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New ADB Strategy to Support Inclusive, Sustainable Growth in Afghanistan

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The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has endorsed a new 5-year country partnership strategy (CPS) to establish a stronger foundation for sustainable growth and poverty reduction in Afghanistan.

The 2017-2021 strategy is expected to provide $887 million in grants to Afghanistan, a founding member of ADB, through 2020. Sovereign operations will focus on energy, transport, and agriculture and natural resources. To date, ADB has provided over $4.9 billion in grants and loans to the country.

“ADB is one of Afghanistan’s leading partners in infrastructure and regional cooperation and brings in-depth experience delivering projects in fragile and conflict situations,” said Samuel Tumiwa, ADB Country Director for Afghanistan. “Our new CPS brings a holistic approach combining infrastructure investments with capacity building for the government to ensure ADB projects make an impact in reducing poverty and encouraging growth.”

Despite marked improvements since 2002, Afghanistan still faces a severe infrastructure deficit that negatively affects the country’s economic growth and job creation. Only about 32% of the population has access to grid-connected electricity and more than 70% of the interprovincial and interdistrict roads remain in a poor state. Only 10% of irrigated land has formal irrigation systems, with the rest relying on inefficient informal systems that hold back productivity, higher incomes, and job opportunities. The country’s security situation has hampered economic growth, averaging 1.4% during 2014-2016. With the poverty rate close to 40%, there is still a need to improve the country’s infrastructure, climate resilience, and gender equality.

Under the new CPS, ADB will align its work closely with Afghanistan’s foremost development priorities, including the National Peace and Development Framework, the self-reliance and reform agendas, and National Priority Programs. ADB operations in Afghanistan will focus on three strategic pillars: expanding access for women and men to economic opportunities, markets, and services; building stronger institutions and human resources through better governance and skills development; and increasing the country’s environmental sustainability as well as resilience to climate change and disasters.

ADB will continue to develop Afghanistan’s potential as a cross-regional transit point for both transport and energy initiatives, with emphasis on the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) corridors and regional energy initiatives. Additionally, trade facilitation initiatives under CAREC will increase regional trade and create greater opportunities for local businesses. In 2016, ADB approved a grant to prepare the Salang Corridor rehabilitation project to improve the efficiency and safety of movement of goods and people in Afghanistan and across Central Asia.

In the energy sector, ADB has helped deliver electricity to more than 5 million people in Afghanistan who used to receive only 4 hours of power in Kabul, while other cities were even worse off in the 2000s. ADB will support the increase in the country’s electrification rate, play a major role in power transmission both regionally and domestically, and promote clean energy, including through solar power.

To improve transport and connectivity, ADB will continue the development of the road network including CAREC regional corridors to help improve regional trade and local growth. Support for operation and maintenance will ensure the road network provides sustainable benefits. ADB’s key support to the transport sector includes the establishment of the first railway line between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, which carries around 3 million tons of freight per year between the two countries. A comprehensive Transport Sector Master Plan Update was developed to cover roads, railways, civil aviation, urban transport, trade logistics, and other related operations in the next 20 years.

Another key to poverty reduction is development of agriculture and water resources. ADB’s focus will be on provision of irrigation and watershed management, and on the development of agriculture market infrastructure and business through value chains. ADB will also support infrastructure that delivers safe water through improved water storage and delivery systems. These activities will mitigate the effects of droughts and floods, reduce soil erosion, and help restore forest areas.

Through ADB’s support, more than 160,000 hectares of irrigated land have been rehabilitated and upgraded, with work continuing for an additional 260,000 hectares. The investments have resulted in improved rural livelihoods, economic growth, and better water resources management. As part of its commitment to using high-level technology in its operations, ADB will help climate-proof these projects, for example by flood-proofing roads and designing irrigation systems that are resilient to floods or droughts.

Over the coming years, ADB will strengthen its engagement with the private sector and improve the business environment for economic growth and job creation. ADB will promote public-private partnerships, which can be leveraged to support more investment and better operations and maintenance of critical infrastructure.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

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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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