The devastating Haiti earthquake, beginning of the Syrian conflict, girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai’s inspiring work, the Paris climate deal and launch of the UN’s 2030 Agenda were some of the big global stories that unfolded in the last decade, according to the UN’s ‘Decade in Review’ report. The report states that the teenage years of the 21st century are nearly over and, as the world prepare to enter the 2020s, the UN News takes a look back at some of the “big stories on our global patch” that took place between 2010 and 2019.
The decade began with an immense disaster in Haiti, already among the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. A devastating, 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 12, 2010 killing hundreds and thousands of people (220,000 according to Haitian Government figures), and causing severe damage to buildings, it said. A week after the tragedy, the Security Council authorised an increase of 3,500 peacekeepers for Haiti, on top of the 9,000 already in the country to help with recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts.
The decade also saw the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011. The UN said in its review report that in April 2011, the then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon phoned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to tell him that he was “greatly disturbed” by reports of violence in the country, it said. The violence erupted following demonstrations which were part of a broader pro-democracy movement across North Africa and the Middle East that led to the downfall of long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, which became known as the Arab Spring.
Eight years on, “the conflict would still be ongoing, provoking a major refugee crisis with hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, and a major humanitarian disaster: over 5,6 million people have fled Syria since 2011, and some 6,6 million are thought to be displaced within the country, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR”, it said. Then in 2012, Malala became the “most famous teenage in the world”. The young girls’ education activist Malala and two other girls were shot by a Taliban gunman while taking the bus home from school in October 2012.
“The attack made waves around the world, and was widely condemned: on Human Rights Day that year, a special tribute to Malala was held at the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), pushing for action to ensure every girl’s right to go to school, and to advance girls’ education as an urgent priority. “Malala’s activism and profile have only grown since the assassination attempt. She won several high-profile awards, including the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (with Indian social reformer Kailash Satyarthi), and became a UN Messenger of Peace in 2017, with a special focus on girls’ education,” the report said.
In 2014, it was the time when the UN tackled the worst Ebola outbreak in history, it said. The deadly, highly contagious virus spread rapidly through Guinea, as well as neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, to become known as the Western Africa Ebola Outbreak. Some 6,000 deaths were recorded that year, and whole communities paralysed by fear, it said.
By August 2014, the WHO had declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) to ensure a halt to the spread of the disease to other countries. It would take two years until the WHO was able to declare the PHEIC over, by which time it had recorded 28,616 cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and 11,310 deaths, the review said.
The decade also brought with it hope for climate action through concerted international efforts when in December 2015, the Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted. For the first time, practically all countries of the world pledged to combat the climate crisis and adapt to its consequences, which include the existential threat of global warming.
The deal was adopted following two weeks of negotiations at the COP21 UN climate change conference, covering the areas deemed necessary for a landmark conclusion: mitigation, in order to keep temperatures no more than 2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels; adaptation, so that countries can deal better with the impacts of climate change; and support, with finance available for the most vulnerable, and poorest nations. UN chief Antonio Guterres has made the climate crisis one of the central pillars of his mandate, instituting several initiatives that ensured the issue was given fresh momentum and focus, particularly in 2019, the report said.
It was in the decade that will end in five days that a blueprint for a better future was adopted, it said. “By 2015, the target year for the goals, much positive work had been achieved, but a new vision was needed. This came in the form of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was officially launched in 2016, and was designed to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what they were not able to accomplish,” it said.
The review said the agenda set out a plan of action for people, the planet and prosperity, including the eradication of poverty, described by the UN as “the greatest global challenge, and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development”. In 2020, there will be just 10 years left to achieve the Goals and implement the Agenda, and the UN has launched a Decade of Action to speed up the process.
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Source: Financial Express