Sid Chatterjee Epitomizes the New Leadership Model of UN Resident Coordinators Worldwide

Former Ministry of Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed receiving credentials from newly Appointed UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator Siddharth Chatterjee, at her office in 2016. Credit: UNDP Kenya

By Rodney Reynolds
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 16 2020 – Siddharth Chatterjee, who has served with the United Nations for over 20 years, has been appointed as the new Resident Coordinator in China, the world’s second largest economy after the United States.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters December 15 that his appointment follows confirmation from the Chinese government.

A product of Princeton, one of America’s prestigious Ivy League universities, Chatterjee, an Indian national and currently Resident Coordinator in Kenya, will take up his new post in the middle of January next year.

Resident Coordinators, said Dujarric, are the Secretary-General’s representatives for development at the country level. They lead UN teams supporting countries to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

China’s confirmation of Chatterjee’s appointment, particularly at a time of increased political and military tensions with India, is an indication, not only of Beijing‘s determination to strengthen multilateral relationships but also its recognition of Chatterjee’s outstanding track record in the UN system.

“Sid’s exemplary leadership leaves a lasting footprint in the execution of Government/UN collaboration impacting millions of lives in Kenya and the region. We presented the gift of a giant footprint as a reminder of the unforgettable journey that he has walked with the people of Kenya,” said Kenya’s Minister for Sports Culture & Heritage, Ambassador Amina Mohamed in her farewell tribute in a tweet.

Salim Lone, UN director of communications (1998-2003) under Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Spokesman for Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga (2005-2013), told IPS a lot of work at the highest bilateral levels goes into such senior UN appointments in any nation, leave alone China.

“Sid’s case is even more complex as he is not merely an Indian but a former senior security official in a super elite military unit, especially at a time of open military tensions,” he added.

At the same time, this is a tribute to the Chinese maturity and the UN’s boldness in proposing Sid. A winning situation on all fronts, said Lone, a one-time UN Spokesman for Sergio Vieira de Mello in Baghdad (2003).

Amado Philip de Andrés, Regional Representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Eastern Africa and the Horn, said “Sid epitomizes the new leadership model of the United Nations Resident Coordinator worldwide.”

“He has inspired us at the UN Country Team to go the extra mile to deliver the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) in Kenya while supporting Kenya to progressively become an innovation hub in the region,” he declared.

In his current post in Kenya, Chatterjee has led 23 UN agencies, funds and programmes to support the Government’s humanitarian and development agenda since 2016.

Described as an avowed champion for gender equality and prevention of gender-based violence, Chatterjee has worked in complex emergency settings, including in Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Indonesia and with the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan.

He has also worked in United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Red Cross movement, UNOPS and UN Security.

A highlight of his career was, the demobilization of 3551 child soldiers in South Sudan during the height of a conflict, an initiative he led in 2000.

He has also been featured by Forbes magazine for championing women’s rights and gender equality. He was interviewed by CGTN America where he commented on the important the role of Chinese peacekeepers in the United Nations and has also commended the Belt and Road initiative.

Chatterjee has written extensively on humanitarian and development issues in a variety of journals such as Newsweek, the Hill, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, CNBC Africa, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Reuters, Inter Press Service (IPS) the Global Observatory and mainstream Kenyan journals.

Chatterjee sees the increasing focus on South-South collaboration as an opportunity for China to provide global leadership for the acceleration of the SDGs in Africa.

He has spoken often about his passion for bridging the poverty gap in developing countries. His new focus is likely to be the push for Universal Health Coverage as well as accelerating rural development through agriculture, which provides the clearest pathways for getting out of poverty in rural areas.

Chatterjee says, “the UN and China can make available the tools, approaches and technologies to small holder farmers in developing countries so that they can increase production and productivity and leapfrog food security and the sustainable development goal on ending hunger or SDG 2”.

The new UN leadership in China will have a unique opportunity as a convenor, connector, and catalyser in the emerging partnership between China and Africa.


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Education Cannot Wait Interviews Colombia’s Minister of Education María Victoria Angulo

By External Source
Dec 16 2020 (IPS-Partners)

María Victoria Angulo is Colombia’s Minister of Education. She holds a Master´s Degree in Development Economics from the Universidad de Los Andes and a Master´s Degree in Specialized Economic Analysis from Pompeau Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain). The minister has more than 20 years of experience in educational policy development.

Education Cannot Wait recently announced US$12.4 million in catalytic grant financing for a multi-year resilience programme in Colombia. The initial programme will run for three years, with the goal of leveraging an additional US$70.5 million in co-financing from national and global partners, the private sector and philanthropic foundations. The programme will reach at least 30,000 children through early childhood education, 90,000 children through primary education, and 30,000 children through secondary education.

ECW: Colombia has set an example for the world in welcoming Venezuelans who have fled instability and insecurity back home. One important component of that response has been to receive over 350,000 Venezuelan children and adolescents into the country’s school system, mainly in public schools. It would be useful to highlight good practices that your Ministry has put in place that could help other countries respond in a similar positive manner.

Minister Angulo: In Colombia, education is a fundamental right and a public service, consecrated in our Political Constitution. We recognize that “Children’s rights prevail over those of everyone else”, regardless of nationality, migration status, race, sex and political and religious beliefs, among others. So, we recognize that equal rights includes all foreign citizens in our country.

One of the first actions we took in our country, and in particular in the education system, was to make the requirements to access the education system more flexible for children with Venezuelan origin in regards to documents and records. As a consequence, we have seen a 1,067 per cent increase in enrollment, from 34,030 Venezuelan students in 2018 to 363,126 in 2020.

Credit: Andrés Felipe Valenzuela

This exponential increase in enrollment has led us to generate innovative and transformative actions, in addition to the lines of work established in the National Development Plan “Pact for Colombia, Pact for Equality” 2018-2022, where education quality, coverage increase, school permanence and the protection of complete educational trajectories have been prioritized.

In this context we can highlight the following good practices:

    Migration regularization: We are very close to officially telling the country the results of the joint work the Ministry has advanced with other government sectors to create the Special Permanence Permit for the Education Sector which will be a migration regularization tool for those students enrolled in the education system, (preschool, primary and secondary education) to facilitate access, continuance and promotion within the education trajectory for students with migrant status who do not have a valid identification document in Colombia; this applies to close to 85 per cent of migrant enrolled students with Venezuelan origin.

This innovative process, unique in the world, will allow these children and youth to overcome the barrier of a lack of identification documents, and allow them not only to have access to education services, but also to health and social protection services offered by the Colombian government, under the same conditions as Colombian citizens.

    Grade Leveling: Given that the Colombian and Venezuelan education systems are different, the measures taken in the ‘Strategy for Attending Migration from Venezuela’ – established in the policy document CONPES 3950 – have allowed the Ministry to advance in different fronts like designing proficiency tests and grade leveling processes.

With Decree 1288 of 2018, we have also advanced in terms of strategies of school grade accreditation. This decree established that Venezuelan children and youth can validate grades through evaluations or academic activities in the schools they are attending, with no additional cost. This process allows grade validation for preschool, primary and secondary education until 10th grade. In the case of 11th grade, the process must be done with the Colombian Institute for Education Evaluation (ICFES).

Improvement in validation processes: To facilitate the validation of primary and secondary education studies, the National Ministry of Education has updated its orientations to define leveling strategies and proficiency tests for Venezuelan migrant and returned Colombian students. The Ministry validation platform has been improved to speed up the process for Venezuelans, and a specialized group has been created to solve them in less than 15 days.

    Teacher training: Regarding integration into the school system, this Ministry has identified the need to strengthen teacher support to provide them with the necessary tools to implement the welcome and well-being strategy for the migrant and returned population within the education system. Currently, through the “All to Learn Program” and the school cohabitation system we aim to prevent any type of discrimination.

    School Food: The School Feeding Program has been improved so that migrant Venezuelan students can have access to this program under the same conditions as Colombian students. The only requirement is that the school and grade they are enrolled in are focalized by the local education authority. This has allowed us to serve in 2019 around 140,000 students, and in 2020 around 260,000 students of Venezuelan origin.

    Humanitarian corridor for education purposes: The National Ministry of Education has not only strived to guarantee education access to the Venezuelan population living in Colombia, but also to the population living in a situation of back-and-forth migration in the border zone. For them we designed a humanitarian corridor for education purposes, which has benefitted, since its creation, around 4,000 students living in municipalities in the border area, who study in schools in Cucuta, Villa del Rosario and other municipalities on the Colombian side of the border. Since the creation of the humanitarian corridor, the National Ministry of Education has led the necessary normative, technical, political and financial processes needed for its effective operation. Between 2015 and 2019, $13.137 billion pesos have been allocated for its operation, and for 2020, $5 billion pesos have been allocated.

    Technical assistance: To assist territorial education authorities in regards to the education for migrant population of Venezuelan origin, actions to provide general technical assistance for local education authorities and their directive teams from different areas of the Ministry of Education have been organized. To this end, meetings are programmed to take stock of the activities that are being implemented in the territories to guarantee education service provision, as well as well-being and permanence strategies.

ECW: While there are good practices that the Government of Colombia has developed, we know that welcoming such record numbers of Venezuelans to your country has also presented challenges. Knowing how this can strain local communities, particularly those hosting large concentrations of Venezuelans, could you elaborate on the model community and communications strategies to promote social harmony and discourage xenophobia, which has had a positive impact in schools, that the Government has put in place.

Minister Angulo: As a sector, we are committed to enabling the conditions and developing in each child, adolescent, youth and adult both respect towards diversity and a positive appreciation of differences.

To this end we have been working at identifying the best strategies for providing services for the Venezuelan population with education needs, to be able to offer them a service that accommodates their needs and recognizes their prior knowledge. Education is thus one of the best tools to prevent an attitude or behavior that goes against recognizing the dignity and equality of people in regard to their rights.

For this reason, we have promoted actions that allow us to:

    • Strengthen the socio-emotional development of educators, children and adolescents to prevent and combat expressions, acts and manifestations of xenophobia, exclusion and stigmatization against migrant and other social groups.
    • Design protocols with which we can identify risk and vulnerability situations migrants have to face in the social and cultural dynamics of school environments, to incorporate pertinent inclusion processes in the Institutional Education Projects of the schools.
    • Produce reflection exercises to transform beliefs and views present in social representations to guarantee that all ethnic and cultural identities are valued based on equality.
    • Stimulate dialogue and sharing of situations present in schools to improve school cohabitation and understand that diverse beliefs, interests and interpretations of reality exist in the education community, and that we need to value them as learning opportunities.

Understanding that migration is a social process linked to different factors, and that, until the conditions in the neighboring country and the provision of basic services like education, health and housing, among others do not improve, Venezuelan citizens will keep on seeking better life conditions in Colombia or other countries. In view of the above, we will continue working to:

    • Strengthen disclosure processes of the available route and means for access to the education system.
    • Facilitate transition and leveling mechanisms for Venezuelan students into the Colombian education system.
    • Strengthen and activate cohabitation mechanisms to prevent xenophobia.
    • Train and accompany teachers on how to receive migrant populations into the education system.
    • Strengthen mechanisms that allow us to identify the demand for education services outside the education system.

ECW: With the number of Venezuelans who have fled into Colombia having reached 2.4 million, making it the largest humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere and among the largest globally, ECW has just provided seed funding totaling US$12.4 million for a multi-year programme to assist the country in addressing the educational needs of Venezuelan children and youth, as well as the children and youth in the communities hosting Venezuelans. Could you comment on the impact of this catalytic grant from ECW, and more specifically what activities the Ministry, in collaboration with a range of UN and NGO partners are planning to implement?

Minister Angulo: The project presented by Colombia within the framework of the multi-annual window of ECW has been turned into a tool to activate the participation of other actors, inject new resources and delve into the strategies we are developing.

We have worked with different actors to define and agree upon the priorities of the Multi Year Resilience Programme for Colombia, convinced that this seed funding can amplify the response we are currently already giving regarding the right to education for migrant people. With ally organizations who have been with us in the formulation process, we have agreed to focus the project on four lines:

    Increase access to education and permanence. Developing strategies to create opportunities for inclusive, gender-sensitive learning that will help children and adolescents with any disability, who have been victims of armed conflict or who are living with the effects of the migration process to overcome the barriers they find.
    Improve quality of education and learning: Through resources and materials for work in classrooms, teachers with the capacity to respond with pedagogical practices adjusted to the characteristics, interests and barriers that are found in crisis situations, and finally the support for parents and caregivers to strengthen their abilities to accompany the integral development process of their children at home.
    Promote socioemotional wellbeing and mental health: Provide support to parents and teachers to develop practical abilities for well-being and personal care, stress management and exhaustion prevention.
    Strengthen the education sector: Improve capacities for an inclusive response, with gender perspective, articulated between the national and local levels and sensitive to crisis and emergencies.

ECW: Recognizing that ECW’s grant is intended to kickstart the multi-year programme and acknowledging the strides the Government is making in implementing the country’s commendable peace accord, could you please comment on how important it is for the international community donors to fully fund the multi-year programme with an additional US$ 70.5 million in co-financing. What could happen to school children and their education if the funding gap is not be filled?

Minister Angulo: We thank ECW for the initial investment and ask the community of international donors and the private sector to give us support in our efforts to close the financing gap.

It is important to remember that Colombia has invested important resources to increase access to education for migrant and refugee children. We estimate that for 2020, the investment in education made by the government is close to US$120 million. However, the needs of children affected by the crisis are increasing, especially for migrant children who need more support to remain at school.

Parallel to this situation, in Colombia we must cope with multiple challenges. For example, the recent hurricane in the San Andres archipelago almost completely destroyed the education infrastructure. In La Guajira, due to flooding, many migrant and refugee children in informal settlements have lost their learning materials. The different emergencies we have had to respond to in Colombia exceed the capacity of any government.

We continue to be committed to providing quality education and protection to every child in our country. To achieve this enormous task, it is important to join efforts with the international community, made up of donors and partners in the private sector.

Our objective is that all children receive the same opportunities, are protected and can learn. If the financing gap for this programme is not covered, we run the risk of not providing an integral education service that will allow children to learn, prosper and be prepared for the work force of the XXI century. If we do not act now with enough resources, many children will not have access to education, and many others will drop out. If we do not act now, it will be more difficult and expensive to address the topic of access to quality education where children can fulfill their dreams to complete their education trajectory.

ECW: In fully funding the multi-year programme in Colombia, could you elaborate on the important role that the private sector and philanthropic foundations can play, such as the KOYAMADA International Foundation (KIF), co-led by Colombia’s own TED Talk Speaker and producer Nia Lyte and her husband, actor and producer Shin Koyamada, and perhaps give examples of other foundations providing funding for children’s education in Colombia.

Minister Angulo: In the Colombian education sector, we work with both the public and private sector, as well as civil society and international organizations. We share a common goal: to leave no one behind. This work is strengthened by an inter-institutional approach which is based on experience and optimizes efforts and resources to respond to the particular needs of each region, including challenges already overcome, and those yet to be faced.

Being able to count on organizations like KOYAMADA International Foundation (KIF) and its work for the empowerment and leadership of young people and women, means it will, without a doubt, offer a great boost to the mobilization of resources for educational care, helping us reach those most in need and ensuring our commitment to quality education in long-term crisis contexts.

ECW: ECW would like to reiterate its gratitude for your remarks at the UN General Assembly side event this year entitled “THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IS HERE: For those left furthest behind.” With Colombia leading the way for education under the very difficult challenges that the Venezuelan situation has created in the region, it would be good if you could comment on the importance of SDG 4 quality education.

Minister Angulo: The targets set for the Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular those of SDG4, are central elements for the 2018-2022 National Development Plan. One of our main pledges is the generation of conditions that ensure, progressively, a quality educational service, within the framework of a multidimensional approach (Atención integral). We want to positively impact the consolidation and monitoring of complete educational trajectories of all students.

In this regard, the country is focusing its efforts on the following areas:

    a. As a fundamental right, quality education is one of our most important pledges and its progressive universalization stands as one of our main goals to achieve in order to move forward. This is based on the multidimensional attention approach and a cross-sector perspective.
    b. Secondary education, as one of the educational levels lagging behind the most in the country today, requires special attention to strengthen and make it more relevant.
    c. One of the great challenges of the country is to guarantee all the conditions of access, quality and permanence so that all people achieve a complete educational trajectory, from initial to post-secondary education, and also facilitate the transition to the labor market. In this sense, inclusion is one of the cross-cutting concepts that guide sectoral policies.

To achieve the aim of the Declaration of Incheon of Leaving No One Behind, the Colombian government has directed its efforts so that children from Venezuela, as well as all children and adolescents in Colombia, can enjoy quality education as a fundamental right and constitutionally enshrined public service. For this reason, we are committed to the assistance and protection of children to ensure their harmonious and integral development and the full exercise of their rights.

In this sense, the Ministry of Education has determined a management strategy that combines coverage and quality actions within the framework of the Welcome, Welfare and Permanence Strategy. Cross-sector coordination has been developed due to active search processes, effective enrolment, monitoring, knowledge generation and information-driven decision-making processes. This has allowed us to strengthen teacher skills, infrastructure, school food, transport and endowment, among others, which allow migrant students to benefit equally from the available strategies.

It is also important to mention that strategies are being strengthened to facilitate psychosocial support and the effective integration of this community into the Colombian citizen environment.

ECW: Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better on a personal level. Can you tell us what education means to you personally? Could you also share with us the three books that have influenced you the most personally and/or professionally, and why you’d recommend them to other people to read?

Minister Angulo: Education for me is the most powerful tool for the integral, personal and professional development of people. It also represents the epicenter where all social policy in the region comes together. Education generates social mobility and innovation, touches the lives of many people and is the axis of processes of development, resemblance and reconciliation, where I have developed my vocation of service.

As for the 3 books that have influenced me and that I would recommend that people read, they would be:

Love in the Time of Cholera by the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, I recommend this book because it is a literary work that reaches the soul. It is dedicated to true love, a love that survives despite the challenges of a traditional city, and the changing times of the Colombian Caribbean from the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century. This book manages to portray human nature in a simple way, with beauty and humor, through a romantic story where the reader can feel the representation of love as the purest feeling, around each life is built.

Ética para amador by the Spanish writer Fernando Savater. I read this book in my teens and it really left an impression on me because it was a window into the world, and it led me to reflect on topics essential to life, which guide our decisions and explain why ethics, morality, freedom and choice are needed. This text reminds us that our greatest quality as human beings is to be able to think, to be aware and to create our future according to our expectations of it.

The last book I would recommend is Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by Professor John Hattie. This research helps us to categorize in a very clear way how to improve the effectiveness of the school system, and I think it is a necessary book to read for those of us who work in education.

And from this text I can highlight two conclusions that are vital to me: the most influential aspect in learning is feedback, both the one offered by the teacher to the student and the one that the teacher receives from the student. In the first case, you have to distinguish between feedback and flattery, the latter has little value if it is not associated with the work that has been done. The teacher-student relationship also has a big impact. Developing a pleasant socio-emotional climate in the classroom, promoting effort, and involving all students requires that teachers step into the classroom with certain ideas about the possibilities of progress and the relationship with students.


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Pandemic Puts Jamaican Children at Heightened Risk of Abuse

A group of children being instructed by a teacher in an inner-city community. She has painted blackboards on walls to continue her lessons in the pandemic after schools were closed. Credit: Kate Chappell

By Kate Chappell
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Dec 16 2020 – In Jamaica, school playgrounds are deserted, filled only with phantom shrieks of delight. Blackboards remain devoid of arithmetic and uniforms hang wrinkle-free in closets. When the first case of Covid hit Jamaican shores in early March, the government closed primary and secondary schools and over 500,000 children transitioned to remote learning. The majority of schools have yet to resume face-to-face classes since the March 13 closure.

Across the world, 1.6 billion children do not have access to school as a result of the pandemic, according to Unicef.

It is this mass absence that experts are flagging as one of main explanations for an increase in instances of physical, psychological and sexual abuse of minors. And even if children are not directly endangered by their caretakers or people in their community, they are suffering the effects of the pandemic, experts say.

Close to one year after the pandemic struck, which to date has killed over 1.6 million people and sickened over 72 million, these effects on children are just beginning to be unearthed. What is already clear though, is that children, especially those living in poverty, are suffering at many levels, and there is often nowhere to turn.

“What we have heard from our partners is that although there is no hard data at the moment, social workers and community workers are seeing an increase in incidents of abuse, incidents of violence, and what is even more troubling is some of the kids who are experiencing these things, they are unable to access the persons who under normal circumstances, they would have gone to make a complaint or a report to assist them in a situation,” says Janet Cupidon Quallo, child protection specialist with Unicef Jamaica.

The lack of a contact point is one of the challenges, Quallo says. “We realize the extent and the significance of school providing that anchor in terms of the psycho social aspects of their life.”

For the children experiencing any type of abuse, before the pandemic, they were under the watchful eye of a guidance counselor, a teacher or even someone in the community. Now, children are isolated and unable to communicate as freely as they could prior to the pandemic. They are in close proximity with their abusers, oftentimes unsupervised. Or, if caregivers are aware of abuse, they may not want to take the risk of going out in public and contracting the disease to make a report to the police.

The chances of being abused also rise as parents and caregivers experience increased financial stress as a result of job or income loss, and then take that out on children. Additionally, with more time spent on devices, children are online for more hours now, which puts them at risk of cyber-bullying or being targeted by predators. Amidst all these heightened risks, there are diminished or even no venues for children to report what is happening to them.

Diana Thorburn, director of research at the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), which has recently completed a report commissioned by Unicef on the socio-economic effect of the pandemic on children says that schools can serve as a safe space for vulnerable children. “Spending more time at home puts children at increased risk of being abused by a family member or caretaker,” she says, adding that schools are often a source of nutrition and information on personal care.

Diahann Gordon Harrison, Jamaica’s Children’s Advocate, an office that was created in 2006 as a commission of Parliament to protect children’s rights, would likely concur with this conclusion. “There is the issue of having children who live in unsavory environments, who may live with their perpetrator if they are victims of abuse,” she says. “They are almost trapped, without an outlet for disclosure.” In fact, Harrison reports that for the period of May 2019 to May 2020, there was a 76 per cent decline in reports to her office. She also notes that reports for January and February, 2020 were on track to exceed instances of abuse over last year. According to the government’s Child Protection and Family Services Agency, it receives 15,000 reports of abuse per year.

Globally, a study from Unicef bears the reality out that children are lacking a mechanism to report instances of abuse. It found that “1.8 billion children live in the 104 countries where violence prevention and response services have been disrupted due to COVID-19. Children may not be able to report abuse because they do not have access to a phone, they may be overheard by parents or caretakers, or they do not have phone credit.

Betty Ann Blaine, founder of Hear the Children Cry. Credit: Kate Chappell

Betty-Ann Blaine, founder of Hear the Children Cry, which focuses on missing children, says her organization has never seen the number of reports so low. Prior to Covid, her organization would receive up to 150 reports of missing children per month. “Since Covid, the numbers have been cut in half. We’ve never seen a figure so low since we have been tracking the problem.” As soon as Blaine got word of Covid on Jamaican shores, she anticipated many problems.

“When we heard that schools were going to be closed across the country, we were already concerned because from many years of experience, we know that when children are out of school, they tend to be more vulnerable to certain types of hazards,” says Blaine. Those hazards include physical and sexual abuse, she adds. The lack of education is also taking a toll.

“The other major issue that concerns us is the lack of access to formal education. I heard it being bandied about that as high as sixty per cent have not had any formal education since the lockdowns of schools. The poor and working classes mainly don’t have access to devices, they don’t have the kind of access to connectivity, wifi, and some live in communities without even broadband.”

In addition to the obvious scourge of abuse, Child’s Advocate Harrison says the effects of the pandemic are multi-faceted. Results from preliminary educational tests administered since the onset of the pandemic are not promising, she says. Some children are also missing out on the basic necessities of life such as routine health checks as their parents cannot afford them. Not to mention the emotional damage. “You had a lot of keyed up adults and parents, and children sensed this, and they feed off this frenzy.”

Statistics compiled by CAPRI and published for a Unicef report show that poverty is an insidious magnifier of the effects of the pandemic:

In Jamaica, eight in 10 households with children experienced a reduction in income, with that figure even higher for female-headed households, those in rural areas in those with lower socio-economic status. The study also found that due to restrictions from the pandemic, just under 45% of households have experienced a shortage of food.

For a small island developing state that is anticipating a 10% contraction in the economy, recovery will be difficult as government tries to cope with competing needs. In the meantime, private and public sector collaborations are focusing on establishing a 24-hour help line for youth who need to reach out for help.

Until this is set up, Blaine worries.

“I worry that the children must feel abandoned, helpless, powerless, because who do they call? How is this going to be done? There are more questions than answers.”


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Energy Efficiency for Developing Countries: Pivoting from Fewer Inputs to More Outputs

Energy efficiency is often marketed as a tool to save energy and money. But it can do something that is often much more important for developing countries: it can produce the additional goods and services needed to raise standards of living

Future new building construction, which is an energy-intensive activity, will mostly take place in developing countries, not advanced economies. Construction site in Dubai. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS.

By Philippe Benoit
WASHINGTON, Dec 16 2020 – Energy efficiency (EE) is often marketed as a tool to save energy and money. The oft-repeated mantra is doing “more with less”, namely producing more goods with less energy. But, as set out in a recent World Bank report (which I co-authored), EE can do something that is often much more important for developing countries: it can produce the additional goods and services needed to raise standards of living. 

Shifting the focus from savings to more goods and services can help increase the uptake of EE in developing countries, thereby enabling them to grow faster while also promoting a more sustainable future for all.

EE deployment in these countries has suffered from a narrative that has too often been targeted at advanced economies.

From the European Union to Japan to the United States (under previous administrations and likely under the incoming Biden one), EE has generally been positioned as a tool to generate energy savings. Various other benefits are also recognized, notably employment generation and improved competitiveness which are often used to mobilize local political support.

Yet, the focus has tended to remain on EE’s ability to reduce things: energy use, as well as expenditures on energy and, more recently, greenhouse gas emissions. And, indeed, through a combination of EE and other factors, major advanced economies have succeeded in reducing their energy consumption, and they plan to use EE to achieve further reductions going forward.

A different context exists in the developing world where standards of living are all too often inadequate.  In these countries, the key to progress lies in generating more and higher-quality goods and services for their populations: more and better housing, more and better consumer products, more and better transport services, more and better office buildings, more and better schools, more and better hospitals – but also less pollution.  The overall focus is on producing and consuming more rather than on using less.

Developing countries are looking to secure more energy to fuel this progress.  From India to Indonesia, from South Africa to South America, the developing world is projected to demand increasing amounts of energy.

Total energy consumption of today’s developing countries is projected to rise by about 30% from 2015 to 2030, at which point it will nearly double that of developed countries (figure 1).  This reliance of developing countries on increasing energy use to support their economic growth (in contrast to advanced economies where energy demand has generally already peaked) reflects in part their development situation.

For example, future new building construction, which is an energy-intensive activity, will mostly take place in developing countries, not advanced economies, including emerging economies such as India where over 70% of the built environment of 2030 has yet to be constructed.


Energy efficiency is often marketed as a tool to save energy and money. But it can do something that is often much more important for developing countries: it can produce the additional goods and services needed to raise standards of living

Figure 1: Evolving energy consumption in developing and developed countries. Source: Energy and Development in a Changing World: A Framework for the 21st Century (Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy, 2019), figure 3, based on data from the IEA.


EE can ensure that this increasing energy consumption is used efficiently to raise standards of living.  The focus in the developing country context is less on producing “more with less” energy, but rather on generating “even more from more” energy.

Not only does EE help to decouple GDP growth from energy consumption, it also helps to magnify the impact of increasing energy use to power further economic expansion. Moreover, in these COVID times, EE can be particularly strategic for governments because its deployment generates employment (e.g., the hiring of workers to install energy efficient equipment).

And the coupling of EE and more energy can also provide benefits at the household and business levels.  Many of the poorer families in Asia, Africa and elsewhere want the opportunity to increase their consumption of modern energy fuels, for example for a refrigerator and other home appliances that generate the higher standards of living seen in other places.

Using efficient appliances is even better, magnifying, for example, the benefits of basic electricity access.  Similarly, businesses across the developing world are looking to expand their activities, increasing their outputs and growing their markets to generate larger revenues that can enable them to buy more energy to produce even more to sell.  EE can help them do this in a more efficient and profitable manner.

Unfortunately, traditional metrics for EE are at times ill-adapted to many developing country contexts.  These include metrics such as energy consumption/dwelling, energy for space cooling/square meter, or energy used for water heating/dwelling.

“Progress” is normally evidenced by lower levels . . . and this makes perfect sense in advanced economies whose populations will continue to enjoy high standards of living even as EE-generated energy savings deliver multiple benefits (such as energy security for the European Union).

But in the developing world, acquiring that first refrigerator (which will raise energy consumption in the dwelling), or installing air conditioning in public buildings (which increases energy use in areas previously cooled by fans) will elevate inadequate standards of living.

Irrespective of what might be inferred from a quick (albeit, incomplete and insufficient) scan of EE indicators, in the developing country context, this increased energy consumption per dwelling or per square meter of office space reflects progress.  It is development . . . and EE helps ensure that the equipment to deliver this advancement is efficient.

EE is also key to reaching global climate change goals.  For example, in the sustainable development climate model of the International Energy Agency, EE plays a bigger role (37%) in reducing emissions through 2050 than any other low-carbon tool, including renewables (32%).

This climate model also provides for rising energy consumption by non-OECD countries (a 16% increase between 2016 and 2040) to help to power their future economic expansion. The combination of more EE to support GDP growth, together with a deeper penetration of renewables and other low-carbon technologies, is the key to raising standards of living in developing countries while meeting global climate goals.

And achieving these goals will avoid the worst impacts of climate change that could devastate the vulnerable in the developing world and elsewhere.  When it comes to deploying more EE, the climate change challenge has transformed it from a “nice thing to have” into an “imperative”.

EE is a key to creating greater prosperity across the developing world because it enables even more goods and services to be generated from greater energy use so as to raise standards of living.

For developing countries, it is not about doing “more with less”, it’s about doing “even more with more.” As illustrated by the afore-mentioned World Bank report, pivoting the focus of EE from energy savings to the additional goods and services it produces can help to increase its deployment across the developing world . . . and this will promote stronger and more sustainable economic growth and social improvements.


Philippe Benoit has worked for over 25 years on international development issues, including in previous roles as Division Head for Energy Efficiency and Environment at the International Energy Agency and as Energy Sector Manager at the World Bank. He is currently Managing Director, Energy and Sustainability at Global Infrastructure Advisory Services 2050.


Lockdown in Chains

Approximately 30 patients stay at Edwuma Wo Woho Herbal Centre, many with mental health conditions. At least half are shackled. Credit: Robin Hammond/Witness Change for Human Rights Watch.

Approximately 30 patients stay at Edwuma Wo Woho Herbal Centre, many with mental health conditions. At least half are shackled. Credit: Robin Hammond/Witness Change for Human Rights Watch.

By Kriti Sharma and Shantha Rau Barriga
Dec 16 2020 – Long before the Covid-19 pandemic grounded much of the world, lockdown, confinement, violence, and isolation was the daily reality for hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities around the world. Many are locked in sheds, cages, or tethered to trees and are forced to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in the same tiny area, sometimes for years. Why? Simply because they have a mental health condition—a psychosocial disability.

This inhumane practice—called “shackling”—occurs because of widespread stigma surrounding mental health and a lack of access to adequate support services, both for those with these disabilities and for their families.

Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children—some as young as young as 10—have been shackled at least once in their lives in over 60 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

While Covid-19 has exposed the importance of psychological wellbeing and the need for connection and support within our communities, it has exacerbated the risk to people with psychosocial disabilities who are often shackled in homes or overcrowded institutions without proper access to food, running water, soap and sanitation, or basic health care.

Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children—some as young as young as 10—have been shackled at least once in their lives in over 60 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America

In many countries, Covid-19 has disrupted basic services, leading to people being shackled for the very first time or returning to life in chains after having been released.

Sodikin, 34, is one of many whose life has been upended by the pandemic. For more than eight years, he was locked in a tiny, thatched shed—just two meters wide—outside his family home in West Java, Indonesia. Without government services, his family felt they had no choice but to lock him up.

Within this small radius of his life, lit by a solitary lightbulb, Sodikin slept, went to the bathroom, and ate food that his mother would pass to him on plate through a window no larger than the palm of his hand. Over time, his muscles atrophied from the lack of movement.

Despite the odds, once he got access to mental health and other services, Sodikin rebuilt his life. He started to work in a clothing factory stitching boys’ school uniforms—becoming the breadwinner of his family—and even did the call to prayer at his local mosque, a prestigious community role. And the shed in which he was confined for eight years? His family torched it and grew a garden in its place.


This inhumane practice called shackling occurs because of widespread stigma surrounding mental health and a lack of access to adequate support services, both for those with these disabilities and for their families.

Sodikin, a 34-year-old man with a psychosocial disability who was shackled for more than eight years in a tiny shed outside the family home in Cianjur, West Java. Credit: Andrea Star Reese for Human Rights Watch.


But when Covid-19 hit the locality of Cianjur in rural Indonesia, Sodikin’s hard-earned life crumbled. As his community went into lockdown, the factory closed, his daily routine was disrupted and all forms of community-based support were suspended. Sodikin’s family locked him in a room once again.

Michael Njenga, chairperson of the Pan-African Network for Persons with Psychosocial Disabilities, said that “restrictions on movement, such as lockdowns and curfews, have caused a disintegration in available support services.

Even in areas where mental health or other community-based services were available, the government redirected resources to other programs, specifically to address the pandemic. This has had a huge impact in our efforts to reach out to people who could now be locked up in institutions or even shackled within their communities.”

With extended lockdowns, physical distancing, and a widespread disruption in social services, the pandemic has frayed our sense of community and ushered in a looming mental health crisis.

Out of 130 countries that responded to a survey by the World Health Organization, 93 percent reported disruption in psychosocial services. More than 40 percent of countries had a full or partial closure of community-based services. In addition, three-quarters of mental health services in schools and workplaces were disrupted on top of about 60 percent of all therapy and counselling services. And while governments around the world have recognized the need to address mental wellbeing and provide psychosocial support, this has not led to an increase in voluntary services in communities.

Covid-19 marks a turning point for governments to pay greater attention to the importance of mental wellbeing and psychosocial support. Any one of us could experience a mental health crisis or secondary trauma from the uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and distress resulting from isolation, economic hardship, increased family violence, and daily challenges of this pandemic.

But consider what that means for someone whose life is confined to chains. Irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or cultural background, health—including mental health—is one of the most basic and necessary rights of human beings, guaranteed under international law and key to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As countries look to build back better, governments should focus on those most at risk, including the hundreds of thousands of people with psychosocial disabilities around the world who have lived, and still do live, in chains.

The risks of the pandemic for people who are shackled should be a wake-up call to governments to ban this practice, combat stigma associated with mental health, and develop quality, accessible, and affordable community services, including psychosocial support. Sodikin and countless others deserve a life of dignity, not chains.