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ASEAN and EU Support Internationalisation of CLMV Universities

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ASEAN and the European Union (EU) Support to Higher Education in ASEAN Region (SHARE) Programme commenced the seventh in a series of SHARE Policy Dialogues with the theme “Capitalising on ASEAN: Internationalisation Strategies for CLMV Universities”.

This two-day event was organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports of Lao PDR and took place in a year of great significance for ASEAN and EU, as 2017 marks three anniversaries: 50 Years of ASEAN, 40 Years of ASEAN-EU Relations, and 30 Years of Erasmus+, the EU’s student mobility scheme. This event brought together some 100 university managers, education policy-makers, and students from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam or the CLMV countries, as well as from other parts of ASEAN and the EU.

The policy dialogue focused on the international dimension of universities in the four CLMV countries and the strategies employed by universities to position themselves in the best possible way to benefit from international opportunities and developments, especially in the context of the evolving Higher Education Space in ASEAN.

According to ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General, H.E. Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, “in the context of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, higher education plays a crucial role towards a creative, innovative and responsive ASEAN. ASEAN is committed to further strengthening regional and global cooperation in enhancing the quality and competitiveness of higher education institutions for the benefit of all citizens of ASEAN, including those in CLMV countries.”

“It is a good opportunity for Lao PDR to identify the opportunities, challenges, and pathways of universities toward internationalisation within ASEAN. SHARE is a significant project that supports the necessary development to realise internationalisation strategies for CLMV universities. We should take this opportunity to design strategies in order to benefit from the developing ASEAN Community on our own path of internationalisation of Lao universities”, said Vice Minister of Education and Sports of Lao PDR, H.E. Boualane Sylipanya.

“This is the seventh in a series of SHARE Policy Dialogues. The Policy Dialogue is a very effective format to bring together all stakeholders to discuss relevant higher education issues in support of ASEAN’s ambition in building a regional higher education space. The evolving regional higher education space will be beneficial not only to students and universities, but also to societies and economies as a whole. It is a key element of maintaining ASEAN’s economic growth and competitiveness, and the EU is very proud to support this process through SHARE. Developments in higher education in Europe serve as an important reference, and SHARE is ideally positioned to contribute this expertise.” EU Ambassador to Lao PDR, H.E. Leo Faber

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Health & Wellness

COVID vaccines: Widening inequality and millions vulnerable

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Health leaders agree that a world without COVID-19 will not be possible until everyone has equal access to vaccines. More than 4.6 million people have died from the virus since it swept across the globe from the beginning of 2020, but it’s expected that the rate of people dying will slow if more people are vaccinated. 

Developed countries are far more likely to vaccinate their citizens, which risks prolonging the pandemic, and widening global inequality. Ahead of a dialogue at the UN on Monday between senior United Nations officials UN News explains the importance of vaccine equity.

What is vaccine equity?

Quite simply, it means that all people, wherever they are in the world, should have equal access to a vaccine which offers protection against the COVID-19 infection.

WHO has set a global target of 70 per cent of the population of all countries to be vaccinated by mid-2022, but to reach this goal a more equitable access to vaccines will be needed.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said vaccine equity was “not rocket science, nor charity. It is smart public health and in everyone’s best interest.”

Why is it so important?

Apart from the ethical argument that no country or citizen is more deserving of another, no matter how rich or poor, an infectious disease like COVID-19 will remain a threat globally, as long as it exists anywhere in the world.

Inequitable vaccine distribution is not only leaving millions or billions of people vulnerable to the deadly virus, it is also allowing even more deadly variants to emerge and spread across the globe.

Moreover, an unequal distribution of vaccines will deepen inequality and exaggerate the gap between rich and poor and will reverse decades of hard-won progress on human development.

According to the UN, vaccine inequity will have a lasting impact on socio-economic recovery in low and lower-middle income countries and set back progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to the UNDP, eight out of ten people pushed into poverty directly by the pandemic are projected to live in the world’s poorest countries in 2030.

Estimates also suggest that the economic impacts of COVID-19 may last until 2024 in low-income countries, while high-income countries could reach pre-COVID-19 per capita GDP growth rates by the end of this year.

Is it working?

Not according to Dr Tedros, who said in April this year that “vaccine equity is the challenge of our time…and we are failing”.

Research suggests that enough vaccines will be produced in 2021 to cover 70 per cent of the global population of 7.8 billion. However, most vaccines are being reserved for wealthy countries, while other vaccine-producing countries are restricting the export of doses so they can ensure that their own citizens get vaccinated first, an approach which has been dubbed “vaccine nationalism”. The decision by some nations to give already inoculated citizens a booster vaccine, rather than prioritizing doses for unvaccinated people in poorer countries has been highlighted as one example of this trend.

 Still, the good news, according to WHO data, is that as of September 15, more than 5.5 billion doses have been administered worldwide, although given that most of the available vaccines require two shots, the number of people who are protected is much lower.

Which countries are getting the vaccines right now?

Put simply, the rich countries are getting the majority of vaccines, with many poorer countries struggling to vaccinate even a small number of citizens.

According to the Global Dashboard for Vaccine Equity  (established by UNDP, WHO and Oxford University) as of September 15, just 3.07 per cent of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated with at least one dose, compared to 60.18 per cent in high-income countries.

The vaccination rate in the UK of people who have received at least one vaccine dose is around 70.92 per cent while the US is currently at 65.2 per cent. Other high-income and middle-income countries are not doing so well; New Zealand has vaccinated just 31.97 per cent of its relatively small population of around five million, although Brazil, is now at 63.31 per cent.

However, the stats in some of the poorest countries in the world make for grim reading. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo just 0.09 per cent of the population have received one dose; in Papua New Guinea and Venezuela, the rate is 1.15 per cent and 20.45 per cent respectively.

What’s the cost of a vaccine?

Data from UNICEF show that the average cost of a COVID-19 vaccine is $2 to $37 (there are 24 vaccines which have been approved by at least one national regulatory authority) and the estimated distribution cost per person is $3.70. This represents a significant financial burden for low-income countries, where, according to UNDP, the average annual per capita health expenditure amounts to $41.

The vaccine equity dashboard shows that, without immediate global financial support, low-income countries would have to increase their healthcare spending by between 30 and 60 per cent to meet the target of vaccinating 70 per cent of their citizens.

What has the UN been doing to promote a more equitable access to vaccines?

WHO and UNICEF have worked with other organizations to establish and manage the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, known as COVAX. Launched in April 2020, WHO called it a “ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines”.

Its aim is to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world based on need and not purchasing power.

Currently, COVAX numbers 141 participants according to the UN-supported Gavi alliance, but it’s not the only way that countries can access vaccines as they can also make bilateral deals with manufacturers.

Will equal access to vaccines bring an end to the pandemic?

It’s a crucial step, obviously, and in many richer countries, life is getting back to some sort of normality for many people, even if some pandemic protocols are still in place. The situation in less developed countries is more challenging. While the delivery of vaccines, provided under the COVAX Facility, is being welcomed across the world, weak health systems, including shortages of health workers are contributing to mounting access and distribution challenges on the ground.

And equity issues don’t disappear once vaccines are physically delivered in country; in some nations, both rich and poor, inequities in distribution may still persist.

It’s also worth remembering that the imperative of providing equal access to health care is, of course, not a new issue, but central to the Sustainable Development Goals and more precisely, SDG 3 on good health and well-being, which calls for achieving universal health coverage and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

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Moscow electronic school — the future of education

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The Moscow Electronic School (“MES”) project is a cloud-based Internet platform launched in 2016 that unites all educational institutions in Moscow into a single high-tech environment. After successful testing, since September 1, 2017, the MES has been implemented in all educational organizations (schools, kindergartens, colleges) in Moscow and is available online for any user from anywhere in the world, from any device 24/7/365. Today MES unites about 3 million participants in the educational process of the capital, including teachers, students and their parents.

The Moscow Electronic School project is aimed at the most effective use of the school’s IT capabilities to improve the quality of student education by forming a connection between the organizational and content aspects of the educational process (interactive equipment, as well as personal devices of users connected to the Internet, are linked with the educational materials of the platform).

The “MES” platform provides automation of most of the organizational, methodological and pedagogical tasks solved in a modern large educational organization, makes the content of education more accessible, allows in practice to implement modern pedagogical technologies and approaches, for example, blended learning, distance and electronic education.

Today “MES” has become a real digital assistant for the modern teacher. Thanks to special digital constructors, Moscow teachers in the “MES” Library create lesson scripts, “folk” textbooks, self-study guides, tests that students use in class, when preparing design work at school, in the course of independent work. Thus, the service allows not only to use the posted educational materials, but also to supplement the cloud educational platform with its developments and content, as well as to share them with colleagues. Electronic versions of textbooks, teaching aids, interactive applications and other modern digital content allow the teacher to diversify the content of the assignments and make the learning process fun for children and more effective.

“MES” services

The key elements of the digital educational platform are an electronic journal, an electronic diary, a library of electronic materials, the “Moskvenok” service (Pass and Power system), as well as infrastructure solutions: Wi-Fi access points with high-speed Internet, school servers, touch-controlled interactive panels with a built-in computer, teachers’ tablets and laptops, a video surveillance system and turnstiles at the entrance.

“MES Library” is a unique repository of educational electronic materials and tools. The service is implemented in the web version and as a mobile application “MES Library”. Library materials are available online at no cost to any user from anywhere in the world.

The “Moskvenok” service helps parents place an order for their child’s hot meals (if the school is connected to the hot meal ordering service from the menu), check his arrival or departure from school, college or kindergarten, control his meals in the school cafeteria and the costs of the cafeteria. Children can use the “Moskvenok” carrier (bracelet, keychain or card) as a pass to an educational organization and museums in Moscow, as well as for non-cash payments for purchases at school.

The electronic diary contains complete information on training: curriculum for the year ahead, schedule and attendance of classes, progress, analytics. The service makes it possible to find out about current events and activities. It is available both in the web version and in the form of the “MES Diary” mobile application.

In the new academic year, “MES” will be replenished with a wide range of diverse partner educational content, which has already proven itself well among teachers and schoolchildren. Thanks to this, an additional 45 thousand units of new tools and materials will appear in the library: interactive presentations for lessons, design and research tasks, virtual laboratories and tests. Most of the tasks will be self-checking, that is, after completing the work, the teacher, student and parent can immediately familiarize themselves with the results.

Virtual laboratories

Another important area in the Moscow Electronic School is virtual laboratories – interactive online simulators of experiences and experiments for children and adults, which allow improving knowledge and skills in the subjects of the school curriculum. At the beginning of the academic year, new virtual laboratories for drawing, inorganic chemistry, computer science, mathematics, biology and physics will appear at the “MES”.

This year, in the library of the Moscow Electronic School, the collection of virtual laboratories has been replenished with 10 new laboratories in the section of biology “Cytology” for schoolchildren in grades 5-11. It has an interactive virtual microscope that allows you to view individual cells. And the children can consolidate the knowledge gained by “collecting” cells in a game format, solving an interactive problem or passing a thematic quiz.

It is now possible to design and conduct experiments on electrostatics, magnetostatics and electromagnetism in the virtual laboratory “Electromagnetic field. Faraday”, which became the fifth in the line of physics laboratories. The new laboratory will help schoolchildren to master the main sections of electrodynamics: electrostatics, magnetic field and electromagnetic phenomena.

Another novelty is the virtual laboratory “MES Informatics” for students in grades 7-11. Children will be able to test their knowledge using 290 ready-made tests, practice using more than 9 thousand tasks, and also take 254 programming courses.

Student’s portfolio

An important innovation of the “MES” is the new “Student portfolio” service. It will accumulate the results and achievements of schoolchildren not only in the educational part, but also in olympiads, competitions, sports competitions. Also, students and their parents will be able to independently enter information into the new service, edit data and share their portfolio with friends, teachers, organizations.

Thematic materials about Russian writers

At the end of July, the project “Moscow Electronic School” made available thematic materials about the life and work of one of the greatest poets of the golden age of Russian literature – Mikhail Lermontov.

Also, the project “Moscow Electronic School” presented a thematic selection of materials about the life and work of Fyodor Dostoevsky in the year of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the writer. Schoolchildren are offered to go on a virtual trip to St. Petersburg of the XIX century and get acquainted with the peculiarities of the worldview of the classic.

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Over 50 Companies Reporting on Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics as International Support Grows

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city business

The World Economic Forum announces today the continued growth of the coalition of companies supporting the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics initiative. Since January 2020-2021, over 100 companies have shown support for this initiative with over 50 already including the metrics in their 2020-2021 reporting materials.

Drawn from existing standards, the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics provides a set of metrics that can be reported on by all companies, regardless of industry or region.

The metrics also offer comparability, which is particularly important for informing ongoing efforts to create a systemic, globally accepted set of common standards for reporting on sustainability performance.

“We are delighted to see so many companies joining this effort and, even more so, excited to see many already implementing the metrics into their reporting,” said Olivier Schwab, Managing Director, World Economic Forum. “This is the first time we have publicly seen this breadth of data from global companies across sectors on ESG factors. The Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics are already demonstrating that consistent and comparable ESG reporting can help articulate to stakeholders the collective contribution of ESG commitments.”

The World Economic Forum is currently a member of the IFRS Foundation’s Technical Readiness Working Group, which is providing technical proposals to enable a running start for the potential International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) under the IFRS Foundation’s governance structure to be announced by COP26. The Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics are a key input to this work and serve as an important preparedness tool for companies until global sustainability-related disclosure standards are established.

An early analysis of reports already incorporating the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics in mainstream reporting demonstrates that it is now easier to consistently measure individual company progress against critical ESG areas, as well as the collective impact of those companies committed to reporting the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics. An initial analysis of the first reports indicates the power of cumulative impact from the private sector together.

The emerging picture of the scale in which business is contributing to society is positive. An initial analysis of the first 45 reports from companies shows how companies are building skills for the future, with over $1.5 trillion invested in training. They also indicate that companies are innovating for better products and services, with over $20 trillion spent on R&D and $23 trillion in cumulative multi-year innovation investments. Lastly, they are contributing to their communities and social vitality with nearly $140 trillion in taxes.

Building trust and transparency

In today’s context, businesses are facing increasing pressure to deliver sustainable prosperity while minimizing their climate impact, engaging a diverse workforce and many other deliverables. The Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics allow businesses, across industries, to measure, manage and disclose their impact on these ESG factors effectively.

Further benefits, as relayed by the companies, also include the ability to communicate through reporting. A company’s performance and progress can enact change within the organization, secure investments upfront to reduce future costs and gain efficiencies in the long term and increase transparency to build trust with stakeholders.

Companies have also faced some challenges reporting on the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics. These include data accessibility, jurisdictional challenges and data-processing capabilities. Despite these challenges, corporate support for ESG reporting and the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics initiative continues to grow and the Forum will continue to invite all of its partners to join this initiative.

Companies that have committed to the metrics since January 2021 include:

  • Allied Irish Banks
  • ALROSA
  • Bain & Company
  • Biogen
  • Crescent Enterprises
  • Crescent Petroleum
  • Diligent Corporation
  • Enel SpA
  • Engro Corporation
  • EQT
  • Ericsson
  • Galp
  • Gingko Bioworks
  • Hanwha Asset Management
  • Henry Schein
  • Hyundai Motor Group
  • Intesa Sanpaolo
  • Koç Holding
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
  • Nasdaq
  • Norilsk Nickel
  • Occidental
  • Olayan Financing Company
  • Olayan Saudi Holding Company
  • Orkla
  • PETRONAS
  • PTT
  • SAP
  • SOMPO Holdings
  • Standard Chartered Bank
  • Swiss Re
  • Trafigura
  • Wipro

Newly committed companies join others in the coalition in committing to:

  • Reflect the core metrics in their reporting to investors and other stakeholders (e.g., annual report, sustainability report, proxy statements, or other materials) by reporting on the metrics most relevant to their business or briefly explaining why a different approach is more appropriate
  • Publicly support this work and encourage their business partners to do so
  • Promote the further convergence of existing ESG standards, frameworks and principles to support progress towards a globally accepted solution for non-financial reporting on common ESG metrics

They also signal that the business community will continue to catalyse greater cooperation and alignment among existing standards and encourage progress on the development of a systemic, globally accepted set of common standards for reporting on sustainability performance.

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