Highlights Vol 25, No. 02 - February 2021

How people on the move can bring us closer to equality

Migration has the potential to reduce inequalities. By moving within or across national borders, migrants contribute to inclusive growth and sustainable development. In their home countries, international migrants promote investment, trade and financial inclusion and their remittances have lifted millions of migrant families out of poverty and improved their access to health, education, adequate housing and other basic services. In destination countries, migrant workers fill labour market gaps and contribute to public pension systems. Migration has empowered millions of migrant women and promoted gender equality around the world.

The closing of international borders as a result of COVID-19 has severely slowed down migratory movements. The pandemic has also forced many migrants to return to their home countries earlier than planned, when job opportunities have dried up.

The latest estimates in the International Migration 2020 Highlights, suggest that the pandemic may have slowed the growth in the number of international migrants by around two million by mid-2020, 27 per cent less than the growth expected since mid-2019.

As a consequence, the pandemic may reduce the volume of remittances sent to low-and middle-income countries by USD 78 billion or 14 per cent, affecting the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families and hampering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The number of international migrants reached 281 million in 2020, up from 173 million in 2000, and they represent about 3.6 per cent of the world’s population. The United States of America remained the largest destination, hosting 51 million international migrants in 2020, followed by Germany (16 million), Saudi Arabia (13 million), the Russian Federation (12 million) and the United Kingdom (9 million).

India topped the list of countries with the largest diasporas in 2020, with 18 million persons living outside of their country of birth. Other countries with a large transnational community included Mexico and the Russian Federation (11 million each), China (10 million) and Syria (8 million).

Nearly two thirds of all international migrants live in high-income countries, in contrast with just 31 per cent in middle-income countries and around 4 per cent in low-income countries. On the other hand, low- and middle-income countries hosted 80 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2020.

Get the latest data from UN DESA’s International Migration 2020 Highlights.

Leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is witnessing first-hand how digital technologies help to confront the threat and keep people connected. At the same time, some communities are facing tremendous technological challenges, with almost half of the world’s population having no access to the Internet. “The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that access to the internet should be a basic right that helps protect people’s health, jobs, and lives. Unfortunately, considerable gaps remain in realizing universal and affordable access to the digital world,” said María del Carmen Squeff, Chair of the 59th Session of the UN Commission for Social Development.

This month, the Commission for Social Development will discuss “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all”, particularly through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. From 8 to 17 February 2021, the 59th session of the Commission (CSocD59) will meet largely virtually for the first time ever. A variety of speakers, representing not only governments but also NGOs, businesses, municipal authorities, and academia, will share their experiences and innovative solutions that have used digital technologies to promote social development and well-being for all.

The delegates will give special attention to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the disadvantaged, marginalized, or vulnerable groups and communities. “The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to social development and the well-being of people worldwide, because poverty has deepened and pre-existing inequalities have exacerbated, with the most vulnerable hit the hardest,” said Ms. Squeff.

The Commission will conclude with recommendations on how countries can make further progress on these issues of digital cooperation, social inclusion, and development.

The CSocD59 will feature five virtual high-level panel discussions including a ministerial forum on “Promoting multilateralism to realize inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 in the context of the Decade of Action and delivery for sustainable development and its social dimensions”, general debates, as well as over 50 side events organized by Member States, UN Agencies and Organizations accredited to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In addition to the main theme, the Commission will look closer at the emerging issue of “Social policy to promote a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery: Building back better post COVID-19 for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the Decade of Action and delivery for sustainable development”.

The side events will cover a broad range of related issues, such as digital inclusion for all, digital education, digital technologies and older persons, ending homelessness, social protection, financing for development, good governance, the social impact of COVID-19, multilateralism for social justice, youth and digital technologies, and national initiatives in various regions. In addition, the NGO Committee on Social Development will host a Civil Society Forum starting on 9 February to forge partnership among stakeholders.

When Everyone is Included, Everyone Benefits.

For more information about the 59th Commission for Social Development: https://bit.ly/un-csocd59


More than a game – recovering better with sports

Sport is all about participation. It has the power of bringing together individuals, communities and countries, often bridging cultural, ethnic and national divides. But as COVID-19 has ravaged through our world, it has taken a heavy toll on both professional and recreational sports.

As the pandemic hit, many sporting events were postponed or cancelled to protect athletes and audiences alike. It was only months into the crisis that players were able to return to arenas, thanks to much innovation and collaboration. In most cases, fans were still absent, and the come-back had varying consequences for the athletes and their families.

“The world of sport was among those sectors most visibly affected — hard and early,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a new advocacy brief, ‘Recovering Better: Sport for Development and Peace Reopening, Recovery and Resilience Post-COVID-19’, launched by the United Nations on 15 December 2020.

Co-led by UN DESA and UN-Women, the new brief was collaboratively drafted by sport focal points in a large number of UN entities including the World Health Organization, UN Office for Drugs and Crime, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, International Labour Organization, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Children’s Fund, UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, UN Climate Change, UN Environment Programme and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism.

The brief sets out a vision to support the reopening, recovery and resilience of sport, calling for team spirit among nations, organizations and social groups to achieve the global goals. It also presents critical actions to be addressed across four key areas – promoting human rights and combatting discrimination; ensuring equal access to sport and physical activity; safeguarding participants; and ensuring integrity in sport.

“Already a pioneer and promoter of inclusive and sustainable development in an unstable and unequal world, the sporting world must now redefine and redesign itself, not only to improve its resilience to future shocks, but to broaden its contribution to the world’s efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals,” Mr. Guterres said.

Learn more about the role of sports for peace and development in the new brief ‘Recovering Better: Sport for Development and Peace Reopening, Recovery and Resilience Post-COVID-19’

Forests are essential for a green recovery from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on lives and economies around the world. As countries continue to work to turn the tide of the pandemic, plans and measures are being put in place to set us on the path to a green recovery. Forests have a key role to play in these efforts.

“Forests offer nature-friendly solutions for a green recovery from the pandemic,” said Alexander Trepelkov, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat in UN DESA. “Investing in forests is a critical component in building sustainable, resilient and fair societies, capable of withstanding future pandemics and global challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss,” he added.

Forests provide a wide spectrum of benefits and services, supporting the health and livelihoods of millions of people. For the rural poor, forests are a critical source of food, fuel, income and well-being.  “Historically, forests have provided a safety net in times of crisis, and we are seeing this to be the case during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Trepelkov. “Forests are a lifeline for some of our most vulnerable populations, including those living in rural areas, indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities,” he added.

It is in our best interests to safeguard forests. If current rates of deforestation and forest degradation continue unabated, it could lead to more zoonotic diseases, like COVID-19, in the future. Healthy, well-managed forests, on the other hand, are the foundation for long-term sustainability in addressing water scarcity, mitigating climate change and ensuring energy and food security.

The UN Forum on Forests Secretariat in UN DESA is working to support our path to recovery by providing analytical products to inform decision-making. In 2020, the Secretariat produced two policy briefs highlighting how forests can contribute to sustainable recovery from the pandemic.  Currently, the Secretariat is undertaking an initial assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sustainable forest management, including the impacts on the forest sector, and forest-dependent people, indigenous peoples and local communities. As part of this assessment, an expert group meeting will be held on 19-21 January 2021.

Photo: Mariana Latii (UN DESA’s International Forest Photo Contest)

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