In only its second year, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils has established a reputation for bringing together experts from all stakeholder groups to identify new ways for technology to reshape our future.
This year, the 35 councils‘ brief is to focus their collective knowledge on creating a vision for the year 2030 that overcomes current and future challenges, with the ultimate aim of creating a future more sustainable and human-centred than the world in which we live today.
In building their vision for 2030, council members will be joined by leaders from the public and private sectors from the United Arab Emirates. Focus areas that have been singled out are:
- Future of work: Redesigning labour markets and social security systems in ways that grow economies and protect societies
- Human health: Applying personalized medicine and enhancement technologies to ensure people not only live longer, but stay healthy longer
- People and mobility: Managing increasing levels of human migration in ways that benefit people on the move, their place of origin and their destination
- Infrastructure investment: Finding new ways of financing the massive investments needed to upgrade infrastructure in the age of autonomous vehicles and additive manufacturing
- Our global commons: Preserving and protecting the Earth’s natural capital at a time when it is coming under increasing pressure
- Decarbonization: Identifying the technologies and infrastructure needed to accelerate the shift to a carbon-free global energy system
- Food sustainability in 2030: Meeting the nutritional needs of a global population of 8.5 billion
- Information ubiquity: Ensuring a sustainable flow of content and information that adds to, rather than detracts from, the inclusiveness of societies
- Governance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Maximizing the benefits of new technologies by adopting governance models that are innovative, agile and inclusive
- Ethics and values in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Deciding the values that help us make responsible choices when we develop technology and ensure that it is only used as a force for good
The Co-Chair of the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2017 is Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future of the United Arab Emirates.
Rush for new profits posing threat to human rights
The finance industry’s demand for new sources of capital worldwide to satisfy investors, is having a serious negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights, a group of UN-appointed independent rights experts have warned.
Among the rights at risk from increasing speculation in the financial markets by hedge funds and other investment funds, are the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, food, adequate housing, development, and a healthy and sustainable environment, among others.
Exploiting the marginalized
In a statement, the independent Special Rapporteurs and other experts, expressed their concern over the gradual encroachment of financial speculators into new areas of the economy, putting human rights at risk.
They highlighted in particular, trading in areas essential for the enjoyment of human rights of marginalized, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant and peasant communities, persons with disabilities and persons living with Albinism, as well as those living in areas of conflict.
The experts also pointed out that so-called financialisation – the growth in new financial instruments since the 1980s managed by new financial services – has a disproportionate impact on the enjoyment of their rights by women and girls, who are systematically victims of discrimination. The impact on older people was also highlighted.
Effect on housing
According to a former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, in recent years massive amounts of global capital have been invested in housing as a commodity, as security for financial instruments that are traded on global markets, and as a means of accumulating wealth.
However, when the 2008 global financial crisis hit, many houses suddenly lost much of their value, and individuals and families were made homeless overnight.
The expert also pointed out that in the Global South, informal settlements in Southern cities are regularly demolished for luxury housing and commercial development intended for the wealthiest groups of the population.
This process of financialisation of assets, has only been reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the expert said.
‘Speculative food bubble’
In agricultural markets, the experts described how the same big international banks responsible for the global financial crisis, invested billions of dollars in food futures, generating an increase in the prices of raw materials such as wheat, corn and soybean, which doubled and even tripled in a few months, creating a new speculative food bubble.
According to the World Bank, between 130 and 150 million more people were pushed into extreme poverty and hunger, mainly in low-income countries depending on food imports to feed their populations.
The experts highlighted how the financialisation of housing and food has exacerbated inequalities and exclusion, disproportionately affecting heavily indebted households and those on low incomes.
Applying speculative logic in these areas violates the human rights of people in poverty, exacerbates gender inequality and aggravates the vulnerability of marginalized communities, they said.
The growing monetization and commodification of ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, were also noted by the experts.
They warned that it threatens the sustainability of ecosystems, marginalizes natural and cultural values that have no apparent economic value, and weakens the control of indigenous peoples and local communities over their territories.
The right to pollute and destroy nature is gradually being legitimized and commercialized, they said.
They also pointed out that addressing the climate emergency often ignores both the impacts on people in poverty, and undermines the human rights and livelihoods of the poorest.
The eviction of indigenous peoples from forests or the replacement of complex old-growth forests with monocultures of fast-growing non-native tree species was highlighted as an example of this.
Treating housing, food, or the environment, as assets to be traded by hedge funds and other financial actors in financial derivatives markets, represents a direct attack on people’s exercise and enjoyment of human rights such as the right to housing, to food, to a healthy environment, or to drinking water and sanitation, the experts stated.
Bosnia and Herzegovina Should Focus on Job Creation
The Western Balkans region is rebounding from the COVID-19-induced recession of 2020, thanks to a faster-than-expected recovery in 2021, says the latest edition of the Western Balkans Regular Economic Report, Greening the Recovery.
The outlook for the region has improved significantly, with GDP growth now projected to reach 5.9 percent in 2021, after a 3.1 percent contraction in 2020. Growth in the region is projected at 4.1 percent in 2022 and 3.8 percent in 2023.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, real GDP is expected to grow 4 percent in 2021 after contracting 3.2 percent in 2020. As BiH’s economy rebounds in 2021, improvements in labor market participation and employment will remain key for growth to translate into poverty reduction.
Addressing bottlenecks causing persistent long-term unemployment, such as enhancing formal labor market participation, especially for women, and reducing skills mismatches for youth will be key. The report also notes that institutional and governance reforms remain important challenges on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s development path and on the road to EU membership.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made the implementation of much needed structural reforms in BiH all the more urgent,” says Christopher Sheldon, World Bank Country Manager for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. “The World Bank is committed to helping the governments in BiH develop long-term solutions that will build a more resilient, inclusive economy in the post-pandemic era, by improving human capital, enhancing the efficiency of the public sector, enabling the growth of the private sector and reducing the vulnerabilities of the country to climate change.”
The regionwide recovery is due to strength in both domestic and external demand. A sharp rebound in domestic consumption and in travel across Europe helped boost remittances as well as tourism inflows during the 2021 peak summer season. A strong recovery in advanced economies also provided a boost to demand for the region’s exports.
However, the recovery remains fragile. Early warning signals from the labor market call for close policy attention. Job losses from the recession and its aftermath have disproportionately affected women and youth, which may set back efforts to raise the region’s perennially low rates of labor force participation. Youth unemployment rose to 37.7 percent in 2021, up 5.4 percentage points from June 2020, further worsening youth employment prospects.
“As the Western Balkans countries look to a post-pandemic future, their policy approach will need to focus on addressing key impediments to job creation and economic transformation, including green transition,” said Linda Van Gelder, World Bank Country Director for the Western Balkans. “All six countries would benefit from reforms in the business environment, governance, and digitalization, which would contribute to growth and close the gap with EU countries.”
The report also looks at the macro-fiscal challenges and drivers of greening the region’s growth. The Western Balkans now find themselves at a key decision point regarding the impending green transition.
Global strides toward climate action are causing fundamental changes in society. Consumer and investor preferences are shifting, green technologies and new business models are disrupting more markets, and green policies are reshaping economic landscapes. As such, greening a country’s economy is becoming a decisive factor in international competitiveness and the ability to attract international finance and investments.
The Western Balkans are no exception. Still characterized by a development model tilted toward familiar brown industries, moving toward a green growth pathway is far from easy, especially in the short term. Yet, the green transition offers significant opportunities for the Western Balkans – including closer integration into Euro-centric global value chains and access to significant EU resources to help fund a green transition.
Effectively managing this green transition, including the many policy tradeoffs, will need to be a core focus of policy attention for the Western Balkans in the years ahead.
UN’s top envoy warns Great Lakes Region is ‘at a crossroads’
Speaking at a Security Council meeting on the situation in Africa’s Great Lakes region on Wednesday, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Huang Xia, told ambassadors that the countries concerned now stand “at a crossroads”.
For Mr. Xia, the main threat to peace and stability in this region around the Great Rift Valley, remains the persistence of non-State armed groups.
He pointed to “an upsurge in attacks”, whether by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), or those launched by the RED-Tabara against Bujumbura airport, in Burundi, last September.
Since the beginning of this year, in DRC alone, at least 1,043 civilians have been killed, including 233 women and 52 children.
“This violence continues to have serious consequences on the already fragile humanitarian situation, as well as on the socio-economic stability of the affected area”, the Special Envoy said.
He told the Council Members that “these negative forces also remain involved in the illicit exploitation and trade in natural resources, the revenues of which finance their arms procurement and recruitment.”
“How to put an end to it?”, he asked. “This is obviously an old question that haunts anyone interested in the region.”
Despite the challenges, he highlighted several bilateral and regional initiatives, saying they “attest to the emergence of a community aware of the added value of dialogue and cooperation.”
He also noted the overall peaceful transfers of power in the DRC and Burundi, as well as the signing and implementation of peace agreements in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Sudan.
For him, more than ever, “it is necessary to sustainably consolidate these achievements while firmly addressing the challenges that persist.”
“The success of such an approach requires learning from the lessons of the past and showing imagination to support the people of the Great Lakes region in building a better present and future”, he added.
Turning to COVID-19, he said the pandemic has exacerbated vulnerabilities, but also demonstrated the resilience of the region.
Before the pandemic, 15 million people across the Great Lakes were already displaced from their homes, facing rising malnutrition and food insecurity.
Mr. Xia also reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for greater solidarity to facilitate access to vaccines and to strengthen health systems.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), to date, only 36 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in a region of nearly 450 million people.
Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, also briefed Council Members.
Ms. Pobee informed that the UN is reconfiguring its presence in the region to best address the challenges, highlighting a few areas where the Council’s support is most needed.
For her, the situation requires “a comprehensive approach rooted in enhanced political engagement, encompassing military and non-military interventions, fostering economic cooperation across the borders and building trust between neighbours and among communities.”
She also argued that “armed group activity is a symptom of insecurity in the region”, and therefore “the enabling conditions should be addressed upstream.”
Among those main root causes, she pointed out the illegal exploitation and regional trafficking of natural resources, saying it contributes to the financing of armed group networks but also “creates parallel economy at the expense of States’ budgets whose revenues continue to diminish.”
The Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), João Caholo, and a civil society representative also briefed the Council.
Rush for new profits posing threat to human rights
The finance industry’s demand for new sources of capital worldwide to satisfy investors, is having a serious negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights, a...
Bosnia and Herzegovina Should Focus on Job Creation
The Western Balkans region is rebounding from the COVID-19-induced recession of 2020, thanks to a faster-than-expected recovery in 2021, says...
UN’s top envoy warns Great Lakes Region is ‘at a crossroads’
Speaking at a Security Council meeting on the situation in Africa’s Great Lakes region on Wednesday, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Huang Xia, told ambassadors that the countries concerned now...
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