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ASEAN reaffirms call for clean and green environment

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The 27th Meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on Environment (ASOEN), which was held back-to-back with the 38th Governing Board Meeting of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), kicked off in Nay Pyi Taw on 1 August. Participants from all ASEAN Member States attended the four-day meeting.

During the opening, U Khin Maung Yi, the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation of Myanmar reaffirmed that ASEAN Vision 2025 calls for clean and green ASEAN to achieve sustainable development by ensuring protection of the region’s environment. The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2016-2025 also stressed the importance of sustainable development by identifying many key indicators such as sustainable climate as well as sustainable consumption and production.

The meeting focused on the current pressing environment issues of the region. The key outcomes of the meeting include the final drafts of the ASEAN Joint Statements on Biological Diversity and Climate Change. Both statements will be presented to ASEAN Leaders at the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Lao PDR in September. The statements would ensure ASEAN’s strong commitment on conserving biodiversity and on synergizing the efforts to tackle climate change issue. The Joint Statements will be read at the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-13) in Cancun, Mexico later this year in December, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP-22 in Marrakesh, Morocco in November, which are both global stages of highlights in the environment field.

The Bai Tu Long National Park of Viet Nam was also endorsed as the 38th ASEAN Heritage Park, which is a flagship programme for ASEAN on protected area management. The ASEAN Heritage Park is an example of a programme that shows how people could live harmoniously with the environment. The programme brings together experts in the field to work with communities around the parks and this shows how all sectors must work together to conserve environment.

The Meeting also discussed the way forward for the next ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment (AMME) to be held in Brunei Darussalam in 2017 – the year that ASEAN will mark its 50th anniversary. To commemorate another important milestone of ASEAN, ASOEN will launch the 5th State of Environmental Report (SoER5) together with the initiative of ASEAN Biodiversity Champions to capture ASEAN’s success in environment field.

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Ukraine Needs Faster Growth to Boost Living Standards

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Ukraine’s economy grew by 3.3 percent in 2018, supported by a good harvest and strong consumption growth from higher wages, pensions, and remittances, according to the World Bank’s latest Ukraine Economic Update. However, investor confidence has been held back by uneven reform progress, election-related uncertainties, and high borrowing costs, with growth of 2.7 percent projected in 2019.

“In order to accelerate economic growth, Ukraine needs swift progress on key unfinished reforms,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. “This includes opening the agricultural land market, unbundling the energy sector, strengthening governance of state-owned banks, making progress on anticorruption, and safeguarding fiscal stability.”

If the key reforms progress swiftly, economic growth is projected to rise to 3.4 percent in 2020 and 3.8 percent in 2021. By contrast, if reforms do not progress, growth would fall below 2 percent as investor confidence deteriorates and macroeconomic vulnerabilities intensify.

Ukraine faces macroeconomic vulnerabilities from large public debt repayments obligations in 2019-2021 and pressures on current expenditures. This will require mobilizing adequate international financing and further strengthening public finances to meet the fiscal deficit target. Particularly important in this regard is affordable implementation of recent reforms in health, education, pensions, public administration, and social assistance.  It will also be important to put in place a more equitable and growth-friendly tax system.

Tapping Ukraine’s growth potential …

According to the World Bank’s Special Focus Note on Ukraine’s growth potential, achieving strong growth for an extended period of time is critical for Ukraine to catch up with the income levels of neighboring European countries.

If the status quo and the growth rate of recent years continues, it will take Ukraine more than 50 years to reach the income levels of today’s Poland.

While Ukraine has made progress over the last five years in strengthening the foundations for sustainable growth, the economy continues to be constrained by unfinished reforms that lead to low productivity, over-reliance on commodity-based exports, limited foreign direct investment and global economic integration, and weak institutions.

Going forward, Ukraine’s key challenge is not to achieve high growth next year or for a few years, but rather to make economic growth faster, last longer, and kinder by giving equal opportunity to all.

Achieving higher and sustained economic growth will require progress on further critical reforms to boost productivity and investment, including in the following areas: rule of law and property rights protection; land reform; governance and supervision in the financial sector; competition in the gas sector; and logistics and connectivity to fully leverage external trade opportunities.

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UN: Libya on verge of civil war, threatening ‘permanent division’

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The damage done to Libya will already take “years to mend” but unless fighting around the capital Tripoli stops, the country risks “descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country”.

That was the blunt assessment of UN Special Representative to Libya, Ghassan Salamé,  who also heads the UNSMIL Support Mission, briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, following weeks of intensifying conflict in and around the outskirts of Tripoli, instigated by the self-styled Libyan National Army forces of General Khalif Haftar who also leads a parallel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Mr. Salamé said grimly, that he had spent two years hoping to avoid having to deliver such a bleak in-person briefing to the Council, noting there were already 460 dead – 29 civilians – since the offensive began in early April. More than 2,400 have been injured, and 75,000 forced from their homes, the majority civilians, with half of the displaced women and children.

Violence began on the eve of an UN-backed National Conference planned to bring more than 150 representatives together from across the country, which had to be postponed. “There was great public excitement about what the conference could yield” said the top UN official, “in terms of a way forward to end Libya’s eight-year long period of transition” which threw him “into the deepest level of sadness for the opportunity lost”.

Tripoli violence could spark ‘long and bloody war’ across region

“I am no Cassandra” he added, referencing the mythical Greek figure who uttered prophesies which nobody believed, “but the violence on the outskirts of Tripoli is just the start of a long and bloody war…imperilling the security of Libya’s immediate neighbours and the wider Mediterranean”.

Mr. Salamé noted that in southern Libya, terrorist group Daesh, or ISIL, was flying its distinctive black flags, and reportedly had been responsible for four attacks, killing a total of 17, with more than 10 wounded, and eight others kidnapped, since Libya’s militias turned their guns on each other this year, not the common extremist threat.

“There are numerous reports of extremists, persons under international sanctions, and individuals wanted by the International Criminal Court appearing on the battlefield on all sides. All parties must publicly disassociate themselves from such elements without delay and refer to the ICC those for whom arrest warrants have been issued”, he said.

He bemoaned the flow of weapons back into the country noting “many countries” were providing arms to all sides. “Without a robust enforcement mechanism, the arms embargo into Libya will be come a cynical joke. Some nations are fuelling this bloody conflict; the United Nations should put an end to it”, he added.

Turning to the humanitarian needs he said health facilities were struggling to cope, with 11 ambulances “directly hit” by airstrikes, rockets and shelling. “I am appalled by the apparent disregard for the due protection of personnel engaging in vital medical tasks”, he noted, expressing deep concern for the rise in abductions, disappearances and arbitrary arrests in the past 6 weeks. He called on the Council’s “unequivocal support” in applying International Humanitarian Law.

UN remains ‘alongside the Libyan people’

Mr. Salamé said despite scaling-down non-essential UN staff in Tripoli and Benghazi, “we remain in Libya alongside the Libyan people to deliver as best we can”, with over 42,000 receiving aid so far. He said through local democratic elections held since 30 March, the people were showing their stoical resolve too, saying it was “vital to keep the pilot light of democracy alive”, and appealed for Council support to “the municipal election process.”

“There is no military solution” he reiterated, “and it is high time for those who have harboured this illusion to open their eyes and adjust themselves to this reality. Libya’s mosaic of communities cannot be governed without alliances and relationships stretching across the whole country”. He said Libyans would need to adjust in light of the attempts to take Tripoli by force since 4 April.

“A better future is still possible, but we all must be seized with the fierce urgency of now, while the front lines remain on the outskirts of Tripoli, and before the battle moves, God forbid, to the capital’s more densely populated neighbourhoods. This will require concerted and immediate action by the international community”.

He concluded with a call for the Council to act immediately, in support of politics over any military solution. “Full civil war in Libya is not inevitable. It may occur by the will of some parties, and by the inaction of others. I hear Libyans resigning themselves to a conflict of many months or even many years. My duty, and

that of this family of nations, is to tell them: ‘No. You need to stop the fighting and stop it now, for the sake of your loved ones, for the sake of your country, and for the sake of international peace and security.’”

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EU Politics

General Data Protection Regulation: One year on

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On 25 May 2019, the General Data Protection Regulation will celebrate its first year of entry into application. To mark the occasion, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market and Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, issued the following statement:

“25 May marks the anniversary of Europe’s new data protection rules, the General Data Protection Regulation, also widely known as the GDPR. These game-changing rules have not only made Europe fit for the digital age, they have also become a global reference point.

The main aim of the rules has been to empower people and help them to gain more control over their personal data. This is already happening as people are starting to use their new rights and more than two-third of Europeans have heard of the regulation.

Also, companies now benefit from one set of rules applying throughout our Union. They have put their house in order when it comes to data, which led to increased data security and a trust-based relationship with their clients.

The GDPR gave authorities teeth to tackle breaches. For example, one year on, the newly established European Data Protection Board has registered over 400 cross-border cases around Europe. This is a testimony to the additional benefit of the GDPR, as data protection does not stop at national borders.

People are becoming more aware – and this is a very encouraging sign. New figures show that nearly six in ten people know that there is a data protection authority in their country. This is a significant increase from four in ten people back in 2015. The data protection authorities have an essential role to play in making GDPR deliver on the ground.

The new law has become Europe’s regulatory floor that shapes our response in many other areas. From Artificial Intelligence, development of 5G networks to integrity of our elections, strong data protection rules help to develop our policies and technologies based on people’s trust.

The principles of the GDPR are also radiating beyond Europe. From Chile to Japan, from Brazil to South Korea, from Argentina to Kenya, we are seeing new privacy laws emerge,

based on strong safeguards, enforceable individual rights, and independent supervisory authorities. Such upward convergence offers new opportunities to promote data flows based on trust and security.

The GDPR has changed the landscape in Europe and beyond. But compliance is a dynamic process and does not happen overnight. Our key priority for months to come is to ensure proper and equal implementation in the Member States. We urge the Member States to respect to the letter and the spirit of the GDPR in order to create a predictable environment and avoid unnecessary burden for stakeholders, in particular SMEs. We will also continue our close collaboration with the European Data Protection Board and national data protection authorities, as well as businesses and civil society to address the most burning questions and facilitate the implementation of the new rules.”

Background

The General Data Protection Regulation is a single set of rules with a common EU approach to the protection of personal data, directly applicable in the Member States. It reinforces trust by putting individuals back in control of their personal data and at the same time guarantees the free flow of personal data between EU Member States. The protection of personal data is a fundamental right in the European Union.

The GDPR has been applicable since 25 May 2018. Since then, nearly all Member States have adapted their national laws in the light of GDPR. The national Data Protection Authorities are in charge of enforcing the new rules and are better coordinating their actions thanks to the new cooperation mechanisms and the European Data Protection Board. They are issuing guidelines on key aspects of the GDPR to support the implementation of the new rules.

The Commission will take stock of one year of application of the GDPR in an event to be held on 13 June. As foreseen by the GDPR, the Commission will report on the application of the new rules in 2020.

Today, the first results of a special Eurobarometer on data protection, collecting the views of over 27,000 people across the EU will be released. The European Commission will release the full Eurobarometer results at the anniversary event on 13 June.

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