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Bring women to the table to build peace in Africa, say gender experts

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Women bear the brunt of conflict and for peace building to be successful they must be involved in conflict resolution and reconstruction at every stage, said gender experts at the 2019 Global Gender Summit in Kigali on Tuesday.

Speakers at a plenary session on peacebuilding called for home-grown solutions to conflict and the participation of women in policy and decision making at local, national and regional levels.

“Africa needs to silence the guns. We need to develop our own action plans, not waiting for donor organizations and development partners,” said Bineta Diop, the African Union’s Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security. “Most of the time we don’t look at what fuels the conflicts. We need to invite women to the table of discussions and negotiations.”

The Senegalese women’s rights activist noted that Africa is home to one third of the global refugee population, the majority of them women and children. Frameworks on peace and conflict resolution need to be urgently implemented, she said.

“The African Union is leading with initiatives in this regard, but we require everyone one board,” Diop said, noting the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), initiative.

The African Development Bank and the government of Rwanda are hosting the Global Gender Summit from 25 to 27 November in Kigali. The Summit, held for the first time in Africa, is being organized by the Multilateral Development Banks’ (MDBs) Working Group on gender.

Government representatives from Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda shared insights into how they incorporated women into post-conflict peace processes.

Euphrasie Kouassi Yao, special advisor on gender to Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara, said women’s empowerment and inclusion were critical to the peace process following civil conflicts in her country.

“If we want Africa to be at peace, women must be empowered. And as we move towards elections next year, we are preparing women to be ambassadors of peace. It is about getting all women involved and empowered, from rural, urban, and even those in the diaspora,” Kouassi Yao said.

She said Cote d’Ivoire was the first African country to develop a conflict resolution plan independent of donor agencies.

“From our experience, for sustainable peace to happen, women should be at [the centre of] decision making. Women must be involved in peace planning, implementation, and reconstruction,” she said. “The peace process and mechanism must be home grown and not led by donors.”

Goretti Mwenzangu, the Director of Gender Promotion at the Rwanda National Police told the session: “When women are in decision making, you experience peace.”

The police officer, who is also the coordinator of Rwanda’s Isange One Stop Centre for gender-based violence, said Rwanda was willing to share knowledge and experience after the 1994 genocide in the country.

“Getting women from crisis to leading the process of peace is critical,” Mwenzangu said.

The Coordinator of the G5 Sahel women’s platform, Justine Coulidiati-Kielem, said without women onboard, it is difficult to achieve peace in any context.

“Women are constantly killed and targeted during conflicts. The challenges of women in peace building requires inclusion,” said Coulidiati-Kielem. “More than ever before, women have to be at the forefront of peace building.”

She also called on African countries to support each other in peace and development initiatives, with the multilateral organizations such as the African Development Bank at the forefront.

“We need to find a holistic solution to conflicts, with women in the lead, and we need to move very fast. The bus needs to move faster towards results,” Coulidiati-Kielem added.

After conflict, it is often women who pick up the pieces, said Fatima Zohra Karadja of the Panel of Eminent Persons of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

“Women end up taking up the responsibility of coming up with strategies to rebuild what has been destroyed. We just need society to recognize this and enshrine it,” she said.

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Solutions to accelerate renewables integration and power system resilience

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Singapore and the International Energy Agency today co-hosted the second Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables (SIR). The Conference was held as part of the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2020.

This is the first SIR Ministerial Conference to be held in Asia. Under the theme “Investment, Integration, and Resilience: A Secure, Clean Energy Future,” the SIR Ministerial Conference brought together close to 30 Energy Ministers, global CEOs and thought leaders to discuss emerging issues in the acceleration of renewables integration and power system resilience with a strong focus on Asia and Southeast Asia. The IEA also launched its new report on electricity security, Power Systems in Transition, at the Conference. The report provides important recommendations on modernising power grids for greater reliability and flexibility.

Singapore’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Trade & Industry, and Manpower and co-Chair of the SIR Ministerial Dr Tan See Leng said: “International cooperation and public-private partnerships remain vital as we navigate towards a more sustainable energy future. As we address the urgent need to future-proof our systems to create more resilience and flexibility, we must also increase the share of, and enhance the integration of renewable energy in our energy systems. We look forward to working with the IEA to advance global energy transitions.”

“The IEA is pleased to partner with Singapore for the 2nd Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables as the country sits at the heart of Asia, a region that will be critical in shaping the future of global energy markets,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “Today, we shared important lessons from across Asia and beyond on how best to integrate growing shares of wind and solar into power systems while maintaining security of supply. This will be crucial if renewables are to become the fundamental cornerstone of global clean energy transitions.”

Singapore’s cooperation with the IEA has deepened significantly since it became an Association country of the IEA in 2016. Singapore and the IEA have co-hosted many innovative initiatives and programmes to advance the global energy agenda. These include the training programmes under the Singapore-Regional Training Hub, the Singapore-IEA Forum and the Capacity Building Roadmap on Energy Investment and Financing for ASEAN.

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Post-Pandemic Growth Needs New Skills for New Jobs that Are Open to All

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The World Economic Forum’s first Jobs Reset Summit convened more than 1,000 leaders from government, business and civil society to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.

It follows the Forum’s January 2020 launch of the Reskilling Revolution online platform to create better jobs, skills and education for 1 billion people by 2030. The platform hosts global, national and industry coalitions.

The Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators are a global network of national efforts to improve skills, redeploy upskilled workers and promote inclusion. At last week’s summit, three new countries – Georgia, Greece and Turkey – joined Bahrain, Brazil, India, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates to close skills and employment gaps in their countries.

“Closing the skills and employment gap has never been so urgent and vital to our economy and society as we recover from the pandemic. The Accelerator in Greece will work with major private-sector companies and Regeneration as the local coordinator to build partnerships that would mobilize investment for job creation and reskill our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Adonis Georgiadis, Minister for Development and Investment, Greece.

Georgia has set up a new platform, Skills Georgia, under the Accelerator, a public-private agency run as a non-profit organization that will “give the opportunity for the new generation to become more innovative; more start-up, tech and innovation-oriented with their entrepreneurial thinking,” said Tamar Kitiashvili, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Georgia.

Turkey is launching the Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator championed by three ministers – Industry and Technology; Education; and Family, Labour and Social Services – showcasing the cross-governmental collaboration required for rapid action on skills.

Leading policy-makers from Bahrain, Brazil and Pakistan provided updates on the efforts in their respective Accelerators to adapt to the pandemic and deliver skills to workers and out-of-work individuals. Brazil’s Deputy Minister of the Economy revealed that under Brazil’s Accelerator more than 8 million people will be trained to increase their future employability in the next two years. In Pakistan, the Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources highlighted a standardization and accreditation system in more than 10,000 training centres across Pakistan, created in close partnership with the private sector. Bahrain’s Minister of Youth showcased the efforts focused on young graduates to equip them with the skills of tomorrow.

The Reskilling Revolution platform also hosts the Skills Consortium of top online education and training providers. These companies and organizations, including Coursera, Udacity and EdX, shared their support of workers in the current context and the opportunities for further delivering on the promise of online learning and training through better accreditation and recognition by employers.

Business-led and intra-industry collaborations were also announced at the summit to create solutions for workers who can be rapidly upskilled and redeployed to a different role within their sector, leveraging both online and in-person training. For example, Crescent Petroleum shared its partnership with Edraak to provide online learning for youth in the Middle East and North Africa region, with over 240,000 people already registered.

A New Agenda for Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation

A community of leading chief economists from the public and private sectors supported the development of the Forum’s Dashboard for the New Economy. The proposed set of macroeconomic targets aims to steer the COVID-19 recovery beyond GDP growth alone and give governments the impetus to put the focus on people, planet, prosperity and institutions.

The Forum also launched a priority list of 20 of the most promising Markets of Tomorrow that are poised to generate sustainable and inclusive job creation and growth beyond today’s economic models. A network of Closing the Innovation Gap Accelerators will be taking forward investments in these new markets and innovation ecosystems.

A New Agenda for Work, Wages and Job Creation

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, released during the summit, highlighted the “double disruption” faced by workers in the face of the pandemic recession coupled with accelerated automation.

A coalition of more than 60 chief human resources officers partnered with the World Economic Forum and Mercer to create a new set of principles for the future of work through the Resetting the Future of Work Agenda.

As part of a network of Preparing for the Future of Work Accelerators across nine industries, the Consumer Industry Acceleratorannounced an initiative to create “reskilling and redeployment pathways” for thousands of employees. Leena Nair, Chief Human Resources Officer, Unilever, announced the collaboration with Walmart, Accenture and Skyhive. “It’s the first of its kind, non-competitive, collaborative partnership,” said Nair. The coalition is inviting companies from across industries to join the response to deal with the scale of the reskilling challenge.

A New Agenda for Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice

In addition, Jordan joined 10 other economies, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Dominican Republic, Egypt and France, deploying the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators to enhance opportunities for women in the workforce.

“The government of Jordan is committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as an effective tool to combat poverty, hunger and diseases. Today’s launch of the Jordan Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator will help us incorporate gender as a cross-cutting theme in our economic recovery plans. It is also in line with our longstanding public-private collaboration efforts to create more equitable growth,” said Nasser Shraideh, Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.

The Future of Jobs Report highlighted how the impact of technology and the COVID recession on jobs has been worse for women, youth and lower-income workers. The newly launched Resetting the Future of Work Agenda highlights the win-win of diversity, equity and inclusion in this context, while the recent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkithelps companies deploy the latest HR technologies to support this.

The Valuable 500 – committed to transforming disability inclusion through business leadership and opportunity, launched at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2019 – announced an additional 100 members since January 2020. With 334 organizations worldwide, combined revenues of over $4.5 trillion and an employee base of 11.9 million, The Valuable 500, in partnership with the Forum, launched its Transformation Leadership Programme to build capability at leadership and C-suite level.

Notable Quotes from Leaders throughout the Summit

Environmental and social pressures have exposed the fault lines in the structure of global capitalism. Ray Dalio, Founder, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Bridgewater Associates, said: “Capitalism by its nature tends to create greater wealth gaps. There needs to be a coordinated effort to restructure how the machine works.”

Unilever’s Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope referred to COVID-19 causing a jobs crisis but urged action on two further crises, climate change and the nature of capitalism itself, “We must change the measures of success,” he said, moving beyond the preoccupation with measuring only GDP and profit as yardsticks for the recovery.

“We have a tech-savvy younger generation, and the challenge now is how do we equip them more”, said Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation of Egypt, and a Co-Chair of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator in Egypt.

Jonas Prising, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ManpowerGroup, described a two-speed recovery from COVID-19. “Businesses that are able to adapt are recovering quicker than those that cannot. The same is true for the labour market. People with the right skills will come back faster.”

For Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Coordination is missing in action,” he said. Yet, the only way to deal with issues of international trade, migration, climate change, employment and economic recovery from COVID-19 – even the search for a vaccine – is through multilateral cooperation.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and others called for the creation of a Global Social Protection Fund for those hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. “About half of the world’s people have no social protection or any sense of security,” said Sharan Burrow, General-Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Geraldine Matchett, Co-Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Royal DSM highlighted how technology can help to enable fairer access to jobs and that “the COVID crisis has shown us that it’s very possible to change the definition and format of work.” Royal DSM is a founding partner of the Forum’s Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work framework.

Additionally, the OECD and the Education Commission announced at the summit new studies that promote new metrics for soft skills and a new common agenda for education.

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Going Digital is Necessary for Small Businesses to Survive

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APEC member economies must work together to promote and encourage the transition of the region’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to the emerging digital economy, urged Malaysia’s Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, Dato Sri Dr. Haji Wan Junaidi Bin Tuanku Jaafar.

“Going digital is not an option, it has to be done. It is a necessity to survive,” he said in his opening remarks of the APEC 26th Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting held virtually on Friday.

APEC ministers in charge of small and medium enterprise policy exchanged views to address the severe economic impact of the pandemic to MSMEs and detailed steps to build more resilient, inclusive and sustainable environment for the sector.

MSMEs play a significant role in the region’s economic growth, contributing around 40 to 60 percent to the growth domestic products of most APEC economies. As a response to the pandemic, APEC members have been providing support measures for the sector ranging from tax reliefs, wage subsidies, interest rates reduction, soft loans and refinancing, so that business owners and managers can sustain their operations and continue to contribute to the global economy.

“In the new normal, businesses must pivot their strategies and business models to adapt to the digital economy and incorporate innovation and technology in order to remain resilient,” he added. “Besides all the fiscal stimulus, it is equally imperative to support MSMEs to go digital while helping them to adjust and overcome the challenges.”

He cautioned members of the multi-faceted challenges and concerns of going digital, including data privacy, cybersecurity, digital fraud and the digital divide. He highlighted the importance of strengthening cooperation and collaboration within APEC member economies “during and beyond this pandemic.”

APEC has been consistent in acknowledging the significant contribution MSMEs give to the region’s economy and employment. In her remarks at the meeting, Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, highlighted that policy work undertaken by other APEC groups can contribute to helping MSMEs in the region.

“Support for MSMEs in APEC is cross-cutting and requires close partnership within our fora and the private sector,” she said. “We need to advance progress in structural reforms, trade facilitation and digital initiatives such as the single window implementation to make it easier, faster and cheaper to do business in the region and to ensure seamless flow of good and services within economies and across the borders.”

During the meeting, ministers endorsed a joint statement focusing on member economies’ commitment to support MSMEs in restarting and reviving their businesses through digitalization, innovation and technology.

Ministers also endorsed a new five-year vision to reinforce business ethics and integrity in health-related sectors called Vision 2025 launched earlier this month at the 2020 APEC Business Ethics for SMEs Virtual Forum under the world’s largest ethics pacts to strengthen ethical business practices in the medical device and biopharmaceutical sectors.

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