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Learning from the pandemic to better fulfil the right to health

Dunja Mijatovic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has concentrated minds about the resilience of our health care systems and it is challenging member states’ health policies and their effectiveness. In addition, doctors, medical staff and health care staff are under unprecedented pressure. Do we have sufficient medical facilities and supplies to respond to the emergency even when strict containment measures are in place? Can our human right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health be fulfilled under the current circumstances? Are health care workers sufficiently protected and can they manage the immense responsibility placed on their shoulders? In the midst of this tragic pandemic we cannot pretend to have all the answers to these existential questions. But we can highlight some of the fundamentals of a health care system which seeks to meet the needs of the entire population and which builds resilience in order to respond to public health emergencies.

It is obvious that all people have the right to the protection of their health against the pandemic. Universal health coverage creates the basis for this. Broader social protection measures are necessary to address entrenched health inequalities. A focus on gender plays a central role in effective responses. The development of inclusive and resilient health care systems, which is likely to take place under conditions of renewed austerity, should eschew the negative effects on the right to health experienced during the economic crisis of the previous decade.

Universal health coverage

The fulfilment of the right to health is often viewed as an issue about access to health care. During my visit to Greece in 2018, I observed the negative impact of long-term austerity measures on the availability and affordability of health care. I urged the authorities to remove obstacles to accessing universal medical coverage and to increase their efforts to recruit health care staff. The achievement of universal health coverage is one of the targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), universal coverage means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It includes the full range of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.

Efforts to achieve universal health coverage received a boost on 10 October 2019 with the UN General Assembly’s adoption of a high-level political declaration “Universal health coverage: moving together to build a healthier world”, following its approval by world leaders in September. The declaration recognises that health contributes to the promotion and protection of human rights and makes a commitment to covering one billion additional people by 2023 with quality essential health services, with a view to covering all people by 2030. The declaration stresses that strong and resilient health systems, capable of reaching people in vulnerable situations, can ensure pandemic preparedness and effective responses to any outbreak.

It is significant that the declaration specifically covers mental health and well-being as an essential component of universal health coverage and stresses the need to fully respect the human rights of people experiencing mental health problems. Mental health professionals have pointed out that the current pandemic is resulting in a parallel epidemic of fear, anxiety, and depression. The highly stressful environment and the containment measures taken out of necessity place a significant burden on the mental health of the general population. Existing mental health conditions may also worsen further, and opportunities for regular outpatient visits are narrowing. People treated in psychiatric institutions find themselves in an especially vulnerable situation, with diminishing access to care and additional risks of infection. Public Health England has issued detailed guidance on preserving mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Civil society representatives have expressed concern that the UN Declaration does not in fact reaffirm the right to health as an entitlement and that it leaves too much discretion to governments in determining the extent of universal health coverage with reference to “nationally determined sets”. Measures to address the needs of migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons and indigenous peoples have also been qualified to be applied “in line with national contexts and priorities”. In addition, NGOs have highlighted funding gaps for universal coverage and the essential role of public health systems in meeting the health care needs of vulnerable populations. It is crucial that the current gaps in universal coverage are not allowed to become obstacles to a comprehensive response to the coronavirus pandemic and the availability of care for all.

In Europe, the unaffordability of health care has been an important barrier to the full realisation of universal health coverage. Significant out-of-pocket payments can result in unmet needs or financial hardship for service users. According to the WHO, this may be the case in the majority of European countries. In my 2019 report on Armenia, I made a connection between low public health expenditure and the difficulties experienced by older people in obtaining specialised treatment and palliative care. During my visit to Estonia in 2018, I noted that 1 in 4 persons above 65 in poor health could not afford care. Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) has pointed out that many people belonging to disadvantaged groups may also face issues about health insurance entitlement.

Health inequalities and social determinants of health   

The concerns about the gaps in the reach of universal health coverage in Europe are related to health inequalities between and within countries, and the broader issues of poverty and social determinants of health. The right to health is closely interconnected with other social rights such as the rights to social security and protection, and the right to housing. Since the WHO Constitution defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, it is unlikely that universal health coverage alone would be effective in addressing health needs in a sustainable manner. A broader social rights approach is required.

The landmark health equity status report by WHO Europe from 2019 reveals that health inequalities in Europe have remained the same or have worsened over the last 10-15 years. Although average life expectancy across the WHO European region of 52 countries has increased for both women (82 years) and men (76 years), significant health inequities remain between social groups. Women’s life expectancy is cut by up to 7 years and men’s by up to 15 years if they find themselves among the most disadvantaged groups. Regional inequalities in life expectancy continue to persist or worsen within most countries. It is also worrying that health gaps between socioeconomic groups increase with age.

The report makes a highly useful contribution in identifying social determinants and drivers of the health gap and in so doing maps means of improving the situation. In addition to universal access to health care, social protection, housing, education and employment are significant factors in improving health status. The report recommends integrated solutions based on a combination of interventions. Remarkably, it argues that the most cost-effective means of closing the health divide is increased investment in housing and community amenities.

Unfortunately, affordable housing is in short supply in Europe and the overall spending by governments on social housing stood at only 0.66% of the European GDP in 2017, as I noted in an article in January this year. In December 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, sounded the alarm about the current global housing crisis and published guidelines for the practical implementation of the right to adequate housing.

In March, she pointed out that housing had become the front-line defence against the coronavirus as governments relied on people to stay home to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The Rapporteur expressed special concern at homeless people and those living in grossly inadequate housing, often in overcrowded conditions or lacking access to water and sanitation, making them particularly vulnerable to the virus. It is obvious that homeless people should not be penalised for not being able to stay at home during the pandemic. In Scotland, local authorities have made unoccupied student flats and hotel rooms available to rough sleepers in the current situation. A similar positive initiative was undertaken by the UK government in England. Long-term housing solutions for homeless people remain necessary. They will make our societies more resilient against crises and pandemics.  

Gender-responsive approaches to health and equality

Gender is another determinant of health. The differences in health status and needs between women and men are not simply related to biological differences but to the impact of societal gender norms and stereotypes. The WHO has pointed out that factors affecting notions of masculinity and femininity and the way gender roles are defined in societies can have a massive effect on the health of men and women. We need gender-responsive approaches to health which take gender norms and inequalities into account and act to reduce their harmful effects. Progress towards gender equality should have a positive impact on the health of both women and men. Ultimately, gender-responsive approaches based on equality can help transform the gender roles, norms and structures which act as barriers to achieving healthy lives and well-being for everybody.  

The higher average life expectancy of women in comparison with men is usually referred to as the “mortality advantage”. 70% of the European population over 85 are women. However, the additional years are often accompanied with ill health or disability. Women in Europe live on average 10 years in ill health while the figure for men is 6 years. The WHO report on women’s health and well-being in Europe highlights cardiovascular diseases, mental health problems, gender-based violence and cyber-bullying as prevalent health issues among women. Breast, cervical, lung and ovarian cancers pose significant burdens to women’s health. Women consider themselves less healthy than men and report more illness. They are less represented in clinical trials making it more difficult to determine safe dosage ranges and possible side effects of medicines for women. Sexual and reproductive health is another area where gender-specific and human rights-based responses are necessary.    

Norms around masculinity and socio-economic factors are related to men’s risk-taking behaviours and underuse of health services across many European countries. The WHO report on men’s health and well-being in Europe points out that men have unhealthier smoking practices and dietary patterns, heavier alcohol drinking habits and higher rates of injuries and interpersonal violence than women. 86% of all male deaths can be attributed to noncommunicable diseases and injuries, especially cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Raised blood pressure is a leading risk factor with a higher prevalence than in women. Suicide rates among 30-49-year-old men are five times higher than among women of the same age. Yet men report better subjective health than women and use health services less often than them.

It is reported that the coronavirus has gender-differential effects. The fatality rate for men appears to be up to twice as high as for women. Although we do not yet know the cause for this, it has been suggested that both biological factors and gendered risk behaviours, such as smoking, may be relevant. Gender matters in responses to the pandemic, too. Social distancing or lockdowns at home bear a specific danger to women’s health in terms of a higher risk of domestic violence. Many women victims of violence may experience additional difficulties in seeking help in shelters which have closed down or decide not to seek medical attention for fear of contagion. Women’s exposure to the coronavirus is aggravated by the fact that they are in the clear majority among health care staff and as informal and family carers. It is essential that the prioritisation of the availability of health services during the pandemic does not discriminate on the ground of gender. This also applies to access to sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion.

The WHO European region is the first WHO region to implement strategies on the health and well-being of both women and men in a coordinated way and following a human rights-based approach. Ireland was the first country in Europe to prepare a health policy specifically targeting men already in 2008. Health policies which address both women’s and men’s health in gender-specific ways through the different stages of life are mutually reinforcing and highlight gender as a central determinant of health.

Way out from the crisis

The pandemic is a danger to all of us but there are many groups of people who are in an especially vulnerable position or highly exposed to it. Older persons find themselves in a high-risk group and inter-generational solidarity is now in high demand. Many persons with disabilities rely on the support of others in their daily activities and the continuity and safety of such support must be guaranteed during the crisis. People living in institutions or detention face a high risk of infection and should be afforded protective measures. I have highlighted the situation of immigration detainees and prisoners specifically. Homeless people are extremely vulnerable as stated earlier. The living conditions of many Roma remain inadequate with limited access to water and sanitation. A great number of refugees and migrants find themselves in a similar situation.  

In the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all population groups should be able to access health care, including medicines and vaccines, without discrimination. Any absolute necessity for prioritisation in terms of limited resources must be based on sound medical evidence and the individual urgency of the required treatment. Everyone’s human dignity must be respected without putting into question the fundamental equality of every person’s life. Focused efforts are required to preserve mental health during the crisis and to ensure the continuity and safety of treatment.  

Positive measures should be applied to mitigate the risks of the pandemic on the health of groups who are particularly vulnerable or exposed to the coronavirus. Such measures should be effective and proportionate and could include, for example, enhanced social support, provision of adequate housing, access to water and sanitation, deinstitutionalisation, anticipated release from custody, facilitated access to protective equipment and coronavirus testing, provision of additional means of communication and the availability of information in accessible formats, among others. Gender-responsiveness should be considered as a regular aspect of the means to counter the pandemic.

I urge governments to alleviate the enormous pressure health professionals, the majority of whom are women, are facing in their work against the pandemic. Their safety at work is crucial and they must have access to effective protective equipment, regular coronavirus screening and antibody testing, and psychosocial support. Health workers and their families should be entitled to childcare arrangements and social protection measures to cover their work-related hazards. Any extraordinary care duties for health professionals not in active service must be necessary and accompanied by strict safeguards for ensuring their safety and well-being.

In the long run, member states should build resilient health care systems which cater to the needs of the entire population and enable robust responses to health emergencies. The achievement of universal and affordable health coverage, including for mental health, is critical for this endeavour. No one should be left behind in health care entitlement. There is a special need to promote deinstitutionalisation, outpatient services and primary health care.     

I urge governments to apply a gender-responsive approach in the implementation of health policies. They should identify and address gender-based health needs and aim to change unhealthy behaviours which are related to harmful gender stereotypes. It is necessary to unleash the potential of health promotion and protection as an effective tool for improving gender equality for both women and men.

Widening inequalities in health status must be addressed through a broader social rights approach. As people’s health and well-being are closely related to the social determinants of health, it is necessary to promote health through integrated approaches which combine universal coverage with protection against poverty, the eradication of homelessness, inclusive education and training, and access to employment. Focused efforts should be made to implement adequate, affordable and long-term housing solutions.

Council of Europe

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New Social Compact

Women During Covid Era

Priyanka Singh

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Authors: Priyanka Singh and Sujeet Singh*

No Country is cent percent successful in providing safe haven to its Women, her basic human Rights remains in suffocation all around the Globe. The ‘She’ Empowerment is a mythical concept even in today’s modern Civilization.

These ‘Covidnary Times’ are extremely challenging and Neo Normal. Be it the ‘Right to Life’ or ‘Rest in Peace’ both are now under the scowl of Coronavirus. The Covid era has made the existing ‘Vulnerable’ section more prone to abuse, Physical, sexual or Mental.

It won’t be incorrect if we postulate that it’s not the Monster disease called Covid-19 that is more daunting but the harrowing position of the Women, in the middle of this Pandemic Era. It remains a poisonous truth that women even in the 21st century had still not got the same status as men. The degraded state of women is visible, not only in the society as a whole but is prevalent in more severe form within the households and this makes women highly vulnerable in the Covid-19 Tsunami.

Violence against women is neither spatially nor temporally bounded Evil. It persists all around the Globe from time immemorial with the variation in the form of exploitation and atrocities. 

Any Pandemic like Covid-19 is bound to have draconian impact on the lives of women particularly those belonging to marginalized communities. This is primarily due to two major reasons, firstly the women in India within a given household remain neglected which means even if they become symptomatic of the deadly Coronavirus disease there is high probability of them being ignored especially in orthodox families that possess pre-existing patriarchy overdose. Secondly, because of the widespread educational deficiency which persists more in women than men in India. Information lacuna is more prevalent among them and in any digitally interconnected Global World ‘Information’ plays a role of a ‘Superhero’ capable enough to prevent the deadly Coronavirus disease

Note that only 45.9 percent women in India use their own mobile phones themselves 

The United Nations General Assembly in the year 1993 adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. This Declaration defines, violence against women as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’. 

According to the World Health Organization the violence against women is major Public Health Problem that has seized the woman’s basic human rights internationally. And particularly vulnerable are the women having forced social subordinate status and lower education standard are more prone to experience intimate Partner’s violence.

In the year 2017, it was estimated that 137 women across the world were killed by a member of their own family every day. More than a third were killed by their current or former intimate partner.

Women continue to exist as a neglected bunch and their plight is often swept under the rugs.

If one goes about analyzing the State of women in contemporary India, one may find a clear depiction that the women in India has been and still continue to be marginalized vis-à-vis the other dominant sex. However one cannot deny that the status of women has improved but still women need a far speedier journey to be covered.

And it is not only the women as homogeneous group which is being discriminated over centuries but the ‘women’ as broader group has many sub-groups of women which persists as the ‘Marginals among the Marginalized’ like the Dalits, Tribal, HIV Infected, Sex workers and women belonging to minority group. 

Going by the official data in India, the National Family Health Survey in 2016 revealed some deplorable Statistics which we cannot afford to ignore. It stated that 28.8 per cent women faced violence domestically by their respective spouses, 3.3 per cent women faced violence even during pregnancy. 

The story however is no different for the Women in America, their well-being is also under jeopardy. In the United States, a man beats a women every twelve seconds, the women in the lower income category tend to face six times more violence as compared to the American women in the higher income category. The women belonging to Indian-American & African-American subgroups are more threatened with domestic violence. The American-Indian women’s rate of  victimization is more than double that of other American women. The major cause of female injury related death during pregnancy in the United States was due to intimate Partner’s violence. The women with any type of disability are 40 per cent more at the risk of severe intimate Partner’s violence than women having no disability in America.

The National Crime Records Bureau’s Crime in India, 2018 statistics, highlights that a  grievous 31.9 percent cases were registered under the sub head Cruelty by husband or his relatives out of the total Indian Penal Code crimes committed against women. 

Again one should keep in mind that these figures might be a case of under reporting or no reporting at all. Mostly the women remain reluctant to report any kind of violence, primarily due to the terror they face within their given households.

Homely brutalisation of Women is also reconfirmed recently by National Commission Of Women, asserting a  steep surge in domestic violence complaints during the Covid-19 lockdown phase. This Physical abuse and exploitation of women also brings severe repercussions to her Mental Health. Various studies suggest that the prevalence of depression is more among the women than men in India.

In such a deadly era, it is highly unlikely that the required attention and care will be provided to the Women.

Although the Government of India in recent years has taken a number of ‘one of its kind’ initiatives which needs to be applauded with appreciation. But unfortunately the timely utilisation of fund allocated, implementation of schemes and legal remedies for Women at grassroot level has remained far behind expectations.

The discrimination, exploitation and the disadvantages faced by women starts even before she takes birth.

On the health front as well the percentage of Indian Women suffering ‘Anemia’ remains at a strikingly high figure of 53 per cent (NFHS, 2016). Lower ‘Public Expenditure’ on Health has acted as our ‘Back Pain’ of all times, for the past few years it has been more or less closer to 1 percent of the GDP. Although amid the Covid-19 lockdown phrases, there has been phenomenal upgradation in our Indian Health Infrastructure.

All the above, points to the gloomy state of women in our society, be it economic, social or political. However, in India it is not the case that initiatives are not taken up by the State but the major problem lies with the fatigued implementation of various pro-women schemes and whatever funds are allocated remains unutilised. 

Finally it can be concluded that the Vulnerability of women is likely to surge more in these Covidnary Times.

*Sujeet Singh is an Educator based (Delhi) India. Can be reached at sujeetsinghh123[at]gmail.com

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New Social Compact

Right to Education as an elementary Human Right: From Thinking to Living it

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The situation of education in general, and of higher education in particular, is not considered as a priority in developing countries. Unfortunately, all development depends on a good education. Many countries suffer not only of the absence of quality education, but also from a lack of accessibility for its citizens. Many of them suffer from not being able to study.

The exercise of citizenship must allow everyone to become an actor of society. To be an actor requires a good understanding of the role, the place and the rights be recognized by everyone. To be an actor means to be responsible in a social and democratic framework relying on values and references shared by all. «The practice of citizenship relies on participation spaces open to all. Otherwise, in many developing countries, as the level of education is very low, citizens do not consider themselves actors of their country’s development. »[1]They block the progress of their country and create other problems in security, the economy, politics, social issues and above all in an increase in unemployment. Indeed, a large part of the population is active, but instead of creating jobs, it is looking for employment. Thus, if everyone looks for a job, the number of openings is small. This has a negative impact on the resources of the State. «The challenges of contemporary societies are mostly characterised by complexity and are part of a global interdependence. In the face of globalization, the education of people to be good citizens must widen its scope from local, regional and national levels to a global dimension ».[2]

According to the document (UNESCO, 2014) UNESCO Education Strategy 2014-2021, approximately 774 million adults, of which two thirds are women, could neither read, nor write in 2011. More than 50% of this adult illiterate population lived in South and West Asia and a quarter approximately in sub-Saharan Africa; 10 countries alone represent 72% of the total. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of illiterate adults has, in fact, increased by 37% these last twenty years to reach 182 million in 2011. According to these forecasts, the world total will still be of 743 million in 2015, a reduction of only 16% as against the number in 1985-1994 with regard to data on illiteracy (UNESCO, 2014b). It is the aim of education for all (EFA) which is the most difficult to reach.

Although illiteracy is mostly concentrated in the developing and highly populated countries, the problem continues to be pervasive. Developed countries also present large pockets of poverty, in which evaluations show that no less than one adult on five, in other words 160 million persons, have very low literary competencies, being unable to read, write and calculate in daily life (UNESCO, 2012.

Literacy, beyond being a basic competency, is also a prerequisite to access to all forms and all levels of apprenticeship all along life, as well as a base enabling quality education for all.

Being deprived of basic literacy competencies is a factor that leads to being excluded from many aspects of existence, and it covers important dimensions of gender and poverty. Governments and lending institutions are often insufficiently concerned with illiteracy. In the same manner, less than 3% of the national education budget is devoted to literacy and adult education programmes.

Education and life-long training

Education and life-long training are key elements of a strong and reasoned strategy which have become a powerful weapon in a dynamic world obsessed by competitivity. The way we see our neighbours is also part of our worries when we are looking to be inspired by tools and policies that they develop for continuous qualitative and quantitative improvement, of our educational systems, that will lead to a social integration and cohesion of nations (Newgreen, 2002).

Education and higher education are fundamental elements. They allow each individual to build his life, not only on a private basis, but also professionally, and also to contribute to the economic, political, and social aspects of the country in which they live.

To be effective, higher education demands, as a fundamental element, time, a certain slow pace, stability, tranquillity and even a minimum of comfort. Education is one of the most important levers in development. It is also, one of the most efficient mechanisms to guarantee peace and stability of a country. «We live in a rapidly evolving world, increasingly interdependent, in which knowledge and innovation are major development factors ».[3]

Stakeholders in the general environment of higher education

According to Burridge et al, education and higher education are as important as water to ensure life. In light of our research, we have noticed that all the economic, political, and social development of a country depends in large part to education that will impact the general environment of that country, and thus of the entire region. Obviously, education takes its roots at primary school, but we have limited our research to higher education.

In the framework of our research, we have identified certain stakeholders such as the citizens who are directly impacted by war. A well-educated society, capable of distinguishing good from bad, will attempt to avoid certain conflicts so as to live in peace. The Afghan population suffers from a lack of education and this opens the possibility for certain rebel groups to convince young men to undertake acts that are contrary to peace.

Education is one of the important factors in the social and economic development of a country. All the actors of social and economic life, who are stakeholders, suffer the consequences of the absence of penetration of higher education, at best a very low penetration, as outlined by several reports, such as those of the World Bank, UNESCO, and what we also observe in our empirical experience.

All the stakeholders, in the private and public sectors, feel the low use or the near-absence of technological development, which, however, is an absolute need today so as to avoid an important delay in productivity and thus, competitivity. The different educational levels feel the absence of means to train students in the use of basic technology. We have not identified a theory which outlines the fact that societies in developing countries must remain unchanged.«In the competitive and dynamic environment of the modern economies of knowledge, the educational policies occupy a central place and, if needed, can fulfil the functions that are normally traditionally part of investment such as policies of social protection».[4]

The emergence of the notion of ‘Life competencies’

« The four pillars of a quality education as defined by UNESCO (2000) allows to put the basis of a strategy that could assist to raise this challenge. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Afghanistan and in many developing countries.

Learning to know : education must assist students to acquire the instruments of knowledge, in other words, the necessary tools of communication and oral expression, reading, arithmetic and the art of problem resolution, to possess both a solid general culture and the deep knowledge of a few fields, to understand what are the rights and responsibilities and, above all, to learn to learn.

Learning to do : education must assist students to acquire the know-how and the social and psychological competencies that will allow them to make informed decisions in diverse situations, to manage social relations and relations at work, to access local and global markets, use technological tools, satisfy fundamental needs and improve quality of their life and the life of others.

Learning to be: education must contribute to the flourishing of individual personality and allow them to act with more autonomy, of judgement, of critical thought and of personal responsibility. It must develop all the aspects of a person’s potential such as, for instance, memory, reasoning, esthetical values, spiritual values, physical capabilities and the art of communication. It must encourage a healthy lifestyle, the liking of sports, of leisure, of the appreciation of one’s own culture, the respect of ethical and moral code, the art of making oneself valuable and of defending oneself, and the capacity of rebounding.”

Learning to live together: education must reinforce the know-how at students and the aptitudes likely to help them to accept mutual interdependence».[5]

Result:

According to the recommendations of the Organisation of the United Nations (UN), the international responsibility of governments and political leaders regarding the exercise of the right to education is to find a rapid and lasting solution to this challenge so as to better integrate the international community which check the effective exercise of the right enumerated which check, on the one hand, the application and the conformity with the «United Nations Pact relating to economic social and cultural rights» and on the other «the United Nations Pact relating to civil and political rights.»«One can state that facing the uncertain future and the multiple challenges that post-conflict States experience that have led to irreversible, and often permanently damaging, consequences, education must bring a final advantage to re-establish, through freedom and social justice, the conditions of preventive and balanced management of conflicts. This allows it to progress, while respecting the conditions of sustainable development, towards the expected peace ideals. »[6]

« The knowledge generated by the economy of education may thus assist the governments to optimize their policies through better informed choice, thus contributing the attainment of the objective of a sustained and equitable growth that mobilises all the citizens.»[7]

According to UNESCO’s Education Strategy 2014-2021, the political leaders must study to better exploit the potential of information technologies and communication (TIC) in education. The presence of sustainable infrastructure and financing issues, of the content of quality-insurance, represent, in this field, key issues, just like the question of available means to develop and put in place pluri-dimensional policies in matters of online security and ethics.

Education to citizenship allows to acquire new knowledge that will directly impact the economic, political and social life of the country. «The first function of education is to transmit an inheritance and to teach the ethical principles and the framework of law (national and international) that determines communal living. However, society today more than ever, faces rapid changes and challenges in embedded in complex global challenges. These challenges require societal changes to which a citizen should be able to participate. However, transmission and education are insufficient on their own: the education for citizenship must allow the exercise of new competencies: to enter into complexity, to manage uncertainty, to position oneself, to imagine new solutions and to participate in their realization. »[8]

The general experience of life and the ordinary unfolding of things show that when citizens who live and work in a given society are very well educated, there are less conflicts, for they are able to resolve their problems by discussion, dialogue, and common understanding. The example of countries in which social dialogue is the main governance vector, such as Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, etc, is more than welcome.

A well-educated society can only be a democratic society because it constantly counts on the capacity and the behaviour of its citizens; and each citizen feels important for his country.

If we take the case of Afghanistan today, it is a rich country with considerable natural resources, but the country finds itself in extreme poverty. Our analysis brings two explanations for this situation: the poverty of knowledge, first of all, that does not allow citizens to contribute to the development of the country and to correctly use their competencies and their rights; the poverty of the leadership, on one hand, that concentrate themselves exclusively on the acquisition of power instead of concentrating on the best manner to help the population. As a backdrop, one can see a situation in which the political leaders take advantage of the naivety and low educational level of their fellow citizens to stay in power and to profit from their advantages.  

The conclusions of our research shows that it is impossible to develop a country without prioritising education. To illustrate our working methodology, we have developed a competency matrix to helps Afghanistan become a stable state by developing a distance learning system.

Matrix of the competencies of a citizen

CompetenciesCriteriaSituationToolsEvaluation
  Active citizen    Positively participate in his individual development which will impact later, on different scales, such as family, clan, tribal, ethnic and national, and even in light of the entire country’s development, instead of concentrating on his personal interests.    Live together and contribute together to one’s own development as well as that of the country.  Education is the primary source to become an active citizen, positive and understanding.  Living together without conflict Societal progress.      
Know one’s own importance and valuesBe capable of undergoing auto-evaluation, to understand its importance, oneself, one’s values and those that still require development.  Use positive values for oneself and for one’s family; allow all members of one’s family to optimize their capabilities.Schools, universities and the professional environment allow us to be with others and to understand well our values and those of others.Non-violent communication. Personal evolution.
Know one’s rights as well as those of othersUnderstand the importance of one’s fundamental rights as well as those of others.  Mutual respect, whatever the age, gender and/or belief.EducationAvoid violence and live in peace.
Capacity of expressing oneself  Aptitude to develop and defend oneself in a calm and legal manner.  Express oneself without wounding others and make the situation more complex.  EducationRespect others.
Consciousness of power  Understand one’s own values as a citizen, as well as the importance of voting rights.In exercising one’s voting rights, elect deserving persons so as to stabilize the country’s political and social situation.  EducationAppoint leaders according to their and competencies that have a positive impact on the country’s management.
Equality and freedom  Understand the importance of equality as well as truly expressing his claims depending on the situation in which he finds himself.  Rule of lawEducation Citizen’s behaviours that can degrade or improve the situation.  Live in peace and in freedom. Express oneself without fear in the mutual respect.
The possibility of taking responsibilitiesAssume responsibilities for one’s family and in society and understand one’s own contribution.  Be active in social, economic and political life when one wishes to do so.Give the chance in equal proportions to all citizens without any exclusion.Participate in socioeconomic developments.
Incidence on Human RightsDistinguish between good and bad, and become conscious of one’s acts against others.Be capable of understanding sanctions and consequences when one breaks the rules of law.  Education and the application of laws in an equalitarian manner.Respect of law and fundamental freedoms Avoid all sorts of conflicts.
Understand, in a basic way, at a small scale, the phenomena tied to globalisation.  Become conscious of the changes in other parts of the world.Each country develops first of all because of the sum of individual actions.Ensure diversity of the country thanks to the contributions of different nationalities.Understand the economic, political, social situation of other countries, and apply to oneself the positive elements, if necessary.
Importance of the familyUnderstand that the family is very important and that women play an important role in the family well as in society.Each member of the family plays an important role for himself as well as for economic, political and social development of the country.EducationRespect the choices and the points of view of each family member to avoid conflicts and violence.
Use (tools) of the new technologies of information and communication (TIC) in an interactive manner (language, technology).Instrumental competency.Une, in one’s activities, of adequate technologies to facilitate tasks; if necessary, transfer best practices.EducationFaster and more efficient results.
Interact in heterogeneous groups.Social competencies whatever the religion and(or the beliefs. Transcend the differences.  Participate in social life in one’s city, village, town, etc.EducationBe capable of working in groups, whatever its origins and/or beliefs.
Act in an autonomous and consensual manner.  Personal competency for all that concerns the decisions of daily life.  Assume the responsibility of one’s decisions.Education  Work individually if necessary, with the proposed solutions.
Knowledge, know-how, social skills and life planning.Know one’s past, concentrate on the present and create one’s future.Concentrate on the future rather than concentrating on useless subjects.Education  Have a life vision, according to one’s capacities.
Exemplarity  Be an active and contributing citizen thanks to one’s actions.Motivate others so that they also become active in life.Positive action of citizens.Show to others the importance of citizens to one’s country.

Conclusion

We have noted that it is very difficult, and even impossible to respect the citizenship norms or the establishment of democracy or the respect of human rights in a country without putting the accent on the competencies of active and understanding citizens. We have observed that in many countries, there are conflicts between politicians (points of view on political ideology), but they manage to discuss, to negotiate and to obtain power through democratic rights, for they are citizens. The lack of reflection of citizens in the choice of their leaders and their policy in developing countries is the source of numerous conflicts, including civil wars. Hence the importance of insisting on the apprenticeship of citizenship, which allows populations to be in charge of their destiny by actively participating in the life of the nation. This is why education must prioritise the development of the citizen’s competencies, such as the knowledge of oneself, of its importance and its values; the knowledge of the one’s rights and those of others; the ability to express oneself; the knowledge of one’s power; equality and freedom; the possibility of assuming one’s responsibilities; the primacy of human rights; the understanding of the phenomena linked to globalization; the centrality of the family; the use of new technologies of information; the knowledge, know-how, social skills and life planning; empowerment and exemplarity.

Each of these elements include, criteria, situations, tools and parameters to evaluate the citizen’s competency matrix which must serve as a learning tool of citizenship.

For a country to be able to develop economically, politically and socially, the political leaders must give priority above all else to an action plan on the competencies of citizens. This contribution will make it easier for the present and future leaders. If that is not the case, the government will transmit poverty from generation to generation.


[1] Education à la citoyenneté mondiale : https://www.education21.ch/fr/edd/approches/education-a-la-citoyennete-mondiale

[2] http://www.globaleducation.ch/globallearning_fr/pages/BA/BA_Re.php

[3] Stratégie de l’UNESCO : L’éducation 2014-2021.

[4] http://www.eenee.de/fr/eeneeHome/Economics-of-Education.html

[5] Colloque international Education, violences, conflits et perspectives de paix en Afrique, Yaoundé, 6 au 10 mars 2006,

Milène Trabelsi et Jean-Luc Dubois

[6] Colloque international « ducation, violences, conflits et perspectives de paix en Afrique, Yaoundé, 6 au 10 mars 2006,

Milène Trabelsi et Jean-Luc Dubois

[7] http://www.eenee.de/fr/eeneeHome/Economics-of-Education.html

[8] Charly Maurer, L’éducation à la citoyenneté, Fondation Éducation et Développement, 2008, 4

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New Social Compact

Social Innovators of the Year – meet the first responders to the COVID-19 crisis

MD Staff

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Lindiwe Matlali, Founder and CEO, Africa Teen Geeks

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship today announced 23 awardees for social innovation in 2020.

From building hospitals in rural India, empowering Black-communities in Brazil, providing financial resources to last-mile communities in Ghana, harnessing 4IR technology to promote equity in education in South Africa, raising over 100 million USD for lower income families in the USA, to breaking the glass ceiling in the public sector in Spain, the 2020 Social Innovators of the Year includes a list of outstanding founders and chief executive officers, multinational and regional business leaders, government leaders and recognized experts.

This ecosystem of change-makers is being recognised for driving significant social and environmental impact in service of vulnerable and excluded communities and have been well placed to respond to the needs of those disproportionately affected by the COVID pandemic.

The awardees were selected by Schwab Foundation board members in recognition of their innovative approach and potential for global impact. Some of these Board members include Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark (2011-2015), and social innovation expert Johanna Mair, Professor of Organization, Strategy and Leadership at the Hertie School of Governance in Germany, and H.M. Queen Mathilde of Belgium (Honorary Board Member).

“The Schwab Foundation Social Innovators stand for trust, truth and service. They truly devote their lives through innovative actions to improve livelihoods,” said Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. “The Social Innovators of the Year 2020 represent a new ecosystem of leaders who are driving change and shifting organizations and systems towards a more just, inclusive, sustainable future”.

“The Schwab Foundation’s Social Innovators of the Year 2020 are pioneering agents of change, re-setting the way our institutions operate. Their work is incredibly pertinent as we respond, recover and reset from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that has disproportionately affected excluded and vulnerable populations”, said François Bonnici, Head of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

The 2020 Schwab Foundation Awards are hosted in partnership with the Motsepe Foundation, founded on the philosophy of ‘ubuntu’, the African concept of giving and caring for your neighbour and other members of your community. “The 2020 Social Innovators of the Year prove that the complex work of reducing inequality and transforming society is possible by instilling human-centred innovation with principles of equity and justice into the levers of policy, finance, and research”, said Precious Moloi-Motsepe, Co-Chair, Motsepe Foundation

Social innovators are needed more than ever, but face immense challenges to operate, serve and support communities during this crisis. Therefore, the Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum, launched the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs with the goal to aid social entrepreneurs during the crisis and its aftermath. The Alliance, which consists of over 60 global members, representing over 50,000 social entrepreneurs globally, launched an Action Agenda outlining ways to support social entrepreneurs as first responders to the COVID-19 crisis.

The 2020 awardees are:

Social Entrepreneurs:

Founders or chief executive officers who solve a social or environmental problem, with a focus on low-income, marginalized or vulnerable populations

Lindiwe Matlali, Founder and CEO, Africa Teen Geeks (South Africa). This organisation’s AI-based learning platform for STEM subjects equalises equalizing access and quality of education for all students regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, reaching over 100,000 students.

Daniel Asare-Kyei, Co-Founder and CEO, Esoko (Ghana). This company’s pioneering agriculture technology is powering Africa’s digital revolution, by providing critical services to millions of farmers and last mile communities.

Sooinn Lee, Enuma Inc, Co-Founder and CEO (USA).Enuma’s Kitkit School and other products use technology and design to empower all children to learn early reading, writing, and math independently, regardless of initial abilities and access.

Dharsono Hartono, Co-Founder and CEO, PT Rimba Makmur (Indonesia). This company is saving one of the largest areas of peat swamp forests in Indonesia while offering local populations sustainable income sources.

Anushka Ratnayake, Founder and CEO, myAgro (Senegal). This award-winning organisation is creating village entrepreneurs in 60,000 farmers in West Africa. myAgro creating a unique mobile layaway platform that allows farmers to use their mobile phones to purchase seeds and fertilizer in small increments

Javier Goyeneche, Founder and President, Ecoalf (Spain). This company is revolutionising the fashion industry one plastic bottle at a time. EcoAlf has collected over 500 tonnes of waste from the bottom of the ocean and recycled over 200 million plastic bottles to make high-quality and 100% sustainable fashion products.

Shanti Raghavan, Co-founder and Managing Trustee, EnAble India and Dipesh Sutariya, Co-founder and CEO, EnAble India (India). EnAble India is building the Indian ecosystem of skilling, employment and entrepreneurship for persons with disabilities through technology innovations, breakthroughs in skill trainings, new workplace solutions and behaviour change tools, partnering with 725 companires, 200 BGOs and multiple universities.

Guilherme Brammer Jr, Founder and CEO, Boomera (Brazil). This revolutionary circular economy business brings together industry, academia and environmental agents to turn waste that is difficult to recycle into raw materials or new products.

Jesús Gerena, Chief Executive Officer, Family Independence Initiative (USA). This national centre for anti-poverty innovation offers results-based, community-driven solutions to reducing poverty raising over 100 million USD to help thousands of families in the United States during the COVID-19 crisis.

Azim Sabahat, Chief Executive Officer, Glocal Healthcare Systems (India). In a short time, this company established 12 hospitals, over 250 digital dispensaries and a Telemedicine network spanning 8 countries, delivering low cost healthcare using technology to over 1.5 Mn patients.

Adriana Barbosa, Chief Executive Officer, PretaHub (Brazil). This company empowers the social mobility of Brazil’s Black population by promoting Black entrepreneurship, and addressing structural racism and gender disparities to promote entrepreneurship based on opportunities.

Ashif Shaikh, Founder & Director, Jan Sahas, (India). This revolutionary organisation has empowered millions of migrant workers in India by establishing and providing access to social security delivery system using a mobile app.

Corporate Social Intrapreneurs:

Leaders within multinational or regional companies who drive the development of new products, initiatives, services or business models that address societal and environmental challenges

Prashant Mehra Vice-President, Social Inclusion, Mindtree (India). Prashant spearheaded technology platforms as a public good and capital asset that work at the grassroots level and address market inefficiencies reaching over 2 million people.

Corinne Bazina, General Manager, Danone Communities, Danone (France). Under Corinne Bazina’s, Danone Communities supports 12 social businesses who develop sustainable models that address challenges such as malnutrition, access to water, and overall poverty reduction, across 15 countries and is directly reaching 6 million people every day.

Nicola Galombik, Executive Director, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Catalyst Division, Yellowwoods Holding Sarl (South Africa). Under Galombik’s leadership, this company reaches over 1 million direct beneficiaries, including economically marginalized children, public school students, young work-seekers, and inclusive suppliers in the Yellowwoods business value chains.

Hadi Wibowo,President Director, Bank BTPN Syariah. This is the only bank in Indonesia that focuses on serving productive underprivileged families, also known as the “unbankable” for having neither financial records nor legal documentation. His prior experience in the parent company, Bank BTPN, includes leading Branchless Banking, a financial inclusion initiative. He has reached over 7 million people throughout his work with the unbanked communities.

Social Innovation Thought Leaders:

Recognized experts and champions shaping the evolution of social innovation

Jaff Shen Dongshu, Chief Executive Officer, Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation (People’s Republic of China). Jaff transformed and strengthened the social innovation space in China, partnering with global, domestic, business, academic and social sector partners.

Tse Ka Kui (KK), Co-Founder and Chair, Education for Good CIC Ltd. (Hong Kong SAR). KK is at the helm of many initiatives, projects and partnerships that have helped influence the field of social innovation in Hong Kong, and even taught the first course on social entrepreneurship at Hong Kong University.

Ndidi O. Nwuneli, Co-Founder Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition Ltd. & AACE Foods, and Founder of LEAP Africa and Nourishing Africa (Nigeria). Ndidi’s impact on agriculture, nutrition, youth development, and philanthropy sectors across West Africa has been significant given her role in shaping policy, launching ecosystem solutions, and training the next generation of social innovators. Her research and books on scaling social innovation, agriculture and food entrepreneurship, ethics, governance, and succession are widely utilized by entrepreneurs in the region.

Cathy Clark, Faculty Director, CASE (The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship), Duke University (USA). Cathy has helped to define and build impact investing and social entrepreneurship for over 30 years. She is a serial “intrapreneur”, collaborative partner and pioneering influencer.

Public Social Intrapreneurs:

Government leaders who harness the power of social innovation social entrepreneurship to create public good through policy, regulation or public initiatives

Ada Colau i Ballano, Mayor of Barcelona (Spain). Ballano is the first woman to hold the office of the Mayor of Barcelona, as part of the citizen municipalist platform, Barcelona En Comú. Colau was one of the founding members and spokespeople of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages).

Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF Representative to China (People’s Republic of China). Under her leadership, UNICEF Global Innovation has reached millions of at-risk children and youth around the world.

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