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Quarterly Newsletter                                                                             January 2021
FAO and BIC co-host series on migration and agriculture

Exploring which factors contribute to sustainable rural livelihoods is key to minimising “the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin” (Objective 2 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration). The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) Brussels Office are therefore hosting a series of online discussions on the nexus between migration and rural development. The series follows a meeting  titled “Africa - EU partnership in addressing drivers of migration” hosted by FAO and BIC on 16 July 2020. The first of the series will take place in February and will look at the patterns, composition and volume of rural migration, both internal and international, and its links with rural transformation. Read more
Beyond Technology: AI opens up new perspectives
“Artificial Intelligence (AI) needs to be designed to help individuals contribute meaningfully to their communities and to society at large” agreed participants at a meeting on 12 November 2020, the third in a series held by the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) Brussels Office. Noting the multifaceted nature of AI, the discussion highlighted several key themes ranging from the technical to the conceptual. In the current digital economy, AI-driven software is often designed to incentivise individuals to become consumers of online content, and passive recipients of goods and services. Against this backdrop, participants asked: What conditions must AI fulfil in order to allow people to conceptualise themselves as active protagonists of positive change?  
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Implications for Europe – A Governance Befitting
The 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations (UN), a milestone reached against the background of a devastating global health crisis, is spurring conversations about the purpose and design of arrangements for international cooperation. The Bahá’í International Community (BIC) has released a statement marking the occasion, highlighting that the present anniversary provides an “opportune moment to begin building consensus about how the international community can better organise itself, and to consider what will be the standards by which to measure progress”. The statement addresses a global audience, but naturally carries significant implications for Europe. Of these, at least three stand out. 
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Food systems in the context of the Africa-EU partnership
“The role of small-scale farming needs to be acknowledged as an essential component of sustainable food systems” stated faith organisations from Africa and Europe during the second in a series of intercontinental dialogues on food systems. The dialogue took place on 3 December 2020 and was hosted by the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) Brussels Office jointly with other faith organisations. It was held in preparation for the upcoming 2021 Africa-EU Summit and follows an initial meeting on 8 July 2020Participants explored how a dynamic balance can be established between international cooperation and interdependence on the one hand, and self-sufficiency and food sovereignty on the other. 
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European leaders condemn denial of higher education to Bahá’ís in Iran
In recent weeks, a number of European government ministers and parliamentarians from Ireland, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the European Parliament have spoken out against Iran’s systematic refusal to allow Bahá’ís access to higher education. In December, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney stated that, “…the inability of members of the Bahá’í Faith to access higher education is deeply concerning.”
Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, echoed the concern and listed the steps Norway has taken to address the general situation of the Bahá’ís in Iran. The Rt. Hon. James Cleverly MP, UK Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office also shared his concerns. In November, MEP Antonio Lopez-Isturiz White asked High Representative of the EU, Josep Borrell to “call upon the Iranian authorities to start showing good will by letting young Bahá’ís have access to university and complete their degree just as their compatriots.” Read more
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References to images can be found within the stories.

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The Bahá'í International Community (BIC) is an international non-governmental organization with affiliates in over 180 countries and territories. It currently has offices in Addis Ababa, Brussels, Geneva, New York, Jakarta.

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