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Graça Machel calls for world to ‘build back better’ post-COVID-19: Saudi Arabia’s FII

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Former Mozambican first lady Graça Machel called on societies to “build back better” in a post COVID-19 world and addressed stark inequalities in education, food securities and in vaccine distribution during the opening of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) on Tuesday.

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Machel, the only person to have served as the first lady of two different republics, was among the international dignitaries speaking at the fifth edition of FII, Saudi Arabia’s annual investment forum, which is taking place between October 26 to 28 this year in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh under the theme of “Invest in Humanity.”

Machel, who became the first lady of South Africa on July 18, 1998 upon her marriage to Nelson Mandela, addressed inequalities in education, food, technology and, more recently, vaccine inequality during the opening keynote moderated by Saudi Arabia’s Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US.

Former Mozambican first lady Graça Machel with Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud. (Twitter)
Former Mozambican first lady Graça Machel with Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud. (Twitter)

“Before COVID-19 we already had millions of children outside of education – especially girls,” she said. “COVID-19 has regressed the progress by at least a decade.”

“We produce far more food than we can consume yet in parts of the world millions are dying of starvation on a daily basis.”

Furthermore, she added, the world is witnessing some of the most rapid technological advancements in history, yet many are lost in the digital divide, while billions of people are failing to communicate effectively.

“We are more disconnected than ever before,” Machel said.

The world is also facing one of the most severe income inequality crises in history, according to the former first lady, which has only deepened during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has deepened and hardened the fragmentation of humanity,” she said.

Former Mozambican first lady Graça Machel with Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud. (Twitter)
Former Mozambican first lady Graça Machel with Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud. (Twitter)

While many countries are moving on to a post-COVID economy, many nations have been left behind, with countries suffering to protect the health of their citizens.

“We have millions of people who desperately want to be vaccinated yet live in high-risk of developing COVID.”

For example, in Africa, fewer than five percent of Africa are vaccinated, said Machel, who was awarded an FII award for her services to humanity.

She gave a stark message to those countries failing to help poorer nations.

“Vaccines are a question of life and death. But some leaders have deliberately chosen those will live and those who will die.”

“The notion of ‘building back better’ is hollow when we have this selfishness.”

FII platform for global change

She said FII could provide a platform for greater global change.

“Our human families are experiencing our greatest test of solidarity on generation,” she said.

“Push the boundaries of policy so the defenseless are protected. Let us what invest in what lifts the dignity of us all. “

“Let us become the generation that can redress the imbalances of humanity.”

A dramatic video was broadcast to the audience at the start of the forum, showing the devastating impacts of climate change recorded around the world this year with catastrophic global weather impacts, from hurricanes to forest fires.

Global singing sensation Gloria Gaynor followed the video with a live rousing rendition of her famed hit, “I Will Survive.”

University of California San Diego professor and nanomedicine expert Prof Adah al-Mutairi, during the opening address, said FII is a multigenerational and multi-national non-profit that spans every continent with the mission for a prosperous humanity in every continent.

“In this fifth edition we continue to bring great minds to one of the most youthful regions in the world with the goal to positively impact humanity,” she said.

“The pandemic made it clear that one happens on one side of the world can change lives on the other side of world.”

“This is truly a small and interconnected world and we are in it together. No part can be comprised or ignored without harming the whole world.”

“It is our moral duty to create meaningful, measurable sustainable growth for infinite generations to come.”

“We want to embolden the international community to ask you more of your investments. This is a critical call for action.”

“It is not a choice between the economy and the environment, and we must have both.”

Annual FII convention brings together experts, industry leaders

FII, an annual event, brings together a selection of experts and industry leaders to explore new ways to address society’s challenges and plan towards taking action to solve them.

“By leveraging the enormous economic opportunities that will lie ahead in the post-COVID era, we will also catalyze the changes needed to achieve an equitable, prosperous future for all,” Yasir al-Rumayyan, Chairman of the FII Institute board of trustees, said in a statement ahead of the forum.

The most recent edition of FII, which took place in January 2021 both in-person and online, featured 200 speakers and thousands of attendees from 130 countries.

“As the world acknowledges the need for sustainable change, investors and leaders are looking for the right avenues to contribute in a way that creates both value and impact,” said FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.

“The Neo-Renaissance of the global economy, which we explored in January during the fourth edition of FII, is now emerging, and the FII fifth anniversary edition will be a unique call to action,” he added.

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