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World Leaders to Meet During Davos Agenda in a Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust

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The World Economic Forum Davos Agenda, taking place virtually on 25-29 January, will bring together the foremost leaders of the world to address the new global situation. Heads of state and government, chief executives and leaders from civil society will convene under the theme: A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust.

The meeting will focus on creating impact, rebuilding trust and shaping the policies and partnerships needed in 2021.

“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to reset priorities and the urgency to reform systems have been growing stronger around the world,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. “Rebuilding trust and increasing global cooperation are crucial to fostering innovative and bold solutions to stem the pandemic and drive a robust recovery. This unique meeting will be an opportunity for leaders to outline their vision and address the most important issues of our time, such as the need to accelerate job creation and to protect the environment.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that no institution or individual alone can address the economic, environmental, social and technological challenges of our complex, interdependent world. The pandemic has accelerated systemic changes that were apparent before its inception. The fault lines that emerged in 2020 now appear as critical crossroads in 2021. The Davos Agenda will help leaders choose innovative and bold solutions to stem the pandemic and drive a robust recovery over the next year.

The five programme themes are:

1. Designing cohesive, sustainable, resilient economic systems (25 January)

2. Driving responsible industry transformation and growth (26 January)

3. Enhancing stewardship of the global commons (27 January)

4. Harnessing the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (28 January)

5. Advancing global and regional cooperation (29 January)

Special addresses from G20 heads of state and government and international organizations will provide crucial insights into a range of important issues in the year ahead. Participants will hear first-hand how these public figures will demonstrate leadership and drive action in areas such as the environment, jobs, and advances in innovation brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Heads of state and government include:

Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China; Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India; Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister of Japan; Emmanuel Macron, President of France; Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany; Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission; Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy; Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea; Alberto Fernández, President of Argentina; Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa; Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain; Guy Parmelin, President of the Swiss Confederation and Federal Councillor for Economic Affairs, Education and Research; Ivan Duque,President of Colombia; Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica; Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,President of the Republic of Ghana; Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece; Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, the host of the World Economic Forum Special Annual Meeting 2021.

Other world leaders are expected to confirm.

Leaders from international organizations, government agencies and central banks include:

António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations (UN); Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO); Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF); Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations (UN); Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Undersecretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN WOMEN); Dongyu Qu,Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); David Beasley, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP); Fang Liu, Secretary-General, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, USA; Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Mauricio Claver-Carone, President, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO); Jürgen Stock, Secretary-General, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL); Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA); Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation).

Christine Lagarde, President, European Central Bank; François Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Central Bank of France; Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England.

The private sector will be represented by more than 1,000 leaders from the Forum’s member and partner organizations. Seven of the top ten companies by market capitalization are engaged year-round with the Forum and many will participate in The Davos Agenda week. As a working meeting to advance ongoing project work, more than 500 chief executives and chairpersons will take part in sessions throughout the week.

Leaders from civil society are a critical voice in shaping the agenda. Those taking part in the meeting include:

Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director, Oxfam International; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT); Marco Lambertini, Director-General, WWF International; Laura Liswood, Secretary-General, Council of Women World Leaders; Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair, Transparency International; Peter Sands, Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GF).

Drawn from over 10,000 civic-minded young leaders, members of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, Young Global Leaders, Technology Pioneers and Social Entrepreneurs communities will bring unique perspectives to The Davos Agenda.

Flagship reports, initiatives, and the latest book on Stakeholder Capitalism

On January 25, Professor Schwab will release his latest book, titled “Stakeholder Capitalism: A Global Economy that Works for Progress, People and Planet.” It explores how societies can build the future post-COVID, and builds on the Forum’s 50-year-old advocacy of the stakeholder approach.

The World Economic Forum will release its Global Risks Report 2021 on 19 January. The flagship report is an important marker for prioritizing action in public and private sectors in the year ahead.

The Davos Agenda will also mark the launch of several World Economic Forum initiatives to accelerate the race to net-zero emissions, to champion new standards for racial justice, to ensure artificial intelligence is developed ethically and in the global public interest and to close the digital divide. More details on these initiatives and others will be disclosed at the meeting.

Opening Event and Crystal Awards

The meeting will be preceded by the Opening Event, available on YouTube on Sunday 24 January at 19.00 CET, featuring a welcome from Klaus Schwab and a special address by Guy Parmelin, President of the Swiss Confederation, just before the 27th Crystal Awards hosted by Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, and the photographer Platon.

The awards will be followed by the world premiere of “See Me: A Global Concert.” The official programme of The Davos Agenda will begin on 25 January.

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Development

Rush for new profits posing threat to human rights

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The finance industry’s demand for new sources of capital worldwide to satisfy investors, is having a serious negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights, a group of UN-appointed independent rights experts have warned

Among the rights at risk from increasing speculation in the financial markets by hedge funds and other investment funds, are the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, food, adequate housing, development, and a healthy and sustainable environment, among others.  

Exploiting the marginalized 

In a statement, the independent Special Rapporteurs and other experts, expressed their concern over the gradual encroachment of financial speculators into new areas of the economy, putting human rights at risk

They highlighted in particular, trading in areas essential for the enjoyment of human rights of marginalized, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant and peasant communities, persons with disabilities and persons living with Albinism, as well as those living in areas of conflict. 

The experts also pointed out that so-called financialisation – the growth in new financial instruments since the 1980s managed by new financial services – has a disproportionate impact on the enjoyment of their rights by women and girls, who are systematically victims of discrimination. The impact on older people was also highlighted. 

Effect on housing 

According to a former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, in recent years massive amounts of global capital have been invested in housing as a commodity, as security for financial instruments that are traded on global markets, and as a means of accumulating wealth. 

However, when the 2008 global financial crisis hit, many houses suddenly lost much of their value, and individuals and families were made homeless overnight. 

The expert also pointed out that in the Global South, informal settlements in Southern cities are regularly demolished for luxury housing and commercial development intended for the wealthiest groups of the population

This process of financialisation of assets, has only been reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the expert said. 

‘Speculative food bubble’ 

In agricultural markets, the experts described how the same big international banks responsible for the global financial crisis, invested billions of dollars in food futures, generating an increase in the prices of raw materials such as wheat, corn and soybean, which doubled and even tripled in a few months, creating a new speculative food bubble

According to the World Bank, between 130 and 150 million more people were pushed into extreme poverty and hunger, mainly in low-income countries depending on food imports to feed their populations. 

The experts highlighted how the financialisation of housing and food has exacerbated inequalities and exclusion, disproportionately affecting heavily indebted households and those on low incomes. 

Applying speculative logic in these areas violates the human rights of people in poverty, exacerbates gender inequality and aggravates the vulnerability of marginalized communities, they said. 

Commodifying nature 

The growing monetization and commodification of ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, were also noted by the experts. 

They warned that it threatens the sustainability of ecosystems, marginalizes natural and cultural values that have no apparent economic value, and weakens the control of indigenous peoples and local communities over their territories

The right to pollute and destroy nature is gradually being legitimized and commercialized, they said. 

They also pointed out that addressing the climate emergency often ignores both the impacts on people in poverty, and undermines the human rights and livelihoods of the poorest. 

The eviction of indigenous peoples from forests or the replacement of complex old-growth forests with monocultures of fast-growing non-native tree species was highlighted as an example of this. 

Treating housing, food, or the environment, as assets to be traded by hedge funds and other financial actors in financial derivatives markets, represents a direct attack on people’s exercise and enjoyment of human rights such as the right to housing, to food, to a healthy environment, or to drinking water and sanitation, the experts stated. 

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Iraq: An Urgent Call for Education Reforms to Ensure Learning for All Children

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A girl student in Basra, Iraq, who benefits from a UNICEF/WFP education stipend programme. UNICEF

Learning levels in Iraq are among the lowest in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region and are likely to decline even further because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on education service delivery, including prolonged school closures.

These low learning levels are putting the future of Iraqi children and the country at risk. A new World Bank report says that while, now more than ever, investments are needed in education to recover lost learning and turn crisis into opportunity, these investments must be accompanied by a comprehensive reform agenda that focuses the system on learning outcomes and builds a more resilient education system for all children. 

The World Bank Group’s new report, Building Forward Better to Ensure Learning for All Children in Iraq: An Education Reform Path, builds on key priorities in education recently identified in the Government of Iraq’s White Paper and the World Bank Group’s Addressing the Human Capital Crisis: A Public Expenditure Review for Human Development Sectors in Iraq report, and provides actionable reform recommendations to boost learning and skills.

Human capital is essential to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth. However, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Human Capital Index (HCI), a child born in Iraq today will reach, on average, only 41% of their potential productivity when they grow up. 

At the heart of Iraq’s human capital crisis is a learning crisis, with far-reaching implications. Iraq’s poor performance on the HCI is largely attributed to its low learning levels. COVID-19 has led to intermittent school closures across Iraq, impacting more than 11 million Iraqi students since February 2020. This report highlights that, with schools closed over 75% of the time and opportunities for remote learning limited and unequal, Iraqi children are facing another reduction of learning‑adjusted years of schooling. Effectively, students in Iraq are facing more than a “lost year” of learning. 

Iraq can use lessons learned from the current health crisis, turn recovery into opportunity, and “build forward better,” to ensure it provides learning opportunities for all Iraqi children especially its poorest and most vulnerable children” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “The World Bank is ready to support Iraq in building a more equitable and resilient post-COVID-19 education system that ensures learning for all children and generates the dividends for faster and more inclusive growth”.  

The report Building Forward Better to Ensure Learning for All Children in Iraq: An Education Reform Path puts forward for discussion sector-wide reform recommendations, focusing on immediate crisis response as well as medium and long-term needs across six key strategic areas:  

1. Engaging in an Emergency Crisis response through the mitigation of immediate learning loss and prevention of further dropouts.

2. Improving foundational skills to set a trajectory for learning through improved learning & teaching materials and strengthened teacher practices with a focus on learning for all children.

3. Focusing on the most urgently needed investments, while ensuring better utilization of resources.

4. Improving the governance of the education sector and promoting evidence‑based decision‑making.

5. Developing and implementing an education sector strategy that focuses on learning and “building forward better”.

6. Aligning skills with labor market needs through targeted programs and reforms.

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More Funding for Business and Trade to Help Lao PDR Recover from Pandemic

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The World Bank and the Government of Lao PDR have agreed to scale up a Competitiveness and Trade Project that will improve the ability of businesses to recover from the economic effects of COVID-19 as part of the government’s emergency response to the pandemic. The additional financing will provide a US$6.5 million grant through the Lao Competitiveness and Trade Multi-Donor Trust Fund supported by Australia, Ireland, and the United States.

The extra funding follows a request by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for additional resources to help the government and private sector respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and related restrictions. The Lao economy, which had already been slowing since 2018 following floods, drought and crop disease outbreaks, has been hit badly by the pandemic since early 2020, causing poverty to rise by an estimated 4.4 percentage points.

This additional financing complements the government’s approach of providing rapid and direct relief to vulnerable firms and to adjusting government services to the effects of COVID-19. Helping viable businesses to survive and grow will help them maintain and create jobs, thereby driving economic recovery.

The ministry has been implementing the original Lao PDR Competitiveness and Trade Project since late 2018 with $13 million of credit and grants from the World Bank and the trust fund. The project works to improve the processes required to start and operate a business, and to reduce the costs of doing business in Laos. Measures to lower trade costs and facilitate trade flows include streamlining regulations to reduce the time that goods spend at borders. Business Assistance Facility grants are available to help companies improve their competitiveness, while the project also supports improved policy making and transparency, along with stronger public-private policy dialogue.

According to H.E. Somchith Inthamith, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, “the new financing will be used to scale up and extend activities under the original project, such as decreasing the time required for goods to clear customs, and increasing the ability of our producers to connect to markets. Additional resources will be used to help new Lao firms set up, and aid existing companies seeking grants to mitigate the impact of COVID-19”.

Mariam Sherman, Country Director for the World Bank in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, said that over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has faced significant economic stress, especially considering the effects of the crisis on important trade partners. “This project has been prepared with urgency”, she said. “It can help the Lao government accelerate policy changes and regulatory reforms that will improve the ease of doing business, facilitate trade, and support company competitiveness. Such reforms will help Lao firms weather shocks, increase their ability to do business on the ground, and provide access to international markets for necessary inputs and outputs”.

The Lao Competitiveness and Trade Multi-Donor Trust Fund is a continuing effort to improve the efficiency of development assistance for trade in the Lao PDR, by pooling resources from the World Bank, Australia, and Ireland for increased efficiency of implementation, reduced transactions costs and greater impact on-the-ground.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has committed over $125 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history. The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The Bank is also providing $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

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