UN chief encourages SE Asia to recover better from COVID-19

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Voices concern over surge in violence in Darfur

NEW YORK : UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday encouraged Southeast Asia to recover better from COVID-19 by addressing inequality and greening the economy.

In a statement to accompany his policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asia, Guterres said four approaches will be critical in the region’s plans for recovery.

The approaches include tackling inequality in income, health care and social protection; bridging the digital divide to ensure that people and communities are not left behind; greening the economy to create the jobs of the future; and upholding human rights, protecting civic space and promoting transparency.

Central to these efforts is the need to advance gender equality, address upsurges in gender-based violence, and target women in all aspects of economic recovery and stimulus plans, he noted.

This will mitigate the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on women, and is also one of the surest avenues to sustainable, rapid, and inclusive recovery for all, he said.

The United Nations is strongly committed to partnering with the countries of Southeast Asia, and will continue to support efforts to get the region on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a peaceful future for all, said Guterres.

The policy brief finds that governments in Southeast Asia have acted swiftly to battle the pandemic and avoid its worst effects, and regional cooperation has been robust across multiple sectors.

Southeast Asia has reported significantly lower confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths, on a per capita basis. However, as in other parts of the world, the health, economic and political impact of COVID-19 has been significant across Southeast Asia, hitting the most vulnerable the hardest, according to the policy brief.

The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities, shortfalls in governance and the imperative for a sustainable development pathway, it says.

Separately, Antonio Guterres has expressed his deep concern over the increasing violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, notably the attacks in West Darfur on Saturday and in North Darfur on July 13, in which dozens of people were killed and thousands were displaced.

The secretary general commended the efforts by the Sudanese authorities, under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, in responding to these incidents, and called for an investigation to ensure accountability, said Farhan Haq, Guterres’ deputy spokesman, in a statement.

Deliberate attacks against civilians violate international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The secretary-general reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to support the implementation of the national protection strategy developed recently by the transitional government. The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur will continue to focus on its protection mandate, and humanitarian partners continue to provide emergency relief, said the statement.

Guterres urged all armed groups, particularly those that have not joined the ongoing peace talks in Juba, South Sudan, to resolve their grievances through a political process. As Sudan continues its process of democratic transition, there is a clear imperative to end the conflict in Darfur with a definitive and inclusive peace agreement, it said.