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Global Turmoil: Ethics offer a way out of the crisis

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Rarely is out-of-the-box thinking needed more than in this era of geopolitical, political and economic turmoil.

The stakes couldn’t be higher in a world in which civilizationalist leaders risk shepherding in an era of even greater political violence, disenfranchisement and marginalisation, and mass migration.

The risks are magnified by the fact that players that traditionally stood up for at least a modicum of basic economic, social, political and minority rights have either joined the civilisationalists or are too tied up in their own knots.

The United States, long a proponent of human rights, even if it was selective in determining when to adhere to its principles and when to conveniently look the other way, has abandoned all pretence under President Donald J. Trump.

Europe is too weak and fighting its own battles, whether finding its place in a world in which the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance is in doubt, Brexit or the rise of civilizationalist leaders within its own ranks.

The long and short of this is that civil society’s reliance on traditional strategies and tactics to exert political pressure serves to fly the rights flag but is unlikely to produce results.

The same is true for traditional often heavy-handed and violent government attempts to quell protests.

In some ways, this weekend’s landslide vote for pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong lays down a gauntlet for the governments of the city and China.

“Even if the current wave of protests recedes, the instability will very likely persist for some time and may even become a permanent situation… because the problems that cause the protests appear unresolvable by means of the current political and economic system,” said Israeli journalist Ofri Ilany.

Mr. Ilany put his finger on the pulse. This decade’s global breakdown in confidence in political systems and leaders not only spotlights the problem but may also create opportunities for out-of-the-box thinking.

The key lies in the fact that protesters across the globe in Santiago de Chile, La Paz, Bogota, Port-au-Prince, Quito, Paris, Barcelona, Moscow, Tbilisi, Algiers, Cairo, Khartoum, Beirut, Amman, Tehran, Jakarta, and Hong Kong as well as movements like the Extinction Rebellion essentially want the same thing: a more transparent, accountable and more economically equitable world.

The Middle East and North Africa, the one part of the world that exasperates the most, also represents the worst and the best of responses to the global clamour for change.

While Egypt under general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi is almost a textbook example of what drives global protest, Tunisia and Kuwait, offer lessons to be learnt. So do some of the world’s longer standing success stories such as Singapore.

Tunisia has emerged as the one country that experienced a successful revolt in 2011 and was able to safeguard its achievements because its leaders, much like Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew, saw power as a tool to secure national rather than personal interests and at a time of crisis worked with civil society to engineer a national dialogue that crafted a way forward.

Similarly, Kuwait, a constitutional semi-democratic anomaly in a region governed by secretive autocrats, recently opted for a more transparent competitive approach towards politics.

As a result, Kuwait saw this month its ruling family take its internal differences and disputes public. The differences forced the government to resign as members of the ruling family accused each other of embezzlement in advance of parliamentary elections scheduled for next year and a possible succession in which the assembly would have a say.

Achieving protesters’ goal of more equitable and accountable political and economic systems involves not only adherence to the rule of law, including the implementation of international law, and application of the principle of equality before the law of not only individuals and organizations but also states.

It further involves the need to make principles of right and wrong and of respect of human dignity the moral and ethical underpinnings of the architecture of a new world order by which all ranging from an individual to a state are judged.

That is the fundamental message of protests across the globe that denounce a world in which financial or economic benefit justifies violations of rights and civilisationalists have abandoned any pretence of adherence to international law.

Heeding the protesters’ message means ensuring that at least international law provides an effective mechanism to hold accountable security forces that use lethal force against largely peaceful protesters as well as politically responsible officials that authorize unjustified brutality in what often amounts to mass killings.

This year’s numbers speak for themselves, including some 100 on a single day in Sudan, more than 350 in a matter of weeks in Iraq, more than 100 in Iran and scores in Chile.

The need for morals and ethics is gaining momentum with hardline realist proponents of the projection of power as well as some leaders raising the alarm bell.

The rise of artificial intelligence persuaded former US secretary of state and national security advisor Henry A. Kissinger, a symbol of realpolitik and the wielding of power, to recognize the importance of morals and ethics.

Writing in The Atlantic, Mr. Kissinger warned that the consequence of artificial intelligence “may be a world relying on machines powered by data and algorithms and ungoverned by ethical or philosophical norms.”

Threats resulting from the abandonment of international law and the lack of moral and ethical yardsticks were evident in this month’s unilateral recognition by the Trump administration of the legality of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory long viewed by jurists and the international community as illegal.

The move highlighted the link between protecting individual rights and freedoms and national security.

Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that the administration’s move meant that “we are no longer safe. If a country wants to enter our country and build their settlements, that is legal. We cannot do anything,”

Mr. Mahathir was projecting onto states a sentiment of vulnerability among protesters and minorities across the globe that results from the random, unrestricted employment of power by those in positions of authority.

Similarly, Singapore’s Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon warned last month that “countries increasingly adopt a zero-sum mentality in eschewing multilateral agreements as shackles on sovereignty and a burden on economic growth.”

Mr. Menon’s words must have been music in the ears of Norway’s successful US$1 trillion rainy-day oil fund that has proven that growth and profitability are achievable without abandoning norms of moral and ethical investment.

Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund returned three percent or US$28.5 billion to the country’s pension pot during in the second quarter of 2019.

Guided by Norway’s Council of Ethics, which monitors the fund’s investments, GPFG recently blacklisted shares in British security company G4S because of the risk of human rights violations against its workforce in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Said New York Times columnist David Brooks: “The world is unsteady and ready to blow… The big job ahead for leaders…is this: Write a new social contract that gives both the educated urban elites and the heartland working classes a piece of what they want most.”

To achieve the kind of social and economic justice as well as live-and-let live environment that Mr. Brooks advocates, leaders, governments and civil society will have to rediscover and readopt the moral and ethical values that are embedded in the world’s multiple cultures and common to much of mankind.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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Economy

Fashion Week & Sustainability

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Fashion is always fun and constantly evolving. Old fashion styles are still being popular and new trendy styles are being designed and distributed in the market every day. We can also see people wearing various types of fashion styles starting from business wear, casual, retro to streetwear, etc in everyday life. The personality and the culture reflect the fashion style of a person. Although we shouldn’t judge the personality of a person based on the fashion style, the social status and personality of people can be perceived more or less from the way they style themselves like;” You are what you wear”. Indeed, fashion plays a vital role in the culture, society as well as in economy. France, Italy, UK, and so on have been using fashion ad a soft power which is one of the essentials for economic growth.

The successful “Fashion Week” events from the fashion capitals and their influence on the current and upcoming fashion trends have proved the reputation of the fashion industry. The original fashion week which was initially named “ Press Week” was started in New York City in 1943. Then, in 1984, London Fashion Week was organized by the British Fashion Council and became the first fashion show with live broadcasting. After that, the London Fashion week was followed by the Milan Fashion week arranged by the National Chamber for Italian Fashion which presented the luxurious Italian designer brands. In 1933, the French Fashion Federation organized the Paris Fashion Week which is famous for the “haute couture”. Later the Miami Fashion Week was started in 1989, then discontinued and continued again in 2005. Unlike the other big four fashion weeks, the Miami Fashion week showcases the swimwear brands around the world and is usually held before the big four fashion week events.

Fashion Weeks are being held twice a year, usually in February and September, and divided into spring/summer and fall/winter to showcase seasonal collections. During the fashion week, London, New York City, Milan, Paris, and Miami which are regarded as the international fashion capitals, designers from famous luxury brands present their upcoming collections on the runway. The luxury brands also hire popular celebrities as brand ambassadors and attract buyers and fashionistas around the world. The fashion industry has a great impact on the economy. According to the statistics of Women’s Wear Daily, the fashion week created a total of $887 million with approximately 232,000 participants in more than 500 shows. Fashion Weeks are concentrated on sustainability lately. Hence, in London Fashion Week for this season, designers combine sustainability to their collections. Moreover, In New York Fashion Week 2021, we can see the sustainable designs but still, there are criticisms evolving that event is not sustainable enough because not all designers follow sustainability aspects. Also, recent Milan Fashion had the latest designs from brands like Max Mara, Genny, and so on, which align with sustainable rules. Likewise, in Paris Fashion Week,brands like Chloe, Stella McCartney, etc present their designs align with the values of sustainability but other big-name brands can’t able to integrate sustainable facts into their brands. Based on a recent McKinsey report, the fashion show which lasts for 10 to 15 minutes costs around $1 million. But the number of profits from the fashion week exceeds that amount. According to Fashion United’s calculations, New York Fashion Week, leading all the Fashion Weeks, earned  540 million euros per fashion week.

Although generating abundant profits, some brands are lacking to integrate sustainability and hence, the whole Fashion Week event couldn’t shift towards sustainability. The brands are only focusing to maximize their profits. They constantly produce trendy fashions and attract the consumers to buy each and every latest product. Honestly, sustainability can increase the cost of production, so most brands couldn’t shift to sustainable production. As a result, the brands neglect their impact on the environment such as carbon emissions, massive amount of water consumption, pollution of rivers and streams etc as well as their impacts on the society like labor exploitation etc.

However, the “Degrowth” theory which emphasizes on reduction of production, consumption and shifting the priority of the society based on sustainability seems to be usable for the brands to approach sustainability. Based on the degrowth, the lesser the production, the lesser the consumption. Sustainable products have better quality and long life which makes the consumers spend less on unnecessary purchases. On the other hand, designer brands also have limited products and are usually sold out before they create other seasonal collections. The quality of the designer brands has a great reputation and are useable for a long time. So, some might argue that they are different from fast fashion brands. In reality, the supply chain and source of raw materials of some designer brands are unknown and the companies don’t even have transparency about the wages of the workers in the factories. Some brands even had a history of labor exploitation in their supply chain. For this reason, it is questionable that if sustainability and profitability coexist. Indeed, there are various ethical brands for instance; Stella McCartney, Levi’s, Patagonia, and so on, that are committed to advocating for sustainability and produce eco-friendly products only.

Sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Thus, we have to take accountability to reduce environmental impacts while creating values according to the triple bottom line -people, planet, and profit. The fashion industry accounts for 2% of the global GDP and is one of the biggest industries globally. Being the growing industry, it has the responsibility for transparency and sustainability, thus, even all the famous Fashion Events around the world are trying to showcase sustainable fashion and influence the consumers. In addition, Fashion Events that are focused on sustainability have emerged in Asia as well as in ASEAN. Hence, ASEAN still has the best opportunity to create a 100% sustainable fashion industry globally.

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An Uneven Recovery: the Impact of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean

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Employment rates in some Latin American and Caribbean countries have experienced a relative recovery, although in most, rates fall short of pre-pandemic levels. The quality of available jobs has also declined, as has the number of hours of paid work per week, according to data from a new survey by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The High-frequency Phone Surveys, the second phase of which was implemented this year in 24 countries of the region, provides a snapshot of families’ well-being and their perceptions regarding the crisis. The goal is to take the pulse of the region and measure the impacts of the pandemic in key areas such as the labor market, income and food security, gender equality, and household access to basic services, such as education, health (including the COVID-19 vaccine), Internet connectivity and digital finance. The survey took a representative sample of the population aged 18 and over with access to a telephone in each country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the pre-existing inequalities in the region, where the most vulnerable and poorest groups have been disproportionately affected,” said Luis Felipe López-Calva, UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “This survey allows us to take the pulse of the region and propose evidence-based solutions.”

“The pandemic severely impacted millions of families in the region,” said Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank Vice-president for Latin America and the Caribbean. “These surveys we present today are crucial for obtaining current data on the scope of the crisis and for recommending informed measures to help improve the quality of life in our countries.”

Survey results demonstrate that the crisis particularly affected women, both because of the stronger initial impact on them and their slower labor market recovery. Mothers of young children (aged 0 to 5 years) have been most affected. In fact, a year and a half after the onset of the crisis, women are twice as likely as men to be unemployed owing to the pandemic. This situation is exacerbated by an increase in women’s household responsibilities, including supervision of children in remote education, and a higher incidence of mental health problems.

For the region as a whole, the employment rate stood at around 62 percent, almost 11 percentage points below the pre-pandemic level. Employment rates surpassed pre-crisis levels only in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Moreover, formal employment fell 5.3 percent in the region while self-employment grew 5.7 percent, and the proportion of workers employed in small businesses (maximum of four workers) increased by 8 percent. These figures point to a deterioration in the quality of available employment. Even among the employed population, regional survey results identified a decrease in weekly hours of paid work, from 43 to 37, confirming this negative trend.

The survey data found that 28 percent of people employed before the pandemic lost their jobs, and more than half (17 percent) of those with a job before the pandemic have left the labor force. These impacts disproportionately affected women with young children: 40 percent of female workers over 18 with children aged 0 to 5 years lost their pre-pandemic job, compared to 39 percent of women in general and 18 percent of men.

The pandemic had a greater impact on less educated workers (both men and women). Thirty-five percent of those with a primary education or less lost their job during the pandemic, as did 28 percent of employees with a secondary education. Approximately 19 percent of individuals with a tertiary education became unemployed.

Survey data revealed that as a consequence of labor market setbacks, just over half of the households in the region have not yet managed to recover their pre-pandemic income levels. This situation occurred despite government efforts to help families through direct transfer programs and other benefits. Approximately 38 percent of survey respondents had received emergency cash transfers.

The survey demonstrated that food insecurity still affects 23.9 percent of households in Latin America and the Caribbean. This figure is almost double that reported by households prior to the pandemic — 12.8 percent. However, most countries have improved in this area with respect to the levels observed in June 2020.

Results also demonstrated that more than a year after the onset of the crisis, 86 percent of school-age children and youth receive some type of education (face-to-face or remote). However, figures vary widely across countries: in Guyana and Guatemala, it is 64 percent while in Peru and Chile, it reaches 95 and 97 percent, respectively. Additionally, education coverage falls below pre-pandemic levels in the countries surveyed. Just under a quarter of students in the region attended face-to-face classes.

Access to health services improved significantly. However, the percentage of unvaccinated people remains high in some countries. Eight percent of the regional population has not been vaccinated or is not willing to receive a vaccine. This percentage is especially high in the Caribbean: 60 percent in Haiti, 49 percent in Jamaica and 43 percent in Saint Lucia and Dominica.

Finally, according to the survey results, the use of mobile banking and online transactions (e-commerce) rose sharply during the pandemic. The use of digital payments also increased — currently, 26 percent of survey respondents said they used mobile wallets. The highest increases were among the rural population, the population over age 55 and those with low levels of education (primary or less).

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Economy

Gender-based violence in Bangladesh: Economic Implications

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Violence against women is one of the most heinous crimes perpetrated in today’s   world. However, despite the gravity of the violence perpetrated against women, it is still the pervading reality in the world. Bangladesh is also afflicted with this malaise of violence against women which is manifested in the deluge of news across the media about the violence against women in various  form .While Bangladesh has made commendable strides in the economic front, the  perennial subjugation of the women who account  for virtually half of its population remains a hurdle. Against this backdrop, this article investigates the economic toll incurred to the economy owing to the entrenched culture of systemic violence in our country.

Women constitute nearly half of the population of Bangladesh. As such, their innate potentials have considerable bearing on the socio-economic progress of the country. Admittedly, advancement of a country in socio-cultural indicators presupposes the simultaneous improvement of  women from the subjugated position culturally attributed to them. It is impossible  to envisage a prosperous thriving economy without the contribution and participation of the women equally. Therefore, the lack of women’s participation commensurate with their capabilities   hinders the development of the country.

One of the obstacles women confront in their journey of transforming into human capital is perhaps the retrograde views that society harbor about the traditional gender role of the women which fetter their contribution to the economy and society by bestowing them only  the  circumscribed role of  looking after the domestic affairs and rearing and educating child. The pastoral as well as urban culture   perpetuate these traditional gender roles and deny women a free rein over their fate. Whenever  women   disavow the preordained and predictable roles  provided by the society, they  have  to face mounting pressure from society so as to conform to the prevailing norms .Failing to  conform to the  regressive gender role will spell grave consequences for the women .When the society fails to cower the woman with the threats that are at its disposal ,it resort to the egregious path of violence. While   violence against women is one of the most reprehensible crime one can ever commit, it however is normalized through a power dynamics that  reinforces the overbearing male role and relegate women to the subjugation. Therefore, the culture of violence against women isn’t anomalous rather is embedded in the prevailing  patriarchal power dynamics which deem chastising women for their  rebellious attitude is solicited and  invoke often contrived and distorted religious edicts in order to legitimize their deplorable crime. Moreover, the culture of violence against women which has been  aptly termed as a epidemic by the United Nations  is rooted in the prevailing socio-economic  structure of the country that  systematically condone the browbeating of women into submission to patriarchal  norms and wield violent measures when the woman stubbornly gainsay their patriarchal hegemony.

While the social, cultural and health toll of the violence perpetrated against women is undoubtedly strenuous, the economic losses incurred by the violence and the opportunities nipped in the bud owing to violence against women also need to be taken into account in order to the adequately discern the deleterious ramifications of the violence against women .However, despite profound economic toll that are inflicted due to the violence against women, it is still unaddressed in the economic literature worldwide and discussion and cognizance about this momentous issue and its economic implications still scant.

As has been mentioned earlier, women constitute the lynchpin of the economy of Bangladesh which has been adequately manifested in the participation of women in Bangladesh’s much-heralded RMG sector and other productive sectors. However, this success of the economy   overshadows the plight and perils  this working class women confront in their bid to become economically productive. The violence against women is systemically entrenched in the country and women’s engagement in the economic activities are frowned upon by the society and culture .Therefore ,the this patriarchal fetter women behind the door of their  houses  and worst women are inflicted  physical and mental violence in event of questioning the dictates of the elders and the male custodians. Therefore , the fundamental impact of violence against women on the economy of the country related to the untapped opportunities due to the constrains imposed by the patriarchal society on women under the pretext of social, religious and cultural norm. This threat alone or normalization of the gender role of the women as a care-giver hinder women in taking part in the economy on a par with their male counterparts  .

Beside the lost  opportunities that can be tapped, the violence against women has numerous other implications on the economy. Firstly, the violence against women inevitably  results in the physical damage and mental trauma of the victim which has enduring toll on her. Therefore ,violence against women translate to toll on the health of the victim and therefore the cost incurred on the victim due to medical fees  as a result of the violence is also included in the economic cost of violence against women. Secondly, the violence against women also leads to diminished productivity of the victim due to the health hazards. Therefore, violence against women has implicit economic cost on the economy as a result of the lost productivity.

Thirdly,the cycle of the violence against women negatively sensitize women in not challenging the sacrosanct patriarchal norms and therefore women fit themselves with the prevailing adverse society and they themselves reproduce and reinforce these norms .Therefore, a vicious cycle set in which prevents women to actualize their potential and stymie them in their path of realizing their goal .This result a sense of apathy in women with regards to education and other means of social mobility and they deliberately avoid the economically productive activities that are deemed taboo by the prevailing social norms and cultural ethos.

Moreover, violence against women is an egregious form of crime perpetrated by a   patriarchal agent while the society has entrenched roles, norms and ethos that condone and encourage such outrageous violence .Moreover, a vicious cycle is at play in the gender based violence. The economic repercussions of the violence committed against women is considerable. Violence against women hinder the development  of the women commensurate with their inherent potential which nip the dreams of women in the bud. Besides, gender based violence also deter women in challenging the prevailing patriarchal norms and undertaking productive economic activities that are frowned by the patriarchal society and are deemed taboo. Moreover, a widespread sensitization in societal level as well as a drastic  overhaul of the patriarchal structure is necessary in order to avert the adverse socio-economic consequences of gender-based violence and extirpate the heinous root of this deplorable crime.

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