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New Social Compact

The drug market between affluent societies and social despair

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A few months ago, the World Drug Report 2020 was published, which assessed the development trends of the global drug market over the last ten years, and specifically highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on the drug market.

The pattern of population growth can partly explain the reasons for the market expansion. Drug abuse has increased worldwide, both in terms of overall number and share of drug users in the world population.

In 2009, it was estimated that there were 210 million drug users, accounting for 4.8% of the world’s population aged 15-64, compared to 269 million ones in 2018, accounting for 5.3% of the population.

Over the past two decades, drug abuse in developing countries has grown much faster than in developed countries. To some extent, this reflects the difference in overall population growth during this period – 7% in developed countries and 28% in developing countries – but it also highlights the rapid growth of the young population in developing countries.

Teenagers and young adults account for the largest proportion of drug users. During the 2000-2018 period, in developing countries population in this age group increased by 16%, while the population in this age group decreased by 10% in developed countries.

Urbanisation has become a driving factor for the current and future drug market. In both developed and developing countries, there are more drug users in urban areas than in rural areas. Part of the reason for the overall increase in drug use is the large-scale migration of people from rural to urban areas: over half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, up from 34% in 1960. Urbanisation may be a key factor in the future drug market dynamics, especially in developing countries where urbanisation trends are more evident.

Increased wealth is associated with increased drug use, but poor people bear the greatest burden of diseases related to drug use. Worldwide, drug abuse is more common in developed countries than in developing ones. Drugs such as cocaine are more closely associated with the wealthiest regions in the world. Similarly, within countries, the prevalence of drug abuse among the wealthy segments of society is relatively high. However, people with a lower socio-economic status are more likely to be affected by disorders related to drug abuse.

Data from some countries show that there is a connection between patterns of harmful drug use and diseases typical of low-income groups. These patterns appear to be less common in wealthier social classes.

The economic constraints imposed by the global Covid-19 crisis are likely to exacerbate risks for the most vulnerable groups, including drug users. For example, changes in the labour market, such as rising unemployment, have been connected to the subsequent increase in drug use and a fortiori the epidemic has forced tens of millions of people around the world to lose their jobs while seeking refuge in dangerous havens at low prices, but with highly fatal consequences.

Covid-19 could lead to a further expansion of the drug market. The pandemic may induce more farmers and crofters to increase or engage in illegal crop cultivation, both because of the reduced control ability of national authorities and because more people may decide to bear the risk of engaging in illegal activities during the economic crisis.

The pandemic-related restrictions have led to a reduction in air and land traffic – hence maritime traffic has increased. The risk of interception at sea is low and the number of smuggled goods is higher than by air or land. It has recently been reported that cocaine is being shipped directly from South America to Europe by sea.

The emergence of internationally uncontrolled substances is stable, but new types of potentially harmful opioids are increasing. The drug market is becoming increasingly complex. In addition to traditional substances such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin, hundreds of synthetic drugs have been added, many of which are not under international control. Non-professional use of drugs is also increasing rapidly. Every year there are about 500 new active substances on the States’ domestic markets.

At present, most of them are stimulants, followed by synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists and a small amount of opioids. Although the overall number of new psychoactive substances has levelled off and stabilised, the ratio has changed. Of the total number of new psychoactive substances identified in 2014, the new opioid psychoactive substances accounted for only 2%, but in 2018 their number had risen to 9%. Many of the new opioid psychoactive substances are analogues of fentanyl, whose efficacy and harm have been demonstrated, causing overdose deaths in North America and other regions, but to a lesser extent.

In North America, fentanyl is used as an excitatory drug for heroin and other drugs (including cocaine and methamphetamine), and some substances are used to produce counterfeit medicinal opioids. Some evidence shows that new injections of psychoactive stimulants are also circulating in Europe: a study of discarded syringe residues in six European cities found that many syringes are stained with new psychoactive substances that produce even more devastating effects.

The use of new psychoactive substances may gradually become firmly established among the most disadvantaged groups. A single type of new psychoactive substances has hardly formed a large market. Evidence from Europe, however, shows that synthetic cannabinoids are a severe problem among marginalised groups such as homeless and prisoners. There are twenty-two countries reported for the use of new psychoactive substances in prisons, most of them with synthetic cannabinoids identified as very dangerous.

The control of chemical precursors forces drug manufacturers to innovate. Many of the chemicals most commonly used as precursors to synthesise drugs such as amphetamine, methamphetamine and ecstasy have come under international scrutiny. Drug traffickers have sought alternatives – and not just scarcely regulated substances – but also chemicals specifically designed to circumvent regulations, the so-called “special precursors”.

Designed to prevent restrictive measures, it is likely that – with the spread of Covid-19 – drug production will depend on further compression of those chemical precursors. Evidence found even in Mexico shows that this has become a reality: reports suggest that in 2020 a shortage of methamphetamine precursors imported from East Asia caused an increase in the price of methamphetamine in Mexico and the United States.

The rate of change in the drug market has accelerated dramatically. Synthetic drugs are replacing opiates in Central Asia and the Russian Federation. Opioid markets in these two regions appear to have changed between 2008 and 2018.

The number of opiates intercepted by the Russian Federation’s authorities has decreased by 80% approximately, while the number of people receiving treatment for opioid use has dropped dramatically. The market for stimulants, however, seems to be expanding day by day. There is evidence that methamphetamine and various cathinones, including mephedrone and α-pyrrolidinyl-phenylpentanal, are now everywhere on the Russian drug market. The Russian authorities have reported that recently the number of clandestine laboratories for the production of various illegal drugs has increased significantly, and has more than doubled in two years, rising to 152 laboratories as early as 2018.

There is also a growth of the methamphetamine market in Afghanistan and Iraq. As early as 2012, surveys carried out on staff in hospitals, prisons and other institutions revealed the importance of methamphetamine in Iraq. Crystal methamphetamine has become another major drug of concern, besides fentanyl and tramadol. A study has further confirmed these findings, with drug users claiming that cannabis is more difficult to obtain than fentanyl or methamphetamine. Recently, Iraqi authorities have discovered several methamphetamine laboratories and concern has been expressed about the large imports of pseudoephedrine preparations: methamphetamine laboratories use these preparations as precursors.

In Afghanistan, methamphetamine production seems to have started in 2014. Since then, methamphetamine seizures have steadily increased. In the first half of 2019, however, seizures increased significantly compared to the previous year. Large seizures of methamphetamine – believed to have originated in Afghanistan – in other nations also show that production in that country is increasing rapidly.

As we can see, drugs have turned from means of distraction for the bored European world into an alternative for desperate people with no chance of job fulfilment.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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New Social Compact

Equality Not Yet Seen: North-South in Security and Women’s Discourses

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The Emergence of the North-South Human Security Dialectic

The concept of human security that is agreed upon today is not taken for granted, there was a prevalent understanding of North-South negotiations in the early days of human security discourse. Acharya (2001) observes the debate between these two poles as a process that has reflected the expansion of the idea of military security into ‘comprehensive security’. The idea of human security originated from the North’s criticism of India and Pakistan, which were perceived to have spent too much on the military sector at the expense of human development. By the South, the notion of human security was suspected of being an attempt by the North to impose its liberal values and political institutions on the South. While Western penetration is evidently for human development reasons, some Asian countries argue that the promotion of human rights cannot be equated with Western methods. Asian states must take into account cultural contexts and historical experiences, including respect for the communitarianism of their societies. This typology is likely the reason why human rights have emerged in Southeast Asia lately.

To mediate the North-South prejudice, Mahbub Ulhaq, a former Finance Minister of Pakistan, initiated the human security clause to be documented in the United Nations Development Program Report (1994). Despite various criticisms and inputs -for example by Japan and Canada- because the definition of human security was considered too broad, it should be recognised that this document became a reference point where the idea of human security finally occupied an important position in international relations. UNDP recognises seven aspects of human security focusing on economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community, and political security.

Following the publication of the UNDP report, the North-South debate on what constitutes “human security” continues. The controversy continues to be that the North dominates perceptions of human security and tends to reflect a liberal individualistic ethos, which is at odds with Asian approaches that develop the concept of cultural relativism.

In short, human security demands a shift in the conceptualisation of security from the domain of the state to the individual or community. As such, human security protects all social groups, including children, minorities, women, and ethnic minorities -which is not at all counterproductive to Asia’s communitarian spirit. The spectrum of issues accommodated is broad, including both traditional and non-traditional aspects. It is at this point that the North-South debate can be reconciled.

Considering the Position of Women in Security Discourse

Taking these dynamics into account, I argue that traditional security and human development cannot be separated from each other, especially in the context of the South, which remains an arena of conflict to this day. The North’s push for the South to pay attention to human development is right, but given the fragile stability of many Southern countries, it is important to make efforts to prevent armed conflict simultaneously. As Afghanistan has shown in the last four decades, Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, and civil conflicts and ethnocentrism concentrated in some parts of the South. These conflicts develop under the influence of interrelated forces between internal and external conflicts. Not only do they threaten global peace and security, but they also produce or exacerbate injustice, especially against women as vulnerable groups in the South.

The nature of warfare today has changed, and it is no longer soldiers -who are often associated with men- who are the most victims, but also women. The social, economic and political access injustices that women experience in their daily lives exacerbate ongoing conflicts and ultimately hinder the long-term process of human development.

In conflicts worldwide, violence against women can not only be seen as an everyday form of oppression but has also been used as a weapon of war. Not only to hurt women, but also to humiliate men on the other side, and erode the social and moral fabric of entire societies for generations (Enloe, 1983). Sexual violence has been used as a war strategy in conflicts ranging from the partition of India to the wars in Rwanda, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, and the Middle East and Ukraine nowadays. This rationale places women as the most vulnerable group in times of conflict.

Way Forward

However, not only during the conflict, it is important to understand the conditions and difficulties of women’s lives after the war. Heyzer (2005) argues that three dimensions need to be considered. First, the specific impact of war on women’s lives, including various forms of violence and the erosion of society’s economic and social fabric. Violence has hurt women’s self-esteem, and in the aftermath, they still have to accept negative stigmatisation from society for the actions committed by militaries.

Second, the importance of women’s participation in the peace process. The Helsinki Agreement, touted as one of the most successful peace agreements, still raises a series of problems because it did not involve women at the negotiating table at all. The involvement of women in the peace process must be done from the beginning. Third, the role of women in shaping the post-conflict reconstruction process to ensure that their societies are built on a foundation of justice, inclusion, and a commitment to the dignity and development of all its members. This stage is the process of building human security for the long term. To be successful, these three dimensions need to ensure a deeper and broader inclusion of human security elements.

This is evidence of the importance of paying attention to the non-military aspects that create injustice without forgetting the impact of war at the same time. Women’s relationship to conflict has rarely been an important discourse in human security studies between the North and South. Although human security discourse, in general, has involved important North-South conversations, whether we want to admit it or not, women from the South still need to be discovered in the dynamics of human security conceptualisation. The North-South relationship in human security discourse is still limited to the ‘dominating North’ and the ‘subordinated South’, without looking further into the multiple subordinations that Southern women experience, especially in times of conflict.

To borrow Acharya’s concept of comprehensive security, injustices that are sidelined and unaddressed will thwart the achievement of the grand vision of human security.

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New Social Compact

Social Matters: Valuing Employee Well-being

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Authors: Birger Kydland, Ynna Abigail Olvida, Yuanda Pangi Harahap*

Highlighting the “social” aspect of ESG

As the world becomes more aware of the need for sustainable and responsible business practices, the Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework has gained significant traction in recent years. While the importance of environmental sustainability and good governance is widely acknowledged, the “S” is often overlooked or underestimated. Based on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, it talks about promoting well-being for all at all ages while SDG 8 aims to promote the protection of labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers.

So, in this article, we will focus on the social aspect of ESG, specifically on employee well-being in the workplace. We will explore its importance and the strategies that companies can adopt to promote employee well-being. We aim to raise awareness about the importance of social matters at the corporate level and encourage companies to prioritize employee well-being in their sustainability agendas as well.  

Importance of well-being in the workplace

Studies reveal that employee well-being has a significant impact on productivity, engagement, and overall success. By promoting employee well-being, businesses can create a positive and supportive work environment that fosters employee satisfaction and ultimately leads to a more engaged and productive workforce. It helps reduce workplace stress and mitigate the negative impacts of mental health issues on employees, resulting in reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs for employers.

Main indicators related to employee well-being

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) identifies several main indicators of well-being in the workplace, including physical, psychological, social, and financial well-being. Physical well-being involves creating a safe and healthy work environment, offering healthy food options, promoting physical activity, and providing ergonomic designs. Psychological well-being includes mental and emotional states such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Employers can support psychological well-being by creating a positive work culture that values open communication, offering resources and support for mental health issues, such as counseling services, and promoting a healthy work-life balance. Social well-being is another main indicator of well-being in the workplace, which includes factors such as relationships with colleagues and social support networks. Lastly, financial well-being as financial stress can have a significant negative impact on employees’ well-being, leading to increased anxiety, poor physical health, and reduced productivity. Employers can support employees’ financial well-being by offering competitive salaries, bonuses, and benefits packages, as well as providing financial education and resources for personal finance management.

By addressing physical, psychological, social and financial well-being in the workplace, employers can help improve employee well-being, leading to better job performance and increased productivity.

Increased well-being to improve mental health in the workplace

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that creating a supportive work environment that prioritizes employee well-being can help reduce work-related stress and improve mental health. By promoting employee well-being and providing resources for mental health support, employers can reduce the negative impacts of mental health issues in the workplace and improve employees’ overall well-being.

The importance of well-being in improving mental health is supported by Champion Health’s research. Their report found that employees who rated their well-being as high reported significantly lower levels of stress and anxiety, indicating a correlation between well-being and mental health. Furthermore, organizations that prioritize employee well-being have a 63% lower rate of workplace stress, indicating the positive impact of well-being initiatives on employees’ mental health. By providing resources such as mental health support programs, flexible work arrangements, and training on stress management, employers can help reduce workplace stress and promote employees’ mental health, leading to a more engaged and productive workforce.

Effective strategies for promoting employee well-being in the workplace

Fortunately, there are several strategies that can be used to prevent, protect, and support well-being in the workplace. Prevention is a crucial strategy for promoting well-being in the workplace. Employers can take steps to prevent workplace hazards and risk factors that may impact employee well-being. This can include providing training on how to recognize and manage stress, reducing workloads and managing deadlines, ensuring adequate rest and recovery time, and creating a safe, open, and supportive work environment. For example, employers can offer flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, to help employees manage their work-life balance.

Protection is another key strategy for promoting well-being in the workplace. Employers can take steps to protect employees both physically and mentally. This can include providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring that work equipment is safe and well-maintained for workplace hazards that cannot be eliminated entirely. Employers can also provide resources for employees to help them manage their mental and emotional well-being, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs) and access to counseling services.

Finally, support is critical for promoting employee well-being and it goes both ways. On one end, employees can take steps to support their own well-being by practicing self-care, such as getting sufficient sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in physical activities. They can take an active role in advocating for workplace policies that promote well-being. This includes advocating for fair wages, flexible work arrangements, and adequate rest periods. They can also work with management to implement policies and programs that prioritize their well-being. Employers can also offer support to their employees by creating a culture of openness and support, providing opportunities for feedback and input, and fostering a sense of community and belongingness in the workplace. By taking a proactive approach to well-being, employers and employees can create a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.

Employee well-being for organizational success

This article highlights the importance of employee well-being in the workplace as a key social aspect of ESG, which can have a direct impact on the success and sustainability of an organization. The focus on employee well-being is becoming increasingly crucial as it can boost productivity and increase employee satisfaction and retention. The article explores the main indicators of employee well-being, which include physical, psychological, social, and financial well-being, and offers strategies for promoting well-being in the workplace, including prevention, protection, and support. Ultimately, prioritizing employee well-being is not only the right thing to do from an ethical perspective, but it is also an essential aspect of a company’s long-term success.

*Yuanda Pangi Harahap from Indonesia, Birger Kydland from Norway, Ynna Abigail Olvida from the Philippines are studying for the ASEAN Master in Sustainability Management, a dual degree program from Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia and the University of Agder, Norway.

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New Social Compact

Fighting back against violence against women – a stain on modern-day society

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One in three women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence – around 62 million women.

Now EU policymakers have finally declared that;” Enough is enough”.

Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted to back a “convention” that aims to crackdown on this “hidden” crime, one that has been with us for far, far too long.

The EU ratification of what is called the Istanbul Convention is, in some ways, the final achievement of a long political battle

Many have said that anyone voting against this is, in fact, effectively in favour of tolerating domestic violence.

All EU Member States had previously signed up to the convention but six countries have yet to ratify the accord. Council – the EU body representing EU member states –is expected to ratify the convention on behalf of the EU as a whole in June. 

The Istanbul Convention is the first instrument in Europe to set legally binding standards specifically to address violence against women and domestic violence. It was actually adopted way back on 7 April 2011 and came into force on 1 August 2014. All MSs have signed it, but as of today, 6 member states – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia – have not ratified it yet.

The EU accession to the convention was a priority in the EU 2020-2025 Gender Equality Strategy.  

However, the EU Court of Justice has confirmed that the European Union can ratify the convention without having the agreement of all member states.

The Court found that the appropriate scope for the EU’s accession is asylum, judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and obligations of the EU institutions and public administration. In line with this, on 10 May, MEPs voted to give their consent in two separate votes:

MEPs have urged the remaining six countries to ratify the convention without delay, so that it can protect women to the full extent of the Convention’s intended scope.

Commenting on the issue, Lukasz Kohut, a Socialist MEP from Poland and lead MEP for the Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said: “Gender-based violence is the biggest unsolved daily problem in Europe. One in three women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence – around 62 million women. Enough is enough. The Istanbul Convention is recognised as the most effective tool for combating gender-based violence, as it imposes concrete obligations. A European law anti-violence umbrella will protect women and girls in Europe, through the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention.”

Further reaction has come from Arba Kokalari (EPP, Sweden), lead MEP for the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, said: “It’s time for the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention. The EU must step up and go from words to action to stop gender-based violence, protect victims and punish perpetrators. I am very glad that the EU is finally taking the necessary steps for the safety and fundamental freedoms of women in Europe. After almost ten years of pushing from the European Parliament, now the ratification of the Istanbul Convention will raise standards in combatting and preventing gender-based violence.”

So, why is all this so important?

Well, the WHO says that violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.

Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.

Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and may increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings.

From the Argentine province of Chaco, 48-year-old mother of seven, Diana suffered for 28 years before finally deciding to separate from her abusive partner.

“I wasn’t afraid that he would beat me, I was convinced that he would kill me,” she said.

At first, she hesitated to file a police complaint for fear of how he might react, but as she learned more about the services provided by a local shelter, she realized that she could escape her tormentor. She also decided to press charges.

The “good” news, if there is such a thing on such a matter, is that violence against women is preventable. The health sector has an important role to play to provide comprehensive health care to women subjected to violence, and as an entry point for referring women to other support services they may need.

In 2020, COVID-19 touched our lives in nearly every way, everywhere, as countries went into lockdown and restricted movement to contain the spread of the virus. As doors closed and isolation began, reports of all forms of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, began to rise.

The pandemic of violence against women is not new. Even before COVID-19 hit us, globally, 243 million women and girls were abused by their intimate partners in the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the violence, even as support services faltered and accessing help became harder.

A group called UN Women has sought to shine a light on the need for funding, essential services, prevention and data that shapes better-informed responses.

It has listed ten ways you can make a difference, including listening to and believing survivors, teaching the next generation and learning from them and also learning the signs of abuse and how you can help.

Survivors of such abuse include people like 48-year-old mother of seven Diana, from Argentina, who suffered for 28 years before finally deciding to separate from her abusive partner.

“I wasn’t afraid that he would beat me, I was convinced that he would kill me,” she said.

At first, she hesitated to file a police complaint for fear of how he might react, but as she learned more about the services provided by a local shelter, she realized that she could escape her tormentor. She also decided to press charges.

Living with an abusive father, her children also suffered psychological stress and economic hardship.

Leaving was not easy, but with the support of a social workers, a local shelter and a safe space to recover, Diana got a job as an administrative assistant in a municipal office.

“I admit that it was difficult, but with the [mental health] support, legal aid and skills training, I healed a lot,” she explained.

Essential services for survivors of domestic violence are a lifeline.

“I no longer feel like a prisoner, cornered, or betrayed. There are so many things one goes through as a victim, including the psychological [persecution] but now I know that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to”.

Diana is among 199 women survivors housed at a shelter affiliated with the Inter-American Shelter Network, supported by UN Women  through  the  Spotlight Initiative in Latin America. The shelter has also provided psychosocial support and legal assistance to more than 1,057 women since 2017.

Her experience shows that help is at hand for victims but there needs to also be the political will to enforce legislation and that is why this week’s vote on the Istanbul  Convention is so important.

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