December 30, 2009
The Top 10 Innovative Global Solutions of the Decade

The Worldfocus newsroom celebrates the end of the decade with a look at some of the smartest ideas worldwide.

Here’s our eclectic list of ten innovative solutions to social, economic and political problems around the globe, drawing from our Signature series reporting, as well as other sources.

View our slideshow of the top ten choices:

Politics:

Rwanda – The small East African nation is the only country in the world with a female majority in parliament — women hold 56 percent of parliamentary seats.

The political rise of women is partly due to the country’s electoral quota (at least 30 percent female) and is also a consequence of male deaths during the country’s 1994 genocide.

Still, Rwandan voters have elected women in numbers well beyond the mandates dictated by the post-genocide constitution. And though women in Rwanda still face discrimination, female legislators have influenced major reforms in banking and property laws.

Worldfocus special correspondent Martin Seemungal spoke to some of the powerful women in Rwanda who are guiding the country through a long process of reconciliation, including Aloysie Cyanzaire, chief justice of Rwanda’s Supreme Court.

Iran — This was the decade that social media grew up. Activists in countries around the world — from Ukraine and Moldova to Madagascar –  used Internet-based communications to amplify their political protests.

While some commentators take issue with the now well-worn term, “Twitter Revolution,” there is no doubt that the opposition movement in Iran has used social media to take political dissent to a new level.

After authorities expelled or incapacitated foreign media in the aftermath of the disputed presidential elections of June 2009, words and pictures shared via Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook became the go-to sources for news about the Iranian opposition’s “green” movement.

Technology:

Estonia — The tiny Baltic nation of Estonia has embraced the digital age. It boasts hundreds of free public internet access points, and all Estonian schools are connected to the Internet.

Online phone service Skype grew up in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn. Citizens can vote online, and they access official documents, bank accounts and public transportation with national identity cards.

Worldfocus anchor Daljit Dhaliwal and producers Sally Garner and Ara Ayer reported on E-Stonia in the spring of 2009.

Israel — Because of its small size and urgent need to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, Israel may be the perfect incubator for a concept that still seems very futuristic — the electric car.

Headed by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi, the company Better Place has installed thousands of electric charging stations around the country. Worldfocus special correspondent Michael Greenspan and producers Yuval Lion and Ara Ayer reported on the progress of the electric car in Israel earlier this year.

Environment:

Denmark — Long before Copenhagen, the Scandinavian nation had made huge advances in energy efficiency.

In the last 20 years, the Danish economy has grown 78 percent even while its energy usage has remained constant and its carbon emissions reduced. The country has also become a net exporter of energy; wind alone has created 30,000 new jobs.

Special correspondent John Larson reported on the Danish miracle in our Worldfocus series “Green Energy in Denmark.”

Guyana – This year, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo proposed a low-carbon development strategy that compensates the nation for conserving its rainforests, which make up about 80% of the land.

It is likely to be the test-case for the U.N. plan to reduce deforestation worldwide.

Economy:

Brazil – Building on the success of similar programs in Mexico, Brazil has implemented a strategy aimed at curbing poverty and promoting education.

The Bolsa Familia provides more than 11 million impoverished families with a stipend, in return for guarantees that families will send their children to school.

Since its inception in 2003, the poverty rate in Brazil has fallen from 34% to 22%, according to government statistics.

Bangladesh — In 2006, the Nobel Committee awarded the Grameen Bank and founder Muhammad Yunus the Nobel Peace Prize — a sign of the widespread acceptance of microfinance as a means of combating poverty.

As a group of economics professors summarized: “Microcredit is undoubtedly the most visible innovation in anti-poverty policy in the last half century.”

Health:

Bhutan — The former king of the tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan pioneered the concept of gross national happiness. The idea has spread, and Bhutan continues to inspire other countries.

Last year, the government of Bhutan adopted a new Constitution, which mandates that government programs be evaluated based on the happiness that they foster.

Senegal – An innovative grassroots initiative begun in Senegal to combat female genital mutilation has spread to other African nations.

The NGO Tostan uses a community empowerment model and and now encompasses work on health, human rights, and democracy.

More than 4,000 villages in Senegal have made public declarations against female genital mutilation and child marriage.

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