Entera Bio Appoints Spiros Jamas as Chief Executive Officer

BOSTON and JERUSALEM, Nov. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Entera Bio Ltd. (NASDAQ: ENTX), a leader in the development of orally delivered large molecule therapeutics, announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Spiros Jamas, Sc.D. to the role of Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors effective January 4, 2021. Dr. Jamas will succeed Dr. Roger Garceau, who has been serving as interim CEO since August 2020. Dr. Garceau will continue to serve as a Director of Entera Bio.

"This is an incredibly exciting time to join the talented team at Entera, with several near–term catalysts including multiple data readouts from the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613 as well as numerous potential business development opportunities for our platform technology," said Dr. Jamas. "I look forward to working with the team at Entera to advance the EB613 osteoporosis development program toward a potential pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial and to progress our pipeline, including the selection of a formulation of EB612 for the treatment of hypoparathyroidism. With several important data readouts for the Company over the coming months, including the final Phase 2 data from the EB613 Phase 2 trial in the first half of 2021, I believe there is a significant opportunity to create value for Entera's shareholders and build a sustainable biopharmaceutical company," continued Dr. Jamas.

Spiros Jamas is a biotech entrepreneur with over 30 years of senior management experience in the biopharmaceutical industry. He has served as CEO and/or founder of multiple high growth, innovation–driven companies including: AOBiome Therapeutics, Inc., Tempero Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Alpha–Beta Technology, Inc. He has assembled high–performance teams to grow these organizations and led first–in–class R&D programs from early discovery through Investigative New Drug Application (IND) submissions and into advanced clinical development. As founding CEO of AOBiome, he created a leading skin microbiome company that launched the breakthrough skin probiotic AO+ Mist and Mother Dirt Consumer Brand and led the effort to file six IND's. At Enanta he led the initiation of the Hepatitis C drug development program. Over the course of his career, Dr. Jamas has raised over $300 million in funding from a variety of sources including public and private equity and debt. In addition to his significant experience in building biopharma companies, Dr. Jamas was the Global Healthcare Analyst in the Global Fundamental Strategies group at State Street Global Advisors, the world's second largest asset management firm. Dr. Jamas obtained a Doctor of Science in Biotechnology from M.I.T. in 1987, a M.Sc. also from M.I.T. in 1983 and a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from UMIST, England. He is an author and co–inventor on numerous papers and patents.

"On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Roger for his leadership during the CEO search and am excited that Spiros will be joining us as our CEO and a member of the board of directors. Spiros' background, including his experience with drug development and strategy makes him uniquely qualified to lead the Company at this exciting time. With EB613 Phase 2 data on the horizon and a clear unmet need for oral therapies that may offer osteoporosis patients a more convenient, needle free alternative to the current injectable products currently available, this is a very exciting time for the Company," stated Gerald Lieberman, Entera's Chairman of the Board.

The terms of Dr. Jamas' engagement are subject to the approval of the company's shareholders.

About Entera Bio

Entera is a leader in the development of orally delivered large molecule therapeutics for use in areas with significant unmet medical need where adoption of injectable therapies is limited due to cost, convenience and compliance challenges for patients. The Company's proprietary, oral drug delivery technology is designed to address the technical challenges of poor absorption, high variability, and the inability to deliver large molecules to the targeted location in the body through the use of a synthetic absorption enhancer to facilitate the absorption of large molecules, and protease inhibitors to prevent enzymatic degradation and support delivery to targeted tissues. The Company's most advanced product candidates, EB613 for the treatment of osteoporosis and EB612 for the treatment of hypoparathyroidism are in Phase 2 clinical development. Entera also licenses its technology to biopharmaceutical companies for use with their proprietary compounds and, to date, has established a collaboration with Amgen Inc. For more information on Entera Bio, visit www.enterabio.com.

Forward Looking Statements

Various statements in this release are "forward–looking statements" under the securities laws. Words such as, but not limited to, "anticipate," "believe," "can," "could," "expect," "estimate," "design," "goal," "intend," "may," "might," "objective," "plan," "predict," "project," "target," "likely," "should," "will," and "would," or the negative of these terms and similar expressions or words, identify forward–looking statements. Forward–looking statements are based upon current expectations that involve risks, changes in circumstances, assumptions and uncertainties. Forward–looking statements should not be read as a guarantee of future performance or results and may not be accurate indications of when such performance or results will be achieved.

Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those reflected in Entera's forward–looking statements include, among others: changes in our interpretation of the interim data from the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613, the timing of data readouts from the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613, unexpected changes in our ongoing and planned preclinical development and clinical trials, the timing of and our ability to make regulatory filings and obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for our product candidates; a possible suspension of the Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613 for clinical or data–related reasons; the impact of COVID–19 on Entera's business operations including the ability to collect the necessary data from the Phase 2 trial of EB613; the potential disruption and delay of manufacturing supply chains, loss of available workforce resources, either by Entera or its collaboration and laboratory partners, due to travel restrictions, lay–offs or forced closures or repurposing of hospital facilities; impacts to research and development or clinical activities that Entera is contractually obligated to provide, such as pursuant to Entera's agreement with Amgen; overall regulatory timelines, if the FDA or other authorities are closed for prolonged periods, choose to allocate resources to review of COVID–19 related drugs or believe that the amount of Phase 2 clinical data collected are insufficient to initiate a Phase 3 trial, or a meaningful deterioration of the current political, legal and regulatory situation in Israel or the United States; the availability, quality and timing of the data from the Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613 in osteoporosis patients; the ability find a dose that demonstrates the comparability of EB613 to FORTEO in the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613; the size and growth of the potential market for EB613 and Entera's other product candidates including any possible expansion of the market if an orally delivered option is available in addition to an injectable formulation; the scope, progress and costs of developing Entera's product candidates; Entera's reliance on third parties to conduct its clinical trials; Entera's expectations regarding licensing, business transactions and strategic collaborations; Entera's operation as a development stage company with limited operating history; Entera's ability to continue as a going concern absent access to sources of liquidity; Entera's expectations regarding its expenses, revenue, cash resources, including the amount of cash and cash equivalents as of September 30, 2020 referenced above, which has not been audited or reviewed by Entera's independent registered public accounting firm and should be viewed in the context of all other available information regarding Entera's results of operations, liquidity and financial condition; Entera's ability to raise additional capital; Entera's interpretation of FDA feedback and guidance and how such guidance may impact its clinical development plans; Entera's ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval for any of its product candidates; Entera's ability to comply with Nasdaq's minimum listing standards and other matters related to compliance with the requirements of being a public company in the United States; Entera's intellectual property position and its ability to protect its intellectual property; and other factors that are described in the "Special Note Regarding Forward–Looking Statements," "Risk Factors" and "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" sections of Entera's annual and current filings which are on file with the SEC and available free of charge on the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov. Additional factors may be set forth in those sections of Entera's Quarterly Report on Form 6–K for the quarter ended September 30, 2020, filed with the SEC in the fourth quarter of 2020. In addition to the risks described above and in Entera's annual report on Form 20–F and current reports on Form 6–K and other filings with the SEC, other unknown or unpredictable factors also could affect Entera's results. There can be no assurance that the actual results or developments anticipated by Entera will be realized or, even if substantially realized, that they will have the expected consequences to, or effects on, Entera. Therefore, no assurance can be given that the outcomes stated in such forward–looking statements and estimates will be achieved.

All written and verbal forward–looking statements attributable to Entera or any person acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements contained or referred to herein. Entera cautions investors not to rely too heavily on the forward–looking statements Entera makes or that are made on its behalf. The information in this release is provided only as of the date of this release, and Entera undertakes no obligation, and specifically declines any obligation, to update or revise publicly any forward–looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

Bombardier Appoints Bart Demosky Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

MONTREAL, Nov. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Bombardier (TSX: BBD.B) announced today the appointment of Bart Demosky as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, effective immediately. Bart will report to ric Martel, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bombardier Inc., replacing John Di Bert who will be leaving the Company.

"We are very excited to welcome Bart to the Bombardier leadership team," said ric Martel. "He is an accomplished leader with broad financial experience and an impressive track record of success at some of Canada's largest corporations. Bart's deep knowledge and expertise in all aspects of corporate finance will serve us well as we complete our strategic repositioning to a leaner, more focused company. I'm confident that Bart will provide strong leadership as we manage through the current economic challenges and continue to position Bombardier for the future."

Bart brings over 30 years of experience leading organizational transformations and building high–performing financial organizations in the transportation, energy, infrastructure and services industries. His previous leadership roles include serving as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Universal Rail Systems Inc., Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Canadian Pacific Railway and Chief Financial Officer for Suncor Energy. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Calgary and is an Honours graduate from the University of Calgary's Management Development Program.

"As we welcome Bart to the Bombardier team, I also want to acknowledge and thank John Di Bert for his many contributions to Bombardier," Martel added. "We wish John continued success in all his future endeavours."

About Bombardier
With over 52,000 employees across two business segments, Bombardier is a global leader in the transportation industry, creating innovative and game–changing planes and trains. Our products and services provide world–class transportation experiences that set new standards in passenger comfort, energy efficiency, reliability and safety.

Headquartered in Montral, Canada, Bombardier has production and engineering sites in over 25 countries across the segments of Aviation and Transportation. Bombardier shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (BBD). In the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019, Bombardier posted revenues of $15.8 billion. News and information are available at bombardier.com or follow us on Twitter @Bombardier.

Bombardier is a trademark of Bombardier Inc. and its subsidiaries.

For Information
Jessica McDonald Patrick Ghoche
Advisor, Media Relations Vice President, Corporate Strategy
and Public Affairs Investor Relations
Bombardier Inc. Bombardier Inc.
+1 514 861 9481 +1 514 861 5727

Q&A: Next Decade Sufficient Time for a Food Revolution

Protecting and improving food systems will be vital to reduce the risk of people falling into food insecurity, the United Nations says. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Protecting and improving food systems will be vital to reduce the risk of people falling into food insecurity, the United Nations says. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

By IPS Correspondents
BONN, Germany/BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Nov 30 2020 – In March, after the World Health Organisation first declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations activated a global corporate emergency mechanism for the first time. It had already written to all donor countries asking for $1.9 billion in front-loaded funding, and had begun emergency procurement. Its priority was to sustain life-saving assistance first.

And as the world’s countries began unprecedented nationwide shutdowns, including international travel bans, the closure of schools, shops, and indirect restrictions on local transport and food supply chains, WFP aimed to keep open transport corridors for passenger and cargo movement.

The U.N. agency, which won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its response, had already estimated that some 270 million people — increased from 135 million pre-COVID-19 — would become acutely food insecure if not assisted. In addition, 690 million people do not have enough to eat.

But responding to the development emergency, WFP noted that in addition the pandemic was placing significant stress on existing food systems.

Protecting and improving food systems would be vital to reduce the risk of people falling into food insecurity and will enable “quicker and more inclusive recovery”, the agency noted.

Addressing “the impending global food emergency and avoid the worst impacts of the pandemic, while seizing upon the opportunity of resetting food systems,” is a focus of the upcoming online dialogue, ‘Resetting the Food System from Farm to Fork’, which will be hosted by the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) and Food Tank on Dec. 1.

“The current crisis is showing us we went wrong somewhere along the way. We need to rethink the whole food system to move forward,” said Edie Mukiibi, Vice President, Slow Food International and participant in the event.

Chair of the Barilla Group and BCFN, Guido Barilla. Courtesy: Barilla Group

Chair of the Barilla Group and BCFN, Guido Barilla, believes that resetting food systems is possible in less than a decade: “We need a positive movement to accelerate, empower, refine, and design a more sustainable future, and raising awareness in people – companies, citizens, institutions- that another future is possible.”

If there’s one thing the current situation has taught me is that no one wins alone and that it is necessary to build new powerful alliances,” Barilla said, adding, “Another very important aspect is related to the individual commitment of each and every one of us.”

Danielle Nierenberg, a food systems advocate and founder of Food Tank, a U.S. think tank for food, said that in doing this smallholder farmers play a key role as well.

“We need farmers in decision making roles and policies that affect them whether it is dealing with the pandemic, climate crisis or how to create more equity in the food system, especially for women and girls.

“We need participatory research where farmers work with economists, researchers and extension workers to do the research that will help them improve yields or develop their practices and use different kind of technologies. Innovations are not often taken up because farmers are not involved in them,” Nierenberg told IPS.

Excerpts of the interview with Barilla follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the further strain it has placed on the the global food system, how can we move forward to ensure that the world’s people are fed in a sustainable way?

Guido Barilla (GB): The COVID-19 pandemic shows just how interconnected we all are, not only with each other but also to the planet itself. This crisis is the latest example of the increasing pressure and expectations being put on the world’s food system – not only to keep us all fed, but to ensure we are well nourished and to do so while looking after the environment, tackling the climate crisis, and ensuring people’s livelihoods continue to be met.

Faced with this situation, we must have the courage to change – agri-food companies, retailers, institutions, chef, citizens – because there is no alternative to sustainability. We need to make radical choices and today we are here to build a truly transformative agenda for a sustainable and equitable future (contributing with our ideas and recommendations to the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit).

IPS: We only have 10 years to reach the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Is this enough time to change global food systems? And how can we do it in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic?

GB: From my point of view, 10 years is rather long enough to generate a revolution, and the next 5 years will be crucial. If there’s one thing the current situation has taught me is that no one wins alone and that it is necessary to build new powerful alliances:

  • between the generations, to find a common language and common objectives to pursue;
  • among the actors along the agri-food chain, to find joint solutions to build a truly regenerative, restorative, and resilient food system;
  • between rich and poor countries to call Governments for a global partnership for agriculture, food security and nutrition in order to promote better coordinated and coherent global action;
  • between civil society and private sector, to never lose sight of people’s real needs.


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FXCM and Capitalise.ai partner to offer advanced trading automation tools

TEL AVIV, Israel and LONDON and SYDNEY, Australia, Nov. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Capitalise.ai, a trading automation platform, and FXCM Group, LLC ("FXCM Group' or FXCM'), a market leader in online foreign exchange (FX), CFD, and cryptocurrency trading, announced a strategic partnership that offers FXCM's clients access to a ground–breaking automated trading experience.

As one of the world's largest retail brokers, FXCM provides its traders with access to the world's largest and most popular financial markets by offering state–of–the–art trading tools. By partnering with Capitalise.ai, traders with zero technical skills can automate their trading strategies at no extra cost. This includes the ability to analyse, monitor and execute trading strategies using freestyle text and enjoy an efficient trading experience.

Capitalise.ai enables brokers to complement their existing offering by further empowering, retaining and engaging with their traders while simultaneously generating new revenue streams. The Capitalise.ai platform provides robust capabilities through its cutting–edge proprietary AI, machine learning and NLP technologies, which are being utilised by leading brokers around the world today.

FXCM traders will get unrestricted, free of charge access to the Capitalise.ai platform to:

  • Automate trading strategies using natural language
  • Loop strategies to repeat trades indefinitely
  • Analyse and backtest trading strategies
  • Explore a live strategies library
  • Simulate trading strategies and much more.

Brendan Callan, CEO of FXCM, said: "Our partnership with a market–leader like Capitalise.ai is a step towards delivering even better value and greater accessibility to financial markets for our traders. For the first time, all of our clients can automate their trading strategies with no coding needed and zero technical skills using freestyle text. This is a truly exciting partnership for FXCM, with significant benefits for our clients."

“We are very excited to partner with FXCM, a leading trading provider in the financial industry. We are thrilled to be embedded into their offering, which is one of the most advanced online trading experiences in the market today," said Amir Shiovich, Capitalise.ai Co–Founder and CTO. "This partnership allows us to broaden the reach of our groundbreaking trading automation platform that adds real, tangible value to FXCM's traders."

About FXCM:

FXCM is a leading provider of online foreign exchange (FX) trading, CFD trading, and related services. Founded in 1999, the company's mission is to provide global traders with access to the world's largest and most liquid market by offering innovative trading tools, hiring excellent trading educators, meeting strict financial standards and striving for the best online trading experience in the market. Clients have the advantage of mobile trading, one–click order execution and trading from real–time charts. In addition, FXCM offers educational courses on FX trading and provides trading tools, proprietary data and premium resources. FXCM Pro provides retail brokers, small hedge funds and emerging market banks access to wholesale execution and liquidity, while providing high and medium frequency funds access to prime brokerage services via FXCM Prime. FXCM is a Leucadia Company.

Trading Forex/CFDs on margin carries a high level of risk and may not be suitable for all investors. Leverage can work against you. The products are intended for retail, professional and eligible counterparty clients. Retail clients who maintain account(s) with Forex Capital Markets Limited (“FXCM LTD”), could sustain a total loss of deposited funds but are not subject to subsequent payment obligations beyond the deposited funds but professional clients and eligible counterparty clients could sustain losses in excess of deposits. Prior to trading any products offered by Forex Capital Markets Limited, inclusive of all EU branches, FXCM Australia Pty. Limited, FXCM South Africa (PTY) Ltd, any affiliates of aforementioned firms, or other firms within the FXCM group of companies [collectively the “FXCM Group”], carefully consider your financial situation and experience level. If you decide to trade products offered by FXCM Australia Pty. Limited ("FXCM AU") (AFSL 309763), you must read and understand the Financial Services Guide, Product Disclosure Statement, and Terms of Business. Our FX and CFD prices are set by us, are not made on an Exchange and are not governed under the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act. The FXCM Group may provide general commentary, which is not intended as investment advice and must not be construed as such. Seek advice from a separate financial advisor. The FXCM Group assumes no liability for errors, inaccuracies or omissions; does not warrant the accuracy, completeness of information, text, graphics, links or other items contained within these materials. Read and understand the Terms and Conditions on the FXCM Group's websites prior to taking further action.

Read full disclaimer

About Capitalise.ai

Capitalise.ai is an innovative trading automation platform that amplifies top tier brokerage firms' performance by offering a trading experience like never before.

With Capitalise.ai, brokers can now offer seamless automated trading, previously reserved only for highly technical traders, to all types of traders. For the first time, traders with zero technical skills can automate their trading using freestyle text.

Capitalise.ai's platform is extensive and rich in its capabilities and features and is already being used by leading brokers worldwide.

Capitalise.ai was founded in 2015 by two fin–tech veterans, and employs a multidisciplinary team of expert developers and financial industry professionals. For more information, please visit https://www.capitalise.ai/

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Chatsworth Communications

Battles Won – and Lost – Against AIDS Hold Valuable Lessons for Managing COVID-19

By External Source
Nov 30 2020 – World AIDS Day this year finds us still deep amid another pandemic – COVID-19. The highly infectious novel coronavirus has swept across the world, devastating health systems and laying waste to economies as governments introduced drastic measures to contain the spread. Not since the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 1990s have countries faced such a common health threat.

This explains why UNAIDS has selected the theme “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility” for this year’s World AIDS Day.

Infectious diseases such as these remain a major threat to human health and prosperity. Around 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses in the last 40 years. At the time of writing, 1.4 million people had already died from COVID-19 in just one year.

The HIV/AIDS response played out over a much longer trajectory than COVID-19. But it is, in some respects, a shining example of what can be achieved when countries and people work together

These diseases take incredible expertise, collaboration and dedication from all levels of society to track, understand, treat and prevent.

The HIV/AIDS response played out over a much longer trajectory than COVID-19. But it is, in some respects, a shining example of what can be achieved when countries and people work together. The work of organisations such as the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS and the International AIDS Society help to coordinate rapid sharing of information and resources between healthcare providers and communities.

The Global Fund and PEPFAR have mobilised resources that have helped to reduce morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income regions. AIDS-related deaths have declined worldwide by 39% since 2010.

These and other groups have also fought against high drug prices that would render medication inaccessible to many in the developing world. In South Africa, the epicentre of the HIV epidemic, a day’s supply of the simplest antiretrovirals cost about R250 in 2002. Today easier, more palatable treatment taken once per day costs a few rands.

Collaboration and co-ordination has also meant that medications have been developed and tested in populations across the world. And once available, global guidelines and training opportunities ensure that healthcare provision and quality is standardised.

Many of these achievements did not come without a fight. Dedicated and sustained activism, at a political and community level were required to drive down drug pricing for the global South and is constantly required to ensure inclusive distribution of resources.

The corollary is also true – areas where the world continues to struggle arise predominantly where there’s a lack of solidarity and agreement. These include a lack of political support to implement evidence-based protection mechanisms for vulnerable or stigmatised populations. For example the legalisation of homosexuality. This results in continued but avoidable HIV infection and related mortality.

These lessons need to be taken on board as the world prepares for the next phase of managing COVID-19. All the interventions that helped contain and manage HIV and AIDS are critical in ensuring that no country, regardless of developmental status, and no population, especially those that face stigma and battle to access healthcare services, are left behind.


Building on existing systems

The lessons learnt from HIV and AIDS can be used to inform the COVID-19 response as the challenges are similar.

Many of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trials are taking place in multiple countries, including South Africa. The capacity to conduct these studies, including the clinical staff and trial sites, are well established as a result of decades of HIV/AIDS research. There are fears that developing nations might be excluded from accessing an effective COVID-19 vaccine. But global mechanisms are now in place to avoid this and to, instead, encourage and enable global solidarity, some of which were championed by the HIV/AIDS response.

The Access to COVID-9 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator, established by the World Health Organisation in April 2020 in collaboration with many other global organisations, governments, civil society and industry, have committed through the pillar known as Covax, to equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as diagnostic tests and treatments. These global institutions and mechanisms require continued support.

With the deployment of an effective vaccine, an end to COVID-19 might soon be in sight. For HIV, vaccine development has been more complex and disappointing. The global community needs to remain committed to promoting access and support for the many incredible prevention and treatment options that are available. The unprecedented effort on the part of private industry in the COVID-19 vaccine response shines a light on what can be achieved when all interested parties engage. The HIV and TB vaccine endeavours need a similar effort.

These are not the only pandemics the world will face. In fact, there are strong predictions that the emergence of new pandemics will increase in the future. This is due to the effects of globalisation, climate change and proximity to wildlife.

The best hope for humanity is to not lose sight of what these pandemics cost us in terms of loved ones, in terms of freedom and economically. We must prepare now collectively across countries and across all levels of society. These preparations need to be grounded in the lessons learnt from HIV/AIDS and re-learnt from COVID-19.


Social solidarity

The success of the global response to current and emerging pandemics will rely on the ability of the less vulnerable to acknowledge their shared responsibility and respond to those calls.

An important truth of the HIV epidemic is that it doesn’t discriminate. No infectious disease acknowledges political borders and everybody is at risk of being infected or affected. If nothing else, because of this we need to continue to work together on a global scale knowing that “no one is safe, until everyone is safe”.

Carey Pike, Executive Research Assistant at the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation contributed to this article.The Conversation

Linda-Gail Bekker, Professor of medicine and deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How Did Rural India Learn During Lockdown?

Only 35.6 percent of all enrolled children received some kind of learning materials or activities from their teachers. | Picture courtesy: PxHere

By Upamanyu Das
Nov 30 2020 – School closures due to the nationwide lockdown in March 2020 meant that children were disengaged with formal education for a prolonged period. The resulting talks around e-education exposed India’s digital divide, with only 24 percent of households having access to the internet.

Children studying in government schools were hit particularly hard, with a recent study indicating that more than 80 percent of government school students (in Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh) hadn’t received any educational materials during the lockdown.

With this backdrop, Pratham Education Foundation conducted surveys for its Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2020. The first round of the report (called Wave 1) has been published, and through it Pratham attempts to fill the national data gaps on the status of rural education during the lockdown. It explores the provisions of remote-learning (educational materials), and how accessible these provisions were in rural India, as well as how often they were used.

To write the report, Pratham conducted a survey in late September 2020. Based on a random sample of participants drawn from the ASER 2018 database, the survey saw participation from 52,227 households and 8,963 teachers from 16,974 villages in 26 states and four union territories.

Data was collected for each child between the ages of five and 16 in each household, and in schools it was collected for the grade that teachers could provide the most information for. Here are some highlights from the report.


Children’s school enrolment

The report notes that there has been a marked shift in the number of children enrolled in government and private schools in 2020:

  • Roughly, there are three to four percent more children enrolled in government schools than private institutions, as compared to 2018. This is true across all academic grades, for both boys and girls.
  • For children between six to ten years of age, there as been a sharp increase in those not enrolled in school (from 1.8 percent to 5.3 percent). This can be explained by schools being shut, which implies that admissions for the Grade 1 are on hold.


Household resources

A family’s resources can influence the support they provide towards their children’s learning in a variety of ways. The report attempted to capture these varying support mechanisms:

  • Parent education levels: Only 31.3 percent and 16.6 percent of surveyed mothers and fathers, respectively, had no schooling. In contrast, 53.1 percent of mothers and 70.8 percent of fathers had completed more than five years of school.
  • Access to smartphones: For 22.5 percent children whose parents had ‘low’ education levels, there was a 45.1 percent chance of their household having a smartphone, with an 84 percent chance of the child bring enrolled in a government school. While for 27.6 percent children whose parents had ‘high’ education levels, there was a 61 percent chance of having a smartphone at home, with a 69.5 percent chance of the child being enrolled in a government school.
  • Textbooks: Having relevant textbooks at home is crucial for a child’s learning. The report indicates that schools have fared fairly well in this regard, with 84.1 percent of government school children and 72.2 percent of private school children having relevant textbooks for their grade.
  • Learning support: Taking all children across different grades together, close to three-quarters of all school children received school-related help from their family members. This was more pronounced for younger children, with 81.5 percent children in Grades 1 and 2 receiving help from family members as compared to 68.3 percent children in Grade 9 and above. Expectedly, parents with higher education levels were better equipped to help their children. In cases where parents had completed Grade 9 or more, approximately 45 percent of children received help from their mothers.


Access to and availability of learning materials and activities

Only 35.6 percent of all enrolled children received some kind of learning materials or activities from their teachers:

  • The proportion of children in higher grades (Grade 9 and above) receiving learning materials was 37.3 percent, while the same for children in lower grades (Grades 1-2) was 30.8 percent. The numbers were consistently higher for children in private schools compared to government schools across all grades.
  • Among those who did receive learning materials, 67.3 percent of government school students and 87.2 percent private schools students received them on WhatsApp. Government schools tended to use phone calls and personal visits more often than private schools.
  • Of the enrolled children who didn’t receive any learning materials, 68.1 percent of parents cited schools not sending materials, while 24.3 percent households stated not owning a smartphone as the reason. This number was almost five percent higher for government schools than private schools.


Children’s engagement with remote-learning

Of the 35.6 percent households which did receive learning materials during the survey week, most reported that children engaged in some kind of educational activity during that week:

  • For children in all schools, 59.7 percent reported using textbooks.
  • Students in higher grades were more likely to engage with online classes or video recordings than their younger counterparts. For students in Grade 9 and above, 27.5 percent accessed videos or recorded classes and 16.3 percent accessed live online classes. The same numbers for students in Grades 1 and 2 were 16.6 percent and 7.3 percent.
  • Recorded video lessons and online classes were more accessible for private school students, with 28.7 percent reporting using video recordings and 17.7 percent reporting using live online classes. The same numbers were for government school students were 18.3 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.


Involvement of schools

The survey also examined how schools understand their ability to maintain contact and conduct remote learning with their students.

Of the total 8,963 teachers surveyed, more than half were from primary schools, while most of the remainder were from upper primary schools. Half of them responded for Grades 2, 4, or 5; and more than a quarter for Grades 6, 7, or 8:

  • Teachers reported having the phone numbers of at least half of their students. However, the necessary training provided to them was inadequate, with only half reporting having received any training.
  • Two-thirds of all respondents reported that they had shared learning materials in the previous week, while another 21 percent had shared materials at least once during the lockdown. Another 86.8 percent had shared textbooks with all children in the selected grade.
  • Seven out of every ten schools respondents reported receiving help from a variety of community actors in order to reach and support children.

Existing inequalities in education have only been further exacerbated during the lockdown. The report makes clear that a large number of children are in danger of being pushed out of formal education, and the marginalised populations, as always, remain at greater risk.


This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

Q&A: Vote with your Fork for a World Free from Hunger

Transforming food systems means farmers producing adequate and nutritious food for consumers. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Nov 30 2020 – A world free from hunger is possible but only if we change how we grow and eat food. And resetting the food system — including all aspects of production, processing, marketing, distribution and the consumption and nutrition of food — is key to securing a sustainable food future post COVID-19.

“We need not return to the normal we had before COVID-19 but we need to create a new food system that has opportunities to make changes.

“There is a real commitment from all sectors now not just looking at food security but nutrition security too. For a long time we have focused on quantity and calories. COVID-19 has exposed that we also need to focus on quality. Diet-related diseases are a major risk factor for mortality from the virus,” says Danielle Nierenberg, a world-renowned researcher, activist, food system expert and co-founder of the United States think tank, Food Tank.

The global food system is under strain. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) projects that agriculture production needs to grow by 70 percent to feed more than 9 billion people in the world by 2050.

But hunger, malnutrition, obesity, and food waste and loss are on the rise. There are increasing impacts of climate change and now COVID-19.

“We have seen supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID-19 and how our global food system is fragile and vulnerable. Farmers have had to pivot and make changes after supply chain disruptions that have seen schools, restaurants, and hotels close down. Farmers have had to find new markets,” Nierenberg, who is also recipient of the 2020 Julia Child Award, tells IPS.

Resetting the food system is everyone’s business, she adds. This includes farmers, policy makers and researchers to ensure sustainable and resilient ways of growing healthy and abundant food for all.

We need a food revolution in agriculture now. We need agriculture that is more sustainable and more resilient and that prepares us for shocks, climate crisis and global pandemics,” Nierenberg tells IPS in an interview ahead of the ‘Resetting the Food System from Farm to Fork’, an international dialogue co-hosted by the Barilla Foundation and Food Tank that will take place online on Dec. 1.

The high level dialogue will highlight the critical role of farmers in feeding the world and managing natural resources, food business in progress towards the 2030 Agenda as well as chefs in redesigning food experiences.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Danielle Nierenberg, a food systems advocate and co-founder of Food Tank. Courtesy: Food Tank

Danielle Nierenberg, a food systems advocate and co-founder of Food Tank. Courtesy: Food Tank

Inter Press Service (IPS): Food systems is the buzz word on the global food agenda, why food systems?

Danielle Nierenberg (DN) : You have producers, farmers, civil society groups, key decision makers and business leaders all looking at issues of food and agriculture holistically. Food systems are complex because they are interlinked to everything else that goes on in the world.

Food impacts everything we do; from the economy to social, racial, [and] cultural equity. So looking at food through a systems lens, we can see the interconnections and how much our daily existence is linked to how we produce and consume food, hence the interest in food systems.

IPS: How do we transform food systems to deliver what we need rather than what we are getting now?

DN: We need commitment and unity from all sectors. Policy makers will have to be enlightened, businesses will have to change and produce farmers will have to diversify. That will be the key outcome from COVID-19. We cannot rely on mono-culture systems because they are fragile. Eaters too have to change some of their practices. More people are cooking from home because they have to and are learning how to eat better, nutritious food but they will have to demand that change. Food Tank has been using the term ‘citizen eater’ – someone who votes with their fork as well as their vote. They vote for the kind of food system they want, this is one way to go. Consumers have a lot of power that they have not used effectively.

IPS: Are we on track to meet the SDGs? 2030 is 10 years away but we still grappling with  hunger, malnutrition and under nutrition, especially in the developing world.

DN: Absolutely. The poorest and most vulnerable are suffering not because of COVID-19 but due the climate crisis. I tend to be an optimist. The SDGs set out some major commitments which I think are achievable over the next nine years. We need real commitment. COVID-19 has set us back with hunger on the rise and there will be likely 80 million hungry people this year than they were last year. More needs to be done to make sure these people are getting the food and nutrition they need.

The problem has always been one of distribution and not of lack of food. There is now attention being paid to food loss and food waste. We are foreseeing a lot of food going to waste this year as farmers produced but they have had no markets. For farmers to gain markets we need better technology and innovation to help them to do that.

What is different this year is we are seeing increased hunger in the global north countries too. There are massive lines at food banks in United States and parts of Europe where so many people are affected who never experienced hunger before. This is a wake-up call to the world to act if we are to achieve the SDGs.

Zimbabwean smallholder farmer, Kwanele Ndlovu, shows part of her produce at her farm in Nyamandlovu district, Zimbabwe. Danielle Nierenberg, a world-renowned researcher, activist, food system expert and co-founder of the United States think tank, Food Tank, says that because of COVID-19 people are now concerned about their health and are looking for nutritious foods, instead of processed foods. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Zimbabwean smallholder farmer, Kwanele Ndlovu, shows part of her produce at her farm in Nyamandlovu district, Zimbabwe. Danielle Nierenberg, a world-renowned researcher, activist, food system expert and co-founder of the United States think tank, Food Tank, says that because of COVID-19 people are now concerned about their health and are looking for nutritious foods, instead of processed foods. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

IPS: The theme for this year’s dialogue, ‘resetting the food system from farm to fork’. Tell us more.

DN: This is one of the very first events leading up to the U.N. Food Systems Summit that will take place in the fall of 2021.

We are bringing together leading thinkers from around the world on food and agriculture. The topics we have outlined are some of the biggest issues that need to be addressed at the U.N. Food Systems Summit. We are setting the stage for what happens next year. Inclusivity is needed and farmers should be part of these discussions.

We have farmers like Edie Mukiibi, the Vice President of Slow Food international; Leah Penniman, an author, educator and farmer in the U.S. doing a lot to improve the lives of black farmers; chefs like Massimo Bottura who is interested in reducing food loss and food waste and another chef, Dan Barber, who has achieved significant results in creating regenerative agriculture system at his farm and restaurant. 

Bobby Chinn, a TV personality and chef from Cairo teaches students about sustainable agriculture practises. We have economists too, like Jeffery Sachs and Chris Barrett, who are thinking about how to create a new food economy.

We also have experts looking at the intersection between food and technology and how technology can help farmers produce better quality food and a more democratised food system where everyone has access to food.

Agnes Kalibata, the U.N. special envoy for the Food Systems Summit and President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) will close the event and talk about where we go from here over the next ten months before the summit happens.

IPS: Lastly, how would food systems transformation look like for smallholder farmers, who keep the world fed?

DN: Gosh. If we transform the food system, we should be recognising farmers. Farmers lack the respect all over the world. They are not honoured for the work they do, not just as producers but as stewards of the land and business people. They are the ones who keep us fed but we think of them as second class citizens, people who are not smart enough to do anything else. If we can honour the brilliance of farmers that will go a long way in transforming our food and agriculture system.

Women Empowerment During COVID-19 Through Remote Learning – the Fuzia Perspective

No cause to celebrate as COVID-19 has created setbacks on the aims of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It’s been 25 years since the declaration was signed. Credit: Markus Winkler / Unsplash

By Fairuz Ahmed
NEW YORK, Nov 30 2020 – This year, the world commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, instead of celebration; however, its progress has been impeded by the COVID-19.

The so-called ‘new normal’ where people have been forced to stay at and, if possible, work from home has resulted in the pushing back of the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment targets.

Earlier this year Alia El-Yassir, the United Nations Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia remarked that “Women’s organizations and civil society at large should be an integral part of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.”

Her comments about women being on the front lines of the pandemic are as true today as they were in April when she made them.

“They (women) know what needs to be done and we urge all development partners to seriously consider the solutions they offer so that we can continue to ensure the principles of equality and social justice.”

While there have been many such calls this year, several online platforms, like Fuzia and The Female CEO, have risen to the challenge, creating connections between women and other groups, and creating a forum for support and online training and education.

This is crucial as the statistics are far from encouraging.

According to a report published by the Center for American Progress, four times as many women as men dropped out of the labour force in September, roughly 865 000 women compared with 216,000 men in 2020. There were nearly 10 million mothers of young children in the labour force in 2019, and it is estimated that the risk of mothers leaving the labour force and reducing work hours to assume caretaking responsibilities amounts to $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity in the United States alone.

As front-line responders, health professionals, community volunteers, transport and logistics managers, scientists, homemakers, work from home mothers, caregivers, and teachers, women have been actively involved, battling the crisis of the COVID19 lockdown and economic crisis.
The pandemic has vastly affected restrictions in women’s rights and access to justice, increases in women’s unpaid work at home, loss of employment, and income by women, who globally dominate the insecure informal economy.

Globally the lockdown and social distancing have also triggered additional risk of domestic violence. It has been reported by the United nations that on an average 25%-35% rise has been noticed in domestic abuse reporting calls, globally.

As the world faces this unprecedented time, the world has shifted from a brick-and-mortar presence to massive dependency on technology and supporting infrastructure.

Fuzia’s focus is females of all ages and demographics – and while the digital platform started before COVID-19 – it has adapted to the new reality.

Apart from women, it’s become a content provider supporting the LGBTQ community, and it doesn’t exclude men.

With discussion boards, job training, skill set improvement, guest speakers, and motivational posts Fuzia has been supporting 4 million followers from her various social media outlets to stay focused and evolving all through the pandemic.

In an article published in The New York Times in October, it referred to employers saying that many workers, including those who are older, are nervous about returning given the health threat.

According to the UN News, more than nine in 10 of the world’s workers continue to live in countries with some sort of workplace closures. Regionally, the Americas have been worst affected by far, with working hours diving 18.3 percent. Europe and Central Asia saw a 13.9 percent fall, followed by Asia and the Pacific (13.5 percent), Arab States (13.2 percent) and Africa (12.1 percent).

In most cases, globally, people with children, particularly women, are struggling to return to jobs because they have limited childcare options with schools and day-cares all or partly closed.
In such instances working from home and acquiring new skills to adapt to a new world has become a must.

This is where online platforms have come into their own. Fuzia, for example, offers a plethora of training events. A few of their engagement efforts are interview preparation help, better communication training, work from home tips and tricks, balancing a calm mind and body while being under lockdown.

Periodic hosting of live sessions with Q&As and discussions with industry leaders keeps the audience engaged.

Their recent interviewees have included Shelleye Archambeau, who has been named as the second most influential African American in technology by Business Insider, a known author and also a Fortune 500 board member. In discussion with Fuzia co-founder Shraddha Varma, Archambeau advised job seekers looking to ‘ace’ an interview to understand the subtext of the questions and the one about learning new skills was a test of a candidate’s resilience and their attitudes to “investing” in themselves.

Another top interviewee was Tricia Scott, founder and editor of The Female CEO. The discussion revolved around networking and community online support – something which both platforms specialize in.

Fuzia was represented at the Women Economic Forum 2018 and engages million active users from various social media outlets at present. Riya Sinha and Varma launched the virtual community dedicated to empowering women using digitized tools. They have created a platform which diminishes the lines between geographical locations and time.

Through the content offered on the platform, any user from any location around the globe can access information and take part in learning a new skill.

Fuzia nurtures the creativity of women through live sessions, contests, shout outs, select features and campaigns, online learning, webinars, workshops, experiential learning, contests, and more.

As the platform is open to all age groups and sexual orientation it boasts a judgment-free zone. Mutual respect and tolerance are highly valued. These initiatives help women, who are the majority of the users, develop their skills, gain the courage to be expressive, and excel. They also link up the right skill at the right places giving the women who are yet to be successful a proven theory that works.

A huge portion of the females who use Fuzia are from remote areas, and Fuzia has targeted these women for skills training online – and during the pandemic, increased the range of courses and training online.


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UN Special Session on COVID-19 Must Recognize Right to Health & Access to Vaccines

A healthcare worker at a testing facility collects samples for the coronavirus at Mimar Sinan State Hospital, Buyukcekmece district in Istanbul, Turkey. Credit: UNDP Turkey/Levent Kulu

By Riccardo Petrella
BRUSSELS, Nov 30 2020 – The holding of this Special Session (the 37th in the history of the UN) is of considerable importance. It is a unique opportunity to define and implement joint actions at the global level to fight the pandemic in order to ensure the right to life and health for all the inhabitants of the Earth. As the President of the UN General Assembly wrote in his letter of convocation: “Let us not forget that none of us are safe until we are all safe”.

This is a historic moment. The future of the UN is at stake, and above all the capacity of our societies to give life a universal value free from any subordination to market, economic and power “reasons”.

Health, life, is not a question of business, profits, national power, domination or survival of the strongest. The right to health for all is not only a question of access to care (medicines, vaccines….).

This special session is also very important because it represents a great opportunity for us citizens. It encourages us to express our priorities and wishes, to put pressure on our elected leaders so that their decisions comply with the constitutional principles of our States and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Peoples.

As the Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth, we have already intervened in September with the UN Secretary General in defense of a health policy without private patents for profit and free of charge (under collective financial responsibility.

On 23 October, at the WTO (World Trade Organisation) level, the “rich” countries of the “North” (United States, European Union, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan…) rejected the request made by South Africa and India, supported by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and other countries of the South, to temporarily suspend the application of patent rules in the fight against Covid-19.

The suspension was intended to allow people in impoverished countries fair and effective access to coronavirus treatment. We deeply deplore it. With this rejection, the aforementioned countries have flouted the political and legal primacy of the right to health according to the rules and objectives set at the international level by WHO over the “logics” and market interests promoted by WTO. This is unacceptable.

Is humanity at the beginning of the end of any global common health policy inspired by justice, responsibility and solidarity?

Inequalities in the right to health have worsened as part of a general increase in impoverishment. According to the biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report of the World Bank the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021.1

The vaccine market is valued at about $29.64 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $43.79 billion at a CAGR of 10.3% through 2020. The sector is marked by a high degree of concentration: four major pharmaceutical groups dominated in 2019 in terms of turnover generated by the marketing of vaccines.

Leading the way is the British company GlaxoSmithKline, followed by the American Merck and Pfizer, with 7.3 and 5.9 billion euros respectively, and then the French company Sanofi with over 5.8 billion euros last year.

The concentration of vaccine production is also impressive. Europe currently accounts for three-quarters of global vaccine production. The rest of the production is divided mainly between North America (13%) and Asia (8%). In Europe, there are pharmaceutical giants such as Roche, Novartis and Bayer.

The resulting social fractures from above-mentioned trends make it more difficult to implement measures and actions in line with common, shared objectives, in the interest of all, especially the weakest who are at risk.

The spirit of survival and nationalist, racist and class divisions have been reinforced. With a few exceptions, the commodification and privatisation of health systems have contributed to the transfer of decision-making powers to private global industrial, commercial and financial subjects.

National political powers, which are responsible for the processes of commodification and privatisation, are less and less able to design and impose a global and public health policy in the interest of the world’s population.

Mainstream narratives, values, choices and regulation practices must change

The world situation is dramatic. This does not mean that it’s impossible to reverse to-day’s trends. Here below we mention the solutions that Agora of the Inhabitants has submitted to the attention of the president of the UN General Assembly in view of the Special Session on Covid-19.

Our proposals were the subject of a consultation with associations, groups, movements and citizen networks during the month of November. We have received 1,285 signed personal emails of support from 53 countries.

First, the Special Session must strongly reaffirm the principle that the health of all the inhabitants of the Earth is the greatest wealth we possess. Health matters, health is a universal right. It should not belong only to those who have the power to purchase the goods and services necessary and indispensable for life. Our States must stop spending almost 2 trillion dollars a year on armaments and wars.

The health of 8 billion human beings and other living species is more important than the power of conquest and extermination. To this end, it is necessary to change the priorities of global finance by investing in the economy of global public goods (health, water, knowledge/education.

The Special Session should: – propose the creation of a public cooperative financial fund for health, as an integral part of a Global Deposits and Consignments Fund for Global Public Goods; – commission UNIDIR or a commission of independent experts to submit a study report on immediate reductions in military expenditure and the reconversion of its allocation to the development, production and distribution of public goods and services in the health and related fields of water, agro-food and knowledge.

Second, universal rights to life imply that the goods and services indispensable for life should no longer be subject to private appropriation nor to exclusive collective appropriation. Therefore it is necessary to build the common future of all the inhabitants of the Earth by promoting and safeguarding the common public goods and services indispensable for life.

Water, health, seeds, housing and knowledge and education, are the most obvious common public goods. They cannot be dissociated from universal rights. Patents on life (and artificial intelligence) are a strong example of the dissociation between goods that are indispensable for life, such as medical care goods (infrastructure, medicines, and so on) and the right to life.

Hence, we propose:

    • to recognise that health (goods and services) is a global common public good that must be safeguarded, protected and valued by the community, under the responsibility of democratically elected public authority institutions, at the different levels of societal organisation of human communities, from the local to the global community of life on Earth;
    • approve the abandonment for the period 2021-2023 of application of the rules concerning patents on living organisms, in particular on all the tools for combating the Covid-19 pandemic (diagnostics, treatment, vaccines). The monopolies left to patent holders have no relevant social, ethical, economic and political value. To this end, the Member States of the United Nations and its specialised agencies, representatives of all the peoples and citizens of the Earth, commit themselves, for want of anything better, to use as of now existing instruments of international law such as compulsory licensing;
    • decide to set up a global Task Force, under the aegis of the UN, to revise the legal-institutional regime of intellectual property in the Anthropocene, the aim of which would be to abandon the principle of the patentability of living organisms for private and profit-making purposes and to define a new global regime on intellectual property in the light also of the experience accumulated in recent years in the field of artificial intelligence.

Third, it is of fundamental importance to abandon submission to the dictates of “In the name of money”. “You are not profitable? You are not indispensable. In any case, your life is not a priority”. It is not because a person is not profitable for the capital invested that he or she is no longer indispensable. Being without purchasing power does not mean becoming without rights. Life is not money. Living beings are not commodities, resources for profit.

To this end, the Special Session should:

    • highlight the need for the re-publicization of scientific research (basic and applied) and technological development. The pooling of knowledge and health protocols, medicines and vaccines must be part of the immediate measures to be taken. In this perspective;
    • propose the approval of a Global Compact on Science for Life and Security for all the inhabitants of the Earth;
    • to convey in 2022 a UN world conference on the global common public goods and services. The current mystifying use of the concept of ‘global public goods’ in relation to Covid-19 vaccines underlines the urgency and importance of the proposal.

Fourth, a global health policy requires a global political architecture capable, above all, of outlawing predatory finance. The “global security” of the global public goods in the interests of life for all the inhabitants of the Earth can be achieved by creating global institutions with corresponding competences and powers.

The Earth inhabitants do not need new winners, new global conquerors. They need world leaders and citizens who are convinced that the future of life on Earth requires a new and urgent Global Social Pact for Life. In 25 years’ time, the UN will celebrate the centenary of its founding.

The Special Session must make it clear that there can no longer be a debate on small adjustments to the global regulatory model known as “multilateralism”.

The Special Session should:

    • recognise Humanity as an institutional subject and key actor in the global politics of life. The opening of a Global Common House of Knowledge, based on the existing pooling of knowledge, experiences, technical tools (case of Costa Rica concerning health…) will be a significant concrete step forward;
    • propose the urgent creation of a Global Public Goods and Services Security Council, starting with health, water and knowledge.

It is time for governments and citizens to get or regain common control of health policy. The Special Session must set the record straight. The right to health for all is not only a question of (economic) access to care (medicines, vaccines…) but, more, a question of building the human, social, economic (such as employment…), environmental and political conditions that shape an individual and collective healthy state.

Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth

1 Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, is likely to affect between 9.1% and 9.4% of the world’s population in 2020.


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UN Warns of an Impending Famine With Millions in Danger of Starvation

In 2019, Ethiopia experienced the fifth-worst food crisis worldwide. Credit: FAO/IFAD/WFP/Michael Tewelde

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 27 2020 – The numbers are staggering— as reflected in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has triggered a new round of food shortages, famine and starvation.

According to the Rome-based World Food Programme (WFP) 690 million people do not have enough to eat. while130 million additional people risk being pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of the year.

“Hunger is an outrage in a world of plenty. An empty stomach is a gaping hole in the heart of a society,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week pointing out that famine is looming in several countries.

Striking a personal note, Guterres said he could have never imagined that hunger would rise again during his time in office as Secretary-General.

The WFP singled out 10 countries with the worst food crises in 2019: Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti. The list is expected to increase by end of this year.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council last April: “There are no famines yet. But I must warn you that if we don’t prepare and act now – to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade – we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.”

Against this grim scenario, resetting the future of food is possible, say the Barilla Foundation and Food Tank, which are jointly sponsoring an international online dialogue December 1 to “present concrete solutions to rethink our food systems– from farm to fork.”

The discussions are expected to help set the stage for the United Nations Food System Summit to be held in 2021.

The spread of COVID-19 has demonstrated the fragility of global food systems, “but it also offers opportunities to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume food.”

Guido Barilla, Chairman, Barilla Group and Barilla Foundation, said: “We need a positive movement to accelerate, empower, refine, and design a more sustainable future, and raising awareness in people – companies, citizens, institutions- that another future is possible.”

Danielle Nierenberg, President and Founder of Food Tank, told IPS the pandemic has had a huge impact on the world’s food and agricultural systems.

“Ironically, there will be record yields for many grains this year, but the disruptions in the supply chain caused by the pandemic as well as the global climate crisis and increasing conflict in several countries is leading to a hunger pandemic as well,” she pointed out.

Hunger, as many experts have pointed out, is not because the world doesn’t produce enough food, but a problem of distribution that has been exacerbated by concerns over health and lack of national leadership and political will in many countries, including the United States, to ensure that no one goes hungry, said Nierenberg.

Jeffrey Sachs, Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University and Director, U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said: “Changing the food system is a complex challenge, but the first step is to know where we want to go, and that’s toward a healthy diet produced with sustainable agriculture.”

Abby Maxman, Oxfam America’s President & CEO, told IPS COVID-19 is the final straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, inequality, and climate change.

“The pandemic is fuelling hunger in the world’s worst hunger hotspots such as Venezuela and South Sudan, and it is creating new epicentres of hunger in countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil where millions of people who were barely managing have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic,” she said.

She also pointed out that COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of a food system which prioritizes the profits of big food and agriculture companies over the needs of food producers and workers.

“We’re hearing the same refrain all around the world – families are very worried as they are forced to make impossible decisions – do they risk catching the disease as they go out to earn money to buy food? Or stay home and watch their children go hungry?”

It’s not actually a choice for most. Governments must contain the spread of this deadly disease but it is equally vital they take action to stop the pandemic killing as many – if not more – people from hunger, said Maxman.

The future of the global food systems is in our hands. Let’s make the future grow! Credit: Barilla Foundation

The Advisory Board of the Barilla Foundation, described as an independent foundation that works on proposing concrete actions to solve issues around global food systems, has proposed a strategy to transform the food systems through shared and systemic solutions and a global collective commitment.

The online international dialogue is expected to highlight the critical role of farmers in feeding the world and managing natural resources, food business in progressing towards the 2030 Agenda, and chefs in re-designing food experiences. The prospects of technology and innovation, the role of food as prevention and the most recent policy developments, including the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, will also be discussed.

Asked if the availability of two vaccines by early next year will contribute to alleviate or end the food emergency, Nierenberg told IPS that while the vaccines are promising and will health ensure the health of millions and millions of people, the pandemic has shown us how fragile our food and economic systems are–it exposed a lot of cracks that were already there, but that have grown wider since the pandemic.

“We’ll need more than vaccines to make sure that food is considered a human right and that people around the globe have access to a living wage and safe, affordable, and accessible food,” she declared.

Oxfam America’s Maxman told IPS the exciting news about vaccines is providing hope of getting out of this global nightmare, but the scientific breakthrough is only part of the equation.

Equally important, she said, is making sure every single person on this planet can get it as soon as possible. But at the moment, rich countries, including the US, are already hoarding more than half of the vaccines to be developed by the companies with the leading five vaccine candidates.

“With only 4% of the world’s population, the US has already reserved almost 50% of the Pfizer’s total expected supply in 2021. That’s why Oxfam is calling for a people’s vaccine: a global public good, freely and fairly available to all, prioritizing those most in need here at home and around the world”.

To protect everyone no matter their wealth or nationality, corporations with the leading candidates for an effective COVID-19 vaccine must commit to openly sharing their vaccine technology to enable billions of doses to be made as soon as possible at the lowest possible price, Maxman declared.

Asked about the impact of waste, obesity and overconsumption, Nierenberg said: “I think NOW is the time for a real resetting of the food system”.

“It’s clear that agriculture needed to be revolutionized pre-pandemic—and we can’t return to the way things were”.

These unprecedented challenges, she noted, provide enormous opportunities to create a food system that can’t be broken—one that is truly regenerative and restorative, and that leaves no one behind.

“We can’t go back to “normal.” Normal left us vulnerable, and this crisis has widened the cracks in a food system already in need of repair. But this is our time to pivot. Right now, we can develop long-lasting solutions to nourish both people and the planet,” declared Nierenberg, recipient of the 2020 Julia Child Award and who spent two years volunteering for the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.

Maxman said: “The global food system is broken. We must rebuild a fairer, more resilient, and more sustainable food system”.

The fact that eight of the biggest food and drink companies paid out over $18 billion to shareholders even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe illustrates just how broken our food system is, she noted.

“In the short-term, governments need to make sure that local food systems can continue to function, people can access and afford to buy nutritious food, and producers can continue to grow and produce the food needed for local communities”.

But as countries recover from the crisis, governments must prioritize investing in small-scale producers, ensuring that women food producers do not face discrimination, taking steps to make sure food producers can adapt to climate change, and demanding that big food and beverage companies pay workers a living wage, she declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org


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