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Regional Statistics Project Will Help Close Data Gaps on Poverty and Gender in the Pacific

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$4.4 million to modernize statistical and data collection in the Pacific, and another US$2 million each for Tonga and Kiribati to act as ‘pilot’ countries to help demonstrate improvements in regional data collection in coming years.

With the Pacific Islands covering an estimated 640 inhabited islands spread over an area equal to 15% of the globe’s surface, the challenge of gathering accurate, timely and relevant data is immense. The lack of quality data – particularly from some of the region’s most remote locations – remains a critical roadblock to the region’s understanding of poverty, welfare and social developments. Addressing data deficiencies has the potential to drive better policy development and lasting change.

“Our global experience consistently demonstrates that for policy change to be effective, governments must have solid data and statistics on which to base their decision making,” said Michel Kerf, Country Director for the World Bank in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “This is why we are investing in helping the Pacific to build a common approach to statistics and data-gathering so that cross-country comparisons can be conducted and regional trends monitored thereby improving the information available for policy making.”

The Statistical Innovation and Capacity Building in Pacific Islands project will support the Statistics for Development Division of the Pacific Community (SPC-SDD) to strengthen its role as a ‘statistical system leader’, promote innovation and better disseminate the recommendations from the Pacific Statistics Methods Board.

The SPC-SDD will also work with the National Statistics Offices in Tonga and Kiribati to modernize their data collection processes so as to improve the comparability, accessibility and sustainability of statistics across the region. Additional countries are expected to join the program in the future.

“Statistics are fundamental to achieving our regional development goals of poverty eradication, food security and equality, economic growth and more,” confirmed Epeli Waqavonovono, Statistics for Development Director, Pacific Community (SPC). “Through this project, we will gain a better understanding of the evolving economic situation in the region and help support policy development that better meets the needs of Pacific people, including marginalized populations such as women and persons with disabilities. It’s a great example of what can be accomplished when like-minded organizations such as SPC and the World Bank work in partnership.”

Closing data gaps in the Pacific is a priority for the World Bank, particularly as a lack of quality data hinders efforts to track progress on gender inequality and the design of policies that could address the gender gap in the region. Fiji, which ranked 125 out of 144 countries, was the only Pacific Island country to be included in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap report due to an absence of reliable data from other countries in the region.

The data collected through the project will help inform the monitoring of national outcomes in the Tonga Strategic Development Framework and the Kiribati 20-year Vision (2016-2036). Both countries are already experiencing the extreme impacts of climate change and capturing climate data as it relates to socio-economic indicators is an important focus for the National Statistics Offices.

These new projects are funded through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s most in-need countries, and are part of a new IDA Regional Program that seeks to address the considerable challenges of data deprivation and poor quality of statistics across the region. This regional program was prepared with the support of the Australian Government.

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea, supporting 77 projects totaling $1.73 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.

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‘Global solidarity’ needed, to find affordable, accessible COVID-19 vaccine

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In the race to end the coronavirus pandemic, the UN chief reminded a virtual medical conference on Thursday that “a vaccine, by itself, is not enough”.  

“We need global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message to the Global Vaccine Summit, convened to find and fund collective solutions for COVID-19-related vaccines and to strengthen routine immunization commitments and resources for other preventable diseases. 

COVID-19, the greatest public health crisis of the generation, has skyrocketed vaccines to the top of the global agenda.

‘Lifesaving miracle’

As “the most important public health intervention in history”, Mr. Guterres credited the “lifesaving miracle” of vaccinations, for saving tens of millions of lives each year, eradicating smallpox and preventing outbreaks of diseases like measles, rubella and tetanus.  

He maintained that a COVID-19 vaccine must be seen as “a global public good – a people’s vaccine”.

The UN chief lauded the “incredible work” of GAVI, the vaccine alliance, and its partners in allowing people of all ages and income levels throughout the world to access vaccines.  

“The United Nations is proud to be part of this effort towards universal health coverage”, he upheld, reiterating its commitment to being part of the next phase, “because there is still much work to do”. 

Against the backdrop of 20 million children missing their full complement of vaccines and one-in-five having received no vaccines at all, Mr. Guterres pointed out that under the shadow of COVID-19, “their plight is even more desperate”. 

He painted a picture of halted immunization campaigns and broadening gaps in global vaccine delivery.

Three commitments required

The Secretary-General appealed for three main commitments, beginning with finding safe ways to continue delivering vaccinations, “even as COVID-19 spreads”.  

Secondly, he asked that vaccine-delivery networks be used to deliver a range of other primary health services.  

And finally, when the COVID-19 vaccine does become available, that it reaches everyone.

“Disease know no borders”, concluded the UN chief, “that is why a fully funded GAVI will be critical to ensure we continue to progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. 

World leaders chime in

Chaired by the United Kingdom, leaders from around the world outlined their latest thinking during the summit, on the need for, and progress towards, an equitable vaccine

“Vaccines work, and 86 per cent of the world’s children have been reached by routine immunization”, said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “In the midst of a global pandemic it has never been more important to build capacity to respond to disease outbreaks and work with organizations to deliver vaccines”.

The King of Jordan, Abdullah bin Al Hussein, called guaranteed equal access “not only the moral and just approach, it is also in the interest of the entire international community… It is our responsibility as an international community to make sure the most vulnerable are not left behind”.

Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, maintained that it was “pivotal” not to allow the pandemic to affect the importance of fighting other infectious diseases or “to exert collective efforts to resume immunization campaigns against vaccine-preventable diseases”. 

Ethiopia President, Sahle-Work Zewde, underscored the importance of inoculations by saying that her country had boosted routine immunization from 30 per cent in 2000, to 72 per cent today, spelling out that “since 2018, 1.1 million girls have been spared from the scourge of cervical cancer due to the introduction of the HPV vaccine”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed Germany’s continued support, saying, “We want to increase the chance for more than 300 million young people to have a healthy life. We are talking about 300 million individual lives – not just a number.”

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Asian countries urged to honour right to freedom of expression, over pandemic fear

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, addresses the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 24 June 2019. UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferre

A dozen countries in the Asia-Pacific region have seen an alarming clampdown on freedom of expression during the COVID-19 crisis, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday.

In her appeal to authorities that any action they take to stop the spread of false information should adhere to the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, Ms. Bachelet said that “in these times of great uncertainty”, citizens had a right to voice their concerns.

Opinions must be heard

“Medical professionals, journalists, human rights defenders and the general public must be allowed to express opinions on vitally important topics of public interest, such as the provision of health care and the handling of the health and socio-economic crisis, and the distribution of relief items,” she said.

From Bangladesh to Vietnam and from Myanmar to the Philippines, the High Commissioner detailed how people had been fined, arrested or attacked for allegedly spreading misinformation online about COVID-19 or for criticizing their Government’s response.

In Cambodia, Ms Bachelet noted that UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) had documented multiple arrests – including that of a 14-year-old girl – for public comments and social media posts about the pandemic.

“A number have been charged with spreading so-called ‘fake news’ or ‘false information’, alleged incitement to commit a felony, and for allegedly plotting against the Government,” the High Commissioner said.

According to the UN human rights office, 14 individuals remain in detention, including 10 associated with the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the main opposition party that was dissolved in 2017.

Countries already have ‘fake news’ laws

More generally, the High Commissioner noted that many of the countries she highlighted already had laws to stop alleged “fake news” and online media that raised human rights concerns.

This legislation had also been used in other contexts to deter legitimate speech, especially public debate, criticism of government policy and suppress freedom of expression, she added.

In Myanmar, the Kayin State Court had convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment the chief editor of the Dae Pyaw News Agency, on charges of wrongly publishing an article stating that one person died from the virus, the High Commissioner said.

He was arrested, charged, tried, and convicted in under one week after being accused of making a “statement that could cause or incite public fear or mutiny”.

While recognising the need to restrict misinformation or disinformation to protect public health – or incitement of hatred towards minority groups – this should not result in censorship, either purposeful or unintentional, Ms. Bachelet insisted.

“While Governments may have a legitimate interest in controlling the spread of misinformation in a volatile and sensitive context, this must be proportionate and protect freedom of expression”, she said.

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The Great Reset: A Unique Twin Summit to Begin 2021

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“The Great Reset” will be the theme of a unique twin summit to be convened by the World Economic Forum in January 2021. The 51st World Economic Forum Annual Meeting will bring together global leaders from government, business and civil society, and stakeholders from around the world in a unique configuration that includes both in-person and virtual dialogues.

“We only have one planet and we know that climate change could be the next global disaster with even more dramatic consequences for humankind. We have to decarbonize the economy in the short window still remaining and bring our thinking and behaviour once more into harmony with nature,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“In order to secure our future and to prosper, we need to evolve our economic model and put people and planet at the heart of global value creation. If there is one critical lesson to learn from this crisis, it is that we need to put nature at the heart of how we operate. We simply can’t waste more time,” said HRH The Prince of Wales.

“The Great Reset is a welcome recognition that this human tragedy must be a wake-up call. We must build more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and the many other global changes we face,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations, New York.

“A Great Reset is necessary to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being,” added Schwab “The global health crisis has laid bare the unsustainability of our old system in terms of social cohesion, the lack of equal opportunities and inclusiveness. Nor can we turn our backs on the evils of racism and discrimination. We need to build into this new social contract our intergenerational responsibility to ensure that we live up to the expectations of young people.”

“COVID-19 has accelerated our transition into the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have to make sure that the new technologies in the digital, biological and physical world remain human-centred and serve society as a whole, providing everyone with fair access,” he said.

“This global pandemic has also demonstrated again how interconnected we are. We have to restore a functioning system of smart global cooperation structured to address the challenges of the next 50 years. The Great Reset will require us to integrate all stakeholders of global society into a community of common interest, purpose and action,” said Schwab. “We need a change of mindset, moving from short-term to long-term thinking, moving from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder responsibility. Environmental, social and good governance have to be a measured part of corporate and governmental accountability,” he added.

This innovative summit will be a very different Annual Meeting, reflecting the spirit of the Great Reset. It will provide a unique opportunity at the beginning of 2021 to bring together the key global government and business leaders in Davos, yet framed within a global multistakeholder summit driven by the younger generation to ensure that the Great Reset dialogue pushes beyond the boundaries of traditional thinking and is truly forward-oriented.

To do so, the World Economic Forum will draw on thousands of young people in more than 400 cities around the world (the Global Shapers Community) who will be interconnected with a powerful virtual hub network to interact with the leaders in Davos. Each of those hubs will have an open house policy to integrate all interested citizens into this dialogue, making the Annual Meeting open to everyone. In addition, global media and social media networks will mobilize millions of people, enabling them to share their input while also providing them with access to the Annual Meeting discussions in Davos.

The announcement of the Great Reset was made by HRH The Prince of Wales and Professor Schwab during a virtual meeting, followed by statements by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

Their statements were supported by voices from all stakeholder groups of global society, including Victoria Alonsoperez, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Chipsafer, Uruguay, and a Young Global Leader; Caroline Anstey, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pact, USA; Ajay S. Banga, Chief Executive Officer, Mastercard, USA; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Brussels; Ma Jun, Chairman, Green Finance Committee, China Society for Finance and Banking, and a Member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the People’s Bank of China; Bernard Looney, Chief Executive Officer, bp, United Kingdom; Juliana Rotich, Venture Partner, Atlantica Ventures, Kenya; Bradford L. Smith, President, Microsoft, USA; and Nick Stern, Chair, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, United Kingdom.

In the run-up to the Annual Meeting, the Forum will host a virtual series, The Great Reset Dialogues. These dialogues are a joint initiative of the World Economic Forum and HRH The Prince of Wales. Contributions to the Great Reset will also be invited through UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s digital platform to crowdsource innovations for the Sustainable Development Goals.

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