On 7 December 2017, UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay opened the 8th International Forum of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in official partnership with UNESCO, alongside Philippe Beaussant, Chair of the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee and Kenneth Kam, Founding President of the Kenn Foundation.
“It was important for me to be with you today, right at the start of my mandate” said the Director-General. “Over time, the relationship between UNESCO and NGOs has varied in intensity, but what remains more true than ever today is the need to preserve and nurture this essential cooperation to cope with the challenges of today’s world and adapt to those of tomorrow,” she said. “In this sense, the theme chosen for this 8th International NGO Forum – Climate Change – is a good example of our shared responsibility towards this key challenge of our time. The privileged partnership between NGOs, which are laboratories of civil society, and UNESCO can enable advances in this regard. As frontline partners of our work, NGOs cannot act alone without the relays provided by our Organization, and I am committed, in the wake of renewed cooperation in recent years, to continue in this direction of constructive and mutually fruitful collaboration,” said the Director-General.
In his introductory remarks, the President of the International Conference of NGOs, Philippe Beaussant, referred to the new directives for the cooperation between UNESCO and NGOs, adopted by the General Conference of the Organization in 2011. “These guidelines, which we have favourably welcomed, have allowed a fruitful change in the role of NGOs, and their better and more systematic involvement in UNESCO’s fields of action,” said Mr Beaussant. “We are convinced that this link with UNESCO, which is still developing, will gain new impetus under your mandate, Madam Director-General.”
“In this spirit, we are delighted to hold the 8th International NGO Forum, an inclusive and participatory mechanism which is a response to the expectations of the 2011 guidelines, and that is an opportunity to propose paths for concrete action,” continued Mr Beaussant.
The President of the Kenn Foundation, Kenneth Kam, called for “new involvement of non-governmental organizations. This International NGO Forum, which provides a truly global environment, can help to reflect and act on issues of importance to UNESCO, the international community and civil society,” said Mr Kam. “The theme chosen for this 8th Forum is particularly important, and I want to say here how much I believe in UNESCO’s mission, and I hope that we will continue to consolidate our cooperation.”
Two years after the Paris Climate Agreement, and a few days before the One Planet Summit organized at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron and the United Nations, the 8th NGO Forum brings together more than 300 representatives of civil society to share their vision of the contribution of NGOs to the fight against climate change, and more specifically to the implementation of UNESCO’s updated Strategy for addressing climate change, adopted by the General Conference of the Organization at its 39th session in November 2017.
Over two days of debate, the Forum aims to identify ways of action for NGOs to support the work of UNESCO and make recommendations to the Organization in its various fields of competence. The debates will focus on three central themes: the role of civil society organizations in addressing climate change; Ocean and climate change; and World Heritage, Biosphere Reserves, and the knowledge and actions of indigenous peoples. The discussions will also define a concrete plan of action in relation to UNESCO’s Declaration of Ethical Principles relating to Climate Change, recently adopted by the General Conference of the Organization.
Previous editions of the International NGO Forum were held in Beijing (China), Querétaro (Mexico), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Sozopol (Bulgaria) and Yamoussoukro (Côte d’Ivoire), and addressed topics such as the social engagement of young people, building peace, access to water, women and poverty, bringing cultures closer together, and the role of youth in safeguarding cultural heritage, and resulted in creation of several local and international initiatives that contribute today to the realization of UNESCO’s programme.
ADB Provides $360 Million for Rolling Stock to Boost Bangladesh Railway
The Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved loans totaling $360 million to buy modern rolling stock and support reform in Bangladesh Railway to help promote a shift from roads to rail.
“Railways in Bangladesh potentially offer a cheaper, safer, and more fuel-efficient means of transport of goods and passengers than roads, but have been held back by lack of investment and aging and unreliable rolling stock,” said Tsuneyuki Sakai, an ADB Senior Transport Specialist. “The ADB Railway Rolling Stock Operations Improvement Project will boost the operational performance of Bangladesh Railway by introducing new technology, equipment, and processes that will be cleaner and more efficient, cutting carbon dioxide emissions.”
Historically, railways enjoyed a monopoly as a carrier and transported most commodities. However, its market share has dropped because of inadequate investment in railway infrastructure and rolling stock over an extended period. This has resulted in unreliable freight operations and uncomfortable experiences for passengers. Most rolling stock is more than 30 years old, and much is past the end of its economic life. Maintenance facilities have also not improved over time and are not adequately equipped.
Under its Seventh Five-Year Plan for fiscal years 2016-2020, the government has placed special emphasis on railway development, setting targets to increase the market share to 15% in freight transport and 10% in passenger movements by 2020.
Bangladesh Railway has also been operating at a loss, its operating costs about double what it makes from revenue. Under the railway reform supported by ADB, the government has taken steps to boost revenue by raising the level of passenger and freight tariffs that have remained unchanged for decades. An increase in the operational capacity through new rolling stock is needed to generate more revenue.
Starting with a Railway Sector Improvement Program in 2006, ADB has provided four loans to the government for railway development totaling $2.81 billion. Three loans invested in network improvement in key sections of the railway, with two targeting enhanced South Asian subregional connectivity. The Railway Reform Project under the 2006 program introduced financial reforms and an enterprise resource planning information technology (IT) system. A loan approved in 2015 is also procuring rolling stock and maintenance equipment, for which work is ongoing to 2020.
This latest project seeks to address the investment and modernization needs of Bangladesh Railway. It will procure 40 broad gauge locomotives, 125 luggage vans, and 1,000 wagons for freight trains for use on major lines of the rail network. The rolling stock will introduce auxiliary power units (APU) to Bangladesh Railway, to significantly reduce diesel consumption when the locomotives are idling. The project will also draw up investment plans for urgently required maintenance facilities, establish training programs for the drivers, and run the enterprise-wide IT system.
The total cost of the project is $453.37 million, of which $93.37 will be met by the government. It is due for completion around the end of June 2022.
Accompanying the loans is a technical assistance grant of $500,000 to devise a training scheme for drivers in the use of the APU and recommend potential approaches to achieving overall energy efficiency. ADB will administer the grant, to be provided by the Asian Clean Energy Fund under the Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility, established by the Government of Japan.
Helping Armenia Thrive
Despite being a landlocked country with few natural resources, Armenia has come a long way since independence in 1991, with all major socio-economic indicators drastically improved.
The Asian Development Bank now is supporting Armenia in its effort to expand its private sector, diversify its economy, cut red tape, and gain access to new markets, says Shane Rosenthal, Country Director for Armenia at the Asian Development Bank.
What is Armenia’s current state of the economy?
Since independence in 1991, Armenia has come a long way. Gross domestic product per capita has increased ten-fold in the country, in large part because of smart decisions about investment and because of good connections with its main trading partner, Russia.
We now have a country where the electricity is reliable, where most of the population has access to clean water, where business is beginning to thrive, not least because it is possible to register a business in a short amount of time. It’s possible to go to a bank and get a loan.
This economy needs to diversify into new products, into new markets. That may mean Europe, it may mean other Eurasian economic union members, and increasingly, it may mean looking eastward, toward Asia.
What role does ADB play in Armenia’s development?
ADB has focused on what it does best vis-a-vis other development partners in Armenia. And that, for us, means infrastructure.
Infrastructure in terms of connectivity, helping upgrade the national highway system so that cargo and people can reach neighboring countries more quickly, more reliably.
It means making the cities more livable with improved water supply.
How can the private sector support Armenia’s development?
Going forward it’s important to understand that Armenia’s growth can no longer depend on the public sector to play the leading role. The private sector needs to be the one that takes this country forward. And that means diversification. It means ease of doing business, and it means access to new markets.
ADB is going to focus increasingly on a balanced portfolio, between the public and private sectors. It’s clear that Armenia’s future will depend on the role that the private sector plays. And there, Armenia has many advantages: a strong financial system, a strong diaspora, with very good connections around the world, and a very strong educational base.
Three steps to end discrimination of migrant workers and improve their health
Authors: Afsar Syed Mohammad and Margherita Licata
When migrant workers leave their home, many encounter abuse and violence on their journey and discrimination once they arrive. This can be because of their status as migrants but also because of their ethnicity, sex, religion, and HIV status.
They often struggle to find decent work, which means they can end up in poor living and working conditions, which in turn affects their health. Female migrants are more likely to be vulnerable to exploitation and violence, which exposes them to the risk of HIV and other health issues.
Research has shown that migrant workers – particularly those who are in an irregular situation – often fail to access health services because of poverty, language and cultural barriers, lack of health insurance, as well as fear of job loss and deportation. It means that by the time they see a doctor, their illness has become all too serious.
Against this background, a newly launched ILO publication looks at the interplay between migration policies and those relating to broader health goals in countries of origin, transit and destination. Its key recommendation is that HIV and health policies should be integrated into the entire labour migration process.
So what can be done to ensure that migrant workers have better access to decent work, health and HIV services? The report recommends a three-pronged approach.
1) End discriminatory practices
Migrants face obstacles in accessing decent work, health as well as social protection. Whenever migrants are denied their rights, they tend to live and work in the shadows. They become vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and marginalization.
Discriminatory practices such as mandatory HIV testing of migrants for employment have proved to be ineffective. On the contrary, it is a violation of their rights. It disrupts access to health care and increases migrants’ vulnerability to HIV infection.
2) Set up an integrated response
It is essential to develop a response that does not just pile up ad-hoc policies one after another. Instead there needs to be an integrated and coordinated response that leads to decent work and health outcomes for migrants, including more effective HIV responses.
Right to entry does not mean the right to work for women in many countries. In such cases, women are left with no option but irregular migration which further exposes them to various forms of abuse, exploitation and risks such as HIV.
Gender-responsive migration policies would help address existing inequalities between men and women migrants, while at the same time improve their health.
3) Focus on migrant workers’ rights
There are no quick-fix solutions but discrimination and inequalities relating to HIV and health can be reduced if we focus on migrants’ rights and if we take a global approach. The report especially insists on the following priorities:
- There is a need to target different groups of migrant workers for HIV prevention, care and treatment, depending on the specific risks that they face. For example, risks are different depending on whether they are low skilled or high skilled workers.
- Effective responses to HIV for migrant workers should be integrated into fair recruitment initiatives, encouraging fair business practices to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and equal access to health services.
- Health programmes and HIV prevention for migrants must be disassociated from immigration enforcement.
- Inclusion, participation and freedom of association among migrant workers are essential pillars for effective actions on migration, health and HIV.
- Migration and health policies and practices, in particular those relating to HIV and AIDS, should address inequalities between women and men. A gender analysis is needed from the start for all policies and practices relevant to migration and health.
*Margherita Licata, Technical Specialist Gender, Equality and Diversity and ILOAIDS Branch
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