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Eight trends that will impact children in 2023

The war in Ukraine, has resulted in high food and energy prices, global hunger, and inflation – just one example of the way that crises, affecting millions around the world, including children, affect each other.

The report, “Prospects for Children in 2023: A Global Outlook”, also looks at a range of other significant areas, from the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the fragmentation of the internet, and the climate emergency. Here are eight insights contained within the study.

1) The pandemic casts a long shadow, but health breakthroughs offer hope

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for strong global health security and many countries remain at risk. Unfortunately, it is children who are so often the most vulnerable – if not to the virus itself, then to its many impacts.

At the same time, the pandemic has spurred remarkable progress in vaccine development and reforms in global health systems and, in 2023, it is essential the world continues to strengthen health architecture around the world.

A child received a vaccine from a Department of Health worker in Ghwairan neighbouhood, Hasakeh city, northeast Syria, on 26 Oct 2022.
© UNICEF/Delil Souleiman

A child receives a vaccine in Hasakeh City, Syria (file)

2) Efforts at taming inflation have unintended impact on child poverty

Soaring inflation has been the economic story of the year and, unsurprisingly, its impacts can weigh heavily on families and children. Attempts to tame price rises can also have harsh consequences, like slowing economic growth and reducing job opportunities – particularly for young people.

Government action to expand and protect social benefits, cushion the most vulnerable from the impacts of economic austerity. 

3) Food and nutrition insecurity is set to continue 

Food insecurity has been rising as a result of extreme weather events, bottlenecks in key supply chains, and conflicts like the war in Ukraine.

As prices go up, families across the world find it tougher to feed their children – and that’s likely to continue in 2023.

Making the world’s food systems more resilient, is one way to mitigate this issue.

On a misty morning, the Manabovo river is completely dry, the inhabitants are gathering on its bed to dig holes in the hope to find water.
© UNICEF/Safidy Andrianantenain

A girl crosses a bridge over a dried up river (file)

4) Energy crises cause immediate harm, but a focus on sustainability means a greener future

For billions of people, rising energy prices are sharply increasing the cost of living, and the outlook for 2023 is uncertain.

That outlook has spurred an even greater focus on transitioning to clean and sustainable energy sources, with the potential to create new jobs for young people.

However, many of them don’t feel prepared for these new careers, so preparing young job seekers with training opportunities, needs to be a critical part of any green energy agenda.

5) Focus on climate finance, debt relief for developing countries

Developing countries face multiple challenges as they attempt to recover from the pandemic, address the climate crisis, and deal with economic stress, but financial support for these countries is not increasing to meet their escalating needs.

Without reforms to unlock additional development finance, resources will be spread increasingly thin and urgent needs will be left unmet – and that’s bad news for children.

A little boy on a children's bicycle on the territory of temporary shelters in Lviv, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov

Temporary shelter for Ukrainian refugees in Lviv (file)

6) Democracy under threat, social movements push back

Democracy has been increasingly imperilled in recent years, and it will continue to be challenged in 2023. Political instability can lead to positive social change, but it can also leave the door open for authoritarian leaders.

In 2023, it is likely that young people will play an even more prominent role in social movements, whether in climate action, mental health, education, or gender equality. Their advocacy will be powerful and will contribute to momentum for change.

7) Increased antagonism complicates efforts to help children

In an atmosphere of increasing factionalism, multilateralism becomes more difficult: the number of children in need is currently at its highest level since World War Two, and an antagonistic world is unlikely to lead to positive outcomes for children.

Improved international cooperation is needed for multilateral organizations to be able to address challenges facing children; there are still opportunities to set tensions aside, find common ground and prioritize the well-being of children.

8) The internet becomes less open, and more fragmented

Technological, commercial and political factors, are fragmenting the web into isolated islands of connectivity and governance.

Children are particularly affected since they rely heavily on the internet for their education and social interactions. In 2023, we are likely to see efforts to promote a free, inclusive, and secure web, and all opportunities to create a digital future that benefits children must be seized.

Read the full report here.

Libya: human rights abuses must be addressed, says UN probe

The UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya was established by the Human Rights Council in June 2020, to investigate alleged abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed in Libya since 2016.

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The panel’s latest official visit to Libya which ended on Sunday heard testimony from victims’ relatives of extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, human trafficking, internal displacement, the existence of mass burial sites and morgues containing corpses that families cannot access.

Justice long overdue

“The families of these victims have waited far too long for justice,” said Mohammad Auajjar, Chair of the FFM, which also includes fellow independent human rights experts, Tracy Robinson and Chaloka Beyani. “Libyan authorities owe it to them to share information about their loved ones, to meet them and give them answers. Silence is unacceptable.”

“We, too, have asked repeatedly for answers to the status of multiple investigations concerning serious human rights violations, but to date there has been no satisfactory response,” Mr. Auajjar added.

Ms. Robinson maintained that the State’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law “have not produced justice for the victims and their families”.

Call for release of Iftikhar Boudra

They also called for the immediate release of Iftikhar Boudra, who was detained in Benghazi four years ago, following critical comments she made on social media about militarization in eastern Libya.

Ms. Boudra is reportedly critically ill and her relatives say that they have not been allowed to visit her for months.

The Mission thanked the Libyan Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Libyan Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, for facilitating its visit, which included meetings with other senior officials including the Chief of General Staff of the Libyan Armed Forces, and the President of the Supreme Judicial Council.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan visits the landfill site in Tarhunah, Libya, where over 250 have been identified across a number of mass graves.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan visits the landfill site in Tarhunah, Libya, where over 250 have been identified across a number of mass graves.

Mission continues

The FFM welcomed the invitation from high-ranking Government officials to continue its investigations and its cooperation with the internationally-recognized Government.

The Fact-Finding Mission was established by the Human Rights Council in June 2020 with a mandate to investigate alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed in Libya since 2016.

🇱🇾#LIBYA “The families of these victims have waited far too long justice,” Mohammad Auajjar, chair of the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission for Libya, said after hearing testimony of serious #humanrights violations in #Tripoli last week. Full Statement➡️ https://t.co/z19XDcrgmD https://t.co/4h9CxiXNet

Afghanistan: Humanitarians await guidelines on women’s role in aid operations

Representing the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), they stressed that the world’s largest humanitarian operation – supporting some 28 million people in Afghanistan – simply cannot function without women staff. 

The officials reported on their mission to the country last week, in the wake of the edict prohibiting Afghan women from working with local and international aid agencies, announced on 24 December. 

Days later, the de facto Taliban authorities authorized women to continue working in healthcare.   

A similar exception was made in education, though focused on the primary level as Afghan girls and women have been barred from attending high school and university. 

A clear message 

In their meetings with the Taliban, the IASC mission expressed opposition to the ban, which they hoped would be rescinded, and advocated for exemptions in all aspects of humanitarian action. 

They were told that guidelines are being developed, and were asked to be patient, said Martin Griffiths, UN relief chief and the IASC chair, speaking during a press conference at UN Headquarters. 

“I’m somebody who doesn’t like to speculate too much, because it is a matter of speculation.  Let’s see if these guidelines do come through. Let’s see if they are beneficial. Let’s see what space there is for the essential and central role of women in our humanitarian operations,” he said.  

“Everybody has opinions as to whether it’s going to work or not. Our view is that the message has clearly been delivered: that women are central, essential workers in the humanitarian sector, in addition to having rights, and we need to see them back to work.” 

Women’s vital role 

Humanitarians will require $4.6 billion to fund their activities in Afghanistan this year. 

Three years of drought-like conditions, economic decline, and the impacts of four decades of conflict, have left roughly two-thirds of the population, 28 million people, dependent on aid, with six million on the brink of starvation. 

Women comprise 30 per cent of the 55,000 Afghan nationals working for NGOs in the country, according to Janti Soeripto, President and Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children. 

“Without women on our teams, we cannot provide humanitarian services to millions of children and women,” she said. 

“We won’t be able to identify their needs; communicate to female heads of households, of which there are many in Afghanistan after years and years of conflict, and to do so in a safe and culturally appropriate way.” 

Lives at risk 

Furthermore, many women aid workers are themselves the sole breadwinners for their families, which means many more households will go wanting. 

“We’ve made it very clear that humanitarian aid must never be conditional, and it cannot discriminate,” said Ms. Soeripto.  “We were not there to politicize aid. We cannot do this work without women in all aspects of our value chains.” 

The loss of these valuable workers also comes as Afghanistan is facing its coldest winter in 15 years, with temperatures falling to nearly -30 degrees Celsius, resulting in numerous deaths. 

The IASC mission visited a clinic on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, run by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a local partner. 

Services restored 

Critical health and nutrition services there are up and running again now that women staff are back on board, said Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of CARE International. 

The clinic’s staff also shared a horrific statistic, as 15 per cent of the children who seek help suffer from severe acute malnutrition. 

“So, let there be no ambiguity. Tying the hands of NGOs by barring women from giving life-saving support to other women will cost lives,” she said, speaking from Kabul. 

During their meetings with the de facto authorities, the humanitarian chiefs also pushed for the full inclusion of girls and women in public life. 

Huge learning loss 

More than one million Afghan girls have lost out on learning due to the order banning them from secondary school, which has added to losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The university ban, announced last month, has further crushed their hopes, said Omar Abdi, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Programmes.  

“We are very concerned about girls’ and women’s development and particularly their mental health. In 2023, if secondary school education remains closed, an estimated 215,000 girls who attended grade six last year will once again be denied the right to learn,” he said. 

Despite the bleak outlook, Mr. Abdi pointed to a few positive signs.

Room for hope 

Since the ban, some 200,000 girls continue to attend secondary schools in 12 provinces, and women secondary school teachers continue to receive their salaries. 

“The officials we met in Kabul…reaffirmed that they are not against girls learning in secondary schools, and again promised to re-open once the guidelines are approved by their leader,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the number of community-based education classes in private homes and other locations has doubled to 20,000 over the past year, serving some 600,000 children, more than half of them girls. 

“These positive signs are the results of both the commitment from the de facto authorities and pressure from local communities to keep schools and community schools open,” said Mr. Abdi. 

“As long as communities continue to demand education, we must continue to support both public and other forms of education, community-based classrooms, catch-up classes and vocational training.” 


WHO calls for more action to end ‘cycles of poverty and stigma’ related to tropical diseases

To mark World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, the UN agency has released a report highlighting progress and challenges in delivering care for these 20 conditions, which mainly affect the world’s poorest people

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NTDs are caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins, and can be deadly.  Other examples are Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, chikungunya, rabies, scabies and yaws. 

Stigma and hardship 

They are mainly prevalent in tropical areas, primarily in locations where water safety, sanitation and access to healthcare are inadequate. These diseases often cause life-long stigma, and resulting economic hardship, and have devastating health, social and economic consequences. 

Although nearly 180 countries and territories reported at least one case of NTDs in 2021, just 16 nations account for 80 per cent of the global burden. Globally, some 1.65 million people are estimated to require treatment for at least one of these diseases. 

“Around the world, millions of people have been liberated from the burden of neglected tropical diseases, which keep people trapped in cycles of poverty and stigma,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General.  

“But as this progress report shows, we still have a lot of work to do,” he added. 

Building on progress 

The report showed that the number of people requiring NTD interventions fell by 80 million between 2020 and 2021.  

Furthermore, eight countries had eliminated at least one of these diseases during this period.  As of last year, the number stood at 47 countries, and more were on the road to achieving this target. 

These accomplishments build on a decade of significant progress, said WHO, with 25 per cent fewer people requiring interventions in 2021 than in 2010.  

Additionally, more than a billion people were treated for NTDs each year between 2016 and 2019. 

The COVID-19 impact 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had significant impact on community-based interventions, access to health facilities, and on supply chains for healthcare products.   

As a result, 34 per cent fewer people received treatment between 2019 and 2020, even if a general resumption of activities sparked an 11 per cent increase in recovery the following year, with roughly 900 million people treated. 

In 2020, WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly, endorsed an NTD road map for the coming decade, and the report emphasizes the need for more action and investment to reverse delays and accelerate progress. 

Accountability, financing and partnerships 

Promoting country ownership and accountability, as well as sustainable and predictable financing, will be key to providing quality NTD services. 

WHO also stressed the importance of multi-sectoral collaboration and partnerships.

Last week, the UN agency signed a new agreement with Gilead Sciences, a research-based American biopharmaceutical company, for the donation of 304,700 vials of AmBisome, an antifungal medicine used to treat visceral leishmaniasis in countries most impacted by the disease, such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nepal, Somalia and South Sudan. 

This new three-year collaboration, which extends a previous agreement to 2025, is estimated at $11.3 million and also will support improved coverage and access to diagnosis and treatment. 

WHO urged more partners and donors to fill existing gaps that hamper the full-scale implementation of NTD activities at the global and local levels.

Around the world, neglected tropical diseases affect more than 1 billion people, trapping generations in cycles of poverty and stigma. Today on World Neglected Tropical Diseases day, @WHO’s message is clear: Act Now, Act Together, to #BeatNTDs.
https://t.co/MVDpQjbMyM https://t.co/Oj9kQtyckW

Guterres strongly condemns deadly mosque attack in Pakistan

News reports stated that a militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred at a crowded mosque. Reports showed that the bombing caused the roof to collapse on top of those inside.

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‘Abhorrent’ attack

“It is particularly abhorrent that the attack occurred at a place of worship,” the Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement issued by his Spokesperson. “Freedom of religion or belief, including the ability to worship in peace and security, is a universal human right.”

Extending his condolences to the victims’ families and wishes for a prompt recovery to those injured, Mr. Guterres reiterated the solidarity of the United Nations with the Government and people of Pakistan in their efforts to address terrorism and violent extremism.

‘Sacred places’ must feel safe

Also condemning the attack, the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Miguel Ángel Moratinos, emphasized in a statement that all forms of violence and acts of terror against civilians and religious sites on account of their religion or belief, are intolerable and unjustifiable and should be unequivocally condemned.

Concern over rise in attacks

“Houses of worship are sacred places where worshippers should be able to practice and declare their faith safely and freely,” he said, also expressing deep concern at the overall rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and all acts of violence directed against members of any religious or other communities.

This includes incidents motivated by Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia and prejudices against persons of other religions, beliefs, gender or race.

UN Plan of Action

Calling for mutual respect of all religions and faiths and for fostering a culture of fraternity and peace, he asked governments and other stakeholders to support the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites,  which has been developed by the Alliance, at the request of the Secretary-General.

@antonioguterres strongly condemns the suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan.

It is particularly abhorrent that the attack occurred at a place of worship. Freedom of religion or belief, including the ability to worship in peace & security, is a universal human right. https://t.co/nzGVJhTYiF

Two years on from Myanmar military coup, UN chief stresses international unity, as arrests, airstrikes continue

Ahead of 1 February – marking two years since the military overturned and arbitrarily detained members of the democratically elected civilian Government, including President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – the Secretary-General, in a statement issued by his Spokesperson, raised several concerns.

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He also condemned all forms of violence as the multidimensional crisis in Myanmar continues to deteriorate and fuel serious regional implications.

Imprisonment, aerial bombardment

Drawing attention to the military’s stated intention to hold elections, he highlighted intensifying aerial bombardment and burning of civilian houses, along with ongoing arrests, intimidation and harassment of political leaders, civil society actors and journalists.

In this vein, he said without conditions permitting the people of Myanmar to freely exercise their political rights, “the proposed polls risk exacerbating instability.”

He said he continued to stand in solidarity with the Burmese people and to support to their democratic aspirations for an inclusive, peaceful and just society, alongside the protection of all communities, including the mainly Muslim Rohingya minority.

In this regard, he said “the United Nations is committed to staying in Myanmar and addressing the multiple vulnerabilities arising from the military’s actions since February 2021.” However, this requires full and unhindered access to all affected communities as well as prioritizing the safety and security of UN agencies and humanitarian partners, he added.

Security Council resolution

In light of these and other issues, he welcomed the 21 December 2022 adoption of Security Council resolution 2669 (2022) as an important step and underlined the urgency for strengthened international unity.

It demands an immediate end to violence, increased restraint on all sides, and the release of those arbitrarily detained.

As such, his Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer will coordinate closely with the new Special Envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Chair to engage intensively with all relevant parties in Myanmar to achieve an end to the violence and to support a return to democracy.

Wednesday marks two years since the Myanmar military overturned & arbitrarily detained members of the democratically elected civilian Government. @antonioguterres continues to stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar. Full statement 👇

Tedros: COVID-19 remains an international health threat

Tedros’s decision follows the advice offered at the latest coronavirus Emergency Committee meeting last Friday, held at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva via videoconference.

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There is little doubt that this virus will remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future,” the Committee said.

It is three years to the week since COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency of international concern. The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first reported in Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019.

Still a killer

The WHO Director-General said that although the world is in a better position than a year ago, when Omicron infections surged, more than 170,000 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported globally, in just the last eight weeks. 

Tedros noted once again that surveillance and genetic sequencing of the coronavirus have declined globally, making it more difficult to track known variants and detect new mutations. 

He warned that health systems continue to struggle to treat a high number of COVID-19 patients and others with influenza and respiratory infections, amid staff shortages and health worker burnout. 

The value of vaccines

The UN health agency chief also insisted that vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics remain critical in preventing severe disease, saving lives and taking the pressure off health systems and health workers globally.

Despite their proven worth, Tedros said that the COVID-19 response remains “hobbled” in too many countries that are unable to provide these tools to the populations most in need, older people and health workers. 

Globally, there have been more than 752.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6.8 million deaths, reported to WHO’s Coronavirus dashboard.

At the WHO meeting of the Emergency COVID Committee, participants heard that globally, 13.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered, with 89 per cent of health workers and 81 per cent of older adults (over 60) completing the primary series.

Committee members expressed concerns about insufficient vaccine uptake in low and middle-income countries, as well as in the highest-risk groups globally, and the uncertainty associated with emerging variants. 

‘Pandemic fatigue’

They also recognized that “pandemic fatigue” and the impression of reduced risk “have led to drastically reduced use of public health and social measures, such as masks and social distancing”.

Among its recommendations, the UN health agency urged countries to remain vigilant and to continue to report surveillance and genomic sequencing data to WHO.

“Appropriately targeted” public health and social measures should also be implemented where necessary, and the most vulnerable communities should be vaccinated to minimize severe disease and deaths, the WHO meeting heard.

Answering people’s concerns about COVID-19 remains key to improving why it is so important to implement preventative that will keep the coronavirus at bay, the UN health agency said.

The Emergency Committee explained that although the Omicron variants that are circulating globally remain highly transmissible, infection no longer necessarily means that severe disease will follow, when compared to earlier coronavirus variants of concern.

The Emergency Committee issued 7 key recommendations to WHO Member States:

1⃣ focussing on vaccination & boosters
2⃣ improving data reporting to WHO
3⃣ increasing uptake & long-term availability of #COVID19 vaccines, diagnostics & therapeutics

📌 https://t.co/1fKPcWh1JN https://t.co/wDFPzvXzmt

‘A great victory’: Odesa mayor reacts to UNESCO Heritage List inclusion

Mr. Trukhanov spoke to UN News shortly after the decision was announced, on Wednesday, and explained the laborious process that led to the inclusion.

Odessa Mayor Gennady Trukhanov.

Odesa Mayor, Gennady Trukhanov

Gennady Trukhanov We applied for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List back in 2009 and were accepted into the provisional list. But the procedure dragged on and, with the onset of the war, there was a real threat that our architectural monuments would be destroyed.

So, in the first month of the invasion by Russian troops, I turned to our Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs, in order to apply for the accelerated inclusion of our historical centre and port in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

We are very grateful to UNESCO for its support. We held a lot of meetings online, and UNESCO provided us with consultants who helped us to complete our dossier correctly. Almost every day we were in close contact with them and, without their support and legal advice, it would have been very difficult to do all this work.

We have a very difficult job ahead of us: a UNESCO commission will come to us within the next couple of months, and we need to create a body to monitor the preservation of our cultural heritage.

Streets of Odessa during the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Odessa Mayor’s Office

Streets of Odessa during the Russian invasion of Ukraine

UN News: Since the first days of the invasion, Odesa has been regularly attacked. What have the city authorities done to protect the historical part of the city?

Gennady Trukhanov: We covered all our monuments with sandbags, but it is difficult to ensure complete security. For example, a blast from a rocket that was shot down damaged an architectural monument, the Vorontsov Palace on Prymorskyi Boulevard, part of the roof was destroyed, and the windows were smashed out.

Of course, there’s nothing we can do in the case of a direct hit, but we can protect our monuments from a blast wave, from fragments. The Opera House was surrounded by bags for a long time, but later we partially unblocked it in order to show that today Ukraine still lives, and that we support our cultural values.

Our colleagues in Italy, who have extensive experience of cooperation with UNESCO, suggested that we transfer especially valuable paintings from our museums to them for temporary storage, since we constantly experience power outages, heat supply, and paintings need a certain temperature regime. We are considering taking advantage of this offer.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres with the Mayor of Odessa Gennady Trukhanov
Odessa’s Mayor Office

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres with the Mayor of Odessa Gennady Trukhanov

UN News: Despite the war, does cultural life continue in Odesa today?

Gennady Trukhanov: Yes, cultural life in Odesa continues.

Premieres and performances are being held at the Opera House in compliance with all security measures; this means that attendance numbers are limited to the capacity of the bomb shelter.

We think that engaging in cultural activities is therapy for the population, so that they don’t get too depressed. The war has been going on for almost a year, and it can be difficult to maintain morale.

The first commercial vessel carrying grain under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
© UNOCHA/Levent Kulu

The first commercial vessel carrying grain under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

UN News: The port of Odesa is one of the three participating in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. How has life in the city changed since the program started?

Gennady Trukhanov: I was born and raised in Odesa and, when the port stopped working, ships did not sail, and the port was silent. it was very sad to see.

But since the beginning of the implementation of the Initiative, which became possible thanks to international assistance and the personal efforts of the UN Secretary General, it was possible to start the work of the port and restore the transportation of humanitarian cargo.

For port workers, and all the companies whose activities are connected with the port, it was of great importance, as well as for all of us, and for the whole world. It’s like a return to the life we ​​had before.

We would like the Initiative to be extended, although we understand that all this is not easy. We support these efforts, we are grateful for them. and we hope that they will be crowned with success.

Israel-Palestine: UNICEF warns children are paying ‘the highest price’ as violence escalates

Children continue to pay the highest price of violence,” the statement declared. “As the situation remains very volatile, UNICEF fears that an increasing number of children will suffer.”

Just a few weeks into the new year, seven Palestinian children and one Israeli child had been killed and many more injured.

Since 26 January alone, the terrorist attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue left at least seven Israelis dead and three injured, and the raid of a West Bank refugee camp resulted in the killing of nine Palestinians.

This year, news reports indicate that some 30 Palestinians had reportedly been killed in the West Bank – including a 14-year-old boy.

A similar pattern in 2022 led to the deaths of more than 150 Palestinians and 20 Israelis in the West Bank and Israel.

Participants in a workshop in a family centre at Anqaa society in Jabaliya, northern Gaza. (2016)

Participants in a workshop in a family centre at Anqaa society in Jabaliya, northern Gaza. (2016)

Secretary-General António Guterres and top United Nations officials had condemned last week’s killings, calling for restraint and a return to peace talks.

Echoing those calls, UNICEF appealed to all parties to de-escalate, exercise the utmost restraint and refrain from using violence, especially against children, in accordance with international law, stressing that “this must end; violence is never a solution, and all forms of violence against children are unacceptable.”

For its part, UNICEF aims at helping young people in a range of ways, from hosting hackathons to tackling trauma triggered by violence and displacement, including support for 12 family centres across Gaza, providing psychosocial services to more than 15,000 children.

Hate Speech: Turning the tide

The rise and impact of hate speech is being amplified, at an unprecedented scale, by new communications technologies, one of the most common ways of spreading divisive rhetoric on a global scale, threatening peace around the world.

According to leading international human rights organization, Minority Rights Group, one analysis records a 400-fold increase in the use of hate terms online in Pakistan between 2011 and 2021.

Being able to monitor hate speech makes can provide valuable information for authorities to predict future crimes or to take measures afterwards.

The Sentinel Project is a Canadian non-profit organization who’s Hatebase initiative monitors the trigger words that appear on various platforms and risk morphing into real-world violence. Chris Tucker, the executive director of the Sentinel Project, describes it as an “early warning indicator that can help us to identify an increased risk of violence”.

It works by monitoring online spaces, especially Twitter, looking for certain keywords, in several different languages, and then applying certain contextual rules to determine what was or was not most likely to be actually hateful content.

The database is available to many other organisations, from academia, NGOs, and the UN to individual researchers or civil society organisations that use the data for their own purposes.


‘Hate speech loads the gun, misinformation pulls the trigger’

For Mr Tucker, hate speech and misinformation are closely related: “Hate speech loads the gun, misinformation pulls the trigger. And that’s the kind of the relationship that we’ve come to understand over the years”. It’s now theoretically possible for any human being who can access an Internet connexion to become a producer of that sort of content. And so that really does change things, and with a global reach.”

Another organization doing a similar kind of hate speech mapping is the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

The Network monitors every single trial related to war crime atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and amounts to 700 open cases. In mapping hate it looks out for four different aspects; hateful narratives by politicians, discriminatory language, atrocity denial and actual incidents on the ground where minority groups have been attacked.

According to Dennis Gillick the executive director and editor of their branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina the primarily drivers of hate narratives in the country are populist, ethno-nationalist politicians.

UNiting Against Hate Podcast
United Nations

“The idea behind the entire mapping process is to prove the correlation between political statements and political drivers of hate and the actual atrocities that take place,” says Mr Gillick.

The Network also want to prove that there is a lack of systematic prosecution of hate crimes and that the hateful language allows for this perpetuating circle of violence, with more discriminatory language by politicians and fewer prosecutions.

“As a result of hate speech, we have seen a rising number of far-right groups being mobilised,” explains Mr Gillick. “We are seeing fake NGOs or fake humanitarian groups being mobilized to spread hateful or discriminatory language, in order to expand this gap between the three different ethnic and religious groups in this country.”

The real-life consequences reported by the Network have included defacing or vandalizing mosques, or churches, depending on where a specific faith group is in the minority, and open calls to violence.

According to Mr. Gillick, this is fuelling the agenda of ethno-nationalist parties who want to cause divisions.

In San Francisco in the United States, demonstrators take to the streets to protest against the rise of race-related hate crimes against people of Asian descent.
Unsplash/Jason Leung

San Francisco demonstration against the rise of ant-Asian hate crimes (file)

Changing the narrative

The way to combat this toxic environment, according to Mr. Gillick, is to create counter-narratives, disseminating accurate, factual information and stories that promote unity rather than division.

However, he acknowledges that this is a big ask. “It is difficult to counter public broadcasters, big media outlets with several hundred journalists and reporters with thousands of flights a day, with a group of 10 to 15 journalists who are trying to write about very specific topics, in a different way, and to do the analytical and investigative reporting.”

One organization that is trying to create counter-narratives is Kirkuk Now, an independent media outlet in Iraq, which is trying to produce objective and quality content on these groups and share it on social media platforms.

“Our focus is on minorities, internally displaced people (IDPs), women and children and, of course, freedom of expression,” says editor-in-chief of Kirkuk now, Salaam Omer. “We see very little content [about them] in the Iraqi media mainstream. And if they are actually depicted, they are depicted as problems,” Mr Omer says.

In Pakistan, where certain religious or faith-based groups are very vulnerable – in particular Ahmadis and Shia and then Hindus and Christians – Bytes for All, a human rights organization and think tank, launched an online to counter hate speech.

The campaign sought pledges from different organisations in Pakistan and the public to amplify the message. It was launched in 2021 on Twitter, where it became one of the top ten trends in the country.

The next phase involved creating video messages highlighting the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan, and university roadshows, to engage with young people.

The campaign targeted those aged between 15 and 35, who make up a majority of Pakistan’s population because, says Mr. Baloch, “they were actually the people who were using social media platforms, engaged in spewing hate speech, and exposed to hateful messages as well”.

A group of people advocate against hate and discrimination based on ethnicity and religion in the Central African Republic. (2017)
OCHA/Yaye Nabo Sène

Young people in the Central African Republic with a sign in French reading “No to Hate”

Long-term solutions

There is a widespread belief that social media companies must be made responsible for the content they carry, and sanctioned if hate speech is spread on their platforms but, for Claire Thomas, deputy director of international NGO Minority Rights Group, this is not a long-term solution to the problem.

“What we saw in Myanmar was that when Facebook started to effectively police what was on its platform, the hate speech in Myanmar moved to Tik Tok. When you have multiple platforms with very large audiences, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. When you think about where those platforms are based and what jurisdictions have control over them, our ability to make them police their own content effectively is really quite limited”.

In Ms. Thomas’s view, there should be more of a focus on educating people on the dangers and damaging effects of hate speech, and ensuring that they have greater access to balanced content.

“Now, I know that’s a huge undertaking, and many people don’t believe that it’s possible”, she admits, “but for me, it’s where we should try to put our efforts moving forward.”

UNiting Against Hate, episode 3
United Nations

‘Hate speech is profitable’

For Tendayi Achiume, a former independent UN human rights expert, more attention needs to be paid to the business models of social media companies. “A lot of the time people want to talk about content moderation, what should be allowed on these platforms, without paying close attention to the political economy of these social media platforms. And it turns out hate speech is profitable”.

Ms. Achiume argues that there is an urgent need to create spaces where people with different opinions can connect. At the same time, she says that a wider conversation needs to take place, regarding the way in which people are represented in the media and online.

“The ways in which our worlds are formed are really complex. And I think that the dialogues have to be positioned side by side with all of the other ways our worlds and our relationships are constructed.”

You can subscribe to our UN Podcasts series, UNiting Against Hate, here.

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