Israel: Deportation of African asylum-seekers is a cruel and misguided abandonment of responsibility
Israel’s policy of deporting African asylum-seekers to two unnamed African countries is an abdication of its responsibility to refugees and an example of the vicious political measures feeding the “global refugee crisis”, Amnesty International said today as the Israeli Supreme Court considers new evidence on the legality of the policy.
Israel has allegedly reached agreements with two countries – widely understood to be Uganda and Rwanda. The terms of the agreements are classified.
Under the government’s new “Procedure for Deportation to Third Countries”, launched in January, those who agree to leave are given US$3,500 and a ticket to either their country of origin or an unnamed “third country”. Those who refuse face indefinite detention. The Israeli government claims the scheme facilitates “voluntary departures” of “infiltrators”.
“How can the Israeli government possibly describe this as a way of deporting asylum-seekers ‘voluntarily’ when the alternatives are returning to persecution or indefinite detention? This is not a choice anyone should have to make,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The forced – and illegal – deportation of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers is a reckless abandonment of responsibility. This is an example of the ill-thought-out policies that have fed the so-called global refugee crisis.”
Under the policy of the Israeli Population, Immigration and Border Authority, Eritrean and Sudanese male “infiltrators” are required to leave Israel by 4 April. The “Procedure for Deportation to Third Countries” is based on the premise that the deportees either never sought asylum and have lived in Israel irregularly, or sought asylum but did not qualify for it. Those who submitted their application after 1 January will be deported as well.
The Israeli government has not provided details of the agreements, including the identity of the “third countries”, which it considers to be confidential and potentially harmful to Israel’s international reputation. Rwanda and Uganda have denied the existence of the agreements, despite the testimonies of those deported there.
Israel boasts one of the highest gross domestic products (GDPs) in the world, making it one of the most prosperous and wealthy countries in the Middle East region.
“There is an onus of responsibility on the Israeli government to protect the world’s refugees and accept asylum seekers in desperate need of a home. It beggars belief that the Israeli authorities are now foisting their responsibility on countries who have only a fraction of the wealth and resources and their own much larger refugee populations,” said Philip Luther.
Israel’s GDP per capita is more than 50 times that of Rwanda and more than 55 times that of Uganda. Rwanda hosts at least three times more refugees than Israel, and Uganda’s refugee population is more than 20 times that of Israel.
Israel’s deportations to Rwanda and Uganda are illegal
The agreements between Israel and the unnamed African countries, whatever their identity, are illegal under international law as they violate the prohibition of non-refoulement. This is the prohibition against transferring anyone to a place where they would be at real risk of persecution and other serious human rights violations, or where they would not be protected against such a transfer later.
Upon arrival in Rwanda or Uganda, deportees quickly find that the Israeli promise of residence papers in the third country was empty. They therefore find themselves in an irregular migration status, which leaves them at risk of forcible return to their country of origin.
Many of those deported under the policy have little choice but to continue their journey through Libya and attempt dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean to Europe.
“This policy has put the asylum-seekers in an extremely vulnerable position as they are exposed to the risk of being sent back to their country of origin and cannot hold the Israeli government, or the government of the third country, to account,” said Philip Luther.
“We have documented several cases of asylum-seekers deported from Israel who were promised residency and work permits in Uganda and Rwanda, only to find that none of this was available upon arriving in the new country.”
In fact, none of the Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers deported to Rwanda and Uganda – and later interviewed by NGOs, academics and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) – were granted regular status upon arrival.
Rwanda and Uganda have not only denied the presence of asylum-seekers arriving from Israel in their territory; they have also refused to acknowledge any duty towards them by denying that any agreement with Israel exists.
Israel turns its back on asylum-seekers and refugees – the shocking stats
Israel’s acceptance rate of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seeker claims is extremely low: less than 0.5%. Out of 15,200 asylum applications submitted by Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers between 2013 and 2017, only 12 have been recognized as refugees.
Over the past decade, only 0.1% of Eritrean asylum-seekers have been recognized as refugees in Israel. By comparison, the rate of recognition of Eritrean nationals who applied for refugee status in the EU in 2016 was 92.5%.
The main reason for the dramatically low recognition rate of Eritrean asylum-seekers is that Israel does not consider deserters from the Eritrean military service to qualify for refugee status. This goes against the eligibility guidelines issued by UNHCR.
In January 2018, the Israeli Supreme Court found the Israeli government’s interpretation of the protection needs of deserters from the Eritrean military service to be incompatible with the 1951 Refugee Convention. On 22 March, Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber instructed the Population, Immigration and Border Authority to re-examine the cases of Eritreans held in Saharonim Prison whose claims for asylum had been rejected. However, the practical effects of these measures remain to be seen.
“The Israeli government must immediately halt the deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to Rwanda and Uganda and grant them access to a fair and effective refugee status determination procedure. Meanwhile, the governments of Rwanda and Uganda must immediately cease any co-operation with the Israeli government on this issue,” said Philip Luther.
“The Israeli authorities need to know that the world is watching with outrage at their brazen disregard for human life, dignity and responsibility to the wider global community.”
Published on Amnesty International on March 26, 2018
Turkish authorities have detained and prosecuted large numbers of people in recent weeks over social media posts criticizing Turkey’s military operation in the northwest Syrian district of Afrin, Human Rights Watch said today. The crackdown violates the right to peaceful expression.According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, authorities detained 648 people between January 20 and February 26, 2018, over social media posts criticizing Turkey’s military operations in Afrin. Authorities held another 197 people for expressing criticism in other forms, including street protests or expressing solidarity with protesters on social media. The Interior Ministry has indicated that more criminal investigations have been opened since the end of February.
“Detaining and prosecuting people for tweets calling for peace is a new low for Turkey’s government,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Turkish authorities should respect people’s right to peacefully criticize any aspect of government policy, including military operations, and drop these absurd cases.”
This most recent social media crackdown has targeted a wide range of people, affecting journalists; human rights activists; politicians, including four members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish HDP opposition party; members of nongovernmental organizations; academics; construction workers; physicians; and high school and university students.
Human Rights Watch has examined in detail five cases of criminal investigations and prosecutions over tweets related to Afrin, involving a journalist, a politician, a documentary maker, an LGBT activist, and a member of a human rights organization, as well as one conviction of a physician for an earlier case of nonviolent speech on social media. Human Rights Watch examined interrogation protocols, indictments, and court rulings, and interviewed three people who are under criminal investigation for sharing nonviolent content on social media, as well as 10 human rights lawyers working on social media cases.
After examining the cases, Human Rights Watch believes that some of the police raids and criminal investigations are being used as a form of punishment rather than out of genuine belief that criminal behavior has occurred. Even if a case does not go to trial or ends in acquittal, people labeled as terrorism suspects face adverse consequences due to police investigations and criminal proceedings, including possible loss of employment and social exclusion.
On February 7, Harlem Désir, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s representative on media freedom, criticized the detention of hundreds of social media users for their opposition to the Afrin operation as “unacceptable.” The European Parliament condemned Turkish authorities’ repression of dissenting views on the military incursion in a resolution on February 8.
In addition to police action over social media posts relating to the Afrin operation, the police have targeted people and groups for publishing statements and organizing news conferences to protest the offensive. They include 11 senior members of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), including its chairman, Raşit Tükel; Mithat Can, the 73-year-old head of the Hatay branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD); and senior members of the rights group People’s Houses, including its co-chair, Dilşat Aktaş, all of whom are currently under criminal investigation.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly criticized the arbitrary use of overbroad antiterrorism legislation in Turkey to punish nonviolent activities, including critical writing and online activism, in violation of the right to freedom of expression. Human Rights Watch research has also found that investigations and prosecutions for terrorism-related offenses in Turkey often lack concrete evidence and fail to adhere to due process.
The criminalization of peaceful speech on the internet has a chilling effect on social media use and has led to increased self-censorship. According to a 2017 report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the use of Facebook and Twitter in Turkey have both declined, possibly due to fears of government surveillance. Some of those Human Rights Watch interviewed said that people in Turkey now think twice before posting or reacting to online content criticizing the government.
According to transparency reports published by Twitter, Turkey was the world leader in requests to remove accounts or content – so-called “take down” requests – between 2014 and mid-2017. According to the nongovernmental organization Freedom House, internet freedom in Turkey has steadily deteriorated, with its Freedom Net Overall Score slipping by 21 points, from 45 in 2011 to 66 in 2017, with the higher score meaning more violations.
“There is no justification for Turkish authorities using the criminal justice system against peaceful critics,” Williamson said. “The Turkish government needs to tolerate dissenting views in society, even if they are sharply opposed to its own.”
Activists Prosecuted for Social Media Posts
Nurcan Baysal, a journalist and human rights activist, is on bail awaiting trial on charges of “inciting hatred and enmity among the population” for posting a number of tweets criticizing the Turkish military incursion into Afrin on her personal Twitter account. If convicted, she faces up to three years in jail. None of the eight tweets listed in the indictment, seen by Human Rights Watch, promote or incite violence. On the contrary, the posts criticize war and the use of violence. Baysal, who spent three days in police custody, described the late-night raid on her house when she was detained:
Despite the fact that I was visible from the outside – I was watching TV at the time – they tried to break in the door without ringing the doorbell. About 20 policemen entered my house wearing masks and trained their automatic rifles on me.
Mehmet Türkmen, deputy head of the Labor Party of Turkey (EMEP), a leftist political party with no seats in Parliament, was detained at the airport in Gaziantep by anti-terror police on January 28 over a January 20 Facebook post in which he stated his opposition to the Afrin offensive. His post, illustrated with a photograph of a street demonstration in the city of Afrin and of a TV screen showing Turkish coverage of the military operation, does not promote violence in any way. The post ends with: “Everyone in Turkey and the region who is on the side of friendship between peoples and peace has to say ‘No’ to this war.” He was arrested on January 31, facing charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.” He remained in detention pending trial as of March 26.
Ali Erol, a well-known LGBT rights activist, was among 16 people detained in Ankara on February 2 for their online criticism of the Afrin military operation. Erol is co-founder of the Ankara-based LBGT rights group Kaos GL. The police questioned Erol about one tweet and two retweets, none of which promoted violence. The tweet, posted on his timeline on January 21, shows a picture of a poster reading “Shame on you,” hung in an olive tree, a reference to the official Turkish name of the Afrin offensive, “Operation Olive Branch.” Above the picture Erol had listed the hashtags: “NOToWarInAfrin,” “NoToWar,” and “Olive.” He is being investigated for “propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting hatred and enmity among the population.” He was conditionally released after five days in police custody. The Fifth Ankara Peace Court imposed a travel ban and required him to sign in at his local police station every Monday. One of Erol’s lawyers told Human Rights Watch that during the time Erol spent in police custody, the police took no action to collect additional evidence:
There was no reason for Ali Erol to remain in police custody for five days. This leads me to believe that the custody itself is used to intimidate and punish people for criticizing the military operation in Afrin.
Sibel Tekin, a documentary filmmaker, was detained on February 2 in a morning raid on her Ankara home on accusations of terrorism propaganda. The police questioned Tekin about four tweets and five retweets, made from the shared Twitter account of a citizen journalist video collective she has occasionally been involved in. The tweets, none of which promoted violence, for the most part reported on police repression of peaceful protests against the Afrin offensive and on detentions of protesters. Other tweets included critical analyses of the military incursion. Tekin did not write any of the Twitter posts she was questioned over. She was released under judicial supervision on February 5.
Kutay Meriç, an executive member of People’s Houses (Halk Evleri), a human rights group, was detained on February 13 during a police raid on his home in Antalya over several of his Facebook posts criticizing the military operation in Afrin, none of which promote or praise violence. Seven days later the First Antalya Peace Court ordered his pretrial detention on charges of “propaganda for a terrorist organization.” He was later released pending trial on February 28.
Others subject to criminal investigation over social media posts on Afrin include at least four members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Turkish media reported that the head prosecutor in Ankara has announced criminal investigations against the four for their social media posts criticizing the Afrin operation. On March 7, the Ankara head prosecutor sent applications to the Justice Ministry to investigate three more of the party’s parliament members for “terrorism propaganda” via their social media accounts.
Social Media Crackdown
Turkey has a long tradition of misusing the criminal justice system and overbroad terrorism laws to prosecute journalists, activists, and other government critics. Prosecutors have repeatedly applied articles of the law such as, “inciting hatred and enmity among the population,” and “spreading terrorist propaganda” to intimidate and silence peaceful dissent both on- and offline.
Due to sustained government attacks on independent and critical media, Turkish citizens have increasingly taken to social media to get and share information, which in turn has prompted increased online surveillance and censorship by the authorities.
The recent detention and prosecution of online critics intensifies a crackdown on freedom of speech online that has been going on for several years. Internet censorship also has an extended history in Turkey. Human Rights Watch has documented the arbitrary and disproportionate blocking of entire websites in violation of the right to freedom of speech and the right to access information online. Following the start of Turkey’s military operation in Afrin on January 20, peaceful speech on social media has become the main target for arbitrary terrorism charges and criminal investigations.
The northwest Syrian district of Afrin is under the control of the Syrian Kurdish political party, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and their armed forces, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which the Turkish government regards as a terrorist organization. On March 18, the Turkish government claimed that it had taken control of Afrin city.
Human Rights Watch interviews with lawyers suggest that people who make critical statements on social media are increasingly being investigated for an alleged “membership of an armed terrorist organization,” rather than association or propaganda offenses, with the evidence cited against them consisting of nothing but their opinions expressed on social media, shared use of hashtags, or the fact that they are part of the same civil society group. Suspects under investigation on charges of membership in armed organizations are more frequently placed in pretrial detention, due to the gravity of the charge, and face longer sentences if found guilty.
A prominent human rights defender and medical doctor, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, was sentenced by the 2nd Kocaeli Heavy Penalty Court to two years and six months in prison on February 21 for social media posts about the Kurdish issue and the breakdown of the peace process in 2015. He has appealed the verdict.
The evidence cited against him consisted of several posts promoting an end to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict and demanding peace on his social media accounts in 2016. None of them advertised or encouraged violence. The one tweet cited in the detailed ruling, seen by Human Rights Watch, consisted of a link to a news article published on the Turkish online news website T24 illustrated with a photograph of three armed PKK militants and headlined: “PKK: If the government takes a step forward, peace will come in one month.” The judge listed the headline and the photograph, both editorial choices made by T24, as reasons for a terrorism propaganda conviction. The detailed ruling also falsely identifies Gergerlioğlu as the author of the article.
Gergerlioğlu was the subject of an intense smear campaign by pro-government media during the criminal investigation and trial, and was dismissed from his job at the Izmit Seka State Hospital before his conviction. Gergerlioğlu told Human Rights Watch: “I have always promoted peace. During the peace process I was praised by the government for saying this, and now I was turned into a criminal for still saying the exact same things.”
Published on HRW on March 27, 2018
Members of the Honduran security forces, in particular the military police, used excessive – including lethal – force to control and disperse protests that erupted following November’s disputed presidential election, a report the UN Human Rights Office said on Monday.
The report details human rights violations that happened between voting day on 26 November and the presidential inauguration on 27 January. It found that at least 22 civilians and one police officer were killed during the protests. Of these, at least 16 people, including two women and two children, were shot dead by the security forces. The report also documents the killing of 15 individuals in the run-up to the elections, including party candidates, municipal councillors and activists.
While some of the protesters became violent, the report notes that, “analysis of the type of injuries suffered by the victims indicate that the security forces made intentional lethal use of firearms, including beyond dissuasive or self-defense (legitimate) purposes, such as when protestors were fleeing.” This was illustrated by the deaths of seven individuals who received shots to the head.
“These cases raise serious concerns and may amount to extra-judicial killings,” the report says. According to information received, by 27 January, no charges had been brought against any member of the security forces in relation to the killings and injuries.
In addition, some 1,351 people were detained between 1 and 5 December for violating a curfew imposed as part of a state of emergency declared on 1 December. The state of emergency’s imprecise and broad grounds for detaining people, including those “somehow suspected” of causing damage or committing crimes, went beyond what was required by the situation, resulting in mass and indiscriminate arrests, and discouraging people from exercising the right to peaceful assembly and of association.
The report also highlights “credible and consistent allegations of ill-treatment of persons at the time of arrest and/or detention,” illegal house raids, and a surge in “threats and intimidation against journalists, media workers, and social and political activists.”
The human rights violations described in the report, took place “in the context of a political, economic and social crisis, which can be traced back to the 2009 military coup d’état and significant delays to undertake critical institutional, political, economic and social reforms.” The report urges the Honduran Government to engage in a participatory national dialogue on reforms to promote development, human rights and reconciliation.
“The already fragile human rights situation in Honduras, which suffers from high levels of violence and insecurity, is likely to deteriorate further unless there is true accountability for human rights violations, and reforms are taken to address the deep political and social polarization in the country,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Among its recommendations, the report calls on the authorities to restrict the use of of the military police and armed forces in law enforcement functions, and to regulate the use of force by all security and law enforcement agencies, in line with applicable international human rights norms and standards. There should be prompt, impartial, independent and transparent investigations into all allegations of human rights violations that took place in the context of the elections, the report recommends.
Published on OHCHR on March 12, 2018
By Sam Jones
Amnesty International has warned that an “exponential increase” in prosecutions under a controversial Spanish anti-terrorism law is having a chilling effect on satire and dissent and is pushing social media users, musicians and journalists towards self-censorship.
The charity is calling for the law to be repealed, arguing that recent high-profile cases brought under article 578 of Spain’s criminal code have highlighted the danger the legislation poses to freedom of speech and international human rights law.
Under the article, those found guilty of “glorifying terrorism”, justifying terrorist acts or “humiliating the victims of terrorist crimes or their relatives” can be jailed, fined and banned from holding public sector jobs.
Over the past two years, the legislation has been used with increasing frequency. In 2016, a judge eventually shelved an investigation into two puppeteers who were suspected of glorifying terrorism during a performance in Madrid.
Two musicians – César Strawberry, lead singer of the group Def Con Dos, and the rapper Valtonyc – have given prison sentences following prosecutions under article 578.
Strawberry was sentenced to a year in prison in January last year for tweeting jokes about Eta and giving the king “a cake-bomb” for his birthday, while Valtonyc recently had his three-and-a-half year prison sentence upheld after being convicted of distributing songs online that threatened a politician with violence, glorified terrorism and insulted the crown.
A film-maker and a journalist are also among those charged under the legislation.
Perhaps the most notorious case, however, is that of Cassandra Vera, a student who was given a suspended jail sentence and banned from doing a publicly-funded job for seven years for tweeting jokes about the 1973 assassination of a Spanish prime minister.
Vera’s conviction was quashed and her sentence overturned at the beginning of March after Spain’s supreme court ruled that while her behaviour may have been morally reprehensible, it had not merited the punishment imposed by a lower court.
In a report published on Tuesday – entitled Tweet … if you dare: how counter-terrorism laws restrict freedom of expression in Spain – Amnesty detects an “exponential increase” in the use of article 578.
It says that while only three people were charged under the article in 2011, the figure rose to 39 in 2017, with almost 70 people convicted over the past two years.
The report also notes that the legislation is overwhelmingly being used in relation to the apparent glorification of domestic terrorist groups – such as the Basque separatists Eta or the far-left Grapo – rather than foreign ones.
According to Amnesty, this has led to “increasing self-censorship and a broader chilling effect on freedom of expression” in Spain.
“Sending rappers to jail for song lyrics and outlawing political satire demonstrates how narrow the boundaries of acceptable online speech have become in Spain,” said Esteban Beltrán, director of Amnesty International Spain.
“People should not face criminal prosecution simply for saying, tweeting or singing something that might be distasteful or shocking. Spain’s broad and vaguely worded law is resulting in the silencing of free speech and the crushing of artistic expression.”
Vera expressed similar views after her sentence was overturned. She pointed to the recent censorship of a work at a Madrid art fair and the seizure, on a judge’s orders, of Fariña, a book about drug-trafficking in Galicia, as proof that something was seriously wrong with free speech in Spain.
“People shouldn’t have to be afraid of expressing their opinions,” she told the Guardian. “What happened with Valtonyc and Fariña and the art exhibition showed that freedom of expression is under serious attack. I think freedom of expression has been dealt an almost fatal blow in Spain.”
Amnesty wants to see article 578 repealed, and says the situation in Spain is emblematic of “a disturbing trend” of European countries using national security arguments to limit freedom of expression and restrict rights.
“Governments should uphold the rights of victims of terrorism, rather than stifling free speech in their name,” said said Eda Seyhan, Amnesty’s campaigner on counter-terrorism.
“Spain’s draconian law must be repealed and all charges brought against anyone solely for peacefully expressing themselves must be dropped.”
Kartik Raj, western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the Spanish government needs “urgently to reform the overly broad definition of the glorification of terrorism”.
“The raft of ill conceived prosecutions of people on charges of glorifying terrorism or insulting the King, in some instances merely for having made jokes on social media, beggar belief,” he said.
Published on The Guardian on March 12, 2018
Gender equality in the workplace is key to unlocking significant business growth, and driving positive social and environmental impacts, according to Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals, released ahead of International Women’s Day
London (5 March 2018) – Women’s leadership in business is critical to driving significant economic opportunities and driving better performance, as well as broader, long-term benefits for society and the environment, according a new report released by WomenRising2030, an initiative launched by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals, argues that, gender equality in the workplace can help unlock more than US$12 trillion in new market value linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals).
“We are at a tipping point when it comes to equality in the workplace,” said Marisa Drew, CEO of Credit Suisse’s Impact Advisory and Finance Department who is featured in the report. “Business benefits when all employees have a shared vision of the future – one that is fairer, more inclusive and sustainable. This report provides the business case for gender-balanced leadership to help propel these conversations in boardrooms and across the workplace.”
In 2017, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission showed in its flagship report, Better Business, Better World, there is a compelling financial incentive for pursuing sustainable business models: unlocking more than US$12 trillion per year and up to 380 million jobs by 2030. This new report, “Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals,”showsthat women leaders are accelerators, helping companies unlock this ‘economic prize’ associated with pursuing the Global Goals – 17 objectives to end hunger, poverty, and inequality, and effectively tackle climate change and resource degradation by 2030.
"Women’s leadership cannot be a ‘nice-to-have’ for business. Companies that continue to have male-dominated leadership will miss out on business opportunities unlocked by gender-balanced teams,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and member of the Business Commission. “At the current pace, it will take 217 years to achieve gender equality – and that’s bad news for economy and society. We at Unilever understand the importance of gender-balanced leadership and investments across our value chains. Women’s leadership makes good business sense."
Better Leadership, Better World identifies six leadership competencies critical to successfully developing business opportunities in line with the Global Goals: long-term thinking, innovation, collaboration, transparency, environmental management, and social inclusiveness. Research highlighted in the report underscores that women in business can play a critical role in deploying these six competencies within more gender-balanced leadership teams.
A number of studies support this argument, showing there are compelling financial incentives for companies to achieve gender balance across all levels. One study found If women were to participate in the economy identically to men, they could add as much as US$28 trillion to global annual gross domestic product by 2025. There is also evidence that businesses with more women in high-level management positions, particularly on directorial boards, are better able to shift their business’s focus from maximising short-term profit to achieving longer-term growth goals. Research shows that women leaders also tend to be collaborative and skilled at balancing multiple stakeholders’ interests to reach decisions that benefit all parties. Companies with more women on their boards are more likely to invest in renewable power generation, low-carbon products, and energy efficiency.
In addition to highlighting relevant research, the report features interviews with 25 senior women leaders from across diverse industries, including AXA, Credit Suisse, Mars, Symantec, Telenor, Thomson Reuters, and Unilever, as well as from major civil society organisations, including the African Development Bank, Ceres, the International Trade Union Confederation, the UN Global Compact, and Women’s World Banking.
Both technology and investment have been identified as drivers of the Global Goals, and industries where women’s leadership could help further accelerate achievement of the goals.
“We used to think that leading with purpose was a nice to have, however, today this has become a must have,” said Cecily Joseph, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Symantec Corporation. “Technology innovation is moving at lightning speed, and at the same time there is an underutilized opportunity to drive value for business and society. Female technology leaders can apply their unique and individual strengths to capitalize on this, creating businesses that outpace the competition and a world we can all be proud to be a part of.”
"There is incredible value in investing in women’s leadership, which is a priority for my company,” said Vineet Rai, founder Aavishkar-Intellecap Group, a leading impact investor based in India. “With the growth of gender-lens investing and expansion of the number of investments that promote women’s leadership globally, there is a positive shift happening in the investment world that cannot be ignored.”
The lack of women’s leadership is a global business issue. Women occupy just 15 percent of board seats worldwide. In the US, women account for an abysmal 5 percent of all CEOs among S&P 500 companies. And in the UK, the situation is worse: In 2016, there were more men named David (eight) than women (six) CEOs in the FTSE 1000. In the 1,557 largest listed companies in 20 Asia-Pacific countries, measured by market value, women account for just 12.4 percent of board seats. In Africa, women hold 14.4 per cent of board seats at the 300 largest listed companies. In 2016, one study of 1,259 listed companies in Latin American and Caribbean countries showed that on average 8.5 percent of board members were women.
There are promising signs that the winds are starting to shift. In January of this year, the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, sent a letter to Russell 1000 companies with fewer than two women directors – an estimated 367 companies – asking them to justify how the lack of gender diversity on their boards aligned with their long-term strategies and to report on their efforts to address this gender imbalance. At the same time, the UN announced it had achieved gender balance across senior management.
“Meaningful change can happen,” said Gail Klintworth, champion of WomenRising2030 and Business Transformation Director of the Business Commission. “First, we need to speak in a language that consistently highlights the positive impacts for individual companies when there is gender-balanced leadership. Second, we need to break out of the echo chamber. Business needs to have more open dialogue with both men and women to challenge the status quo, and companies need to prioritise these conversations at every level.”
This report is a call to action for more companies to integrate the Global Goals into their core business strategies, value the leadership competencies critical to achieving the goals, build gender-balanced leadership teams, and promote gender equality throughout their value chains.
Published on the Business and Sustainable Development Commission on March 5, 2018