Are We Going from San Francisco?

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Opinion

SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 30 2020 (IPS) – Seventy-five years ago, on 26 June 1945, before the Japanese surrender ending the Second World War, fifty nations gathered at San Francisco’s Opera House to sign the United Nations (UN) Charter.


UN Charter
Nations pledged “to practice tolerance and live together in peace …, and to ensure … that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples”.

Anis Chowdhury

They sought “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, … and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to … promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”.

The Charter’s contents reflected some contradictions inherent in framing an international organization recognizing national sovereignty as its organizing principle, and various other compromises, often influenced by the convening host nation.

Although the conduct of Member States often falls short of the UN’s lofty goals, its Charter was nonetheless a monumental achievement, providing the foundation for a rules-based international order.

San Francisco Conference
Forty-six Allied countries, including the four sponsors – the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China – were originally invited to the San Francisco Conference.

The conference itself invited four other States – the Byelorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics, newly-liberated Denmark and Argentina. Poland did not send a representative as its new government was still uncertain.

Of the fifty participating states, only four were African and nine Asian. Latin American countries, independent since the mid-19th century, were present and active in deliberations.

The Conference was not only one of the most significant international gatherings in history, but perhaps the longest ever. The two month long Conference was attended by 3,500 people, including 850 delegates, their advisers, staff and the secretariat, plus more than 2,500 from the media and other observers.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The Conference opened on April 25, 1945 with great fanfare, despite the sudden death of its principal architect and presumed host, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on 12 April. The task of carrying on fell to his Vice-President Harry Truman who had become President.

Truman often quoted English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Locksley Hall, carried in his wallet, bewildering colleagues, senators and staffers who doubted his commitment to international peace. Tennyson foresaw that nations, realizing they could destroy one another, might agree to form “the Parliament of Man”, to resolve disputes peacefully.

Clashes and compromises
Many serious differences of opinion triggered crises, even at the preparatory stage. For example, the Soviet Union proposed that all 16 Soviet republics should have UN membership to balance the influence of US allies: the US countered by proposing membership for all its 50 states!

A compromise was struck, allowing membership for the Soviet republics of Belarus and Ukraine; the Soviet Union then withdrew its opposition to Argentina, which had supported the Axis powers.

The most important deliberations concerned the UN Security Council (UNSC), initially composed of five permanent members (US, UK, USSR, China, France) and six elected members. The P5’s right to veto provoked a long and heated debate.

Others feared that when one of the P5 threatens the peace, the UNSC would be ineffectual. But the P5 collectively insisted that as the main responsibility for maintaining world peace would fall most heavily on them, the veto provision was vital.

Australia proposed that no permanent member should be allowed to veto when involved in a Chapter VII dispute over threats to peace. The US delegation blocked this and a Soviet proposal allowing P5 vetoes on procedural matters, e.g., discussion of disputes in which it may be involved.

While US officials saw the UN General Assembly (UNGA) primarily as a ‘talk shop’, the USSR tried to limit it from discussing sensitive political matters. However, recognizing its importance for legitimacy, the compromise reached permits the UNGA to discuss any issues “within the scope of the Charter”.

Colonialism was not supposed to be discussed at the Conference to avoid alienating the European imperial powers, whom the US needed to isolate the Soviet Union. But the handful of Asian and African countries attending wanted countries still under the colonial yoke to attain freedom and independence as soon as possible.

Although not on the original Conference agenda, after much debate, Chapters XI, XII and XIII provided some norms for colonial administration and pathways for decolonization. Nonetheless, these ambiguous, at best, pronouncements greatly disappointed anti-colonialists around the world.

US hegemonic from outset
Despite some compromises inherent in framing such an agreement, the UN Charter favoured the US. It promised to protect freedom of action and national sovereignty, as desired by the US, but contained no open-ended commitment to preserve other countries’ territorial integrity, like the League of Nations Covenant’s Article 10.

Article 2(7) placated American sovereigntists and nationalists, declaring: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”

The US and the UK also got what they wanted for existing and new regional and plurilateral arrangements, including defence and mutual assistance organizations.

Some US officials were concerned the UN might threaten the Monroe Doctrine privileging the US in the Western hemisphere, while limiting its ability to intervene elsewhere. Some clever drafting of Chapter VIII provided blanket endorsement to regional organizations, also seen as reflecting the principle of subsidiarity.

Article 51 enshrined the principle of “self-defense against armed attack, either individual or collective”. Although not fully appreciated in 1945, such provisions later helped legitimize various US and other post-colonial security pacts in Europe, Asia and the Americas against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Conference participants also considered a proposal for compulsory jurisdiction for a World Court, but the US Secretary of State recognized this would jeopardize Senate ratification. Delegates compromised, agreeing to let countries decide whether to accept the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s jurisdiction.

Unsurprisingly, the US has had an uneasy relationship with the ICJ from the outset, never submitting to its authority, and reacting negatively to Court decisions seen as adverse to the US.

From Truman to Trump
Presiding at the closing ceremony, Truman cautioned that the success of the new world body would depend on collective self-restraint. “We all have to recognize – no matter how great our strength – that we must deny ourselves the license to do as we please. This is the price each nation will have to pay for world peace.”

Truman is probably turning in his grave watching Trump’s jingoist ‘America First’ policy undermine the UN and multilateralism. Are multilateralism and the UN now doomed as Trump belies Tennyson’s hope and leads the US to up-end the Roosevelt-Truman legacy?

 

Harness Youth to Change World’s Future

Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Gender, Global, Green Economy, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequity, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment, Women & Climate Change

Women bear the brunt of climate change disasters. Credit: Women Deliver

NEW YORK, Mar 31 2020 (IPS) – Vanessa Nakate of Uganda may have been cropped out of a photograph taken at the World Economic Forum, but she along with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg have made the climate crisis centre stage.


Women Deliver Young Leader Jyotir Nisha discusses with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada on how to harness young people to overcome gender inequality and address climate change in a recent wide-ranging interview.

Quesada says key strategies to designing policy to fight climate change require unconventional decision-making to address challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, the fourth industrial revolution, and inequality.

“These are intertwined factors that can hinder development if unattended but, if tackled, they could potentially accelerate progress and wellbeing for all,” he says.

“And, of course, this is a task that young leaders are able to handle and produce the timely answers that are necessary.”

Bringing in her experience in the non-profit sector, Nisha says training girls and women in up-cycling plastic waste to produce handmade goods has assisted them to contribute to their family income and their empowerment in the community. The question is, how can this be broadened.

Quesada says women, in particular young women, are leading the way.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada. Credit: Women Deliver

“From cooperative seed banks, to early warning networks, from solar engineers to women politicians carving a path of sustainable policymaking. They are at the forefront of forest conservation, sustainable use of resources, and community enhancement, and restoration of landscapes and forest ecosystems,” he says.

However, women’s roles are often underestimated, unrecognised, and unpaid.

“Women and girls with access to technology have already begun developing innovative tools to reduce emissions by targeting sustainable consumption and production practices, including food waste, community waste management, energy efficiency, and sustainable fashion.”

The solutions exist, but much more is needed.

“It takes a whole-of-society approach for collaboration and cooperation on a bigger and enhanced scale.”

The President suggests that the way investments are made could be fundamental to ensure a flow of finance to the communities, including women, and youth. This will, he believes, provide “a stable source of funding for businesses and services that contribute to the solution of social or environmental challenges.”

The impact of this will be partnerships between traditional sources of finance, like international cooperation and development banks, and new partners, like philanthropy, hedge funds, or pension funds.

“And what better than young people giving the thrust that all this requires?”

Nisha says she was pleased to see the massive mobilisation of young people at the inaugural Climate Action Summit last year. The summit had little good news for climate change with concerns raised that the accelerating rise in sea level, melting ice would have on socio-economic development, health, displacement, food security and ecosystems. However, beyond taking to the streets, they also need to hold decision-makers accountable.

“In the last months we have witnessed the irruption of massive mobilisations in different parts of the world, lead mostly by young people. This would seem surprising for a generation that has been accused several times of passivity, indifference, and individualism,” Quesada says. “I truly believe that, as long as these demands are channelled through democratic and pacifist means, they are extremely important to set a bar and a standard of responsibility for us, decision-makers — who are, by the way, more and more often, young people.”

He adds that world leaders owe them explanations of the decisions made.

“We must also have the wisdom to pay attention to these demands and take into account their opinions and proposals to reach agreements that have the legitimacy of consensus-building.”

However, Nisha notes, while campaigns like the Deliver for Good campaign is working across sectors reports at COP25, and the recent World Economic Forum (Davos), “climate change continues to threaten progress made toward gender equality across every measure of development.”

At WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2020 showed that it would take more than a lifetime, 99.5 years in 2019 for gender parity across health, education, work and politics to be achieved.

Quesada says the climate catastrophe “demands that policymakers and practitioners renew commitments to sustainable development — at the heart of which is, and must continue to be, advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, and realising women’s rights as a pre-requisite for sustainable development.”

Costa Rica, he says, has been recognised internationally on two significant areas: the respect of human rights and environmental protection.

“The present Administration has taken these objectives a step further by paying particular attention to women’s rights, inclusion, and diversity, and including them as part of our core policy principles and our everyday practices,” he says. “We expect to increase women’s integration into productive processes and achieve women’s economic empowerment through specific policies linked to our long-term development strategy — the Decarbonization Plan — allowing the transformational changes our society needs.

However, the critical question, Nisha says, is: “What can world leaders and governments do today to ensure young people have a seat at the decision-making table?”

Quesada is confident that young people will be part of the solution.

“The challenges we are facing today are unprecedented precisely because previous generations did not have to face situations such as biodiversity loss, global warming, or the emergence of artificial intelligence and technology. Thus, we need new answers and solutions from Twenty-First Century people, and those should and will be put forward by the youth,” he says.

The importance of youth involvement was recently highlighted too at the meeting of African Leaders for Nutrition in Addis Ababa. African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina said Africa should invest in skills development for the youth so the continent’s entrepreneurs can leverage emerging technologies to transform Africa’s food system to generate new jobs. This is especially urgent as the population on the continent is expected to double to 2.5 billion people in 40 years putting pressure on governments to deliver more food and jobs in addition to better livelihoods.

In a recent interview with IPS International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Director General, Nteranya Sanginga, explained that this change is neither easy or necessarily something all leadership has taken on board.

“Our legacy is starting a programme to change the mindset of the youth in agriculture. Unfortunately (with) our governments that is where you have to go and change mindsets completely. Most probably 90 per cent of our leaders consider agriculture as a social activity basically for them its (seen as a) pain, penury. They proclaim that agriculture is a priority in resolving our problems, but we are not investing in it. We need that mindset completely changed.”

Quesada is unequivocal that this attitude needs to change.

“My advice to world leaders is to have the humility to listen to the people and to allow more inclusive and participatory decision-making. And to the young people, I can only encourage them to own their future, and to act accordingly, with vision, courage, and determination.”

 

TRENDS E-Symposium to Address Post-Corona Globalization Challenges

Conferences, Health

Experts from around the world to discuss factors behind the crisis and the steps needed to mitigate its negative effects worldwide

ABU DHABI, Mar 26 2020 – TRENDS Research & Advisory is organizing its first-ever E-Symposium to discuss the global impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and offer insights on the steps needed to mitigate its negative effects worldwide. This will be the first online symposium of its kind to be organized since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the Gulf and Middle East region.


To be held on March 31, 2020, at 7 pm UAE time, the E-Symposium – Confronting the Challenges of COVID-19: A New Global Outlook – will provide a unique and innovative online platform for international experts covering medical, geostrategic and economic perspectives.

Panelists will offer insights on the factors behind the emergence of the crisis and will also include a special perspective on how China coped with the initial outbreak of the pandemic and adopted measures and solutions that could offer valuable lessons for other countries.

Dr. Mohamed Al-Ali, the Director General of TRENDS Research & Advisory lauded the Center and its staff for their contributions under these exceptional circumstances. “Harnessing modern technology to hold this E-Symposium will feed into the Center’s ambitious goals of strengthening scientific research and providing policy and decision-makers in the region and around the world,” he said.

The Director General said that ideas and recommendations are needed to deal with the challenge of Covid-19, which has become an existential threat to humanity. Dr. Muhammad Al-Ali expressed his confidence that this international E-Symposium, the first of its kind in the Middle East, will come up with recommendations that enhance the current regional and international efforts to curb the rapid spread of this pandemic.

“The pandemic has so far claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people and infected more than 300,000, in addition to having a calamitous economic and strategic impact on the entire world. Nearly 600 million people in around 22 countries are under forced social quarantine and 400 million under curfew,” he said.

Dr. Mohamed Al-Ali said that think-tanks and research institutes should play their role in supporting governments and countries in today’s circumstances so that we collectively stop this human tragedy by providing workable ideas, recommendations, and solutions.

With the COVID-19 crisis representing a historical milestone for the global community, this symposium performs a critical function in helping its participants identify the continuities and changes expected in the months and years to come.

The E-Symposium will be live-streamed via TRENDS YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmaxK85OoRz8E1YaWHo6FQQ

 

Preserving World’s Biodiversity: Negotiations Convene at FAO Headquarters

Biodiversity, Civil Society, Climate Change, Conferences, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Gender, Global, Headlines, Indigenous Rights, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations

Delegates gather at FAO headquarters to advance negotiations of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

ROME, Feb 24 2020 (IPS) – “The world out there is watching and waiting for results,” Elizabeth Maruma Mrema warns while talking to IPS regarding the preservation of biodiversity of our planet.


The acting Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, is referring to a worrying report[1] released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which paints a grim picture of the planet.

“Many key components of biodiversity for food and agriculture at genetic, species and ecosystem levels are in decline and evidence suggests that the proportion of livestock breeds at risk of extinction is increasing,” the report says.

The FAO also warns that “nearly a third of fish stocks are overfished, and a third of freshwater fish species assessed are considered threatened”.

These are just some of the critical issues being debated during the open-ended working group on the post-2020 biodiversity framework. This round of negotiations is taking place at FAO headquarters from 24 to 29 February. In the run-up to October’s historic UN Biodiversity Conference, government officials, experts and activists from around the world gathered today at FAO headquarters, Rome, to forge ahead with negotiations. This round of talks was supposed to take place in Kunming, China, on the same dates. Due to the ongoing situation following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), it was moved to Rome, Italy.

Background

The fourteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) had its meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in 2018. It was here that the working group on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework was appointed. The working group’s mandate was to prepare the text of a framework that would guide the work of the Convention after the year 2020. At the working group’s first meeting held in Nairobi in August 2019, the Open-ended Working Group (WG2020) requested the Co-Chairs and the Executive Secretary to prepare a zero-draft text of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. This framework is under consideration at its second meeting, which is currently taking place in Rome. The aim of the second meeting of the Working Group is to significantly advance the negotiation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, discussing the different aspects of the whole ambitious project.

‘Healthy Diets’ was among the proposed initiatives during the first day of the six-day event at FAO headquarters. The initiative emphasised the importance of ‘geographical indications’ for biodiversity, with examples and experiences from Africa and Eastern Europe. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

Negotiations in Rome: Promoting a bi-directional approach

In the coming days, the working groups will be divided on a regional basis. They will discuss a wide variety of concerns including biodiversity, food, agriculture and fishing systems, to the importance of promoting an approach that leaves no one outside of this circuit. Civil society, the private sector, indigenous people, local communities, women and youth are all represented to create a functional framework for the whole society and at all levels. Many organisations, like Bioversity International, supported by a host of international agencies, have submitted research reports on biodiversity and food systems. It has also made representations on alternative models for access and benefit-sharing rules, practices and impacts in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

The voice of indigenous people

Key to the discussions is the role of indigenous people in biodiversity and Aslak Holmberg, the representative of the indigenous people, is convinced that policymakers can learn from these groups.

“There is a key message we want to share with other groups here during these negotiations,” he told IPS. “Indigenous peoples and local communities’ management of natural resources is (in fact) conserving biodiversity. (This is) because these management practices are built on a balanced relationship with the respective environment.

“Biological and cultural diversity are linked, and by this, I mean that (for indigenous communities) culture plays a fundamental role in the process of preserving biodiversity: it is in our culture to use our areas in a sustainable way. That is the message we want to share with others”.

The voice of the business sector

Representatives of the private sector too, in particular of the business world, wish to be part of the framework that will result from the negotiations and officially approved in October, in China.
Eva Zabey, Executive Director of the Business for Nature Coalition, told IPS she was grateful to the CBD secretariat for giving business and opportunity to engage and contribute to the zero draft of the post-2020 framework.

This coalition is a unique global group of influential business and conservation organisations participating in the negotiations.

“Forward-thinking businesses are starting to change the way they operate, based on their understanding of the value of nature – but this is still the exception, not the norm,” she told IPS.
“Therefore,” said Zabey, “Political leadership is needed now to transform our economic and financial systems in a way that places nature at the heart of global decision-making. It needs to create a level playing field and a stable operating environment for business.”

Zabey is looking forward to an ambitious post-2020 framework which will facilitate businesses’ involvement and create and positive “policy-business feedback loop,” she said.

Perspectives

Audrey Azoulay, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General, perfectly summarised urgency at the negotiation.

Commenting on the global assessment report, she said: “The present generations have the responsibility to bequeath to future generations a planet that is not irreversibly damaged by human activity.”

“Our local, indigenous and scientific knowledge are proving that we have solutions and so no more excuses: we must live on earth differently”.

Zabey echoes Azouley. She said entrepreneurs are increasingly aware that the profit-sustainability ‘conflict’ is no longer feasible or conceivable.

“Companies planning on being successful in the future are starting to realise that financial performance is irrelevant on a dead planet.’

[1] http://www.fao.org/3/CA3129EN/ca3129en.pdf

 

Coming Down the Davos Mountain with a Gender Lens

Conferences, Education, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Labour, TerraViva United Nations

NEW YORK, Feb 15 2020 (IPS) – In a recent report by World Economic Forum (WEF) shows women suffer a “triple whammy” in the workplace. Without drastic action, gender parity will take more than a lifetime to achieve. This is the challenge that Katja Iversen, President and CEO of Women Deliver is staring down.


“We know that achieving gender equality is not a women’s issue. It is a societal issue. To be successful … boys and men must be involved at all levels and all ages,” said Iversen.

Iversen’s involvement WEF 2020 annual meeting in Davos increased the spotlight on gender equality. She was involved in a myriad of discussions, conversations, panel debates, midnight huddles and a social media drive. As the woman who heads leading global advocate for gender equality, health and rights of girls and women her role at the annual forum was clear cut.

“We provoked discussions using our ‘gender lens’ – a small magnifying glass. We gave this to leaders and influencers to bring down the mountain and apply to their businesses, governments, and lives,” Iversen said in an exclusive interview with IPS.

“Along with our partners, Promundo and Unilever/Dove Men+Care, we released a series of recommendations on male engagement in gender equality, condensed in a catchy infographic.”

Iversen went on to emphasise how “everybody – including the men and women in Davos – must apply a gender lens to every aspect of life, from leadership, to health systems, to schools, the workplace, and at home. That is an important step to change systems, to change harmful norms, and drive progress.”

This may seem a momentous task. The WEF report, released in December 2019, highlighted the factors that fuel the economic gender gap. This included a noticeably low level of women in leadership positions, wage stagnation, labour force participation and income.

The report highlights what it terms a ‘Triple Whammy’ for women in the workplace. Women, the report said, are highly represented in many of the roles that have been hit hardest by automation.

Moreover, not enough women are entering technology-driven professions where wage growth is more profound. This puts women into the middle to low wage categories that have been stagnant since the financial crisis in 2009.

Thirdly, a lack of access to capital prevents them from pursuing entrepreneurial activities, another key driver for income.

WEF aims to close the gender gap by setting up coalitions between relevant ministries and the largest employers to increase female labour force participation, increase women in leadership positions, close wage gaps and prepare women for jobs of the future. Additionally, the global business commitment on Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work mobilises businesses to commit to hiring 50% women for their five highest growth roles between now and 2022.

Iversen said women must be involved in the development and growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ubiquitous digital technology for them to benefit.

“We know that innovation and technology hold a lot of power and can be used for good – but only if it works for girls and women and identifies the bias that holds them back,” she said.

While there was potential for digital technologies, like AI, to unlock better health access and information, new employment and leadership opportunities, and greater economic security for women – it could “just as likely leave big parts of the population behind and exacerbate existing inequalities”.

This was why the gender lens in the development and implementation of AI and other tech solutions is so critical, said Iversen. Having women involved in the growth of digital technology “can ensure technology is more representative and can eliminate unconscious bias in hiring, promotion, and recruitment”.

It is critical that women’s education, especially in the field of technology, is enhanced, enabling them to participate in future workforce equally.

“We also need to make sure we are investing in women’s lifelong education and training, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math. It is key to their professional and financial security in the workforce of tomorrow.”

Investment in women and their participation in the economy has a ripple effect.

“Evidence and common sense confirm that when leadership and the workforce represent the population and include women, it leads to better economic, social, and political cohesion and puts us on a better, more sustainable path.”

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, noted in his speech at WEF 2020 that while problems were global, the responses were fragmented.

“If I had to select one sentence to describe the state of the world, I would say we are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated, and the responses are more and more fragmented, and if this is not reversed, it’s a recipe for disaster,” he warned.

Iversen explains that by putting the gender lens at the centre of the solutions, it would enhance society’s ability to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals. It would also mitigate the ‘fragmented responses’ to global challenges.

“Gender is cross-cutting, it is essential to progress and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Conservation of our planet; eradicating poverty and ensuring health; education; peace, and prosperity for all need to be integrated. This requires putting a gender lens to the entire development agenda,” Iversen said.

“One of the reasons the world is facing so many challenges right now, including trade wars, conflict, climate change, and growing inequality, is that girls, women, and marginalised groups are prevented from accessing power, both political and financial. Big egos, narrow interests, and profit over people and planet have been, mistakenly, prioritised, and we are paying the price for that.”

Women Deliver’s President was emphatic that “development actors from across the spectrum must abandon siloed approaches. It was essential to work together to drive progress for the people and planet, including girls and women, both through financial investment and multi-sector partnerships.”

Iversen is confident. WEF was “good start to the Decade of Action for the Global Goals and the 2020 Generation Equality push, demanding women’s equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life.”

Involving the younger generation was also paramount to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“What was also clear coming down the Davos mountain is that any efforts to push the development agenda over the finish line will fail if they don’t involve young people. Because youth not only have a stake in reaching our ambitious development goals by 2030, they are also well-suited to identify solutions right now.”

To address and improve gender equality, Iversen emphasised that it required a global effort. The private sector has a vested interest and a significant role to play in advancing gender equality. “We want governments and business leaders to use the gender lens in all they do. They should complete a concrete analysis of what progress they have made and what gender gaps remain,” Iversen said.

Both should ask themselves: What policies and procedures are inhibiting or promoting progress? What gender norms are prevalent and need to be addressed? What investments in gender equality could be made?

“And once that analysis is complete – get to work!”

Women Deliver has been relentless in that message and in bringing the evidence to bear with great partners. “And in recent years we have seen that the world – including at WEF – has started to catch on. Our challenge now is to move from talking to mobilising dedicated action.”

Women Deliver continues to be serious advocates, speaking up for girls and women in every setting.

“We’ll continue to advise committees for big corporations and international agencies. We’ll continue to elevate the voices of young advocates and local organisations around the world. We will continue to push back on the pushback to protect our gains and drive further progress,” Iversen said.

“We will continue to communicate from podiums, in boardrooms and hallways of major summits, on the pages of major newspapers, on (television) screens and social media – with the clear message: In a gender-equal world, everybody wins.”

IPS asked about the trend of women participating as policy-makers at WEF. Just how prominent is women’s role? Iversen replied that “24% of the 2,700 formal WEF participants were women. While that is an improvement from previous years, it’s still way too small. WEF has pledged to double female participation by 2030, and we are ready to help to speed it up.”

“We have a long way to go, but I saw progress at WEF,” said Iversen, adding, “More and new world leaders – in business and government – are picking up the gender lens. There is still so much to be done, and progress is slow for an impatient optimist like myself. But I came down the Davos mountain more hopeful than I went up, and more ready than ever to power progress for girls, women and gender equality in the Super Year ahead.”

Iversen remains optimistic. “Ultimately, we want to work ourselves out of a job. Then sit back and see a world where gender inequality is a thing of the past, where it is something people make fun of like the ‘old days’. Where people say, ‘I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner’.”

 

Addressing the Low Female Representation in STEM Education

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Education

Data by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), shows that only 35 percent of students studying STEM in higher education globally are women. At primary and lower secondary levels, less than half of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have no electricity, computers or even access to the internet. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

DJIBOUTI CITY, Jan 28 2020 (IPS) – Dr. Anne-Maria Brennan loved science as a young girl. But instead of encouraging her, those around her made attempts to steer her in the “right direction”. “The right direction was in nursing, teaching and secretarial courses. I was told that girls do not study physics,” she tells IPS.


“These voices were so loud that I seriously considered becoming a music teacher. But then someone sensibly told me that I could become a scientist and an amateur musician, but there was nothing like an amateur scientist who was also a professional musician,” she says.

That was in the seventies, today Brennan is the vice-president of Science Engagement at the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation in the United Kingdom.

Brennan previously served as an associate professor in Bioscience and Forensic Biology, at the School of Applied Science, London South Bank University.

“It turns out that girls could in fact study physics, or mathematics, science, technology and engineering,” she quips.

It has been five decades since Brennan swam against the tide, pursuing a career in science. But data by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), shows that globally only 35 percent of students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – or STEM – in higher education are women. Further confirming that girls are still being steered towards domestic and caring career paths.

“Gender balance in enrolment as well as inclusivity in both participation and achievements in STEM education remains a global south challenge,” Professor Kalu Mosto Onuoha, President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, tells IPS.

“Education systems will never be balanced and inclusive when half of the population is not participating at per with their counterparts in STEM education,” he adds.

Similar sentiments were shared by other delegates participating in the 3rd International Summit on Balanced and Inclusive Education currently being held in Djibouti City, Djibouti. Organised by the Education Relief Foundation (ERF), over 200 delegates and government representatives from over 35 countries are currently in the Horn of Africa nation where state leaders are expected to sign a Universal Declaration on universal inclusive education.

  • Unfortunately, low female representation in STEM education is a narrative that knows no boundaries. According to UNESCO, Sweden has the highest share of women graduates from STEM programmes among Nordic countries, but STEM attainment among female students in Sweden stands at 16 percent, compared to male students at 47 percent.

Brennan affirms that the numbers are similarly low in the United Kingdom but notes some improvements in the fields of general practice and dentistry, where women have taken a lead.

She says there are few women in surgery and even fewer in engineering because men in these fields are considered unfriendly and the sectors too involved and dirty.

“These wide gender gaps in developing countries are purely out of choice. Students in these countries are making the choice to pursue other interests. In developing countries the choice is made for our students by a patriarchal culture and through socialisation,” says Onuoha.

He says that these inequalities are first rooted in the exclusion and marginalisation of girls in education enrolment.

“Girls who eventually made it to school were encouraged to undertake feminine subjects like teaching. They were socialised to believe that they could only be good mothers if they took on lighter subjects,” Onuoha expounds.

  • But the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 indicates that these inequalities are not limited to the lagging behind of girls at the enrolment level.
  • In countries such as the Southern Africa nation of Namibia where girls outpace boys in school enrolment at all levels, the gap widens in STEM education. Here, about eight percent of female students have attained STEM education, compared to 21 percent of male students.
  • Nonetheless, the report shines a spotlight on countries with impressive levels of STEM education uptake among their female students.
  • In Mauritania, for instance, attainment in STEM is at 29 percent among female students, and 31 percent among male students. In the South Asian nation of Myanmar, female students outpace male students in attainment of STEM education.
  • A few other countries such as the Arab country of Oman are slowly and surely closing the gender gap in STEM uptake, with 41 percent of female students and 55 percent of male students.

“In developing countries there are many concerted efforts to address the first part of  the problem, even though painfully slowly, we are slowly closing gender gaps in education enrolment, retention and in some cases, achievements,” Professor Mahouton Norbert Hounkonnou, from the Benin National Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, tells IPS.

Hounkonnou is a full professor of mathematics and physics, and called for the demystification of sciences. “STEM education is taught as if only a few people are meant to understand but science and math is for all of us. Everybody does math on a daily basis without even knowing it.”

Hounkonnou says that balanced and inclusive education systems call for an overhaul in what is taught in STEMs, who teaches it and how it is taught. “Learners love to be engaged. Our classrooms must become more interactive. We also need a gender component, currently lacking, in many of our educational interventions,” he adds.

He called for investment in infrastructure and learning materials to improve the environment in which STEM education is provided.

U.N. research shows that countries in the sub-Sahara Africa face the biggest challenges. At the primary and lower secondary levels, less than half of schools have access to electricity, computers and internet.

“This forum provides an opportunity for us to define the shape a balanced and inclusive STEM education system should take, and make concerted efforts to build that system. It will take financial and technical resources, including the training of teachers to better interact with female learners,” says Hounkonnou.