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UNICEF invests in tech start-ups working to improve children’s lives

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Using a venture capital approach – investing in companies with short track records but long-term growth possibilities – the United Nations Children’s Fund announced today the first five emerging market start-ups to which it will provide seed money to source solutions for issues like transportation, wearable technology, finance, and personal data.

Along with the UNICEF Innovation Fund’s first portfolio of investments, the agency also opened the next round of applications from start-ups, calling the Fund a “new way of doing business at the UN; combining the approach of Silicon Valley venture funds with the needs of UNICEF programme countries.”

“Using UNICEF’s 190 offices and 12,000 staff, the Fund will help us source and support companies that might be overlooked by traditional investment vehicles,” Cynthia McCaffrey, the Director of the UNICEF Office of Innovation said in a news release.

According to the release, the Fund allows UNICEF to prototype technology solutions, as well as expand its networks of open source collaborators to improve children’s lives.

The start-ups included in the portfolio of investments are:

  • Saycel (Nicaragua): provides affordable mobile connectivity to communities that are not on the traditional information grid in rural areas;
  • mPower (Bangladesh): create a digital registry platform to improve data collection and delivery of maternal and child health care;
  • 9Needs (South Africa): uses blockchain – is a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of records called ‘blocks’ – and advances in identity technology to create better management systems for early childhood development services;
  • Innovations for Poverty Alleviation Lab (Pakistan): creates stories and information that can be played over a simple mobile phone to help fathers (who may be semi-literate) support their families for better maternal and newborn health; and
  • Chatterbox (Cambodia): provides a fundamental technology layer to be integrated into UNICEF’s RapidPro platform to extend its reach to communities that are low literacy, particularly in Cambodia, but eventually globally.

UNICEF has an eye to investing in 20-40 additional companies in 2017, said the release. It added that the Innovation Fund is inviting technology start-ups to apply for investment and become part of this growing portfolio of open source solutions. Progress made by portfolio projects are monitored in real time and displayed in detail at: www.unicefinnovationfund.org. UNICEF Innovation, which includes the agency’s Office of Innovation, Innovation Unit (UNICEF Supply Division) and a network of Innovation Labs, is an interdisciplinary team of individuals around the world tasked with identifying, prototyping, and scaling technologies and practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work

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In Times of Division, Arts and Culture Bring Us Together: Meet the Davos Cultural Leaders

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Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist, USA, captured during the 'Presentation of the Crystal Award' at the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2008. Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org) www.swiss-image.ch/Photo by Andy Mettler

The World Economic Forum announced today the participation of prominent cultural leaders in the Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos-Klosters. These prominent figures will join their peers from business, government, the media and civil society to advance dialogue on how to reconnect in a post-pandemic era and unite to rebuild a world of inclusivity and sustainability under the meeting’s theme “History at a turning point: Government policies and business strategies”.

Cultural leaders will include former Crystal Award recipients world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and musician will.i.am; portrait and documentary photographer Platon; Verbier Festival and Academy founder and director Martin Engström; Grammy-winning classical pianist Emanuel Ax; singer/songwriter, actress and activist Inna Modja; and new media artist and director Harry Yeff.

“Never has there been a time more important, more pressing, then the present for arts and culture to unite us,” said Joseph Fowler, Head of Arts and Culture at the World Economic Forum. “When you experience culture, there is a sense of expansion when you cease to think about yourself and you feel part of something larger. The creative sectors are some of the most important when it comes to social impact and human connection and when they are coupled with the power of new technologies, arts and culture have an immense potential to nurture a culture of peace.”

Arts and culture will be integrated across throughout the Annual Meeting 2022:

Thepower and potential of the human voice is the focus of Voice Gems – Messages of Hope. Created by Harry Yeff and Trung Bao, the Voice Gems system sculpts over 200,000 particles with fingerprint-like voice data to create the colours and form of the each unique gem stone. The exhibition will feature a total of 17 messages of hope that have been recorded by a diverse selection of people including primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall; creative innovator, entertainer and tech investor will.i.am; poet and author Rupi Kaur; author and disability advocate Sinead Burke; and spiritual leader Sadhguru.

The Annual Meeting concert entitled “Our Shared Humanity” – to be performed byYo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax – is a celebration of humanity and shared hopes for a united and prosperous future. The accompanying immersive backdrop includes images provided by Atlas of Humanity as well as an exclusive filmed performance by dancer and choreographer Ahmad Joudeh. It is also a musical statement of support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

In collaboration with the Natural History Museum – London, a selection of photographs from the 2021 edition of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will be showcased, inviting viewers to gaze through the lens of some of the world’s best wildlife photographers and explore the natural world in all its fragility, diversity and wonder.

Exploring the endless scope of opportunity the Metaversepresents, the Forum has partnered with Microsoft and Accenture to create the Global Collaboration Village. This will be anopen, collaborative platformbuilt together with international organizations, governments, civil society organizations and arts organizations. The overall concept and architecture will be showcased at Davos as well as a prototype of the experience and its functionality. An immersive experience will tell the story of the Sahel and Africa’s Great Green Wall Initiative supported by 1T.org.

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Maharashtra Joins the World Economic Forum in the Fight Against Plastic Pollution

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Maharashtra state, through its Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, has joined the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP).

The announcement follows the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5), where a resolution was adopted in March 2022 that will hold member nations legally accountable for their contributions to the global plastic pollution crisis. By joining the Global Plastic Action Partnership, Maharashtra aims to enhance its commitment to curbing plastic pollution, raise its ambition, and ensure accountability and inclusivity throughout the value chain.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change of Maharashtra will work with GPAP to launch a National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) in Maharashtra as a platform to tackle plastic waste pollution. The GPAP-Maharashtra partnership is the first in India. Maharashtra, whose capital city is Mumbai, has an estimated population of 124 million people, larger than countries such as Ethiopia and the Philippines, making this a significant partnership in per capita terms. Nations currently implementing such partnerships include Indonesia, Ghana, Pakistan, Viet Nam and Nigeria.

“This agreement with the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership marks a critical juncture in our state’s battle against the plastic pollution endemic,” said Aaditya Thackeray, Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Maharashtra. “Covid proved a hurdle towards our single use plastic ban, where health priorities in PPP took precedent. Now as we refocus on our climate and sustainability objectives, we are laying the foundation to deliver the systems-wide change needed across sectors. This partnership is the building block as we transition towards a more resource circular approach to tackle climate change while strengthening our economy.”

The NPAP model creates a circular economy framework for plastics through a locally-led, locally-driven platform. In Maharashtra, it will bring together the state’s most influential policy-makers, business leaders and civil society advocates. This group will deliver a state-level action plan to radically reduce plastic pollution and connect high-potential solutions with strategic financing opportunities.

“GPAP is thrilled to partner with Maharashtra to continue their efforts to tackle the plastic pollution problem,” said Kristin Hughes, Director of the Global Plastic Action Partnership. “This partnership with Maharashtra signifies the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s acknowledgement that solutions extend beyond plastic bag bans and that collective action is required. Multiple interventions need to be implemented in a coordinated manner, with strong collaboration between all stakeholders. Inclusivity will be a core pillar of our collaboration to ensure that informal sector workers are not disadvantaged and, as such, form an integral part of each roadmap’s implementation plan.”

Maharashtra is positioning itself as a leader nationally in India in the fight against plastic waste pollution. In March 2018, the Government of Maharashtra banned the manufacturing, sale and use of single-use plastic bags. It also banned an array of single-use plastic products, including cutlery, straws and containers.

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After Two-Year Hiatus, Open Forum returns to Davos at a Crucial Turning Point in History

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As part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022, this year’s Open Forum Davos will focus on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the role of multilateralism for peace in Europe as well as other global challenges.

Taking place for the first time since January 2020, the Open Forum offers a platform for debate and interaction on controversial issues between the public and scholars, business leaders and policy-makers around improving the state of the world.

Young and diverse voices will also play a prominent role in the discussions, with one session on youth mental health co-designed and moderated by students from Geneva, Switzerland. Each session will include at least one member of the Forum’s Global Shapers Community, a wide-ranging network of people under 30 from all walks of life and different parts of the world.

Ignazio Cassis, President of the Swiss Confederation, among other high-level panellists, will be joined by Ievgeniia Bodnya, 27, who mobilized the Global Shaper Hub she leads in Kyiv to build the Support Ukraine Now, a crowdsourcing and sharing information platform for people to support Ukrainians affected by the war. In another session, Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko and his brother Wladimir, Chairman of the Klitschko Foundation, will talk about how the Russian invasion has affected them and their country.

Also present at the Open Forum will be a group of climate activists, including 26-year-old Vanessa Nakate, author and climate advocate who addressed world leaders at the World Economic Forum 2020. The activists will articulate how to turn words into action to fight the climate crisis. Gender equality will also feature prominently in the conversations.

On the digital front, the last two years have seen the blending of in-person and virtual interactions. Peggy Johnson, Chief Executive Office of augmented reality company Magic Leap, will introduce the possibilities of the Metaverse and then join a panel of experts, including Pascal Kaufmann, President and Founder of the Mindfire Foundation, the brain behind Lab42, which is setting up shop in Davos in July and aims to become the largest AI lab in the world.

Additional panellists who will participate in this year’s Open Forum Davos include:

  • Ignazio Cassis, President of the Swiss Confederation and Federal Councillor for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland
  • Stephane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer, Moderna
  • Isabella Eckerle, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Geneva
  • Vivianne Heijnen, Minister for the Environment, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands
  • Mikaela Jade, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Indigital
  • Peggy Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Magic Leap Inc.
  • Marco Lambertini, Director-General, WWF International
  • Edward Lewin, Vice-President and Head of Government and Public Affairs, LEGO Group
  • Klaus Moosmayer, Chief Ethics, Risk and Compliance Officer, Novartis AG
  • Seth Moulton, Congressman from Massachusetts
  • Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Laureate, Nadia’s Initiative; Co-Founder, Global Survivors Fund (GSF), Global Survivors Fund
  • Anna Riedl, Cognitive Scientist and Global Shaper, Vienna Hub
  • Philipp Wilhelm, Mayor of Davos
  • Sakena Yacoobi, Executive Director, Afghan Institute of Learning

Open Forum Programme

Monday 23 May

12.30 – 13.30 A Discussion with the Klitschkos

18.30 – 20.00 A Wake-Up Call from Nature

Tuesday 24 May

09.00 – 10.30 Growing Up in the Pandemic

14.30 – 16.00 Working Together for Peace

18.30 – 20.00 Ethical Decision-Making in Times of Crisis

Wednesday 25 May

09.00 – 10.30 Turning Words into Action

12.30 – 14.00 A Discussion about Equality

18.30 – 20.00 Racial Disparities in Refugee Treatment

Thursday 26 May

09.00 – 10.30 The Possibilities of the Metaverse

The Open Forum Davos, now in its 19th year, will open its doors to the public from 23 to 26 January in Davos, Switzerland. It will be held at the Tobelmühle Sports Hall, Tobelmühlestrasse 4 e, Davos Platz, Switzerland. Those who missed the deadline to attend in person can watch the sessions via webcast at www.weforum.org/open-forum #wef22 #openforum. Sessions will be also available on YouTube after the event.

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