Politics

Education is key, and the young people are the future. This is the motto of the  Society for Academic Development from Serbia. Let’s have a closer look at this young and dynamic NGO that is a perfect example of the new generation!

Alisa Kockar and Milan Simonovic were interviewed by Horyou blog
Alisa Kockar and Milan Simonovic were interviewed by Horyou blog

1) Could you please present to us briefly Society for Academic Development?

Society for Academic Development is a small NGO from Serbia, founded on 16th April 2013. Most of our members are young people, so problems that we deal with are usually tailored for youth, but not always. So far we got engaged in promotion and preservation of cultural heritage in Serbia, as well as corporate and social responsibility, cultural diplomacy, anti-corruption actions, etc. We truly believe that every human being has a unique gift or talent that they need to share with the world. If they do, amazing things can happen and we are trying to show everyone that kind of results. We are setting an example and we motivate others to do the same.

The main line that separates us from most NGOs in Serbia is a lack of hierarchy in the decision making process. It basically means that we do have official leadership, but only for external presentation of our Society. In internal affairs we have a unique decision making process – every member has equal vote and equal legitimacy to express his or her opinions. Our rewarding system is based on meritocracy – how much effort you put in the benefit of Society is how much you will receive credit for it. We think that NGOs must be different from corporations, so we tend to apply that strategy everywhere we can. We appreciate every member we have and try to nurture them.

2) What are your memorable exploits / projects and what are the biggest challenges you faced since the Society for Academic Development was created?

One of the biggest challenges is maintaining the NGO. We are doing our best to stay out from political influence. Corruption is a big problem in Serbia and it goes all the way through the system, so there is a big chance to bump on one of its roots when you are dealing with some social problems. When you want to get an office for your NGO headquarters, to have proper funding for your projects, to develop quick actions for the common people, we run into it. We are desperetly trying to make our initiatives work their way through municipalities without getting stuck between the interests of the major political parties there. For example, we’ve submited our initiative to name one of the streets in our capital city, Belgrade, after a famous French statesman and a true friend of our country who helped our grandfathers during the WWI, Aristide Briand. A few months later we got the reply from our City Council that praised our idea, but we are still waiting for it, and two years have passed since then.

However, the biggest project that we have ever done and that we are very proud of is «Kultura na DAR» (Culture as a gift) – a campaign for the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage in Serbia. It was our first project ever and we are currently preparing its fourth round. The basic idea is that everyone should get engaged in promoting the cultural heritage in their community. Kids, young people, mothers, fathers, teachers, folks, students… everyone can make a three minute video about their favourite place, person or event that has something to do with culture. We also organize a big award ceremony where we praise the best ones, but also award everyone who dedicated their time into joining our cause, as a sort of motivation to keep doing a good job. This year we will make a change and include a photography contest. Thanks to this project, during the last three years, the public got to know about 100 sites or people and events that did not enjoy any fame, but are important to our culture.

"Corruption is (not) an option" seminar
“Corruption is (not) an option” seminar

3) Is there any project, action, realisation that had a specific impact or importance for your organization over the past years?

Every two years, we choose new types of goals for our organization and last summer we decided to get involved in anti-corruption projects, because we saw them as an opportunity to help solving this problem in Serbia. «Korupcija (ni)je opcija» (Corruption is (not) an option) was a complex project, but at the end of it we got better results than we hoped. After six months of various activities, including seminars, meetings, group sessions and outdoor activities, we formed a partnership against political employment in which many individuals, organizations and even some political parties signed in. Our hope is to upgrade Partnership in the near future and to involve more social actors, so that this topic can be seen and talked about in the media. That’s how we’ll make some real progress.

4) Do you have any project that you want to develop in the near future that you want to tell us more about?

Society for Academic Development is preparing a project that targets young women in Serbia, aged between 15 and 17, by teaching them about their rights. This social group has many issues and very little support in society, which makes it so hard to see. It is a kind of a hidden problem that just waits around the corner and emerges every time when it’s too late to do something. That is also a reason why it is very hard to raise funds for it. We would like to teach girls that they have rights that they really need to use: such as the right to education from elementary to universities. Also they have the right to be equally paid for the same job position as men, and also they must have an equal opportunity to be elected for available job positions. They must know that they should never be victims of violence or any kind of torture, the same as every human being, and also to have their voice be heard in politics. They need motivation and mentorship, so we made a plan in order to provide it.

Society for Academic Development team
Society for Academic Development team

5) What do you think about Horyou and its community which you are an active member of? What does it bring to you and to your organization?

Since we first heard about Horyou, we thought that it is a very smart idea – to connect people from all over the world via a network so that they could exchange their ideas and thoughts. Making changes in one place is a very productive way to impact the world. Online and a few months later physically in Geneva in 2014, we met so many extraordinary people and exchanged so many ideas. Hey, after all, we are all wearing Beyond Beanie bracelets now!

We are eager to continue our journey with the Horyou community and even willing to make it even bigger, as big as possible. We talked about it with many of our fellow countrymen and they are getting to know how awesome Horyou really is. It doesn’t mean it can’t become even more awesome, but we all have to make it work. Only joint actions worldwide can have a real impact on the lives of communities all over the globe, and we think that Horyou has a capacity to initiate them.

6) What is your message for the Horyou community?

Every time you think about Serbia, or the Balkans, remember that there are young people living there, joined in a Society that is always ready to work with you and help you, so that our community can benefit from our joint actions. Let’s make a world worth living for..now!

Written by Hannah Nunes

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

Last weekend, the Indian capital of Delhi played host to a joint conference between the country’s Finance Department and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The purpose was to examine the current position of India in the world economy and identify ways in which its socioeconomic situation can be improved to keep up with its economic growth.

India is one of the world’s fastest growing large economies and has the youngest, most populous workforce. This sole fact would put India streets ahead of any other country in terms of competitiveness. However, India is still a developing nation and faces huge societal problems such as poor corporate governance, rising inequality and an inefficient health care system.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, made a speech outlining the foundation’s interest in India’s issues and the foundation’s pledge to help. “Our investments from the philanthropic point of view are focused on the needs in terms of poverty and inequality.” They realize that, although India may have a demographic advantage, economic opportunity must be created for everyone so that the true dynamism of the country can be captured and turned into prosperity for all.

India is 25 years into its structural reforms but statistics show that income inequality has actually worsened in this time. In defense of this, Prime Minister Modi said that “the reforms put in place in 1991 do not reflect the complex, global realities that we have today.”

As we are now globally interconnected, India is affected by volatile markets and capital flows, drops in commodities and geopolitical conflicts, but is it really as equipped as its more developed counterparts to deal with these issues?

At present, India is growing 3 times faster than its advanced neighbours. Nevertheless, this isn’t being translated into returns for the primary and manufacturing sectors because monetary and price policy are incompatible.

Thankfully, it seems that this is ringing home to the current Government. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his address that “India will make a big shift in corporate tax rates to remain competitive.”

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
This will mean big concessions for service focused foreign companies, which will create jobs until the country is able to strengthen agriculture and factories.

This short term easing of monetary policy will at least mobilise the massive population eligible to work and allow them to internalise all of the opportunities that this global, interconnected market brings.

India is at an extremely decisive moment. It has all of the opportunity but also many obstacles. Initiatives such as that put forward by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are essential to begin to fill in the cracks of this fragmented social base.
Voices of change like Horyou are important to bring the country into the global conversation. However, most importantly, multilateral cooperation from those in power is needed so that every person has the best chance of being a productive member of their society and the potential of India as a global growth market, is truly harnessed.

Written by Dearbhla Gavin

Emma Watson
Actress Emma Watson making a speech about her “He For She” campaign with UN Women

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? This is one of the opening lines in “Lean In,” the debut book from well known gender equality advocate Sheryl Sandberg.

Ms Sandberg has gained a lot of traction over the last few years as a champion for helping women to “lean in” in the workplace. Awareness and advocacy for gender equality has always been a women’s movement, but Sheryl and many feminists like her (including men) are changing the dynamic.

In business, a goal without a plan is just a wish. In the campaign for gender neutrality, real goals are being identified at national and international levels and importantly, real plans are being formulated and put into action.

At international level, women and girls are now high on the agenda, as set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to transform our world.

At national level, many companies have introduced quotas of the number of women they want to have in senior positions. This is positive and proactive, however a point was made this year on a gender equality panel at the World Economic Forum.

PM Trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, discussing gender parity

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the first ever gender balanced cabinet said that his reasoning in appointing both men and women wasn’t anything to do with “what is right” or “what society will be responsive to.” He said that he would get better decision making and better governance from a group that reflects the diversity in the population he is serving.

This is a turning point. It not only shows action at government level which will most likely trickle down to corporate and civil society but it also realizes that the divide shouldn’t be men and women, appointments should be made on merit, regardless of gender or role.

Prime Minister Trudeau went further in saying that legislation is the easy option. “We need a cultural revolution towards gender parity,” making the point that mind sets can be harder to shift.

Sheryl Sandberg echoed this sentiment and said that this cultural revolution begins at home, with children being treated equally when it comes to chores and pocket money and even with the parents themselves, taking an equal share of responsibilities.

panel
The panel discussing a cultural revolution towards diversity in the workplace

The discussion of gender quality on the world stage is important, however UN Women and passionate gender equality advocate Emma Watson are putting words into action with an international campaign #HeForShe.

He For She is about uniting men and women in the fight against inequality. This campaign is unique in that it brings men into the conversation and encourages them to be part of the solution.There has already been 2.5 million tweets connected to the #HeForShe thread. This is expected to increase as He For She 10 x 10 x 10 rolls out across the world,an initiative in which leaders can adopt a framework and commit to gender equality in their workplace.

It seems that gender equality is now finally part of the conversation, from the world stage down to the kitchen table. No country in the world has ever achieved parity between men and women but as the philosopher Ed Burke once said “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph, is for good men and women to do nothing.”

In the interests of diversity and achieving the greatest good for society, Horyou stands in solidarity with this campaign and every person on the road to achieving equality for men and women.

By Dearbhla Gavin

Finland Finance Minister Alexander Stubbs
Finland Finance Minister Alexander Stubbs

The 46th World Economic Forum kicked off in sub zero temperatures outdoors and equally freezing atmosphere indoors among the delegates as they woke up to news of more turmoil in the stock markets, which set the agenda for quite a pessimistic day all round. On that same note, China managed to infiltrate almost every discussion and opinions were divided as to what extent a stalled economy in the Middle Kingdom would contaminate the rest of the world.

On the optimistic side and in response to the holders of the view that the overreacting markets would ask for subtle policy changes to stabilize, Stephen A Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, supported the idea that China with its huge population will continue to both produce and consume, which implies that supply and demand will be maintained and the markets will again reach equilibrium.

Away from the stock markets and onto the environment, I was interested to hear the views of UN Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, one month after COP 21 in Paris that Horyou covered. Unsurprisingly, Christina stated that getting everyone to agree was the easy part but that what the world is in need for clear goals and even clearer strategy on how to reach them.

Alluding to the importance of citizen participation and ‘solidarity’, one of Horyou’s key values, she said that ‘everyone on the planet needs to rethink how they live their lives; and that goes for big business as well as individual consumers’.

On the subject of geopolitics, it struck me that the entire concept of Davos could well be challenged this year. Rumors of excessive parties and elitism notwithstanding, it has always been a platform where the powerful can gather calmly and on common ground to make decisions. However, this year things look different as the world had never been more split over our priorities and our problems, as well as who or what to blame and, most importantly, the proposed solutions.

There are so many powers coming to Davos with different ideologies regarding the various geopolitical conflicts. When we are supposed to be at a new frontier of global growth and development, are we to see phantoms of times past reemerging? Alexander Stubbs, the Swedish Prime Minister spoke of global stability in the wake of critical shifts. However and thankfully, for all of the worry, there was a lot of reason to be hopeful and believe in Davos.

Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg

Musician Will I Am and Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg both spoke sincerely on the opportunity that lies in connectivity. On a mission to utilise technology for another ‘education’, yet another Horyou key value,Will I Am believes that a bright future lies in giving kids the opportunity to explore the STEM subjects and in using technology as an aid to learning. Sandberg, meanwhile, passionately alluded to experiences of people in developing countries whose lives were transformed when they were given access to the Internet and how this gave them a stake in society they never even dreamed to have.

There was also a lot of positive vibes from this year’s upbeat Young Global Leaders who were driving conversations on renewable energies, sustainability and the future of science. And a key point I took away from their discussions is that good people doing good need to know each other; they need to connect and work together to make an even bigger impact on society.

So, the night falls leaving in the air a mixture of caution, uncertainty, hope and fear; opinions are divided but the good news is they are voiced. We definitely leave curious.

We look forward to seeing how the rest of the week will unfold.

By Dearbhla Gavin

WorldEconomicForum_1

The 46th World Economic Forum kicks off at altitude in Davos this week. With only the most powerful on stage and the rest of the world wondering whether it is just a networking event for the 1%, the truth is that there has been no better time for the WEF and its platform in a world in vital need for peace, dialogue and solutions to critical economic, social, environmental and technological issues.

Ahead of the main event, The World Economic Forum released a list of what it has found to be the greatest risks to the stability of the world on all the above accounts in the next five years. Although not included in the main agenda, the list’s findings are likely to be central to most discussions over the next few days.

worldeforum_inforgraphic

The top five outlines risks are large-scale involuntary migration mostly from regions at war or suffering severe unrest, extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaption, interstate conflict and natural catastrophes. It is worth noting that, for the first time in history, three out of the five risks are related to the environment. Also, one of the main things that unfolded during the environmental crises of the last few years is the role that governance plays in both cause and solution.

The impact of government policy, business strategy and citizen action on the environment is slowly being understood. It is a virtue of our increasingly connected world where nothing can now be treated in isolation, which reinforces the importance of the WEF as a place to communicate as one.

60 million people, the size of the UK population, have been displaced as a result of climate change. When one loses everything, there is an erosion of trust between ruler and ruled, a situations which threatens to undermine the entire social fabric of a society.

wef_table

As these environmental crises and social tensions intensify, the inevitable related policy changes is bound to impact business profit margins which, in turn, can put a blanket drag on the economic activity with increased unemployment that feed social tensions. Which is why the environment, business, society and security will be addressed jointly. it is hoped that through collective discussion among all stakeholders, the much needed consensus can be reached and mitigation of these risks be put into place.

The World Economic Forum refers to this as the ‘resilience imperative. It emphasizes the absolute necessity of cross industry collaboration to contain the risks in the coming year.

In a nutshell, the cooperation of every nation in adapting the terms of the COP21 agreement will be necessary to contain climate change. Also on the agenda, the slowing growth of China will be closely followed. Why? Because it is one of the largest consumers of goods and services and because it is a country that so many economies rely on for trade. What happens in China will reverberate across the world. Another consequence of global connectedness.

Those are the most likely challenges we will face. We will keep a close eye on the World Economic Forum’s proceedings this week hoping for some solutions.

By Dearbhla Gavin

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