The 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting closed today, a historic meeting bringing all stakeholders together to shape a cohesive and sustainable world.
World Economic Forum President Børge Brende said “Our 50th Annual Meeting has been truly remarkable, due to the real progress that we created on a spectrum of issues where public-private collaboration is crucial. We laid the basis for a decade of delivery.”
Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), told participants that we are in a better place in January 2020 than we were in October 2019. There are several drivers for this positive momentum: trade tensions are receding; central banks have loosened monetary policy; and global industrial production is bottoming out.
The IMF’s economic forecast is for 3.3% growth this year and 3.4% next year. This level of growth was characterised as “sluggish”, and governments were called on to enact structural reforms and boost spending.
In 2019, 29 central banks globally reduced rates 71 times and it is now time to pass the baton on to fiscal policy. “We need to go beyond monetary stimulus – fiscal policy needs to become more aggressive,” Georgieva added.
Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, shared this relatively sanguine outlook. Uncertainties have abated on issues like trade and Brexit, she said, and it is likely that income growth and low unemployment will eventually be reflected in prices.
“The European Central Bank has launched a broad strategic review, the first since 2003, to revisit the bank’s processes and policies and to recommend structural changes,” she said, committing to delivering the outcomes of this review at the next Annual Meeting.
Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, said: “The US economy continues to be the bright spot in the world.” The economic outlook for 2020 is very robust, he added. Inflation remains muted, incomes are rising and unemployment is near historic lows.
“Trade negotiations have started with both the EU and the UK and we look forward to completing both of those deals this year,” he said.
Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan, said: “We expect Japan’s economy to grow by 1% to 1.5% this year.” Nevertheless, inflation in Japan is stubbornly low. Continued accommodative monetary policy will be required for some time to achieve the 2% inflation objective, he added.
Climate risk is quite real for Japan, he said. In the fourth quarter of last year, the Japanese economy experienced negative growth largely because of two large typhoons. These types of natural disasters are intensifying and Japan stands ready to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global climate change.
Germany has embarked on an expansionary fiscal policy programme, said Olaf Scholz, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance of Germany. Taxes have been reduced by about $25 billion a year, investment in infrastructure is at record levels and R&D spending is targeted to reach 3.5% of GDP.
“Germany’s economy remains strong and we expect these investment measures to have a material impact on demand,” he added.
However, we must act urgently on sustainability issues, he said. Europe will continue to lead on climate change, with a target to be carbon neutral by 2050 backed by investments in the green economy and renewable energy.
Outcomes of the Annual Meeting 2020
In a letter sent to participants in advance of the Annual Meeting, Klaus Schwab, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, and the heads of Bank of America and Royal DSM, asked all members and partners to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier. In part inspired by this, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 saw a number of outcomes that made progress towards a more cohesive and sustainable world:
Skills and Work
· The Reskilling Revolution was launched to provide better education, skills and jobs to 1 billion people by 2030, with the initial backing of the governments of Bahrain, Brazil, Denmark, France, India, Oman, Pakistan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the United States as well as business partners, including PwC, Salesforce, ManpowerGroup, Infosys, LinkedIn, Coursera Inc. and The Adecco Group. Commitments to provide better education, skills and work for 250 million people have already been made. The Forum’s Global Shaper community further pledged to provide skills to 100,000 people in vulnerable communities.
· Six leading platform companies – Cabify, Deliveroo, Grab, MBO Partners, Postmates and Uber – became founding signatories of the Forum’s Charter of Principles for Good Platform Work.
· The Valuable 500 initiative of companies committed to placing disability inclusion on their leadership agendas that was launched last year in Davos, announced that 241 companies from 24 countries have pledged their support.
· Ingka Group (IKEA) and Royal DSM became founding members of the Forum’s Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work initiative. McKinsey joined as knowledge partner.
· The Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality, which was launched in Davos last year to accelerate inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, announced that it has grown its membership to 17 international businesses.
· The International Business Council, incorporating 140 of the world’s largest companies, agreed to support efforts to develop a core set of common metrics and disclosures that could be used to measure private sector progress against key environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.
· The Forum also became a founding partner this week, alongside Refinitiv, United Nations and others in the Future of Sustainable Data Alliance. The alliance focuses on improving the quality of ESG data available to governments and investors to inform decision-making.
· The Davos Friends of Africa Growth Platform launched with the support of the Presidents of Botswana and Ghana to promote entrepreneurism in Africa. The platform’s initial target is to reach 1 million entrepreneurs by the end of 2020.
· A strategic partnership was signed between the World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to accelerate progress towards inclusive and sustainable growth globally.
· Some 42 organizations, including businesses from mining, automotive, chemical and energy that have a combined revenue of $1 trillion dollars agreed on 10 guiding principles for a sustainable battery value chain, enabled by a traceability platform called Battery Passport.
· The Australian state of Queensland announced it will join the Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network in a bid to help small and medium-sized enterprises adopt advanced manufacturing technologies.
· CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations that was launched in Davos in 2017, today announced the initiation of three programmes to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus, nCoV-2019, in partnership with Moderna and the Wellcome Trust. The swift action was made possible by the fact that the leaders of the partner organizations were all in Davos.
· GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, celebrated its 20th anniversary. GAVI was launched at the Annual Meeting 2000 with the backing of the Gates Foundation, World Health Organization, pharmaceutical companies and governments to bring vaccines to children who lacked access. Since then, GAVI has reached 760 million children.
· The World Economic Forum announced a partnership with the Global CEO Initiative (CEOi) to form a coalition to accelerate diagnostics and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
· The Forum initiated Ending Workplace Tuberculosis, a multi-sector initiative aimed at tapping into the business community to help stop TB in countries affected disproportionately by the disease.
· Ministers at Davos announced negotiations between 99 economies on a new international agreement on investment facilitation at the WTO. The agreement is aimed at making it easier for investment to flow between economies while increasing its development impact.
· As theUS and France agreed a detente on digital tax during the Annual Meeting, the Forum received a mandate from multistakeholder partners to further build multistakeholder understanding of and input to international tax reforms and assist the search for broadly supported solutions.
· The Forum partnered with the Japanese government on a multistakeholder effort to find practical mechanisms to enable free “Data Free Flow with Trust” in support of the Osaka Track process that was initiated at the G20 in 2019.
· The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced that its community has improved the lives and livelihoods of more than 622 million people in 190 countries since 2000. Impacts include distributing $6.7 billion in loans or value of products and services; mitigating more than 192 million tonnes of CO2; improving education for more than 226 million children and youth; improving energy access for more than 100 million people and driving social inclusion for over 25 million people.
· 11 NGO executives united to stop sale of .org domain to a private equity firm. Executive directors of Greenpeace International, Access Now, Human Rights Watch, ACLU, International Trade Union Confederation, Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Consumer Reports, 350.org, Color of Change and Transparency International released an open letter on 21 January 2020 “calling on the leaders of Internet Society (ISOC) and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to stop the sale of the .org top-level domain to private equity firm Ethos Capital”.
Combating climate change
· 1t.org, a new multistakeholder initiative aimed at supporting efforts to grow, conserve and restore 1 trillion trees by the end of the decade was announced. Within the first days of its launch, the US and China announced support. Salesforce announced a new commitment to plant 100 million trees; Colombia confirmed its existing commitment to plant 180 million trees by 2022; Pakistan reaffirmed its 10 billion trees campaign; and the Global Shapers also committed to planting 1 million trees by 2021 across its 400 hubs worldwide.
· New members signed up to the Forum’s community of CEO Climate Leaders. The community are committed to helping their respective companies meet the Paris Climate Goals. New members include: AstraZeneca; Bayer AG; BBVA, Dalmia Cement; Jacobs Engineering Group; JLL; Newmont Corporation; OVG Real Estate, and Zurich Insurance Group.
· The Sustainable Markets Initiative, backed by a Sustainable Markets Council, was launched by HRH The Prince of Wales in collaboration with the World Economic Forum with the goal of bringing about a transition to sustainable markets and rapid industry-wide decarbonization.
· The Forum’s Advanced Manufacturing and Production community launched the Carbon Reduction in Manufacturing Initiative with Johnson & Johnson, Schneider Electric and Unilever, with support from Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management to achieve a goal of cutting carbon emissions in manufacturing by 50% by 2030.
· The Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance of 16 pension funds and insurers committed to helping achieve the Paris Climate Goals added the Church of England and Generali as new members. The alliance’s portfolio now stands at $4.3 trillion.
· The Champions for Nature, a high-level group calling for raised ambition on nature, was launched. It is chaired by the Executive Director of UN Environment Programme, the CEO of Unilever, and the President of Costa Rica. The launch followed a new report Nature Risk Rising which found that over half the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature.
Sustainable Development Goals
· Frontier 2030 was launched as a platform to leverage the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals. The platform is chaired by UNDP in partnership with the governments of Botswana, South Korea and Norway, as well as private sector commitment from Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Arm, Planet Labs, X, Amazon Web Services and Chipsafer. It is hosted by the World Economic Forum.
· The Food Action Alliance was launched by over 25 partners of the World Economic Forum, UN agencies, companies, farmer organizations, civil society, and finance institutions to scale collective action and transform foods systems to be sustainable, nutritious and healthy, efficient and inclusive.
· A new multistakeholder partnership, SDG500, was launched to mobilize $500 million towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in emerging markets through a series of six blended finance funds. SDG500 is a partnership between the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, Smart Africa, Stop TB Partnership, the IDB Lab of the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Trade Centre, CARE USA, and Bamboo Capital Partners.
A Cohesive and Sustainable Fourth Industrial Revolution
· The Forum partnered with a community of 40 central banks, international organizations, academic researchers and financial institutions to create a framework to help central banks evaluate, design and potentially deploy Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
· The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with 100 stakeholders, produced theEmpowering AI Toolkit to help board members better understand the positive and negative implications of deploying artificial intelligence.
· The Government of Brazil, together with the World Economic Forum and key business stakeholders, rolled out a set of new scalable policy interventions to increase successful adoption of industrial internet of things technologies by small and medium-sized enterprises in manufacturing.
· Partners of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Global Network, including Brazil, Colombia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, expanded their commitment to ensuring responsible and ethical governance of smart city technologies through the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance, led by the World Economic Forum.
· The World Economic Forum’s Global AI Council, launched in 2019, collaborated with UNICEF to create guidelines for AI-supported toys for under seven-year-olds, as well as identifying young people under the age of 18 to sit on a Global AI Youth Council.
· A group of private-sector leaders from cybersecurity companies, services providers and global corporations along with law enforcement agencies, Interpol and Europol, agreed to work together with the World Economic Forum through 2020 to foster a global public-private alliance against cybercrime.
· A group of telecommunications stakeholders, including BT, Deutsche Telekom, Du Telecom, Europol, Global Cyber Alliance, Internet Society, Korea Telecom, Proximus, Saudi Telcom, Singtel, Telstra and ITU, endorsed new principles combating high-volume cyberattacks that could protect up to 1 billion consumers in 180 countries.
· Navdeep Bains, Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard, announced a $510 million investment by Mastercard to establish a new global Intelligence and Cyber Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Equal pay essential to build a world of dignity and justice for all
The United Nations is marking the first ever International Equal Pay Day, on Friday, drawing attention to the gender pay gap – the difference between what a woman earns compared to a man, for work of equal value – and the systemic inequalities it is rooted in.
Globally, despite decades of activism, and dozens of laws on equal pay, women still earn less than 80 cents for every dollar men do. For women with children, women of colour, women refugees and migrants, and women with disabilities, that figure is even lower.
“Women’s jobs are less likely to come with benefits like health insurance and paid time off. Even when women are entitled to a pension, lower salaries mean lower payments in their old age,” he said.
Noting that equal pay laws have failed to address the problem, the UN chief called for greater effort to find solutions.
“We need to ask why women are relegated to lower-paid work; why professions that are female-dominated have lower salaries – including jobs in the care sector; why so many women work part-time; why women see their wages decrease with motherhood while men with children often enjoy a salary boost; and why women hit a ceiling in higher-earning professions,” he stressed.
End harmful gender stereotypes
Mr. Guterres also underlined the need to end harmful gender stereotypes and remove institutional barriers, as well as sharing family responsibilities equally.
“We need to recognize, redistribute, and value the unpaid care work that is disproportionately done by women,” he urged.
Such efforts are all the more urgent given signs that the gender pay gap may worsen due to COVID-19 and its fallout, including because so many women work in service, hospitality and informal sectors which have been hardest hit.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exploited and exposed inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality. As we invest in recovery, we must take the opportunity to end pay discrimination against women,” said the Secretary-General.
“Equal pay is essential not only for women, but to build a world of dignity and justice for all,” he underlined.
Unequal pay a stubborn and universal problem
According to UN Women, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, in spite of significant progress in women’s education and higher female labour market participation rates in many countries, closing the gender pay gap has been too slow.
At the current pace, it could take 257 years to achieve economic gender parity.
Women workers’ average pay is generally lower than men’s in all countries, across all sectors, for all levels of education, and age groups. While gender pay gap estimates can vary substantially across regions and even within countries, higher income countries tend to have lower levels of wage inequality compared to low and middle-income countries.
However, estimates of the gender pay gap understate the real extent of the issue, particularly in developing countries, because of a lack of information about informal economies, which are disproportionately made up of women workers, so the full picture is likely worse than what the available data shows us, says the UN agency.
The International Day
The International Equal Pay Day, to be commemorated on 18 September annually, was established in 2019 by the UN General Assembly, which voiced deep concern over slow progress in women’s economic empowerment, the undervaluing of work traditionally held by women, and the difficulties in tackling pay inequality.
The General Assembly urged action to reach the goal of equal pay for work of equal value for all, and encouraged all stakeholders to continue to support the goal of equal pay for work of equal value.
Protect lives, mitigate future shocks and recover better
Over the course of 2020 thus far, the coronavirus has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, infected millions of people, and wreaked socio-economic, humanitarian and human rights havoc, the United Nations said in a new report released on Wednesday.
According to the September update of the UN Comprehensive Response to COVID-19, no country has been spared; no population left unscathed.
Among other things, the update outlines the steps needed to save lives, protect societies and recover better while pointing the way to addressing future shocks, above all from climate change, and overcoming the universal inequities.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has often said that the pandemic is a human crisis that has laid bare severe and systemic inequalities.
“No country has been spared. No population group remains unscathed. Nobody is immune to its impacts”, the report spelled out.
To address this, the UN is pursuing a three-point comprehensive response focused on health, safeguarding lives and livelihoods, and addressing underlying vulnerabilities to rebuild a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable world.
The update revealed that the UN system led the global health response early on, providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable, establishing rapid responses to the socio-economic impact and laying out a broad policy agenda.
Solid science, reliable data, and analysis are critical for policy- and decision-making, especially for the tough choices required during a pandemic, according to the report.
To help create a knowledge base and provide support to national policymakers, the UN has also issued a series of policy brief that examines the pandemic’s diverse impacts and offers relevant information and advice.
Containing the virus
The most urgent course of action in dealing with COVID -19 has been to suppress transmission of the virus, through detecting, testing, isolating and caring for those affected.
This requires physical distancing, fact- and science-based public information, expanded testing, increased health-care facility capacities, supporting health-care workers, and ensuring adequate supplies.
Some countries can or have already achieved these conditions with their own resources but developing countries continue to need considerable support, the report noted.
The update shone a spotlight on the need for the biggest public health effort in human history.
That means a vaccine, diagnostics and treatment for everyone, everywhere.
Battling twin crises
As climate change is not on hold, recovery from COVID-19 must go hand-in hand with climate action.
And addressing both simultaneously requires a response stronger than any seen before, upheld the report.
It saw recovery as an opportunity to address the fragilities laid bare by the virus, including the climate crisis.
Moreover, it outlined the steps needed to move forward, such as decarbonizing transport, buildings and energy sectors; transitioning away from fossil fuels; and creating jobs to build resilient and sustainable infrastructures.
Sustaining the response
As the world is still in the acute phase of the pandemic, the UN update maintained the importance of sustained political leadership, unprecedented levels of funding, and extraordinary solidarity between and within countries to recover.
The Organization will continue to consult with Member States and all partners on how best to support these efforts over the long term.
Stranded seafarers: A “humanitarian crisis”
The ILO and other UN agencies and bodies are calling on governments to eliminate without delay all obstacles to crew changes of seafarers, calling it a “humanitarian crisis”.
Despite significant efforts by shipowners’ and seafarers’ organizations and UN bodies, more than 300,000 seafarers are still trapped aboard vessels, anxious to disembark and return home, and another 300,000 are waiting ashore to replace them, facing financial ruin if they can’t go back to work. Fishers on many commercial fishing vessels face a similar problem.
This is due, among other reasons, to restrictions on travel, embarkation and disembarkation in ports, quarantine measures, reductions in available flights, and limits on the issuing of visas and passports as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic .
In a joint statement the International Labour Office (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Compact, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Organization for Migration, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), have called on member States to establish and implement measurable, time-bound plans to increase the rate of these crew changes.
“The number and variety of United Nations’ organizations that have agreed to this statement shows that this is a problem that affects not only shipowners and seafarers but all aspects of governance and society,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.
“It is a humanitarian issue, threatening the physical and mental health of seafarers. It is a safety issue, which may very well impact the marine environment. It is also an economic issue, which, when seafarers simply can no longer continue working because they are demoralized and exhausted, could slow or stop trade and hinder economic recovery. Governments must act now,” Ryder added.
The joint call to action recognizes the sacrifices that seafarers have made to keep trade moving and therefore to ensure the continuity of global supply chains.
The statement sets out a list of immediate actions that governments must take, including:
- designating seafarers as key workers;
- increasing their access to commercial flights;
- implementing protocols for safe crew changes;
- refraining from authorizing the extension of seafarers’ employment agreements beyond the default maximum period of 11 months, in accordance with the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 , as amended;
- facilitating diversions of ships to ports where crew changes can take place;
- reviewing the necessity for national and/or local restrictions that may continue to apply to the movement and travel of seafarers.
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