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UNIDO at SPIEF 2018: Increasing the contribution of women to economic growth and prosperity

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On the opening day of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2018, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) organized an international forum. Titled, “Increasing the contribution of women to economic growth and prosperity: Creating an enabling environment”, the event was staged in cooperation with the OPORA RUSSIA Committee on Women Entrepreneurship Development, with organizational support from the Roscongress Foundation and financial support from the Government of the Russian Federation.

More than 200 participants from all over the world came together to share their experiences on the challenges and best-practice solutions for scaling up successful models for women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. The event was attended by numerous high-level representatives from regional governments of the Russian Federation, as well as from the Russian and international business community, including Scania, SAP, Festo and Didactic, among others. The event was attended by two UNIDO Goodwill Ambassadors, Helen Hai and Janne Vangen Solheim. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe also joined the event as a special guest.

During the opening session, the Deputy Chairperson of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Galina Karelova, commented on the fact that for the second year running leading experts and representatives of the business community were debating opportunities and best practices for strengthening the role of women in economic development with UNIDO’s support at the prestigious SPIEF-2018: “This is strong evidence that the women’s agenda in Russia, as well as at the international level, has reached a fundamentally new level,” she stated.

In his written message sent to the organizers and participants of the Forum, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, welcomed the fruitful cooperation between UNIDO and OPORA RUSSIA in the area of women’s entrepreneurship, and wished the Forum success in developing effective solutions aimed at increasing the role of women in overall efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nadiya Cherkasova, Head of the OPORA RUSSIA Women‘s Entrepreneurship Development Committee, stressed the importance of women’s entrepreneurship as an engine for economic growth and noted the numerous opportunities for scaling up women’s participation in business activities.

Alexander Kalinin, Head of OPORA RUSSIA, mentioned that the country is facing an ambitious goal of boosting national economic growth, where a reliance on small and medium-sized businesses is crucial. He added that OPORA RUSSIA’s work in the area of women’s entrepreneurship is thus very timely, while women’s entrepreneurship is gaining pace and is expected to play a key role in economic development.

Jacek Cukrowski, Chief of UNIDO’s Europe and Central Asia Division, reiterated the importance of forming global alliances and building upon common goals to achieve the economic empowerment of women: “UNIDO has joined hands with OPORA Russia, capitalizing on our knowledge, experience and partners’ networks, for the delivery of concrete, measurable and productive outcomes,” he stated.

Three main sessions of the Forum provided a platform for fruitful debate with an action-oriented outlook on the road ahead, involving policymakers and representatives from the private sector, as well as women’s networks. The development of a global women-leaders talent pool, as a way of fostering network opportunities among women experts from various business sectors, the creation of an e-learning platform for women in business, providing opportunities to take learning and skills development courses to improve managerial and entrepreneurial skills, as well as capacity building initiatives for women entrepreneurs and leaders in different industrial sectors in cooperation with the private sector, business associations and civil society were all discussed during the event.

UNIDO’s representative said that women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship are powerful tools for economic development and are firmly anchored in the Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNIDO will therefore continue in its efforts to advance the economic empowerment of women.The issue will be at the centre of the debate at the upcoming Eurasian Women’s Forum in St. Petersburg in September 2018.

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Landmark labour reforms signal end of kafala system in Qatar

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Qatar has announced sweeping reforms to its labour market, with a view to ending the kafala system and marking a momentous step forward in upholding the rights of migrant workers.

On 16 October 2019, the Council of Ministers of the State of Qatar  unanimously endorsed new legislation allowing workers to change employers freely. Workers in Qatar had previously required a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their employer in order to do so. A Ministerial Decree by the Minister of Interior was also signed, removing exit permit requirements for all workers, except military personnel. Together, these steps mark the end of kafala in the country.

In addition, the Council of Ministers endorsed a new law to establish a non-discriminatory minimum wage, the first in the Middle-East.

“The ILO welcomes these reforms and recognizes the commitment of the State of Qatar to transforming its labour market. These steps will greatly support the rights of migrant workers, while contributing to a more efficient and productive economy. I am pleased that the ongoing ILO technical cooperation programme in Qatar is tangibly contributing to the government’s effort to advance social justice and promote decent work in the country,” said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General.

The elimination of the NOC requirement will allow workers to freely change employers following an initial probationary period. Should they wish to change employers during this period, the new employer would need to reimburse recruitment costs to the original employer.

The decision on exit permits means that domestic workers; workers in government and public institutions; workers employed at sea and in agriculture; as well as casual workers are free to leave the country either temporarily or permanently without having to obtain the permission of their employers. This covers all workers not covered by Law No. 13 of 2018, which removed the requirement to obtain exit permits for most workers covered by the Labour Law.

Meanwhile, the establishment of a non-discriminatory minimum wage that applies to all nationalities and all sectors will guarantee a minimum level of protection for all workers. The minimum-wage level will be set later in the year, based on a joint study already completed by the ILO and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA).

“Qatar is changing. The new tranche of laws will bring an end to kafala and put in place a modern industrial relations system. We recognize that a new evidence-based minimum wage rate will ensure dignity for migrant workers. We urge the government to announce this as quickly as possible. The partnership between the Qatar Government and the ILO, supported by the ITUC, is working to change lives,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

Roberto Suarez-Santos, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of Employers, said: “We congratulate the Government of Qatar on the major steps they have taken to adapt their labour market standards. IOE is proud to have supported the government’s efforts over the past several years. I would like to express our appreciation to those leading this process for making decent work and sustainable economies a centrepiece of development in Qatar.”

The respective draft laws will now be referred to the Advisory (Shura) Council, and subsequently for the approval and signature of the Emir HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The legislation is expected to come into force by January 2020.

These reforms are part of the ILO-ADLSA cooperation agreement signed in 2017, which resulted in the opening of an ILO Project Office in Doha in April 2018 .

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Major Environmental Groups Call On Businesses To Lead On Climate Policy

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Eleven leading environmental and sustainable business organizations published an open letter in the New York Times today, urging the CEOs of Corporate America to step up their engagement on climate policy. Signatories include the heads of BSR, C2ES, CDP, Ceres, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, The Climate Group, The Nature Conservancy, the Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund.

In the letter, the organizations call on businesses to adopt a science-based climate policy agenda that is aligned with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

The letter highlights three essential actions for businesses to execute this agenda:

  1. Advocate for policies at the national, subnational and/or sectoral level that are consistent with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050;
  2. Align their trade associations’ climate policy advocacy to be consistent with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050; and
  3. Allocate advocacy spending to advance climate policies, not obstruct them.

Additionally, the signatories call for “robust disclosure of the above actions to ensure transparency and demonstrate leadership, as well as strong corporate governance to enable sustained, strategic and effective engagement in climate policy.”

The recommended actions follow a statement from 200 institutional investors, with a combined $6.5 trillion in assets under management, who recently called on publicly traded corporations to align their climate lobbying with the goals of the Paris Agreement. They also build on momentum from the U.N. Global Climate Action Summit in September, when many companies announced ambitious commitments to reduce their emissions to net zero by 2050 and unprecedented global youth strikes demanded accountability from business leaders.

Further, the groups’ call for corporate leadership on climate policy is in line with the goals of upcoming Santiago Climate Change Conference (COP 25), which will focus on increasing ambitious actions to tackle climate change.

“Corporate voluntary science-based commitments have spurred progress and innovation. But alone they’re not enough. We need strong national policy and regulations to protect business and their customers from the greatest risks of climate change. And we need the voice of business to insist that our government leaders deliver the policies we need. ” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of  World Wildlife Fund, United States. “It’s time for business to make this a policy priority – not only for their own government relations teams but also for the trade organizations that represent their interests.”

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Human Rights

Venezuela, Poland and Sudan amongst 14 new Human Rights Council members

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14 new members were elected to the Human Rights Council on Thursday, following a secret ballot held in the General Assembly Hall in New York.

The Council, which meets throughout the year at the UN Office in Geneva, is an international body, within the UN system, made up of 47 States, and is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world. It has the power to launch fact-finding missions and establish commissions of inquiry into specific situations.

Three times a year, it reviews the human rights records of UN Member States, in a special process designed to give countries the chance to present the actions they have taken, and what they’ve done, to advance human rights. This is known as the Universal Periodic Review.

Costa Rica, Iraq and Moldova lose out

Elections to some seats – those reserved for countries from the Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, and Latin America and Caribbean regions – were competitive, with more candidates than available places.

Costa Rica’s late decision, on 3 October, to throw its hat in the ring, meant that three countries contested the two available Latin America and Caribbean places. However, their bid failed, and Venezuela and Brazil took the seats.

Five nations – Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Marshall Islands and Republic of Korea – put themselves up as candidates for the Asia-Pacific region, for which four seats were reserved: following the vote, Iraq failed to get the support it needed.

As for Eastern Europe, three nations vied for two places. Armenia and Poland won the requisite votes, whilst Moldova did not make the cut.

Africa had four seats up for grabs, and four candidates, who were duly elected: Libya, Mauritania, Namibia and Sudan. Western Europe was also a non-competitive election, with Germany and Netherlands taking the two seats reserved for their region.

Time to make way

The newly elected countries will serve for three years and take up their seats after 31 December. As only 47 of the UN’s 193 Member States can sit on the Council at any one time, an equal number will be giving up their places.

The African States stepping down will be Egypt, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia; the Asia-Pacific States bowing out are China, Iraq, Japan and Saudi Arabia; for Eastern Europe the retirees are Croatia and Hungary; and the States leaving from the Western European and other States region, are Iceland and the United Kingdom.

As for the Latin American and Caribbean States, Cuba’s time on the Council will come to an end, and it will be replaced by Venezuela. Although Brazil’s current term comes to an end, its successful re-election means that it will serve another three years (according to Council rules, members can serve two consecutive terms).

The new members in full

Here is the how the Human Rights Council will look, as of 1 January 2020:

African States

Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo

Asia-Pacific

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Republic of Korea Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar

Eastern Europe

Armenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine

Latin American and Caribbean States

Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela

Western Europe and other States

Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain

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