In a frank (and in-person!) interview, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.
Climate & Sustainability
As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.
One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.
"We need a common international standard and system for measuring carbon production and a ledger system, so that we can look back to our supply chain and people we supply can look to us," says Frank, who fears we're putting a lot more carbon into the air than we currently think.
Watch the above video for more insights from Frank, who sat down with Tony Maciulis, GZERO Media's chief content officer, as part of our ongoing Global Stage partnership with Microsoft.
Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor of Eurasia Group, discusses reasons the rapid global response to climate change warrants optimism on UNGA In 60 Seconds.
There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about climate change. Can you give me a reason to be optimistic?
I'm going to say something you don't hear set very often when it comes to climate change. You should be an optimist. You should be a skeptical optimist, but an optimist nonetheless. Let me explain what I mean. We are scaling up climate solutions faster than even the most ardent among us thought possible a decade ago. Consider this. In 2010, about half of US electricity was generated from coal. This year less than 20% will be, and it's trending towards zero at increasing velocity.
Yesterday, just yesterday, Xi Jinping announced at UNGA that China's emissions will peak this decade, and he set an economy-wide net zero target for the middle of the century. And this afternoon, yes, just this afternoon before recording this segment, California Governor Gavin Newsome said the state will outlaw the internal combustion engine by 2035. All of this is happening against the backdrop of the European Green Deal, making a truly historic investment in clean growth, and a presidential nominee running on a climate plan that would have been unthinkable one election cycle ago. And that's just the politics. On the market side, ESG investing is more than holding its own against traditional vehicles, and the cost of renewable energy is truly competitive with thermal fossil, almost everywhere in the world, about a decade sooner than conventional wisdom, expected it to be. In short, things are changing, and fast.
But more than any of these trends, I'm optimistic because the demographics are finally on the side of climate action. Countries, global institutions, and firms are increasingly being led by a generation of people who will live through the harsh reality of the climate change era. They've seen the future, and they don't like it. None of this is to say the change is going to be easy or that it's going to happen automatically. These big changes that I've been talking about... They need to get bigger, and they need to happen faster, but there's too much doom-saying out there about climate change. There is hope, you should be skeptical, and you should always, always read the fine print, but there's lots of reasons to be hopeful. I'm Gerald Butts, and this has been UNGA in 60 Seconds.
What does "net zero" mean, and how can companies, and perhaps even governments, achieve neutral carbon emissions? Climate change is a problem that impacts far more than weather systems—it has a human toll, one that is rapidly increasing. Microsoft and Eurasia Group have teamed up with GZERO Media to talk about real solutions to one of the biggest crises of our time.
Fires. Floods. Hurricanes. Heatwaves.
It can be easy to feel helpless in the face of planetary disruption, particularly with a global pandemic that is — understandably — distracting many from the generational challenge of climate change. But there is an enormous transformational opportunity at hand.
The need to build back after COVID-19 offers an opportunity to work toward cleaner and more resilient societies that can grow with fewer emissions, create broadly shared opportunities in a low-carbon economy, and heal the planet. Governments are spending massively to stimulate the economy, including forms of green stimulus, and many around the world are demanding that we don't just re-build, but build back better. This is a task that no single country can bear on its own; indeed, addressing climate change and sustainability challenges is the ultimate focal point for reimagining multilateralism in the 21st century. It requires that companies and governments take chances, invest and innovate, and share their learnings with the world. But it also requires global cooperation, including new coalitions of unconventional partners that each hold one part of a complex solution.
Scientists agree that to avoid the most destructive impacts of climate change and preserve the ecosystems upon which our societies depend, our economies must achieve net zero emissions by 2050, if not earlier. A growing chorus of voices across the public and private sector are making big net-zero commitments and inducing others to follow suit. But as the world enters a pivotal decade, commitments must be transformed into actions. Governments must come forward with bold new climate policy frameworks, companies must develop new tools, and the prolific volume of data being generated around the world must be harnessed to unlock new insights and strategies. Working together, recovery from the crisis can lead to a world that is greener, cleaner, and safer for generations to come.
What's the UN doing about it?
The UN has been the leading forum for multilateral efforts to address climate change via the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement harnesses a bottom-up, non-binding approach, using the power of transparency and peer pressure to get countries to make various climate action commitments, and then to revisit these commitments and ratchet up ambition every five years. Even if all Paris commitments were fulfilled, the world would still be on track for around 3 degrees of warming, underscoring the importance of increasing ambition, learning from others, and lowering the cost of decarbonization through innovation and cooperation. The 2020 UN climate conference, to be hosted by the UK in Glasgow, was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and represents a critical juncture, as it will be the first official opportunity to take stock of current commitments and increase them where possible.
The UN is also a critical venue for dealing with other environmental priorities, including biodiversity — a critical foundation of today's modern pharmaceutical industry and a linchpin of the molecular diversity needed to fuel the development of new drugs and vaccines. World leaders were scheduled to meet in Kunming, China this October to negotiate the text of a new global treaty on biological diversity, but this too has been postponed to 2021 because of Covid-19. Nevertheless, this year's UNGA is critical in aligning key countries around a common strategy to better protect biodiversity in the 21st century.
How are others trying to help?
A diverse coalition of businesses, countries, cities, states, and other actors are stepping up ambition. There is a diverse mosaic of private sector efforts underway around the world to increase climate ambition, including the Transform to Net Zero coalition, a cross-sector initiative of leading businesses that are working to help companies of all sizes enter the race and reach net zero global emissions no later than 2050.
Because "net zero" doesn't mean that there will be no emissions, but instead that any residual emissions are balanced out by strategies to actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, it is imperative to begin advancing so-called "negative emissions" strategies and technologies today. Microsoft, for example, has pledged to become a carbon-negative company by 2030, and is currently accepting proposals for novel carbon removal innovations that it can finance through its $1 billion Climate Investment Fund that is making investments across a range of areas, including waste, carbon, and water.
And over September 21-27, the world's largest and most inclusive climate summit — Climate Week — will unite the world virtually to discuss how to make a just transition to a net zero future a core pillar of the world's recovery from COVID-19
What's needed next?
Even the most innovative leaders can't bend the emissions curve, nor protect the most vulnerable populations and systems from the ravages of climate change, alone. Public-private collaboration toward standardized carbon accounting and data sharing can help companies seize decarbonization opportunities, and can help governments better decide what and how to regulate. Better data transparency and sharing of both successes and challenges from first-mover companies and countries can help expose the largest levers of change and compel others to action, including through the Transform to Net Zero coalition.
Meanwhile, governments can work together to price carbon pollution, and to advance frameworks for cooperation across various carbon markets. Countries can discuss how various post-war institutions, such as the global trading system, can be revamped so that climate action is a source of cooperation, rather than competition and protectionism. And public-private cooperation can be introduced to enhance decision making around environmental management as the world adapts to a more volatile climate.
How can I get involved?
Over the past 40 years, the economic gap between the world's richest and poorest countries and peoples has narrowed sharply. Goods, services, and people began to cross borders at greater velocity, creating opportunities for people to live healthier, more secure, and more prosperous lives. Billions rose out of poverty.
Here's the catch: all that beneficial economic activity has also sharply increased the use of fossil fuels and the amount of carbon that's reaching the atmosphere. Life on earth remains possible only because carbon dioxide in our atmosphere captures enough heat from the sun to sustain us while deflecting enough extra heat into space to keep us from burning up. That's the "natural greenhouse effect."
The fossil fuels we've been using to produce energy have upset a delicate atmospheric balance by pumping a lot more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which traps more heat near the earth's surface. Deforestation in some parts of the world adds to the problem, because trees absorb and store carbon dioxide. Higher temperatures melt Arctic and Antarctic ice, rising sea levels everywhere.
And as sea levels rise and extreme weather events become more common, poorer countries and people are the most vulnerable. In other words, climate change threatens to undo many of the gains of the past 40 years.
The poorer half of the world's people generate just 10 percent of the world's carbon emissions, but the UN has warned that poorer countries – which are more dependent on climate-vulnerable agriculture and generally have ricketier infrastructure – will bear 75 percent of the costs for paying for it: the costs of housing and feeding refugees driven from their homes by floods or famines, as well as rebuilding roads, bridges, and property damaged by more extreme weather.
The result will be a form of "climate apartheid," a term coined by Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. Some governments in wealthier countries will promise to help, but their taxpayers, aware of climate-related disasters in their own countries, will likely prove less willing to bear the burdens of new "bailouts" for foreign countries.
To understand the scale of this problem, take the example of Bangladesh. More than 45 million of Bangladesh's 161 million people now live in places already prone to flooding. Climate scientists warn that global warming will increase the frequency and severity of the storms that hit Bangladesh. Over the next generation, rising sea levels alone will force as many as 18 million Bangladeshis from their homes.
This catastrophe will be repeated in poorer countries in every region of the world. In some cases, people will be dislocated by flooding. In other cases, there will be droughts. These movements can have political consequences: failed crops in rural Syria a decade ago sent large numbers of people scrambling into cities, adding to the growing unrest in that country at the time. Droughts in Central America have pushed many people north toward the US border in search of better prospects.
Who will pay to meet these coming challenges? Where will these people go? How will they be greeted when they get there? Taxpayers in New York, London, Shanghai and other rich countries may not be interested in helping. International organizations can't shoulder the load alone. But because the world remains deeply interconnected, this isn't a problem only for the world's poorest people. It's a challenge for all of us.
Under the terms of the 2015 Paris Agreement, signatory countries agreed to make their own commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions. At next year's UN climate change conference in Glasgow, nations will assess progress to date and (possibly) make bolder commitments, given technological progress and the mounting urgency to take climate action. But for now, only a handful of countries are on pace to limit warming to 2°C above preindustrial levels — let alone to meet the 1.5°C target that most scientists believe will help us avoid heaviest climate impact. A small group of intrepid governments aim to achieve "net zero" emissions in coming decades. We look at how certain nations are performing on climate action, and highlight those with plans to reach net zero.
On Wednesday, September 16th, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — kicks off a series of livestream discussions about the most important issues facing the 75th UN General Assembly. The first event, Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action, will consider how we get to net zero emissions.
Our panel will be moderated by Julia Pyper, host and producer of the Political Climate podcast, and will include Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor, Eurasia Group; Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft; Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School, Tufts University; and Mark Carney, Finance Adviser to the UK Prime Minister for COP 26 and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance.
On the day of the event, visit https://www.gzeromedia.com/unga/livestream to view the livestream presentation.
Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action: Wednesday, September 16th, 12:30p ET/9:30a PT/5:30p BST
Sign up to be notified about this and other events here.
|9.16.2020||Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action|
|9.23.2020||Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding|
|10.7.2020||Digital Inclusion: Connectivity and Skills for the Next Billion Jobs|
|10.14.2020||Digital Peace: Trust and Security in Cyberspace|
As the UN turns 75, the organization is revealing the results of a global survey of nearly a million people in 193 nations—what matters most to them, and how do they view the need for global cooperation at this time of unprecedented crisis? Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser Fabrizio Hochschild explains the purpose and findings of the report.
The world is facing an unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime crisis. World leaders and corporations alike need to not only rebuild, but reimagine what life could look like after the COVID-19 pandemic. In a special GZERO Media series, Eurasia Group and Microsoft experts present solutions to some of the biggest issues of the 21st century.
John Frank, Vice President of UN Affairs at Microsoft, discusses how to include people around the world in the digital economy,on UNGA In 60 Seconds.
Satya Nadella famously said, "We saw two years of digital transformation in two months" due to the pandemic and the need it created for virtual communication, work, and learning, but still nearly half the world's population lacks connectivity.
First, how can we begin to bridge the digital divide? Then, how can digital skilling lead us into a better global economy?
We need to redouble our efforts to bring broadband around the world. Less developed countries desperately need new technologies that bring broadband connectivity at lower costs, but we also need to focus on underserved populations in our urban centers and rural America. We need to create new mechanisms and new technologies that are going to bring people in, but being connected, it's not enough. We need to have people be able to participate in the new digital economy, and that requires digital skills. And what better way to get them than online. We can find new ways to train people, but there needs to be a commitment to lifelong learning. And of course, there's digital natives, but the whole population can benefit from developing digital skills, and we believe that many people can greatly improve their economic future and economic security through robust training on digital skills.
Video: The need for digital inclusion: access, training, and activating skills for the next billion jobs
Nearly half the world's population lacks internet connectivity at a time when digital communication has never been more critical. As part of a special partnership between Eurasia Group and Microsoft, GZERO Media examines the power of connecting more people—and how teaching digital skills could create the workforce the 21st century needs.
In this extended version of Ian Bremmer's conversation with UN Secretary-General António Guterres for GZERO World, the two discuss a wide range of geopolitical issues and how they've been exacerbated by the pandemic. Guterres shares his views on the urgent need for global climate action, equitable distribution of vaccine once approved, and Europe's emerging role as an example of successful intergovernmental cooperation. Guterres also lays out his vision for a more "inclusive" multilateralism, one that involves deeper partnerships between organizations like the UN and World Health Organization with multinational corporations and private stakeholders.
On September 16, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts on climate and sustainability to address the future of "net zero" in a livestream panel.
Our panel for the discussion on Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action included:
- Julia Pyper, host and producer of the Political Climate podcast (moderator)
- Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor, Eurasia Group
- Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft
- Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School, Tufts University
- Mark Carney, Finance Adviser to the UK Prime Minister for COP 26 and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance
Select quotes from our panelists:
Gerald Butts on public-private collaboration on climate change
We can't be in opposing ditches throwing rotten tomatoes at each other about how to make progress on this problem. You're going to make a lot more progress, a lot more quickly, if large private sector actors are acting in concert with the UN and major governments around the world.
Lucas Joppa on fighting climate change amid COVID-19 recovery
We're recovering from an event, and if we don't take a more proactive offensive strategy to our engagement with climate change, then the number of things that we are going to have to recover from is just going to accelerate out of control.
Rachel Kyte on the new opportunity for net zero
The economic recession ... has knocked everybody back. We have to dress ourselves down, stare at this problem and work out how we are going to achieve two core goals: deeply decarbonize ... and use the opportunity to make recovery that works better for everybody.
Mark Carney on corporate ambitions to go net zero
As companies have plans, it becomes more and more obvious what problems need to be solved, and what technologies need to go from uneconomic to economic. A problem [turns into] a huge opportunity if the world's doing what everyone's saying they're going to do, which is to go to net zero — and that is a powerful dynamic.
This event was the first in a four-part livestream panel series about key issues facing the 75th United General Assembly. The next discussion, Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, will stream live on Wednesday, September 23, at 11 am ET and will include Microsoft President Brad Smith, and Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media.See the schedule of upcoming events and watch our livestream panels here, and check out GZERO Media's special coverage of the 2020 edition of the world's largest diplomatic gathering, and the first ever virtual UNGA.
As the UN turns 75, GZERO Media, Eurasia Group and Microsoft have teamed up to bring you a look at some of the most pressing global issues of the 21st Century. Here's a short look at a battlefield that has no borders—cyberspace, and efforts to create a safer digital world.
The annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the world's largest diplomatic event, normally entails leaders and representatives from the 193 UN member states descending upon New York for a full week of speeches, high-stakes meetings between governments, and street protests. UNGA has also had its share of surprising moments, like Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev (allegedly) banging his shoe on the desk, or Venezuela's Hugo Chávez suggesting that US President George W. Bush was the devil himself.
This year's UNGA will be very different because of COVID-19. Hotels in New York won't be full of diplomats, metal detectors, and secret service agents. The "contact sport" of diplomacy will go virtual, with great uncertainty over how improvisational breakthroughs often found on the sidelines of UNGA summits will translate to the digital world. And more individuals from around the world than ever before will be able to take part. In other words, UNGA will be very different, but hardly less important (or dramatic).
The COVID-19 pandemic makes this year's UNGA — the 75th — a once-in-a-generation opportunity for global leaders to unite around a single challenge, build the momentum necessary to tackle its effects head-on and chart a clear path forward for multilateralism... all while overcoming the obstacles of working virtually.
What will change? This year's UNGA will be mostly virtual, with world leaders delivering prerecorded statements and only one representative per UN member state attending in-person in the General Assembly Hall. All other events and meetings will take place online — requiring a 20th century institution, which still thinks in analog in many ways, to rapidly embrace 21st century technology. The pandemic will make proceedings more transparent for the general public, but the virtual setting may not be ideal for the most sensitive aspects of diplomacy that occur behind closed doors or the spontaneous meetings in the labyrinthine hallways of the UN. Many UN insiders worry that the virtual format may stand in the way of these unofficial meetings, which are often where the real diplomatic work gets done.
The overwhelming nature of the COVID-19 crisis may also divert attention from other top priorities such as biodiversity, and cash-strapped governments will be less likely to announce concrete financial commitments to meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the organization's roadmap for ending poverty and protecting the planet. Finally, there's a serious risk that the urgency of doing something quickly about the pandemic will make UN member states cut corners and compromise on sustainability, so in fact we'll end up "building back worse" than before.
What will stay the same? For the UN, 2020 was supposed to kick off its so-called "Decade of Action" to meet the 17 SDGs by 2030 — and it still is. Although that timeline has been complicated by the coronavirus, the UN has no immediate plans to push back the deadline, and now argues that the need to "build back better" after COVID-19 makes the objective of achieving all SDGs by the end of the decade even more urgent than it was at the beginning of the year.
This year was also expected to be all about the UN's own 75th birthday. A planned year-long celebration of the UN's accomplishments since its formation in 1945 has turned into an opportunity for the UN to draw lessons from its 75 years of experience dealing with global crises that can help the world recover from the pandemic. Finally, this year's high-level meetings will focus — as planned — on UN75, biodiversity, gender equality, and nuclear disarmament.
So, what's cooking for this year's UNGA, who are the key players, what's needed next, and how can you get involved?
What's the UN doing this year?
In 2020, UNGA will be anything but business-as-usual, starting with the schedule. The multiple high-level summits and events that are normally programmed for one week will take place throughout September and October to allow for most discussions and meetings to be virtual or in-person with social distancing. Here's the updated schedule of high-level meetings:
- 09/21 UN 75 anniversary commemoration. The UN will celebrate its 75th birthday under the theme The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism with a virtual address by Secretary-General António Guterres.
- 09/21-29 General Assembly debate. This is an opportunity for representatives from all UN member states to gather in the same room, and for each individual UN member state to raise any issue that's important to them. The process takes five days, and Brazil is the first to speak because it was the only country that volunteered to do so at the first debate in 1955. The US comes second, and representatives can talk about whatever they want... for a maximum of 15 minutes (the limit is rarely enforced).
- 09/30 Biodiversity Summit. As the degradation of biodiversity threatens global progress towards meeting the development goals, world leaders will adopt a framework to take urgent action on putting nature on a path to recovery by the end of the decade.
- 10/01 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. A quarter century since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women, UN member states will take stock of progress made and challenges ahead for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, everywhere.
- 10/02 Commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This year's commemoration occurs in the shadow of a deterioration in arms control agreements between the US and Russia, the two states with the most nuclear weapons.
Who are the key players?
Governments are the most important players responding to global challenges, but they can't do so alone. Thus far, their response has also been insufficient, failing to rise to the level of international coordination seen in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and other pivotal global crises. This presents an opportunity to rethink effective multilateralism for the next 75 years, and it's why this year's UNGA is also bringing together the private sector, NGOs and others interested in a better future for all to together figure out how to meet the 2030 deadline to achieve the development goals in the "new normal" the pandemic has created. Microsoft, for instance, has long committed to Agenda 2030 and this year opened a representation office in New York to advance its partnerships with the UN and its agencies.
What's needed next, and how can I get involved?
This year's UNGA will aim to forge a global compact to prepare for a post-pandemic world that first and foremost focuses on global health in a scenario where COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on global health systems worldwide. But that consensus will also have to address rising inequality as a direct result of the coronavirus, its devastating impact on labor markets, and the political divisions the pandemic has exacerbated. Only a multilateral approach can get governments, the private sector and all other players on the same page so the recovery leaves no one behind.
To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN has been running a global survey on the future of global cooperation: Will COVID-19 bring the world closer together, or rather lead to greater mistrust? Contribute your opinion on what the UN should prioritize in the coming years by taking part in the poll. The survey is open until the end of 2020, and preliminary results will be announced at the commemoration ceremony.
A sneak peek at the findings shows that over 90 percent of respondents believe that global cooperation is vital to respond to today's challenges, including COVID-19. Those surveyed have identified health, access to basic services, global solidarity and making economies inclusive as the most pressing short-term priorities, and addressing climate change, corruption, poverty and conflict/violence as the most vital long-term goals.
In the meantime, stay tuned for special coverage on four key themes — climate and sustainability, crisis response and recovery, digital inclusion, and digital peace — by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group.
While governments around the world race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, intelligence services and criminal organizations see an opportunity: to steal vaccine research, keep tabs on the competition, or hold critical information for ransom. The vaccine manufacturing process involves a wide group of public and private organizations that have access to sensitive vaccine and manufacturing details as well as the personal information of trial participants. In addition to the risks of stolen intellectual property or personal information, hacks could also delay or derail elements of the quest for a viable vaccine. Here's a look at what hackers are after at each stage of the vaccine development process.
One of the biggest threats to 21st century international peace is invisible. It recognizes no borders and knows no rules. It can penetrate everything from the secrets of your government to the settings of your appliances. This is, of course, the threat of cyberattacks and cyberwarfare.
During the coronavirus pandemic, cyberattacks have surged, according to watchdogs. This isn't just Zoom-bombing or scams. It's also a wave of schemes, likely by national intelligence agencies, meant to steal information about the development and production of vaccines. Attacks on the World Health Organization soared five-fold early in the pandemic.
Why is the threat of cyberwarfare growing, and why isn't more being done to stop it?
Hacking is increasingly the business of nation-states. Not so long ago, hackers were mainly hooded freelancers sitting in their basements stealing credit card numbers. Now they are increasingly the employees of national intelligence services.
Why are countries investing more and more in the cyber game? For one thing, hacking is a cheap way to level the playing field with larger global rivals. For North Korea or Iran, you no longer need a powerful military in order to project power across the globe. You just need a laptop and a few good programmers. What's more, unlike missile launches or invasions, the targets can't always tell where a cyberattack has come from. Plausible deniability comes in handy, especially when attacking someone bigger than you.
Targets are getting fatter. As countries build out 5G networks, data flows will increase massively, as more than a billion more people move online over the next decade. The so-called "internet of things," the network in which everything from your watch to your (potentially self-driving) car to your refrigerator are being hooked up to the internet. (That said, huge gaps in internet access persist, as we wrote here.)
There are no rules. Conventional war has rules about whom you can and cannot attack, occupy, or imprison. They aren't always respected or enforced — but the cyber realm has very few rules, mainly because the world's major cyber powers don't want them. If you're Vladimir Putin, hacking has brought dividends that your flagging economy and mediocre military cannot. If you're the US, you're historically wary of any binding rules about the conduct of war. (If you're Gulliver, why tie yourself to the ground for the sake of Lilliput?) So, while various groups of countries have, under UN auspices, started to develop "norms" – they are not binding.
Unfortunately, it may take a catastrophe to create those rules. So far, the damage inflicted by hackers has mostly been economic. In 2017, the NotPetya virus, which targeted Ukraine, quickly spread around the globe, inflicting $10 billion worth of pain. It was, so far, the worst cyberattack in history.
But it's not hard to imagine a cyberattack on a hospital network, a power grid, or a dam that kills thousands of people and forces even more from their homes. How can those responsible be called to account? And what would it take to make future such attacks much less likely?
Will it take an event that inflicts that much human damage for governments and tech companies to sit down and hammer out cyber-rules of the road?
The coronavirus pandemic has radically accelerated the adoption of digital technology in the global economy, creating an opportunity for millions of new businesses and jobs. However, it has also left millions jobless and exposed yet another vulnerability: hundreds of millions of people lack access to this technology.
To be sure, this divide was already present before COVID-19 struck. But unequal access to the internet and technology is going to make the multiple impacts of the pandemic much worse for offline and unskilled communities, among others. In fact, there is not a single global digital gap, but rather several ones that the coronavirus will likely exacerbate.
Rich vs poor countries. Although more than half of the world's population is now online, internet access remains quite low throughout the developing world, where connectivity is largely expensive, slow and unreliable. This means a vegetable trader in Nairobi, for example, may use basic mobile phone payments but cannot expect to sell his produce online because most of his buyers are neither online nor aware of e-commerce.
In developing countries, governments lack the funds and private companies the financial incentive to invest in broadband for all. The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic will further discourage betting big on digital infrastructure plans where they are most needed, so the digitalized world will speed ahead in the fast lane while 3.2 billion unconnected people remain stuck.
Skilled vs unskilled workers. For some, COVID-19 has radically transformed the nature of learning and work, as technology now allows both to be done remotely. This may become the norm in certain societies after the public health crisis has passed.
Microsoft predicts that a pandemic-fueled quantum leap in global tech adoption will create 149 million new digital jobs by 2025. However, those jobs require tech skills that almost no one who has lost a job due to COVID-19 can acquire fast enough to benefit from the future digital hiring spree.
Women vs men. More men than women use the internet in all regions of the world except in the Americas. The digital gender gap is actually growing in some parts of the world, and almost nowhere is it more glaring than in India, where conservative attitudes in some parts of the country ban women and girls from using smartphones or social media.
Unless urgent measures are taken, women will miss out on many of the new job opportunities because they are less likely than men to own a smartphone or have access to the web. The pandemic will thus exacerbate gender discrimination, a violation of a human right.
Urban vs rural communities. Experts believe 5G networks will be a game-changer by massively expanding data download and processing speeds for driverless cars, smart cities, and connected factories. That will be the case for cities, where this technology is already available.
Rural areas, however, will be much slower to adopt 5G — and attract the new jobs this technology will enable — because it is more expensive to install when communities are less dense. Even in the US, the world's largest economy, rural states like West Virginia already feared they would have to wait years or even decades to get 5G networks before the pandemic. Now, they may be left even further behind.
Bottom line: COVID-19 has plunged the world into the worst economic crisis in a century, while also accelerating the digitization of the workplace. People who can already learn or work remotely — and have or can pick up the skills needed to land the new digital jobs — will thrive. Those who don't have laptop jobs or can't land them, and who don't have access to virtual education or work, will have a much harder time.
This year's United General Assembly will be very different. Hotels in New York will not be full of famous heads of state, metal detectors, or US secret service agents as the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world's largest diplomatic gathering into a mostly online affair to enforce social distancing. A virtual UNGA requires a 20th century institution — which turns 75 and still thinks in analog in many ways — to rapidly embrace 21st century technology. How will UNGA adapt to its new virtual setting? Here are a few things that will change.
At the outset of the pandemic earlier this year, people in high places said that the coronavirus was shaping up to be the "great equalizer." But, in fact, the twin health and economic effects of the pandemic have been anything but equal. The poor have suffered and died more than the rich. Ethnic minorities in Europe and the US have borne the brunt. Pre-existing inequalities have been exposed, and deepened, by the disease.
Nowhere is that clearer than in the pandemic's disproportionate impact on women. What are the particular challenges for women in this crisis, and what does recovery look like for over half of the world's population?
Health impacts and inequality. One major impact of the lockdowns for millions of women and girls around the world has been to limit their access to reproductive and sexual health services, particularly in developing countries.
The United Nations Population Fund predicts that there could be as many as 7 million unintended pregnancies globally this year because of COVID-related lockdowns, as well as transport and personnel shortages that have made it impossible for many to access abortions and contraception over the past six months.
Consider that in India, for example, almost three quarters of abortions are for medical purposes up to 7 weeks gestation. Indeed, research already shows that millions of Indian and Nepalese women — particularly those living in rural areas — have been impeded from accessing crucial medical care.
This isn't just an issue in the developing world. Even before the pandemic, many women's healthcare needs in America went unmet because of a lack of access. And the issue is even more dire for women of color. Black women in the United States were 2-3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, while infant mortality rates were also disproportionately high for non-white Americans.
Indeed, unequal access to quality healthcare for women in developed countries like the US and the UK has been further compounded by the pandemic, which has overwhelmed hospitals in many cities and exhausted medical supply chains.
Disproportionate economic pain. Women have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19's economic aftershocks in two key ways.
First, at least 740 million women, 58 percent of the global female labor force, are employed in the "informal economy" — jobs that are not officially registered and therefore are mostly not eligible for benefits or social safety net provisions. (Nearly a fifth of all workers in the US have jobs in the informal sector.) This was the case back in March when the US Congress passed major relief measures — totaling more than $2 trillion — that did not extend adequate support for informal workers.
In low-income countries, meanwhile, a whopping 92 percent of women work in the informal sector. Clearly, the pandemic's economic burden disproportionately falls on women who are more likely to toil in the hard-hit informal and casual sectors.
Second, as a result of longstanding wage inequality and structural biases in recruitment, women were already at a disadvantage securing well-paying jobs and integrating into the workforce. Research shows that women also still shoulder the majority of unpaid domestic care work. That means that in places where schools and daycares were (or are) closed, childcare responsibilities have overwhelmingly fallen on women, preventing them from re-entering the workforce. There's precedent for this, too. Data shows that after the recent Ebola epidemic in Africa (2013-2016), women were disproportionately affected by job losses and took way longer to land steady jobs again after the crisis.
Gender-based violence: the shadow pandemic. While quarantines and lockdowns have helped curb the coronavirus' spread, they have also heightened the danger to women who live with abusive partners or family members.
In Colombia, for example, calls to domestic violence hotlines rose 90 percent after the government first called for mandatory lockdowns this past spring, while the EU said that domestic violence had risen by as much as 30 percent in some countries — a scourge the UN referred to as the "shadow pandemic," and a gross human rights violation.
Many observers fear that recent events will undo years of progress on mitigating gender-based violence, particularly in Latin America where protests against femicide (the killing of women) mobilized thousands of women earlier this year. It's within this context that Clare Wenham, a global-health policy expert, recently told The Atlantic that "the distorting effects of an epidemic can last for years," referring to the challenge of stopping the unraveling of decades of social progress.
Takeaway: Women, a majority of the world's population, are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Without addressing that aspect of recovery, there cannot, in a meaningful sense, be a real recovery at all.
The twin blows of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis it unleashed have added around 250 million globally to unemployment rolls. It has also changed the nature of work for many of those who have been lucky enough to keep their jobs. But this disruption has also accelerated digitalization, which Microsoft projects will create 149 million new jobs over the next five years. As more people learn to work from home, what does this mean for work, education, and skilling? We look at the new "digital" jobs that the global economy will need to fill by 2025, and which skills will be needed to get hired.