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Israel: Annexation Is Illegal: Period: Any Annexation: Whether It Is 30% of the West Bank or 05%: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

|| Wednesday: July 01: 2020 || ά. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned Israel on Monday not to proceed along the ‘dangerous path’ of annexing a swathe of occupied Palestinian territory, urging the Government to listen to its own former senior officials along with the multitude of voices around the world. “Annexation is illegal. Period. Any annexation. Whether it is 30 per cent of the West Bank or five per cent.” Ms Michelle Bachelet said. She further said that it would have a disastrous impact on human rights throughout the Middle East.

She warned that, if, Israel went ahead, the shockwaves would last for decades.    While acknowledging that the precise consequences of annexation can not be predicted she upheld that they are likely to be disastrous for Palestinians, Israel itself and for the wider region. According to news reports, Israeli Prime Minister Mr Benjamin Netanyahu had set July 01 as the potential date to, unilaterally, annex parts of the occupied West Bank, as Palestinians warn of a return to resistance, even, violence.

Noting other attempts to annex parts of the territory, Ms. Bachelet maintained that this latest move would not only seriously damage peace efforts but, may, also, entrench, perpetuate and further heighten serious human rights violations, that have characterised the conflict for decades.

As population centres become enclaves, in addition to restricting movement, significant tracts of private land could be illegally expropriated or become inaccessible for Palestinians to cultivate land they legally own. Moreover, Palestinians, living within the annexed zone, would experience greater difficulty accessing essential services like education and health and humanitarian access, may, also, be hindered.

Palestinians would come under, even, heavier pressure to move out of the annexed zone and entire communities, that are currently not recognised under Israel’s planning regime, would be at high risk of forcible transfer, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

And Palestinians outside the annexed zone risk seeing their access to natural resources cut off, their opportunity for natural growth removed and, even, their ability to leave and return to their own country, severely restricted. Meanwhile, settlements, which are already a clear violation of international law, will, almost, certainly expand, increasing the existing friction between the two communities, OHCHR pointed out.

Calling the situation ‘a highly combustible mix’ Ms Bachelet expressed deep concern that, even, the most minimalist form of annexation, would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity.

“The existing two-tier system of law in the same territory will become embedded, with devastating impacts on the lives of Palestinians, who have little or no access to legal remedy.’’ she said. She said that under international humanitarian or human rights law, illegal annexation would not change Israel’s obligations as the occupying power.

“Instead, it will grievously harm the prospect of a two-State solution, undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations and perpetuate the serious existing human rights and international humanitarian law violations we witness today. The shockwaves of annexation will last for decades and will be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as, to the Palestinians. However, there is still time to reverse this decision.’’

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UN: Act on Broad Expert Call Denouncing China Abuses

 

|| Tuesday: July 01: 2020 || ά. The United Nations’ member countries should immediately respond to the unprecedented call by UN human rights experts to examine the Chinese government’s human rights record, Human Rights Watch said today. The UN Human Rights Council, whose 44th session is slated to begin on June 30, 2020, should address these issues as a matter of priority. On June 26, 50 UN special procedures, special rapporteurs and other human rights experts, issued a searing indictment of China’s human rights record.

The experts denounced the Chinese government’s ‘collective repression’ of religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, the repression of protest and impunity for excessive use of force by police in Hong Kong, censorship and retaliation against journalists, medical workers and others, who sought to speak out, following the Covid-19 outbreak and the targeting of human rights defenders across the country. The experts called for a special session on China, creating a dedicated expert on China and for UN agencies and governments to press China to meet its human rights obligations.

“In their statement, the UN experts have thrown down the gauntlet not just to China but, to UN member countries, that have been unwilling to act on China’s increasingly abusive human rights record.” said Mr John Fisher, Geneva Director at Human Rights Watch. “The Human Rights Council should not waste the opportunity to begin to hold China to account for its worsening violations.”

The UN experts’ statement highlighted the imminent threat to human rights in Hong Kong. Chinese authorities are set to impose draconian new national security legislation on July 01. The experts warned that the new law would violate China’s international legal obligations, interfere with the rights and autonomy of the Hong Kong people and place human rights defenders at risk. Echoing the UN experts’ call, Human Rights Watch urged UN Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres to appoint without delay a special envoy to track human rights violations, stemming from the law and related abuses.

The experts’ statement noted the harsh repression of religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet. The Chinese government’s ‘Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Extremism’ in Xinjiang has entailed mass arbitrary detention, surveillance, indoctrination and the destruction of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims’ cultural and religious heritage. The authorities in Tibetan areas have, also, stepped up the use of a nationwide anti-crime campaign to encourage people to denounce members of their communities on the slightest suspicion of sympathy for the exiled Dalai Lama or opposition to the government.

Under President Mr Xi Jinping, human right defenders across China endure enforced disappearances, politicised prosecutions, resulting in lengthy sentences, house arrest and surveillance. Several incarcerated activists, including, the 2010 Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, have either died in detention or shortly after being released, following alleged torture, ill-treatment or inadequate medical care.

At a time when China’s government has tried to play a more active role in the UN’s human rights system, the experts crucially called out China’s failure to engage in meaningful dialogue, its routine rejection of criticism and its refusal to accept most requests for country visits by UN experts. China’s active resistance to UN scrutiny calls into question its fitness to be elected to the Human Rights Council later this year.

UN member countries have not just an opportunity but a responsibility to address the UN experts’ recommendations, regarding a special session and a dedicated mandate to monitor China’s human rights practices. To make this a reality, the UN Secretary-General should immediately respond favourably to the experts’ appeal to appoint a special envoy.

“Many human rights defenders from China have paid the ultimate price simply for saying what these experts have said.” said Ms Sophie Richardson, the China Director at Human Rights Watch. “States should honour their memory and their own commitments to human rights and hold this powerful, abusive government to account.”

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WHO Act-Accelerator Needs $31.3 Billion in Funding for Diagnostics Therapeutics and Vaccines Development of Which Only $03.4 Billion Has So Far Been Pledged

 

|| Monday: June 29: 2020 || ά. On June 26 the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator or ACT-Accelerator published its consolidated investment case, alongside the costed plans of the member organisations. Launched at the end of April 2020, at an event, co-hosted by the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, the President of France, the President of the European Commission, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ACT-Accelerator brings together governments, health organisations, scientists, businesses, civil society and philanthropists, who have joined forces to speedup an end to the pandemic.

Since the ACT-Accelerator was launched, the partner organisations have moved fast to develop costed and implementable plans designed to contribute to the end of the pandemic through the accelerated development, equitable allocation and scaled up delivery of new tools to reduce rapidly mortality and severe disease, protecting health systems and restoring full societal and economic activity globally in the near term and facilitating high-level control of COVID-19 disease in the medium term.

The ACT-Accelerator’s investment case and the plans, published by the organisations, leading each of the ‘pillars’  show a path to the accelerated development, equitable allocation and scaled up delivery of 500 million diagnostic tests to LMIC’s by mid-2021, 245 million courses of treatments to LMICs by mid-2021,and two billion vaccine doses, of which 50% will go to LMICs by the end of 2021.

To achieve this, the costed plans presented call for US $31.3 billion in funding for diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, of which US$3.4 billion has so far been pledged. An additional $27.9 billion is, therefore, needed, including, 13.7 billion to cover immediate needs, i.e, $17.1 billion is immediately required, of which $03.4 billion has been pledged.

The investment required is significant but, it pales in significance when compared to the cost of COVID-19: the total cost of the ACT-Accelerator's work is less than a tenth of what the IMF estimates the global economy is losing every month due to the pandemic. 468,000 thousand people have already lost their lives. The tools developed will benefit the whole world; the ACT-Accelerator pillars will, also, buy and deliver tools to ensure that LMIC’s have access.

The ACT-Accelerator is led by the work of partner organisations, collaborating under four pillars.

The diagnostics pillar is co-led by FIND and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and aims to save nine million lives and avoid 01.6 billion further infections through the power of equitable access to simple, accurate and affordable tests. With sufficient funding, it can bring to market two-three high-quality rapid tests, train 10,000 healthcare professionals across 50 countries and establish testing for 500 million people in countries with low and middle income. Its success will be determined by how quickly test, trace and isolate strategies can be put in place, to minimise disruption of health services and prepare countries for the effective roll-out of therapeutics and vaccines once available.

The therapeutics pillar is led by Unitaid and the Wellcome Trust on behalf of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator and seeks to accelerate the development and equitable delivery of treatments at all stages of disease, ensuring they are accessible to all, regardless of geography and level of economic resource. It targets development, manufacture, procurement and equitable distribution of 245 million courses of treatment for populations in countries with low and middle income within 12 months.

The vaccine pillar, combines CEPI’s leadership in vaccine development and investment in manufacturing with GAVI’s track record in revolutionising access and delivery, and WHO’s oversight of regulation, policy and allocation.  Its role is to ensure that vaccines are developed as rapidly as possible, manufactured at the right volumes without compromising on safety and delivered to those, that need them most. The current estimate to deliver two billion doses by the end of 2021, assuming a safe and effective vaccine is developed in the near future, is up to $18.1 billion. In addition, 950 million doses will need to be procured by self-financing high-income countries and upper middle-income countries through the COVAX Facility. These numbers will become clearer once we get a better idea of, among other factors, the technology, that the successful vaccine candidates will be based on and the number of doses, required to protect people from COVID-19.

The health systems connector is the fourth pillar of the ACT-Accelerator and supports the other three by ensuring that health systems and local community networks can fully utilise these and other essential tools in their battle against COVID-19. This pillar is led by the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria:GFATM and supported by the WHO. It aims to build capacity, such as, laboratory capacity, training for laboratory and health staff and management of protective equipment for health workers, needed to deploy the new tools effectively when they are ready. It, also, works on system innovations to complement the rollout of products, such as, contact tracing, social distancing and isolation approaches, as well as, community engagement needed to sustain them. Global health security and the fight against COVID-19 depends on shoring up health systems around the world, now.

Since its launch, many governments and companies have signalled commitment to the ACT-Accelerator and made financial pledges. To date, contributing countries have committed a total $03.4. The funding gap is $ 27.9 billion. On June 27 the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future, campaign, concert and summit will be calling on citizens to tackle global injustices by using our collective voice to drive change for everyone, everywhere. World leaders, corporations and philanthropists will announce new commitments to help develop equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, as well as, rebuild communities, devastated by the pandemic. Unite with Global Citizen, the European Commission, top artists and global leaders to end COVID-19, build equity for all and fight for the world we want. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/connect/globalgoalunite/

The Access to COVID-19 Tools ACT-Accelerator, is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March and launched by the WHO, EC, France and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.

The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organisation but, works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organisations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration, that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible by reducing COVID-19 mortality and severe disease through the accelerated development, equitable allocation and scaled up delivery of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, thereby, protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organisations, which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools, needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it.

The ACT-Accelerator has four areas of work: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and the health system connector. Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access and Allocation.

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Africa Ministerial Roundtable Conference 2020: June 30: 13:00-16:00

 

|| Monday: June 29: 2020 || ά. The Covid-19 pandemic and global economic shocks are testing the resilience of the energy sector in countries across Africa. While the outlook remains uncertain, these shocks are certain to have major and varied implications for the development of the continent’s energy sector. Assessing the nascent impacts across the energy sector can help inform the policies and define the actions that will pave the way to economic recovery.  This Ministerial Roundtable Conference 2020 is taking place on Tuesday, June 30, 13:00-16:00. The Conference will seek to take stock of the effects of Covid-19 and its economic reverberations across the energy sector in Africa;

To explore the vital role of energy investments to Africa’s economic recovery; To share views on what actions can be taken to ensure that energy investments in Africa remain a priority, and clarify the role that the IEA can take to support these efforts. Views shared during this Africa Ministerial Roundtable will feed into IEA’s enhanced work with African partners, as well as, the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit, that will take place on July 09. The immediate impacts confronting policy-makers across the continent are varied. For some, the availability, security and reliability of power systems is putting at risk an effective response to the health crisis, underscoring, once again, the importance of universal energy access.

Confinement policies and the consequent drop in energy demand is increasing pressure on power systems, calling into further question the financial health of state-owned utilities, that were already under financial stress. And for others, the disruption to global oil and gas markets has delivered a sudden and sharp drop in export revenue streams. The resulting financial constraints mean that new investments may face delay or cancellations. These conditions of uncertainty create risks and competition for tightening finance, with potential security and sustainability challenges in the longer term.

Setting priorities is vital to ensure action on much-needed energy sector investments, which can stimulate broader economic growth. Opportunities, may, also, arise to rethink African countries’ future energy systems and market structures. In this challenging environment, governments will need to ensure that momentum towards SDG-07 is not lost while they are addressing significant immediate crises. It will be important to consider investment frameworks that help attract the necessary investment to the energy sector in times of need. Concerted action and international support can help countries respond to this crisis.

The IEA’s Africa Energy Outlook analysis, published in 2019, has already shown what Africa’s energy future could look like. To sustain Africa’s economic transformation and deliver energy access for all, we have to ensure energy investments in Africa remain a priority.

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Over One Million COVID-19 Cases Reported in WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Region

 

|| Sunday: June 28: 2020 || ά. The World Health Organisation:WHO has confirmed more than one million cases of COVID-19 in the 22 countries of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Region. As of 11:00 today, 1,025 478 cases and 23,461 deaths have been recorded from the Region, which spans from Morocco to Pakistan. While cases in Europe have been largely declining, countries in the Region have been seeing increases in the number of cases and deaths. Countries recently reporting increases in cases are Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, occupied Palestinian territory and Oman.

WHO is concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in war-torn countries, such as, Syria, Yemen and Libya due to poor infrastructure and fragile health systems vastly weakened by conflict. In all countries, there is still a clear need for expansion of testing and more accurate reporting of cases and deaths to inform targeted responses. "This is a very concerning milestone. As shops, restaurants, mosques, businesses, airports and other public places begin to open up, we need to be more vigilant and cautious than ever before.

One million people have been infected, tens of thousands have died and many more are still at risk in our Region. We can not relax our efforts. In fact, many countries lifting restrictions are seeing marked increases in cases, which signifies the need to accelerate public health response measures. Communities must remain vigilant and play a key role in keeping themselves and their countries safe." says Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

As countries, also, begin opening up points of entry, there is an increased risk of a resurgence of travel-related cases, requiring stricter measures to be in place at borders, especially, land crossings. Also of concern are migrants in the Region, who are now returning to their home countries, which, may, impact the situation in other WHO regions. Epidemiologists and other WHO specialists are working closely with governments in the Region to provide guidance on gradual re-openings and ways to minimise and respond to flare-ups of the virus. WHO continues to equip the Region's health systems with test kits, protective gear and supplies needed to treat COVID-19 patients, while working to evaluate how the COVID-19 situation will evolve over the coming months.

While measures are being lifted, WHO’s calls to countries becomes, even, more critical: sustained efforts must be made to find, isolate, test and treat all cases and trace every contact. Holding of mass gatherings must be reviewed from a public health risk-assessment approach.

Individuals must follow an equally rigid process to protect themselves and others by practising regular hand hygiene measures, following proper coughing and sneezing protocol, ensuring physical distancing and wearing masks in public settings as directed by respective national health authorities. Members of the public need to be cautious of symptoms, stay home if they feel sick and seek medical care immediately, if, needed.

"Sadly, we can not behave, as, if, the situation will go 'back to normal.' In the coming period, we need to see a shift in attitudes and actions." said Dr Al-Mandhari. "Now is the time for a sustained commitment from both governments and individuals."

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There Is the World Outside Countries and Inside Them: We Are Seeking to Grow It Inside All Our Hearts: IMF Approves $83.7 Million in Emergency Support to Montenegro to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic

 

 

|| Wednesday: June 24: 2020|| ά. The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund:IMF has today approved SDR60.5 million, about, $US83.7 million or Euro74 million, 100 percent of quota, in emergency assistance for Montenegro under the Rapid Financing Instrument:RFI to meet urgent balance of payment needs stemming from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RFI provides rapid financial assistance to member countries, facing an urgent balance of payment needs, including, those arising from commodity price shocks, natural disasters, conflict and post-conflict situations, without the need for a full-fledged economic program or reviews. The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened Montenegro’s economic outlook. With tourism accounting for around a fifth of the economy, Montenegro could experience the largest contraction since independence.

GDP is projected to decline by nearly 09% in 2020, 11.7% points below the pre-virus baseline but GDP is expected to grow by 05.2% in 2021 and gradually converge to potential. To mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the Montenegrin authorities are implementing a package of fiscal and financial sector measures to sustain economic activity during the crisis, including, measures to preserve employment, an extension of social benefits, and provision of liquidity to the economy.

Following the Executive Board discussion, Mr Tao Zhang, the Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, made the following statement: “The global COVID-19 shock has hit the Montenegrin economy hard and created urgent balance of payments and fiscal financing needs. The authorities implemented swift and decisive measures to contain and mitigate the spread of the pandemic, which enabled a relatively speedy reopening of the economy. Nevertheless, given the uncertainties surrounding the recovery of tourism globally, the economy could take a few years to fully rebound to pre-pandemic GDP levels.

“Fiscal and financial sector policies have been accommodative in response to the pandemic. A sizable temporary increase in the fiscal deficit to accommodate higher public healthcare needs and targeted transfers to firms and households affected by the pandemic is appropriate. Starting next year, the authorities need to restore fiscal space and steadily lower public debt by resuming their ambitious fiscal consolidation program started in 2017. In this regard, avoiding large capital outlays, with particular restraint in launching and implementing large projects which could jeopardize debt sustainability, is crucial.

Financial sector policy measures to ease the strain on borrowers would need to be continually recalibrated as circumstances evolve. At the same time, authorities should stand ready to take additional measures to preserve financial sector stability, if, necessary. When conditions permit, the authorities should resume their planned asset quality review of the banking system.

The IMF emergency assistance under the Rapid Financing Instrument will help provide the much-needed resources to address the urgent balance of payments needs and support essential healthcare expenditures. The support of other international financial institutions and development partners is expected to close the remaining financing gaps, ease the adjustment burden and preserve the long-term economic growth of Montenegro.”

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COVID-19: United Nations Agencies Warn Against the Rising Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean: 83 Million People Face Extreme Poverty in the Regions: The World Can Not Look Away and Leave Millions of Human Beings Literally Starving to Death by Hunger

 

 

|| Tuesday: June 16: 2020 || ά. The number of people in Latin America and the Caribbean living in extreme poverty could surpass 83 million this year due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a significant rise in hunger, according to a UN Report, released today. The Study by the UN’s office for the region, ECLAC and the Food and Agriculture Organisation:FAO, proposes 10 measures to ward against increased hunger, including, through an anti-hunger grant to support vulnerable people, as well as, food producers.

“In Latin America, we may have a historic setback in the fight against hunger. In a matter of months, we may lose what we have achieved in fifteen years. Millions of people may end up going hungry. That is the gravity of the current problem.” said Mr Julio Berdegué, FAO’s Regional Representative. In English, the Report is entitled ‘Preventing the COVID-19 crisis from becoming a food crisis: Urgent measures against hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean’. The agencies said that the pandemic follows seven years of slow economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean and could result in the biggest drop in regional Gross Domestic Product:GDP in a century; a decline of -5.3 per cent.

This will push an additional 16 million more people into extreme poverty this year, in a region where nearly 54 million people were already experiencing severe food insecurity. COVID-19 is, also, affecting food systems, with domestic food prices rising higher than other basic items. Increased unemployment means millions are unable to buy enough to eat, while many others are forced to find cheaper food, that is less nutritious.

“The major task we have ahead of us is to keep the health crisis from turning into a food crisis. That is why we are proposing complementing the Emergency Basic Income:EBI with the provision of an Anti-Hunger Grant:AHG.” said Ms Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary. The Report recommends that the Anti-Hunger Grant could be given for six months to people living in extreme poverty.

The grant could be in the form of cash transfers, food baskets or vouchers, equivalent to 70% of the regional extreme poverty line or just under US $50 dollars per month, with an estimated overall cost of $23.5 billion. The two UN agencies further propose that food producers should receive an increase of, at least, 20% in the average credit portfolio from the last three years, for loans, that would be financed by a special credit line from multi-lateral and development banks. Family farms should, also, receive a basic investment kit of $250, at a regional cost of roughly $01.7 billion.

The Anti-Hunger Grant is included in a series of 10 measures, aimed at ensuring all households have access to the nutritious food they need, food companies can continue to carry out their work and countries have enough food to guarantee supply at reasonable prices. Other measures proposed include reinforcing school-based food programmes, supporting food assistance initiatives by civil society and maintaining policies, that have kept global food trade afloat.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme:WFP is calling for greater international solidarity to defeat COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean and to protect the most vulnerable countries and communities. WFP warns against a ‘hunger pandemic’ in a region where COVID-19 cases continue to rise, doubling to 01.6 million in the last week alone, according to the UN agency.

The warning applies to countries where WFP has a presence, such as, Colombia, Honduras and Haiti, the Regional Director of WFP Mr Miguel Barreto told journalists on Tuesday. WFP does not operate in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela.

“Our projection paints a stark picture. Our region already has problems, related to economic and climate shocks, as well as, insecurity and displacement. Another issue is that between 50 and 70 per cent of workers do so in the informal sector, making them more vulnerable because they can not access to work due to lockdown in most of the countries of the region.” he said.

Mr Barreto reported that several Latin American and Caribbean countries have already increased social assistance to millions living in poverty. “We recommend governments expand their programmes to include more vulnerable people and groups, like informal workers and migrants.” he said. WFP has so far dispatched nearly 70 metric tonnes of supplies to 27 countries in the region via its humanitarian hub in Panama.

Mr Barreto said that the first of many flights into the region will also bring critical health supplies into Ecuador from the World Health Organisation:WHO and the Pan American Health Organisation:PAHO. “At a time when we are seeing the virus devastate our region, this support is absolutely crucial for people on the frontlines of the pandemic and we look forward to the arrival of more supplies in the coming days and weeks.”

Caption: A woman in the Dominican Republic receives food from a Government soup kitchen, set up to help fight hunger, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic: Image: WFP:Karolyn Ureña :::

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George Floyd Protests Continue in America As Large Number of People Protests in London: US: Address Structural Racism Underlying Protests: Human Rights Watch

 

|| Wednesday: June 03: 2020 || ά. United States’ authorities should take bold steps to address the structural racism driving mass protests across the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The national, state and local governments should enact and enforce meaningful police accountability measures, drastically reduce unnecessary arrests and end the use of police to address societal problems related to poverty and health, which disproportionately target black and brown people.

Instead, they should invest in real support for communities in need and programmes, designed to counter long-term structural racism in multiple areas, such as, health and education. “The anger and frustration driving mass protests across the US is about more than the criminal actions of the police officers, who killed George Floyd.” said Ms Nicole Austin-Hillery, US Programme Director at Human Rights Watch. “It is about a law enforcement system, that does not value all people equally and sacrifices the lives and well-being of black people as a result.”

A video shows Minneapolis Police Officer, Mr Derek Chauvin, killing George Floyd by pinning him to the ground and pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck on May 25, for more than eight minutes. Four days later, prosecutors charged Mr Chauvin with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter and had him arrested but, they have not charged the other officers involved. The District Attorney should immediately file charges against the other three officers, involved in Floyd’s death, Human Rights Watch said.

Floyd’s death is the latest in a long history of killings of black people by police in the US with little or no accountability. In recent years, these include Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Delrawn Small, Terence Crutcher, Breonna Taylor and many others. They, also, include killings of black men, who prosecutors refused to, properly, investigate, like that of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, killed in February by two white men as Arbery was jogging in Georgia.

While killings captured on video like Floyd’s get extensive media coverage, police across the US use force and engage in abuse, that do not cause death but are harmful and pervasive, especially, toward black people, Human Rights Watch said. Studies show that police use force on black people at vastly higher rates than on white people, including, tasers, dog bites, batons, punches and kicks. Human Rights Watch investigations of the Tulsa, Oklahoma police department found that officers deployed tasers against black people at a rate, almost, three times as great as against white people and that black people were subjected to police violence 02.7 times as frequently.

Racial disparities in policing mirror entrenched racial disparities in many systems, including, housing, education and health care. Policymakers should address these underlying disparities with programmes in all these areas, that are specifically designed to counter the long-term effects of structural racism, Human Rights Watch said.

“It should not take the killing of a black man by police, recorded on video, to generate broad concerns about the mistreatment of black and brown people every day.” Ms Austin-Hillery said. “The worst cases are just the tip of the iceberg of a system in which the racism is structural, not just cruel actions by bad cops.”

Abusive policing, also, includes unnecessary and harassing detentions and searches, often, driven by racial bias. Numerous studies have shown significant racial disparities in rates of police stops and searches. A recent survey found that 95 percent of US police departments arrested black people at higher rates than white people, some as much as 10 times as frequently.

Police detain and arrest people for conduct related to homelessness and poverty, like loitering and trespassing; for conduct, that should not be criminalised at all, like the possession of drugs for personal use or sex work and for violations, that should result in citations rather than custodial arrest.

As just one example, the police did not have to arrest Floyd for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill. If, the evidence called for it, the officers could have issued a summons. Throughout the US, officials task police with responding to situations involving problematic substance use, homelessness, mental health issues and poverty, rather than funding appropriate services to address these social problems outside a policing context. Governments should vastly reduce their reliance on police for these duties and instead invest in housing, affordable and accessible health care, economic development, and education; initiatives, that directly address the problems, instead of criminalising people in need.

The failure to prioritise and fund such direct solutions while prioritising law enforcement and criminalising poverty and society’s problems has for decades increased inequalities in US societies and harmed black, brown and poor communities. Concerned and frustrated people of all backgrounds have taken to the streets throughout the US to decry police violence and the inequalities, that underlie it. Police have frequently met these protests with the unlawful use of force, resulting in escalation of conflict and physical injury.

Law and policy-makers in recent days have offered solutions, such as, more oversight, including, new investigations of police abuse and an end to qualified immunity, a legal doctrine, that protects nearly all officers sued for abusive conduct from civil liability for that conduct. These important and overdue steps should be adopted but, it will take years for people in over-policed communities to feel their impacts, if, they ever do.

The proposals do not address the fundamental problem, that state and local authorities employ too many police officers, who make unnecessary arrests in a misguided effort to solve societal problems with policing, that should not be solved using a punitive, law enforcement approach, Human Rights Watch said. 

Police, also, need to end the unlawful and unnecessary use of force against protesters. Police are using vehicles to push back scores of people, who appear to have been peacefully protesting behind barricades, knocking many over; pushing protesters to the ground; using tear gas indiscriminately and seemingly without cause; as well as, firing pepper spray, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades.

The US Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the US is a party, protect the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly. The Covenant applies to the federal, state, and local governments. Law enforcement personnel are obligated to protect and uphold those fundamental rights.

Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, law enforcement officials should, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force. Any use of force by law enforcement must be proportionate and should only be used, if, other measures to address a genuine threat have proved ineffective or have no likelihood of achieving the intended result. When using force, law enforcement should exercise restraint and act proportionately, taking into account both the seriousness of the offense and the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“It is unacceptable to meet protests against police violence and for racial equality with more police violence.” Ms Austin-Hillery said. “Unless the US at all levels of government addresses the problems, that have compelled people to take to the streets, we will see continued unrest.”

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