Nike’s new fund, India’s absurd arrest, WTO’s new boss

Authors: Kate Savin, Liam Clifford, Lewis Parker
  • Posted on: February 16, 2021

Read on for a handpicked selection of the good, the one to watch, and the one to read in the world of social impact communications. This week, we’re highlighting Nike funding for Black community organisations, claims against Indian activists and the new Director-General of the WTO.

| NAILED IT: Nike announces fund for Black community organisations in London

Nike UK and the King Baudouin Foundation recently announced the Black Community Commitment London, a new funding initiative open to London-based non-profits.

With an aim to support organisations that are dedicated to creating lasting change for London’s Black community, the fund will provide grants of between £5,000 and £20,000, from a total budget of £80,000. 

The fund will be invested in organisations focused on areas such as education, economic empowerment, career development, mental health support, violence prevention, mentorship, and play and sports equity. 

The project will support projects for up to 12 months, and is open to those operating in any London borough. Applications will be considered by a panel of independent judges and Nike UK employees. 

Organisations have until 24th March to submit, which can be done here — get cracking!

| ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: India arrests young activist over protest toolkit

A 22-year-old climate activist has been arrested by authorities in India, after they accused her of sedition. Her crime? Circulating a toolkit designed to help people show support for the farmers’ protests.

Disha Ravi, who founded the Bangalore arm of Fridays for Future — Greta Thunberg’s movement for social justice — was taken into custody by Delhi police as a “key conspirator”, after she reportedly edited and shared the document.

The police allege that the toolkit — which features guides on how to sign petitions, use hashtags, and take part in campaigns that support the farmers — calls “for people to wage economic, social, cultural and regional war against India”. A number of environmental impact groups have already condemned the arrest, branding it a “witch hunt”.

Since late last year, hundreds of thousands of farmers have descended on cities across the country to protest sweeping changes to agricultural law they say will leave farmers and their land at the mercy of corporations and private interests to exploit. Earlier this month, Thunberg made headlines by tweeting her support for the protests — and sharing the document in question. 

While there have been flashes of violence, the farmers’ protests have been largely peaceful. This spurious arrest serves as a timely reminder that strongman tactics, designed to scare activists into submission, are alive and well — and are regularly being used by those in power to silence voices of dissent. We need to call it out when we see it, and hold power to account.

| ONE TO WATCH: Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: the African woman who will lead the WTO

In the 26 years since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a woman has never held leadership over the institution — until now. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a development economist with 25 years experience working at the World Bank, is set to take charge.

In addition to being the first female Director-General, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will also become the first African to hold the position — an important statement at this critical time in our history.

She steps into the role at a challenging time. Beyond the global pandemic, a surge in nationalism and Donald Trump’s assault on global institutions have unleashed a new era of protectionism globally.

What’s more, the organisation has been leaderless since the previous Director-General resigned, and its dispute settlement court has been paralysed by rivalries between country blocs. 

A key issue to watch over the coming weeks and months will be access to vaccines. As a leader representing a continent that isn’t expected to be fully vaccinated until 2023-2024, and given her previous work at GAVI, the vaccines alliance,  Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has said her first priority will be ensuring the free flow of vaccines, medicines and medical supplies to help deal with the pandemic and aid global economic recovery.

Already, a crucial meeting is coming up on the proposed waiver of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) — which would enable the flow of medicines, Covid-19 therapeutics, and technology transfer across the world. How she handles the situation will help us understand the power, limitations, and possibilities of having new leadership — with a renewed focus on addressing regional power imbalances — in the WTO’s top spot.

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