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Asia-Pacific’s economic gains must not undercut social and environmental goals

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While the Asia-Pacific trade outlook for this year is positive, some uncertainties ¬– including the possible impact of structural rebalancing of China from export orientation to domestic consumption – are forecast for 2018, the United Nations commission for the region said Monday.

In its flagship annual report on trade and investment in the region, Channelling Trade and Investment into Sustainable Development, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) underscored the importance of integrated liberalization policies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The impact analysis of different policy scenarios featured in the report make it clear that SDGs cannot be achieved through protectionist policies,” said ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar launching the report in Bangkok.

Ms. Akhtar emphasized that an integrated approach to trade and investment liberalization is essential to achieving the SDGs in the region, but that SDG-targeted trade and investment policies and complementary domestic policies need to mitigate social and environmental impacts of trade and investment.

“What we need is targeted trade and investment liberalization policies that are more inclusive and mindful of the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development,” she stressed.

The report emphasized that cutting trade costs and deepening regional cooperation are key to reaping the benefits across the region, which may result in $100 billion more regional exports annually.

Export growth is forecast at 4.5 per cent for 2017 and foreign direct investment is also expected to rebound this year, building upon fast growth in greenfield investment in 2016 and continued investment liberalization.

The ESCAP study noted that the expected growth of exports by developing Asia-Pacific economies is 4.8 per cent while that of developed countries in the region is 3.3 per cent.

Some ‘grey clouds’ on the horizon

Countries previously affected by the slowdown of global value chains are expected to enjoy significantly better trade prospects this year. At the same time, the rising prices of industrial commodities and fuel will contribute to dynamic growth for commodity exporters.

The study also anticipates more modest export growth in 2018, at 3.5 per cent, while the import volume will increase by less than three per cent. Export and import prices, especially commodity prices, may trend downward, due to the potential slowdown of investment and consumption precipitated by rising uncertainties, causing slower trade value growth in 2018.

At the same time, deepening uncertainties may also affect the extent of investment liberalization, which is found increasing the gross domestic product (GDP) annually by $19.5 billion, while decreasing inequality in the region by 0.02 per cent per year.

Cautioning that there may be some “grey clouds on the horizon,” the report says structural factors that have contributed to weak trade performance since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis persist. For instance, import demand in China, especially for intermediate inputs, will moderate due to the structural rebalancing of China from export orientation to domestic consumption.

Moreover, while many of the fears about renewed trade protectionism from some developed economies may not be realized, rising uncertainties could be a disincentive for long-term investment and trade.

A strong message from the report is that integrated liberalization increases trade and GDP significantly more than any of the other stand-alone policy changes. This integrated approach facilitates the participation of countries in global value chains and significantly increases the competitiveness of regional exports – providing strong evidence of the important synergies that can be achieved by liberalizing and facilitating trade and investment.

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Supporting tourism development in Africa through better measurement

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In an effort to better measure tourism growth and development in Africa, UNWTO signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation for the Strengthening of the National Tourism Statistical System of Nigeria and the Development of a Tourism Satellite Account.

UNWTO is committed to developing tourism measurement for furthering knowledge of the sector, monitoring progress, evaluating impact, promoting results-focused management, and highlighting strategic issues for policy objectives.

On the occasion of the meeting between UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, and the Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Mr. Lai Mohammed, the agreement to host the Sixty-First meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa and the Seminar on ‘Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development’ in Nigerian capital, Abuja, from 4 to 6 June 2018, was signed.

The meetings will be open to the participation of UNWTO Member States and Affiliate Members, as well as invited delegations and representatives of the tourism and related sectors. Officials of immigration departments, national statistics bureaus, central banks and other relevant stakeholders will be invited to join.

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Causes of Rohingya refugee crisis originate in Myanmar- solutions must be found there

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“We are now in a race against time as a major new emergency looms,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the Security Council via videolink from Geneva, Switzerland.

He said that the Kutupalong area in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar is now the largest refugee settlement in the world, and with the monsoon season to start in March, 107,000 refugees are estimated to be living in areas prone to flooding or landslides.

“The [Bangladeshi] Government is steering a massive emergency preparedness effort, but international support must be stepped up to avert a catastrophe,” he said, stressing that “as we have repeatedly said, resolving this crisis means finding solutions inside Myanmar.”

He said that conditions are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

The refugee crisis erupted in late August when Myanmar armed forces launched a security operation in the north of Rakhine State, driving thousands of children, women and men to flee over the border to Bangladesh in search of safety.

“The causes of their flight have not been addressed, and we have yet to see substantive progress on addressing the exclusion and denial of rights that has deepened over the last decades, rooted in their lack of citizenship,” Mr. Grandi said.

“It is time to bring an end to this repeated, devastating cycle of violence, displacement and statelessness to invest in tangible, substantial measures that will start to overcome the profound exclusion that the Rohingya community have endured for far too long,” he added.

Also addressing the Council was UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca, who said that while there has been certain progress on the three priorities laid out by the Secretary-General, not all have been implemented thus far.

Turning first to the need to end violence and improve the security situation, he said that although large-scale acts of violence have subsided, concerns about threats and intimidation against the remaining Rohingya population from Bamar and Rakhine communities, as well as from militia and security forces in Rakhine state, persist.

Second, the UN does not have sufficient access to make a meaningful assessment of the humanitarian or human rights situation in Rakhine.

As for the third point, which is voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced people to their places of origin or choice, Mr. Jenca said the Government has taken some high-level steps to advance this process, including the convening of an Advisory Board, whose recommendations include the inclusion of the UN at an early stage, soonest full humanitarian access, wider media access, and the formation of an independent fact-finding commission.

Mr. Jenca called on the authorities in Myanmar to release the arrested two Reuters journalists and respect the right to freedom of expression and information.

Reuters has now published the story these journalists were working on, a deeply disturbing account of the execution of 10 Rohingya men in Inn Din village (Maungdaw) in northern Rakhine state,he said, while the Associated Press (AP) has also published a report of five mass graves in Gudar Pyin village (Buthidaung).

“These and other shocking reports of grave abuses demand our attention and action, for the sake of lasting peace and justice,” he said.

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UN agency sets ambitious target to reduce hunger and poverty for millions worldwide

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The total, $3.5 billion, announced Tuesday by the 176 member States of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will enable the UN agency expand its projects and programmes to benefit 47 million smallholder farmers with improved technology, finance and knowledge; improve market access for 46 million; and build resilience to climate change impact of another 24 million.

“To achieve these goals, we will intensify our work on climate, nutrition and gender –  key focus areas which will be mainstreamed across our portfolio,” said IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo.

“We will also sharpen our focus on youth employment in order to meet one of the most pressing challenges faced by the world today.”

The renewed commitment from IFAD member States could not come at a more critical moment.

Last September, newly released figures showed that hunger increased for the first time in 10 years affecting 815 million people in 2016, up 38 million from 2015 because of climate change and protracted crises.

Furthermore, as nearly 75 per cent of the world’s poorest and hungry people live in rural areas, almost 90 per cent the contributions will go to lower-income and lower-middle income countries. An estimated 25 to 30 per cent will be invested in fragile situations.

The commitment is also timely given the global push to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 and 2 on on ending poverty in all its forms, and ending hunger and achieving food security, respectively.

“We believe that IFAD has a unique role to play, not only as an investor but as a trusted broker, an assembler of development finance, and a proven innovator sharing its knowledge and expertise,” said Mr. Houngbo.

A specialized agency of the UN, IFAD is devoted exclusively to investing in rural areas and harnessing the potential of smallholder farmers and other rural people to contribute to sustainable development.

Since its founding in 1977, IFAD has received approximately $8.5 billion in member State contributions, which have financed investments of $19.7 billion and mobilized a further $27.1 billion from domestic and international partners. From 2010-2015, it is estimated that IFAD-supported projects lifted 24 million people out of poverty.

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