World Youth Skills Day 2021 will again take place in a challenging context due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. UNESCO estimates that schools were either fully or partially closed for more than 30 weeks between March 2020 and May 2021 in half the countries of the world. In late June, 19 countries still had full school closures, affecting nearly 157 million learners. And 768 million more learners were affected by partial school closures.
Global efforts to tackle the pandemic continue, as the world population continues to rise with unequal access to healthcare. On World Population Day, let’s raise awareness of the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world and how we protect and empower present and future generations.
The torture of human beings has no place in the 21st century. On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the European Union reaffirms its strong commitment to combating torture worldwide, in all its forms, contexts and settings.
The restrictions and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to higher levels of human rights violations and abuses in both the public and domestic spheres, including increased violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions, physical attacks and psychological trauma for many human beings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified human rights and democracy challenges in many parts of the world. That is why the EU has placed human rights front and centre of its foreign policy. This is one of the main features of the freshly adopted 2020 European Union Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World. While the world is confronted with unique challenges, the EU maintains its leading role in supporting human rights, democracy and rule of law, within its borders and across the globe.
I am happy to see you [journalists] here physically, in person.
Today, at this meeting in Luxembourg, the first thing is to talk about Belarus. We are first going to have a meeting with the Belarus opposition leader, Ms [Sviatlana] Tsikhanouskaya. She will explain the situation in the country; there will be a debate; and then we will approve the package of new sanctions, which is a wide package. I think it is about 86 people or entities. Not only people, but also entities.
To commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borrell, and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, call for an end to violence in conflict zones and in the private spheres.
No country, no region in the world has been spared from the impact of COVID-19. The virus is exacerbating existing inequalities and has a disproportionate effect on refugees, internally displaced persons, vulnerable migrants and stateless persons. We must all redouble our efforts. As vaccination campaigns are underway in the EU, the EU is working to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, in particular through the COVAX Facility.