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New Alliance Launched at WEF to Help Social Entrepreneurs Overcome Impacts of COVID-19

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Forty leading global organizations have united to launch the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, pooling knowledge, experience and responses to alleviate suffering and advance new models of change for a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable world.

Social entrepreneurs and their community partners have been working for years to solve market failures and demonstrate more sustainable and inclusive models. These front-line organizations now face bankruptcy and severe constraints while they also innovate and respond to this global pandemic. Through this alliance, members are committing support for social entrepreneurs to protect decades of work in the impact sector,” said François Bonnici, Director and Head of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship at the World Economic Forum.

Alliance members currently support more than 15,000 social entrepreneurs helping 1.5 billion people cumulatively in over 190 countries, working to serve the needs of excluded, marginalized and vulnerable groups – many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The alliance also aims to coordinate between member organizations and amplify the support for social entrepreneurs under extreme stress by the pandemic.

Organizations in the alliance have already announced USD$75 million in response to the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. “The Skoll Foundation has committed to quadrupling our grant-making this year to respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Don Gips, Chief Executive Officer, Skoll Foundation. “We hope that this alliance will encourage others to join us in expanding support to social entrepreneurs and convincing governments of the critical leadership role that social entrepreneurs play in the response and recovery from this global pandemic.”

The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs will coordinate support for social entrepreneurs in four key ways:

  • Assess and highlight needs across the members’ social enterprise portfolios
  • Amplify and expand available financial support under a joint alliance dashboard and help social entrepreneurs to raise additional money to expand their work
  • Coordinate non-financial supportprovided by companies and intermediaries,such as social procurement, legal services and technological support
  • Advance joint communication efforts to advocate for appropriate fiscal and policy interventions relevant to social entrepreneurs

This initiative will also feature Covidcap.com, a new resource developed by the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University. This dashboard, a searchable database of emergency funds available to non-profit and for-profit entrepreneurs during COVID-19, contains global capital relief offers worth over $1 trillion.

The economic fallout from COVID-19 could push half a billion more people into poverty. Social entrepreneurs are the de facto social net in many emerging economies. We need to intervene to help them before it’s too late,” said Saskia Bruysten, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Yunus Social Business.

The growing list of foundations, sector organizations, multilateral organizations, private companies and non-governmental organizations joining the Alliance include: Aavishkaar Group, Acumen, Africa Venture Philanthropy Alliance (AVPA), Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), Ashoka, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), B Lab, Bertelsmann Stiftung, CASE at Duke University, Catalyst 2030, Co-Impact, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Echoing Green, European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA), Fundación Avina, GHR Foundation, Global Innovation Fund, Global Steering Group for Impact Investing (GSG), Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), Greenwood Place, IKEA Foundation, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, Impact Hub, Johnson & Johnson, KIVA, LatImpacto, Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation, Mercy Corps Ventures, Motsepe Foundation, NESsT, Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), Rippleworks, Root Capital, SAP, Schwab Foundation, Skoll Foundation, USAID, Yunus Social Business.

“Dimagi is on the front lines, working with governments to carry out community-based contract tracing in the USA and Togo to respond to COVID. But we can’t do it alone – social entrepreneurs are mobilizing to respond to the myriad of massive needs being exposed by the pandemic. We are thrilled to be represented in this alliance through Catalyst 2030 so we can help, inform and steer the alliance towards the needs of social entrepreneurs,” said Jonathan Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, Dimagi, and Co-Chair of Catalyst 2030 Working Group on COVID-19. Catalyst 2030 is a global movement of social-change innovators working collaboratively towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and is strategically partnering with this alliance to represent the voices of social entrepreneurs.

The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs will be supported by a secretariat hosted at the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, sister organization of the World Economic Forum and its Platform for Global Public Goods. “This alliance continues to strengthen our unwavering mission of sustainable and inclusive progress, which remains critical as business and government shape their response to the current crisis,” notes Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, World Economic Forum

The development of the alliance is supported by the GHR Foundation and is operationally supported by Yunus Social Business, which has been co-developing the initiative. “This pandemic reminds us that our differences in faith, culture or politics are superseded by what we have in common,” said Amy Goldman, Chief Executive Officer and Chair, GHR Foundation, which is helping to underwrite the alliance. “And whether someone is a social entrepreneur or a member of a faith community or both at once, we all share a deep desire to alleviate suffering, support human dignity and help people build a better future. This alliance is going to help people do exactly that.”

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Development

Lao PDR: New Project to Protect Landscapes and Enhance Livelihoods

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$57 million project to help Lao PDR promote sustainable forest management, improve protected area management, and enhance livelihoods opportunities in eight provinces across the country. Project funding comes from the World Bank’s International Development Association, with contributions from the Global Environment Facility and the Canada-World Bank Clean Energy and Forest Climate Facility.

The Lao Landscapes and Livelihoods Project will support economic recovery in light of the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on preservation of natural capital such as forests, biodiversity, water resources, soil, and land. The Project will help communities in over 600 villages and 25 forest areas to secure livelihoods and jobs from sustainably managed forests, including opportunities in timber and non-timber products, and nature-based tourism.  

“This project will be crucial to helping Lao PDR recover from the global coronavirus shock by protecting and enhancing its natural capital, and supporting the creation of green jobs in vulnerable communities,” said the World Bank Lao PDR Country Manager Nicola Pontara.

Despite enjoying sustained periods of high economic growth in the last three decades, Lao PDR has experienced a gradual deterioration of its natural capital, making vulnerable rural people more susceptible to floods and droughts while jeopardizing their access to food, fiber, fresh water and income.

The Government of Lao PDR will implement the project through the Department of Forestry at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. To create jobs and livelihoods and secure environmental benefits, the project will develop environmentally and socially sustainable partnerships among communities, government, nature-based-tourism companies, and forest plantations.

The Lao Landscapes and Livelihoods Project complements other partnerships between Laos and the World Bank on biodiversity protection, carbon emission reductions and nature-based tourism. It also supports the priorities of the government’s ninth National Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2021-25 and the 2030 National Green Growth Strategy.

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Energy News

Policy Measures to Advance Jordan’s Transition to Renewables

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A new report published today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has identified a series of policy measures that can help advance the energy transition towards renewable energy in Jordan.

The “Renewables Readiness Assessment: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” – developed in co-operation with Jordan’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, suggests opportunities exist to deepen private sector engagement in national efforts to reach a 31 per cent share of renewables in total power by 2030.

“The recommendations of this report comply with the newly issued Energy strategy 2020-2030 and its action plan,” said H.E. Engineer Hala Zawati, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources in Jordan. “We are fully aware that to achieve all these ambitious targets, a strong partnership between the public and private sectors is needed. We are also eager to work with international friends and partners to make renewable energy a main pillar of the Jordan energy sector.”

The report presents policy action areas to increase energy security and boost supply diversity through the accelerated uptake of renewables and includes ideas to boost end-use electrification and increase the availability of energy transition investments from domestic institutions.

Jordan’s share of electricity from renewables grew from almost zero in 2014 to around 20 per cent in 2020 thanks to enabling frameworks and policies that have supported the deployment of renewable energy technologies, including solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind.

“Jordan boasts significant renewable energy resource potential that if realised will reduce consumer energy costs, improve national energy security, create jobs and stimulate sustainable growth – boosting post COVID-19 economic recovery efforts,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “This report highlights a series of policy and regulatory measures that will allow Jordan to build on its energy transition progress to date and align it with 2030 national decarbonisation goals.”

Capacity building in local financing institutions and project developers can drive their engagement in the energy transition, the report says, while helping the country to meet its needs in important areas such as the build-out of electric charging infrastructure for the transport system.

Challenges associated with integrating higher shares of renewables in Jordan can be addressed by building and upgrading transmission and distribution infrastructure, deploying storage, promoting demand-side management and incentivising electrification of heating, cooling and transportation.

Renewables Readiness Assessment: Jordan lists concrete recommendations around the following seven action areas:

  • Provide the conditions for renewables to grow in the power sector
  • Foster continued growth of renewable power generation
  • Plan for the integration of higher shares of renewable power
  • Incentivise the use of renewables for heating and cooling
  • Support renewable options for transport and mobility
  • Catalyse renewable energy investment
  • Strengthen local industries and create jobs in renewables

Read the full report

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Human Rights

‘No place’ for coups in today’s world

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photo: Wikipedia

On the opening day of a new UN Human Rights Council session on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated his “full support to the people of Myanmar”, three weeks after the military takeover that has brought thousands out onto the streets in protest. 

“Coups have no place in our modern world”, Mr. Guterres said in a pre-recorded video address at the Council’s 46th regular session, his comments coming after the forum held a special session on 12 February, in which it adopted a resolution expressing deep concern at the junta’s move. 

“Today, I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately”, the UN chief continued. “Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights and the will of the people expressed in recent elections. I welcome the resolution of the Human Rights Council, pledge to implement your request, and express my full support to the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.” 

14-year old victim 

Mr. Guterres’s comments followed his censure at the weekend of the use of “deadly force” in Myanmar, in which a protester – reportedly 14 years old – was killed in Mandalay, along with one other. 

Also addressing the Council at the start of its month-long session, which is being held almost entirely remotely to prevent the spread of COVID-19, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, focused on the massive and negative impact of pandemic. 

“I think we all realise that the use of force will not end this pandemic. Sending critics to jail will not end this pandemic. Illegitimate restrictions on public freedoms, the overreach of emergency powers and unnecessary or excessive use of force are not just unhelpful and unprincipled. They deter public participation in decision-making, which is the foundation of sound policy-making.”  

Help for the most vulnerable 

In another video message, President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, underscored the need to focus on people’s basic needs – including new coronavirus vaccines – as the best way to recover from the pandemic. 

“It is essential that all responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are centred around human rights, and promote the protection of our citizens, including the most vulnerable who need our care and consideration the most”, he said. “This includes ensuring the equal and fair distribution of vaccines for all. It is critical that civil society, the private sector, and all stakeholders are facilitated to participate and provide feedback throughout the planning and assessment of responses.” 

Vaccine unfairness 

Echoing the call for equitable vaccine access in a wide-ranging address that included a broadside against right-wing extremists becoming a “transnational threat” and the manipulation of personal digital data by Governments to control citizens’ behaviour, the Secretary-General described the fact that only 10 countries had administered “more than 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines” as “the latest moral outrage”.  

Vaccine equity “affirms human rights”, he said, but “vaccine nationalism denies it. Vaccines must be a global public good, accessible and affordable for all.” 

Taking up that theme, Ms. Bachelet insisted that the new coronavirus crisis had illustrated the “deadly realities of discrimination”. 

Deep inequalities and chronic under-funding for essential services were to blame, she added, with policymakers largely responsible for ignoring these basic needs. 

Pandemic rolls on 

“Today, the medical impact of the pandemic is far from over – and its effects on economies, freedoms, societies, and people have only just begun”, she said. “The global rise in extreme poverty, accelerating inequalities; setbacks to women’s rights and equality; to education and opportunities for children and young people; and to the Sustainable Development Agenda are shocks that could shake the foundations of societies.” 

Despite the scale of the challenges posed in this second year of the pandemic, the High Commissioner struck a positive note, insisting that “we have the possibility of rebuilding better, more inclusive systems, which address root causes and prepare us to meet the challenges we will certainly face”.  

Among the many major problems facing people everywhere, the UN Secretary-General highlighted the disproportionate gender impact of COVID-19. 

Crisis ‘has a woman’s face’ 

“The crisis has a woman’s face”, he said. “Most essential frontline workers are women — many from racially and ethnically marginalized groups and at the bottom of the economic ladder. Most of the increased burden of care in the home is taken on by women.”  

Persons with disabilities, older persons, refugees, migrants and indigenous peoples had also paid a higher price than others during the first year of the pandemic. Mr. Guterres continued, before calling for “a special focus on safeguarding the rights of minority communities, many of whom are under threat around the world”.  

Cautioning against “policies of assimilation that seek to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities”, the UN chief maintained that the diversity of communities was “fundamental to humanity”.

Extremists a ‘transnational threat’ 

And without identifying any specific countries, Mr. Guterres also spoke out against the rising and potentially international threat of right-wing extremist movements. 

“White supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are more than domestic terror threats. They are becoming a transnational threat”, he said. “Far too often, these hate groups are cheered on by people in positions of responsibility in ways that were considered unimaginable not long ago. We need global coordinated action to defeat this grave and growing danger.” 

Under the presidency of Jordanian Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, the 46th Human Rights Council session is due to meet until Friday 23 March.

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