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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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Stranded seafarers: A “humanitarian crisis”

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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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Azerbaijan Makes Progress in Health and Education, but Needs to Invest More

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Young people in Azerbaijan, like elsewhere in the Europe and Central Asia region, are being provided with the opportunities needed to grow into productive adults, thanks to continued investments in health and education during their childhood and teenage years, says the latest update of the World Bank’s  Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures pre-pandemic human capital outcomes around the world.

This year’s report includes a decade-long analysis of human capital development from 2010 to 2020 in 103 countries. Azerbaijan is among the top 10 global improvers in progress made on health and education. 

However, the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting turbulence in the commodity markets are threatening the gains made so far, with numerous challenges to maintaining health and education services in the face of pandemic-related restrictions to protect public health. 

Azerbaijan’s HCI value is 0.58, meaning that a child born today in Azerbaijan can expect to achieve 58 percent of the productivity of a fully educated adult in optimal health. This is slightly higher than average for the Upper-Middle Income Countries. However, Azerbaijan has room for improvement in terms of the productivity of its people. For example, among the region’s emerging economies, a child born in Poland today can expect to achieve 75 percent of productivity when she grows into an adult. 

“Governments in Europe and Central Asia have done well in prioritizing investment in health and education, which are key drivers of growth and development. The challenges unleashed by Covid-19, however, require an even stronger policy response, including greater use of technology to improve service delivery and enhanced social assistance programs, to ensure that people receive quality education and health care,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region.

The recently completed study Survive, Learn, Thrive: Strategic Human Capital Investments to Accelerate Azerbaijan’s Growth, carried out by the World Bank and Government of Azerbaijan, has identified progress and challenges in building and activating human capital in Azerbaijan. Over the last 10 years child mortality and child stunting rates in Azerbaijan have dropped considerably. However, despite increased years of schooling, there are widening inequalities in learning outcomes (students from wealthier families scored the equivalent of three years of schooling above students from poorer families on Harmonized Learning Outcomes). Azerbaijan also faces a growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) for which high out-of-pocket (OOP) payments (accounting for 79 percent of current health spending) are not enough to counter the growing number of NCDs. 

To tackle ongoing human capital development challenges in the education sector, Azerbaijan needs to increase access to early learning programs and improve relevance of the higher education system. In the health system, it needs to improve the system’s response to chronic diseases and increase the efficiency of financial resources to ensure better health care provision. In the area of social protection and labor, the country needs to increase investment in social assistance to support the most vulnerable and expand the scope and coverage of active labor market programs.

“Azerbaijan’s population, its ‘human capital’, is the most precious resource in the country and the World Bank is committed to supporting opportunities to further enhance the well-being and productivity of the population – across ages and genders and regions,” said Sarah Michael, World Bank Country Manager for Azerbaijan.

The World Bank’s HCI looks at a child’s trajectory, from birth to age 18, on such critical metrics as child survival (birth to age 5); expected years of primary and secondary education adjusted for quality; child stunting; and adult survival rates. HCI 2020, based on data up to March of this year, provides a crucial pre-pandemic baseline that can help inform health and education policies and investments for the post-pandemic recovery.

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More research needed into COVID-19 effects on children

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Students at a primary school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on the second day after their school reopened. The students, teachers and school administrators wear masks while at the school and maintain physical distancing. UNICEF/Seyha Lychheang

More research is needed into factors that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 disease among children and adolescents, the head of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has said, adding that while children may have largely been spared many of the most severe effects, they have suffered in other ways. 

Joining the heads of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at a press conference on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus outlined that since the start of the COVID pandemic, understanding its effects on children has been a priority.  

“Nine months into the pandemic, many questions remain, but we are starting to have a clearer picture. We know that children and adolescents can be infected and can infect others”, he said. 

“We know that this virus can kill children, but that children tend to have a milder infection and there are very few severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 among children and adolescents.” 

According to WHO data, less than 10 per cent of reported cases and less than 0.2 per cent of deaths are in people under the age of 20. However, additional research is needed into the factors that put children and adolescents at an increased risk. 

In addition, the potential long-term health effects in those who have been infected remains unknown. 

Referring to closure of schools around the world, which has hit millions of children, impacting not only their education but also a range of other important services, the WHO Director-General said that the decision to close schools should be a last resort, temporary and only at a local level in areas with intense transmission. 

Keeping classrooms open, ‘a job for all of us’

The time during which schools are closed should be used for putting in place measures to prevent and respond to transmission when schools reopen. 

“Keeping children safe and at school is not a job for schools alone, or governments alone or families alone. It’s a job for all of us, working together,” added Mr. Tedros. 

“With the right combination of measures, we can keep our kids safe and teach them that health and education are two of the most precious commodities in life,” he added. 

Guidance on reopening schools, while keeping children and communities safe 

Although children have largely been spared many of the most severe health effects of the virus, they have suffered in other ways, said Director-General Tedros, adding that closure of schools hit millions of children globally. 

Given different situations among countries: some, where schools have opened and others, where they have not, UNESCO, UNICEF and WHO, issued updated guidance on school-related public health measures in the context of COVID-19.  

Based on latest scientific evidence, the guidance provides practical advice for schools in areas with no cases, sporadic cases, clusters of cases or community transmission.  They were developed with input from the Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Educational Institutions and COVID-19, established by the three UN agencies in June. 

Schools provide critical, diverse services 

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, also highlighted the importance of school, not only for teaching, but also for providing health, protection and – at times – nutrition services. 

“The longer schools remain closed, the more damaging the consequences, especially for children from more disadvantaged backgrounds … therefore, supporting safe reopening of schools must be a priority for us all”, she said. 

In addition to safely reopening schools, attention must focus on ensuring that no one is left behind, Ms. Azoulay added, cautioning that in some countries, children are missing from classes, amid fears that many – especially girls – may not ever return to schools. 

Alongside, ensuring flow of information and adequate communication between teachers, school administrators and families; and defining new rules and protocols, including on roles of and trainings for teachers, managing school schedules, revising learning content, and providing remedial support for learning losses are equally important, she said. 

“When we deal with education, the decisions we make today will impact tomorrow’s world,” said the UNESCO Director-General. 

A global education emergency 

However, with half the global student population still unable to return to schools, and almost a third of the world’s pupils unable to access remote learning, the situation is “nothing short of a global education emergency”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. 

“We know that closing schools for prolonged periods of time can have devastating consequences for children,” she added, outlining their increased exposure risk of physical, sexual, or emotional violence. 

The situation is even more concerning given the results from a recent UNICEF survey which found that almost a fourth of the 158 countries questioned, on their school reopening plans, had not set a date to allow schoolchildren back to the classrooms. 

“For the most marginalized, missing out on school – even if only for a few weeks – can lead to negative outcomes that last a lifetime,” warned Ms. Fore. 

She called on governments to prioritize reopening schools, when restrictions are lifted, and to focus on all the things that children need – learning, protection, and physical and mental health – and ensure the best interest of every child is put first. 

And when governments decide to keep schools closed, they must scale up remote learning opportunities for all children, especially the most marginalized.  

“Find innovative ways – including online, TV and radio – to keep children learning, no matter what”, stressed Ms. Fore. 

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