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Digital economy can put citizens in control of finance

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Congolese refugee, Henriette Kiwele Kiyambi, develops Natural Beauty app at the App Factory in Dzeleka refugee camp in Malawi, part of the Connectivity for Refugee project, a UNHCR and Microsoft sponsored program. UNHCR/Tina Ghelli

A UN taskforce set up to look into the risks and benefits of the digital economy, has concluded that it could have a transformational impact on sustainable development, and empower citizens, both as taxpayers and investors.

The report, “People’s Money: Harnessing Digitalization to Finance a Sustainable Future”, was released by the UN Secretary-General’s Task Force on Digital Finance on Wednesday. 

The Task Force, led by UN development chief Achim Steiner, and made up of senior figures from the tech sector, financial institutions, governments, and UN bodies, was set up by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2018, to improve understanding of the benefits and risks of the fast-moving financial technology (fintech) and digital finance sectors.

The initiative is part of the UN chief’s strategy to support financing for the 2030 Agenda, the UN’s blueprint for a better future, for people and the planet. The financing needs for the Agenda, Mr. Guterres said in 2018, are in the order of between $5 and $7 trillion per year. The shift to digital, conclude the authors of the People’s Money report, could provide the means to meet those projected costs.

“Digital technologies, which are revolutionizing financial markets, can be a game-changer in meeting our shared objectives”, said Mr. Guterres in response to the launch of the report. “The Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals provides leadership to harness the digital revolution.”

The COVID-19 acceleration effect

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of digital tools has grown rapidly, and demonstrates the potential of digital finance to provide relief for millions around the world, support businesses and protect jobs and livelihoods. 

Speaking to UN News, Mr. Steiner outlined the acceleration effect of the pandemic. “Things that we anticipated would happen over the next few years, have happened in weeks. The pandemic has allowed governments to see the importance of overcoming traditional limitations, and identifying and reaching the most vulnerable.”

Examples include digital cash transfers, which have helped millions of people in Pakistan, the connection of schools to broadband, and governments and parliaments connecting remotely in ways that are now common practice, he added.

The widespread adoption of smartphones, continued Mr. Steiner, puts powerful digital tools in the hands of more than a billion people, allowing them to work, socialize, and manage their finances. He emphasized the importance of remodelling the financial system, to underscore the fact that the trillions of dollars’ worth of investment flowing around the world, ultimately come from ordinary people.

“Citizens are the owners of this wealth, which is made up of pensions, and savings. The Task Force was keen to bring back the notion that the citizen is at the centre of the economy. Citizens need greater transparency, and to have a say over where their pension contributions go. And, as well as returns for investors, we also need to see public purpose benefits. Digital finance is a significant opportunity for citizens to re-engage, because this is a way to address major challenges, such as climate change.”

Digitalization is a choice

The report identifies five ways for harnessing digitalization, which cover much of global finance. Firstly, the huge amounts of money flowing around the world needs to be invested in a way that supports the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. Public finances need to be more effective and accountable. Savings need to be invested for long-term development projects, using digital tools. And there needs to be more financing for small and medium-sized businesses, which are crucial for generating employment and income.

A key message of the report is that digitalization, and the way that it is used, is a choice, not an inevitability. There are considerable digital risks, such as increased exclusion, discrimination and inequalities. The five action areas point the way for governments to use digitalization for good.

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Uzbek home appliance manufacturer Artel joins United Nations Global Compact

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This week, Artel Electronics LLC (Artel), Central Asia’s largest home appliance and electronics manufacturer, has become an official participant of the United Nation Global Compact (UNGC). Launched in 2000, the UNGC is a voluntary leadership platform for the development, implementation, and disclosure of responsible business practices. Artel becomes Uzbekistan’s third company to participate.

Artel joins over 10,000 companies worldwide, including Microsoft, Facebook and Nestlé, in affirming the Compact’s ten principles. These include a commitment to human rights, labour standards, sustainability, and anti-corruption.  The company will also seek opportunities to promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As one of the country’s largest companies, Artel’s membership will provide significant momentum towards the alignment of the Uzbek private sector with international standards.

Furthermore, Artel has become a founding member of the Coalition of Business Champions for the Sustainable Development of Uzbekistan. Artel will use its position alongside coalition partners to promote placing environmental and social considerations at the heart of the country’s growth. This builds on the company’s significant work on water provision, gender equality and education.

Bektemir Murodov, CFO of Artel Electronics, said: “We are delighted to join the UN Global Compact and become part of such a proactive global community of businesses working towards sustainable development. As a large Uzbek company, we have a huge responsibility to promote sustainability as well as international labour standards, human rights and anti-corruption. This reaffirms our commitment to these principles. 

We also know that this is a great opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading companies, and we look forward to taking an active part in the conversation around how to promote the SDGs in Uzbekistan.”

Becoming a participant of the UNGC is the next step in Artel’s ESG development. The company has restructured its corporate governance to align with international best practice, and continually works to increase the efficiency of its products and reduce the environmental impact of its operations. Artel also has significant social projects that focus on water access and education. Most recently, Artel promoted the UN’s 16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence and will soon launch a Women’s Development Programme with a legal clinic to promote legal literacy and gender equality.

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EU Cohesion policy: Commission announces the winners of the REGIOSTARS Awards 2021

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Today, the European Commission has announced the winners of the 2021 edition of the REGIOSTARS Awards that reward the best Cohesion policy projects in the whole EU. This year’s REGIOSTARS competition received a record 214 applications and 14,156 people voted in the public choice’s category.

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, commented: “My warm congratulations to the 10 winners of the EU Cohesion policy projects of 2021. They are role models for everyone who wishes to better the life of people with the use of EU funds. I hope they will inspire many others across the continent. For sure, with REGIOSTARS we have learnt that excellence and innovation are everywhere in Europe. You just need to look for them and highlight them as they deserve. We will keep looking for them and we will keep supporting them.”

The awards cover five categories and a public choice prize:

For ‘SMART Europe: Increasing the competitiveness of local businesses in a digital world’ (1st category) the award went to Integration 3D metal printing from Belgium. The project supports the implementation of the 3D metal printing technology in small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) through a very innovative integrated approach to knowledge and technology. The idea is easily transferable to other contexts with industrial tradition.

For ‘GREEN Europe: Green and resilient communities in urban and rural setting’ (2nd category) the award was given to ICCARUS (Gent knapt op) for providing a unique housing renovation financial scheme for 100 vulnerable homeowners in Ghent, Belgium. This project has a strong social component and is easily transferable, both to other places, including to less developed regions, and other sectors.

The award for ‘FAIR Europe: Fostering inclusion and anti-discrimination’ (3rd category) went to TREE – Training for integrating Refugees in the Euregion, which facilitates the integration of refugees through the  development of a needs-based training programme for practitioners working with refugees and migrants, and a qualification programme for social interpreters. The winners are from the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.

Travelling Solidary Cannery received the award in the 4th category, ‘URBAN Europe: Promoting green, sustainable and circular food systems in functional urban areas’. The project provides the disadvantaged access to healthy and fair food at affordable prices all year round. At the same time, it develops a new range of professions centred on the production, valorisation, logistics and marketing of local products, but also of unsold products from supermarkets or surplus harvests. The winner is from Belgium.

Under the topic of the year: ‘Enhancing green mobility in the regions – European Year of Rail 2021’ (5th category) the winner is North-West Multimodal Transport Hub from the United Kingdom and Ireland. This project provides an increased rail capacity, a strong balance of services for cycling, public transport and active travel users in Londonderry and an encouraging modal shift from car to public transport.

Finally, the ‘Public Choice Award’ goes to BEGIN, a project that unites cities, citizens, and stakeholders through the co-creation of blue and green infrastructure projects in 10 EU cities in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Norway and Germany. The project aims at reducing flood risk by up to 30% and improving livability. Other public favorites were Balkan Road (under the 1st category), Baltazar (3rd category), Digital Farming Specialist (4th category) and Transporte A Pedido (5th category).

Background

The REGIOSTARS Awards are the yearly competition organised by the Commission since 2008: it has become Europe’s label of excellence for EU-funded projects under Cohesion policy that demonstrate innovative and inclusive approaches to regional development.

Each year, hundreds of projects compete in five categories: ‘Smart Europe’, ‘Green Europe’, ‘Fair Europe’, ‘Urban Europe’, and the topic of the year. The public can participate by voting for their favourite project among all finalists for the public choice award.

By bringing about solutions to common challenges and tapping into the biggest opportunities, the REGIOSTARS have inspired regions to deliver evermore-impactful EU Cohesion policy.

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This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: Ines Lee and Eileen Tipoe win the Bracken Bower Prize 2021

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Photo: Financial Times Live /flickr

The Financial Times and McKinsey & Company today announce that Nicole Perlroth is the winner of the 2021 Business Book of the Year Award for This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK), Bloomsbury (US), an analysis of the threat posed by the arms race between cyber criminals, spies and hackers fighting to infiltrate essential computer systems. 

The Award recognises a work which provides the ‘most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues’. It was awarded today to Nicole Perlroth at a ceremony at the National Gallery in London, co-hosted by Roula Khalaf, Editor of the Financial Times and chair of the panel of judges, and Magnus Tyreman, Managing Partner Europe, McKinsey & Company. The keynote speaker at the event was Tony Danker, Director-General, CBI. 

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends saw off strong competition from a shortlist of titles with subjects including climate change, racism, cyberweapons, meritocracies and risks to a sustainable and inclusive future. They will receive a prize of £30,000, with £10,000 going to each of the five runners-up.

Roula Khalaf, Editor, Financial Times said, “Nicole Perlroth has done something that hasn’t been done before: going this deep into the mysterious world of hackers. Cyber security isn’t featuring highly enough on CEOs’ agenda. I hope this award will prompt them to read this book and pay attention.”

Magnus Tyreman, Managing Partner Europe, McKinsey & Company, said: “Nicole Perlroth has written a book that is more than just a timely wake-up call to the fact that the world has largely ignored the realities and profound implications of the arms race between hackers, cybercriminals and businesses and national governments. It is an alarming book, one in which the author makes a compelling, granular and matter-of-fact case for how vulnerable global computer systems have become, and makes an urgent plea for specific and systematic action.”

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