Covid-19 News

Consumers International

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis Consumers International members in 100 countries are calling for a focus on the protection and empowerment of individuals in the marketplace based on consumer rights, and for co-ordinated strategies across nations and intergovernmental bodies to build fair, safe, resilient and sustainable economies through consumer protection.

We are calling on G20 member governments to support a global co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis that protects and respects consumers in both the immediate efforts to halt the spread of the virus and the worst impacts of the economic effects, and in future strategies to rebuild and renew our social, environmental and economic systems.

READ THE JOINT STATEMENT IN FULL +

 

Summary of the joint statement

Through the COVID-19 pandemic our members have been using their national voices to share responsible information for health and home. Through this range of network activity, our members have observed that:

  • Building trust now during the crisis is crucial: taking decisive, fair and transparent action now will not only save lives now but will build trust for the future
  • The international nature of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis is a reminder of how interconnected the world is today, and that we are only as strong as the weakest link.
  • Emerging markets and vulnerable consumers in every nation face the biggest risks in terms of the immediate impact on health and mortality, and the economic downturn that will follow.

Consumer protection can help now, and when we rebuild safe, fair, sustainable and resilient markets for all generations –

In immediate efforts to halt the spread of the virus and the worst impacts of the economic effects, we must protect people in crucial systems and marketplaces through:

  • ensuring access to UN recognised legitimate consumer needs prioritising health, food and essential commodities, finance and connectivity
  • protection from unfair practices, prioritising price gouging, scams lack of redress, misinformation, unfair treatment and loss of privacy with particular attention given to the protection of vulnerable and low-income consumers.

In future strategies to rebuild and renew, we want to see investment in the urgent shift to sustainable consumption and production driven by people’s consumer rights in the marketplace with:

  • Public investments that support critical social, environmental and economic systems and prioritise health, food, finance, connectivity, sustainability and consumer protection.

 

Original Source : Consumers International News

WEF

COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work almost overnight. Analysts are struggling to keep pace with the impact on economies, sectors and firms. One thing that we already know, however, is that this crisis is accelerating an already growing trend towards digitalization.

 

From virtual meetings to automated factories, online orders to drone delivery, digital services are growing in importance, permeating an increasing number of sectors and activities. Digitally agile firms are adapting to the ongoing crisis more successfully, and others are rapidly skilling up in response to challenges to their business models.

For governments looking to drive economic recovery after the pandemic, supporting such digital competitiveness will be key. One way is through foreign direct investment (FDI) in the digital economy, in other words, “Digital FDI.”

The power of investing in the digital economy

There is significant evidence that FDI can bring technology, know-how, jobs and growth. FDI is also often the largest source of finance for developing economies. Just like traditional firms, digital firms invest abroad to be close to customers, access local knowledge, open new markets and more.

Yet attracting FDI in the digital economy requires different policies and regulations, because digital firms have business models that vary from traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. Digital firms rely heavily on data and technology, often involve platform economies and leverage non-traditional assets.

The World Economic Forum’s new Digital FDI initiative seeks to identify policies, regulations and measures that governments can adopt to attract such investment. We’re working with technology firms, governments and experts to answer the question: What is the ‘secret sauce’ to creating a digital-friendly investment climate? The answer will become even more important in the looming economic downturn where there may be fewer resources for investment and therefore more competition to attract scarce capital.

Building on a conceptual framework laid out by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in its 2017 World Investment Report, enabling policies, regulations and measures fall into three pillars.

Continue reading on WEF Global Agenda

CUTS

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted and impacted the daily lives of citizens in an unprecedented manner. Governments continue to endeavour hard for protecting lives by imposing lockdowns, testing, segregation, and treatment. At the same time also restricting outdoor movement except for supplying and procuring essential goods and services. The role of e-commerce in both wholesale and retail trade is something worth taking a closer look at.Providing door to door delivery of groceries, medicines and other essential commodities to consumers, while upholding the rules of social distancing is coming to the fore. It is effectively complementing local kirana stores in ensuring availability of essential supplies for consumers. However, the sector is plagued with various challenges, traditional as well as new, which must be overcome in order to unlock the true potential of e-commerce during the pandemic and beyond.

The contagiousness of Covid-19, and its unrelenting increasing spread, has prompted people to explore online purchasing options for essential products and services, from the safety of their homes. Given that it supports the implementation of social distancing measures due to the limited amount of physical contact involved in availing the same. Industry experts have termed e-commerce as the lifeline for cities under lockdown to fight against the pandemic.

E-commerce is also known to be providing many benefits for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), by providing them access to wider markets, overcoming geographic boundaries, providing a level playing field for competing with larger players etc. Consumers also gain through wider choice of goods/services, competitive pricing etc. One of the most noteworthy benefits of e-commerce for MSMEs and consumers alike during the pandemic has been matching the demand and supply of essential products such as medicines, hand sanitizers and face masks.

Apart from the ‘safe shopping’ experience and access to essential products provided by it during the spread of Covid-19; e-commerce is also known to be benefiting or has potential to benefit farmers, by enabling them to bypass intermediaries and middlemen, and sell their (perishable) produce directly to wholesale buyers such as corporate grocery stores, restaurants, agri-businesses etc. This provides benefits of enhanced income for farmers, along with reducing wastage and enabling financial inclusion.

Various modes of enabling agri e-commerce are visible today, such as established e-commerce majors expanding into the grocery segment, or brick and mortar grocery stores opening online channels, or exclusive agri e-commerce businesses, or even e-commerce platforms tying with local kirana stores for last mile deliveries. Notably, some of such e-commerce service providers are changing their business model during the lockdown, and are connecting farmers with end consumers, in the absence/reduction of traditional wholesale buyers as mentioned above.

Recognising such benefits, especially in these times, the Ministry of Consumers Affairs of India, had advised state governments and local administration to exempt e-commerce operations and its stakeholders, from any lockdown prohibitions. Given the benefits as mentioned above, it is also important to note the many challenges faced by different stakeholders of e-commerce, during the pandemic. These may be bucketed in four primary areas.

First, regulatory and enforcement failure with respect to uniform classification of essential items across various states. Although the government has permitted the delivery of essential goods such as food, medicine and pharmaceutical equipment through e-commerce, industry experts argue that service providers are struggling to procure permit passes for their supply chain staff separately for each state, which is becoming time-consuming, since instructions have not been passed onto local authorities.

Fears of stringent police action against delivery staff are also deepening the problem. Such hurdles are symptomatic of institutional infirmities like absence of effective communication and accountability mechanisms among local authorities, which often pose challenge to seamless delivery of e-commerce products, in normal circumstances as well.

Second, broken supply chains, due to initially blurred distinction drawn between stakeholders who are vital to e-commerce supply chains and those who are not. It is believed that government exemptions were initially limited to media and healthcare-related personnel, police and other administrative officials. Due to this the demand-supply chains were broken for e-commerce service providers. This had a ripple effect on the timely fulfilment of consumers’ orders for goods and services at their doorstep, thus jamming the demand cycle.

Furthermore, key gaps have also emerged in backend supply chains, i.e. between manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, thereby jamming the supply cycle as well. Efficient supply chains are hallmark of healthy economy and well-functioning e-commerce sector. Regulatory uncertainty and knee jerk reactions, even in emergency situations, do more harm than good, as evident from the government’s approach to manage supply in light of the pandemic.

Third, adverse post lockdown impact on small online sellers on e-commerce platforms. Once the pandemic is over, the government must be sensitive towards such small players, whose businesses have come to a grinding halt amid the lockdown. There are many suppliers engaged in providing non-essential goods and services (like electronics, apparel, taxi services etc. – which make up bulk of online sales) who unlike deep pocketed larger players, do not necessarily have the wherewithal to sustain their fixed business expenses like rents, salaries, EMIs etc.

One of the ways to quickly provide relief to smaller e-commerce players is to allow delivery of non-essential items while practising hygiene and social distancing. Reforming foreign investment laws, improving regulatory coherence, and ensuring proportional regulation of the sector may also go a long way in fostering the growth of smaller e-commerce players.

Fourth, generic challenges with respect to e-commerce still remain at large, which are again highlighted during the pandemic. These pertain to inadequate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure for last mile internet access, lack of awareness and capacity constraints amongst MSMEs and consumers, etc. which are hindering the uptake of e-commerce. In addition, the fool proof cyber security and protection of privacy still remain an issue, affecting consumers’ trust to shift online.

Stakeholders must collaborate, and support each other in finding innovative solutions together, for addressing such challenges, since enabling e-commerce will help in disabling the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a part of the 4th Industrial Revolution, governments must be encouraged to understand various aspects of e-commerce,to unlock its many benefits for the future, and accelerate the transition of their country to a digital economy. For this to happen, a transparent and structured discussion on e-commerce regulation is must. Processes to foresee and prevent unintended consequences of regulatory actions must be institutionalised. Capacity building exercises must also be undertaken for MSMEs for increasing the uptake and optimally using e-commerce services for meeting the needs of consumers. Steps must also be taken for enhancing the penetration of e-commerce services to last mile consumers, through infrastructural development and awareness generation.

To this effect, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), and United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO) have entered into a partnership, intending to undertake evidence-based research on the many benefits and challenges of e-commerce, particularly in BRICS and select developing countries, taking into account the interests of various stakeholders.

 

(The authors work for CUTS International, a global public policy research and advocacy group)

This news can also be viewed at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

UNECE

Coronaviruses, including the one responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, are a large family of viruses that are common in animals, and can occasionally be transmitted to humans – a phenomenon known as “zoonosis”.

 

Ensuring proper controls on the international trade in animals and animal products and enabling the adequate enforcement of strict sanitary standards are therefore important steps to limiting the risks of transmission from animals to humans.

However, most existing controls on the international trade of animals, plants and other agricultural products worldwide are still done through the issuance and exchange of licenses, permits and certificates in paper format. This is not only slow but also more vulnerable to fraud, forgery and corruption, thus hindering efficient implementation of health and safety controls by governments.

UN/CEFACT standards facilitate legal, sustainable and safe trade

Fortunately, alternative solutions are being tested and rolled out successfully. To strengthen controls that can ensure both the legality of international trade and the enforcement of sanitary standards, governments are increasingly turning towards high-tech protection mechanisms, including the standards developed at UNECE’s United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT).

These cover areas including the “eCERT” system for the electronic exchange of sanitary and phytosanitary certificates issued to ensure that plants and animals traded internationally are free of diseases. This standard has been implemented by countries all over the world, such as in the European Union, USA, China, the Russian Federation, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Chile, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Japan.

Tackling illegal wildlife trade

Gaps in implementation tend to be exploited by criminal actors involved in the illegal wildlife trade which, together with illegal logging and fishing, is worth an estimated USD 1 trillion or more per year, according to World Bank figures. This makes it the fourth largest global illegal trade after narcotics, counterfeiting of products and currency, and human trafficking, according to UNODC.

Action to address these gaps is the basis of the strategic partnership between the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and UN/CEFACT. CITES regulates trade in over 36,000 species of wild animals and plants among its 183 Parties – 182 States and the EU. Joint work between the CITES Secretariat, UNCTAD and UNECE supports the exchange of electronic “eCITES” permits to significantly strengthen control measures on international trade of CITES-listed species.

The layout of the CITES permit has been aligned to the UN Layout Key, thus making CITES permits and data content easily recognizable for customs officers around the world. CITES also applies all relevant UN/CEFACT recommended code lists, such as ISO country codes or UN/CEFACT Units of Measurement codes in its permits and in the annual trade reports submitted by CITES Parties. This allows for more efficient control of trade restrictions and the establishment of a global statistical database on CITES trade.

Governments have started to exchange secure eCITES permits, which reduces opportunities for fraudulent paperwork in the context of international wildlife trade. Pilot exchanges of electronic permits have been underway since 2017, when the first test was launched by Switzerland and France, and the European Commission is currently developing a system for the secure exchange of electronic CITES permits between EU member States and other countries. UNECE is now working with ESCAP and UNCTAD to support authorities in Greenland, Mozambique, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Singapore in their use of these advanced trade control procedures.

Building on the UN/CEFACT standards, UNCTAD has also developed an advanced electronic permit management system, enabling electronic information exchange with customs and border control agencies, and allowing electronic data analysis and targeted inspections on wildlife trade. The first use of this system was completed in March 2020 in Sri Lanka, allowing traders and government agencies to remotely request, issue and control CITES permits.

The continued roll-out of these new mechanisms will support the implementation of the September 2019 United Nations General Assembly resolution to urgently tackle illicit trafficking in wildlife, which called on countries “to take measures making permit systems more resistant to corruption and to take advantage of modern information and communications technologies”. The ultimate goal is to contribute to conserving wild species, ensure the legality and sustainability of their commercial trade, and contribute to efforts to protect citizens around the world from future pandemics.

Note to editors

About UN/CEFACT standards

UN/CEFACT has developed several standards that help reduce risks and ensure quality in international agri-trade. These include the eAnimal Passport (Cattle registration information exchange), used by EU inspection authorities to identify and verify individual animals being transported across borders, and the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed which enables importing and exporting countries – including the EU – to quickly exchange information related to measures taken in response to the detection of serious risks.

UN/CEFACT eCERT electronic certificates also support better control of Phyto Certificates to prevent spread of pests.

For more information on UN/CEFACT standards, please visit:   https://www.unece.org/uncefact/mainstandards.html.

UNCTAD

Submit proven, affordable and scalable solutions that can accelerate progress towards providing basic health functions, especially for vulnerable people. The deadline is 20 May.

The UN inter-agency task team (IATT) on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requests inputs on technology solutions for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its immediate impacts, in support of the UN Secretary-General’s initiative to help member States tackle the crisis.

 

This effort is undertaken in the context of the UN technology facilitation mechanism (TFM), in particular, experts active in its IATT on science, technology and innovation for the SDGs, and its 10-member group for the TFM.

We are looking for proven, affordable and scalable technology solutions that can accelerate progress towards providing basic health functions, especially for vulnerable people. We are seeking solutions from diverse sources and communities from all parts of the world.

All relevant submissions using the template provided below and submitted before 20 May are welcome and will be reviewed carefully. It is very important to include endorsements or validation information on your solution, where available.

Upon review and acceptance, promising solutions will be featured on the UN website and used in UN materials in support of policymakers, private sector leaders, civil society and key representatives of the global scientific and technological communities.

We hope this call will support the building of a community of like-minded innovators from around the world, focused on technology solutions for COVID-19.

Please provide your input as soon as possible to stdev@unctad.org using this template.

Download MS Word:  Template for submission

The inputs will be consolidated and submitted to the coordinator of the UN inter-agency task team on science, technology and innovation for the SDGs.

Original Source : UNCTAD News

 

ITU

Today, billions of people around the world have been ordered to stay at home to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the number of people working from home has skyrocketed, raising alarm bells for cybersecurity experts who warn that this has created an ideal environment for cybercriminals to thrive.

In fact, COVID-19 related cyberattacks began in January and have only proliferated since. Now, questions are also being raised over the security and privacy of video conferencing tools used by millions of people around the world.

“Companies are urgently balancing the need to get everyone connected and maintain productivity versus the risk that this creates,” Jacques Francoeur, Chief Scientist and Founder at Security Inclusion Now USA, told ITU News.

Global outlook

Generally, cybercrime is on the rise and businesses face a wide range of growing threats; Evolution Equity Partners estimates that there will be over four million threat types by 2025.

Meanwhile, over half of global businesses are not confident they are ready for, or would respond well to, a cyberattack according to a recent report by California-based cybersecurity firm FireEye. In addition, roughly 30 per cent said they have a cyber response plan in place which has not been tested or updated within the last 12 months.

An uncontrolled environment

This leaves employees who are now working away from the office environment, often operating on less secure WiFi networks and using devices that are not aligned with or setup per their companies’ policy controls, in a uniquely vulnerable position to cyberattack.

“The attacker has time, resources, and a committed intent. It’s tough to beat.” – Jacques Francoeur

“Working from home means having less control over the end user security and secure connections,” said Josephine Ajuoga, a Senior Information Systems Analyst at African Banking Corporation Limited. “Many organizations… will highly rely on employees to use their own devices for work, which are most likely not securely set up, have secure connection or updated to handle cyber attacks.”

All of this can make the employee an easier target for cyber criminals. “In the home environment, a lot of the policy controls that created a safe environment, in a safe wireless network to connect to and so on, are kind of now relegated to a remote endpoint in an uncontrolled environment,” said Jacques Francoeur.

Continue reading on ITU News

CUTS | UNIDO

CUTS has expressed a strong interest in supporting UNIDO in promoting e-commerce as a platform to accelerate Member States’ transition to the digital economy and adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. UNIDO and CUTS plan to develop and implement a BRICS e-commerce project that will build upon the success of UNIDO’s pilot e-commerce project implemented in the BRICS countries between 2016 and 2018.

E-commerce is one sector that can contribute to the economy during the COVID-19 emergency. Many lockdowns implemented across the world have required consumers to explore online purchasing options. This clearly indicates that e-commerce has an opportunity to grow as well as expand its attractiveness in countries that have yet to jump on the “e-commerce bandwagon”. E-commerce can also support the implementation of social distancing measures due to the limited amount of physical contact involved in this activity. However, it is also important to note that there are also challenges that enterprises need to address due to specific restrictions. For example, there are ongoing issues with increasing strains on existing IT infrastructure and reduced supply-chain capabilities.

The proposed BRICS e-commerce project that UNIDO and CUTS intend to implement will encourage governments of these countries to understand different aspects of national and international regulations negotiations with respect to e-commerce. This project will also encourage MSMEs to use e-commerce platforms to reach consumers needs. It is also envisioned that UNIDO and CUTS will develop online capacity building courses to support enterprises’ capacities to take advantage of different e-commerce platforms, as well as target consumers by increasing awareness of consumer welfare and sovereignty.

Read the complete article on UNIDO News

ECA

By Beatrice Chaytor and Ify Ogo

The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on African countries will be known only after the situation is brought under control.

There will be immediate shocks to livelihoods, as well as severe disruptions to value chains, industries and government revenue for the foreseeable future. As an illustration, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that the GDP growth in Africa will decline from 3.2 per cent to 1.8 per cent in 2020. It is also important to look beyond macro-analyses, because, as the current President of the African Development Bank has noted, ‘Nobody eats GDP’. Also, a significant proportion of the working population is engaged in the informal sector, where activities are not captured by formal accounting systems, and so GDP calculations may not present the economic picture. Economic contractions will be experienced by individuals, families and businesses. The bulk of Africa’s workforce operate in the informal sector, within micro, small and medium sized enterprises. Take for instance, the transport service operator unable to work as a result of lockdowns and prohibitions on movement within and between cities. Similarly, border closures translate to loss of income for those small-scale traders operating between countries. Many salaried workers will also be in a precarious situation, as businesses grapple with the loss of income associated with the lockdowns.

The World Bank Group announced a US$14billion emergency response facility for developing countries. By early April 2020, some African countries had accessed this facility, as shown in announcements of a US$2.5 million grant for Sao Tome & Principle, a US$10 million grant for Gambia and a $82.6 million ($41.3 million grant and $41.3 million credit) for Ethiopia. These funds notwithstanding, economic recovery will depend to a significant extent on countries’ deftness with policy manoeuvres, as well as the coordinated continental response to the crisis. It seems that trading under the terms set by the Agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which was slated to commence on 1 July 2020, will have to be postponed. In light of the pressures currently faced by African countries, it becomes pertinent to anticipate the impact of disrupted trade patterns on economic performance, and reflect the new realities of African economies in the negotiations for, and liberalisation of intra-African trade. Accordingly, it is important that trade-related considerations are accounted for in the measures for palliation, recovery and resilience at national and regional levels. These considerations include repositioning African countries in regional and global value chains, prioritising health services in the first round of AfCFTA services negotiations, promoting cross-border digital trade in services, and leveraging the AfCFTA for economic recovery and resilience.

Continue reading on tralac.org blog

ITU

Contact tracing is a key public health response to limit infectious disease outbreaks such as the global COVID-19 pandemic.

 

More than ever, authorities worldwide are using the power of mobile technologies to help them understand and manage the spread of COVID-19.

GPS, Bluetooth, cellphone masts and AI-powered big data analytics are now being used in countries across the world to collect data that helps authorities improve these efforts and save lives.

But how can we preserve personal privacy and maintain public trust while using these technologies to perform crucial contact tracing?

Key experts discussed these issues on Friday in Episode 2 of the AI for Good Webinar Series: COVID-19 – Using mobile phones & AI for contact tracing while respecting privacy.

Mobile technologies on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19

One central goal of contact tracing is to identify people who have come into close contact with people who have the virus, explained Reinhard Scholl, Deputy Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), as he kicked off the webinar.

“Is it possible to have both privacy and health?” asked Scholl. “The fear is that the short-term emergency measures that have been taken right now will stay long after the madness has passed.”

Indeed, many countries have felt the need to relax privacy laws during the crisis in order to use data to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The webinar discussed current efforts to avoid that trade off — and to preserve personal privacy while providing effective ways to leverage mobile data that could potentially save millions of lives.

Kurt Rohloff, Co-founder and CTO of Duality Technologies, explained how his company allows organizations to apply advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to data while it is encrypted to generate insights without exposing protected data.

Continue reading on ITU News

 

ITC

Start-ups in Uganda are developing innovative products to help consumers and businesses survive during COVID-19

Being locked at home with borders sealed, seeing transport halted and curfews imposed, the all-too-familiar consequences of COVID-19 are being felt in Uganda as well.

Increasing market uncertainty has meant decreasing revenues for many small businesses. However, a few innovative enterprises are doing their best to turn this crisis into an opportunity – not only to keep themselves afloat, but also to help consumers and other businesses ride out the pandemic with as little pain as possible.

We present to you some striking examples of innovative responses from e-commerce start-ups to the current crisis.

Prepaid meal plans

As many business-to-business clients shut down temporarily and others reduced their demand, Online Butchery saw a radical reshaping of their clientele. Chief Executive Tony Ayebare reports that while Online Butchery has lost many of their traditional customers, their business has seen an unexpected leap as well. “The start-up’s business-to-consumer meat orders have skyrocketed overnight – from 10 orders a day to 150 a day in just two weeks.” He says.

‘More people realize they can now buy meat without leaving home, which bonds well with one of our objectives of being a household name when it comes to meat and meat products,’ Ayebare said.

They are now providing a new service called ‘prepaid meal plans’ to support Ugandans who are now facing the task of cooking every meal of the day at home. For a weekly or monthly fee, clients can get lunches and dinners delivered right to their door.

Fresh produce from the farm

Business is also booming for Bringo Fresh. Their online platform allows people to order fresh, organic produce and have it delivered to their doorsteps. Orders began to climb immediately after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Uganda, and the size of each order has grown by about 150%, says public relations officer Lysandra Chen.

In a show of solidarity, the start-up dropped its delivery fee to better serve their community in this time of need.

“We are also buying more from our farmers and engaging with more farmers on our database, so we plan to do more with our farmers after the pandemic.” Chen said.

Continue Reading on ITC News

 

UNCTAD

The coronavirus speeds up the transition to a digital economy while exposing the digital gap between countries and societies.

The global crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has pushed us further into a digital world, and changes in behaviour are likely to have lasting effects when the economy starts to pick up. But not everyone is ready to embrace a more digitized existence.

new analysis from UNCTAD maps the changing digital landscape since the last major global calamity, the 2008/09 financial crisis. It looks at how a digitally enabled world is working for some, but not all equally.

According to the analysis, the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the uptake of digital solutions, tools, and services, speeding up the global transition towards a digital economy.

However, it has also exposed the wide chasm between the connected and the unconnected, revealing just how far behind many are on digital uptake.

“Inequalities in digital readiness hamper the ability of large parts of the world to take advantage of technologies that help us cope with the coronavirus pandemic by staying at home,” said UNCTAD’s technology and logistics director, Shamika Sirimanne.

“This situation has significant development implications that cannot be ignored. We need to ensure that we do not leave those who are less digitally equipped even further behind in a post-coronavirus world.”

 

ITU

UN advisory body sets out an Agenda for Action to ensure the networks the whole world is now relying on are robust, resilient and within reach of as many people as possible.

An emergency virtual meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has adopted an Agenda for Action outlining immediate measures that governments, industry, the international community and civil society can take to shore-up digital networks, strengthen capacity at critical connectivity points like hospitals and transport hubs, and boost digital access and inclusivity, with the aim of strengthening collective response to the COVID-19 crisis now sweeping the world.

 

Built around three pillars: Resilient Connectivity, Affordable Access, and Safe Use for Informed and Educated Societies, the agenda serves as a framework for the Commission’s 50+ Commissioners and their organizations to share their own initiatives, make new commitments, and foster collaboration and partnership.

 

Over 100 representatives from around the world participated in the virtual meeting, which brought together stakeholders from international organizations, the tech sector, civil society and academia, including global CEOs, heads of agency, and leaders of tech and health industry bodies.​​​​

 

A special guest was UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Advisor, Fabrizio Hochschild, who made an impassioned plea to Commissioners and their organizations to enhance digital cooperation in response to COVID-19, and to do all in their power to combat misinformation and rising inequality, maximize access to relevant data for public good, and protect the millions of additional children joining the online community for the first time in order to connect to remote learning platforms.

 

Echoing these concerns, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF, said: “This pandemic is doing what any big shock will do, and increasing the distance between those who have and those who do not. In addition to the devastating immediate effects of COVID-19, the secondary impacts on education, jobs, and finances will continue to impact children, and the world’s most vulnerable, disproportionately in the years to come.”
Continue Reading on ITU News
WTO

WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo and International Chamber of Commerce Secretary-General John Denton issued on 2 April a joint statement calling for more dialogue with business to maximize the effectiveness of public policies to mitigate the economic damage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with regards to trade.

“We are concerned about the severe disruptions to value chains in many sectors – with major implications for employment and the supply of goods, especially essential medical and food supplies,” they said in the 2 April statement. “Business can play a key role in signalling where trade flows and production chains are being affected, helping to identify solutions that maximize health outcomes while minimizing economic damage.”

“It is increasingly clear that the economic downturn caused by the pandemic will necessitate a significant rebuild of domestic policies – and of international cooperation,” they said. “Ongoing efforts to improve and strengthen the global trading system, including the WTO, must therefore continue.”

The two leaders welcomed governments’ efforts “to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on jobs and growth, and lay the foundations for a strong and inclusive recovery.” To generate “constructive recommendations to governments on trade policy measures that can be readily deployed to speed the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the immediate and mid-term,” they said the ICC would host a “virtual business roundtable” organized with its partners, as well as with support from the WTO.

The full text of the statement is available here.

EIF

What are international institutions pledging in the wake of the pandemic?

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a humanitarian disaster. Expectedly, its effects go beyond the health of populations as it impacts most economies across the globe. For the least developed countries (LDCs), as for others, a swift response is required.

Lessons can be learned from the Ebola crisis in West Africa, where engaging communities quickly was key to containing and stopping the spread of the disease. Beyond this, and national responses to flatten the curve and control the spread of the virus, much needs to be done at the regional and international levels to orchestrate the response and lay the foundations of recovery.

Forecasts for the global economy and trade in 2020 have been revised downwards by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Trading partners of LDCs, including the top three (i.e. China, the European Union and the United States), have had to take measures to confine their populations in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Global trade is therefore being disrupted by factors such as decreasing levels of consumption, restrictions placed on the movement of people, business shutdowns and lower productivity in operations. In addition, foreign financial flows may be shifted away from coronavirus‑affected countries, and there is an underutilization of domestic capital and labour as factories are left idle and people stay at home.

These global supply chain disruptions are impacting LDCs, affecting, for example, textile product exports from Bangladesh and Cambodia where many factories are already closing due to a shortage of raw materials from China. In Cambodia, it has been reported that impacts are significant.

Although countries with tourism sectors will be impacted irrespective of their level of development, in LDCs this impact is likely to compound with other forms of economic and social fragility.

Continue Reading on Trade for Development News by EIF

 

ESCAP

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has been causing cascading economic and social stress across the world. The production of goods and services has decreased in some countries, while an increasing number of economies are feared to go in recession, with rising unemployment rates. More schools are closed, and hospitals overcrowded with dwindling medical supplies. In combating the adverse effects of COVID-19 and enhancing societal and economic resilience, digital technology and connectivity have emerged as an essential tool and alternative to the physical equivalent.

At the heart of the fight against the spreading virus are emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to map and trace infection cases. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed an infection trajectory which illustrates the real-time data and time series, informing us of their COVID-19 curves globally. 3D printing technologies have been proven effective in filling the gap in producing much needed medical equipment. Telemedicine is making a positive contribution to healthcare during the pandemic, bridging the gap between people, physicians, and health systems, enabling everyone, especially symptomatic patients, to stay at home and communicate with physicians online. Robotic devices and camera technology are being used with coronavirus patients and in broader communication during the crisis.

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ITC

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is causing a global health emergency, and a global economic slowdown. Trade, investment, growth, and employment are all affected and the crisis will have an impact on the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

As the only international organization fully dedicated to supporting the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), the International Trade Centre is closely following how the pandemic is affecting MSMEs with a particular focus on those small businesses in developing countries.

On this site, we are providing insights and guidance to small businesses searching for ways to cope with the operational stress generated by COVID-19. This will also be a useful resource for business support organizations and policymakers assisting MSMEs in these efforts.

 

Original Source : ITC News

AfDB

Landmark transaction, largest US dollar denominated Social bond transaction to date in capital markets

The African Development Bank (AAA) has raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year bond to help alleviate the economic and social impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.

 

The Fight Covid-19 Social bond, with a three-year maturity, garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers including Socially Responsible Investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion. This is the largest dollar denominated Social Bond ever launched in international capital markets to date, and the largest US Dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75%.

The African Development Bank Group is moving to provide flexible responses aimed at lessening the severe economic and social impact of this pandemic on its regional member countries and Africa’s private sector.

“These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries. This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced. This is indeed the largest dollar social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.

The order book for this record-breaking bond highlights the scale of investor support, which the African Development Bank enjoys, said the arrangers.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak is dangerously threatening Africa, the African Development Bank lives up to its huge responsibilities and deploys funds to assist and prepare the African population, through the financing of access to health and to all other essential goods, services and infrastructure,” said Tanguy Claquin, Head of Sustainable Banking, Crédit Agricole CIB.

Coronavirus cases were slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading quickly and has infected nearly 3,000 people across 45 countries, placing strain on already fragile health systems.

It is estimated that the continent will require many billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scrambled contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession.

Commenting on the landmark transaction, George Sager, Executive Director, SSA Syndicate, Goldman Sachs said: “In a time of unprecedented market volatility, the African Development Bank has been able to brave the capital markets in order to secure invaluable funding to help the efforts of the African continent’s fight against Covid-19. Not only that, but in the process, delivering their largest ever USD benchmark. A truly remarkable outcome both in terms of its purpose but also in terms of a USD financing”.

The Bank established its Social Bond framework in 2017 and raised the equivalent of  $2 billion through issuances denominated in Euro and Norwegian krone. In 2018 the Bank was designated by financial markets, ‘Second most impressive social or sustainability bond issuer” at the Global Capital SRI Awards.

“We are thankful for the exceptional level of interest the Fight Covid-19 Social Bond has raised across the world, as the African Development Bank moves towards lessening the social and economic impact of the pandemic on a continent already severely constrained. Our Social bond program enables us to highlight our strong development mandate to the investor community, allowing them to play a part in improving the lives of the people of Africa. This was an exceptional outcome for an exceptional cause,” said Hassatou Diop N’Sele, Treasurer, African Development Bank.

Fight Covid-19 was allocated to central banks and official institutions (53%), bank treasuries (27%) and asset managers (20%). Final bond distribution statistics were as follows: Europe (37%), Americas (36%), Asia (17%) Africa (8%,) and Middle-East (1%).

Original Source : ADB News

WTO

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented disruption to the global economy and world trade, as production and consumption are scaled back across the globe.

One of the most effective means of addressing this crisis is through timely, accurate information. An informed public is better positioned to make sound decisions including on questions related to trade. This is why we have created this dedicated page on the WTO website. It will provide up-to-the minute trade-related information including relevant notifications by WTO members, the impact the virus has had on exports and imports and how WTO activities have been affected by the pandemic.

WCO

On 20 March 2020, in the light of the recent global challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), sent a letter encouraging Contracting Parties to the Conventions on temporary admission[1] to provide sufficient facilities for ATA Carnet holders and representatives to re-export temporarily imported goods, without unexpected additional costs, in cases where delays in re-exporting were due to preventive measures taken by governments of the Contracting Parties against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This measure was carried out in consultation with Mr. John W.H. Denton AO, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), given that many National Guaranteeing Associations (NGAs) have recently raised concerns about the fact that preventive measures implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19 might cause delays in the re-exportation of goods imported using ATA Carnets.

As many countries and cities are currently under strict quarantine and lockdown measures, Carnet holders and representatives in these affected areas are experiencing challenges in re-exporting temporarily imported goods within the requisite time period.  Some holders and representatives are unable to leave their homes or hotels, making it impossible for them to complete Customs clearance formalities and have their goods leave the country on time.  The delivery of replacement Carnets is also proving challenging, given the potential suspension of, or delays, in postal services.  More importantly, some Customs administrations do not accept replacement ATA Carnets for extension purposes.  By way of example, the ATA Convention only makes reference to the replacement of Carnets in case of destruction, loss or theft, but not for extension purposes.

Indicating that the Conventions do not preclude Contracting Parties from providing greater facilities, at their own discretion, to Carnet holders and representatives, Dr. Mikuriya asked Contracting Parties to consider ways of enhancing facilitation of ATA Carnet procedures, bearing in mind that some delays in re-exportation are entirely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such facilitation measures would be regarded as consistent with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for international traffic in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as with the WCO Communiqué on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, seeking to minimize trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

 


[1] Temporary Admission Conventions including the Convention on Temporary Admission (Istanbul, 26 June 1990 – commonly referred to as the Istanbul Convention) and the Customs Convention on the ATA Carnet for the temporary admission of goods (commonly referred to as the ATA Convention).

Original Source : World Customs Organizations News

 

ITC

The unfolding crisis is everywhere and dominant on news and social media channels.  We don’t mean to unnecessarily add to this burden of communication, but we do want to offer any possibility that we can to help.  This has to begin with an understanding: how is this crisis affecting you and how might your professional experience as a digital and e-commerce entrepreneur be relevant at this time?

 

We read how e-commerce is causing a boom for certain well established platforms: customers at home are relying on deliveries for their essentials and ongoing needs.  Echoing the opportunity that Alibaba was able to respond to in the earlier SARS epidemic, e-commerce platforms have the opportunity to grow their business in the short term and cement long term customer loyalty that could, in the longer term, see the sector come out stronger and more entrenched in customers’ habits.

But there is also the responsibility that comes with the seriousness of the moment: how can we ensure that this business is doing no harm?  That home deliveries remain a safe way of conducting business – for customer and the delivery staff.  Is it right to oblige warehouse employees to work overtime and in conditions that many office workers are no longer allowed?  How do we judge which ecommerce business is necessary to support essential activity?  How can we contribute to protect vulnerable customers?

These debates are likely to gather volume in the public domain: those platforms which are doing good business may be judged to be profiteering at the expense of customers and their employees.  There are likely to be instances of transmission, real or implied, through logistics activities.  The public may challenge to what degree eCommerce is valuable or frivolous.

How best can we respond to these challenges and opportunities?  What can you do, as a professional engaged in e-commerce, to bring your skills to the service of reducing the impacts of this health, social and economic crisis?  How can we help?

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