Emma Watson
On March 8, 2016, Emma Watson turned the Empire State Building pink in honor of International Women’s Day. As a U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Watson helped launch the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality in 2014 and continues to keep the issue at the forefront of international politics.

In fact, Watson admitted in a February 2016 interview with feminist author bell hooks that she was taking a year off from acting to focus solely on her work with U.N. Women and the HeForShe movement.

The HeForShe movement affirms that gender equality is not just a women’s issue but an issue that affects all people. HeForShe recognizes men and boys as partners for women’s rights and provides a platform from which they can become agents of change towards the achievement of gender equality.

While some progress towards gender equality has been made over the last decade, major disparities still exist. The World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap Report revealed that the global average annual earnings for women in 2015 just reached the average annual amount men were earning ten years go.

The Forum states that achieving equal pay will take 118 years if economic progress continues at its current pace.

Emma Watson has spoken around the globe on the issue of gender equality in order to involve hundreds-of-thousands of men in the movement.

In the first quarter of 2016 alone, she’s started an online feminist book club, organized HeForShe arts week in New York City, unveiled a new HeForShe website and released a 26-page report in Esquire Magazine on why gender equality is an issue that involves all of us. So far, HeForShe has been the subject of more than 2 billion conversations on social media.

One of the most notable initiatives of the movement Watson helped organize is IMPACT 10x10x10. IMPACT engages governments, corporations, and universities and has them make concrete commitments to gender equality. The three IMPACT groups are made up of ten heads of states, ten corporate executives, and ten university leaders.

The participating IMPACT Champions, all male, include the Prime Minister of Japan, the President of Rwanda, the CEO of Tupperware Brands, the COO of Twitter, and the President of the University of Sao Paulo Brazil.

These individuals are committed to making gender equality an institutional priority and then sharing what they learn with other organizations so that their changes can be replicated.

Watson and the ten IMPACT corporate executives recently met at the 2016 UN World Economic Forum in Davos to unveil their Corporate Gender Parity Report. The report revealed that within the ten corporations, 71% of board members were male, 73% of senior leadership positions were male and 60% of the overall global workforce were male.

The report also revealed the impact commitments the corporations plan on implementing to achieve gender parity. They include:

  • Embedding gender equality in company policies through programs like mandatory bias training and male-focused gender curricula to educate and empower men as gender equality advocates;
  • Increasing the percentage of women in senior leadership positions through mentoring opportunities;
  • Creating thousands of HeForShe male champions within each company;
  • Reaching complete gender parity in undergraduate intake programs to build the pipeline of future female leaders;
  • During the presentation of the report, Watson stated that full female participation in the workforce would bring a $28 trillion boost to the global economy.

In a recent interview at the inaugural HeForShe arts week, Watson was asked what’s next for gender equality and she stated, “we really want to crowdsource as many different strategies from all over the world so that we can try and build a really comprehensive guide to how we can make a tangible difference and make it happen.”

HeForShe is off to an impressive start in 2016 and continues to power towards its goal of gender equality by 2030.

Brian Zepka

Sources: HeForShe 1, HeForShe 2, HeForShe 3, Paper Mag, World Economic Forum, HeForShe Impact 10x10x10 2015 Corporate Parity Report, HeForShe YouTube Channel
Photo: Flickr


Fight Inequality

Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) gathers the global business, political and academic elite in Davos, Switzerland to tackle the planet’s toughest issues. This year, Pope Francis was once again invited to address the group and his message was clear: fight inequality.

A cardinal from the Vatican read the Pope’s letter to forum members on Jan. 22. It began by thanking the WEF for their invitation but quickly addressed global poverty and inequality: “The financialization and technologization of national and global economies have produced far-reaching changes in the field of labor. Diminished opportunities for useful and dignified employment, combined with a reduction in social security, are causing a disturbing rise in inequality and poverty in different countries.”

The recently published Oxfam report, “An Economy For the 1%,” corroborates the Pope’s views. Increasingly fewer people control more of the world’s wealth. From 1988 to 2011, for example, 46 percent of the global increase in income went to the wealthiest 10 percent of the world’s population.

Pope Francis’s address emphasized that caring for the poor means more than empathizing with their plight. “Weeping for other people’s pain does not only mean sharing in their sufferings, but also and above all realizing that our own actions are a cause of injustice and inequality.” He called on business leaders to create an inclusive future and warned about the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” that is hindering progress to fight inequality.

The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” refers to the coming age of robotics and artificial intelligence in everyday life. On its website, the WEF explains that while this revolution will raise global income levels, it may exacerbate inequality. The Pope wishes that this transformation of society “does not lead to the destruction of the human person – to be replaced by a soulless machine – or to the transformation of our planet into an empty garden for the enjoyment of a chosen few.”

Along with this warning, Pope Francis stressed that the age of robotics also presents an opportunity. With vastly increased productivity, humans will have more resources available for “our common home.” He emphasized that business is “a noble vocation” with the ability to improve others’ lives by providing them with a living wage and meaningful work.

His message is that, besides increasing profit and productivity, business leaders must not forget their duty to create jobs. Through the creation of jobs that pay a living wage, the economic elite lift people out of poverty and provide stability for the many living precarious lives. In the drive for modernization, Pope Francis tells leaders, “Do not forget the poor!”

Since becoming Pope, he has uniquely focused on ending inequality. In his 2016 address to Davos, he urged the global elite to work with that goal in mind. The most powerful people on earth, after all, are the most powerful agents for change.

As for what he recommends, Pope Francis’ words speak for themselves. From his 2014 apostolic exhortation: “Growth in justice requires more than economic growth: it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.” Careful planning and action are needed to fight inequality.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: Reuters, Rome Reports, Oxfam International, The Holy See (Vatican), World Economic Forum
Photo: Merco Press

When people think of gender equality they often do not associate it with Rwanda. But, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual report, people should.

Gender equality in Rwanda outperformed many expectations, scoring high in the graded categories of economics, health, education and politics. Additionally, the country placed in the top ten for the second year in a row. They even improved their spot by one, coming in at sixth place.

As a continent, Africa has some of the worst performing countries in the world. Numerous African countries scoring in the bottom 20 supplement that fact. Chad, Mali and Guinea are some of the countries that have yet again found themselves in the bottom 20.

Impressively, Rwanda beat out many well-developed countries. They boast better scores than France (15th) Germany (11th) and even the United States (28th).

The country has continued to see success in bridging the gender equality gap. According to WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report, an impressive 88 percent of women in Rwanda hold jobs. Comparatively, the percentage of women in the United States who have jobs is only 66 percent.

While Rwanda’s placement on the index is certainly praiseworthy, the question remains – how did the country outperform 139 others?

Saadia Zahidi, a member of the WEF, explains: “There are quite a few theories for this and certainly one of them is that after the genocide there has been much lower numbers of men who are able and willing to be working. So, that has changed the dynamics.”

The genocide that Zahidi talks about occurred in 1994. It was aimed at the country’s minority group, the Tutsi’s, and claimed the lives of over one million civilians. Many women became widowed as a result.

After the genocide ended, women came together and demanded change. They successfully re-wrote parts of the constitution and ensured that 30 percent of political roles would be held by women. They also called for marriage equality and land ownership rights.

In terms of political opportunities, Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in Parliament, something that remains to be celebrated.

Of course, there is still much that needs to be done in order to continue to eliminate the gap between genders. However, Zahidi remains confident that the divide in gender equality in Rwanda will continue to close.

Alyson Atondo

Sources: The World Economic Forum 1, Huffington Post,, Washington Post, The World Economic Forum 2
Photo: Flickr

MNS disorders
When discussing health in developing countries, the diseases that come to mind are often exotic, tropical diseases that–although tragic–strangely spark our curiousity. We think of tropical disease such as malaria, dengue fever or parasitic diseases from which we in the developed world are completely safe. Tackling diseases such as these is incredibly important, but we often forget about other types of diseases that may be more familiar to us.

Rather than diseases that afflict the body physically, attention to mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders is usually overlooked when addressing health issues in developing countries. MNS disorders are the leading cause of Disability Adjusted Life Years globally and account for 14 percent of the global burden of disease.

Although usually forgotten, three-fourths of the people worldwide suffering from mental illnesses are in developing countries. Worse, eighty-five percent of the people afflicted by severe mental illnesses in developing countries will not receive the care they need and deserve.

Mental illnesses are surrounded by stigma in many developing countries, which results in social exclusion, discrimination and in many cases isolation by means of being tied to trees or locked in rooms.

Addressing mental health conditions in developing countries is particularly important because widespread poverty increases vulnerability for developing MNS disorders. In addition to this, chronic conditions and mental disorders mutually reinforce each other. Other chronic conditions can increase the risk of developing mental illnesses and vice versa.

MNS disorders directly affect an individual’s ability to have stable relationships with family members and other members of the community and essentially prevent them from being able to fully contribute to society.

A 2010 report by the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health showed that indirect costs of mental health conditions in low- and middle-income countries were estimated to be $583 billion and estimated to more than double by 2030 to $1.4 trillion. Along with cardiovascular disease, mental health conditions are the main economic burden of non-communicable disease, accounting for almost 70 percent of lost output.

A study in Nigeria asked 250 people about their primary reactions to mental illness and their responses included fear, avoidance and anger. It is extremely rare that those suffering from mental diseases in Nigeria receive treatment.

In Kaduna, there is an effort to help those suffering and reduce stigma. Through hard work, counseling and prayer, this treatment center that is half prison, half hospital helps its patients treat their mental illnesses. Men learn skills such as welding, sales and learn to build an array of sellable items ranging from pots to sofas. Women learn skills such as sewing and making baby clothes. Stalls are available for patients to sell their goods and gain income.

Despite the small size of this program, it is a testament of the success that can come from helping those dealing with MNS disorders to receive treatment and learn employable skills so that they can earn income.

More programs such as these are necessary to address mental health disorders and reduce stigma in developing countries, but funding is often a main roadblock. Low- and middle-income countries spend less than one percent of their already small health budget on addressing mental health.

Some organizations have begun funding these programs, which is a great first step to addressing and drawing the necessary attention to mental health disorders. Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Canadian government, has already invested $31.5 million to date in “funding for bold, transformational proposals to improve mental health treatment, expand access to care and reduce the stigma in developing countries.”

There is scientific evidence to prove that moderate additional cost is needed to effectively address and treat mental illnesses and can even come with economic benefits, all while helping those suffering to live productive, healthy lives.

– Kimberly Tierney 

Sources: World Economic Forum, Nature, Youtube, Global Mental Health, Voice of America, The Agenda, WHO
Photo: The Guardian

In the past year, 131 climate change bills were introduced in the 113th United States Congress. This total exceeds the number of climate change bills introduced in the entire 112th Congress with another full year still to go.  There is a renewed sense of confidence in the fight against climate change and now it seems the corporate world is beginning to react.

Due to increased droughts, flooding and generally unpredictable weather patterns, major corporations are feelings the impact of climate change.  The Coca-Cola Company, which relies on sugar cane, sugar beets and other agricultural products from Asia and South America, has had to adjust their strategy and recognize the economic cost of climate change.

Nike Inc., another corporate giant with hundreds of factories around the world, has been forced to adjust to lower cotton yields and commodity price volatility.  Many of Nike’s factories are located in South East Asia, a region particularly vulnerable to climate change phenomena.

In 2008, due to floods, Nike had to shut down four factories.

This year, the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Davos, Switzerland has climate change on its agenda.

A meeting of corporate leaders and politicians from around the world has designated a full day to guest panels and talks regarding climate change and promoting their respective economic interests.  The aim is to build resilience and foster sustainable development through public-private partnerships.

The economic disruption affects companies in various major sectors, from agriculture to energy to manufacturing.  During the 2014 WEF meeting, the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim declared this year as “the year of action on climate change.”  President Kim expressed the urgency of putting a price on carbon while increasing the market for green bonds, a financial tool that seeks to stimulate and coordinate public and private sector activity to combat climate change.

Despite the added support of some corporate leaders, a significant amount of work still remains.  Even with this support, it is clear that government action needs to be the main pillar beneath this movement.  Climate change denial in politics must be dealt with and American’s will have their opportunity to do so through the November elections.

Just ahead of the elections, the UN will host a meeting of world leaders in New York to discuss climate change in hopes to make progress before the planned 2015 summit in Paris where leaders hope to strike an international deal on cutting carbon emissions.  Past meetings and summits have come up empty but the new year brings much needed hope and optimism for everyone fighting for climate change solutions.

– Sunny Bhatt

Sources: New York Times, World Bank Group, The Guardian
Photo: Green Packs

The World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting is occurring in Davos, Switzerland and there is one issue that is being presented as one of the largest challenges that has to be faced in the coming years.  Income inequality around the world is rising and experts say that it is going to become an explosive issue as time goes on.

Oxfam recently released an article that puts into startling perspective how significant an issue income inequality is becoming. Oxfam found that the 85 richest people on the globe have as much collective wealth as the poorest half of the world.  This is a staggering statistic. Oxfam goes on to point out that the richest one percent of the world holds an accrued wealth of $110 trillion dollars, while the 3.5 billion poorest people in the world posses roughly the same amount.

Oxfam’s report also pointed out that in the United States, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent have become poorer. The report goes on to point out how the wealthy have taken advantage of their wealth and created tax havens and other political means to ensure their wealth remains unaffected.

The Huffington Post released a report in which it found that the U.S. has the worst income inequality in the world. It cited the tax code as a huge reason  for the massive income inequality bracket in the U.S. The report also highlighted Wall Street as a reason for the U.S. having the world largest income inequality range. “The same politicians that have busily been slashing taxes on the wealthy have also been loosening fetters on banking, allowing the financial sector to swell to bloated size and mop up ever-more income while contributing ever-less back to the economy.”

Oxfam’s Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, issued a statement saying, “Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table.” She went on to say that with the WEF having income inequality as a hot button issue, the attendees will work personally to make sure that they are not taking advantage of various tax breaks and things of that nature as well.

The WEF is a amazing opportunity for many of the world leading figures to come together and begin to try and sort out many of the issues that plague our society.

 Arthur Fuller

Sources: Business Insider, Huffington Post, Huffington Post, Oxfam
Photo: WTW

“What is a house without food?” A report from the NGO Human Rights Watch poses this question straight from the lips of a resettled farmer in Mozambique. The report examines Mozambique’s coal mining boom due to foreign investment, documenting the resettling of farmers in resource-rich areas that causes food insecurity.

In Mozambique in particular, the mining companies Vale and Rio Tinto displaced local communities from 2009-2011, a move that majorly disrupted daily life for almost 1400 households. For many of these displaced families, the investment in natural resources that should have brought increased profits to the region and country instead jeopardized regular access to food, water, and income opportunities.

The Paradox of Plenty

Statistically, countries with a high amount of natural resources experience lower economic growth and a slower development rate than countries with less natural resources. This is known in economic theory as the “resource curse,” or the paradox of plenty. Multibillion dollar companies investing in these countries’ economies promise a “trickle-down” effect that rarely — if ever — improves the quality of life and average daily income.

A number of phenomena are linked to the “resource curse.” From a historical perspective, regions with visible high amounts of natural resources are seen as more attractive targets for conquest and imperialism. With this precedent of constant push and pull of conquering countries, the host region’s development of governance and infrastructure is stunted. These regions, while relatively stable in governance now, developed with a major disadvantage in the modern economic environment.

Another chief indicator of the “resource curse” is rampant corruption on both state and local level. Extractive industries often collude with corrupt governments to allow them mining or logging rights to land claimed by indigenous people. In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, indigenous communities who should have been protected by constitutional law from exploitation of their land were bypassed entirely when their state leaders covertly gave foreign companies leases to mine bauxite.

While corruption on the ground level could theoretically be bypassed entirely if a foreign company advocated for the rights of the people in the surrounding region, the “resource curse” is certainly not limited to an individual country’s ability to manage its own natural resources. While Rio Tinto and Vale did implement relocation plans approved by the Mozambican government, company representatives did acknowledge the poor arability of the land to which households were relocated.

Growth Poles

Even so, the World Economic Forum sees foreign investment in the natural resource sector as a key part of making Africa’s economies more globally competitive. Growth poles — simultaneous investments coordinated in many sectors to support self-sustaining industrialization — are posed in the Africa Competitiveness Report 2013 as a way to make investing in the host country profitable.

A WEF project entitled “The Madagascar Integrated Growth Poles Project” tested the concept of growth poles, partnering both public agencies and private corporations (including Rio Tinto) to develop infrastructure, provide skills education for both the engineering and hotel industries, and improve the process of business creation. These projects improved the overall business environment in Madagascar, according to the WEF. In 2005, private investment in Madagascar was US$84 million; this number increased to US$1045 million in two years.

What sets “growth poles” apart from isolated foreign investment is dedication to expanding the market in the host country. While the largest investments may initially be extraction of natural resources, they serve as profitability assurance for other firms to invest – both international and domestic.

Responsible Foreign Investment

The key to responsible foreign investment in a country experiencing the “resource curse,” is the balancing of the investor’s profits and economic development for the host country. Partnership of MNCs (multinational corporations) and NGOs hold the most promise, because while companies – both in-house and international – ultimately invest in natural resources for the bottom line, aid and development ventures can improve the standard of living in the communities most affected by natural resource development.

Furthermore, in order for foreign investments to improve developing countries, they should not be isolated or exploitative. These ventures must be planned so as to strengthen and not undermine existing enterprises in the host country. Foreign business investments that help host countries the most are ones that promote and supplement investment in all sectors.

Responsible implementation of foreign investment in Africa’s natural resources is rare. If WEF’s Growth Poles Project is any indicator, there are ways to improve a country’s chances against the “resource curse.” MNCs Rio Tinto and Vale certainly have the resources and precedent to face Mozambique’s mining backlash with an increased dedication to developing growth poles in the region, and in their other investments, to improve development.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: BBC,Human Rights Watch,World Economic Forum,World Watch
Photo: AEFJN

What is Davos? - The World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is colloquially coined as “Davos”, after Davos, Switzerland, the city in which the conference is housed annually. The WEF is an independent organization, dedicated to improving the economic state of the globe by incorporating leaders in business, politics, academics, and civil society to influence global, national, and industrial decisions.

Founded in 1971, the World Economic Forum started out as a humble group of business leaders, meeting under the umbrellas of the European Commission and the European Industrial Associations. The chair of the first gathering, Klaus Schwab, led 440 participants from over 30 countries in Davos to commemorate the finding of this non-profit organization, and created the building blocks to repeat the forum annually each January.

WEF is designed to be independent from any political, partisan, or national interest. This allows the participants in the forum to develop cross-cultural objectives to fighting economic weakness around the world.

A 1983 Forum document described the meetings as

“One of those increasingly rare international events where formality can be dispensed with, where personal contacts can be made, where new ideas can be tried out in complete freedom, where people are aware of the responsibilities involved in belonging to an international community, where we have time to look at the really important issues rather than everyday pressures. This is what we call the Spirit of Davos.”

The purpose of the WEF annual meetings varies from year to year, but all topics fall under the theme of ensuring that world leaders and attendees of the conference exercise their responsibilities “jointly, boldly, and strategically” to improve the economic state of the world for its future inhabitants.

WEF achieves this goal by collaborating with people, systems, and technologies to created indispensable leadership challenges to cultivate “new models, bold ideas, and personal courage to ensure that this century improves the human condition rather than capping its potential.”

In 1994, the World Economic Forum welcomed its 1,000th member, and decided to cap membership at that number, in order to ensure quality in member conversation and benefits.

– Kali Faulwetter
Source: Weforum, Weforum- Executive Summary
Photo: Business Week


Home to 600 million people, the region of South-East Asia is a source of precious resources and a strong work force. Still, many suffer from hunger and malnutrition, which is why it is important to achieve food security in this region. Boosting the agriculture sector in this region is essential to economic growth and development. With the growing obstacles of climate change and depletion of natural resources it is important to focus on creating long-lasting policies and reform on the agriculture sector of this region.

However, farmers are going to need a lot of help from the government to achieve food security in this region. Farms require investment in knowledge and tools as well as having a say in the government. In South-East Asia most farms are very small, usually 2 hectares of land or less, and run primarily by women. The government should focus on policies that support farmer’s organizations, empower and educate women as well as raise awareness about property rights.

World leaders have begun to take steps to implement some of the policies stated above at the World Economic Forum on East Asia taking place in Myanmar. They have proposed a new initiative called New Vision for Agriculture, which is trying to facilitate a public-private collaboration to achieve food security as well as environmental stability. It urges for an increase in investment in agriculture to boost economic growth. It highlights innovative ways for the public and private sectors to work together to achieve the best outcome. Exceptional effort from all actors is necessary to reach the common goal of food security in South-East Asia.

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: WE Blog
Photo: Trend Southeast

What Technology Means To The Developing World

According to the World Economic Forum, the United States placed ninth worldwide in a study that measured each country’s ability to make use of information technology. The U.S. lost out to Finland which placed first due to the regulatory environment which exists in the United States. Even in the top 10 countries, the gap of access to information is wide between the classes, and this gap is heightened in the developing world.

Many countries in Africa and Latin America hold low levels of connectivity to the internet and thus the rest of the globe is reflected in these statistics. By lacking this type of connectivity, the communities in this country miss out on the huge social and economic rewards which coincide with open internet access.

Notably, countries with lacking connectivity are often countries with the poorest communities: China’s ranked 58, Brazil rose to rank 65, India rose to rank 68, and South Africa ranked 70.

In many of the poorest countries, stable access to the internet is secondary to stable access to food, potable water and shelter; however, accessing the internet is a huge benefit in country’s which have met the most basic needs of communities and require further education or economic opportunities to advance their communities and maintain stable income and access to food. While internet access will not fill a stomach, it can provide economic opportunities to keep that stomach full.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Business Recorder
Photo: Media Global News