UNRIC Info Point & Library Newsletter: July 2024


New UN websites & publications

UN in General

United Nations Global Principles for Information Integrity: Recommendations for Multi-stakeholder Action
English: https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/un-global-principles-for-information-integrity-en.pdf
French: https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/unglobal_principles_fr.pdf
Spanish: https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/principios_globales_onu_integridad_informacion.pdf
The United Nations launched new Global Principles for Information Integrity on 24 June 2024, emphasizing the need for immediate action to address the harms caused by misinformation, disinformation and hate speech. UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined key recommendations aimed at making information spaces safer while at the same time upholding human rights such as freedom of speech. “At a time when billions of people are exposed to false narratives, distortions and lies, these principles lay out a clear path forward, firmly rooted in human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and opinion,” he said. The Secretary-General urged governments, tech companies, advertisers and the public relations (PR) industry to take responsibility for the spread and monetization of content that results in harm.
see also: Algorithms should not control what people see, UN chief says, launching Global Principles for Information Integrity (UN News, 24 June 2024): https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/06/1151376

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2024
The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2024 – launched on 28 June 2024 – details the significant challenges the world is facing in making substantial strides towards achieving the SDGs based on the latest data and estimates. It features areas with setbacks while also showcasing where tangible progress has been made, for instance, in reducing global child mortality, preventing HIV infection, and access to energy and mobile broadband. The report also highlights where action must accelerate, particularly in critical areas undermining SDG progress – climate change, peace and security, inequalities among and between countries, among others. According to the report, with just six years remaining, current progress falls far short of what is required to meet the SDGs. Without massive investment and scaled up action, the achievement of the SDGs — the blueprint for a more resilient and prosperous world and the roadmap out of current global crises — will remain elusive. The lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, escalating conflicts, geopolitical tensions and growing climate chaos have severely hindered progress. The report details the urgent priorities and areas needed for stronger and more effective action to ensure the 2030 promise to end poverty, protect the planet and leave no one behind.
see also: With less than one fifth of targets on track, world is failing to deliver on promise of the Sustainable Development Goals, warns new UN report (UN DESA, 28 June 2024): https://www.un.org/en/with-less-than-one-fifth-of-targets-on-track

The People’s Climate Vote 2024 (UNDP)
The Peoples’ Climate Vote is the world’s largest standalone public opinion survey on climate change. It serves as a platform for people to express their concerns and needs on climate change to world leaders. This initiative, carried out by UNDP and the University of Oxford, was launched in 2021 with a first poll that surveyed people across 50 countries through adverts in popular mobile gaming apps. The 2024 survey is bigger in terms of scope: 77 countries, representing 87 percent of the world’s population, were asked their views on climate change. The 15 questions in the 2024 edition have never been put to people in any survey before. They asked how people’s day-to-day lives are impacted by climate change, how they feel it is being addressed in their countries and what they would like the world to do about it. The results give the most comprehensive public account yet of how people feel and respond to climate change. The Peoples’ Climate Vote 2024 results come at a crucial time. Leading scientific bodies warn that climate change is accelerating faster than expected. Meanwhile, global GHG emission levels continue to rise, and international tensions and conflicts are similarly on the increase. With more than half of the world’s population potentially voting in 2024, understanding how citizens are thinking about climate change is more important than ever. The survey’s results can help decision makers navigate this challenging context, and beyond.

Poster: Women political leaders 2024 (UN Women)
This poster presents global data on women in executive positions as Heads of State, Heads of Government, and Cabinet members heading Ministries. Data indicate that women are underrepresented at all levels of executive decision-making worldwide, and achieving gender parity in political life remains a distant goal. Only 26 countries are led by a woman, a modest increase from just 18 countries a decade ago. Women represent 23.3 per cent of Cabinet members heading Ministries in 2024—a less than 0.5 percentage point increase from 2023—and continue to primarily lead portfolios related to women and gender equality, family and children affairs, social affairs, and indigenous and minority affairs. Policy domains such as economic affairs, defence, justice, and home affairs, continue to be dominated by men.


Economic Growth and Sustainable Development

2024 World Investment Report: Investment facilitation and digital government (UNCTAD)
In 2023, global foreign direct investment (FDI) decreased by 2% to $1.3 trillion, according to the latest World Investment Report released by UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on 20 June 2024. When excluding the impact of a few exceptions, the report reveals a sharper decline of over 10% in global foreign investments for the second consecutive year. This decline is driven by increasing trade and geopolitical tensions in a slowing global economy. While the prospects for FDI remain challenging in 2024, the report says that “modest growth for the full year appears possible”, citing the easing of financial conditions and concerted efforts towards investment facilitation – a prominent feature of national policies and international agreements. With the global push to attract and retain financial flows, online information portals and single windows have proliferated to foster a conducive business and investment climate. For developing countries, digitalization not only provides a technical solution, but also a stepping stone for wider digital government implementation to address underlying weaknesses in governance and institutions which often hinder investment.

AI and the Holocaust: rewriting history? The impact of artificial intelligence on understanding the Holocaust (UNESCO)
A UNESCO report published on 18 June 2024 warns that unless decisive action is taken to integrate ethical principles, AI could distort the historical record of the Holocaust and fuel antisemitism. The report cautions that not only can Generative AI enable malicious actors to seed disinformation and hate-fueled narratives, but it can also inadvertently invent false or misleading content about the Holocaust. Published in partnership with the World Jewish Congress, the UNESCO report explains that as learners increasingly use Generative AI to complete assignments and find information online, they risk exposure to distorted information about the Holocaust, which has found new ways to spread through AI-generated content. With four in five (80%) of young people between the ages of 10 and 24 now using AI several times a day for education, entertainment and other purposes, action to ethically guide these new technologies must be taken quickly.

AI Preparedness Index (AIPI) (IMF)
AI Preparedness Index (AIPI) assesses the level of AI preparedness across 174 countries, based on a rich set of macro-structural indicators that cover the countries’ digital infrastructure, human capital and labor market policies, innovation and economic integration, and regulation and ethics. Source data include official data, surveys of hard data and surveys of perceptions compiled by 8 institutions: Fraser Institute, International Labor Organization, International Telecommunication Union, United Nations, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Universal Postal Union, World Bank, and World Economic Forum.

Artificial Intelligence in Social Security Organizations (UNU-EGOV / ISSA)
The United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV) has done a report in collaboration with the International Social Security Association (ISSA), examining the growing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in social security. The report underscores the transformative potential of AI in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of social security institutions. The report highlights significant strides made by social security institutions in integrating AI into their operations. AI has demonstrated its capacity to enhance service delivery, automate tasks, and significantly improve administrative efficiency as part of a broader data-driven strategy. By leveraging diverse data, AI enables organizations to create new business processes and provide value-added services, ensuring better support and reach to individuals in need.

Celebrating the living heritage of indigenous peoples (UNESCO)
The publication weaves together testimonies from Indigenous People’s communities in regard to their efforts to safeguard their intangible cultural heritage, some of which are inscribed on the UNESCO Lists.
“Short Summary: Indigenous Peoples represent a substantial part of humanity’s diversity, with their ways of life and knowledge being present in every region. Over 80 percent of the recognized languages around the world are indigenous. The promotion of indigenous languages and cultural expressions is UNESCO’s institutional priority, implemented through its comprehensive programmes, notably the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. Living heritage safeguarding is an integral part of this effort, characterized by a participatory community-based approach and a focus on intergenerational transmission. From the furthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean to the Amazon rainforest, the richness of Indigenous Peoples’ living heritage around the world is today inscribed on the UNESCO Lists of intangible cultural heritage. Their practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills must be safeguarded – and it is imperative for the future of cultural diversity that we learn from the way in which these communities create, maintain and pass on their living heritage. The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, now in its 20th year, has shifted the paradigm towards a more holistic and community-led efforts in living heritage safeguarding and continues to facilitate exchange of good practices. Let’s celebrate the vibrant intangible cultural heritage of Indigenous Peoples and realize a tomorrow where cultural expressions flourish everywhere.”

Commercial Determinants of Noncommunicable Diseases in the WHO European Region
A pioneering report from the WHO Regional Office for Europe spells out clearly how specific powerful industries are driving ill-health and premature mortality across Europe and central Asia, including through interfering in and influencing prevention and control efforts for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, and their risk factors including tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diets and obesity. The report calls on governments to implement mechanisms to identify conflicts of interest and protect public policies from industry interference. The new report sheds light on the wide range of tactics industries employ to maximize profits and undermine public health. Those practices fuel inequality and rates of cancer, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, and create a major barrier to prevention policies. The report identifies actions for governments, academia and civil society to reduce the disproportionate influence of the commercial sector in the health policy sphere.

Compendium on Sport for Development and Peace
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the “growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect, and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities, as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives” (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development A/RES/70/1, paragraph 37). The General Assembly has emphasized the contributions of sport to development and peace in a series of resolutions on sport as an enabler of sustainable development, and through an expanding network of actors and stakeholders supporting the theme. Given the ever-growing awareness of the important role of sport as a tool for social development and peace, this Compendium, prepared by the Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), aims to capture emerging trends on sport for development and peace and to provide a preliminary analysis of their main features. The objective is to support Member States interested in networking with other governments and learning about experiences in the practice of sport for development. The Compendium lists 44 selected initiatives from 16 countries, divided according to major categories of action areas, as follows: 1. Sport for all: legal, financial, and infrastructure initiatives; 2. Enhancing decent work; 3. Strengthening child and youth development and education; 4. Enhancing social inclusion, conflict prevention and peace building; 5. Promoting ethics and peace within sport; 6. Building partnerships to promote sport for development and peace.

The contribution of land and water management approaches to Sustainable Land Management and achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (UNCCD / UNU-EHS)
The United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) prepared this report to better understand the alignment of different land and water management approaches with sustainable land management (SLM) and land degradation neutrality (LDN). This alignment was assessed using criteria that comprise three pillars essential to SLM and LDN: ecosystem health, food security and human well-being. Other socioeconomic criteria used in the assessment are known to simultaneously contribute to all three pillars (i.e., cross-cutting criteria). Accordingly, this report addresses the following questions: 1. How do selected land and water management approaches align with the pillars and criteria of SLM and LDN? 2. Where do gaps in alignment occur? 3. How can these gaps in alignment be addressed to achieve the highest possible contribution of each approach to implementing SLM and achieving LDN? By demonstrating the alignment of the approaches with SLM and LDN and by identifying entry points for addressing gaps in alignment, this report can guide UNCCD Parties in planning and evaluating land and water management projects, leverage policy and donor support and increase the potential to advance SLM and achieve LDN.

Disability and Development Report 2024: Accelerating the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by, for and with persons with disabilities (UN DESA)
“Executive summary: Six years away from the deadline for the 2030 Agenda, the Disability and Development Report 2024 shows that persons with disabilities are being left behind. Progress for persons with disabilities on 30 per cent of targets of the SDGs is insufficient; on 14 per cent, the target has been missed or progress has stalled or gone into reverse. These include targets on access to financial resources, health care, water and ICT as well as on building resilience of persons with disabilities during disasters and other emergencies. A mere 5 indicators are on track, i.e., with progress consistent with achieving their respective targets for persons with disabilities by 2030 – these include remarkable progress in education laws on equal access, disaster early warnings in accessible formats, online services for persons with disabilities, government ministries accessible for persons with disabilities and monitoring of bilateral aid dedicated to disability inclusion. Wide gaps persist between persons with and without disabilities, particularly on food insecurity, health, access to energy and ICT – with gaps above 10 percentage points – and on multidimensional poverty and employment – with gaps above 20 percentage points. For women with disabilities, indigenous persons with disabilities, persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities and persons with disabilities living in rural areas, the gaps are wider. Moreover, although countries have increasingly involved persons with disabilities in decision-making processes, overall, this involvement remains low.”

Global Report on Early Childhood Care and Education: The right to a strong foundation (UNESCO / UNICEF)
This is the first report in a biennial series co-published by UNESCO and UNICEF. This report is in response to a commitment in the Tashkent Declaration and Commitments to Action for Transforming Early Childhood Care and Education in which governments and the international community reaffirmed their commitment to the right to education, beginning with the youngest children. The report provides a comprehensive roadmap for addressing challenges in learning and well-being through an integrated ECCE ecosystem, supporting children and families globally. The report explores how children learn and develop and how the key actors in children’s early environments – parents, families, educators, and the community at large – can be leveraged through public policies and social programmes to improve young children’s learning and well-being.

Global status report on alcohol and health and treatment of substance use disorders (WHO)
The Global status report on alcohol and health and treatment of substance use disorders presents a comprehensive overview of alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm and policy responses as well as treatment capacities for alcohol and drug use disorders worldwide. The report is based on data collected by WHO from Member States and organized in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals health target 3.5 which calls on countries to strengthen “the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol”. The chapter on alcohol and health continues the series of WHO global status reports on alcohol and health and presents the latest available data on the status of, and trends in, alcohol consumption, as well as estimates of the alcohol-attributable disease burden and descriptions of policy responses worldwide. On the basis of data collected from countries on the treatment of substance use disorders the report describes the status of key components of treatment responses to alcohol and drug use disorders and proposes a new service capacity index for these disorders as an additional contextual indicator for monitoring progress in this domain of SDG health target 3.5. The report concludes with broad directions for international action to accelerate progress towards achievement of SDG health target 3.5.

Government Analytics in Europe: Making Public Data Count (World Bank)
This report is part of a collection examining how analytics using government microdata is revolutionizing public administration throughout the world. Its focus is on government analytics in the European Union. The collection is based on “The Government Analytics Handbook”, a comprehensive guide to using data to understand and improve government. The reports in this collection aim to help public servants apply lessons from the Handbook to their own administrations by describing the unique opportunities and challenges for government analytics that arise in different regions. No two regions, countries, administrations, or organizations are alike—that is why using microdata to measure, understand, and improve government is so important!

Hydromet Gap Report 2024: Alliance for Hydromet Development (WMO)
The Hydromet Gap Report 2024 presents analysis based on Country Hydromet Diagnostics (CHD) conducted in 20 least developed countries and small island developing States. It sheds light on the weakest links in the hydrometeorological value chain, which require urgent attention from governments and development partners. A set of recommendations is also addressed to the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services with concrete advice on steps that would help them reach a higher level of maturi. The development and regular publication of the Hydromet Gap Report is one of the ten commitments outlined in the declaration of the Alliance for Hydromet Development, of which WMO is a founding member. The report monitors progress in closing the global capacity gap on weather, climate, hydrological and related environmental services.

Integrating Low-Cost Sensor Systems and Networks to Enhance Air Quality Applications (WMO / UNEP / IGAC)
Amid mounting concern about the health and environmental impacts of air pollution, a new report from the World Meteorological Organization points out the potential for low-cost sensor systems to assess levels of air pollution, identify sources and to support air quality strategies to reduce them. Low-cost sensor systems (LCS) represent a key tool for filling gaps in existing global and local air quality monitoring networks and contributing information for policy-relevant air quality strategies. In recent years, wide-scale deployments of LCS have been made in low- and middle-income countries, where they often provide air quality information in regions lacking the more traditional (and more expensive) reference grade monitors. In high-income countries, they supplement existing reference grade monitors with more localized near real-time air quality information – for instance, to monitor fire and smoke or vehicle emissions on busy roads.

Lessons and Recommendations for Implementing Digital Government in Small Island States (UNU-EGOV Policy Brief No. 5, 2024)
Small Island States face unique challenges in adopting and sustaining digital government systems. The policy brief addresses these challenges and offers strategies to overcome them, focusing on topics such as governance mechanisms, legal and regulatory frameworks, funding sources, and capacity building. Key recommendations include advocating for innovation and efficiency, leveraging open-source solutions, and exploring collaborative procurement arrangements. The brief also highlights the importance of digital government in promoting sustainable development and improving service delivery.

Patent Landscape Report – Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) (WIPO)
China-based inventors are filing the highest number of generative artificial intelligence patents, this new report from the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shows. According to the agency’s Patent Landscape Report, between 2014-2023, more than 38,000 GenAI patents came out of China, six times more than those filed by inventors in the United States, which came in second place. GenAI, or Generative AI, allows users to create content including text, images, music or software code, powering a range of industrial and consumer products, including chatbots such as ChatGPT, Google Gemini or Baidu’s ERNIE.

Prevention and control of iodine deficiency in the WHO European Region: adapting to changes in diet and lifestyle
The increasing popularity and availability of plant-based alternatives to key sources of iodine, such as milk, dairy, and fish, is contributing to persistent and increased insufficient iodine intake in the WHO European Region, according to a report released on 28 June 2024 by WHO/Europe and the Iodine Global Network (IGN). This increases risks for people’s health, particularly for women during pregnancy who have higher iodine needs. Milk and dairy products are important sources of iodine in many western and central European countries, especially for children. Many animal feeds and supplements are enriched with iodine to improve farm animals’ health and milk yields. Yet consumption of dairy products is declining among adolescents and adults, heightening their risk of iodine deficiency.

The price of inaction: The global private, fiscal and social costs of children and youth not learning (UNESCO)
English, French & Spanish: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000390193
In 1948, education was declared a “universal human right”. This right was reaffirmed in 2015, when the United Nations defined access to quality education for all as a Sustainable Development Goal. Yet, despite decades of progress in access to education, 250 million children and young people worldwide are still out of school, and 70% of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries are today unable to understand a simple written text. In this new report published on 17 June 2024, UNESCO puts the cost to the global economy of school drop-out and education gaps at $10,000 billion a year by 2030, equivalent to more than the annual GDPs of France and Japan combined. Conversely, the report estimates that reducing the proportion of early school leavers or those without basic skills by just 10% would increase annual GDP growth by 1 to 2 percentage points. Education therefore appears to be one of the best investments a country can make. Beyond these financial considerations, the report warns of the significant social damage caused by these educational shortcomings. Gaps in the acquisition of basic skills are associated, worldwide, with a 69% increase in early pregnancies among young girls, while each year of secondary education contributes to reducing the risk of girls marrying and having a child before the age of 18.
see also: Q&A: What you need to know about ‘the price of inaction’ in education (17 June 2024): https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/qa-what-you-need-know-about-price-inaction-education

Seeking Synergy Solutions: The Fourt Thematic Reports
1. Integrating Climate and SDG Knowledge and Data for Action
2. Policies that Support Both Climate and SDG Action
3. A New Financial System to Enable Both Climate and SDG Action
4. How Cities Can Act on Both Climate and SDGs
Four reports were launched on 11 June 2024 by experts convened by the UN, showing how action to tackle climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals can be accelerated by addressing both crises together, notably in the key areas of policy frameworks; financial systems; knowledge and data; and cities. Under the umbrella title Seeking Synergy Solutions, the four thematic reports, spearheaded by the Expert Group on Climate and SDG Synergy, were launched at a special event at the climate meetings in Bonn, Germany, laying the groundwork for the 2024 global synthesis report on climate and SDG synergy, to be released in July. The Expert Group is co-convened by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), which co-hosted the launch, joined by the secretariats of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The recommendations come at a crucial time. As pointed out in the report on Policies that Support Both Climate and SDG Action, both the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development underwent stocktaking exercises in 2023 and were found to be far off track from meeting their goals. In 2025, countries are obligated under the Paris Agreement to put forward new and ambitious commitments in the form of enhanced NDCs (nationally determined contributions), and the report urges them to use this major opportunity to better integrate the SDGs and their national priorities, to accelerate impact.

Sustainable Development in the UNECE Region: Facing a Headwind in 2024
The 2024 UNECE Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Progress Report shows that the UNECE region is far off-target when it comes to meeting commonly agreed SDG indicators. Spanning across Europe, North America, the Caucasus and Central Asia, Türkiye and Israel, the region is currently on track to achieve only 20 targets (17% of the 117 measurable targets) by 2030. There is a pressing need to accelerate efforts on 80 targets over the next six years, while 17 targets require a complete reversal of trend. Two areas that are not on track and that are particularly high priorities for UNECE member States are climate action and the circular economy transition.


Tackling Climate Change: Fostering trust in climate action through quality and standards (UNIDO)
Climate change is the biggest challenge of our times. From shifting weather patterns that threaten human health to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Quality infrastructure (QI) is key to climate action, as it contributes to building a greener and more equitable future for generations to come. The publication explores how QI can support and promote climate action initiatives. It delves into the reasons climate change and associated adaptation and mitigation initiatives have become a strategic imperative, and explains what is meant by a quality infrastructure system (QIS) and how trade facilitation can be used to support global initiatives such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also examines each of the key components of a QIS, how these can contribute to climate action initiatives, and how developing countries in particular can transition towards a more sustainable QIS. The publication benefitted greatly from contributions by members of the International Network on Quality Infrastructure (INetQI), particularly the International Organization for Standards (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF).

UNESCO Global Judges’ Initiative: survey on the use of AI systems by judicial operators
A recent UNESCO survey has revealed a concerning trend: 44% of judicial operators, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers, are utilizing AI tools such as ChatGPT in their work, yet only 9% have received proper institutional training or guidelines. This finding, from a survey of judicial actors from 96 countries, highlights a significant gap, raising serious ethical and legal concerns. The survey shows that 93% of respondents are familiar with AI technologies, such as ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Bing Chat. 44% are actively using them for tasks including summarizing texts, writing emails, drafting legal documents and conducting legal research. This high level of engagement demonstrates the growing reliance on AI in judicial systems globally. Despite the benefits of AI, its use in judicial processes carries significant risks. The survey identities potential abuse of human rights, including privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination. Notably, 7 out of 10 of judicial operators recognize the risks of using AI chatbots in legal work, such as inaccuracies and biases.

WHO clinical treatment guideline for tobacco cessation in adults
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a comprehensive set of tobacco cessation interventions, including behavioural support delivered by health-care providers, digital cessation interventions and pharmacological treatments in a first guideline on tobacco cessation. The guideline focuses on helping the more than 750 million tobacco users who want to quit all forms of tobacco. The recommendations are relevant for all adults seeking to quit various tobacco products, including cigarettes, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco products, cigars, roll-your-own tobacco, and heated tobacco products (HTPs).


International Peace and Security

Artificial intelligence and democracy (UNESCO)
English: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000389736
Spanish: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000389736_spa
UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, adopted by all Member States in November 2021, is the first global policy framework for artificial intelligence (AI) and outlines different aspects of this technology that directly impact political life. The initial considerations of the Recommendation outline the potential ramifications of AI across diverse domains, notably its implications for democracy. This report builds on these analyses and recommendations, aligning with the core values and principles outlined in the Recommendation. It delves into the current and potential impact of artificial intelligence on democracy and the benefits that both artificial intelligence and digitalization, in general, could bring to enhancing collective decision-making processes. This analysis is structured around four key topics: 1. The democratic expectations and disappointments of digitization; 2. The new digital public space: the democratic conversation; 3. The democracy of data: the politics of Big Data; 4. Democracy as a form of political decision-making: algorithmic governance. Finally, this report offers recommendations for the democratic governance of artificial intelligence aimed at mitigating negative impacts and fostering a more democratic approach to AI governance.

Children and armed conflict: Report of the Secretary-General (S/2024/384, 3 June 2024)
English, French & Spanish: https://undocs.org/S/2024/384
Violence against children caught in armed conflict reached “extreme levels” last year, with a “shocking” 21 per cent increase in extreme violations, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a report published on 13 July 2024. Children were killed and maimed in unprecedented numbers in places such as Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, notably Gaza; Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Ukraine, his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict revealed. The alarming increase was due to the evolving nature, complexity, and intensification of armed conflict, as well as the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the report said.
The annual report contains an annex of parties that commit grave violations. As has already been widely reported, for the first time, the Israeli armed and security forces were included for killing and injuring children and attacking schools and hospitals. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were also added to the list for the first time for killing, wounding and abducting children. The report noted that the war in Sudan led to a “staggering” 480 per cent increase in grave violations. The Sudanese Army and rival military the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been battling for more than a year and both are on the blacklist for killing and maiming children and attacking schools and hospitals. The RSF also recruited and used children in addition to committing rape and other sexual violence against them.

Concept note for the Security Council high-level open debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: addressing evolving threats in cyberspace”
English, French & Spanish: https://undocs.org/S/2024/446
The Security Council held a high-level open debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: addressing evolving threats in cyberspace” on 20 June 2024. This will be the signature event of the Republic of Korea in its capacity as the President of the Security Council for the month of June.

Concept note for the Security Council open debate on the theme “Children and armed conflict: how to advance our collective norms towards protecting children and ending all grave violations”
English, French & Spanish: https://undocs.org/S/2024/468
The Security Council held open debate on the theme “Children and armed conflict: how to advance our collective norms towards protecting children and ending all grave violations”, on 26 June 2024. The Republic of Korea in its capacity as the President of the Security Council for the month of June has prepared this concept note.

A development approach to advancing gender engagement and addressing gender inequalities in fragile, conflict, and violent situations (World Bank)
States affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) dominate the list of the 10 worst-performing countries on key socioeconomic indicators for gender equality. These contexts often exacerbate barriers to gender equality and increase the risk of gender-based violence. Therefore, it is critical to implement programs to advance gender engagement and address gender inequalities in FCV settings. This Approach Paper identifies practices in the design, implementation, monitoring, and measuring of interventions that contribute towards addressing gender inequalities in FCV countries. The paper is meant to inform analytic, operational, and technical assistance activities by Bank teams. It showcases regional experiences, lessons learned, and best practices on addressing gender inequalities in FCV settings. Additionally, the Approach Paper includes an Action Plan outlining steps to elevate gender issues and responses beyond individual projects to more strategic country engagements. The Approach Paper is complementary to the thematic note of the new Gender Strategy. Together, these two initiatives support the implementation of the WBG’s FCV and Gender Strategies.

Environmental Impact of the Conflict in Gaza: Preliminary Assessment of Environmental Impacts (UNEP)
This Preliminary Assessment was prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in response to an official request from the State of Palestine for an assessment of the environmental impacts of the conflict in the Gaza Strip. The Preliminary Assessment provides a summary of what is known about the environmental impacts of the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip, including impacts on environmental management and waste disposal systems; energy, fuel and associated infrastructure; destruction of buildings and conflict-related debris; marine and terrestrial environments; and air quality. In addition to describing known, and in many cases visible, environmental impacts, this assessment highlights conflict-related environmental issues that are of serious concern, but about which the United Nations has limited information at this stage. Conflict was ongoing in Gaza throughout preparation of this report: the security situation and access restrictions prevailing in Gaza influenced the type of analysis UNEP was able to undertake. Some conflict-related impacts – such as the likely contamination of soil and the Coastal Aquifer by chemicals and heavy metals – can only be fully understood through more detailed sampling and analysis, which should be undertaken as soon as conditions permit.

The experimented society: interventions, social science, and the failure of post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan (UNU-Wider Working Paper)
This paper critically examines the shortcomings of post-conflict reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021, arguing that an overemphasis on measurable results and causal inference led to overly narrow, community-driven development interventions that failed to appreciate the complex political realities of the country. While these interventions espoused community control, they were in fact the result of a top-down approach reminiscent of earlier state-building efforts, neglected the importance of customary authority structures, and treated Afghanistan as a blank slate for experimentation. Such community-based programmes also lead to a myopic focus on quantifiable metrics at the expense of political considerations, reflecting a broader methodological bias in development studies exemplified by the popularity of randomized controlled trials. Drawing on extensive field observations, the paper contends that such programmes worked against the grain of Afghan society and paradoxically undermined the legitimacy and effectiveness of local governance institutions. The paper concludes by advocating a more holistic, adaptive, and politically informed approach to grassroots development in conflict-affected regions—one that empowers authentic local ownership, aligns with endogenous social and political structures, and grapples with the messy realities of fostering legitimate governance in fragile contexts. The hard-earned lessons from Afghanistan’s recent past should prompt a fundamental rethinking of what constitutes effective development assistance in post-conflict environments.

Promoting an open and inclusive public sphere (UNDP)
An open and inclusive public sphere is not only a condition for the realization of the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs. It is also an enabler of peace and development. For this reason, promoting an open and inclusive public sphere is a key component of UNDP’s work in the area of governance. This set of three documents – “What is an open and inclusive public sphere? A framing note”, “Promoting an open and inclusive public sphere. Programmatic options” and “Promoting an open and inclusive public sphere. At a glance” – outline how UNDP leverages its unique comparative advantage to advance the principles of openness and inclusion within governance systems.


Human Rights

Afghanistan Gender Country Profile 2024
The current situation in Afghanistan presents globally unprecedented challenges to delivering targeted interventions on gender equality. Since August 2021, the Taliban has undertaken an intensive and systematic dismantling of Afghanistan’s legal and institutional infrastructure, particularly targeting those who had supported the gender equality and women’s empowerment advances achieved under the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan between 2001 and 2021. Significant discrepancies exist between the national and subnational levels, yet data collection on issues relating to gender equality is increasingly difficult, especially following bans on women working for NGOs and the extension of this ban to the United Nations. The “Afghanistan gender country profile 2024”, produced with the financial support of the European Union, provides a snapshot of the current situation regarding gender equality in Afghanistan, noting the previous legal and institutional frameworks (from the period 1978–2021), and examining the current decrees, policies, and practices shaping the gender equality landscape under Taliban rule.

Breaking the cycle: ending the criminalization of homelessness and poverty: Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/56/61/Add.3, 26 June 2024)
English, French & Spanish: https://undocs.org/A/HRC/56/61/Add.3
The study, issued by the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, explains why the criminalization of persons experiencing homelessness or poverty is not a suitable solution and may violate a wide range of human rights. The study argues that criminalization perpetuates historical legacies of discrimination and exclusion, entrenches discrimination and stigmatization and is an unsuitable, inefficient and costly approach to address social issues. It calls on States and local governments to repeal vagrancy laws and legislation penalizing life-sustaining activities in public spaces, such as sleeping, living, begging or undertaking informal economic activities in public spaces for persons that have no other means for their own survival.

Cross-border and transnational female genital mutilation: Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/56/29, 17 April 2024)
English, French & Spanish: https://undocs.org/A/HRC/56/29
The global fight against female genital mutilation is being undermined by the practice of crossing national borders and beyond to have girls undergo the procedure, this new report from the UN Human Rights Office warns. Although many States have intensified their efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM), the practice continues across the world, in part due to “the clandestine nature of cross-border and transnational FGM,” the report says. Based on in-depth desk research and submissions from States and civil society organisations around the world, the report notes that an estimated 4.3 million girls were at risk of being subjected to FGM in 2023. More than 600,000 women in the European Union are thought to be living with the consequences of FGM.

Mental Health of Older Persons (UNECE Policy Brief on Ageing No. 29)
The latest UNECE Policy Brief on Ageing on Mental Health of Older Persons sheds light on the complex challenges related to mental health of older persons in the region and presents different policy strategies applied across UNECE member States to promote, protect and care for the mental health of older persons. The policy brief outlines the individual, social, and environmental determinants that intersect to influence the mental health of older persons. While genetic factors and experiences throughout the life course often play a role, multiple and concurrent challenges during later life can place extra strain on mental health. Declining physical health or mobility limitations may reduce older persons’ ability to engage in activities they enjoy and restrict their social interactions. Experiencing the cognitive or physical decline or death of friends and family members can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. Social and environmental factors such as socio-economic status, social connections, access to mental health care, physical environments, and experiences of ageism further contribute to mental health outcomes. Understanding these determinants across different domains is important for designing effective policies that support mental health in later life.

Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel (A/HRC/56/26, 27 May 2024 – Advance unedited version)
Detailed findings on attacks carried out on and after 7 October 2023 in Israel: Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel (A/HRC/56/CRP.3, 10 June 2024)
Detailed findings on the military operations and attacks carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory from 7 October to 31 December 2023: Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel (A/HRC/56/CRP.4, 10 June 2024)
Israeli authorities are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the military operations and attacks in Gaza since 7 October 2023, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, said in a new report released on 12 June 2024. The Commission also found that Palestinian armed groups are responsible for war crimes committed in Israel.
The Commission’s report – the UN’s first in-depth investigation of the events that took place on and since 7 October 2023 – is based on interviews with victims and witnesses conducted remotely and during a mission to Türkiye and Egypt, thousands of open-source items verified through advanced forensic analysis, hundreds of submissions, satellite imagery and forensic medical reports. Israel obstructed the Commission’s investigations and prevented its access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Thematic Report: Indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks during the conflict in Gaza (October – December 2023) (OHCHR)
The UN Human Rights Office published an assessment on 19 June 2024 on six emblematic attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza last year that led to high numbers of civilian fatalities and widespread destruction of civilian objects, raising serious concerns under the laws of war with respect to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. The report details six emblematic attacks involving the suspected use of GBU-31 (2,0000 lbs), GBU-32 (1,000 lbs) and GBU-39 (250 lbs) bombs from 9 October to 2 December 2023 on residential buildings, a school, refugee camps and a market. The UN Human Rights Office verified 218 deaths from these six attacks, and said information received indicated the number of fatalities could be much higher. The report concludes that the series of Israeli strikes, exemplified by the six incidents, indicates that the IDF may have repeatedly violated fundamental principles of the laws of war. In this connection, it notes that unlawful targeting when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, in line with a State or organisational policy, may also implicate the commission of crimes against humanity.


Humanitarian Affairs

CERF Handbook (As of January 2024)
The Handbook is a reference tool to find quick answers on the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) as well as a guide to applying for and maximizing the impact of CERF funds. The CERF Handbook was first published in 2018 and is being updated regularly.
Parts were updated throughout 2022 and 2023. In August 2023, a chapter on drought guidance was added and in October 2023, guidance for RC/HCs was integrated into the Handbook. The CERF Handbook describes CERF as a humanitarian financing tool and the activities involved in all parts of the CERF process, from coordinated prioritization to applying for CERF funds and reporting. You will also find explanations of what is meant by using CERF strategically, and the context-specific relevance of the CERF Life-Saving Criteria in different situations.

Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2023 (UNHCR)
Forced displacement surged to historic new levels across the globe last year and this, according to the flagship Global Trends Report from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. The rise in overall forced displacement – to 120 million by May 2024 – was the 12th consecutive annual increase and reflects both new and mutating conflicts and a failure to resolve long-standing crises. The figure would make the global displaced population equivalent to the 12th largest country in the world, around the size of Japan’s. A key factor driving the figures higher has been the devastating conflict in Sudan: at the end of 2023, 10.8 million Sudanese remained uprooted. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, millions were internally displaced last year by vicious fighting. UNRWA estimates that by the end of last year, up to 1.7 million people (75 per cent of the population) had been displaced in the Gaza Strip by the catastrophic violence, most of whom were Palestine refugees. Syria remains the world’s largest displacement crisis, with 13.8 million forcibly displaced in and outside the country.

Lessons from Disaster Governance: Port of Beirut Explosion Reform Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (GFDRR / World Bank)
Lebanon’s experience of compounding crises over the past several years points to the nexus of fragility and disaster. The country has recently experienced one of the worst financial and economic crises in human history. The crisis derives from a set of structural causes of fragility: a combination of chronic macroeconomic imbalances and political inaction stemming from political polarization and decision-making paralysis. Lebanon’s economic model has failed to generate economic opportunities, leading to high levels of inequality and poverty. The privatization of services and their patronage-based access, coupled with the capture and mismanagement of public funds intended for infrastructure, have led to a decline in the quality of virtually all public services, including a near collapse in electricity provision. The international community’s response after this humanitarian disaster was an innovative institutional platform, the Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (3RF), aiming to facilitate recovery and reconstruction in the aftermath of the disaster while reactivating reforms to address the drivers of fragility in the country. Organized by the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), and the World Bank in December 2020, the 3RF not only provided a prioritized comprehensive plan across various sectors to support Beirut’s recovery and reconstruction but also included a second track to advance critical reforms to address governance challenges in Lebanon. The 3RF is a unique governance platform, backed by a fund-pooling facility (the Lebanon Financing Facility, or LFF), which links the unlocking of investments in Lebanon with the reform results so that nonhumanitarian assistance received through national institutions is conditional on the implementation of reform. While the people-centered recovery response concluded in June 2022, the 3RF continues on Track 2, which focuses on inclusive policy dialogue, the implementation of reforms, and the reconstruction of critical services and infrastructure.

Partnership in Action: UNDP and UNHCR Cooperation on Forced Displacement and Statelesness
Forced displacement is increasing in scale, driven by conflicts, persecution and disasters. Refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities are in need of support and opportunities. Greater international responsibility sharing and joining together humanitarian, development and peacebuilding responses are key to prevention and finding durable solutions for the displaced, the stateless, and host communities. The UNDP and UNHCR are combining resources, networks and humanitarian, development and peacebuilding expertise in some of the most complex displacement crises around the world. This report gathers together examples of joint work as part of the UNDP/UNHCR Global Collaboration Framework for Inclusion and Solutions, 2023-2025. They illustrate the diverse ways in which UNDP and UNHCR collaborate to increase the benefits to forcibly displaced, stateless and host communities – from multi-country regional platforms through to country specific projects, data and analysis. The examples include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS) for Central America Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Myanmar, Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) to the Syria Crisis, South Sudan and Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

On This Journey, No One Cares if You Live or Die: Abuse, Protection and Justice along Routes between East and West Africa and Africa’s Mediterranean Coast – Volume 2 (UNHCR / IOM / MMC)
Refugees and migrants continue to face extreme forms of violence, human rights violations and exploitation not just at sea, but also on land routes across the African continent, towards its Mediterranean coastline. This is according to a new report released on 5 July 2024 by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC). With more people estimated to cross the Sahara Desert than the Mediterranean Sea – and deaths of refugees and migrants in the desert presumed to be double those happening at sea – the report casts light on the much less documented and publicized perils facing refugees and migrants on these land routes. Spanning a 3-year data collection period, the report also warns of an increase in the number of people attempting these perilous land crossings and the protection risks they face. This is in part the result of deteriorating situations in countries of origin and host countries – including the eruption of new conflicts in the Sahel and Sudan, the devastating impact of climate change and disasters on new and protracted emergencies in the East and Horn of Africa, as well as the manifestation of racism and xenophobia affecting refugees and migrants.
see also: Data visualization “Death in the Desert”: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/da9df715ef4d40b1bbe257b13bee4ae4/


Drug Control, Crime Prevention and Counter-terrorism

World Drug Report 2024 (UNODC)
The emergence of new synthetic opioids and a record supply and demand of other drugs has compounded the impacts of the world drug problem, leading to a rise in drug use disorders and environmental harms, according to the World Drug Report 2024 launched by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on 26 June 2024. The number of people who use drugs has risen to 292 million in 2022, a 20 per cent increase over 10 years. Cannabis remains the most widely used drug worldwide (228 million users), followed by opioids (60 million users), amphetamines (30 million users), cocaine (23 million users), and ecstasy (20 million users). Nitazenes – a group of synthetic opioids which can be even more potent than fentanyl – have recently emerged in several high-income countries, resulting in an increase in overdose deaths. The Report includes special chapters on the impact of the opium ban in Afghanistan; synthetic drugs and gender; the impacts of cannabis legalization and the psychedelic “renaissance”; the right to health in relation to drug use; and how drug trafficking in the Golden Triangle is linked with other illicit activities and their impacts.


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