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World Economic Forum Spurs Impact Through Stakeholder Responsibility

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The 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting closed on Friday, a historic meeting bringing all stakeholders together to shape a cohesive and sustainable world. This milestone Annual Meeting has been truly remarkable because of progress made on a spectrum of issues, where public-private collaboration is crucial.

Cohesive World

On Inclusive Growth

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 can be used to measure private-sector progress on key environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

The Forum became a founding partner last week, alongside Refinitiv, and the United Nations of The Future of Sustainable Data Alliance. The alliance focuses on improving the quality of climate and environmental data for companies and investors.

The Davos Friends of Africa Growth Platform was launched with the support of the Presidents of Botswana and Ghana to promote entrepreneurship 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 OECD to accelerate progress towards inclusive and sustainable growth globally.

42 organizations, including businesses from the mining, automotive, chemical and energy sectors, that have a combined revenue of a trillion dollars, agreed on 10 guiding principles to reinforce environmental stewardship, sustainable development and respect for human rights in the global battery value chain.

On Skills and Work

The Reskilling Revolution was launched to provide better education, skills and jobs to a billion people by 2030 with the initial backing of the governments of Brazil, France, India, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, UAE and the US as well as many important companies.

Six leading platform companies became founding signatories of the Forum’s Charter of Principles for Good Platform Work.

The Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality, which was launched in Davos last year to accelerate inclusion for LGBTI people, announced it has grown its membership to 15 international businesses.

On “Saving Lives”

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 World Economic Forum announced a partnership with the Global CEO Initiative (CEOi) to form a coalition to accelerate treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

The Forum initiated Ending Workplace Tuberculosis, a multisector initiative aimed at tapping into the business community to help stop TB in countries disproportionately by the disease.

On Trade

Ministers in Davos announced negotiations between 99 economies on a new international agreement on investment facilitation at the World Trade Organization. The agreement aims to make it easier for investment to flow between economies while increasing its development impact.

As the US and France agreed a détente on digital taxation during the Annual Meeting, the Forum received a mandate from multistakeholder partners to further build understanding of and encourage input into international tax reforms.

The Forum partnered with the Japanese government to launch a multistakeholder effort to find practical mechanisms to enable “Data Free Flow with Trust” in support of the Osaka Track process that was initiated at the G20 in 2019.

On Civil Society

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced that its community has improved the lives of more than 622 million people in 190 countries since 2000. Examples of impact 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.

Sustainable World

On Combating Climate Change

1t.org, a new multistakeholder effort to support efforts to grow, conserve and restore 1 trillion trees by the end of the decade was announced. Within the first days of its launch, Colombia announced to plant 180 million trees by 2022, Salesforce committed to plant 100 million trees and Pakistan said it will plant 2 billion trees. Additionally, 1T was supported by the US, China and Saudi Arabia as part of its G20 Presidency. The Forum’s network of Global Shapers also committed to planting one million trees by 2021 across its 400 hubs worldwide.

New members signed up to the Forum’s community of CEO Climate Leaders. The community is committed to helping companies meet the Paris Climate Goals.

The Sustainable Markets Initiative, backed by a Sustainable Markets Council, was launched by HRH The Prince of Wales in collaboration with the Forum with the goal of bringing about a transition to sustainable financial markets and rapid industry decarbonization.

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 Forum’s Advanced Manufacturing and Production community launched the Carbon Reduction in Manufacturing Initiative to achieve a goal of cutting carbon emissions in manufacturing by 50% by 2030.

On the SDGs

Frontier 2030 was launched as a platform to leverage the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to accelerate the SDGs. The platform is led by UNDP in partnership with the governments of Botswana, South Korea and Norway, and private sector commitment from a range of companies.

The Food Action Alliance was launched by the Forum, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and over 20 global leaders to strengthen the sustainability of the world’s foods systems through better nutrition, climate adaption and access to finance.

A new multistakeholder partnership, SDG500, was launched to mobilize $500 million towards achieving the SDGs in emerging markets through a series of six blended finance funds.

A Cohesive and Sustainable Fourth Industrial Revolution

On Emerging Technologies

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 Forum, in collaboration with 100 stakeholders, produced the Empowering AI Toolkit to help board members better understand the positive and negative implications of deploying artificial intelligence.

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 the under sevens, as well as identifying young people under the age of 18 to sit on a Global AI Youth Council.

On Cybersecurity

A group of private-sector leaders from major cybersecurity companies, services providers and global corporations along with leading law enforcement agencies, Interpol and Europol, agreed to work together with the Forum through 2020 to foster a global public-private alliance against cybercrime.

A group of telecommunications stakeholders endorsed new principles combatting high-volume cyberattacks that could protect up to 1 billion consumers in 180 countries.

A community of key stakeholders from international organizations, government and business was formed to reinforce cyber resilience in global aviation.

The theme of the 50th Annual Meeting, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”, could not be more relevant. The moral imperative that weighs upon us to be custodians of the planet for the sake of the next generation implies that we must act today. As the Forum celebrates its 50th anniversary, it looks ahead rather than backwards, to improve the state of the World for the next 50 years, by continuing to offer its platform to advance the common interest.

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Human Rights

Six months after coup, Myanmar’s political, rights and aid crisis is worsening

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It’s been six months since the military coup in Myanmar where there’s grave concern over the widening impact of the deepening political, human rights and humanitarian crisis affecting the country’s people.

Speaking to UN News, the organisation’s top aid official in Myanmar, Acting Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator Ramanathan Balakrishnan, described how people have been severely impacted across the country since the junta’s power grab on 1 February.

“The situation in the country is characterized now by instability and a deteriorating socio-economic and security situation and to add to that we have a raging third wave of COVID-19,” said Mr. Balakrishnan in an exclusive interview.

Highlighting the ongoing nature of armed resistance to State security forces “in several ethnic minority areas” including in the states of Shan, Chin and Kachin, the UN official said that more than 200,000 people had been uprooted from their homes there to date.

Displacement swelling

In Rakhine state before the coup, the UN Humanitarian Response Plan pointed to some one million people including internally displaced people in need of urgent assistance, but “this number has only swelled”, Mr. Balakrishnan insisted.

More widely, “following the coup, an additional two million were identified as those in urgent need of humanitarian aid, and those were largely in the urban areas of Yangon and Mandalay”, he said, adding that the intensification of clashes and the worsening socio-economic situation was pushing “tens of thousands of people” into a humanitarian space” every day.

Echoing concerns over rights abuses by UN Children’s Fund UNICEF and others, Mr. Balakrishnan condemned the ongoing and widespread use of lethal force by the military against civilian protesters.

Rising hunger

Looking ahead, the UN’s priorities include ensuring that millions of people do not fall further into hunger, the aid official said. “There has been an increase in the price of basic commodities for many people…this has also resulted in a reduction of the nutrition value of the food basket that people usually take as they substitute their regular food with cheaper, more readily available items.”

Turning to Myanmar’s health system, which is facing extreme pressure because of the coronavirus crisis, as well as attacks on medical personnel and facilities in Myanmar – and a civil disobedience movement by some health professionals – Mr. Balakrishnan warned that even basic services had been disrupted across the country.

Standing with Myanmar’s people

In a message of solidarity, the top aid official insisted that the UN remained committed to respecting the will of the country’s people.

This was despite limited access to parts of the country linked to security concerns and disruption to the banking system, which limited the UN’s ability to transfer funds to humanitarian partners responsible for delivering aid.

The UN will continue to call out human rights violations and is committed to stay and deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar, in addition to sending in the COVID-19 response,” Mr. Balakrishnan said.

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Health & Wellness

Delta variant, a warning the COVID-19 virus is getting ‘fitter and faster’

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Cases and deaths resulting from COVID-19 continue to climb worldwide, mostly fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, which has spread to 132 countries, said the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday.

Almost 4 million cases worldwide were reported last week to WHO and the agency expects the total number of cases to pass 200 million, in the next two weeks.

“And we know this is an underestimate”, underscored Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus during his regular COVID-19 briefing.

Infections have increased in every region of the world, with some even reaching 80 per cent more in the past month. In Africa, deaths have increased by 80 per cent over the same period, the official warned.

Overwhelmed

Tedros blamed the rise of cases on increased social mixing and mobility, the inconsistent use of public health and social measures, and inequitable vaccine use. He said “hard-won gains” are in jeopardy or being lost, and health systems in many countries are increasingly overwhelmed.

“WHO has warned that the COVID-19 virus has been changing since it was first reported, and it continues to change. So far, four variants of concern have emerged, and there will be more as long as the virus continues to spread”, he underscored.

A higher viral load

Lead WHO epidemiologist and COVID-19 technical lead, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, explained that the Delta variant has certain mutations that allow the virus to adhere to human cells more easily and that experts are also seeing a higher viral load in individuals infected.

She called Delta “dangerous and the most transmissible SARS-CoV-2 virus to date”. 

“There are some laboratory studies that suggest that there’s increase replication in some of the modelled human airway systems”, she added.

In terms of severity, Dr. Van Kerkhove highlighted that there has been an increase in hospitalizations in certain countries affected by the variant, “but we haven’t yet seen an increase in mortality”.

The WHO expert reminded that although there is some data that suggest that people vaccinated can get infected and transmit the variant, the likelihood is much reduced after the second dose has been administered and reached full effectiveness.

She also clarified that Delta is not specifically targeting children as some reports have suggested, but warned that as long as the variants are circulating, they will infect anybody that is not taking proper precautions.

Continuing to evolve

“It’s in the virus’s interests to evolve, viruses are not alive they don’t have a brain to think through this, but they become more fit the more they circulate, so the virus will likely become even more transmissible because this is what viruses do, they evolve they change overtime”, Dr. Van Kerkhove warned, echoing Tedros’ remarks.

We have to do what we can to drive it down”, she added, reminding that public health and social measures do work against the Delta variant, and that the vaccines do prevent disease and death.

Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, said that even with the virus getting “faster and fitter” the gameplan does not change, but It needs to be implemented more efficiently.

“Delta is a warning that this virus is evolving, but it is also a call to action before more dangerous variants emerge”, he said.

Shots for Africa

Last month, the WHO chief announced the setting up of a technology transfer hub for mRNA vaccines In South Africa as part of WHO’s efforts to scale up production of vaccines and their distribution in Africa.

“Today we have taken another step forward, with a letter of intent that sets out the terms of collaboration signed by the partners in the hub: WHO; the Medicines Patent Pool; Afrigen Biologics; the Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa; the South African Medical Research Council and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention”, Tedros explained.

He added that WHO’s goal remains to aid every country in vaccinating at least 10% of its population by the end of September, at least 40% by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year.

“We are a long way off achieving those targets. So far, just over half of countries have fully vaccinated 10% of their population, less than a quarter of countries have vaccinated 40%, and only 3 countries have vaccinated 70%”, Tedros warned.

The WHO head reminded that the global distribution of vaccines remains unjust, despite expert warnings and appeals, and said that all regions remain at risk, “none more so, than Africa”.

“On current trends, nearly 70% of African countries will not reach the 10% vaccination target by the end of September”, he cautioned.

New tool to fight Delta

Tedros also announced that on response to the Delta surge, the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator is launching the Rapid ACT-Accelerator Delta Response, or RADAR, and issuing an urgent call for 7.7 billion U.S. dollars for tests, treatments and vaccines. 

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Africa Today

Investing in Key Sectors to Help Nigeriens Recover From the Health and Security Crises

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The Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the security situation continue to undermine the Nigerien economy, wiping out years of hard-won gains in poverty reduction.  A number of fiscal policy options are, however, available to help the country enhance public expenditure efficiency and increase its GDP by up to 2%. These are the findings of the World Bank’s latest economic and poverty update for Niger published today.

The report titled “Maximizing Public Expenditure Efficiency for Rebuilding Better” analyzes the impact of the health and security crises on Niger’s economy. The economy grew by 5.9% in 2019, but slowed to 3.6% in 2020, as a result of the combined impact of these crises. This sharp downturn increased poverty levels and pushed an additional 400,000 people into extreme poverty.

Nigeriens have been hard hit by the volatile security situation and these long months in the pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of children being kept out of school and deprived of proper health care, which will adversely affect their future,” notes Joelle Dehasse, World Bank Country Manager for Niger. “Turning this situation around will require massive and effective investments in human capital over the next few years.”

The report notes that these investments must be accompanied by bold structural and sectoral reforms aimed, among other things, at mobilizing more domestic resources, modernizing the administration, including the civil service, and promoting sound, prudent, and transparent government spending.

The projections for 2021 are nevertheless positive and economic growth is expected to rebound to 5.5%, driven by the reopening of the border with Nigeria, the resumption of large investment projects, and the normalization of several supply chains. However, these projections remain subject to the duration of the pandemic and the availability of vaccines, as well as to climate hazards and their impact on agricultural production and livelihoods.

The government of Niger has made tremendous progress in recent years in managing its public finances, giving high priority to social spending,” says Paolo Di Lorenzo, World Bank Senior Economist and co-author of the report. “However, public expenditure pressures remain high, partly due to the deteriorating security situation. Against this backdrop, the authorities should take further steps to improve domestic resource mobilization and public spending efficiency.”

The report’s authors recommend reprioritization across a number of key sectors in order to ensure Niger’s strong economic rebound.  These recommendations aim to redirect government revenues to basic social services and essential public infrastructure in order to maximize growth opportunities and social welfare. “Implementing the recommendations in the education sector will help improve spending and reallocate resources within the sector,” says Blaise Ehowe Nguem, Country Economist for Niger. “This will improve the quality of education, thereby reducing repetition and dropout rates.

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