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POLITICS

Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls

Switzerland is one of the world’s ten best countries to be a girl, according to a new report.

Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
File photo: Swiss Tourism/Christof Schuerpf

Save the Children released the report 'Every Last Girl' for the International Day of the Girl Child on Tuesday.

The report used its so-called Girls' Opportunity Index to rank the world's countries according to five indicators: child marriage, adolescent fertility, maternal mortality (as an indicator to access to good-quality healthcare), women MPs and lower-secondary school completion.

Switzerland placed ninth in the table, which was topped by Sweden, closely followed by Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium in the top five.

“While there is much to celebrate, there is still a mountain to climb until we reach a world in which girls will have the same opportunities as boys,” wrote Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International and Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK, in a press release.

Some developed nations such as the UK (15) and Canada (19) were pulled down the rankings by not having enough women represented in parliament. Forty-five percent of MPs in table-topping Sweden are women, compared to 29 percent in the UK and 19 percent in the US.

“Only three of the countries with the highest proportion of female MPs are high income countries – Sweden, Finland and Spain. Rwanda tops the table with 64 percent of female MPs, followed by Bolivia and Cuba,” read the report.

A traditionally conservative country, Switzerland only granted women the vote at federal level in 1971. But since then the country has made advances in sexual equality in politics.

In 2010 its seven-member federal council had a female majority for the first time after the election of justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga. However the balance is currently in favour of men, with only two women in the federal council.

Some 32 percent of MPs in the Swiss lower house of parliament are women.

Other high-income nations, such as the US (32), were let down by relatively high adolescent fertility and maternal mortality rates, according to Save the Children.

Fourteen women died per 100,000 live births in the USA in 2015; a similar number to Uruguay and Lebanon, and far higher than the three deaths per 100,000 in Poland, Greece and Finland,” it stated.

At the bottom of the list were Niger (144), Chad (143), the Central African Republic (142), Mali (141) and Somalia (140).

“The worst places to be a girl are amongst the poorest in the world. These countries have extremely high rates of deprivation across all indicators. They must focus urgently on ensuring that policy and practice uphold girls' rights,” said the report.

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POLITICS

World Economic Forum: Globalisation under the spotlight in Switzerland

The question of whether the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have sounded the death knell for globalisation has dominated the World Economic Forum in Swiss resort Davos.

World Economic Forum: Globalisation under the spotlight in Switzerland

Some believe the crises have unleashed an opportunity for a transformation of international trade and supply chains as the world economy slows down.

Once advocated by anti-globalisation movements, far from the quiet rooms at Davos, talk of “deglobalisation” is back in the face of supply chain disruptions linked to the Ukraine conflict and lockdowns in China.

In the hope of building stronger networks unaffected by crises like war, deglobalisation would mean bringing production back closer to home, thus allowing the movement of goods across shorter distances.

The issue has become acute after Covid-19 and the misery at Shanghai port.

The Chinese city has become a symbol of global supply chain woes after its factories were closed for weeks and containers piled up as China sticks stubbornly to a zero-Covid strategy, causing delivery delays worldwide.

And since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global food prices have hit an all-time high as the two countries make up a huge share of the globe’s exports in several major commodities, like wheat.

Such snags are leading many, including the world’s biggest companies, to consider what production should look like in the future.

Globalisation is “temporarily pausing”, Loic Tassel, president for Europe at the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble said during an event at Davos.

“The price to pay or the time to wait is not compatible anymore with our industry,” Tassel said, giving the example of Shanghai, which is the world’s busiest container port.

“We are now bringing into the equation the cost and resilience of the supply chain, it was not in our mind three years ago,” he said. But rather than talk about “deglobalisation”, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, director of the Geneva-based agency International Trade Centre, preferred to speak about diversification and relocalisation — where supply chains are closer and in areas where conflict is far away.

“The change will come by the shifting to near sourcing value chains,” she told AFP.

Clouds gathering 

Sceptics said companies sought the cheapest options despite being aware of the risk of huge dependence on certain regions.

“We never imported so much from China as when we said we should rely on it less,” noted Gilles Moec, chief economist at French insurance giant Axa, on the sidelines of Davos.

“One of the reasons why people are so nervous right now is that if China was unable to meet global demand because of the pandemic, that would be a catastrophe,” he added.

Globalisation’s identity crisis comes at a time when pessimism reigns over the future of the global economy.

“The horizon has darkened,” said International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva at Davos on Monday.

And while a global growth forecast of 3.6 percent excludes the risk of recession right now, “it doesn’t mean it is out of question” for certain countries.

The clouds are already gathering in developed countries, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

There was only 0.1 percent growth in the first quarter of 2022, the OECD said Monday, and GDP even fell by 0.1 percent among G7 countries.

The second quarter is likely to be equally sluggish, as the adverse effects of the Ukraine war and China’s lockdowns take root.

After governments spent copiously during the pandemic, “the response to put in place is not obvious and that worries everyone a little,” Axa’s Moec said.

Meanwhile, inflation is pushing central banks, including the US Federal Reserve, to raise interest rates, which will make it costlier for both companies and consumers to borrow and slow economic activity.

The European Central Bank signalled Monday the end of negative rates despite the European Commission’s growth forecast for 2022 last week for the eurozone, from four percent to 2.7 percent.

And figures from China, the global engine of growth, revealed the pain inflicted by Beijing’s strict zero-Covid policy as retail sales and factory production slumped to their lowest in over two years, while unemployment is near record levels.

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