Issue XXXV | December 2020
Global Development Update is a monthly bulletin that informs readers about the events, ideas, and people that are shaping an emerging world community. It is produced by The Global Citizens' Initiative- a non-profit working to help develop a sustainable world community for all. Click below to sign up for a free Global Development Update subscription.
COVID-19: Remembering Those We Lost

The COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 1.8 million, and that number grows every day. No country has been spared. The wealthiest countries and the most impoverished countries alike have suffered losses. And while the economic devastation has created a lot of suffering, those suffering the most are the ones who lost family and friends. Unfortunately, even with a vaccine, "forecasting models say it is likely that the final toll will include an additional one million lives taken by the coronavirus.” Here is just a small sample of COVID-19 victims from different countries and backgrounds, from an aging bodybuilder in China to a Brazilian mother who died while seven months pregnant to a Congolese-born star student in Quebec. Read on.
States Implement Human Rights Committee Recommendations
Despite the challenges the world has faced in 2020, States are working to implement United Nations recommendations. Excerpt: the Human Rights Committee has continued its work reviewing States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under its follow-up to concluding observations procedure. The Committee has used the follow-up procedure since 2013. The Committee reviews the reports and, at its sessions, assesses the State parties' progress in implementing them. The Committee does so by reviewing follow-up reports by State parties and assigning grades based on their activity on the recommendations. Read on.
Genocide Continues with Impunity
Genocides continue to take place across the world with impunity, said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Hate speech, discrimination, and violence are frequently warning signs for genocides and other atrocity crimes. Proactively addressing these signs will help prevent horrible crimes from happening. "Genocide is the most heinous of crimes, encompassing all it touches in a tsunami of hate and destruction. It is an assault on our most fundamental shared values," said UN Secretary-General Guterres in a message on the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide. Read on.
Career Women and Veiling
More and more young, middle class and educated Muslim women are embracing veiling. For example, a recent survey reveals that more than 70 percent of Indonesian women wear a veil today than previous generations. The emergence of new economic opportunities is inspiring young women to abandon their domestic roles. Wearing a veil is a negotiation between the career traits of “autonomy, ambition, or disregard of traditional morality, which may conflict with social norms” and wanting to retain their reputation in society. “The religious headscarf could act as a liberating device that enables young women to navigate through certain gender norms while pursuing their aspiration to benefit from economic development.” Read on.
Crime and Gender Inequality
According to the World Bank, in 2017, 220 million people lived close to conflict areas, twice the amount of people from ten years ago. Unfortunately, exposure to violence is a growing problem, and the threat goes beyond armed conflicts. "Homicide, rape, and kidnapping are "everyday crimes" in many parts of the world. Global economic shocks, climate change, and rising income inequality can all trigger new surges in violence.” The effects of these global challenges are not gender-neutral. In Mexico, for example, residents have experienced increasing levels of crimes, including rape, kidnapping, and human trafficking. The Mexican drug war has driven this surge in violence. The drug war also "affected the composition of household expenditures." Homicides per capita decreased the budget for household necessities, increased the budget for male-orientated items, and deteriorated women's bargaining power. Read on.
Youth Demand Fair Share from World Leaders
Ahead of November’s 2020 G20 Summit in Saudi Arabia, heads of youth movements and student unions challenged the wealthiest nations to correct their unequal global response to the COVID-19 pandemic by considering children's plight. The 100 Million Campaign organization organized an online youth event titled A Fair Share for our Future. The organization is an initiative of Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, which empowers young people and tackles child labor, poverty, access to education, and violence against children. “The richest governments have focused heavily on bailing out businesses and economies as part of the global COVID relief. While this must be done, it cannot be done at the expense of the world’s poorest and most marginalized children,” said Satyarthi. Read on.
Renewables to Exceed Coal by 2024
According to a new International Energy Agency (IEA) report, wind and solar capacity will exceed coal and gas by 2024. The increase means wind and solar will overtake gas capacity in 2023 and coal in 2024. The Paris-based intergovernmental agency anticipates a 1,123 gigawatt (GW) increase in wind and solar that would mean these power sources overtake gas capacity within five years. Unlike other commodities, renewable energy sources proved resilient during the pandemic. “The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors – and the future looks even brighter with new capacity additions on course to set fresh records this year and next,” said EA executive director Dr. Fatih Birol. Read on.
A Billion People Lack an Identity
The World Bank reports that just under one billion people have no legal identity. Without a legal identity, they can't open a bank account, vote, or get a loan. "A study of 15 developing nations identified 600 million people who have a smartphone but don’t have a bank account.” However, a new app by Joseph Thompson, the founder of AID:Tech, is working to change that. AID:Tech develops identity-focused solutions that enable people to own, control, and manage their own data. The new app, called DIDs, provides a standard way for individuals and organizations to create permanent, globally unique, cryptographically verifiable identifiers. Read on.
Slow Economic Recovery
Operation warp speed facilitated and accelerated the COVID-19 vaccine's creation, providing some hope for the end of the pandemic. However, a "meaningful" economic recovery is still distant. "With the United States suffering its most rampant transmission yet, and with major nations in Europe again under lockdown, prospects remain grim for a meaningful worldwide recovery before the middle of next year, and far longer in some economies. Substantial job growth could take longer still." While the vaccine has created a pathway for economic improvement, the challenges that come with vaccinating millions of people are slowing down a return to normalcy required for real recovery to take place. Read on.
Saving the Consumer Class
This year, for the first time in half a century, the global consumer class will shrink. According to the Brookings Institution, around four billion people made up the global consumer class before the pandemic, spending approximately $55 trillion per year. Post COVID-19, that number is 120 million less than it was in 2019. "Because of population growth, the COVID-19 outbreak has added almost 200 million people to the group of poor and vulnerable (people spending less than $11 per day) in 2020.” According to the IMF's latest projections, only Guyana will perform better in 2020 than in 2019; per capita growth, 170 out of 190 countries will be negative. Read on.
One Billion People Live in Poverty
The Brookings Institution recently conducted research to examine spatial patterns in income levels and growth across 2,894 subnational areas globally. Their findings identified 538 administrative areas they call poverty hotspots—areas classified as low income in both 2000 and 2015 using the historical income thresholds provided by the World Bank. These areas are home to 1.2 billion people. A deeper dive into these hotspots revealed that growth or decline in one area affected neighboring areas. “Regions with shrinking economies will also negatively affect their neighbors. Thus, there is a tendency for growth and poverty not only to persist over time but to cluster in particular locales.” Read on.
Developing an Open Data Culture
Developing a culture of open data communication and sharing is necessary to tackle growing worldwide hunger. The world can not feed food insecure populations without a willingness to be collaborative about the future of agricultural research. Managing director of publishing at the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, Andy Robinson, believes making agricultural data accessible is key to accelerating discoveries and translating them into practice in the field. Agriculture is trailing behind its scientific counterparts, threatening the success of programs to reduce hunger. Read on.
A History of the World in Five Foods
To understand the history of the world and human development, turn to food. Food has been at the center of culture, politics, and the geographic landscape. As part of its Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good initiative, the World Economic Forum explains why and how the following five foods have helped shape the world. Meat, cereal, spices, potatoes, and avocado have made history and reveal how civilization can create a more sustainable food future. Read on.
Protecting the Heritage of Humanity
It is not easy to conserve cultural heritage. "Weak institutional capabilities, lack of appropriate resources, and isolation of many culturally essential sites are compounded by a lack of awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation.” In November 2020, the Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay received Armenia and Azerbaijan representatives to discuss the situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but mostly governed by the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh. During the meeting, she expressed the significance of protecting and preserving the area's heritage for future generations beyond the current conflict. Read on.
COVID-19 the Deadliest Weapon
The most powerful countries on earth claim that title because of their massive weapons arsenals. Those who have the most sophisticated fighter planes, drones, ballistic missiles, tanks, warships, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have the most power. However, COVID-19, the virus that has killed more than 1.8 million without firing a single shot, has proven to be a new deadly weapon. The world must now answer a long-feared question. Will firepower and WMDs “become obsolete if biological weapons, currently banned by a UN convention, are used in wars in a distant future?” Read on.