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In a historic move, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has chosen the first woman and first African to lead the organization. Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was named director-general of the WTO Monday by representatives of the 164 countries that make up the organization.
Okonjo-Iweala said during an online news conference Monday that she was eager to begin the work of reforming the organization and modernizing the rules to bring them up to 21st-century issues.
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“I am grateful for the trust you have in me not just as a woman and an African, but also in my knowledge and experience and, as some of you have said, courage and passion to work with you to undertake the wide-ranging reforms the WTO needs to reposition itself for the future,” she said.
COVID-19 vaccine a priority
She said one of her key priorities is to focus on the issue of COVID-19, including working with the COVAX and ACT Accelerator facilities to speed up supplies and vaccines to poor countries.
“We also encourage finding, what I call a third way, in which vaccines can be manufactured in many more countries whilst taking care that we do not discourage research and innovation, which is linked to intellectual property rights. So, this is an area of work,” she said.
Appointment blocked by Trump
Okonjo-Iweala’s selection as WTO chief was held up for many months because former U.S. President Donald Trump did not back her, arguing that she lacked direct trade experience compared to other candidates.
The Biden administration dropped the U.S. objection, clearing the way for Okonjo-Iweala to getting the top job.
The Nigerian economist is a 25-year veteran of the World Bank, where she advocated for economic growth in poorer countries. She rose to the No. 2 position of that organization, where she helped to oversee $81 billion in development financing for Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.
In 2012, she campaigned unsuccessfully for the top position at the World Bank, challenging the traditional practice that the organization is always headed by an American.
Severed as Nigeria finance minister
Okonjo-Iweala has also served as Nigeria’s finance minister and helped to broker a deal in 2005 to cancel billions of dollars of Nigerian debt with the Paris Club of creditor nations.
She has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Okonjo-Iweala’s election to head the WTO brought “more joy and honor to the country.”
Okonjo-Iweala said Monday that the challenges facing the WTO were numerous and tricky, but not insurmountable.
In addition to tackling the economic challenges surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the new WTO head will also need to face long-standing trade issues that have divided many nations, including the U.S.-China trade conflict and pressure to reform trade rules. (VOA)
More than half of young females who are on some social media platforms have faced online harassment or abuse, reveals a new survey.
Ahead of International Day of Girl Child 2020, a survey conducted by Plan International, a Non- Government Organization (NGO) working for children’s rights and equality for girls in India, shows than more than half (58 percent) women have faced online harassment or abuse.
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The survey polled 14,000 girls and young women aged 15 to 25 in 22 countries including Brazil, India, Nigeria, Spain, Thailand and the U.S.
It shows that one in five girls (19 percent) have left or significantly reduced use of a social media platform after being harassed, while another one in ten (12 percent) have changed the way they express themselves.
Attacks were most common on Facebook, where 39 percent of girls polled said they had been harassed, followed by Instagram (23 percent), WhatsApp (14 percent), Snapchat (10 percent), Twitter (9 percent) and TikTok (6 percent).
Nearly half of girls targeted had been threatened with physical or sexual violence, according to the poll. Many said the abuse took a mental toll, and a quarter felt physically unsafe.
Plan International’s Chief Executive, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen said:
“Girls are being silenced by a toxic level of harassment. Activists, including those campaigning for gender equality and on LGBT+ issues, were often targeted particularly viciously, and their lives and families threatened. Driving girls out of online spaces is hugely disempowering in an increasingly digital world, and damages their ability to be seen, heard and become leaders.”
In addition to the report, an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, was written by the girls from around the world who called on social media companies to create more effective ways to report abuse. “We use (your platforms) not just to connect with friends, but to lead and create change. But they are not safe for us. We get harassed and abused on them. Every. Single. Day,” they wrote. “As this global pandemic moves our lives online, we are more at risk than ever.” (IANS)
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused disruptions to child protection services in more than 100 countries, leaving a large number of children at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse, said a global survey by UNICEF on Wednesday.
Of 136 countries that responded to the agency’s “Socio-Economic Impact Survey of Covid-19 Response”, 104 countries reported a disruption in services related to violence against children.
Around two-thirds of countries reported that at least one service had been severely affected, including South Africa, Malaysia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
South Asia, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the highest proportion of countries reporting disruptions in the availability of services.
“We are just beginning to fully understand the damage done to children because of their increased exposure to violence during pandemic lockdowns,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, said in a statement.
“Ongoing school closures and movement restrictions have left some children stuck at home with increasingly stressed abusers. The subsequent impact on protection services and social workers means children have nowhere to turn for help.”
As countries adopted prevention and control measures to contain Covid-19, many vital violence prevention and response services were suspended or interrupted as a result.
More than half of the countries reported disruptions in case management, referral services and home visits by child welfare and social workers to children and women at risk of abuse.
Violence prevention programmes, children’s access to child welfare authorities, and national helpline services have also been affected in many countries, according to the responses.
Even before the pandemic, children’s exposure to violence was widespread, with about half of the world’s children experiencing corporal punishment at home and 1 in 3 adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 having been victimised by their intimate partner at some point in their lives.
“Child protection systems were already struggling to prevent and respond to violence against children, and now a global pandemic has both made the problem worse and tied the hands of those meant to protect those at risk,” added Fore.
In India, UNICEF is working with CHILDLINE which has been declared an emergency service by the Indian government to handle some of the immediate and long term consequences of Covid-19 related to protection of children.
It received 4.6 lakh calls in 21 days from March 20 to April 10.
Nearly 10,000 of these were intervention cases which required CHILDLINE staff to reach the children in need of support.
Of these 30 per cent were related to Covid-19 and with a need for protection from abuse and exploitation. (IANS)
India leads the world in pollution-linked deaths, followed by China and Nigeria, according to a report published Wednesday that estimated the global impact of contaminants in the air, water and workplace.
The report by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) found pollution to be the largest environmental cause of premature death on the planet, causing 15 percent of all deaths — 8.3 million people.
Among the 10 countries with the most pollution deaths in 2017, the latest year for which data were available, were some of the world’s largest and wealthiest nations, along with some poorer ones.
India and China led in the number of pollution deaths, with about 2.3 million and 1.8 million deaths, respectively, followed by Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan.
The United States, with 325 million people, came in at number seven with almost 200,000 deaths.
“The report reminds us all that pollution is a global crisis,” said Rachael Kupka, acting executive director of GAHP. “It does not matter where you live. Pollution will find you.”
Pollution-linked death rates were highest in some of the world’s most impoverished countries, where poor water sanitation and contaminated indoor air are major killers.
Chad, Central African Republic and North Korea saw the highest number of deaths per 100,000 people (287, 251 and 202, respectively), with India entering the per capita list at number 10 with 174 deaths per 100,000 people.
“India has seen increasing industrial and vehicular pollution from urban growth while poor sanitation and contaminated indoor air persist in low-income communities,” the report said.
On the other end of the scale, five nations in the Arabian Peninsula rank among the 10 countries in the world with the lowest death rates from pollution, with Qatar reporting the lowest.
Drawing its data from the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation, which is based in Seattle and was founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report broke risk factors into four categories: air, water, occupational and lead.
Air pollution represents a combination of household and outdoor contaminants as well as ozone, while water pollution included unsafe water and poor sanitation.
Occupational, lead risks
Occupational risk encompassed deaths from carcinogens, secondhand smoke, particulates, gases and fumes, while lead pollution deaths were those associated with exposure to legacy emissions from leaded gasoline. This refers to the lead that was deposited, and remains, in the soil from car exhaust.
The report also named ambient air pollution as responsible for 40 percent of all pollution-related deaths, led by China, India and Pakistan (1.2 million, 1.2 million and 130,000, respectively).
The number of global deaths linked to pollution barely exceeded those from tobacco use, which is around 8 million, but greatly eclipsed deaths from alcohol and drugs, high sodium diets, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and war, it said. (VOA)