Share the Easter spirit, not the virus!
Easter is a very special occasion for Georgia, when many families come together and share a heartwarming celebration. The community spirit at the heart of Easter includes a sense of responsibility to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.
The UN in Georgia commends the people of Georgia for the responsible way they are complying with the protective measures recommended by the Government, guided by the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO). This approach has already reduced the number of cases of infection and saved lives. We need to continue this trend.
This year we call on every family in Georgia to share the spirit of the celebration, but put the health and the wellbeing of the community first. Please, stay home and avoid gatherings to ensure that you and your loved ones remain healthy in these unheard-of circumstances.
More than ever, we should make use of modern technology to reconnect with relatives and friends living far and close: physical distancing is not social isolation. Let’s maintain our connections by conducting faith activities in alternative ways.
Adhering to physical distancing rules protect ourselves, our beloved ones and the entire community. It protects in particular the most vulnerable: older people, people living with chronic health conditions and immune suppression.
Following the Government's recommendations will also protect healthcare workers and public health professionals who have been bravely and tirelessly, day and night, fighting the pandemic since the very first case. We need to stay home to let them stay at work healthy and caring for the sick ones.
The UN in Georgia calls on all living in Georgia to continue play your essential role in fighting COVID-19 thus contributing to the national response by staying at home!
The UN wishes all those in Georgia who celebrate a Happy Easter!
Related information: “Practical considerations and recommendations for religious leaders and faith-based communities in the context of COVID-19,” was published by the World Health Organization to guide religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and faith communities during COVID-19.Link
Turkmenistan makes new initiatives for prevention of infectious diseases
On the first day after completion of annual leave, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov had a video conference session of General Director of the World Health Organization Tedros Ghebreyesus.
Taking into account complicated situation in the world caused by COVID-19 pandemic, special attention has been focused on the subject of joint combat against the spread of severe infectious diseases and possible ways of mitigation of harm caused by such diseases.
always notes the key role of WHO in coordination of efforts of the world community in combating against coronavirus infection and development of consolidated and coordinated response to global threats.
Turkmen leader always highlights that efficiency of international cooperation in this direction can be achieved only by strict compliance of scientifically based recommendation of this competent UN structure by all states.
Opening the session, General Director of the World Health Organization Tedros Ghebreyesus has warmly greeted President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and expressed gratitude to Turkmen leader for his personal support to successful development of fruitful bilateral cooperation, which is built of mutual respect and trust.
The Head of WHO has also expressed gratitude to Turkmen leader for initiative approach to solution of modern global problems, in particular for big contribution of joint efforts in combating of the spread of coronavirus infection in the world.
Further, the floor was given to the Head of Turkmenistan.
Greeting the Head of WHO, Turkmen leader expressed gratitude for the initiative of organization of this session. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov highlighted that this is a good opportunity for exchange of views on cooperation as well as for discussion of important issues in health protection sphere.
Throughout 28 years of its membership in the World Health Organization, Turkmenistan has accomplished big work for improvement of national system of health protection, brining of it in compliance with fundamental international documents, which specify the principles of development of this sphere and application of universal medical standards in treatment and prevention of various diseases.
In this result, the State Health Programme has been adopted in the country 25 years ago. Entirely new sample of health protection system, which is aimed at common access of the population to medical services, has been made based on the Programme, the President noted.
“In my letter to you dated by April 14 this year, I have informed in detail about the heights and success achieved by Turkmenistan in this direction, about established fruitful international cooperation”, - President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said.
Documents proving high level achieved by our state in combating of infectious and non-infectious diseases and their prevention, which were recognized by the world community, were result of this work.
Speaking of the subject of current discussion, the Head of Turkmenistan noted that humankind has faced new threat these days – the coronavirus pandemic. Today, relying on our experience gained for 25 years, we have taken integrated measures in combating of the spread of COVID-19.
Taking measures in this sphere in full compliance with work carried out by the world community, Turkmenistan has proposed number of important initiatives aimed at consolidation of international efforts in combating against coronavirus.
The Head of the State noted that in particular, it was proposed to make all necessary conditions for activation of cooperation in scientific diplomacy for regular exchange of opinions between scientists, doctors, experts and specialists of other profile spheres of science.
It was highlighted that establishment of multilateral relations aimed at detailed study of the origin of coronavirus infection, symptoms of disease caused by this infection as well as methods of prevention and treatment is the main objective of this initiative.
“We are ready to work together in this direction with the World Health Organization and other interested parties”, - President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said, having continued that we respect the messages and appeals of the United Nations Secretary General made in the last months as well as with initiatives of the WHO Director.
It was mentioned that big work has been carried in this direction in May – July this year. Thus, Turkmenistan Infectious Disease Readiness and Response Plan has been approved on government level on May 22.
The Plan defines specific measures for further improvement of equipment and facility base, which is required for diagnostic of infectious diseases, their prevention and treatment.
Opening of new quarantine centres, re-orientation of certain medical facilities to the treatment of people with similar symptoms of severe infectious disease are among the examples. Necessary medicine and medical equipment are procured according to the above-mentioned Plan, the Head of the State said.
At present, total health check of the population is carried out in the country and actual measures are taken for strengthening of immune system of people. Turkmenistan has supported proposal of the WHO for establishment of the COVID-19 technology access pool (C-TAP) platform.
Turkmen leader has highlighted that this platform is considered as an opportunity of visual demonstration of the origin of COVID-19 infection, publication of all results of clinical studies, fair distribution and accessibility of scientific works.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said that examples of Turkmenistan’s participation in realization of international initiatives related to the activities carried out by all countries in combating against the pandemic has been brought above and highlighted that our country would continue taking an active part in this work in future.
Joint activity carried out by countries and international organizations give positive results. At the same time, numerous aspects related to COVID-19 virus remain unclear. The President said that Turkmenistan would like to make its proposals based on these aspects.
First, the origin of new viruses, on which scientists of many countries of the world work these days, remains unsolved issue until today. At present time, there are fundamental scientific works revealing the origin of coronavirus in general, which helps to define correct treatment methods of widespread diseases.
Studies of possible ways of spreading of this dangerous virus are continued. Numerous specialists agree that airborne transmission is one of ways. It also has been proven by researches of Turkmen scientists, doctors, ecologists and representatives of other scientific spheres.
The mutation of new coronavirus, appearance of new strains remain an important issue. In this regard, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted the relevance of systematic scientific works for obtaining of information comprehensively revealing complicated etiology of the virus and its ability to change rapidly.
According to our opinion, it is necessary to develop special programme of the World Health Organization for study of the genome of coronavirus for efficient conduct of these works, the Head of the State highlighted.
Second, appearance of new diseases caused by COVID-19 is a complex issue. The Head of the State continued that at present time, we are aware of its main symptoms and determined the level of severity of respiratory tract diseases. However, there is no single opinion on true origin of appearance of diseases caused by new virus.
This is indicated by pneumonia of unknown etymology, which is rapidly spread in our region. There is an opinion that the disease is caused by new coronavirus. However, at the same time, the symptoms typical for pneumonia is diagnosed during laboratory analysis and detailed study of data received in the result of use of modern medical technologies including computer tomography.
I am confident in the necessity of consolidation of efforts of the state in near future for correct diagnosis of this disease under the patronage of the World Health Organization, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov highlighted, having offered the WHO European Regional Bureau to consider the opportunity of development of regional method of treatment of pneumonia.
Third, improvement of treatment and preventive methods of new infectious diseases is a subject of a great concern. Undoubtedly, efficient fulfilment of this work is directly related to results of solution of the above-mentioned objectives for study of the etiology of new microorganisms and diagnosis of diseases that they cause.
We are looking forward for support of the World Health Organization in further improvement of treatment methods of relative diseases, the Head of Turkmenistan said, having noted that it is appropriate to review the subject of establishment of methodological severe infectious disease preventive and treatment centre in the structure of WHO.
The President highlighted that he thinks it is necessary to consolidate joint efforts for solution of the above-mentioned and other issues related to provision of actual medical aid to people, their efficient treatment and saving of people’s lives.
Fulfilment of outlined objectives is our duty and joint responsibility, the Head of Turkmenistan said, having again said that we are looking forward for support of the WHO in this noble affair.
Having expressed gratitude to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for substantial speech and proposals, General Director of the World Health Organization Tedros Ghebreyesus. Highly appreciated the strategy of improvement of national health protection system developed by Turkmen leader and desire to active cooperation with all interested partners.
The Director of WHO noted that big integrated work carried out in the country for improvement of health of the population including development of interrelated spheres like health protection and sports is a bright evidence of socially oriented government policy pursued under the leadership of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
Tedros Ghebreyesus has also said that experts have inspected preventive measures on site during recent mission of WHO to our country and gave positive feedback of the results of large-scale work carried out in the country.
During the session, the WHO General Director has noted importance of initiatives, which are significant for entire humankind, proposed by the President of Turkmenistan. In this context, the willingness of the World Health Organization to study in details all proposals of Turkmenistan leader and to carry out joint activity has been expressed.
In the end of the session, the Head of Turkmenistan and Head of the World Health Organization expressed the willingness for expansion of cooperation and consolidation of efforts in combating on new threats and challenges for public health protection.
After the session, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov called Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Foreign Minister R. Meredov and Minister of Health Protection and Medical Industry N. Amannepesov. During the session, the utmost objectives proposed during online session with the Head of the WHO have been reviewed and their practical implementation has been discussed.
It was mentioned that fulfilment of the plans requires responsible and scientifically based approach. The reports on current work and measures for solution of set objectives have been also presented.
Having highlighted the currency of issues reviewed at the session with the Head of the World Health Organization, the Head of Turkmenistan said that it is important to give efficient character to established relations with international structures and implement practical measures for successful fulfilment of given objectives
In this regard, specific assignments have been given. The necessity to put all efforts for improvement o efficiency of taken measures taking into account time requirements has been noted.
Having stated with delight that all initiatives made by Turkmenistan during the session with the Head of the WHO were fully supported, the Head of the State ordered to arrange coordinated work with relative structures.
In particular, the President of the country requested to activate cooperation in scientific diplomacy, to make necessary conditions for systematic exchange of information between medical scientists, experts and specialists of other spheres.
Highlighting importance of taken practical measures, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov ordered to adhere to recommendations of competent international structures and continue active cooperation with WHO.
The state news agency of Turkmenistan
International Scholars Raise Concerns over “an Attempt to Destroy a New Religious Movement” in South Korea
On July 20, a webinar on a new religious movement in South Korea and its political, religious, and social dimensions with the recent COVID-19 crisis invited international scholars and experts in the field of religion, international law, and human rights.
Titled “COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea”, the webinar addressed the recent issues of aggressive attack from politically powerful conservative and fundamentalist Protestant churches in the country on a newly-established, fast-growing Christian denomination named 'Shincheonji (New Heaven and New Earth) Church of Jesus' founded in 1984.
The new Christian movement by Shincheonji has become a target of “persecution from fundamentalist protestants” because of its successful religious expansion “from the conservative and fundamentalist protestants who see Shincheonji as competitors and want to destroy it," said Massimo Introvigne as an Italian sociologist of religion who studied Shincheonji before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and published the first account of the religious group in English.
Alessandro Amicarelli, Chairman European Federation for Freedom of Belief, pointed out that the South Korean authorities problematized Shincheonji as a cause of the COVID-19 crisis to shut down the church. “Already 30 other people were tested positive before the patient 31 (a member of Shincheonji criticized for the widespread of the virus). Many Chinese including ones from Wuhan had visited Daegu (of South Korea) and infection spread,” he said.
Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), said that the recent attack on Shincheonji can be viewed as an attempt by the fundamentalist Protestant groups in South Korea to weaken and destroy the competitor in the religious market. He added, "Human rights violations against Shincheonji members through coercive conversion program (also known as 'deprogramming') with kidnapping and confinement for the last decade have been made as a result of the failure of competition from the Protestant churches in the country."
Ciaran Burke, Associate Professor in University of Derby, said that the South Korean health authorities explicitly link Shinchoenji and outbreak of the COVID-19 until now even though a greater link between the virus and confirmation cases has been found in other churches. He also expressed concerns over “collecting personal information of 300,000 domestic and international Shincheonji members by the government which is a possible violation of international agreement, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) South Korea ratified in 1990.”
The prosecution initiated investigation of Shincheonji leaders including founder Man Hee Lee for his alleged role in the widespread of the COVID-19. Three Shincheonji officials were arrested on July 8 on a charge of playing a role in major outbreak at its early stage by “(submitting) inaccurate list of members.”
“The authorities ignored requests to change the word ‘sect’ in their official reports when referring to Shincheonji church. Local governments encouraged the residents to report Shincheonji congregation and facilities to the authorities, creating stigma that the members were to be treated as criminals,” said a Shincheonji official in the webinar.
A recent statement issued by “families of the deceased and victims of COVID-19” wrote that "the thousands of the damage and deaths of Koreans reflect the failure of initial response to contain the virus by the government." It added that the Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae “allowed COVID-19 patients from China to enter Korea, leading to a widespread outbreak of the virus across the country, which resulted in the deaths of the Korean people.” It also stated that she is trying to avoid her responsibility for the damage by “giving direct orders to prosecutors for a raid and arrests against Shincheonji Church”.
A leading South Korean TV network, MBC reported that a recently conducted screening at Daegu, epicenter of COVID-19 major outbreak within South Korea added the weight to the failure of initial response to contain the virus by the government. The report, citing analysis from a local university hospital, inferred that at least 180,000 of the total population of 2.4 million people in the city of Daegu were infected with the COVID-19, 27 times to the official 6,800 confirmed cases. Most of the confirmation cases, over 5,000, are members of Shincheonji Church as their personal information was collected by the government, while the remaining 180,000 potential infections have not been investigated.
Press Release of the Department of Public Relations
Heavenly Culture, World Peace, and the Restoration of Light
TURKMENISTAN HAS BEEN GRANTED THE OBSERVER STATUS IN THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION
On July 22, 2020, the successive session of World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council was held in WTO headquarters located in Geneva of the Swiss Confederation, during which the application of Turkmenistan on accession to WTO as an observer was considered.
The Turkmen side was represented at the session by the Permanent Representative of Turkmenistan to the United Nations at Geneva, as well as the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations, Ministry of Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan who took part via videoconference.
In honor of assessing the request of Turkmenistan for accession to WTO in the status of an observer, a special ceremony was organized during which the Permanent Representative of Turkmenistan delivered a speech on behalf of the Government of Turkmenistan. During the address, he informed the participants of the General Council about the background of the accession process to the Organization, in particular about the pioneering policy of implementing the external economic activity of Turkmenistan. It was stated that the Programme on Foreign Economic Activity of Turkmenistan for 2020-2025 is a vital document in this regard.
The gaining of this status by the country is intended to contribute to the dynamic development of the national economy of Turkmenistan, strengthen its standing in regard to foreign trade, carry multilateral cooperation, attract foreign investments and improve international trade ties. This also concerns the development of commercial and trade strategies including their successful implementation.
Following the address of the Turkmen side, a number of representatives of the Organization’s member-states, including Afghanistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Republic of Panama, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey and Ukraine expressed support to the initiative of Turkmenistan on the accession to the Organization as an observer.
After the discussions, the member-states of WTO General Council unanimously adopted the resolution on granting Turkmenistan the status of an observer in WTO.
Currently there are 164 WTO member-states. Twenty four countries possess the status of an observer. Turkmenistan became the 25th country with a status of an observer.
UN and EU launch ambitious initiative for gender equality in Eastern Partnership
With support from the European Union, the two UN sister agencies will work with government bodies and civil society partners in six countries to challenge deeply ingrained gender stereotypes, increase men’s involvement in domestic work and childcare, and engage with potential perpetrators to prevent gender-based violence.
UN Women and UNFPA, together with the European Union (EU), have launched a three-year regional programme to tackle gender stereotypes and gender-based violence in six countries of the Eastern Partnership: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The programme, entitled “EU 4 Gender Equality: Together Against Gender Stereotypes and Gender-Based Violence,” ultimately seeks to strengthen equal rights and opportunities for women and men by challenging perceptions about men’s and women’s roles in the family and in society and working to eliminate gender-based violence.
“This is our first regional programme covering gender equality in the Eastern Partnership region and we are intensely proud of it,” said Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East in the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission. “We can and we will do more to develop this underused economic and social potential with our Eastern neighbours. As we emerge from the pandemic, we will propose that the future Eastern Partnership be more inclusive.”
A first of its kind, the programme has been informed by an in-depth situation analysis and intergovernmental consultations with the six countries. It is designed to engage a wide range of government bodies, civil society organizations, and individuals.
“We will work closely with governments and civil society organisations in the six countries to ensure the success of the programme,” says Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “This work is even more crucial now as the COVID-19 crisis has put into stark relief the imbalanced distribution of responsibilities based on traditional gender stereotypes.”
The programme aims at achieving real behavioural change. It relies on strategies designed to challenge structural gender barriers and norms, with particular emphasis on transforming gender-stereotyped behaviour, strengthening men’s involvement in parenting and domestic responsibilities, increasing men’s access to parental leave, and reducing the number of people affected by gender-based violence through prevention interventions with potential perpetrators.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, we have unfortunately seen an increase in women’s unpaid care workload and in cases of gender-based violence across the six countries,” says Alanna Armitage, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Our programme comes at the right time to fight these trends. We all have to work hand-in-hand to build a more just, equal, safe and secure world for all.”
The programme has a budget of €7,875,000 and is anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework, launched by the United Nations in 2015, and the EU Action Plan 2016-2020 on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women Through EU External Relations. It provides a unique opportunity for the EU and the six participating countries to affect social discourse, perceptions, and practices related to gender equality with the ultimate goal of achieving gender equality and related SDGs.
For more information, please visit: https://europa.eu/european-union/
NGOs in the UN and Religious Leaders Demand Correction on Repression and Violation of Human Rights against Religion
NGOs in association with the United Nations and religious communities in the globe are raising their voices on the need to correct inappropriate persecution and human rights violation against a religious group in South Korea named Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
11 NGOs including European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAP-LC) submitted a report for “annual report for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” to the UN Secretary General at the 44th session in the UN Assembly Human Rights Council. The report is titled “scapegoating members of Shincheonji for COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea.”
By referring to the report from United States of America Commission of International Religious Freedom, the report to the UN said, “Shincheonji was suffering harassment from the South Korean government and society. Although some government measures appeared to be driven by legitimate public health concerns, others appeared to exaggerate the church’s role in the outbreak.”
“The government of Seoul locked down Shincheonji churches in the capital, and some mainline Protestant groups have accused the church of deliberately spreading the disease,” it continued.
The report stated, “The virus cannot be an excuse to violate human rights and religious liberty of hundreds of thousands of believers. Intolerance, violence, and discrimination against Shincheonji should be put to an end.”
Religious communities initiated to issue statements to advocate improvements in the unequal treatment against Shincheonji.
"The news of Chairman Lee and Shincheonji are being singled out and blamed for COVID-19 spread and sued is deeply concerning to all faith leaders who valued freedom of religion and the protection of human rights. This adverse action shall have chilling repercussions through the religious world," said Mr. Sheikh Musa Drammeh, Chairman of Islamic Cultural Center of North America.
And Swami Vedanand Saraswati, a Hindu Spiritual Leader based in Durban stressed the tolerance and harmony. “As members of the HWPL, our primary goal is unity, equality, respect and tolerance. Only together can we overcome the enormous challenges we face. United we stand, divided we shall fall. Let us unite and support each other and stop these unwarranted attempts to tarnish pure intentions and righteous actions.”
Recently, Chairman Lee of Shincheonji Church of Jesus encouraged the members who recovered from the COVID-19 to voluntarily join in donation of plasma. Around 4,000 recovered members said they are willing to donate plasma for research on a new treatment.
He said that there has been political motives in persecution of Shincheonji Church of Jesus and HWPL (a peace NGO) by “using us (Shincheonji), the victims of COVID-19, as their scapegoat in order to hide their own faults.” He added, “Persecuting peace organizations, religious organizations, and violating human rights must be stopped in Korea.”
Press Coordinator of Georgia
Department of Public Relations (International)
Heavenly Culture, World Peace, and the Restoration of Light