Collaboration Can Help Eradicate COVID-19

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Education, Featured, Global, Headlines, Health, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations


Rev Liberato C. Bautista is assistant general secretary for United Nations and International Affairs of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. He also serves as president of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations.

Coronavirus pandemic threatens crises-ravaged communities, UN appeals for global support. Credit: United Nations

NEW YORK, Apr 23 2020 (IPS) – Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, space for multilateral policy development and commitment has grown. Its growth in the global health field augurs well as we find ways to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Multilateralism is a difficult word, often misconstrued to be about the global and not the local and daily life. Perception plays a major role in how the public perceives multilateralism. This is in part due to the complexity of modern global challenges, which are well beyond the capacity of any one state or even a small group of states to resolve by themselves.

The novel coronavirus pandemic may yet change this perception.

As the saying goes, all politics is local. My rejoinder to this is that one’s local is another’s global. The local and the global are simultaneous realities. United Methodist connectionalism is akin to multilateralism.

As a church, we address social issues central to the multilateral agenda, including health, migration, peace, climate, and concerns about global poverty, trading and commerce, sustainable development, social justice, women, children and gender justice, human rights, indigenous peoples, and more.

Holistic health, healing and wholeness are intrinsic to Methodism and its Wesleyan roots. John Wesley attended to both the care for the soul and for the biological body with his abundant tips and remedies for ailments during his time.

Throughout the United Methodist connection, we are doing advocacy on public health policies at national legislatures and multilateral settings. We are in global mission together for sustainable development and humanitarian assistance, building capacity for peoples and communities to manage their healthcare needs.

Our numerous United Methodist-affiliated clinics, hospitals, colleges and universities around the world are training medical, health, social work and pastoral care professionals.

The Rev. Liberato Bautista. Credit: Marcelo Schneider, World Council of Churches

Human rights intrinsic to health, healing and wholeness

Global pandemics such as the novel coronavirus respect no sovereign boundaries or national allegiances. The coronavirus ravages all peoples across races and social classes, but its effects are more devastating on vulnerable populations everywhere and on struggling low- and middle-income economies around the world.

To mitigate the virulent spread of COVID-19, we are called by national authorities to stay at home, wash our hands, stay in place and practice physical distancing. These public health directives imply that we have houses to stay in, water to wash our hands, and some space where we can move around and still maintain six feet distance from each other.

When Philippine government officials issued the directive for Filipinos to stay at home, Norma Dollaga, a United Methodist deaconess and justice advocate from the Philippines, reacted through her Facebook page: “Stay at home. That’s for those who have homes. How about the homeless?”

The reality is that the human rights to health, housing and water, along with human mobility, have long been imperiled in many places around the world prior to COVID-19’s onslaught. Moreover, the health crisis has been used as an excuse in other parts of the world to grab power or tighten national security laws that are assaulting civil liberties and violating democratic rights.

Neither pandemic nor political or economic exigency can derogate from the enjoyment of fundamental human rights.

That the outbreak of COVID-19 started in Wuhan City in China has resulted in undue rise in racist and xenophobic acts especially against people of Chinese origin, or Asians in general. This is on top of an ongoing surge of populism and xenophobic nationalism around the world.

Health is wealth, fund it robustly

If health is wealth, it behooves peoples and their governments to protect it. Health care workers who are on the front line against this pandemic should have all the resources they need without begging for them.

A war may have been declared in the eradication of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But it is looking more like the deployment of war rhetoric and not the funding that real wars have received.

National budgets are moral documents. Health is the true common wealth that we must invest human and budgetary resources to. Yet we know that defense spending today far outweighs the puny investments from national coffers that health care urgently needs and strategically deserves.

Global collaboration is indispensable

The role of the U.N. in forging global cooperation is crucial, in times of crisis or calm. Global cooperation in the surveillance of emerging viruses and bacteria is necessary if pandemics are to be mitigated and diseases eradicated.

Coordinating this global collaboration and leading the development of a vaccine to treat the COVID-19 disease gives the public good reason to trust global institutions like World Health Organization. Think of the eradication of smallpox — and the ongoing programs to eventually eradicate polio and malaria — as examples of how global cooperation benefits us in our local daily lives.

To triumph over COVID-19, comprehensive cooperation is needed on many fronts — medical, pharmaceutical, healthcare workers, mental health providers, healthcare facilities. Public and private coordination is necessary in ensuring that the supply chain for much needed testing kits, ventilators, as well as personal protective equipment like N95 face masks, gloves, gowns, aprons, face shields and respirators remain unbroken.

A successful multilateral response requires a “whole-of-government,” “whole-of-society” and evidence-based public health approach. Mitigation works best when countries share expertise and scientific knowledge about threats to health, to climate, to populations and to peace and security.

Social inequalities imperil public health

The Commission on the Social Determinants of Health established by WHO in 2005 elaborated on the disastrous effects of social inequalities on people’s health. The intersections of physical, mental and social health, healing and wholeness are abundantly clear.

The commission’s 2008 final report stated: “The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels.

The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities — the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.”

The U.N. commemorates its 75th anniversary this year. It is an auspicious time to reaffirm support for its mandates, especially the securing of health for all peoples and the planet. A healthy population makes for a healthy planet.

Nongovernmental organizations, including faith-based organizations like our United Methodist representations at the U.N., are in a kairos moment to help achieve the U.N.’s mandates.

COVID-19 may have been virulent and will forever change the rules of social etiquette and socialization. But the novel coronavirus has done what multilateral negotiations have not done — pause globalization and its unbridled pursuit of profit and capital.

When the world reopens from the ravages of the virus, we have a momentous task not to return to, but to transform, global and local arrangements to protect humanity and the planet, at least from the ravages of pandemics and social inequalities.

It comforts me that not all contagions are deadly. Some are beneficial. Love and kindness are. So are hospitality, mercy and justice.

*This article 0riginally appeared in UM News”. The link follows:


COVID-19 in the Time of Insecurity

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Education, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Inequity, TerraViva United Nations


HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal

AMMAN, Jordan, Mar 26 2020 (IPS) – Humankind has outlived multiple pandemics in the course of world history. The kingdoms and states of Central and Western Europe abolished the institution of serfdom once it had become clear that medieval rule in the aftermath of devastating pestilence would founder without ending the dependency and servitude that characterized the Dark Ages. The vulnerability of entire nations to the risk of total collapse in the absence of widespread access to the most basic healthcare in the Spanish Flu spurred governments to build the public health systems that have made the progress and development of the last hundred years possible. If the past is prologue, then continuity and survival command that we change.

We have more often than not banded together in the face of all kinds of threats. In all its ramifications, COVID-19 threatens to push our social, political and economic structures to the brink. Disease, recession and fright can rapidly overwhelm states and societies. Each coming day will bring increasing challenges that can only be met by caring for the sick, minimizing the impact of shutdowns on lives and livelihoods, securing the delivery of adequate water, food and energy supplies, and racing for a cure. Success – as in an asymmetric conflict – rests on resilience. To contain the socio-political and socio-economic fallout from the crisis, policymaking efforts should center on human dignity and welfare as the bedrock of national and international security.

The most vulnerable members of society in some parts of our world are those on the front lines of the crisis: the doctors, nurses, care-givers, pharmacists, sanitation workers, farmers, supermarket cashiers and truck drivers whose courage, sacrifice and dedication will see us through the next 12 to 18 months of expected lockdowns. In the absence of state support, what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of people who have already been laid off, while millions more face looming hardship as the numbers of layoffs grow? Some will continue to ignore the vulnerable and marginalized, those who have least access to humanitarian assistance, while others will continue to exploit them. The calls for social distancing have grown louder and more frequent over the last couple of days, and as we begin to separate from one other we must remember our humanitarian duty to each another.

Security, far from being individual, is collective and global. The current crisis calls for transcendent thinking between politicians on both sides of the aisle. Grey areas in politics in which zero-sum games and the perverse logic of mutually assured destruction proliferate will not protect and promote human dignity and welfare. Conservatives and reformers must now move beyond the tournaments and arm-twisting of politics. The logic of mutually assured survival cannot accept grey areas. If conflict resolution transcends political beliefs, nationality, ethnicity, gender, and religion, then human dignity and welfare is the benchmark of the humanitarian commitment to life.

Reliable brokers in the management of this crisis and other crises do exist as in the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières. Corporate social responsibility requires developing a public platform of health facts so that people-to-people conversations and consultations can be promoted through civil society, the media and educational institutions. We cannot cherry-pick energy and climate change without talking about health or education and human dignity. Migrants and refugees must be an integral part of the national response for halting the spread of the novel coronavirus. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia reports that 55 million people, in West Asia region, require some sort of humanitarian assistance and that the vulnerability of displaced women and girls is especially heightened in a pandemic. Post-conflict insecurity – whether in countries ravaged by war or across the urban centers and countrysides of advanced economies overwhelmed by disease – can only be addressed in the careful terrain mapping of humanitarian access. Yemen, Syria, Gaza and Libya are frighteningly vulnerable to the onslaught of epidemics – what will peace uncover there when the wars end?

Regional insecurity is heightened in the absence of cooperation, but the multilateral system is not at a loss in facing an existential crisis. European solidarity has been sharply damaged by the onset of widespread disease although China is performing through the swift and effective action that has come to the aid of the people and government of Italy. Multilateralism today can only be revisited with a focus on the interdisciplinary priorities of the twenty-first century that include addressing the need for a Law of Peace. We draw humanitarian concessions from the law of war in times of conflict, but have no recourse to legal instruments that can secure the dignity and welfare of all in times of peace.

The current crisis is as much a global health crisis as it is a crisis of the globalization that has come to undermine the foundations of modern society with its rampant inequality and rising injustice and which threatens the very survival of our species with climate change. The planet that we share with other organisms is fragile and prone to crises. A resolution to our predicament will take nothing short of extending the ethic of human solidarity beyond the contours of our immediate response to the outbreak of COVID-19. Real success lies not in the taming of a pathogen or in re-discovering the value of compassion, respect and generosity, but in institutionalizing these values in the days, weeks and months ahead.


Why Empowering National Human Rights Institutions Helps on the Quest for Healthy Earth?

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Education, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Population

Claudia Ituarte-Lima, Stockholm University, Sweden and University of British Columbia, Canada

Claudia Ituarte-Lima is researcher on international environmental law at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and affiliated senior researcher at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. She is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia. She holds a PhD from the University College London and a MPhil from the University of Cambridge.

On March 2020, over 330 students, women champions, government officials, NGO members and community members from around Kampot and Kep gathered in an effort to plant 3,000 mangroves and conserve Cambodia’s coastline. The local activity took place as part of a larger mangrove planting and marine exhibition under Action Aid’s 100,000 Mangroves campaign, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the project ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’. The campaign aims to plan 100,000 mangroves in eight community fisheries by May 2020, and raise awareness of the importance of marine ecosystems. Credit: ManuthButh/UNDP Cambodia

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, Mar 24 2020 (IPS) – We are living in a critical time. As we face existential environmental challenges from climate crises to the mass extinction of species, it is difficult sometimes to see solutions and new ideas. This is why we all need to celebrate and give visibility to creative and courageous efforts of people and organizations striving towards a healthy planet for all.

I write today about the key role played by National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in the Global South in our collective fight against climate change. The time has come to empower NHRIs.

Their unique position mandated by law yet independent from the government can make an urgent needed bridge between legal and policy advances, and ground-up efforts such as youth and women movements, thereby contributing to the enjoyment of the right to a healthy environment.

I have recently had the chance of learning real-world success stories by brave NHRIs working in some of the most challenging contexts. While being a member of the facilitators’ team of a series of webinars* for technical staff and decision-makers working in NHRIs and prior face-to-face interaction with them, it became crystal clear that strengthening the skills and capacities of NHRIs can contribute positive outcomes for both human rights and the environment.

In Mongolia, for instance, the NHRI with the support of civil society organizations and environmental researchers has recently developed a draft law for safeguarding the rights of environmental defenders.

The NHRIs have also intervened in a variety of sectoral issues from pesticides and agriculture in Costa Rica, to mining in South Africa and the connections between coal mining and transportation in Mongolia. The Morocco NHRI has prompted other African NHRIs and civil society organizations to actively participate in international climate negotiations.

Business and human rights was a key issue raised by our NHRIs colleagues.

Nazia, 38, proudly shows off her home-grown tomatoes in Nadirabad village, Pakistan. She participated in kitchen gardening training offered under the joint UNDP-EU Refugee Affected and Host Areas (RAHA) Programme in Pakistan. Credit: UNDP Pakistan

The significant legal, institutional and financial obstacles that national duty bearers face to investigate transnational corporations and their responsibilities concerning their impacts to a safe climate has not proved insurmountable for NHRIs.

The Philippine’s NHRI has a mandate to promote human rights which, creatively interpreted, allowed it to investigate the climate change and human rights nexus beyond its national borders.

The systemic nature of climate change justified a national inquiry rather than a field visit. Because climate change is an existential issue not only to Filipino people but globally, the Philippines national inquiry on climate change turned into an inquiry with strong global dimensions.

It included public hearings in the Philippines, New York and London, virtual hearings and expert advice from the former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, academics from different parts of the world and the Asia-Pacific regional network of NHRIs.

A major comparative advantage presented by the NHRIs is their unique position in working hand in hand with right holders in addressing environmental – human rights gaps facing the most vulnerable populations.

Costa Rica NHRI has found, for instance, that women, girls, men and boys and elder living in coastal areas become especially vulnerable to climate change because their access to clean drinking water and fish become scarce.

The South African NHRI together with food sovereignty civil society organizations has developed a draft climate charter, to be presented to the parliament, with a more holistic approach to the current climate policy.

In recent years, the awareness of the linkages between human rights and climate change has greatly increased. The legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment in more than 150 countries, together with judicial decisions, and academic studies on the safe climate dimension of this right has grown rapidly. NHRIs can be instrumental in translating them into results and action, including under difficult circumstances.

Their role in advising duty bearers, working together with right-holders helps to understand and act upon systemic environmental challenges. Their synergies with environmental human rights defenders can also contribute to more effective investigation and advocacy, not least in the context of informal and unregulated business activities where it is especially difficult to collect data and hold businesses accountable.

Time has come for the international community to do more to support NHRIs in the Global South, a key player often overlooked in climate and biodiversity talks, debates and funding. Due to the intrinsic connections between human rights and environment, the NHRIs need to be further supported to perform their innovative roles in safeguarding life-support systems at various jurisdictional scales, including advocating for the global recognition of the right to a healthy environment by the United Nations.

* The series was organized by the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), UNDP, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and UN Environment. A final report with key messages from the webinar series is available on the UNDP website.


Young People Bring Solar Energy to Schools in the Argentine Capital

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Energy, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Latin America & the Caribbean, Population, Projects, Regional Categories, Special Report, TerraViva United Nations


Sebastián Ieraci (L), a member of the group of students who in 2014 pushed for the switch to solar energy at the Antonio Devoto High School, stands next to the school's principal Marcelo Mazzeo on the rooftop of the educational institution located in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Villa Devoto. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Sebastián Ieraci (L), a member of the group of students who in 2014 pushed for the switch to solar energy at the Antonio Devoto High School, stands next to the school’s principal Marcelo Mazzeo on the rooftop of the educational institution located in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Villa Devoto. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

BUENOS AIRES , Mar 19 2020 (IPS) – “The idea came to a group of schoolmates and me in 2014, but we never thought it could become a reality,” says Sebastián Ieraci, 23, as he points to a multitude of photovoltaic solar panels shining on the roof of the Antonio Devoto High School in the Argentine capital.

The secondary school is one of the first public centres in Buenos Aires that has managed, since last November, to cover 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy generated in the building itself.

Although today only seven of the city’s public schools have solar panels, the authorities have identified another 140 school buildings with the conditions to generate solar energy, and the plan is to gradually equip all of them with solar panels.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this case is that it was the students’ own enthusiasm for clean energy and community involvement that allowed the school to be chosen for an experiment that is new to Buenos Aires.

“Now they come to see us from schools in different parts of the country, to see what we have done and to try to replicate it.” — Marcelo Mazzeo

Ieraci, who arrives in a hurry at his former school after his workday at a paint factory, was in his last year of high school in 2014, when law teachers suggested to him and his classmates that they come up with a project for the programme The Legislature and Schools.

The programme, carried out for over 20 years, invites final-year high school students to submit proposals to the Buenos Aires city legislature, in the areas of environment, public spaces, traffic and transport and security.

Once they do so, the students sit on the city legislature for an afternoon to discuss their proposals with students from other schools.

“We came up with the idea of installing solar panels because we knew that the school’s rooftop was not being used for anything and that doing so could be doubly beneficial, both environmentally and economically, since the school could generate its own energy,” says Ieraci during IPS’s visit to his former school.

Aerial view of the rooftops of the primary and secondary schools located across from the main square in Villa Devoto, a residential neighborhood in the Argentine capital. The adjacent schools now have 200 solar panels with an installed capacity of 70 kilowatts, and the surplus is injected into the Buenos Aires electricity grid. Credit: Courtesy of Buenos Aires city government

Aerial view of the rooftops of the primary and secondary schools located across from the main square in Villa Devoto, a residential neighborhood in the Argentine capital. The adjacent schools now have 200 solar panels with an installed capacity of 70 kilowatts, and the surplus is injected into the Buenos Aires electricity grid. Credit: Courtesy of Buenos Aires city government

“Then we started looking for information, and after a month we presented the project. Back then it was a utopia and today seeing these panels makes me very proud, because this is a school that generates a sense of belonging,” he explains.

The school is located in a large two-storey building that preserves the style of the old manor house that Italian immigrant Antonio Devoto had built there at the beginning of the 20th century. Devoto is considered the founder of the middle-class residential neighbourhood that today bears his name.

The school is located across from the main square of Devoto, in an area with many old trees and few tall buildings, full of bars and restaurants, and bursting with vitality far from the centre of Buenos Aires.

The Devoto teenagers’ solar panel project was the winner among more than 70 initiatives that students presented in 2014 to the local legislature, and in 2016 the Buenos Aires city government launched it. The first step was to start feasibility studies in more than 600 school buildings.

But it was in 2017 that the school received the definitive push to move towards solar energy, when it once again presented the project in a competition, this time in BA Elige (Buenos Aires Chooses), a citizen participation programme in which the more than three million inhabitants of Buenos Aires proper vote on the projects they want to see carried out.

On that occasion, the residents of Devoto expressed their opinions online, supporting the installation of solar panels in the neighbourhood schools and thus enabling the authorities to allocate budget funds.

The installation of the solar panels began in August 2019 and took three months. Since November, 87 two-by-one meter solar panels have been in operation on the rooftop of the Antonio Devoto High School.

The primary school next door was soon incorporated into the programme, and since January 113 solar panels have been operating, bringing the total to 200 panels on the adjacent rooftops of the two schools that serve a combined total of 500 students.

Solar panels nearly cover the entire rooftop of the Antonio Devoto High School in Buenos Aires. Until last year the rooftop area was not put to any use. The idea of using that space to generate renewable energy came from students in their final year in 2014, who presented a project to the Buenos Aires city legislature. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Solar panels nearly cover the entire rooftop of the Antonio Devoto High School in Buenos Aires. Until last year the rooftop area was not put to any use. The idea of using that space to generate renewable energy came from students in their final year in 2014, who presented a project to the Buenos Aires city legislature. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

“In secondary schools, the panels have 30 kilowatts (kW) of installed capacity, and in primary schools, 40. But the most interesting thing is that the primary school injects its surplus energy into the city’s electricity grid, generating credit with the power company,” engineer Andrés Valdivia, head of climate action in the city government’s Ministry of Education, told IPS.

The Ministry reports that the 140 school rooftops declared suitable for the installation of solar panels – because there are few high buildings surrounding them and they receive good solar radiation – have a combined surface area of 145,000 square meters and could have a total installed capacity of 13 megawatts (MW).

Renewable energies – basically, solar and wind – have experienced major growth in Argentina since a fund was created by law in September 2015 to finance the construction of facilities and to guarantee the purchase of the energy generated.

By late 2019, nearly eight percent of the electricity produced in the country came from renewable sources, up from just 2.2 percent in early 2016, according to official statistics.

However, that growth will not continue because the recession and the devaluation of the local currency in Argentina mean that almost no new projects will be launched, say industry analysts.

View of the front of the Antonio Devoto High School, which was built in an old manor house belonging to the Italian immigrant recognised as the founder of the Villa Devoto neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of Marcelo Mazzeo

View of the front of the Antonio Devoto High School, which was built in an old manor house belonging to the Italian immigrant recognised as the founder of the Villa Devoto neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of Marcelo Mazzeo

“Ours is not a technical school; we have an orientation in economics and administration. But the kids’ interest in the energy transition surprised us and led us to gather a lot of information together about the subject,” said Marcelo Mazzeo, the principal of the Antonio Devoto High School.

“Now they come to see us from schools in different parts of the country, to see what we have done and to try to replicate it,” he told IPS.

Félix Aban, one of the law teachers who worked with the students on the project and is now the school’s vice-principal, said that “one of the most interesting things was that in 2014 the kids suggested that the surplus energy generated by their schools could be injected into the power grid, when that possibility was not even being discussed in Argentina.”

In fact, the law on distributed (or decentralised) energy was not approved by Congress until 2017, under the official name “Regime to foment distributed renewable energy generation integrated into the public electricity grid”.

“They investigated and found that in other countries individual generators fed power into the grid. So we can say that the kids at this school were really ahead of the game,” said Aban.


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’.”


International Summit on Balanced and Inclusive Education in Djibouti concludes with establishment of new Organisation of Educational Cooperation

Civil Society, Education

Djibouti City, Feb 3 2020 – At the Closing Ceremony of the III ForumBIE 2030, 38 governments, civil society organisations and academic entities became the first to sign the Universal Declaration of Balanced and Inclusive Education (UDBIE). Furthermore, with the objective of achieving the aspirations and commitments contained within the UDBIE, 30 signatories, including governments and civil society organisations, agreed to establish the Organisation of Educational Cooperation (OEC), a new international organisation from the Global South creating platforms and mechanisms of solidarity-based technical and financial cooperation and support for educational reforms.

The OEC, whose General Assembly will function on the democratic basis of one country, one vote, ensuring accountability to its Member States which will benefit from its support, will also count civil society and academic organisations as Associate Members with limited rights.

The OEC will be established with a wholly-owned financial subsidiary, accountable to the General Assembly, capable of generating funds ethically and sustainably in support of educational reforms. This subsidiary, structurally directed towards investments in socially and ecologically responsible projects in its member states, will eventually fully finance the organisation’s operations and provide funds for the OEC to support Member States’ education systems with solidarity-based financing.

The OEC is designed with a rational, streamlined structure, follows a strategy of efficient systematic intervention, and puts education at the service of communities, of society and of national development as required by the commitments made in the UDBIE.

Sheikh Manssour Bin Mussallam, President, The Education Relief Foundation

The OEC’s first Secretary General has been elected with the task of setting up and presiding a Preparatory Committee, which will lay the groundwork for the OEC until the Constitutive Charter of the Organisation enters into force, upon its ratification by a minimum of 10 of the founding State signatories. The Constitutive Charter’s entry into force will trigger the convening of the first General Assembly.

All signatories to the UDBIE embrace the four key pillars of balanced and inclusive education: Intraculturalism, Transdisciplinarity, Dialecticism and Contextuality. They commit to applying these principles within their education systems, with the cross-sectoral support of the OEC, based on the contextualised needs of their populations, their national priorities, and the global imperative of sustainable development.