The University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) in Locarno hosted a debate organised by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) with representatives of UNESCO and UNHCR. Have recent efforts in education policy to invest massively in ICTs been effective? Francesc Pedró (UNESCO) talked about the correlation between investments in ICTs and the results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). As the study reveals, there are only a few countries that achieved a raise in their score in PISA surveys despite massive investments in equipment. What are the reasons behind such poor results? The real question is whether these technologies are effectively applied. The issue at stake is not about devices (the average age for children to have their own device has dropped to the age of 8 in EU countries), but about effective implementation of new technologies, including free, open access software and applications. The role of parents who have a negative feeling about ICTs and learning might also have a hindering effect. As a study furthermore revealed, students engaged in educational sciences - future teachers - are making much less use of ICTs during their studies than those of life sciences or engineering curricula. How can we reverse this trend? There are some incentives for teachers to use ICTs: to start with, they could be a helpful tool in the assessment management of students and facilitate the communication with students’ parents. The use of ICTs in research activities related to teaching could also be very beneficial. Most interestingly, Norway has experienced positive results by including these activities, along with knowledge sharing among teaching professionals, in their working time scheme.
ICTs have opened the door to new opportunities for refugees and displaced children and youth, who are displaced on average for over 20 years. Figures presented by Ms Marie Maier-Metz (UNHCR) are most striking in this regard: Globally it is estimated that approx. 50% of refugees are out of primary school, respectively 80% of secondary school. Scarcely 1% manages to obtain higher education. The Learn Lab programme of UNHCR aims at ensuring that “every refugee and forcibly displaced person has access to relevant and high quality learning opportunities that will enable them to serve as agents of change for their communities”. Here again, devices and technology are not the main issue, but rather finding appropriate ways of teaching considering the specific contexts (language barriers, culture issues, overstretched learning facilities with classes with more than 100 pupils of different levels). UNHCRs approach is community based and encourages pedagogical change in teaching practice. Some of the most successful programmes using ICTs are promoting higher education, reflecting the major motivation for most refugees to obtain a certified university degree. The UNHCR is associated with the University of Geneva (project Inzone) that develops and scientifically validates learner-centered and technology supported pedagogical methods. Many humanitarian organisations active in education lack the specific know-how in this field. In order to address a growing demand, the University of Geneva will run a summer school in July 2016 on education in emergencies.
View the presentation of Marie Maier-Metz ( Associate Education Officer, UNHCR):
Information and Communication Technologies in Education - Round-Table Debate held at SUPSI in Locarno
Political and Economic Inequality: Concepts, Causes and Consequences
International Geneva Debate Series - Governance and Regulatory Policies - University of Fribourg
Legal Capacity Building in International Trade and Investment Law: Taking Stock and Opportunities Ahead
This workshop took place in the framewrok of the International Geneva Incubator Workshop support programme and was organized by The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. It was held on 6 and 7 March 2014 in Geneva at the Villa Rigot.
It aimed at looking at efforts and methods utilized to date to increase development countries' legal capacities to engage in and actively participate in international agreements in the field of trade, investment and economic cooperation.
Developing countries are party to a multitude of international agreements in the field of trade, investment and economic cooperation. Most of these treaties seek to foster economic growth and human development. The negotiation, implementation and settlement of disputes under these treaties are increasingly complex. To have a voice, actively engage in and benefit from these regimes, domestic and international actors have, since long, realized that developing countries (as well as smaller stakeholders in developed countries) need technical assistance to build up legal capacity.
The key findings of the workshop can be found in this document.
Two-day conference to discuss the complex topic of Global Internet Governance
Over 40 scholars, independent experts and stakeholders, representatives of the Swiss federal administration, as well as some practitioners of international organisations took part in the Biannual Conference of the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) on the topic of "Global Internet Governance: Multistakeholderism, Multilateralism, and Beyond".
Dr. Mira Burri of the World Trade Institute (WTI), which hosted the conference on 6 and 7 December 2013, commented that "The topic of global Internet governance is now very important and it has moved away from being a technical, marginalised topic of public debate towards a key policy theme which is also of interest to broader society, especially after the Snowden [Internet surveillance] affair."
"The idea behind the conference was that there’s a lot going on right now in the Internet governance environment that’s very important and may be coming to a head politically. There’s the possibility of some significant changes being made in the next few years and some of these issues are very divisive at the international level," said co-organiser William Drake of the University of Zurich.
Indeed, one of the main objectives pursued by the panel discussions was to map the terrain and examin different models for governance – multistakeholder, multilateral and alternative forms.
The architecture of global Internet governance is highly distributed and involves multiple organisations with different areas of responsibility. For example, ICANN governs Internet names and numbers, while the World Trade Organisation (WTO) sets rules applicable to global electronic commerce. Behind these are different models of governance. The WTO represents states – the multilateral model – and ICANN, a non-profit organisation, operates on a multistakeholder model in which governments, business, the technical community and civil society all participate fully.
The conference featured a keynote speech by Frédéric Riehl, Vice-director of the Swiss Federal Office of Communications, who shared his views on Switzerland's positioning in the global Internet governance landscape. According to him, Switzerland has had a very active role in the past few years and has substantially contributed to this debate - including financially - since the launch of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that took place in Geneva in 2003. More citizens and business representatives asked governments to take more responsibility in ensuring a high level of security for the protection of fundamental rights, also on the Internet. "In Switzerland a strategy was elaborated last year by the government on request of all national stakeholders that clarifies the role of the government and the other stakeholders as well with a view to better protect us from civil risk and enable us to act more freely and securily online," he added.
Bertrand de La Chapelle, Director of the Internet & Jurisdiction Project, developed on the terms of service of some of the major platforms and operators worldwide. Because they apply to all their users, Mr. de La Chapelle explained how they can somehow amount to a new form, type or tool close to international law. In other words, he evaluated from a personal point of view if the mentioned terms of service are establishing rules and principles that are equivalent to what one can normally find in treaties. Mr. de La Chapelle recalled that the geography of cyberspace overlaps the physical boundaries of traditional nation-states, which means that there are 'new digital territories'. As a matter of fact, he highlighted that "extraterritorial extension of sovereignty is an important challenge."
On his part, Prof. Michael Latzer of the University of Zurich discussed the often underestimated role of technology in the co-evolution of global Internet governance. Algorithms, or more precisely the 'algorithmic selection in the Internet', was taken as an example in order to show the role and the challenges of technology in this particular field. The speaker suggested a combined approach that integrates technology on an equal level with political and economic forces. He reminded the audience that "algorithms shape our daily life and change our perception of the world," and are therefore an important source of social order. Choice of online news, consumption of music and video entertainment, selection of services and products through online shops and, of course, social networks: "they are all increasingly determined by algorithms operating behind the scenes." In this regard, Prof. Latzer further explained that algorithmic selection deserves increased politic, economic and social attention, not least from the Internet governance perspective but as an important factor for social ordering on a global level.
The programme of the conference, including the detailed list of speakers and their respective bios, is available here.
The speakers' presentations can be downloaded from the WTI website.
Outcome of the International Geneva Debate on "Science as Treaty Driver"
A debate on the topic of "Science as Treaty Driver" took place on 1 November 2013 at the faculty of law of the University of Basel. The objective of the debate was to discuss to what extent scientific research has contributed to and helped shape international treaties. Hence, science was looked at as a stimulus for legal action and development. But this is not a one-way street: the speakers were also invited to consider the question of how law may influence science.
Speakers of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), World Meteorological Organization, and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) gave their inside perspectives on the subject.
Preetam Maloor, ITU Strategy and Policy Advisor, developed on how telecommunication science and the tremendous change in technology since the early 2000 brought about the need to adopt a new treaty on international telecommunication regulations (ITR) since the previous treaty of 1988. In this respect, Mr. Maloor underlined the crucial role played by the ITU member states, private sector members, associates and academic members, and civil society in the consultation process.
Constanza Martinez, IUCN Senior Policy Officer, presented the role of science in formulating environmental policy making through a set of case studies in the framework of the World Heritage Convention and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) where IUCN provides technical knowledge and advice. In this policy process, Mrs. Martinez stated that "communication among disciplines and between scientists and policy makers is of a key importance." She further called on the need to create more channels between science and policy making.
Heading the research on stratospheric processes and their role in climate (WCRP), Prof. Johannes Staehelin (ETHZ) was in the forefront in research on the Ozone layer leading to the 1985 Vienna Convention and the 1987 Montreal Protocol that provides phase-out management plans for Chlorofluorocarbons and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons. He talked about the complex interactions between science, industry, public opinion (reinforced by the media) and policy makers to finally agree on an international treaty, now fully implemented and assessed. According to Prof. Staehelin, scientists have no legal power and he mentioned the question that was raised at that time about the obligations of scientists to provide information and the loss of credibility if scientists are involved in politics.
Finally, Matt Rainey, Director of the WIPO Innovation Division, looked into current innovation trends where intellectual property plays an incentive role. WIPO is administering about thirty treaties, among which the Patent Corporation Treaty (PCT). Intellectual property treaties do not only act as an incentive to technological innovation but provide an international structure to protect innovation. Matt Rainey then mentioned different technology transfer projects provided by WIPO to lesser developed countries in terms of creating innovative ecosystems, policy studies, trainings and advice.
The debate was chaired and moderated with great success by Krista Nadakavukaren Schefer, Professor of International Law, University of Basel.
The International Geneva Debate Series are designed to bring the expertise and knowledge of international organisations to Swiss universities and to generate a debate with academia on highly relevant and timely topics. The yearly theme of these round-table debates is defined by the International Geneva Committee. Debates in 2013 took place within the theme "Integration of Science into Policy".
Academic Council Debate Series on Global Trends in Inequalities
The Challenges of Job Recovery in Times of Economic and Financial Crisis
WWZ - Faculty of Economics - University of Basel
The gap between rich and poor has widened in most countries, both in advanced economies and emerging countries. The labour markets are deeply affected by the recent economic crisis with no immediate prospect of growth and recovery. Why does inequality keep rising? What are the policies that can positively affect employment and income possibilities while guaranteeing social equity?
The SNIS held the last debate of the series on the subject of global trends in inequalities at the University of Basel, Department of Economics (WWZ) under the chair of Professor George Sheldon, dean of the faculty. The debate gathered speakers of OECD, International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD) who addressed the topic from diverse perspectives.
Increasing Inequalities due to Widening Gap in Income
Anna Llena-Nozal from OECD (Economist, Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs) exposed the facts of inequalities in OECD countries and how to beat the trend. Income inequality has increased in both high- and low-inequality countries alike over the past 2-3 decades, both during recessions and boom periods. There is a convergence of higher income inequality, especially at the top ten percent earners with a trend to a widening gap between the middle and bottom income groups.
The OECD study entitled "Divided we stand - Why Inequality Keeps Rising" looked at the typical drivers that account for these growing inequalities. The wage dispersion relate to the typical drivers that are globalization, skill-biased technological changes on the one hand and institutional and regulatory reforms on the other hand. The study also looked closer at changing household and family structures (more single headed households and marriage within the same income levels). These growing income inequalities were also accentuated since redistribution through taxes and benefits became weaker in the more recent decade in most OECD countries.
Ms Llena-Nozal concluded with policy recommendations as formulated by the OECD based on the finding of this study: "We have seen a decline in the effectiveness of redistribution, so it is important for countries to address this through tax and benefit reform. Considering the big increase in income inequality that is driven by the labour market and earnings dispersions, it is important to tackle not only employment but also the inclusiveness of employment."
Need for Job-friendly Policies
The topic of job-friendly policies was addressed from a policy angle by Miquel A. Malo, ILO. There is an intense debate about persisting in austerity policy and whether austerity has gone too far. The debate is now shifting onward on how we can move to different policies at lower costs at least on the short term from the "black and white" positions. Stimulus policies set up at the beginning of the financial crisis lead to high debt, which are in turn followed by austerity policies with negative effects on employment.
The debate is divided in debt countries with control of their exchange rate, such as the US and the UK, in opposition to countries that do not control their exchange rates, as Spain and other South European countries which is relevant in tackling national debts. Mr Malo also mentioned the unbalanced timing of costs and benefits of austerity packages. "Why do politicians persist in austerity policies even though costs on the population are very high in the short term and benefits may come in the next political term only? Why do we not see more countries that adopt job friendly policies now?" Even if job-friendly strategies appear politically more strategic in terms of re-election, politicians are affected by "core supporters" such as international investors, international institutional agreements and have relevant incentives to balance the national budgets also in view of obtaining additional funding. For these reasons, they tend to adopt strong severe austerity policies. Consequently, there is a need to adopt a different policy-making scope.
The fact of including employment objectives at the same level as other macroeconomic objectives could be a solution. International organizations, such as ILO, OECD, and IMF, should have a key role in supporting and encouraging politicians in their move to job friendly policies, in certifying their actions in favor of employment. Likewise, corporative solutions are needed. ILO has been active and successful in the realm of social dialogue where international coordination allowed to lead to corporative solutions. "Social dialogue could be a very important arena to obtain new agreements on the implementations of credible changes for job friendly policies", he concluded.
Social Equity, Structural Change and Crisis
Peter Utting, Deputy Director, UNRISD, put the subject of inequality on the broader context of social equity, structural change and crisis focusing on the context of developing countries. His talk referred to recent reports and studies released by UNRISD namely its flagship report "Combating Poverty and Inequality". The key question is: Why have some countries been more successful at reducing poverty and enhancing equality in relatively short periods of time? Some key factors emerged from the analyses of poverty reduction in the past. The contrast with today might be called orthodoxy - social, political and financial orthodoxy.
There are central messages that emerge from the study: the importance of employment-centered structural change, comprehensive social policies, including universal social protection and social services and infrastructure, importance of state capacity, effective participation and broad-based coalitions and social pacts. Finally, the report looks at different pathways to overcome the current crises - not only financial, but also food crisis and climate change.
What came out very clearly from the report is also the fact that significant reductions in poverty generally result not from policies aimed at poverty or the poor per se, but from a mix of policies that have wider economic, social and political objectives. Poverty is reduced and equity enhanced when economic and social policies, institutions and political arrangements are mutually supportive.
A good starting point when facing the current crises - financial, food and climate change - is to question the nature of the crises. "Is it a crisis in the system or is it a crisis of the system?" The crisis of the system requires deeper transformation of economic and social structures and power relations. A discursive struggle is taking place between different pathways to find the way to growth, equity and sustainability.
Finally, Mr. Utting talked about the three different pathways that crystallize today's approaches: market liberal approach, embedded liberalism, and alter globalization that offers a very different perspective: a more people's centered economy, financial and corporate regulations, stronger redistributive policies, food sovereignty, local production and trade, economical and political empowerment of small producers, control on agri-business, respecting the needs of mother earth and living in harmony with diverse cultures.
The politics of pathways are crucial. Crisis in the past have been overcome by applying different pathways of politics: liberal market approaches (Mexico crisis in 1982 and 94) or embedded liberalism (great depression post war Europe). While the embedded liberalism is showing some signs of a come-back, namely in the BRICS and the post 2015 development agenda, the dominant political approaches should give more attention to alter globalization perspectives within mainstream knowledge and policy circles. UNRISD will approach during an up-coming conference the potential and limits of social and solidarity economy.
The presentations were followed by a question / answer session and general debate with the audience.
Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics,UNRISD, Flagship Report 2010: download www.unrisd.org/publications/cpi
Up-coming UNRISD Conference "The Potential and Limits of Social & Solidarity Economy",
6 - 8 May 2013: www.unrisd.org/sseconf
Ana Llena-Nozal, director employment, Labour and Social Affairs from OECD talks about "Inequality in OECD countries: the facts and how to beat the trend".
Peter Utting, Deputy Director from UNRISD talks about "Social Equity, Structural Change and Crisis".
Miguel Malo, Senior Economist, International Institute for Labour Studies from the ILO talks about "Moving towards job-friendly policies".