The thing about a global crisis like COVID-19 is that people often think of it as a “great equalizer”, it affects the whole world and somehow makes everyone suffer equally. When people living in peaceful countries were hit by COVID-19, they thought that they finally experienced the suffering they always thought was reserved for people who live in less fortunate countries who experience this regularly. They could not be more wrong.
While, of course, COVID-19 hit all countries, and its impact on people’s health and livelihoods has been devastating, not everyone was affected equally. I’m not talking about the health infrastructure and available services that greatly differ from one country to another, of course plays a big role. I’m talking about the additional devastation brought on by a health crisis to an already devastated population living in war. The unspoken dangers of a global crisis are that it detracts from that awareness. And within that unmitigated disaster, lies an even more dangerous threat: sexual violence. This threat is all the more insidious as its danger comes from the fact that it’s silent and its victims helpless, not only due to a lack of support and services, but due to a lack of attention to their suffering. Imagine you are a girl, or woman, living in a war-torn country that is experiencing the effects of COVID-19. Now imagine you’re also experiencing sexual violence.
This crisis has only recently attracted worldwide attention following the global #metoo movement and the awarding of 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Yazidi activist and sexual violence survivor Nadia Murad, and Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege for his commitment in treating women who were raped by armed rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An attention that deserves real action, given its magnitude and consequences.
I think of sexual violence in many ways similar to a global pandemic like COVID-19 in that it targets women, girls, men and boys regardless of their age, nationality, gender, or ethnicity.
In Bangladesh, like in many other countries, sexual violence has been a recurring theme since the Independence war of 1971, which saw countless victims of this heinous and indefensible crime. Just like in all conflicts and wars, the number of victims of this appalling crime will likely never be accurately measured, as sexual violence is most often associated with feelings of shame by the individual and blame and rejection by families and communities. This impedes victims from reporting or disclosing what happened, afraid of retaliation and stigmatization. People who are exposed to sexual violence carry the mental and physical scars of their experience throughout their lives.
This is why it is essential to actively support victims of sexual violence. Health services, mental health support, and economic support are among the priority assistance needed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has been on the frontline of providing support to victims of sexual violence in the aftermath of many crises. Everywhere in the world, we operate in conflict areas under the assumption that sexual violence is happening, regardless of whether or not we have concrete information about its prevalence.
This allows us to prepare an appropriate and quality response to the needs of survivors. This approach, called the reverse burden of proof, is key. Because of the silent nature of this threat, we consider that its invisibility does not imply its inexistence.
During COVID-19, the needs of sexual violence victims should remain on the forefront of humanitarian response. For this reason, ICRC continues to provide life-saving health services at community level, supporting health posts in the camps and in the emergency department of Cox’s Bazar hospital.
Other organizations are involved in supporting victims of sexual violence, and we ensure coordination with them. Our operations are survivor-centered. We work with survivors to provide support that responds to the needs that they express.
Bangladesh has committed to combating sexual violence by adopting a National Action Plan for the implementation of the international Women, Peace and Security Agenda last November. Bangladesh is among the biggest contributors to UN peace keeping missions in war zones. It is therefore paramount for Bangladesh to have in place mechanisms to prevent and respond to these crimes, as well as prosecute alleged violations committed within and outside the country.
We stand by Bangladesh to combat sexual violence in all its forms and to serve victims of this crime. We offer our support to improve peacekeepers’ ability to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence. We also provide training to Law Enforcement Agencies which aims to promote the respect of International Law.
Most importantly, we stand with all victims of sexual violence and work incessantly to prevent these crimes from happening worldwide, in peace and war times and during COVID-19. But we need your help.
Today, on the International Day on the Elimination of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, and every day, we call upon you to speak out against this inhumane and preventable crime. Survivors of sexual violence must be heard and respected by all, as they are agents for change themselves and for their communities.
Adam Aboshahba is the Protection Coordinator of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Bangladesh
A desperate yearning for a long-departed mother. Reaching deep from the bowels of fragile humanity. Grasping for breath. Begging for mercy. The entire world heard the tragic cry. The family of nations saw his face pounded against the harsh tarmac. Unbearable pain in broad daylight. A neck buckling under the knee and weight of history. A gentle giant, desperately clinging to life. Yearning to breathe free. Till his last breath.
As senior African leaders in the United Nations, the last few weeks of protests at the killing of George Floyd in the hands of police, have left us all outraged at the injustice of racism that continues to be pervasive in our host country and across the world.
Not enough can ever be said about the deep trauma and inter-generational suffering that has resulted from the racial injustice perpetrated through centuries, particularly against people of African descent. To merely condemn expressions and acts of racism is not enough.
We must go beyond and do more.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated that “we need to raise our voices against all expressions of racism and instances of racist behaviour”. Following the killing of Mr. George Floyd, the cry ‘Black Lives Matter’ resounding across the United States and throughout the world is more than a slogan. In fact, they do not only matter, they are quintessential to the fulfillment of our common human dignity.
Now is the time to move from words to deeds.
We owe it to George Floyd and to all victims of racial discrimination and police brutality to dismantle racist institutions. As leaders in the multilateral system, we believe it is incumbent upon us to speak for those whose voices have been silenced, and advocate for effective responses that would contribute to fight systemic racism, a global scourge that has been perpetuated over centuries.
The shocking killing of George Floyd is rooted in a wider and intractable set of issues that will not disappear if we ignore them. It is time for the United Nations to step up and act decisively to help end systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups “in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” as stipulated in Article 1 of the UN Charter. Indeed, the foundation of the United Nations is the conviction that all human beings are equal and entitled to live without fear of persecution.
It was at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States and during the emergence of post-colonial independent African nations joining the United Nations, that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) came into force in 1969.
This was a pivotal time in history. The collapse of apartheid in South Africa, driven in part by the United Nations, was one of the Organization’s proudest achievements.
The human rights and dignity of black people in Africa as well as across the African diaspora resonated as a powerful signal to future generations, that the United Nations would neither turn a blind eye on racial discrimination nor tolerate injustice and bigotry under the cover of unjust laws. In this new era, the United Nations must in the same vein use its influence to once again remind us of the unfinished business of eradicating racism and urge the community of nations to remove the stain of racism on humanity.
We welcome the initiatives by the Secretary-General to strengthen the global anti-racism discourse, which would address systemic racism at all levels, as well as its impact wherever it exists, including in the United Nations Organization itself.
If we are to lead, we must do so by example. To initiate and sustain real change, we also must have an honest assessment of how we uphold the UN Charter within our institution.
Our expression of solidarity is well in keeping with our responsibilities and obligations as international civil servants to stand up and speak out against oppression. As leaders we share the core beliefs and the values and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations that do not leave us the option to keep silent.
We commit to harnessing our expertise, leadership and mandates to address the root causes and structural changes that must be implemented if we are to bring an end to racism.
Almost 500 years after the revolting Transatlantic trade of Africans began, we have arrived at a critical point in the arc of the moral universe as we approach in 2024 the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent, a mere four years away. Let us use our collective voice to fulfill the aspirations of our communities that the United Nations will wield its moral power as an institution to effect global change. Let us use our voice to contribute towards the realization of Africa’s own transformative vision contained in Agenda 2063 which is consistent with the world’s Agenda 2030.
Africa is the cradle of humanity and the forerunner of human civilizations. Africa as a continent must play a definitive role if the world is to achieve sustainable development and peace. That was the dream of the founders of the Organization of African Unity, that was also the strong belief of prominent leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and eminent intellectuals such as Cheikh Anta Diop.
Let us never forget the words of President Nelson Mandela: "To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity."
Let us ever bear in mind the admonition of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free”, who was echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Their words were later embodied into the rainbow of the diverse nation of South Africa, as spelled by the peacemaker Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he stated that ``Black liberation is an absolutely indispensable prerequisite to white liberation - nobody will be free until we all are free.”
All signatories listed below are senior UN officials who hold the rank of Under Secretary General. They signed this Op Ed in their personal capacity:
Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS
Mahamat Saleh ANNADIF
Mohamed Ibn CHAMBAS
François Lounceny FALL
Bishar A. HUSSEIN
Jeremiah Nyamane MAMABOLO
Moussa D. OUMAROU
Catching the world by surprise, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit over 215 countries and regions, affected more than seven billion people and claimed over 400,000 precious lives. The spread of the COVID-19 around the world poses a grave challenge to human society. It seriously threatens the safety and health of the people, strikes a heavy blow to global production and demand, and severely undermines the global economy and social development. This public health crisis is a major test for all countries of the world. It is living proof that the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century and that, in this world, we all belong to a community with a shared future.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. At the early stage of this crisis, the people of every walk of life in Bangladesh extended their support in various forms at the critical moment of China's fight against the COVID-19, which demonstrated the profound friendship of the Bangladeshi people toward the Chinese people. In February, Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping in an expression of her generosity, sympathy and support to China, where she assured that the people and the government of Bangladesh are with the friendly people and the government of China to overcome the crisis. Such expressions of friendship will always be remembered and cherished by the Chinese side.
Facing this unknown, unexpected, and devastating disease, China launched a resolute battle to prevent and control its spread. The government of China released a White Paper titled Fighting Covid-19: China in Action that details the endeavors of the Chinese people in fighting this tough battle. Making people’s lives and health its first priority, China adopted extensive, stringent, and thorough containment measures, and has for now succeeded in cutting all channels for the transmission of the virus. 1.4 billion Chinese people have exhibited enormous tenacity and solidarity in erecting a defensive rampart that demonstrates their power in the face of such natural disasters.
However, as the pandemic continues ravaging the world, the situation in Bangladesh remains grave. As a true and grateful friend, China grieves for those who have sacrificed their lives in the fight, and rushes to offer its best help. On the evening of 20th May, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke on the phone. The two leaders expressed appreciation for the mutual support between China and Bangladesh both before and during the COVID-19, reaffirmed our common commitment to a coordinated global response to the pandemic, and pledged to further our cooperation in addressing the situation and areas beyond. This conversation demonstrates the firm determination of the two countries to join hands to overcome the current difficulties. And it is of high significance as it laid down the guidelines to advance our joint response in fighting the COVID-19 as well as strengthening our strategic partnership of cooperation in a post-COVID-19 era.
During the conversation, President Xi reaffirmed China's firm support to Bangladesh in fighting COVID-19 and its readiness to help where it can in light of the actual needs of Bangladesh, including sending a medical expert team to Bangladesh. And this very team will arrive in Bangladesh today, with hands-on experience and critical medical supplies for curbing the COVID-19 transmission and treating the patients. It is believed to be the first official foreign medical team in Bangladesh to assist in the fight against the COVID-19. This is also a vivid example of the fine tradition of mutual assistance between Bangladesh and China.
Having forged the idea that the world is a global community of shared future, and believing that it must act as a responsible member, China has fought shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world. On May 18th, President Xi Jinping made a statement at the Virtual Event of the Opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly, where he mentioned that the history of human civilization is one of fighting diseases and tiding over disasters. The virus does not respect borders. Nor is race or nationality relevant in the face of the disease. Confronted by the ravages of the COVID-19, the international community has not flinched. The people of all countries have tackled the virus head-on. Around the world, people have looked out for each other and pulled together as one. With love and compassion, we have forged extraordinary synergy in the fight against the COVID-19.
And in this event, President Xi also announced that China would provide US$2 billion over two years to help with the COVID-19 response and with the economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries, and would contribute to ensuring the COVID-19 vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries as a global public good when vaccine development and deployment in China would be available. I believe all these practical measures will benefit Bangladeshi people in the near future. As a responsible major country, China will continue to cooperate with its best ability with the international community to prevail over the global fight against the COVID-19.
Solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons for mankind to defeat the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis facing the mankind, and thus every country shares the same destiny. No country can guarantee its absolute security in public health alone until all countries are safe. The international community, therefore, needs solidarity and cooperation more than ever.
China is ready to continue to work with the international community to support WHO's leadership in the global response, promote solidarity and cooperation among the international community, safeguard the Earth, build a global community with a shared health for all, and win the battle against the virus at an early date.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bangladesh. As a Chinese proverb goes, “Only friendships built on sincerity can last long.” Over the past 45 years, the two countries have shown mutual respect, understanding, and support in their relationship. Pragmatic cooperation in a wide range of fields has been greatly expanded. The economies of China and Bangladesh are closely linked and highly complementary to each other. There are huge spaces for cooperation in public health, trade, investment, and engineering contracts between the two countries. The cooperation between China and Bangladesh not only benefits the peoples of the two countries but also benefits regional development and stability. China will always be the most reliable partner of Bangladesh and a firm builder and implementer of major infrastructure projects for the Belt and Road connectivity.
Looking ahead, we will work hand in hand with the government of Bangladesh and wider sectors of Bangladesh society to contain the pandemic, to overcome the temporary difficulties, and to jointly write a new chapter of bilateral cooperation. The virus cannot defeat humanity. We will eventually prevail over the stealthy foe.
Li Jiming is the current Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Bangladesh.
Earth planet is upset and convulsed at the guerrilla attacks and blazes of an invisible infectious disease smaller than bacteria titled Coronavirus, also identified as COVID-19 by WHO, which has in the interim confirmed worldwide 4.3 million cases with at least more than 300000 deaths and 1.7 million recoveries. First defined in detail in the 1960s, the coronavirus gets its name from a distinctive Latin corona, meaning ‘Crown’ of sugary-proteins, that project from the envelope surrounding the particle.
Concerning the dawns of Coronavirus, COVID 19, two propositions are imperious here one is Coronavirus is just a kind of recurring punishments from Allah, Creator of universes, visible and invisible, and other being a non-natural biological maneuver made at a laboratory for definite purposes, which might have been leaked due to faulty handling therein.
If the former prevails over the later then we have no choice but to offer prayers to Allah time after time and take fresh vow to overhaul, rectify, sanctify and galvanize ourselves from respective beliefs and standpoints. In that case, human efforts, Himalayan or Oceanic, appear cumbersome since there cannot be a battle opposing Allah. Coronavirus shall say goodbye to the world only after its assigned targets have been fulfilled. This departure may either be auto or through human devices in the form of medicines and vaccinations and so on provided Allah wish so. Allah's punishment is time-bound as evidenced from the past occurrences, notably contained in the numerous religious texts, scriptures and documents of the earth planet.
In case of the later that is alternative proposition, sufferings shall continue sine die, not time-bound, because such device shall be used as weapon against the opponent(s). Atom bombs were used in world war two by US in an attempt to put an end to commanding Japan. Chemical weapons were used in Iraq and Syria in recent past. Here the moot point is supremacy of power over one or few or all. America is proud of ‘American dream’; India feels delighted with ‘India doctrine’ even Bangladesh is desperate to move with ‘Bangladesh dream’, also called “Sonar Bangla". And China with a dazzling history of 5000 years is also advancing fast with “China dream (Xiantia). Hegel opined that "leaderships of the world move from one center to another in the context of time, space and dimension". It is widely publicized that the 21st century belongs to Asia and WB, IMF, ADB are of the views that China shall take the chair in the end by 2050. Such projections conform to China dream to get implemented by 2050. On all counts, ball is rolling towards China.
Question arises, is China behind inventing such coronavirus to be used as ‘invisible weapon’ to reach its goal by 2050? Few states prominently US President Donald Trump stick to this proposition avowedly, even going further he identified the virus as ‘Wuhan virus’, a pejorative term indeed. He also threatened China to face portentous feedbacks. Charging WHO for carrying china’s purposes, Trump meanwhile suspended funding WHO. If truth be told, Coronavirus hit US mind-bogglingly causing increasing confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries without a day break. As of today, there we find 1.5 confirmed cases, 90,897 deaths and 300000 recoveries.
China vehemently opposed such uncorroborated allegations. Real picture is not clear at all because UK and French scientists recently detected the origins in French. These may be fallacious in the end. Whatever the arguments and counter arguments look like, crude reality tells, world is currently being hunted by pandemic coronavirus.
COVID-19 is faced with three acute landscapes, namely necessity, reality and dilemma. On the one hand social distancing and physical distancing must move together and if a need arises, lockdown is inevitable since it is the best method so far. If these two or three modes go together, instantly arise the questions of having food and other necessaries simultaneously, which give birth to a kind of ’horns of dilemmas eventually. Such a dilemma is so acute that makes the lockdown sooner or later a futile exercise. Developed states have shown excellence mostly but the situation in developing countries are not so promising. Difference is, they are following models strictly whereas in developing countries like Bangladesh the models are not working well due to reasons, mostly social, economic and religious in particular. Above all, shortage of PPEs and Test Kits, heart of the WHO’s message ‘test, test, test’ made the overall scenarios most distressing. Landscapes have become graver at the overall closures leading to collapses of economic activities and frames across the world. In such bewildering situations, policy-makers, leaders and statesmen, at the denial of valued experts’ opinions, are desperately experimenting loose-lockdown or no-lockdown, but sad it is that consequences typically end in reappearance of COVID-19. Europe and USA bear glaring examples.
Post-coronavirus global landscapes, to be sure, shall not stay the same. Several changes in the form of reforms, reshuffles, restructures and remodels fall upon, compelling or not, the hemispheres of economics, science and technology, politics, administration, industries, trade and commerce, transports and so forth. Social unrests, chaos and disorders may turn violent positioning democracies at peril necessarily. All sorts of predictions, published or being published are mostly revolve around the likelihood of inflation to recession to depression, if not going up to stagflation so early. GDPs both statewide and worldwide by this time started falling decidedly. World Health Organization forecast the inescapability of famine causing deaths from hunger of millions of people in the densely populated areas mostly in developing countries.
World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council in April ’821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, a further 135 million people are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse,” and a new World Food Program analysis shows that as a result of COVID-19 an additional 130 million people “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. He also added, as the world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it is also “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could lead to “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within a few months if immediate action isn’t taken’. TechNavio. a UK-based research and advisory company that focuses on providing a market research, trends, analysis and reports to various industries, suggests three forecast scenarios optimistic, probable, and pessimistic considering the impact of COVID-19.
To tackle all these meaningfully and demonstratively, management, leaderships and, to say more aggressively statesmanship are conditions precedent. Therefore, it is time to discontinue blame game. Both USA and China have to come closer and work together to survive, sustain and continue formidably in chorus, confronting and defeating manifold challenges at the same time digging opportunities created by Pandemic COVID-19 and, thus pass messages of rejuvenated life in national, regional and global perspectives. Nothing to be worried at all, they will have enough time to combat coupled with matching approaches and strategies for supremacy over each other and the world at large being not oblivious of the saying ‘Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights’ (Friedrich Hegel). Hope and believe medical scientists shall be in a position to produce medicines and vaccines shortly. May Allah bless us, save us, protect us, and defend us under the circumstances, decisive or not.
Also read: Global economy to shrink by 3.2pc: UN report
(Dr. Sinha MA Sayeed, Writer, Columnist and Chairman of Leadership Studies foundation, LSP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was first published in Dhaka Courier)
Can conventional mass media survive the epidemic is a question that affects everyone. It's not about professionals being dumped in their mid career but about the quality and access to information for all. The corona crisis has again put the spotlight on this so called “mainstream” media. It seems the relevance and popularity of this media was under threat for a while. And this threat was enhanced by the corona crisis creating a new crisis.
Roots of the crisis
In Bangladesh, media boomed when there was a lot of surplus money to splash around to gain prestige, protect gains and expand clout. It’s based on connection capitalism profit. Sometimes the invested money is not even white and the objectives are neither to advance the cause of governance transparency or make profit. It’s to make oneself more eligible to transact better in connection capitalism.
By the middle of last year the crisis in Bangladesh’s media economy was obvious. Not only were some of the owners in conflict with each other or in trouble with the authorities, but most outlets seemed unsustainable.
Two factors had helped the boom to happen. The relatively low start up costs particularly with online media and the surplus educated workers available in a hostile job market ready to take any job. It flourished initially but once the relative benefits of losing ventures pinched and long term costs bled the owners staff slashing began.
The crisis had hit before corona did but it dealt a blow that made it a disaster. Money is short but the competitors are many. The advert pie has become much smaller but with the same number of diners. Now the Government has entered a survival mode and every expenditure is uncertain including their patronage adverts. For the GOB, media is not a priority call to make and plunk down money.
An immature sector?
The way most houses went online and several online outfits shut down shows the immature media market situation and unhealthy status of most outlets. Many would have shut down anyway by June in all probability. The media situation to put it bluntly is grossly artificial. Corona just made it its crisis peak of sorts quicker thereby proving relief to some owners, a sort of viral rescue package.
The crisis has also shown that the media's capacity- technical and skill wise- is limited, in some cases alarmingly so. This has led to headline chasing and panic mongering to substitute substantive reporting and analysis. While few have little knowledge about the issues but media showed no interest to learn.
The number of infected and dead and recovered, bodies not buried and the rmg crisis became the mainstay. It's not Bangladesh media problem but global. Everyone lined up to join the sensation brigade including scientists and doctors in some cases. However, the problem is that no mass media outlet could compete with social media when it came to spreading fear. So when mass media tried to copy social media they ended up losing the fight.
The crisis was also seen in the temporary death of print editions which were feared as possible virus carriers. Thus several shut down and went online but that also meant traditional print media adverts were lost and online ads haven’t yet really caught on. But it's here the big transition lies.
Print based media is now an ageing beast and looks like a dinosaur now. Adverts will run to online more but main outlets are print based. Both writing and production will need drastic changes as its anew form and culture. The age of long Op-eds and large comments may mercifully be coming to an end.
Thus media looks to be more niche as people will depend less increasingly on major brands. With no prediction possible on how much ad revenue will be shared between online and radio/TV, less employment will mean less output which will hit the big houses more. A part of “Vanity” media may survive as long as their rich owners want but its decline is obvious.
The authorities should play a role in training media on the issue of disasters, economics etc as well not to mention public health. But it has been more interested in applying the DSA rather than building bridges with the media. The Government’s approach has been predictable and conventional like media which was critical of it, sometimes without balance. But if the authorities continue to crack down, people will scout foreign and expat media for information and opinion putting more pressure on local media.
However the media will survive and so will junk media but it will not be the same anymore. New configurations will emerge and professional media will have lesser space. To survive it will have to be more professional. But as a profession, it will be less populated. Post corona media will not just be professional media but social service media as well. As the corona crisis has shown public interest in social service is high. Interest in politics, on the wane for long, has increased so the conventional political media will have to change to stay afloat.
(This article was first published in Dhaka Courier)