report found violence is widespread on certain smuggling routes, but there is little evidence that such crimes lead to investigations or legal proceedings, especially in the transit countries where the offences are committed. 

“The violence that migrants experience during a smuggling venture is not always recorded or there is insufficient evidence to influence the severity of the sentences pronounced by national courts against smugglers”, Ms. Nicot explained. 

Some migrants are reluctant to report abuse because they fear being treated as criminals, either because of their irregular status or due to acts that are punishable in some countries, such as having an abortion, or having sex outside of marriage or with someone of the same sex.  

“Migrants also don’t come forward because a significant portion of the abuses stem from public officials who may also be involved in the actual migrant smuggling operation”, Ms. Nicot added. 

“These officials include border guards, police officers and staff who work in detention centres”.  

Recommendations for countries 

The report provides guidance for criminal justice professionals on how to investigate and prosecute cases of violence and abuse during migrant smuggling operations while also taking into consideration the gender-related needs and vulnerabilities. 

It also includes recommendations for countries on ways to respond to aggravated smuggling, protect and assist the migrants affected, and secure more convictions for cases of these crimes. 

“If we want to effectively counter the violence associated with migrant smuggling and provide migrants who have experienced trauma with appropriate protection and assistance, then we must understand why these abuses happen”, Ms. Nicot said. 

“We need to know more about the short and long-term impact such abuse has on people of various profiles and gender, and how national authorities can provide justice to victims of these offences. Our study is an important step in the right direction”, she concluded.  

UN rights office highlights policing reforms to address systemic racism 

Among the new measures proposed in the High Commissioner’s report on racial justice and equality, authorities are urged to reassess whether officers should continue to be the first responders to individuals with mental health problems. 

In these and other police actions, the report found that law enforcement officers were rarely held accountable for human rights violations and crimes against people of African descent. 

This was owing in part to “deficient investigations, a lack of independent and robust oversight…and a widespread “presumption of guilt” against people of African descent.  

“The status quo is untenable”, Ms. Bachelet said. “Systemic racism needs a systemic response. We need a transformative approach that tackles the interconnected areas that drive racism, and lead to repeated, wholly avoidable, tragedies like the death of George Floyd”. 

In a call to all States “to stop denying, and start dismantling, racism”, the UN rights chief appealed to them “to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress”. 

The High Commissioner’s report collected information on more than 190 cases where people had died in police custody around the world.  

Obstacles to justice 

It uncovered many similarities and patterns, such as the hurdles families encountered in trying to access justice, according to Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). 

“Accountability is crucial and families do have some form of satisfaction in seeing someone in prison for a crime that is as violent as the murder of George Floyd which we saw on video tape, but of course there are so many cases where there isn’t a video tape and there are even cases where there are video tapes but justice is not being dealt in those cases”, she said. 

Across numerous countries, notably in North and  South America and in Europe, people of African descent disproportionately live in poverty and face serious barriers in accessing education, healthcare, employment, housing and clean water, as well as to political participation and other fundamental human rights, the report maintained. 

These obstacles to fulfilling basic human rights contributed to a tradition of discrimination linked directly to colonialism and slave trading which resulted in the “dehumanization” of people of African descent, according to the report. 

Slavery link 

“We realized that a main part of the problem is that many people believe the misconceptions that the abolition of slavery, the end of the transatlantic trade and colonialism have removed the racially discriminatory structures built by those practices; [but] we found that this is not true,” said UN Human Rights Office’s Mona Rishmawi, Chief, Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch. 

As a result, countries have not paid adequate attention to the negative impact of policies on minority populations and the “conscious and unconscious bias” associated with it, the OHCHR officer insisted.  

For people of African descent, these legacy impacts are “a part of their daily life and the daily reality of dehumanization, marginalization and denial of their rights”. 

The High Commissioner’s report was set in motion by the Human Rights Council after international outrage at the killing of United States citizen George Floyd in 2020. His death was caused by police officer Derek Chauvin who was captured on video kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. 

After a six-week trial this year, Mr. Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced last week to prison for more than two decades. 

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