All day every day, even while they sleep, tens of millions of children in South Asia are being seriously harmed by toxic air.
South Asia is leading the world – and not in a good way. Here, air pollution now kills an estimated 130,000 children under five every single year.
It is a staggering fact that twelve million babies in South Asia are breathing air that is six times more polluted than the international limits set by the World Health Organization. This means that South Asia has three-quarters of the global total.
The full impact of breathing harmful air is not visible to the naked eye, but the Air Quality Index measures how toxic the air is. A measurement of 0-50 is ‘good’, 50-100 is ‘moderate’, 100-150 is ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ (including children), 151-200 is ‘unhealthy’, 201-300 is ‘very unhealthy’, and 301-500 is ‘hazardous’. In the four-day period between 8 and 11 January, the number reached 417 in New Delhi (hazardous), 310 in Kathmandu (hazardous), 328 in Dhaka (hazardous), 510 in Kabul (hazardous), and 234 in Karachi (very unhealthy). These large numbers mean deaths; and they mean serious, lasting harm.
A cough, sore throat or sore eyes are the common things that we notice. But the real damage is far more serious. The most dangerous air pollutants of all are the smallest particles. They reach deep down into the lungs. From the lungs they pass into the bloodstream. In the bloodstream, they circulate around the body.
Air pollution is a severe and growing threat to people of all ages – but it is particularly bad for children’s health and development. There are three main reasons why children are particularly at risk:
First, children breathe faster than adults. A typical adult takes between 12 and 18 breaths a minute. A 3-year old child takes 20 to 30 breaths a minute, and a newborn takes 30 to 40. So young children are breathing in the polluted air 2-3 times as much as adults are.
Second, children’s lungs and other organs are developing. This makes them particularly vulnerable to damage. This can have both immediate effects – such as causing asthma – and long-term effects – such as reducing their lung volume for life.
Third, the youngest children are also in danger because the barrier between the bloodstream and brain is not yet fully formed. The air pollutants can cross from the lungs to the bloodstream, and from the bloodstream to the brain. There, they actually cause brain cells to inflame. This damages the brain cells and affects the child’s cognitive and intellectual development. Today’s generation of children will be affected for life and as adults, we have a pressing and serious duty to reverse this horrendous trend.
This is why we need to see cleaner, renewable sources of energy and we need better waste management to prevent open burning of harmful chemicals but of course the precise solutions vary across the region. We cannot let children breath toxic air. Speaking up for one’s children is a first step. But more than this, we need to see Governments respond and take urgent and pro-active action in order to protect the young generation.
Jean Gough is Regional Director of UNICEF in South Asia.
Since the shock of former United Nations’ Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s death, I have been reflecting on what made him so special.
To my mind, it is simply this: Kofi Annan was both one-of-a-kind and one of us.
He was an exceptional global leader — and he was also someone virtually anyone in the world could see themselves in: those on the far reaches of poverty, conflict and despair who found in him an ally; the junior UN staffer following in his footsteps; the young person to whom he said until his dying breath “always remember, you are never too young to lead — and we are never too old to learn.”
Like few in our time, Kofi Annan could bring people together, put them at ease, and unite them towards a common goal for our common humanity.
There is an old joke: The art of diplomacy is to say nothing especially when you are speaking!
Kofi Annan could say everything, sometimes without uttering a word. It came from the dignity and the moral conviction and the humanity that was so deep in him.
He had that gentle voice, that lilt that made people smile and think of music. But his words were tough and wise. And sometimes the graver a situation, the lower that voice would get.
We would lean in to listen. And the world would lean in. And we were rewarded by his wisdom.
Kofi Annan was courageous, speaking truth to power while subjecting himself to intense self-scrutiny. And like his predecessor as UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, he had an almost mystical sense of the role of the United Nations as a force for good in a world of ills.
All of this added up to a remarkable record of achievement.
He pioneered new ideas and initiatives, including the Millennium Development Goals and the landmark reforms in his report, “In Larger Freedom”.
He opened the doors of the United Nations, bringing the Organization closer to the world’s people and engaging new partners in protecting the environment, defending human rights and combating HIV/AIDS and other killer diseases.
Kofi Annan was the United Nations and the United Nations was him.
He was also my good friend. We marched through life together in many ways.
When the people of Timor-Leste were seeking self-determination, we worked together -- he from the United Nations, and I as Prime Minister of Portugal -- to support the peaceful resolution of their plight.
When the UN Refugee Agency needed new leadership, Kofi blessed me with his trust in asking me to fill that role – and then provided unwavering support to protect and shelter the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.
Now that I occupy the office Kofi once held, I am continually inspired by his integrity, dynamism and dedication.
To him, indifference was the world’s worst poison.
Even after finishing his term as Secretary-General, he never stopped battling on the front-lines of diplomacy.
He helped to ease post-election tensions in Kenya, gave his all to find a political solution to the brutal war in Syria and set out a path for ensuring justice and rights for the Rohingya people of Myanmar.
Kofi straddled many worlds, North and South, East and West. But he found his surest anchor in his African roots and identity.
The great Nelson Mandela, accustomed to being called Madiba, had his own nickname for Kofi, and called him “my leader”. This was no jest. Kofi was our leader, too.
When I last saw him not long ago at the UN, his bearing was how I will always remember him: calm yet determined, ready to laugh but always filled with the gravity of the work we do.
He is gone now and we will miss him immensely. But I am sure of this — if we continue to lean in and listen hard, we will still hear the words and wise counsel of Kofi Annan.
“Please carry on,” I hear him saying. “You know what to do: Take care of each other. Take care of our planet. Recognize the humanity in all people. And support the United Nations -- the place where we can all come together to solve problems and build a better future for all”.
Let us continue to heed that voice of grace and reason – that voice of morality and solidarity.
Our world needs it now more than ever.
As we face the headwinds of our troubled and turbulent times, let us always be inspired by the legacy of Kofi Annan -- and guided by the knowledge that he will continue speaking to us, urging us on towards the goals to which he dedicated his life and truly moved our world.
António Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations.
On three accounts, Kofi Annan, perhaps one of the most distinguished and illustrious UN Secretary-General, was quite different from rest of the lot. One, he was the first UN Secretary-General ever to come from a lifelong career in the UN bureaucracy. Two, he was also the first UN Secretary-General from sub-Saharan Africa, a courtly figure who spearheaded the global organization during a period of tumult. And thirdly, he was the last UN Secretary-General to prominently figure, in news headlines and public mind across the globe, as a central figure in the major international conflicts of his time.
Throughout his ten years as head of the world body, Kofi Annan was often labeled as a symbol of preternatural calm. With the traditional tranquillity and disciplined oratory-skills of a career-diplomat, he always appeared, even to his very close associates and colleagues, to be a man with little tendency to divulge his anger in extreme situations. His unflustered persona - and carefully nurtured image of an honest broker between conflicting interests - was generally considered to be his key strength.
His splendid tenure as Secretary-General, which began six years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and also covered the 9/11 episode and subsequent US-led invasion of Iraq, was one of the UN’s most turbulent periods since its inception in 1945. At a time when worries about the Cold War were gradually swapped by threats of global terrorism, his untiring efforts to muffle those threats and secure a more peaceful world that eventually brought him the Nobel Peace Prize.
Laced with many major initiatives that made tangible impact on the perception as well as working of the UN, Annan’s decade-long stint is generally considered to be the period of “dynamism and activism” that overshadowed the vivacity of Kurt Waldheim. Annan, who spent his entire career at the United Nations, initiated a mega project of reform and long-overdue overhauling at the world body, sketched an ambitious agenda to lessen global poverty, and established a global fund to combat HIV/AIDS. But the experiences of Rwanda and Srebrenica prompted Annan in 1999 to question the role of the international community in protecting civilian populations.
Annan took many risky decisions that were potentially career-ending but which he managed to sail through unhurt. In 1994, the UN Security Council and others including Annan were accused by the UN field commander in Rwanda of ignoring his warnings, which resulted in the world’s reluctance to send troops to prevent the estimated 800,000 deaths. His perceived inaction, as the head of UN’s peacekeeping operations, to stop the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans, worst in the recorded history of the African continent, haunted him throughout his life.
On the tenth anniversary of this black chapter, in 2004, Annan said: “I believed at that time that I was doing my best, but I realized after the genocide that there was more that I could have and should have done.”
He opened up the doors of the UN to the people of the world. While the UN Charter appropriately begins with the words “We the Peoples,” the members of the UN are in fact the world’s governments. Kofi made sure through his direct and indirect initiatives that people all over the world would regard the UN as “theirs”, not merely their governments’. He indefatigably championed the moral charter of the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He brought the business community into the UN through the Global Compact.
Most poignantly, passionately and successfully, he redirected world’s focus on the downtrodden and oppressed ones in the world community, as the world’s great moral traditions bid us to do. Kofi’s greatest achievement for the poor was to mobilize global energies to fight poverty, hunger and disease through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which Kofi put forward to the world’s governments at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. Similarly, with the dazzling persuasive powers of the world’s consummate diplomat, Annan convinced the world in 2001 to sign up another great project in the form of a new global fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
The paradox of that authority, however, is that it entirely emanates from the willingness and consent of sovereign powers over which it is meant to hold sway. Annan’s insistence that the UN could not be directly held responsible for its failures, but that it should get credit in cases of success, failed to resolve that paradox.
Factually speaking, the finger-pointing and name-calling is emblematic of the methodology the UN Security Council has demonstrated during global conflicts, even during the Annan era, as each of its permanent members behaves selfishly to protect its interests or fails to act. That inaction was amply displayed most recently during the conflict with the Rohingya in Myanmar; Annan chaired an independent commission into the violence against the Rohingya and warned of radicalisation if the Burmese government did not resolve the issue non-violently.
Kofi Annan, the master practitioner of art of finding common grounds by listening to and respecting others, inspired us, guided us and protected us to the best of his abilities In his interview with the BBC, in April this year, in one of his final public appearances, on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, he frankly acknowledged that the UN still had some faults in its fundamental operating codes but those faults would be addressed with continuous evolution of the world body in the coming days. He said, “The UN can be improved, it is not perfect but if it didn’t exist you would have to create it. I am a stubborn optimist, I was born an optimist and will remain an optimist”. Nonetheless, he left the stage with a content and satisfied heart, we pray.
Dhaka, July 30 (UNB) - The world’s workforce has never been more mobile—from the gardener in California to the banker in Singapore. Whether it’s the dishwasher in Rome or the designer in London, we recognize human ambition is on the move, everyone—skilled or unskilled, with work permits or without—is seeking an identical goal: how to deploy their talents in those markets that reward them best.
Simple economics trigger those journeys that start with a dream of a better life and can result in enormous collective benefits for countries of both origin and destination when done in a safe and orderly way.
But as we mark the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, we also are reminded, sadly, that migrants are too often exposed to disproportionate risks of exploitation and abuse when looking for better employment opportunities away from home.
Every year, millions of migrants are trafficked within and across borders and find themselves trapped in forced labour. In some cases, men and women are coerced by force into work, enduring violence, threats or psychological manipulation. Often they find themselves indebted via unfair recruitment processes or employment conditions, all the while facing enormous pressures from their families and communities who may have gone into debt themselves, just to start their job search.
Other forms of exploitation only slightly more benign;—having to toil under dangerous conditions, settling for menial wages, facing hidden deductions and unreasonable restrictions during both work and non-work hours. These abuses, too, harm migrants and violate their rights.
These types of abuse can occur all along an industry’s supply chain and can be easily concealed among layers of sub-contractors. As consumers, while constantly looking for low-cost goods and cheaper services, we are obligated to consider the workers who make the products we desire and the services we need.
Trafficking in persons exists today in every country and every economic sector. Whether the business is coffee, clothing or construction, this much is clear: no workplace or community is immune to human trafficking.
It is so pervasive it can only be tackled with a global, all-hands approach. Consumers, especially, must join their governments, their local business community and work together to demand that decent work standards are met. We must all insist that supply chains are free from human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
We are already seeing signs of change. A growing number of companies are taking action in their supply chains; more governments are developing new policies and regulatory mechanisms for greater business accountability. Civil society also plays a critical role in advocating for migrants’ rights and ensuring they have access to the protection and assistance services they need.
One famous example: as recently as 2015 the world became aware of widespread abuse of workers in Southeast Asia fishing grounds. Hundreds of workers labored in virtual slavery. Governments often lacked the means to enforce protection norms, which many employers learned to ignore.
That is beginning to change. Consumers and large retailers, aware of the negative impact of supply chain abuse, now demand more transparency. And so do governments, passing new laws requiring greater accountability from the multinational merchants that market seafood.
While these positive trends are encouraging, much more needs to be done. Today, I will focus on a key challenge, which I see as the next frontier in supply chain engagement: mobilizing the private sector to ensure that migrants who have been wronged receive the remedy and justice they deserve.
Beyond strengthening their due diligence, companies can and must take responsibility for harm perpetrated against their workers and ensure that all possible steps are taken to assist victims of trafficking in their recovery – which they can do by working closely with governments, civil society organizations, international organizations, and the victims themselves. States bear the primary responsibility to address human trafficking and protect trafficked victims. By establishing stronger connections between private sector and public efforts to help victims of trafficking, together we can do the work of rebuilding broken lives.
Earlier this year IOM, the UN Migration Agency, launched a set of practical guidelines for companies to address this challenge. In line with the United Nations’ “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework, IOM’s Remediation Guidelines describe the many avenues that businesses can take to offer remediation to victims of exploitation, in partnership with local State and non-State actors.
These routes include facilitating access to victim services and support systems such as medical or psychosocial care; relocating victims to new job environments; offering voluntary return to countries of origin; support for recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration where possible. Businesses should also ensure they have established feedback loops so that they can continually improve reporting mechanisms, protection for whistle-blowers, and prevention of further harm.
More and more companies are coming together to address the risks they face in supply chains, but remediation for victims of trafficking remains a new area of work for the private sector. We must therefore redouble our efforts to ensure that support for victims of trafficking becomes a key pillar in our work.
William Lacy Swing is IOM Director General
So this is what it all comes down to. You can be excused for thinking that the World Cup (which always means the football one, unless otherwise stated) final, set to capture the global zeitgeist from the moment it kicks off in Moscow’s hulkin Luzhniki Stadium tonight, is the culmination of over a month’s action, served up by the world’s best footballers, from 32 countries over 64 games that like always, ransacked the world’s reserves of emotion. Yet in truth, it is much, much more than that.
The technical bit first. You see the showcase event for the Beautiful Game is the only world championship event in all of sport, for which every spot is awarded on the basis of competition. Cricket as we know, hockey, rugby, all have a set of ‘permanent nations’, who are joined by others through qualification. Football is too universal, an opportunity to compete in it too coveted, to allow for such niceties. Only the hosts get a free pass.
And so whoever wins tonight, their defence of the title is not guaranteed to even make it to Qatar in 2022. It actually commences in two years’ time, when FIFA’s 210 members (yep, the FIFA General Assembly seats a good 15-20 nations more than the UN’s, such as Palestine) across 7 continents actually commence the World Cup. Bangladesh frequently exits at the first hurdle, mostly unnoticed against some peripheral Asian nations. Although this time around, one of the teams in our group, Australia (remember playing them, home and away, couple years back?), also managed to make it all the way to the Finals.
And there of course, they were drawn in the same group as one of tonight’s finalists, indeed the favourites with most bookies and pundits to lift the trophy tonight, France. Les Bleus, as the French lovingly call their team, have forged a generation of impressive talent one that is fit finally to carry the torch lit in 1998, when despite the advantage of playing at home (and failing to qualify for the two preceding Finals, in what must’ve been a post-Platini hangover), they surprised everyone by going on to lift the trophy, thrashing Brazil in a one-sided final. It signalled the arrival of the French as a latter-day footballing power. Their football itself would take some more years to truly flower, epitomised by the silken skills and incomprehensible range of Zinedine Zidane, one of the greatest players ever. His storied exit from the game (quite literally) in another final 8 years later, marked the end of that cycle.
It wasn’t until 2014 that they would impress again, even as they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual champions Germany. But in players like Griezmann, and Pogba, and Matuidi, one could sense something was stirring. EURO 2016 looked set to be the occasion they ascended to the status of champions, as they lined up for another final in Paris, but this time it was their turn to suffer the sucker-punch.
In the build up to tonight’s game, a number of the players have harked back to that night, vowing not to allow a repeat, and to leave no stone unturned, in the quest for guaranteed Immortality. With the addition of the wondrous talent of Kylian Mbappe up front, they have grown stronger (certainly with the teenage star’s speed across the turf, some magnitudes faster). They took time to get going, but in the knockout phase, starting with that dismantling of Argentina, they have kept looking stronger and stronger. The guile and intelligence embodied by Griezmann is the perfect foil for Mbappe, and so pedigree is far from the only thing pointing to France as champions.
But where the French are packed with firepower up front, their opponents on the night, Croatia, tiny, tiny, Croatia, have an industry in the middle of the park. And old coaches will never tire of telling you, football games are won and lost right there in midfield. Much is made of Croatia’s run to the final this time, surpassing the semifinal appearance of 1998 (losing to France). Such a small, young nation, forged through the horrors of the multiple wars that ravaged Yugoslavia in the Nineties. Yet this small corner of Europe’s mainland on its Adriatic Coast, has always produced skilled, and imaginative footballers. Tonight in their 5-man midfield, you’ll see two of their very best, in Luka Modric-Ivan Rakitic, lineup in what is called a double-pivot. If a double-pivot of this calibre, with Modric the artist and Rakitic the assassin, is having its day, most teams in the world will fail to see much of the ball even, forget serving its frontline with needed fodder.
Buttressing the double pivot will be Brazevic behind them, but more excitingly offering them width, will be the adventurous and angular Perisic, so effective and impactful in the semifinal. The way the competition has gone brooks no predictions for the final, but this much can be said: either team would make for worthy champions. Along with Belgium,beaten by France in that pulsating semifinal, would make for worthy champions. There will be no shortage of joy, and heartbreak is inevitable, where they all fall is up for question. The football, as always, will conquer.