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1 Million Workers Targeted in Tech-Reskilling Drive

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The World Economic Forum launched the IT Industry Skills Initiative to meet the global skills gap challenge and address job displacement arising from automation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The initiative is committed to reaching 1 million people with resources and training opportunities on the SkillSET portal by January 2021.

The initiative was conceived by the Forum’s IT Governors community under the chairmanship of Chuck Robbins, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Cisco. The founding partners are Accenture, CA Technologies, Cisco, Cognizant, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Infosys, Pegasystems, PwC, Salesforce, SAP and Tata Consultancy Services.

“We need responsive solutions and coordination from all parts of society – governments, citizens and private industry alike – to re-envision an educational system based on lifelong learning that can fully prepare workers for the jobs of the future,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. “This initiative is a clear example of industry leaders taking concerted, collective action to address a major social challenge at scale.”

According to a World Economic Forum report on workforce reskilling, one in four adults reported a mismatch between the skills they have and the skills they need for their current job. Therefore, enabling and empowering workers to transform and update their skills is a key concern for businesses and societies across the globe.

“In our dynamic world, technology has opened up many avenues for growth. However, we are also seeing how innovations such as artificial intelligence and automation can impact the workforce. It is important for all of us to recognize that without the talent we need, none of us would be successful,” said Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO, Cisco. “This initiative brings together the capabilities and strengths of all of our companies to help educate the high-skilled workers needed for jobs now and into the future. It is our obligation to make sure that people with jobs across every industry are given the means to learn new skills and remain competitive.”

The coalition has created a free platform of online tools to streamline the process of reskilling adults. The initial iteration of the portal will be available in April 2018.

To empower people to address fast-changing skill requirements, initiative partner companies are opening up key elements of their individual training libraries into one centralized portal. Users will have access, free of charge, to the most up-to-date, self-paced training materials from leading global IT companies, ranging from general business skills to introductory digital literacy to more advanced topics such as cybersecurity, big data or internet of things. The portal will offer a tailored Skills Assessment, developed by PwC, and based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution skills research, to help users determine which coursework and/or learning pathways best fit their current skillset and learning goals.

In creating this platform, the coalition hopes to recast continued education to a more engaging, ongoing and educationally reaffirming experience. They also hope to motivate adults of all backgrounds to use the platform, especially those from low-resource communities or under-represented groups who have historically had less access to the IT industry. SkillSET is hosted on the award-winning EdCast AI-powered Knowledge Cloud platform, accessible to anyone using desktop or mobile versions.

The coalition, which continues to add members, will be working over the next few months to develop tools and processes intended to address many of the barriers that prevent adults from reskilling or successfully completing trainings. The initiative will initially target the US market, with plans to scale to other geographies and build industry and public-sector partnerships in 2018 and beyond. Under the chairmanship of Mike Gregoire, Chief Executive Officer, CA Technologies, the coalition will report on progress at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019.

Founding Partners Speak Out:

Pierre Nanterme, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Accenture: “People need innovative ways to learn new skills in order to remain relevant and adaptive as the pace of technology change accelerates. For example, AI offers enormous opportunities for growth, but success will increasingly depend on humans collaborating with intelligent technologies. By accessing a broad range of ‘new skilling’ techniques, people will be better placed to work with machines and help businesses pivot to new growth models.”

Michael Gregoire, Chief Executive Officer, CA Technologies: “Technology is both the tool and the canvas and carries the huge promise of improving how we live and work. The counter side, however, is some degree of wariness by those who fear it disrupting their livelihoods, which is both understandable and expected. We are focused on a large-scale, proactive solution that encourages continuing education to empower and inspire today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. We must engage with technology in a way that creates new opportunities, both at an individual level and in the aggregate.”

Francisco D’Souza, Chief Executive Officer, Cognizant Technology Solutions: “The workplace issue of the 21st century is a worldwide shortage of qualified technology talent driven by a massive skills gap, which we must address together on a global scale. The pace of technological change has education systems struggling to keep up in delivering learning experiences that are relevant, immersive and readily available as workers seek to expand their skills. The future of talent development depends on new models, ways of thinking and initiatives like this one that engage individuals as lifelong learners and provide them with opportunities for continuous reinvention.”

Salil Parekh, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Infosys Ltd: “Our relevance, in an increasingly digital future, will depend on our ability to learn and evolve lifelong at the pace of technology. Democratizing digital literacy is an essential first step to make technology a force for good that moves us all forward.”

Alan Trefler, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Pegasystems Inc.: “Throughout history, we’ve seen technological advancement bring both opportunities and challenges as society adapts. With technology so central to how we live and work today, it’s critical that we enable people to acquire the skills required to be successful and to help society move forward in a positive direction.

Robert E. Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC International, PwC: “All over the world, people are asking themselves how they are going to prepare for their future, whether it’s a new job, new responsibilities, or needed new skills. By working together across the public and private sectors, our hope is to enable new opportunities for people to carve their own paths, develop new skills, and future-proof themselves. By sharing our Skills Assessment, we believe more people around the world will be empowered to learn and grow professionally throughout their lives.”

Keith Block, Vice Chairman, President and COO, Salesforce: “As the Fourth Industrial Revolution spurs incredible innovation, it is our responsibility as business leaders to ensure that the benefits created by this opportunity – now and in the future – are accessible to all.”

Bill McDermott, Chief Executive Officer, SAP: “Our focus on building digital skills will unleash amazing potential in dreamers from all backgrounds. Instead of fearing automation, we should be optimistic about the exciting possibilities when people and machines work together. Bigger than artificial intelligence, we are entering a new frontier of ‘augmented humanity’.”

Rajesh Gopinathan, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd: With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, enterprises are leveraging the combined effect of emerging technologies to transform their businesses. Employees will also have to transform their skills and adopt newer ways of working to participate in today’s opportunities that are as enormous as in any of the previous generations. It is important for enterprises to make investments in reskilling and upskilling employees and prepare them for digital-age careers.”

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Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

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In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”.

In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity and planet. Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centered and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021.

Download it here.

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Human Rights

UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights

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An indigenous community in Paraguay wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. WHO/PAHO

Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday. 

The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

Lands represent ‘home’ 

The decision on Paraguay (in Spanish) marked the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous people, “home” should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.  

“For indigenous peoples, their lands represent their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on indigenous people’s family life, tradition, identity and even lead to the disappearance of their community. It dramatically harms the existence of the culture of the group as a whole,” said Committee member Hélène Tigroudja. 

The decision stems from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, located in Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay. 

The area where they live is surrounded by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans through fumigation, a process which involves the use of banned pesticides. 

Traditional life affected 

Fumigation occurred continuously for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health. 

The damage also had severe intangible repercussions, according to the UN committee.  The disappearance of natural resources needed for hunting, fishing and foraging resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge.  For example, ceremonial baptisms no longer take place as necessary materials no longer exist. 

“By halting such ceremonies, children are denied a rite crucial to strengthening their cultural identity,” the Committee said.  “Most alarmingly, the indigenous community structure is being eroded and disintegrated as families are forced to leave their land.” 

Toxic exposure 

The indigenous community brought the case to the Human Rights Committee after a lengthy and unsatisfactory administrative and judicial process in Paraguay’s courts. 

“More than 12 years after the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period, the investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay,” the Committee said in its decision. 

Recommendations, reparations 

Members found Paraguay did not adequately monitor the fumigation and failed to prevent contamination, adding “this failure in its duty to provide protection made it possible for the large-scale, illegal fumigation to continue for many years, destroying all components of the indigenous people’s family life and home.”  

The Committee recommended that Paraguay complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties responsible and make full reparation to the victims. 

The authorities are also urged to take all necessary measures, in close consultation with the indigenous community, to repair the environmental damage, and to work to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. 

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Development

Vaccination, Jobs, and Social Assistance are All Key to Reducing Poverty in Central Asia

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As the pace of economic recovery picks up, countries in Central Asia have an opportunity to return to pre-pandemic levels of poverty reduction – if they put in place the right policies. This was the overall message shared by World Bank economists today at a regional online event “Overcoming the Pandemic and Ending Poverty in Central Asia”.

In the early 2000s, Central Asian countries were among the world’s best performers in poverty reduction. Starting in 2009, however, the pace of progress began to slow and even stagnated in some of the countries. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted a region already struggling to generate inclusive growth and end extreme poverty. Now in the second year of the pandemic, poverty rates in Central Asia are falling again, but with high inflation and low vaccination rates, the poor and the most vulnerable continue to suffer from food insecurity, uncertainty, and limited employment opportunities, especially for women.

“Central Asia is recovering from the first shocks of the pandemic, albeit in uneven ways,” said Will Seitz, World Bank Senior Economist in Central Asia. “Migration and remittances, key drivers of poverty reduction in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, are quickly returning to 2019 levels. Labor markets are also recovering, and work disruptions are much less common. However, the region is yet to get on a stable poverty reduction path.”

Among policy priorities to reduce poverty, the World Bank is focused on three key areas: widespread vaccination, increasing employment and wages, and strengthening social assistance programs to support the most vulnerable. To support labor market recovery, the World Bank economists outlined short-term and medium-term measures, including the need to invest in green jobs and encouraging the creation and growth of firms.

It was also stressed that employment alone will not address all drivers of poverty, and strong safety nets are essential to protect the most vulnerable. Compared with other middle-income countries, Central Asian governments typically provide smaller shares of their populations with social assistance.

“Along with ensuring fair, broad access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, Central Asian countries need to urgently address vaccination hesitancy, as it threatens to slow down the recovery,” said Tatiana Proskuryakova, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. “For every million people vaccinated, global GDP recovers on average nearly $8 billion. We are expecting advanced economies with relatively high vaccination rates to demonstrate much better growth rates than developing economies with low vaccination rates.”

Among the main reasons behind vaccine hesitancy in Central Asian countries are worries about vaccine contraindication and safety. While people with pre-existing health conditions in other countries are usually prioritized for vaccination, in the Central Asia region they are more likely to be hesitant to get vaccinated. Providing the public with accurate information on the safety of vaccines and encouraging people with pre-existing health conditions to be vaccinated may help address hesitancy issues.

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