Colors: Blue Color

Romay Davis, a 101-year old grandmother who had been working at a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Montgomery, Alabama for over two decades, is being recognised for her outstanding service with a grant program named after her.

Davis, who turned 101 on October 29 last year, is still driving herself to the grocery store to work even in the middle of the pandemic.

Now, the Romay Davis Belonging, Inclusion, and Diversity Grant Program has been launched to support non-profit organizations in the fight against racial inequality and social injustice. It also hopes to address racial disparities in education, food, and health care.

Davis is very much worthy of honour as she had achieved so much in her life. According to news outlets in the U.S. she was a World War II veteran before she pursued a career in fashion designing for 30 years. She also earned a master’s degree at NYU and became a taekwondo black belter.

Romay already retired in 1982 but decided to go back to work after her husband died in 2001. Winn-Dixie then hired her at the age of 80.

As Barbados continues to stamp its place among the world’s global business domiciles, the island will host the inaugural Barbados Risk & Insurance Management (BRIM) global conference next month.

Bringing together local, regional and international thought leaders on insurance, risk management and global business, the virtual conference is expected to attract over 200 industry professionals for the March 24-25, 2021 event. BIBA, the Association for Global Business, is hosting the conference.

Fresh from its staging of the highly successful Global Business Week 2020 Conference, BIBA rolled out plans for BRIM 2021 during a recent media launch, with BIBA President Derrick Cummins emphasizing that Barbados is one of the top tier domiciles for captive insurance companies globally.

A captive insurer is an insurance company that is wholly owned and controlled by its insureds, and its primary purpose is to insure the risks of its owners. At the same time, its insureds benefit from the captive insurer's underwriting profits.

In his remarks at the BRIM 2021 media launch attended by officials of BIBA, the Financial Services Commission (FSC) and sponsors, Cummins said: “We have designed this conference as a must-attend event for risk, insurance, finance, investment, legal and any professionals aligned with the insurance sector, especially the captive industry.”

Among the many topics up for discussion at the conference are:

·         Risk Management Post-Pandemic

·         Emerging Markets – New Opportunities

·         New Initiatives in Captives - Covering Cyber Risk and Pandemic Risk

·         Risk Management & Climate Change

·         Managing Investment Portfolios for Captives, and Regulation in a Post-COVID World

Scheduled speakers at BRIM 2021 include:

·         Michael Serricchio, Managing Director of Americas, Marsh Captive Solutions

·         Daryl Senick, Partner and National Insurance Leader, BDO Canada

·         Elizabeth Emanuel, Technical Assistance Manager, CCRIF SPC (formerly Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility)

·         Professor Avinash Persaud, Chairman, Barbados Financial Services Commission (FSC)

·         Ben Arrindell, special advisor to Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley on international business matters, and Deputy Chairman, Cidel Bank & Trust

Carmel Haynes, Executive Director of BIBA, described the conference’s target audience as those directly and indirectly involved in the insurance industry. These include insurers, actuaries, financial services professionals, attorneys-at-law, accounting professionals, and others in a service relationship with the insurance industry.

According to Cummins, as businesses and individuals grapple with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the insurance industry worldwide is experiencing a high demand for coverage. However, on the flip side, he said insurers were facing high capital adequacy requirements, “creating the type of hard market that leaves clients little room for negotiating on premiums, and insurers little appetite for writing new policies.”

Despite this, Ricardo Knight, BIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee Chair and Senior Vice President of Marsh Captive Solutions, said captive insurance business registrations continued to expand in Barbados.

“We are one of the Top 10 jurisdictions in the world. I don’t think we can speak to many industries in the world where Barbados is in the Top 10 of an industry which is growing during one of the harshest pandemics that the world has ever seen,” Knight stressed.

Statistics from the FSC show that Barbados has 279 captive insurance companies, the bulk of which are Canadian and American operations. Announcing their commitment to long-term sponsorship of the event, Jeanne Crawford, Senior Vice President of USA Risk Group, and Elliott Barrow, Vice President, Portfolio Manager and Investment Advisor of RBC Dominion Securities Global, said they were pleased to be diamond sponsors of BRIM 2021.

“We are excited to be involved in this and be a diamond sponsor. This is long overdue, and BIBA has our full support and commitment for 2021 and beyond,” said Crawford.

Barrow, who described the captive insurance industry as a significant part of RBC Dominion Securities Global's portfolio, remarked: “It is an industry we are very excited to be a part of, and we will commit to being diamond sponsors. This is an important development for our industry and for Barbados.”

The staging of this conference is being made possible by Diamond Sponsors: RBC Dominion Securities Global, and USA Risk Group; Platinum Sponsor: London & Capital; Gold Sponsor: Strategic Risk Solutions; Silver Sponsor: Clarity Life; and Bronze Sponsors: Invest Barbados, Sagicor Life Inc, and Summit Asset Management.


 A board meeting of the National Health Fund (NHF), an agency of Jamaica’s Ministry of Health & Wellness, had just gotten underway. Businessman Christopher Zacca took the reins as he’d done at all the meetings since being appointed chairman in April 2016.

According to the minutes of the NHF board meetings obtained under the Access to Information Act (ATI), he’d announced he was stepping down as chairman to take a position in the private sector. Former Member of Parliament Gregory Mair, also present that day, was to take over. Other newly-appointed directors were in attendance as well since there had been three recent departures on the 10-member board.

“This meeting would primarily be for information gathering and transition,” the minutes recorded Mr. Zacca to have said while also revealing that the minister was expected to arrive later in the meeting. “All major decisions would be deferred until the next meeting of the Board.” At 8:55 a.m., Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton joined, and Mr. Zacca suspended the agenda and handed over to him.

It’s what happened after that could begin to shed light on whether Dr. Tufton had a role in influencing the awarding of millions of dollars to a company co-owned by Lyndsey McDonnough, said to be personally linked to Dr. Tufton, to execute his ministry’s healthy-lifestyles program, Jamaica Moves.  

Specialist family lawyer Laura Bond from national firm Clarke Willmott LLP examines the recent case of a housewife awarded compensation for the domestic chores she undertook during her marriage in China and looks at how the law compares in England and Wales.

The world’s media has become very interested in reports of a Chinese housewife receiving compensation on a divorce for ‘housework’ she did during the marriage. It certainly seems to be a positive, and some would say progressive, change for Chinese spouses. It is apparently the first award under a new civil code which came into force last month which gives a person the ability to seek compensation in a divorce if they are the primary carer for children or elderly parents, if they undertake most of the unpaid household tasks or if they assist partners in their work. The law previously meant that such an award could only be sought if the spouses had entered into a prenuptial agreement, which is uncommon in China.

In this case, the wife ‘Wang’ claimed that the husband ‘Chen’ went out to work for a salary but did not undertake any of the domestic chores at home, nor did he undertake any childcare responsibilities over five years of marriage. The Court in Beijing agreed that Wang was entitled to compensation and awarded her 50,000 yuan, just under £5,500, for her contributions to the marriage. The outcome in this case has received heated debate on the world’s social media. Whilst it is a victory in the Courts for Wang and represents deserved recognition for spouses worldwide of their contributions to the home and family, the sum she received has been widely criticised as being inadequate. 

It is clearly going to be difficult to estimate the value of contributions of a stay-at-home mum or dad. Is it even possible to put a monetary value on those contributions? Some have commented that the cost of a nanny in China costs around 50,000 yuan per year, so the compensation for five years of childcare plus the household chores for Wang does seem low by comparison. Others have also been quick to point out that many women give up their careers in order to raise children and support their husbands but are not able to claim compensation for that under current Chinese law. 

Very little other facts of the Wang v Chen case have been publicised, so it is unclear how the award of compensation compares to other assets or Mr Chen’s earned income. It therefore appears that the judgment is a welcome step in the right direction in Chinese law but many still feel that it does not go far enough and no doubt there will be future campaigns for the laws in China to go further when considering the respective contributions to a marriage. 

How does the law in England and Wales compare?

The law in England and Wales on divorce is very different to China and has been so for more than 20 years. The most important landmark decision on the matter of equality and contributions is the case of White v White which was decided in 2000. This case did not say that there would always be a presumption of a 50/50 split, but increasingly, unless there are good reasons to depart from equality, the Court will look to put the parties in broadly equal positions.

The guidance in White v White was confirmed in the slightly later case of Miller and McFarlane which considered various legal principles but there were two key features. The first was an express right to compensation for a party who has sacrificed their career to look after the home/children and to play a support role to the other spouse in their career. Where there is a right to compensation, the home maker or primary carer of the children may have a right to share in the income of the earning spouse for the foreseeable future. The House of Lords also confirmed there should be no discrimination between the breadwinner and the homemaker, however long the marriage, and as a result there should be a fair division of the assets accrued during the marriage, whatever the spouses’ respective roles.

The position for the home maker in England or Wales then is much more positive than for a person with the same role in China. Like China, the concept of ‘compensation’ does exist but it does go much further as the law is clear that the homemaker cannot be discriminated against simply because they have not earned money in the same way as their spouse. This principle is now firmly established in English law, and any arguments put forward by spouses who seek to suggest that the non-earning spouse should not be treated equally will usually receive short shrift from the Courts.    

The law here not only prevents discrimination against a homemaker but also supports the idea of income sharing into the future, via spousal maintenance, sometimes known as alimony. This is not something which applies in every country in the world and the law in England and Wales is largely seen as particularly generous in its maintenance awards. In particular, it is possible for a divorced spouse/civil partner in England and Wales to claim financial support for the rest of their life under the terms of a ‘joint lives’ maintenance order. In many other countries this concept either does not exist at all, or the length of time for which maintenance can be ordered is limited. It is however the case that joint lives maintenance awards are becoming less common and there is a move towards encouraging spouses to become financially independent after the divorce. 

A homemaker spouse or civil partner in England and Wales is therefore likely to be treated more favourably by Courts here, and their contributions given greater value than on a divorce than they would in China or many other countries. In England and Wales, a homemaker spouse also has the ability to claim ongoing maintenance, potentially for many years to come. If Wang had been able to seek a divorce here then, depending on the other circumstances in the case, her award on the divorce is likely to have been higher than she received in China.

The law in England and Wales is particularly favourable to homemakers and the primary carers of children.  As a result, many people in that role would favour divorcing here if they are able to do so and can meet certain criteria. One of the most important considerations on a divorce/dissolution of a civil partnership is to understand where best to start divorce proceedings, so any party in the position of home maker and who has a connection to England and Wales should seek legal advice as to whether they could potentially benefit from our generous divorce laws. This should be done at an early opportunity as case proceedings need to be issued here before the other party issues elsewhere – often known as a ‘jurisdiction race’. 

The law has become further complicated by the changes to international law after Brexit, so it is important to seek advice from a solicitor who specialises in family law.  Our team at Clarke Willmott all have experience of international law and can advise on issues relating to jurisdiction.  

One of the Hidden Figures who helped the NASA space agency reach for the stars has been honoured by naming its headquarters in Washington DC after her.

In 1958 Mary W Jackson became the agency's first Black female engineer, and through her work opened the door for more women to follow in her footsteps. And in doing so she was breaking boundaries herself.

A mathematician and aerospace engineer, she was part of a group of women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space playing a key role in the early days of NASA, doing the complex calculations that made space travel possible.

Ms Jackson died at age of 83 in 2005 and in 2019 she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honours.

Now the name of Mary Jackson, one of the inspirations for the book ‘Hidden Figures,’ officially adorns the space agency’s headquarters in Washington. NASA officially named its headquarters in the nation's capital after the agency's first Black woman engineer, with a ceremony honouring her legacy.

NASA’s acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk said during a virtual ceremony: "With the official naming of the Mary W. Jackson NASA headquarters, we ensure that she is a hidden figure no longer.

“With the official naming of the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters, we ensure that she is a ‘Hidden Figure’ no longer.” Members of her family also attended the building’s renaming ceremony.

Ms Jackson's groundbreaking achievements was highlighted in the 2016 Margot Lee Shetterly book, ‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race’ which was turned into the Oscar-nominated movie ‘Hidden Figures’ later that same year.

A big iceberg approaching the size of Greater London has broken away from the Antarctic, close to Britain's Halley research station. Surface instruments on the Brunt Ice Shelf confirmed the split.

There is currently no-one in the base, so there is no risk to human life. The British Antarctic Survey has been operating Halley in a reduced role since 2017 because of the imminent prospect of a calving.

The berg has been measured to cover 1,270 sq km. Halley is positioned just over 20km from the line of rupture. BAS has an array of GPS devices on the Brunt. These relay information about ice movements back to the agency's HQ in Cambridge.

Officials will be inspecting satellite imagery when it becomes available. They will want to see that no unexpected instabilities emerge in the remaining ice shelf platform that holds Halley.

Prof Adrian Luckman has been tracking satellite images of the Brunt in recent weeks and predicted the calving. "Although the breaking off of large parts of Antarctic ice shelves is an entirely normal part of how they work, large calving events such as the one detected at the Brunt Ice Shelf on Friday remain quite rare and exciting," he said.

"With three long rifts actively developing on the Brunt Ice Shelf system over the last five years, we have all been anticipating that something spectacular was going to happen. Time will tell whether this calving will trigger more pieces to break off in the coming days and weeks.

“At Swansea University we study the development of ice shelf rifts because, while some lead to large calving events, others do not, and the reasons for this may explain why large ice shelves exist at all," he said.

A renowned media mogul, business person, and politician who served as the 45th president of the United States, former U.S. president Donald Trump's political positions have been described as populist, protectionist, isolationist, and nationalist. The growth of his business empire, however, remains on an upward curve, with no down-turn any time soon.

The New York-native, who attended Fordham University before receiving a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, before became the president of his father 's real estate business in 1971 - renaming it The Trump Organisation – and expanding the company's operations to building and renovating skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses. He later started various side ventures, mostly by licensing his name.

Both he and his businesses have been involved in more than 4,000 state and federal legal actions, including six bankruptcies and he owned the Miss Universe brand of beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015 and produced and hosted the US reality series The Apprentice from 2004 to 2015.

With his political positions described as populist, protectionist, isolationist, and nationalist, he entered the 2016 presidential race as a Republican and was elected in an upset victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton while losing the popular vote - becoming the first U.S. president without prior military or government service.

“Experience taught me a few things,” he said. “One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper.

“The second is that you're generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make”.

Donald John Trump has promised a comeback in the wake of the failure to impeach him. The former President is now free to run for office again after the Democrats were unable to muster enough votes in the Senate.

“In the months ahead I have much to share with you”, he said “and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it."

The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has been described as the best candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2003. The former Minister of State for Works and Chairman of Southwest Agenda 23 (SWAGA 23) Senator Dayo Adeyeye, stated this on Sunday, when the group paid a courtesy visit to the Palace of the Akarigbo and Paramount Ruler of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi.

The group paid similar visit to the Asoludero Court, Sagamu residence of the former governor in Ogun state, Gbenga Daniel. Adeyeye, who said the political support group was in the Akarigbo’s Palace to seek his royal blessing towards the official inauguration of the group in Ogun, noted that Tinubu remained the best shot from the south for presidency come 2023.

Accompanied on the visit by Senators Gbenga Obadara, Soji Akanbi, former Commissioner for Information in Oyo State, Bosun Oladele, secretary of the group, the immediate past Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Suraj Adekunbi, former House of Reps member from Ogun state, Ishiaq Abiodun Akinlade and host of other APC stalwarts across the southwest states, Adeyeye explained the group was formed to garner support for Tinubu’s presidential ambition, not only in the southwest but throughout the country.

According to him, if the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would follow agreement and zone presidency to the south in 2023, the APC national leader should be put forward and supported by the southeast and south-south. “Tinubu is a good product that doesn’t need any advertisement and he has contributed greatly to the growth and development of the nation. He is consummate democrat and progressive.

“We have three geo-political zones in the South, and all of them have the right to contest for the presidency. South West is interested to contest for the presidency in 2023. The person who can help us win this ticket is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

“He has done a lot for Nigerians irrespective of religion and tribe. He has built bridges across the country. We gathered together to start campaigning for him. If we can hold our house together, we will have the presidency back in the southwest, Adeyeye stated. He said the group which had earlier been inaugurated in Oyo and Osun states, will be launched in Ogun, adding ” SWAGA 23 will also be inuagurated in Kogi and Akwa Ibom states soon”.

Responding, Oba Ajayi pledged his support for the group and offered prayers for the success of Tinubu’s presidential aspiration in 2023. According to him, the entire Remoland will key into the project of ensuring a true and patriotic Nigerian in the calibre of Tinubu to succeed Buhari in 2023.

On his part, former governor Daniel, noted that for the southwest to move forward as one, there should be unity of purpose. He advised SWAGA 23 not to lose focus and mobilise support beyond the southwest, charging the group to collaborate with similar groups in order to actualise its ambition.

Daniel further urged the group to be strategic in propagating Tinubu, who according to him has the capacity to lead Nigeria.

Ivory Coast's cocoa regulator is seeking to sell around 100,000 tonnes of cocoa held by domestic traders who had bought the beans from farmers but lack access to the international export market, industry sources have said.

The Cocoa and Coffee Council (CCC) regulator is offering the beans with a discount of around 200 British pounds ($280.40) to 250 pounds per tonne, but buyers are demanding bigger discounts because of a supply glut. A bumper crop and weak global demand caused by the coronavirus crisis, coupled with the introduction of a premium for farmers this year, has left hundreds of thousands of tonnes of unsold beans in warehouses in the world's top grower.

A director of an international cocoa export company said: "There are around 100,000 tonnes of cocoa held by small Ivorian exporters that the CCC is trying to sell, but the problem is that no-one is interested if the differential is not interesting." The director said international exporters were asking for a discount of around 350 pounds to 400 pounds per tonne because they had their own contracts to execute in a declining market.

Constance Kouame, an executive of the domestic grinders' association said that international exporters "want to make an extra margin on the backs of Ivorian exporters after removing the Living Income Differential premium - paid by exporters to the government to support farmers."

Two CCC sources, asking not to be named, confirmed the volumes and the discounts requested by exporters. The regulator is looking for buyers for the beans stored in the ports of San Pedro and Abidjan.

Domestic traders have urged the regulator to reform the international cocoa export sector to end the dominance of six multinationals.

A CCC source said: "Yes, we are thinking of finding a solution to help the locals have a bigger share in exports but for now, we are working to sell these 100,000 tonnes with the least possible discount." Three sources with the exporters' association said the regulator must find an urgent solution because most domestic operators had borrowed to fund purchases.

The director of a European cocoa export company said: "If the CCC does not find a solution quickly, this cocoa will be worth even less than what we are currently offering. The quality of the beans will become a problem."

A five-second video has done the impossible - brought social media users in India and Pakistan together. When Pakistani video creator Dananeer Mobin uploaded the video on her Instagram page on 6 February, little did she know that she would become an overnight internet star in both nations.

On the face of it, there is nothing special about it. She says: "This is our car, this is us, and this is our party". The video shows a bunch of young people enjoying themselves. And that is where the answer lies. When the news has been mostly about death and despair recently, the happy faces in the video cheered people up in the two countries - who are usually at odds on most things because of the decades of sometimes deadly animosity between the two nations.

"What could be better than sharing love across the border at a time when there is so much trouble and so much division around the world," she said. "I'm glad my neighbours and I are partying together now because of my video."

Dananeer Mobin, 19, whose Instagram bio says "call me Geena", is a social media influencer from Pakistan's northern city of Peshawar. Her posts usually centre around fashion and make-up.

In the viral video, she says the line in her native Urdu "Yeh humari car hai, Yeh hum hain, aur yeh humari pawri ho rahi hai" (you already know the translation!), swinging the camera around as she speaks to the viewer. She uses the English word for "party" but pronounces it "pawrty".

She explains in text below the video that she's poking fun at "burgers", who come to visit the northern mountainous parts of Pakistan on holiday. Pakistanis use the term "burger" to describe the rich elites who may have studied or worked outside Pakistan and speak with an American or British-tinged accent. The burger was very expensive when it first came to Pakistan, as opposed to the local version - the humble bun kebab.

"It's not my style to talk like this in burger style…. I did it just to make you all (my Instagram followers) laugh," Dananeer says. She even says in the post that this is meme-worthy content. And she was clearly right.

Far from being offended, Pakistanis starting recreating the short clip and doing what Pakistani Twitter does best: making memes. It wasn't long before some high-profile actors and cricketers got involved.

The Pakistan Cricket Board shared a video of the Pakistani national team doing their version of the video after winning a series against South Africa. It also saw an explosion in popularity across the border after an Indian DJ took her phrase "ye humari pawri hori hai" (we are partying) and turned it into a catchy song.

Yashraj Mukhate, who has taken meme-able videos and turned them into songs before, gave a shout out to the "pawri girl @dananeerr".

Have a listen.

Soon, Indian social media users also jumped into the "memefest". And then the floodgates opened - from brands to police officials, all of them joined the "pawri" mood. And here is India's Press Information Bureau wading in to tell people about their fact checking initiative.

The police in India's Uttar Pradesh state also joined in to tell people that they could be called in case a "pawri" in the neighbourhood was disturbing their sleep. But as everyone gets in on the action, Dananeer would like to make one thing clear.

"I know how to say party - and I know it is not pawri," she says.

Widely known as CBN (which denotes central bank of Nigeria), this name came to the fact that he, Chief Francis Diele, worked with the central bank of Nigeria.

He once worked at the head office in Abuja as the deputy director of human resources, before subsequently being transferred to Portharcourt (Ph) as the branch controller. There he worked until his death.

Called ‘a father’, ‘an angel’ ‘a friend’, ‘a rock’, and a man fiercely loved by all, he stood tall and sure, whose strength and values were inestimable.

A father to all, Chief was seen as the only one who people felt they could count on whose legacies and foot prints will never be departed from.

He left a big hole in people’s hearts. God used him to be a vessel to a source of joy and inspiration - not just to his people’s class but to all who came across him. He was strong through to the very end.

Although the world is full of pains, God has used him here on earth to be a pillar of strength. In him a king was seen by all.

This, by many, is not end, but a time to soar with the angles and praise the Lord. He will be seen again, by his followers, once their own race is accomplished here on earth.

Chief Diele, Chimezie Okwudiri Francis was a man of honour, who will watch over all so they can feel his presence always.

Losing him now just doesn’t seem fair. On behalf of 2018 class (PH.D) Esut Nigeria.

by Emeka Alex Akwaeze

US$3.8 billion, that’s how much the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will now be able to invest in the world’s rural poor. This, thanks to an unprecedented record-high financing target set by governments from 177 countries at IFAD’s annual Governing Council.

At a time when many nations are facing severe economic challenges, this move demonstrates the importance global leaders place on investing in effective long-term rural development as critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This strong vote of confidence significantly boosts IFAD’s capacity to address the devastating socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and climate change. With this unprecedented funding, IFAD will reach approximately 140 million people in the world’s most fragile and remote areas over three years.

When combined with an expansion of IFAD’s pioneering climate change adaptation programme (ASAP+), a new private sector financing programme, and co-financing by national and international partners, IFAD aims to deliver a total programme of work of at least $11 billion from 2022-2024.

“Today our Member States made it clear that the fate of the poor and hungry matters. All of us are united in our battle against the impacts of COVID-19 and a rapidly changing climate – but none feel the impacts more profoundly than rural people in the world’s poorest countries,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD. “It costs less to invest in sustainability and building long-term resilience to shocks than it does to respond to repeated humanitarian emergencies,” he added. “That is why the Sustainable Development Goals exist, and this increased commitment to IFAD is an important step to delivering on them. The contributions pledged so far show our Member States are determined to eradicate poverty and hunger, and are confident in the impact of IFAD’s work.”

Already, 67 countries have announced new pledges totalling more than $1.1 billion in support of IFAD’s Twelfth Replenishment (IFAD12), a process whereby Member States define strategic priorities and commit funds to the organization for its work in 2022-2024. More pledges are expected throughout 2021.

In a strong show of support, the governments of Germany and France issued a joint statement that said; ‘As IFAD12 is both ambitious and necessary to address rural poverty at this critical time, the German government and the French government have both decided to significantly increase their financial support to IFAD to an all-time-high. We urge all Member States to join us in making an ambitious contribution.’

IFAD is unique among international financial institutions in the high number of Member States - usually more than 100 – that contribute voluntarily to its core funding. This includes some of the world’s poorest countries, who were among the first to announce significantly increased pledges last year, highlighting the value they place on their partnership with IFAD, and putting pressure on traditional donors to step up.

In a strong show of support and recognition for the leader who has successfully showcased the importance of long-term rural development as a key solution to the global challenges the world is currently facing, Member States have reappointed Gilbert F. Houngbo as President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for a second term at its annual Governing Council meeting. With an even more ambitious agenda at the heart of his second mandate, and a particular focus on technologicial solutions, innovative financing models and new private sector partnerships, IFAD will continue tackling hunger and poverty and address the devastating impacts of climate change, youth unemployment and most recently COVID-19, leading on the ground to ensure no one is left behind.

“With the pandemic still devastating rural areas and the projections for increased poverty and hunger, the need for IFAD to scale up is more urgent than ever,” said Houngbo, who has been IFAD’s President since 2017. “Today it is COVID, yesterday it was a tsunami, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The threat from climate change and extreme weather will not diminish, and we should prepare. No rural woman or man should ever be in a position of having to sell his or her meagre assets – or be forced to migrate – in order to survive” Under Houngbo’s continued leadership, IFAD aims to double its impact by 2030 and offer a life out of poverty and hunger to millions more people. The goal is to ensure 40 million people per year increase their incomes by at least 20 per cent by 2030, which is double what IFAD currently achieves.

To this end, Houngbo has called on donors to contribute significantly more to IFAD, to deliver an overall programme of work of at least US$11 billion from 2022 to 2024, including through a new private sector financing programme and an expansion of its pioneering climate change adaptation programme. This will help rebuild stronger rural economies as countries recover from the impacts of COVID-19, and help these marginalised rural populations become far more resilient to climate change and other shocks.

In his acceptance speech, Houngbo said that addressing the devastating impacts of climate change and reversing the decline of biodiversity are amongst his highest priorities. Last month IFAD launched the Enhanced Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP+), which aims to be the largest fund dedicated to channeling climate finance to small-scale producers. Houngbo envisages the programme to mobilise $500 million and help more than 10 million people adapt to an unpredictable climate. Despite their disproportionate vulnerability to climate change, small-scale farmers currently receive only 1.7 percent of global climate finance.

Another of Houngbo’s goals is to address the major challenges rural young people face in finding decent employment, which has an enormous impact on instability and migration. In Africa, 60 per cent of young people live in rural areas and between 10 and 12 million young people enter the job market every year. With increased investments in agri-preneurs and rural small and medium-sized enterprises, IFAD aims to create greater employment opportunities for rural youth. This builds on Houngbo’s focus over the past four years, to engage more with the private sector to bring expertise, innovation and much needed investments to rural areas.

Under Houngbo’s leadership, IFAD expanded its programme of work to reach 36 per cent more poor and vulnerable people. At the end of 2019, 132 million people in more than 90 countries benefited from IFAD’s investments. However in his speech Houngbo recognised the huge financing gap threatening the world’s ability to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. To this end, he has led IFAD to start diversifying its funding sources to maximise the support it can give to the world’s poorest people. In 2020, IFAD was the first UN fund to receive a credit rating, with both Fitch and Standard and Poor’s announcing AA+ ratings. These strong ratings will help IFAD mobilize more funds from various potential investors at a favourable cost.

Houngbo also spoke about the importance of food to rural people. As the majority of them work in agriculture, food is not just critical for sustenance, but also for their livelihoods. He stressed the need for investing in sustainable food systems that enable rural populations to earn decent incomes, have nutritious diets and to lead dignified lives, and the key role IFAD will play in putting this on the global agenda during the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit.

Small-scale farming systems produce half of the world’s food calories, but these farmers are often the ones that go hungry. IFAD is the only multilateral organisation focused solely on addressing hunger and poverty in rural areas where three quarters of the world’s poorest and most food insecure people live. Decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many as 150 million people could fall into extreme poverty by 2021 and an additional 136 million people are expected to go hungry.

It has been announced that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting their second child. A spokesperson for the couple said that Harry and Meghan are preparing to welcome a new sibling for their son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said the Queen and Prince Philip, as well as the Prince of Wales, as well as the other members of the Royal Family are delighted and wish them well.

Their child will be eighth in line to the throne, and it comes after Meghan revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage last July. The spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said: "We can confirm that Archie is going to be a big brother.

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to be expecting their second child." A friend of the Duke, Misan Harriman, who is also the photographer who took the photo that accompanied their pregnancy announcement, tweeted: "Meg, I was there at your wedding to witness this love story begin, and I am honoured to capture it grow. Congratulations to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on this joyous news!"

For Harry and Meghan – who now live in California - their second child will be the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh's 10th or 11th great-grandchild depending on whether he or she arrives before or after Zara Tindall's baby, which is also due in 2021. The couple’s baby is entitled to be a Lord or a Lady.

The news comes after the Duchess revealed in November that she had suffered a miscarriage during the summer. She was praised for sending a powerful message to others who have lived through the same trauma by speaking about the issue.

The announcement comes soon after the royal family celebrated the arrival of Princess Eugenie's first child - a baby boy and a grandson of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah, Duchess of York.

Photo by @misanharriman

The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) has won 4 honours in the prestigious Stevie Awards for sales and customer service. The Agency secured gold, silver, and bronze awards recognizing its sales performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

JAMPRO won Gold in the “Sales Process of the Year” category, and Diane Edwards, the Agency’s President, also won Gold as “Business Development Executive of the Year”. Ms. Edwards also won Silver in the “Woman of the Year in Sales” category. JAMPRO’s final win was in the “Sales Distinction of the Year” category, where the Agency got Bronze.

The Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service are the world’s top honors for customer service, contact center, business development and sales professionals. More than 2,300 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry, across 51 nations, were considered in this year’s competition. Winners were determined by the average scores of more than 160 professionals worldwide on nine specialized judging committees.

JAMPRO was acknowledged for its overhaul in operations to attract more investments into Jamaica and facilitate export of Jamaican products. These internal changes allowed the Agency to become more efficient, increase number of leads generated, and improve engagements with clients to better meet their needs.  

JAMPRO President, Diane Edwards, said she was pleased with the recognition of the JAMPRO team, saying the Agency and its staff continue to be committed to Jamaica’s economic development. She said, “Dedication, professionalism, and determination are key characteristics of the JAMPRO team, and this has resulted in the Agency, and Jamaica, receiving accolades for our performance during the pandemic, as we continue to work to strengthen the economy and facilitate growth.

“We are grateful for this recognition; now, we must push harder to reveal those much-needed economic opportunities, and propel Jamaica’s economic expansion in 2021.”

The Australian state of Victoria will enter lockdown for a third time in a bid to suppress an outbreak of the UK strain of coronavirus. Officials this week found 13 cases stemming from a quarantine worker who became infected at a Melbourne hotel.

With the lockdown beginning, the government has said the Australian Open tennis tournament would continue in the state's capital, Melbourne. Spectators will be banned from attending the event, which had previously allowed up to 30,000 visitors a day. Tickets will be refunded, tournament director Craig Tiley said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the current outbreak was not linked to the quarantine hotels used by the tennis players. He stressed that a "circuit breaker" was needed to combat the "hyper-infectious" strain which he said had likely already seeded other infections in the community.

"This is the fastest-moving, most infectious strain of coronavirus that we have seen," he said, adding that almost 1,000 close contacts had already been reached. Prior to this outbreak, Victoria had not seen a local infection for 28 days and the state had largely eliminated the virus.

Many Melbourne residents have expressed dismay but also resignation over the retreat into lockdown again. Last year, in Australia's winter, the city endured one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns to overcome a second wave which led to more than 90% of Australia's 29,000 cases and 909 deaths.

"We've built something precious, and we have to make difficult decisions, and do difficult things, in order to defend what we've built," Mr Andrews said. "I am confident that this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective. We will be able to smother this."

The state will be under the following restrictions for five days:

·         People must stay at home except for shopping, exercise, caregiving and essential work needs

·         No gatherings allowed

·         Travel is restricted to within 5km (3.1 miles) of the home

·         Mask wearing is mandatory in public

·         Places of worship and all non-essential venues are closed

·         Schools are closed except for children of essential workers

Meanwhile, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia have announced travel bans on people from Melbourne. Further border closures are expected. International flights to Melbourne will also be cancelled, authorities said.