United Nations and the Coronavirus Pandemic
Dr. Neil Harvey
Faculty Adviser, Model United Nations
New Mexico State University
posted April 5, 2020
Welcome to a new blog created by the students of the Model United Nations (MUN) team at New Mexico State University. Our goal is to share updates and insights on how the UN is responding to the coronavirus pandemic in various arenas such as public health, sustainable development and human rights. We had spent the spring semester preparing to represent the delegation of Sri Lanka at the annual National Model UN conference in New York. However, the conference was cancelled of course due to the pandemic and we decided to put our research and knowledge about the UN to good use though the creation of this blog. We look forward to sharing our work and recommendations for useful online resources regarding the UN and its efforts to promote global cooperation. It is now common to hear that the crisis opens up possibilities for a new world system to emerge, one that aspires to be more equal, inclusive, peaceful and cooperative. This was the theme of the recent address by the General Secretary of the UN, Antonio Guterres on March 31, 2020, in which he argued that the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic are likely to be long lasting and called for support for the most vulnerable peoples and countries.
Mr. Guterres called the pandemic “a defining moment for modern society”, saying the “history will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family.”
See the full article here
We look forward to sharing our work and learning about the UN at a time when the need for global cooperation is more necessary than ever.
Carbon Emissions Drop as UN launches COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund
President, Model United Nations, NMSU
April 14, 2020
Per the data gathered by the World Health Organization, as of 14 April 2020, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is nearing 2 million, including approximately 120,000 confirmed deaths. Despite these staggering numbers and the fact that the pandemic is provoking the worst recession for “both advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies” since the Great Depression, according to the International Monetary Fund, here are some good news to help keep things in perspective.
The Global Carbon Project estimates that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could drop to a historic low since World War II as a result of the lockdown. UN Environment Programme Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, Inger Andersen, warns that, “visible, positive impacts – whether through improved air quality or reduced greenhouse gas emissions – are but temporary, because they come on the back of tragic economic slowdown and human distress.” To make emission decline long-lasting, it is paramount that the international community begins coordinating actions that will lead to serious structural reforms pertaining to production and consumption habits. Andersen highlights that there is great opportunity in the stimulus packages that diverse nations are providing to encourage a transition to a green economy, which can catalyze the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
COVID-19’s presence continues to unite UN agencies, governments, the private sector and communities to fight the pandemic, specially in the developing world. In low- and middle-income countries, the UN implemented a new multi-partner Trust Fund for COVID19 Response and Recovery. In Nigeria, the Trust Fund has helped mobilize medical supplies to treat coronavirus patients. Other coordinated actions with the UN include helping countries prepare a response plan before any COVID-19 cases are detected, such as in Malawi; deploying communication experts to help government entities share information on the pandemic in the cases of Uzbekistan and China; and supporting diverse home-schooling needs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Gambia, and Zimbabwe.
The world is facing challenging and uncertain times but it is important to remain hopeful that things are and will continue getting better!
World Health Organization impacted by US decision to withdraw funding
Treasurer, Model United Nations
New Mexico State University
April 16, 2020
The World Health Organization has mobilized prevention guidelines, advanced research and opened the doors for potential treatments against the novel coronavirus that has infected over 2 million and killed over 130,000 people worldwide. Although the WHO has played a significant role in the battle against COVID-19, a recent decision executed by President Trump has mandated the withdrawal of US funding to the WHO. This decision poses a concern over the effect that it will have in the fight against the Coronavirus. The decision to withdraw funding arose from accusations by President Trump against the WHO of mismanaging and covering up the spread of the virus and not responding quickly to the crisis. The US allocates approximately $400 million dollars in funding, representing about 15% of the total budget of the WHO. Without such funding, the WHO faces significant challenges in carrying out vaccination campaigns, responding to health emergencies and providing medical support worldwide. The WHO has responded to the US decision, noting that it alerted the world to coronavirus on January 5, 2020.
There is currently no established course of treatment against COVID-19, and various studies have provided deeper insight on the deadly effects of the virus. According to Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos at Johns Hopkins University, the presence of the virus within the body signals an immunological response in order to attack the virus effectively and engage in recovery from infection. However, it has been deduced that a possible cytokine storm, a lethal overdrive of immunological responses in the body, is a main factor in significant rates of mortality in all ages. Although the US has the highest infection and fatality rate in the entire world, infection rates have recently gone down, while similar trends have been observed in various countries such as Italy, France, Iran and among others. As the scientific community and other entities across the world are actively searching for solutions against the virus, it is important to follow health and safety precautions in order to minimize the spread of the virus which can have an effect on anyone.
World Health Organization or China Health Organization?
posted by: Brett Cornwell
Secretary, Model United Nations
New Mexico State University
April 21, 2020
Following the United States’ choice to withdraw funds from the World Health Organization (WHO), criticism has been thrown from all sides at what many consider to be a massive blunder from the “Leader of the Free World.” Citizens to politicians have widely railed against this decision and acted accordingly, such as Germany’s move to increase its own financial contributions to the WHO and the star-studded “One World Together” virtual concert prepared by a number of music stars to raise funds. However, not everyone is as accepting of the WHO, with other governments such as Japan, Australia, and Taiwan offering plenty of criticism for the organization, its alleged “China-centric” view, and its perceived role in aiding the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in covering up the accurate death-count of COVID-19. The WHO, which receives most of its funds through willing contributions by its constituent Member States, has recently seen a steady growth in funds by the Chinese government, a fact which has only riled up more debate among the WHO’s members. Following the WHO’s inspection of China, a public health emergency was not declared until January 30th, 2020, eight days after the formal conclusion of its report and praise of the CCP’s role in preventing the virus’ spread on January 22nd, 2020.
In Japan, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso spoke before the Japanese Diet, the equivalent of the Japanese Parliament, on April 1st, declaring that the WHO should be renamed to the “China Health Organization” due to its failure to declare an international health emergency sooner despite the organization’s inspection of China in January. Aso’s belief that the Chinese government deliberately misreported the accurate number of infections corroborates the opinion of Dr. Deborah Brix, the White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator. In her statement, she cited her belief that “the medical community interpreted Chinese data as serious but smaller than anyone expected” due to the missing data. Across the South China Sea, Taiwan, a non-member of the WHO due the United Nations’ recognition of the CCP as the legitimate Chinese government, has been widely praised for its efficiency in combating the virus despite lacking foreign aid. The small island country has lashed out against the WHO in response to this same sense of inaction, citing its own correspondence with the Organization as early as December 31st, 2019, in regards to the possible threat of the virus. In spite of the WHO’s contention with the validity of this claim, the White House has backed Taiwan’s claims and demanded an answer as to why the organization had failed to respond, once again citing a possible bias towards the CCP. In Australia, Foreign Minister Marise Payne decided to challenge the WHO, demanding an inquiry into its role in China as well as for the CCP to be transparent and display the accurate number of deaths up front. This follows a sudden and disproportionate growth in the number of dead provided by the East Asian powerhouse with over 1,290 deaths reported on April 17th alone in comparison to the previous total amount dead of 3,342. In an attempt to save face and prevent too much undue discussion regarding possible mistakes, the CCP has refused to answer or respond to most claims.
It should be noted however that the WHO, with its role as a subsidiary to the United Nations, is stuck in a balancing act between a number of Member States experiencing extreme amounts of stress and fatigue in light of this crisis. Beyond that, China is far from the only country to have made mistakes in regards to handling the spreading pandemic, as failures to implement easy-access testing throughout the United States early on into the crisis has led to a discrepancy in the number of infected, as well as the ever rising concern that reopening the economy could exact a heavy toll through more deaths. Because of this, the motivation behind questioning the Chinese and the role they played in the spreading of Covid-19 could be a method for the Trump Administration and other ailing governments to find a scapegoat to distract the public from their own mistakes. However, one thing is certain: as this crisis continues, it is likely that pointing fingers and searching for someone to blame, as well as demands for a proper inquiry into both the WHO and the CCP are likely to rise as pressure continues to mount against the governments of the world.
COVID-19 Took Jobs, Will Automation Keep Them?
Posted by: Iliana Viscarra
Model United Nations, NMSU
April 26, 2020
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus our day-to-day realities have become massively distorted. Students attend class from the comfort of bed, parents begin to understand the need for a teacher pay raise, and millions of Americans have become unemployed in a matter of days. As we attempt to piece together our idea of normalcy, we are collectively navigating a haze of uncertainty. At the core of this maze is a question fraying the nerves of almost everyone; what is the outlook for employment in this novel new world?
Forbes reported that the week of March 28th saw the number of claims for temporary unemployment surge to an unprecedented 6.65 million. A breakdown of the numbers by the ADP Research Institute confirms what many have already suspected; the hardest hit have been those in the service industry, primarily small business, and those in trade, transportation and utilities. While some states are seeing cases decline and others are even lifting stay-at-home orders, the path to a rise in employment has yet to be concretely laid. While there are more questions than answers, the pandemic has provided us the unfortunate opportunity to address issues that have lingered in the peripheral attention for the majority of Americans.
The fear of automation inevitably eliminating jobs in manufacturing has been a continuous, yet often overlooked, talking point in the American political arena. As of 2019 an Oxford Report estimated that globally 8.5% of jobs in manufacturing could be displaced by automation; yet, could a global pandemic become an unintended gateway into this new terrain? Experts say yes. In an interview with Vox, senior fellow and director at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, Mark Muro, explains that economic downturn results in increased levels of automation. With the already incredible number of jobs lost due to coronavirus and a risk of recession on the table, the automation of routine jobs that can prove replaceable does not seem out of the question. Rather than questioning if automation is a risk, we should be preparing for when automation becomes something we can no longer overlook. The first step is to stop treating automation like villain in the story of the American workforce.
Efforts to prioritize the discussion surrounding automation has been on the rise within international bodies like the United Nations. In a brief to the United Nations Global Sustainable Development Report, Friedrich Soltau attempts to breakdown the implications of automation on the future of employment, especially for developing countries at risk of being left behind. Soltau emphasizes the importance of considering the impact automation could have on “social and political systems,” with special mind paid to, “[ensuring that the benefits to society do not exacerbate existing levels of inequality.” This is extremely important as the worst way to pay for the age of automation is with the livelihoods of the already disadvantaged. Starting at the international level offers a top down approach to crafting policies that protect workers as employment shifts to more widespread use of automation; however, whether or not this is received and prioritized at the national level is a different story.
This article aims to start a discussion rather than answer a very broad question. Automation may seem like a threat but in actuality it is the future and we should embrace it and find a place in it. As we are forced to confront the uncomfortable reality of many Americans, we have a shared responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable for the transitions to automation in the workforce. Rather than arguing against it, let us discuss how to mainstream current jobs into a new era of automation with the goal of minimizing job loss. There may be more questions than answers during these uncertain times; however, if there is one thing for certain it is that human compassion and ingenuity remain a constant that is yet to be replaced.
Why we need to be careful with the news and media
Posted by: Rakim Stokes
Model United Nations, NMSU
April 30, 2020
Nowadays it seems like we wake up every morning only to be covered by an all-encompassing wave of news and media to a point beyond saturation. It is this flooded state of murky water that can cause an increase of tension and uncertainty that fit the narrative of the source of such media and news. This situation has been painfully apparent during the outbreak of COVID-19 and how the population views this crisis. People are not sure what sources they can trust as every outlet gives a different spin on the same information even in a time when statistics and facts could mean the difference between life and death. Even government officials as high as the president of the United States are some of the worst offenders in using this kind of misinformation for self-gain. This lack of clarity only ends up dividing the populace into their own spheres of belief with some choosing to simply ignore the news all together.
We are living through an unprecedented global crisis that has not been seen for the better part of a century, yet, in our time of greatest need for unity, many people remain uninformed and confused. How is it that we have found ourselves here and is it inevitable that we will reap the outcome of politicizing a crisis?
Most of us are no strangers to the flood of information and opinions that can be absorbed from the internet but, when this information motivates people to act even when it is not in their of self interest or at the risk of causing harm to others, the line between news articles and propaganda begins to blur. This result can be seen in individuals who ignore social distancing or protest for the re-opening of the economy. Such action is only spurred on by conflicting news from sensationalists looking to drive up ratings and clicks and sources downplaying the crisis to push for sooner re-opening to preserve corporate earnings. Even the government can be seen pedaling such tactics through its own news conferences and press releases making unfounded claims regarding testing, and pushing drugs into service that have not been properly vetted. Such behavior from media and politicians will only continue to worsen as we grow closer to the November election when voting itself may be altered due to social distancing. The defunding of the US postal service makes voting by absentee ballots more difficult, and this may also have been politically motivated. So, if people cannot make an impact with their ballot in November, they must influence their government on a local level to ensure that they are well provided for and supported during these times.
It has become more apparent that the handling of this pandemic domestically has hinged on the choices of local government due to a lack of leadership from federal sources. With state governors and mayors holding the fate of their citizens in their hands, it is crucial that citizens remain reserved and take in information from multiple sources before taking action, whether it be volunteer work, safely organizing efforts to influence the actions of local representatives, or simply going to the grocery store. People must search thoroughly for the truth when they are left uncertain by those who only look out for their own best interests.
Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19
Posted by: Alexandria Beatty
Model United Nations, NMSU
The pandemic of COVID-19 has created worldwide socio-economic impacts causing the United Nations (UN) to respond on March 31, 2020. “Globally the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the economic disruption is reported as a shared responsibility,” stated by Secretary- General Antonio Guterres. The UN responded by providing the following three impact measures:
- Global actions must include a stimulus package reaching double-digit percentage points of the world’s GDP, with explicit actions to boost the economies of developing countries.
- Regional mobilization must examine impacts, monetary coordination, fiscal and social measures, while engaging with private financial sector to support businesses and addressing structural challenges.
- National solidarity needs to prioritize social cohesion and provide fiscal stimulus for the most vulnerable along with support to small- and medium-sized enterprises, decent work and education. (“UN launches COVID-19 plan,” 2020)
Internationally, the response to these measures has been diverse and inadequate to stabilize the economy or the people. Spain, a hot spot for COVID -19, passed a €200 billion aid package of economic and social measures to assist those affected. The measures include suspension of all evictions for six months, and an offer of zero interest loans to help those whom have become unemployed. Spain also declared a six-month holiday on social security payments for small businesses and the self – employed. Aiding the people further, Spain stopped utility companies from cutting clients off.
Sweden created an emergency package of $31 billion dollars to cover sick leave costs, to retain the employed pay to 90% allowing employees to cut pay in half temporarily. The measures that are included will allow employees to take sick leave for 2 months and the cost will be divided between employer and the state. Sweden also allowed employers to defer Social Security payments and tax on salaries up to a year. This helps the businesses remain able to pay salaries without the extra stress. The $31 billion will also go to the Public Health Agency of Sweden, the National Board of Health and Welfare, and the Swedish Medical Products Agency to purchase medical supplies such as protective equipment and coronavirus kits. Sweden has not closed down businesses so there are no measures in place to aid homeowners but to help businesses support the employees.
Canada passed an aid package of C$52 billion on March 25 to financially support individuals and businesses. Canada also passed a C$55 billion in tax deferrals. Individual measures added to the aid package include a boost to Canada Child Benefit, money for those out of work and a six-month freeze on student loans.
The United States passed a $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid Package (CARES Act). The aid package provides an estimated $300 billion to individuals in cash payments from $1200 per adult with an additional $500 per child up to three children. Unemployment benefits have a $260 billion cost and this amount is changing due to the number of unemployment claims filed. The legislation will add 13 weeks of unemployment insurance, allowing for extensions depending on state. The package also requires private insurance companies to cover all COVID-19 tests and treatments if needed. Emergency grants are provided for businesses and loan forgiveness for small businesses. The United States included $100 billion to go to hospitals for responding to the virus as well as $16 billion to Strategic National Stockpile to increase equipment need and employment, as well as developing a vaccine and faster diagnostics. Globally, the need for financial help and economic stability is a necessity to keep people alive and afloat.
Considering, the size of each package and the population of each country here is what the amount equals out per person:
Spain = $461
United States= $6079
The amount is intriguing. However, we know that all that money is not going to the person but to the businesses, hospitals, unemployment, and other areas in need. The perspective on the different amounts gives us an idea regarding how much each country has spent to help their economy. Globally, countries are seeing a drop in revenue during the Coronavirus closure. The debt in each county is rising as the world moves into what can only be seen as another great recession.
Will we be able to dig ourselves out of the ever-growing financial debt locally and globally?
UN Warns of Negative Impacts of Lockdowns on Women’s Health
Posted by Cole Vetter
Model United Nations, NMSU
May 7, 2020
While many countries around the world promptly locked down their economies and initiated quarantine protocols, the United Nations (UN) remained outspoken about the negative effects of the lockdown. The concerns of various UN organizations and high-ranking UN officials is that the lockdowns across the world will result in dramatically higher domestic violence occurrences and significant reductions in accessible women’s health services.
The UN Secretary-General called for a “global ceasefire” of domestic violence so that citizens can unite against the pandemic. He views the threat of domestic violence (regarding specifically women) to be vastly increased during the COVID-19 Lockdowns as potential domestic abusers experience more time at home than usual. Recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports provide evidence for this argument, highlighting the fact that women are not able to access appropriate heath facilities due to movement restrictions and that protection efforts by social services are likely severely hampered, with the UNFPA predicting a one-third reduction in lost progress towards domestic violence reduction objectives set by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The UNFPA also predicts a dramatic reduction of accessible women’s health services, with travel restrictions severely limiting women’s abilities to undergo abortions and procure contraceptives, projecting that 7 million unintended pregnancies will occur within a 6-month lockdown period.
The most vulnerable populations present before the pandemic are likely to be the most disaffected populations during the pandemic and additional resources are needed to ensure the survival of crucial institutions that provide health and safety to women who need it. The UNFPA is conducting a response plan to address these concerns, centering it around communication about women’s health and continuity of specific health services, predicting a need for 187.5 Million USD for the plan. Global enforcement of this plan will be unpredictable, however, and could prove ineffective in reaching a wide population.