SECRETARY of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. and Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez acknowledged milestones jointly achieved by the Philippines and the United Nations in 2021 during the UN Day virtual commemoration on October 25.
These include the launch of the Philippines-UN Joint Programme on Human Rights, the delivery of more than 24 million vaccines through the COVAX Facility, and the UN-facilitated “People’s Summit,” which Locsin called “a showcase example of localising a global agenda,” particularly the Food Systems Summit.
The secretary recalled the 75th anniversary of the UN in 2020, which was marked “in a somber mood” because of the pandemic, and noted that “though we are still not out of the woods, we now have the knowledge and tools to fight it: vaccines, medicines, and informed policies.”
In particular, he acknowledged the COVAX facility, “without which, the Philippines’s [pandemic] vaccination programme would still be languishing.”
In addition to the vaccines, Gonzalez reported that through some 150 different initiatives of the UN Country Team in the Philippines, more than 5 million at-risk individuals were able to access essential health services, and more than 6 million children were supported with distance learning by the end of 2020.
Equally, Locsin lauded the milestone initiative of the Philippines-UN Joint Programme on collaboration in human rights between the UN and a government.
“I thank UN Resident Coordinator and my good friend Gustavo Gonzalez. Under his leadership, the UN Country Team has become our most reliable partner in sustainable development, in fighting climate change and upholding human rights,” averred Locsin. “He embodies the ‘inclusive multilateralism’ declared by President Duterte as the only [kind] that can deliver the global public goods we need.”
On July 22 the Philippines and the UN signed the three-year Joint Programme on Human Rights. It was developed to carry out Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 45/33 adopted on October 7, 2020, which outlined specific areas for capacity-building and technical cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. The joint programme document was signed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Locsin and Gonzalez, with the late Jose Luis Gascon of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in attendance.
Aside from the Department of Justice, the UN Joint Programme is being co-implemented by the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, Department of the Interior and Local government, Philippine National Police, Dangerous Drugs Board, Department of Health, Anti-Terrorism Council-Programme Management Centre, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the CHR. Civil-society organisations and the academe will likewise be core partners in the joint programme’s execution.
UN entities involved in the programme, such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation or UNESCO; the UN Office of Counter Terrorism; and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime will work with the government in drawing on expertise and best practices in applying human rights-based approaches in the said areas.
Looking ahead, Gonzalez said the UN in the Philippines will support the country to finance efforts in building forward better from the pandemic: “We have set one priority with the government for the coming year, which is to help set up a diversified financing framework that will leverage [on additional resources for pandemic recovery and getting the Sustainable Development Goals] back on track.”
“Ultimately, the success of the UN team must be measured in the difference we make in people’s lives…. And most especially, the difference we make when we reach those who face the most difficult circumstances, at risk of being ‘left behind,’” Gonzalez concluded.