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Sri Lanka Commits to Boosting Investments in People

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The Government of Sri Lanka committed to accelerate more and better investments in human capital – health, education, and social protection – becoming the 82nd country to join the World Bank’s Human Capital Project.

At a high-level Human Capital Summit held today, at least 12 Ministers and State Ministers, Secretaries and State Secretaries, and several high-ranking officials including the Director General of the Ministry of Finance came together in person to discuss priorities to accelerate investments in human capital for increased future productivity and economic growth, and enable green, resilient, and inclusive development. The event also attracted around 200 virtual observers connecting from around the world and based in Sri Lanka.

“Investing in people is at the center of our government strategy, and is key to ensure a successful post COVID-19 recovery. We will continue to prioritize investments in human capital, to improve early childhood education, achieve universal primary and secondary education, increase access to and quality of higher education, as well as technical and vocational education, enhance quality of the health care system to face future health care challenges, and support vulnerable individuals and families through Samurdhi and other safety nets and employment programs,” said Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Finance.

Sri Lanka’s solid human development outcomes are reflected in the country’s relatively high pre-COVID-19 Human Capital Index score, which is higher than the South Asia region and global averages. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on human capital accumulation in Sri Lanka, including job losses, a devastating learning crisis, and worsening malnutrition. This has led to increased poverty and vulnerability, especially among those groups who lack coping mechanisms and were already disadvantaged.

The World Bank is supporting the Government of Sri Lanka to address its human capital challenges through targeted engagements across health, education, and social protection, aligning with the Government’s National Policy Framework of Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor.

“Protecting and investing in people will be key to Sri Lanka’s recovery from the pandemic and boosting future productivity and economic growth,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for South Asia. “Sri Lanka’s membership in the Human Capital Project is timely for the country to protect its hard-won gains. The World Bank stands ready to support Sri Lanka to accelerate human capital development and pave the way for more inclusive, resilient growth.”

The Human Capital Project is a global effort to accelerate investments in people for inclusive economic growth. It makes the case for investment in the human capital of the next generation; provides access toa program of measurement, research, and analysis that helps to invest in and protect human capital; and supports peer-learning for countries as they develop and implement accelerated priorities for human capital development.

Committing to the cause of accelerating investments in people, the Ministers participating at this event made statements as follows:

“Investments in education are central to reach higher levels of human capital outcomes for Sri Lanka. Our Ministry has made every effort to provide inclusive early childhood education and school education to all children. The opportunities to receive quality higher education and vocational training help to increase productivity, resilience, and enhance labour market outcomes. We look forward to working with the World Bank to invest in children and youth to realize their potential to contribute to the economy,” said Hon. Dinesh Gunawardene, Minister of Education.

“A healthy population is the bedrock for the enhancement of a nation’s human capital. Prioritizing investments in nutrition at every stage of a human being’s life and ensuring a responsive, robust healthcare system are paramount. At the same time, leveraging technology will further enhance the efficiency, quality, and governance of healthcare service delivery,” said Hon. Keheliya Rambukwella, Minister of Health.

“Securing and restoring jobs and incomes will be central to Sri Lanka’s recovery from the pandemic. We need more ambitious policies and programs to tackle these challenges, along with effective social protection strategies and social insurance programs. Sri Lanka can benefit fully from investments in human capital by improving labour market programs, especially for migrant workers. We look forward to working with the World Bank to improve Sri Lanka’s labour market programs, social protection and labour policies to realize full potential of all Sri Lankans,” said Hon. Nimal Siripala De Silva, Minister of Labour.

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Development

Despite COVID-19 connectivity boost, world’s poorest left far behind 

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Digital connectivity is indispensable to overcome the pandemic, and for a sustainable and inclusive recovery. Photo: United Nations/Chetan Soni

Some 2.9 billion people still have never used the internet, and 96 per cent live in developing countries, a new UN report has found. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the estimated number of people who have gone online this year actually went up, to 4.9 billion, partially because of a “COVID connectivity boost”.   

This is good news for global development, but ITU said that people’s ability to connect remains profoundly unequal – as many hundreds of millions might only go online infrequently, using shared devices or facing connection speeds that hamper their internet use. 

“While almost two-thirds of the world’s population is now online, there is a lot more to do to get everyone connected to the Internet,” Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General said. 

“ITU will work with all parties to make sure that the building blocks are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion. We are determined to ensure no one will be left behind.” 

‘Connectivity boost’ 

The UN agency’s report found that the unusually sharp rise in the number of people online suggests that measures taken during the pandemic contributed to the “COVID connectivity boost.” 

There were an estimated 782 million additional people who went online since 2019, an increase of 17 per cent due to measures such as lockdowns, school closures and the need to access services like remote banking.  

Uneven growth 

According to the document, users globally grew by more than 10 per cent in the first year of the COVID crisis, which was the largest annual increase in a decade. But it pointed out that growth has been uneven. 

Internet access is often unaffordable in poorer nations and almost three-quarters of people have never been online in the 46 least-developed countries.  

A ‘connectivity Grand Canyon’ 

Speaking in Geneva, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU said: “The internet divide runs deep between developed and developing countries. Only a third of the population in Africa is using the internet. 

“In Europe, the shares are almost 90 per cent, which is the gap between those two regions of almost 60 percentage points. And there is what the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, has called in his Common Agenda blueprint for the future, “a connectivity Grand Canyon”. 

‘Digitally excluded’ 

The report found that younger people, men and urban dwellers are more likely to use the Internet than older adults, women and those in rural areas, with the gender gap more pronounced in developing nations. 

Poverty, illiteracy, limited electricity access and a lack of digital skills continued to hinder “digitally excluded” communities, ITU noted. 

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Development

World Bank Group and Azerbaijan Sign Agreement to Strengthen Partnership

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The Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the World Bank Group signed today an Agreement on Establishing and Operation of Offices in Azerbaijan.

The Agreement was signed by Minister of Finance Samir Sharifov, on behalf of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Anna Bjerde, on behalf of the World Bank Group. Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Ali Asadov and Governor of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan Elman Rustamov also took part in the signing event.

The signing of the new Establishment Agreement will greatly facilitate the work of the World Bank Group in Azerbaijan, including administration of its offices in Baku, to support joint efforts to achieve a green and resilient recovery through sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth.

“Our partnership with the World Bank has seen Azerbaijan’s incredible transition from a lower-income country to a donor of the International Development Association, the part of the World Bank Group that helps the world’s poorest countries,” said Ali Asadov, Prime Minister of Azerbaijan. “This agreement will help augment these achievements.”

The World Bank has financed over 50 projects, with total commitments of $4.4 billion, spanning many national development priorities, including building human capital, strengthening access to infrastructure, public services and jobs, investing in agricultural competitiveness and rural development, and supporting the livelihoods of internally displaced persons.

“We look forward to continuing to grow and develop our collaboration with the Government of Azerbaijan and to bringing the best experience and expertise the World Bank can offer in support of Azerbaijan’s 2030 vision and development goals,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia.

As the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has been supporting the private sector in Azerbaijan and has invested around $850 million in the country, including mobilization.

“A vibrant private sector is crucial for economic growth. The signing of this agreement with Azerbaijan comes at a time when the country is taking steps to have the private sector drive economic diversification. IFC is committed to continue supporting sustainable growth in Azerbaijan by helping mobilize the power of the private sector,” said Wiebke Schloemer, IFC’s Acting Vice President for Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

2022 will mark the 30th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s membership in the World Bank.

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Development

ILO launches new tool on social dialogue

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The ILO has launched a new tool  to help its constituents enhance the effectiveness and inclusiveness of their national social dialogue institutions.

The tool was developed as part of the Plan of Action on social dialogue and tripartism  (2019-2023) that was endorsed by the ILO Governing Body at its March 2019 session . The Plan also implements the resolution and conclusions on social dialogue of the International Labour Conference (ILC) held in June 2018 .

The self-assessment method for social dialogue institutions (SAM-SDI) guides the social dialogue actors – governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations – through a process that analyses the inclusiveness and effectiveness of their social dialogue institutions. Based on this analysis, they can devise and implement an action plan to increase the institution’s impact on policy-making.

Social dialogue, based on respect for freedom of association and the right to effective collective bargaining, has a crucial role in designing policies to promote social justice and social and economic progress.

Social dialogue institutions have a key role to play in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs), particularly SDG 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Social dialogue is also an essential component of SDG 8 , which promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. It is also central to the achievement of SDG 5, on gender equality.

The SAM-SDI consists of six inter-linked steps. It is available online in English, French and Spanish, on a self-contained USB card and through an interactive e-Platform hosted by the ILO’s International Training Centre.

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