Points of Progress: Zimbabwe bans mining in parks, and more

Places where the world saw progress, for the Oct. 5, 2020 Monitor Weekly.

1. United States

Jane Fraser will become the chief executive of Citigroup in February, making her the first woman to lead a major Wall Street bank. The Scottish American businesswoman currently serves as president of Citigroup and head of its consumer banking division, and will take the reins from Michael Corbat when he retires next year. Citigroup is the country’s third-largest bank and the No. 1 issuer of credit cards globally.

Julian Restrepo/Citigroup/AP
Citigroup announced that Jane Fraser would succeed Michael Corbat as the bank’s next chief executive in February 2021.

Despite efforts to recruit more women, Wall Street’s top offices have always been occupied by men. When Ms. Fraser moves up, she will have no female peers at the 10 biggest U.S. banks, but the promotion will make her more visible in the financial world. (The New York Times)

Why We Wrote This

This is more than feel-good news – it's where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.

2. Mexico

In a novel conservation funding effort, a 100-mile stretch of the Mesoamerican Reef in Mexico is protected by the world’s first natural asset insurance policy. And the reef is a major asset: Not only does it support the region’s ecotourism industry, but a healthy reef also protects coastline communities from erosion and storm damage by reducing up to 97% of a wave’s energy. First established in June 2019 and renewed this summer, the innovative policy mobilizes stakeholders from nongovernmental organizations, the tourism industry, and the scientific community in the event of a catastrophic hurricane. Hotel owners and local governments pay premiums that provide an immediate cash infusion if winds exceed 115 mph. The severer the storm, the bigger the overall payout, maxing out at around $3.8 million. A volunteer corps of roughly 60 hospitality workers, marine biologists, and other trained scientists known as the Guardians of the Reef would do the hands-on repairs of cleaning debris around the reef and reattaching pieces of coral before they die. While the community hasn’t experienced a serious hurricane since the policy’s inception, the Guardians have stepped in to fix damage by boats and smaller storms not covered by the plan. The policy’s architects hope to bring this method of conservation to other parts of Mexico and Latin America. (HuffPost)

3. Zimbabwe

The government announced a ban on mining, effective immediately, in all national parks and along most riverbeds, following pushback against plans to mine the famous Hwange National Park. In a joint venture with a state-owned development corporation, two Chinese firms were allowed to look for coal in the country’s largest nature reserve. Hwange is home to more than 45,000 elephants and many other vulnerable species, including buffaloes, lions, and the endangered black rhino. Campaigners called on the government to revoke the permits, citing concerns for wildlife and the country’s lucrative tourism sector.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/File
Zimbabwe’s government has reversed its controversial decision to allow coal mining in the Hwange reserve, which hosts one of Africa’s largest populations of elephants.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association launched a legal fight against the coal explorations, saying the park would become a “site for drilling, land clearance, road building, and geological surveys” if the deal continued. ZELA officials welcomed the government’s reversal, and are looking for the government to take legal steps to enforce the ban. (BBC, The Associated Press)

4. Ecuador

A first-of-its-kind study, captured in the 2017 documentary “Yasuní Man,” is helping scientists understand one of the most biodiverse areas of the world: the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve’s Intangible Zone. As the name suggests, the region is difficult to access and largely unexplored. Filmmakers teamed up with biologists and members of the local Waorani clans to document the zone’s unique culture and wildlife – a process that has resulted in several discoveries, including the first records of the nesting behavior of a particular bird, the confirmation of a new frog species, and the discovery of a new fish species. Overall, the inventory conducted in the film will result in eight scientific reports: two recently published articles on mammals and birds, and six others that are in various stages of production. (Mongabay)

5. Denmark

The Danish government is updating the legal definition of rape to include any sex without explicit consent. Previously, Denmark had “a system where there had to be coercion and violence for it to be rape,” said Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup, but the reforms will bring the country in line with international human rights standards. In 2018, Sweden adopted a similar law making consent the determining factor in rape cases. The number of rape convictions rose by 75% in 2019. Denmark’s left-wing party pushed for a similar change in 2018. It now has majority support in parliament, and officials expect full adoption by 2021. “This is a historic victory,” said Anna Błuś, Amnesty International’s women’s rights researcher, “not just for the campaigners who have fought long and hard for this day, but for everyone in Denmark.” (The Local, Helsinki Times)

6. India

Women in India have more places to turn to in domestic abuse situations, thanks to some compassionate rickshaw drivers and centers dedicated to supporting abuse survivors. The first such organization, Gauravi, was established after the 2012 rape and murder of a Delhi woman sparked global outrage and led to tougher anti-rape laws in India. Gauravi offers domestic abuse survivors legal, financial, social, and even professional support. The center recently helped survivor Talat Jahan become one of Bhopal’s first female rickshaw drivers – a role she uses to check in on women forced to stay home during the pandemic lockdown. Around the world, countries are struggling to respond to an uptick of domestic violence amid the pandemic. In India, governmental bodies have set up dedicated help lines for reporting domestic abuse over the phone and on social media. Gauravi officials say women who drive tuk-tuks have played a key role in identifying and delivering aid to vulnerable women, and ensuring the center can continue to intervene and support women in dangerous situations. Pranita Achyut, a director at the International Center for Research on Women in Asia, called projects like Gauravi’s “important and necessary,” but added that India must face up to “violence as a systemic, structural issue” to see lasting change. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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