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Global Businesses Launch Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality

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An ambitious new global partnership to accelerate inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people – the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality – was announced today at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity not only violates universal basic human rights, it also adversely impacts the long-term economic prospects of individuals, businesses and countries. A 2017 UNAIDS study estimated the global cost of LGBTI discrimination at $100 billion per year. Businesses have an important role to play in respecting and protecting human rights through fostering workplace inclusion for LGBTI people.

To advance this agenda, a consortium of leading multinational companies (Accenture, Deutsche Bank, EY, Mastercard, Microsoft, Omnicom, Salesforce), in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, is launching a global multistakeholder initiative to help business accelerate the inclusion of LGBTI people globally.

The United Nations LGBTI Standards of Conduct establishes the human rights and policy operating model framework for companies. To help business leaders realize LGBTI equality and inclusion for their global workforces, the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality will operationalize the United Nations LGBTI Standards. By 2020, the project will:

  • Enlist 50-100 companies from World Economic Forum members and beyond to join the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality to implement UN LGBTI Standards
  • Create a due-diligence framework for corporations to use in assessing the alignment of their policies with the Standards and to better understand the practical impact of their policies on LGBTI people.
  • Develop a repository of LGBTI best practices and case studies from companies across multiple sectors, sharing insights and information on effective strategies, policies and processes for gathering the information needed to ensure LGBTI people are not being discriminated against when it comes to hiring, retaining and promoting employees.
  • Encourage new cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaborations.

View from the C-Suite:

“The companies involved in this initiative are leading by example when it comes to the rights of LGBTQ people in the context of employment, and I support their efforts to extend the initiative to a greater number of private sector actors, as well as to engage with civil society”—Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

“LGBTI inclusion is not only the right thing to do from an interpersonal point of view, it is also a business imperative because CEO’s recognize that a culture of equality creates trust, innovation and therefore business growth. As business leaders we need to set the right tone at the top and combine this with concrete actions to stimulate LGBTI grass roots networks in our companies and policies that ensure equality across the entire organization. Twenty-five percent of our people at Accenture are now active, visible and vocal allies to the LGBTI community – but we cannot effect change on our own. Now, more than ever, is the time for business to step up! – Sander van ‘t Noordende, Group Chief Executive Products at Accenture.

“Deutsche Bank congratulates the World Economic Forum for making LGBTI issues part of their agenda. We are proud to support this work. We believe that if we take an inclusive approach to different perspectives and identities, we become more meritocratic, attract and retain a rich diversity of talent, and make better business decisions. While we recognize there is more work to do across businesses, institutions and communities, we are steadfast in our commitment to doing our part. The focus of the WEF on LGBTI issues will underline the value to the global economy of a more inclusive society.” – Karl Von Rohr, President, Member of the Management Board, Deutsche Bank AG

“EY is honored to be one of the founding members of this initiative and commends the World Economic Forum for making LGBTI equality and economic inclusion a top priority. When you have an inclusive culture where everyone is valued equally and feels they can be the best version of themselves, you can fuel innovation, solve complex challenges and achieve better results. By advancing this agenda in our global workplaces, multinationals can create a ripple effect that promotes societal change.” – Beth Brooke-Marciniak, EY Global Vice Chair – Public Policy

“At Mastercard, we are laser focused on creating a culture of decency, inclusion and belonging where employees feel valued and respected because of their diversity – not in spite of it. When done right, it inspires a passion and pride that drives innovation and better business results. This partnership shines an important spotlight to help others realize that acceptance matters to their people, their businesses and the world.” – Randall Tucker, Chief Inclusion Officer, Mastercard

“For more than 30 years, Microsoft has actively worked on LGBTI issues on behalf of our employees worldwide. We applaud the World Economic Forum’s new Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality and look forward to putting our commitment into action to advance equality everywhere we work and live.”– Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft

“Omnicom is committed to fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces where all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, feel comfortable and confident in bringing their whole selves to work. Across our global network of communications and marketing consultancies, we promote awareness, acceptance and advocacy of the LGBTI community by engaging the community and its allies and creating opportunities for leadership, visibility, community involvement, networking and business development. It’s an honor to serve as a founding member of this important initiative to lay the groundwork for worldwide acceptance and inclusion of the LGBTI community in the global workforce.”—Tiffany R. Warren, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Omnicom Group

“Salesforce is committed to advocating for equality in the communities we serve and believe that business is a powerful platform for social change. We have and will continue to use our voice to advocate for LGBTQ rights, and are inspired by the potential lasting impact of this multi-stakeholder partnership. We are proud of WEF for their leadership, and of our founding partners for making this a priority. Together, we will build a more inclusive society and drive equality for all.” – Tony Prophet, Chief Equality Officer, Salesforce

“According to the Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, open, inclusive and diverse societies are also more innovative, which in turn leads to greater economic growth. Through this project we aim to provide a platform for leaders from the private sector to accelerate process towards LGBTI inclusion globally,”—Saadia Zahidi, Member of the Managing Board and Head of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the New Economy and Society.

This initiative forms part of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the New Economy and Society in collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s Civil Society team.

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Partnering for Africa’s future: Exhibition on UNIDO-Japan cooperation

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photo: UNIDO

An exhibition highlighting cooperation between Japan and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) for African industrial development has opened at the Vienna International Centre.

The exhibition showcases UNIDO and Japan cooperation on the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) first held in October 1993, and on the implementation of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA 3).

A series of panels address the Government of Japan’s efforts on human security in relation to an array of UNIDO projects benefitting the most vulnerable groups by fostering human security and post-crisis rehabilitation. Others show the UNIDO-Japan multi-dimensional approach to a transition towards a sustainable energy future by fostering sustainable energy solutions and developing climate resilient industries for Africa.

At the exhibition’s opening ceremony, the Deputy to the Director General of UNIDO, Hiroshi Kuniyoshi, said, “Japan and UNIDO are proud of a solid and trusted partnership to reduce poverty, and enhance inclusiveness while safeguarding the environment.”

In his remarks, His Excellency Mitsuru Kitano, Permanent Representative of Japan to the International Organizations in Vienna, said, “It is our strong hope that this exhibition will spark discussions on the strengthening of Africa’s ownership and international partnership. Africa’s industrial development is our common goal, and common future.”

Over the last five years, Japan has provided US$13m to fund 18 projects in various African countries in the field of human security and the humanitarian-development nexus. In the area of renewable energy, two important projects are being funded with US$25m. Last year, to reinforce the UNIDO Secretariat’s capacity to focus on Africa and IDDA3, Japan made a new contribution of US$1.1m.

Her Excellency Vivian Okeke, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to UNIDO, who represented the African Group of UNIDO member states, said, “I am happy that this exhibition highlights specific projects by Japan and UNIDO in Africa, especially in focus areas that are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s priorities, such as climate change, investment and technology, human security and post-conflict rehabilitation.”

UNIDO’s Kuniyoshi also remarked that “a hallmark of the UNIDO-Japan cooperation is the strong foreign direct investment component, the centrality of technology transfer and the very important presence of the Japanese private sector.” He mentioned the partnerships between Japanese companies and African partners, which have been supported by the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Tokyo.

Coinciding with the opening of the exhibition, the UNIDO ITPO Tokyo has organized a series of meetings at which Japanese technology providers will present their services to UNIDO staff.

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Vietnam needs to embrace “Doi Moi 4.0” to sustain high quality growth

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Vietnam should make a strategic shift towards a more productivity and innovation-based economy while making the most of the ongoing demographic dividend to sustain high quality growth over the next decade.

This is among the main recommendations from the joint report between the World Bank and the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences on the new economic model to help Vietnam achieve high-quality growth for the 2021-30 period.

The report, which is being prepared with support from the Australian Government, proposes the Vietnam’s new economic model in 2021-2030 to center around three breakthroughs: innovation and entrepreneurship, human capital, and modern institutions.

This report will help begin an exciting new chapter in Vietnam’s economic growth story,” said His Excellency Craig Chittick, Australian Ambassador to Vietnam. “A chapter that embraces innovation, promotes bold reform, and helps Vietnam achieve its ambitious development goals.”

To avoid the middle-income traps, experts contend that Vietnam will have to maintain a growth rate in the range of 7 to 7.5% for the 2021-30 period, higher than the average rate of 6.3% of the last ten years.

 “We are living in the era of disruptive technologies that presents both challenges as well as opportunities – I would like to call it ‘Doi Moi 4.0’,” said Ousmane Dione, Country Director for The World Bank in Vietnam. “To mitigate these risks and seize the opportunities Vietnam needs to accelerate reforms that boost productivity and innovation as key drivers of growth in the coming decade including steps to remove bottlenecks for private sector investment, enhance public sector institutions and invest in 21st century skills of the workforce.”

The report finds that the labor-intensive, export-led growth model Vietnam pursued during 2011 – 2020 has increasingly become obsolete against the context of Industrial Revolution 4.0, maturing global value chains, premature deindustrialization, and rising role of services.

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Gender equality, justice in law and practice: Essential for sustainable development

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Young girls in Gumam primary school, Kassala state, Sudan. Photo: UNICEF/Sari Omer

Fundamentally linked to human development, gender justice requires ending inequality and redressing existing disparities between women and men, according to a high-level United Nations forum on the situation in Arab States.

Laws that promote gender equality “will help the Arab region move forward on the issue of justice and equality for women”, Jordan Ambassador to the UN Sima Bahous, told UN News after chairing the forum centered around the study with the same name: Gender and Law Justice, Evaluation of Laws Affecting Gender Equality in the Arab States.

Gender equality is achieved when both sexes enjoy the same rights and opportunities across society, including access to justice and to economic and social gains. The study stressed that sustainable development goals cannot be achieved without ensuring gender equality in law and practice.

On 14 March, on the margins of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Women’s Fund (UNIFEM) organized the conference, which discussed discrimination and criminal, personal status and labour laws across 18 Arab countries.  

“Human development means expanding opportunities for women and men to improve their lives and education, and create better opportunities”, Ms. Bahous explained.  

Room in Arab region for women’s equality

Gender justice relies on accountability and equality.  

Salma Al-Nemes, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Committee for Women, spoke about the forum’s importance, saying that it aims to “emphasize that there is still room in the Arab region to achieve women’s equality.”  

She stressed that problems can only be solved if they are recognized, and that countries can benefit “from the experiences of the Arab and Islamic countries that have achieved equality and build on this by adapting it to national reality.”  

Because national and local contexts differ, Ms. Al-Nemes acknowledged that “we must examine how to meet these challenges in an appropriate context so that we can achieve equality not only in legislation, but in practice as well”. 

For her part, Naziha el Obaidi, Minister of Women, Family, Childhood and the Elderly of Tunisia, told UN News about her Government’s decree that “when considering the appointment of a senior official in the country, four biographies of candidates, two for women and one for men, should be submitted.” 

Also in Tunisia, the law of ‘horizontal equinoxes and vertical equinoxes’ states that if an electoral list is headed by a woman, a man must hold the second position, and vice versa. Ms. el Obaidi credited this with women’s participation nearly 48 per cent of municipalities, noting that this law will also be implemented in the legislative elections. 

Honour crimes

Because gender-based violence is a major barrier to gender justice, Gender justice and the law closely examines its various forms, including sexual, physical and psychological and economic violence, assessing laws and policies that affect gender equality and protect against gender-based violence.

For example, the penalties for committing so-called honour crimes – which include murder, wounding and beating – vary, depending on the country.

In Algeria, Bahrain, Morocco, Qatar, Syria and Yemen a sentence can be reduced if a “spouse” is caught in an act of adultery.

Whereas in Djibouti and Sudan there are no specific provisions identified in the Penal Code to reduce penalties for these crimes.

Leniency for perpetrators of honour crimes against women in Saudi Arabia is not codified in the law, so men are sentenced at the court’s discretion.

Meanwhile, the Penal Code in Egypt spells out that if a husband kills his wife committing adultery, he and the man with whom she was with would receive reduced penalty not to exceed three years in prison.

Should “a person” kill a wife, daughter or sister, or her sexual partner, in the sudden heat of rage after finding her in a sexual act in Somalia, the penal code requires a reduced sentence.

If a man kills his wife or one of his female relatives while engaging in the act of adultery in Iraq, he would be incarcerated for no more than three years. In Libya the sentence would not exceed eight years.

At the same time, some countries repealed reduced sentences for honour crimes, such as Lebanon in 2011, Oman in 2001 and Tunisia in 1993.

While the penal code in Jordan was amended in 2017 to prevent reduced penalties for honour crimes, the original mitigated penalties for murdering a spouse caught in the act of adultery has yet to be removed. Similarly, mitigation of penalties for honour crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories were repealed in 2011 in the West Bank and 2018 in Gaza, however, the Government there has not applied the reforms. 

Honour crimes are just one of the topics addressed in the study. Violence manifest itself in many ways, including rape, sexual harassment, child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting and other harmful traditional practices – all of which the study covers.  

It is worth mentioning that the UN Commission on the Status of Women is responsible for developing global policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. The annual session, which drew to a close on 22 March, provides an opportunity to review progress and identify difficulties, challenges and policy formulation. 

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