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By-polls in demonetized India

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Amid politics over the Modi government’s demonetization drive, results for the by polls held in India’s six states and one Union Territory, announced on November 19, were on expected lines but the national ruling party BJP and its leader PM Modi seem to have failed to make any impact of its seriousness about the blackmoney drive with deadly negative consequences for the people on the national scene.

Indians are not much impressed by the Modi government’s anti-corruption move, though they want to make India free from rampant corruption to which the ruling parties, including the BJP, have driven the nation by promoting their own corporate favorites.

The government has not begun tracking the mafia networks spread in every field and domain across the nation. How can one expect the government to be sincere and honest when all sorts of fixings are allowed cricket, for example? Politicians also mint money from promoting fake cricket meant only to “garner” 50s and 100?

The abrupt announcement by PM Modi in the night, as the results of US presidency poll was pouring in, of ban on big currency notes without any homework on PM government’s part, has turned the nation upside down as people began running for cash. Modi and BJP did divert the Indian attention from US poll impact, but at a huge cost for the people and nation.

Conducted 10 days after the demonetization drive and held across six states and one Union Territory, the bypolls were seen largely as not exactly a referendum on Prime Minister’s daring move, however. The results succinctly explain the high frustration levels of opposition parties in MP and Assam who seem at their wits’ end to stop the Narendra Modi juggernaut. People suffer but the BJP run states have managed the show somehow.

In Tamil nadu, AIADMK sweeps the polls held in three Assembly constituencies– Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Thiruparankundram. AIADMK wins by 26,483 votes on Thanjavur Assembly seat. In Puducherry CM Narayanasamy of Congress party wins Nellithope seat. Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy of the Congress defeated his AIADMK rival Om Sakthi Sekhar. Narayanasamy wins the Nellithope by a margin of 11,144 votes in the Puducherry by-election. The Puducherry incumbent CM secured 18,709 votes against Om Sakthi Sekhar’s 7,565 votes, out of a total of 26,564 votes polled. Narayanasamy, who did not contest in the 16 May elections, asked to be elected to the assembly within six months and took charge as the chief minister on 6 June, 2016. Lt Governor Kiran Bedi had administered the oath of office and secrecy to Narayanasamy and to five ministers

Trinamool Congress’ Dibyendu Adhikari wins Tamluk Lok Sabha seat by 4,97,528 votes. Trinamool Congress won Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat.

BJP wins Shahdol Lok Sabha seat and retained the Nepanagar Assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh with party candidate Manju Dadu winning defeating her nearest Congress rival Antar Singh Barde by a margin of 42,198 votes- smaller margin than before. In Madhya Pradesh, BJP’s victory margin in Shahdol Lok Sabha came down to 60,000 from 2, 41,301 in the 2014 general elections. It bagged the Nepanagar Assembly seat, where it increased its winning margin to 42,198 votes as against 22,178. In Assam, BJP got the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat, Congress lost.

In BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the party retained Shahdol Lok Sabha and Nepanagar Assembly seats at the cost of Congress. BJP’s Gyan Singh defeated Congress candidate Himadri Singh of Congress in Shahdol by a margin of over 60,000 votes. In the Nepanagar Assembly seat, BJP’s Manju Dadu defeated Congress rival Antar Singh Barde by a margin of 42,198 votes. The Shahdol Parliamentary seat fell vacant after the death of BJP’s Dalpat Singh Paraste.

In Assam, another BJP-ruled state, the party bagged both the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats. According to PTI, Pradan Barua retained the Lakhaimpur LS seat, defeating Congress’s Hema Prasanga Pegu by a massive 1, 90, 219 votes. The seat was vacated by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. BJP’s Mansing Rongpi, who had deserted the Congress in July, won the Baithalangso Assembly seat beating nearest Congress rival Ruponsing Ronghang by 16,600 votes. In Arunachal Pradesh, BJP-backed Dasingu Pul, wife of former chief minister Kalikho Pul who committed suicide in August, won the Anjaw assembly seat by 944 votes beating Independent candidate Yompi Kri.

Interestingly, the Congress party which promoted indirectly the Hindutva parties to threaten and terrorize Muslim minority as it hidden national policy has bit the dust as the BJP has wiped the Congress party out of the scene.

By polls were spread across six states — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu — and one Union Territory, Puducherry, and had evoked additional curiosity in political and social circles because they were held exactly 10 days after the decision to discontinue Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. Poll patterns and results were expected to be indicative of the popular mood, whether people have not yet fully lost trust in Modi and his capacity to deliver. But though the demonetization drive has been hard on people, forcing thousands to endure hours in queues at ATMs and banks, results of the bypoll can be considered as people continuing to be patient with the government and its policies. So although it’s perhaps too early to take it as a popular thumbs-up, it can still be considered that people tend to think of the move as being for the long-term popular good.

As expected, Trinamool Congress won both seats in West Bengal; three seats in Tamil Nadu went to AIADMK, proving that chief minister J Jayalalitha may have been in hospital for over a month, but her popular connect remains intact. Two Assembly seats in Tripura were won by the CPM, but the BJP did enjoy a massive upward swing in the vote share, while Congress’ share has ebbed to insignificant levels. BJP also has received encouraging trends coming in from Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal.

In West Bengal, Trinamool Congress retained the Tamluk and Cooch Behar Lok Sabha and Monteshwar Assembly seats by huge margins, prompting Mamata Banerjee to say that the results were “a revolt against demonetization”. The Bengal CM’s comments are a stretch because if we look at the vote swing, as psychologist and CVoter founder Yashwant Deshmukh demonstrated on Twitter, the BJP with 21 percent votes has registered a positive swing of 10 percent relegating CPM, who suffered a massive downswing of 21 percent, to a miserable third place. Notwithstanding Mamata’s bluster, BJP seems to have gained in Bengal. In Tripura, the CPIM-led Left Front retained one seat and wrested another from the Congress. CPM’s Biswajit Datta defeated TMC’s Manoj Das by 16,094 votes in Khowai while in Barjala, CPM youth leader Jhumu Sarkar defeated BJP’s Shista Mohan Das by 3,374 Votes. CPI (M) wins both Barjala and Khowai Assembly seats in Tripura.

Trinamool Congress is firmly footed and enjoys all honors by winning seats, claiming it was a vindication of their stand on demonetization, as ruling parties in six states and Puducherry held sway in by-elections, retaining most of the 10 Assembly seats up for grabs. Trinamool Congress swept Tamluk and Coochbehar Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal by a whopping margin of over 4.9 lakh votes, almost doubling the gap from 2014 polls. Trinamool also won the Monteswar assembly seat with candidates of CPM, Congress and BJP losing their deposits. The ruling CPI (M) in Tripura wrested Barjala (SC) seat from Congress and retained Khowai.

In Tamil Nadu, AIADMK, whose supremo Jayalalithaa is hospitalised for two months, retained Thanjavur and Thirupparankundram Assembly seats and wrested Aravakkurichi seat from DMK by margins ranging from 20,000 votes to 42,000. Senior Congress leader and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy won the bypoll to Nellithope Assembly seat defeating AIADMK’s Om Sakthi Segar by a margin of 11,144 votes.

The BJP retained Parliamentary seats in Sahdol, Madhya Pradesh and Lakhimpur in Assam. BJP won the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat in Assam, vacated by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, by a margin of 1,90,219 votes and Shahdol Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh, both ruled by the party.

Hindutva leader BJP is making gains in Arunachal Pradesh a state bordering China where military altercations do take place occasionally and China claims the state. In fact, BJP makes inroads in all states that border or have proximity with neighboring nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, etc. That was well planned and orchestrated by the ruling parties Congress and BJP. North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) candidate Dasanglu Pul of BJP won Hayuliang assembly by-poll in Arunachal Pradesh defeating her lone rival Yompi Kri, an independent candidate, by 942 votes. Pul is the youngest of the three wives of former chief minister Kalikho Pul. The bypoll was necessitated by his suicide. BJP leader and Union Minister Ananth Kumar said the BJP’s win in the bypolls showed that people have endorsed the government’s decision against black money and corruption. “BJP’s victory in by-polls is a clear indication that people are fully supporting the decision to demonetize Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. It is people’s mandate for the Prime Minister’s decision of demonetization.”

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, however, termed the by-election result as a mandate against the Centre’s decision of demonetization. “The by-election result is a befitting reply against the anti-people demonetization by the Modi government. It’s a people’s revolt, rather a mass revolt against the Centre. BJP should take lessons from this mandate,” she told newsmen in Kolkata before leaving for New Delhi to join the protest by the Opposition.

Good news was delivered to Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at Chennai’s Apollo Hospital today, with her party the AIADMK sweeping all three seats where by-elections were held on Saturday. While the AIADMK has retained the Thiruparankundram seat, which fell vacant after the party’s sitting lawmaker S M Seenivel died not long after being elected in May this year, it has also won Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, where assembly elections were cancelled amid allegations that both the AIADMK and the DMK candidates tried to bribe voters.

The chief minister has thanked voters as ecstatic AIADMK workers celebrated the victory across the state. “The by-poll victory gives me boundless joy and enthusiasm. The victory proves yet again that people are on my side. My work will continue in tune with people’s expectation,” Ms Jayalalithaa reportedly said in a statement from hospital. In her first statement since she was hospitalized on September 22, Ms Jayalalithaa had said last week that she was “waiting to hear news of an election victory,” and had encouraging the party to work hard for a win. She had described her recovery as a “rebirth” and thanked people’s prayers for it in that statement, saying was “waiting to fully recover and resume work soon.”

The chief minister has been treated for an acute lung infection and in multiple heath updates in the past few days, Apollo hospital has reported that she is better and can be discharged whenever she chooses to be. As by-elections were held, Ms Jayalalithaa was shifted to special room from the intensive critical care unit where she had been for weeks on respiratory support. The hospital said last week that she needs minimum time on the ventilator now. As before, the Finance Minister O Panneerselvam has been holding charge in Ms Jayalalithaa’s absence, chairing cabinet meetings and looking after the eight departments that she personally handled. With today’s wins, the AIADMK now has 138 seats in the 234 house assembly. In assembly elections held earlier this year, Ms Jayalalithaa had won an unprecedented second straight term as chief minister, her fourth.

The only consolation for the Congress is from the Union Territory of Puducherry, where Chief Minister V Narayansamy won.

Assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh is the big challenge the BJP is facing now. PM Modi and “friends” do not think that the results mean that they can now go to the people in a confident frame of mind, particularly in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. Demonization drive has annoyed the people of the state as well. The party has several hurdles to cross and the problem of cash paucity has disrupted the daily life of ordinary citizens and even if the situation returns to normalcy, people would not forgive the BJP ad Modi if the stated anti-corruption and anti-blackmoney objectives are achieved.

The outcomes for 14 seats (four parliamentary and 10 Assemblies) clearly reveal that the people are closely watching the moves of the BJP and PM Modi and if they are allowed to suffer they would not hesitate to use their axe on BJP at the appropriate time. And they have done it before as in Delhi elections showed where both national parties that ruled the national capital state alternatively have been driven out of the state. Delhi people exposed the hidden nexus between Congress and BJP and reelected the Aam Admi Party of Kejriwal.

The story is that BJP now does not continue as a party on the rise and efforts of Congress to regain its lost ground have failed too. Since Congress never supports Muslims and remains essentially an anti-Muslim outfit like the BJP, Muslims have deserted it long ago. This slide has cost the party heavily in national and state elections. But now Congress is focused on somehow regaining the Hindu votes and hence it does not criticize the criminalism of Hindus and demolition of Babri Mosque which was originally the Congress party’s agenda but very tactfully handed over to BJP and other Hindutva outfits trying to destabilize the national ethos of Indian secularism propounded by Mahatma Gandhi till his last breath.

In fact both Congress and BJP – essentially the fake cricket parties- jointly make mockery of Gandhiism.

If the by-elections were a gauge of public mood on demonetization, it does not seem to be firmly behind the party or PM Modi. How can anion support when stiffens? And if the polls were a personal test for Modi, he has only complicated the life of common people of India. People have lost their savings unable to use it as the government is using it to promote corporate interests in India and abroad having suffered a lot, people want to see the results as quickly as possible. India is reeling.

PM Modi and RSS-BJP duo cannot take the nation for an easy ride as they have launched what became an the “axe” on Indian people without enough preparation for an alternative mode of cash operation or new sets of currency to replace the old ones withdrawn by the government over night. Banks then supplied Rs 2000 but people cannot do anything with that as no changes were available in shops.

People cannot be fooled just like, you see by bad political gimmicks that negatively affect normal life of common folk. .

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WEF initiative pledges to equip 20 million ASEAN workers with digital skills by 2020

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A coalition of major tech companies pledged today to develop digital skills for the ASEAN workforce. The pledge, part of the World Economic Forum’s Digital ASEAN initiative, aims to train by 2020 some 20 million people in South-East Asia, especially those working in small- and medium-size enterprises.

Other goals include raising $2 million in contributions to provide scholarships for ASEAN technology students, ensuring an additional 200,000 digital workers are hired across the region, and engaging at least 20,000 citizens through “Digital Inspiration Days”, whereby companies invite students and the public to visit their offices and learn more about the character of the jobs of the future. There will also be internship opportunities for ASEAN university students, as well as initiatives to train digital regulators and shape the curricula of technology and computing courses at 20 ASEAN universities.

The aim of the pledge is to establish a regional movement among businesses committed to empowering individuals through skilling, reskilling and upskilling. It will not only increase the number of workers hired for digital jobs and trained in digital skills, but also help support business leaders with insight and analysis of what other companies in the region are doing to build a future-focused workforce.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is unfolding at accelerating speed and changing the skills that workers will need for the jobs of the future,” said Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “These changes are happening just as the working-age population in ASEAN is expanding by 11,000 people every day – a rate that will continue for the next 15 years. Given these trends, it’s critical that businesses help to build digital skills in ASEAN.”

Called “ASEAN Digital Skills Vision 2020”, the public pledge is open for all companies to join, but a number of early champions have already made strong commitments. Google has pledged to train 3 million SME employees throughout the ASEAN region by the end of 2020, while Cisco, Lazada, Microsoft, and the Sea Group have pledged to train another 5,634,000 SME workers.

The pledge also calls for companies to offer ASEAN citizens the opportunity to participate in Digital Inspiration Days, and Cisco, Microsoft, Grab and Sea Group have collectively committed to offer the opportunity to 1,035,000 ASEAN citizens by 2020. Similarly, the pledge calls for internships for ASEAN university students, and Microsoft, Sea Group and Tokopedia together have committed to hire 18,000 interns. Microsoft has also pledged to hire 8,500 ASEAN digital workers by 2020.

Supported by the Forum’s Digital ASEAN initiative, success stories and innovative approaches will be shared through an online platform to magnify their impact, and a series of workshops involving the private sector and government will be staged over the next two years to ensure the efforts of businesses both align with, and help to shape, public policy on training and education.

Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand, and one of the advisers of the Digital ASEAN initiative, said: “The rise of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics is creating concern about the future of work. But I am more optimistic. I believe that if workers have the right skills, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be highly empowering and will lift wages and living standards in Thailand and across the region. But we need to make sure that workers receive the right training and education today.”

Rajan Anandan, Vice-President for India and South-East Asia at Google, said: “ASEAN could see an uplift of $1 trillion in GDP by 2025 by using its digital economy to accelerate intra-regional trade and growth. SMEs will be the key to this growth and their digital workforce will be the change agents in their communities. We’re committed to supporting South-East Asia’s promising digital economy.”

Forrest Li, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Sea Group, said: “The ASEAN region is brimming with entrepreneurial potential. But for SMEs to start businesses and grow them successfully, they’ll need to learn the right skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Building on our existing efforts to enable SMEs around the region to benefit from the opportunity of e-commerce, we are committed to making a major contribution to providing these skills.”

Naveen Menon, President of Cisco Systems in ASEAN, said: “ASEAN’s economy is poised to grow further as digital innovation and adoption gather pace. However, the increased adoption of technology will result in a change in the nature of jobs and workforce requirements across the region, which demands rapidly reskilling. We are committed to work with all stakeholders to build a sustainable pool of homegrown talent in ASEAN.”

Lucy Peng, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of the Lazada Group, said taking part in the World Economic Forum pledge is one of the key levers to create an inclusive and sustainable e-commerce ecosystem to support South-East Asia’s economic growth. “Sellers want to go beyond trading on a platform. They want to create their own universe in the digital world to reach out and connect with Internet-savvy and increasingly mobile consumers,” she said. “We are championing our seller communities by using our technology and logistics infrastructure to help them ride the e-commerce boom and flourish into sustainable businesses.”

Sunny Park, Corporate and Legal Affairs Regional Director for Microsoft in Asia Pacific, said: “ASEAN is the future of borderless economies, investments, e-commerce and education and we believe in a future where every young person has the skills, knowledge and opportunity to succeed. Digital skills are essential for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and can open the door to greater economic opportunity. Right now, over half the people on the planet lack basic access to the knowledge and skills that would enable them to participate in the new digital economy. Together with our partners, we are going to change that. We are going to empower every person and SME in ASEAN to achieve more.”

The Digital ASEAN initiative was launched by the World Economic Forum in Singapore in April 2018 in response to demand from the Forum’s regional partners in ASEAN, both public and private. The aim is to work on the issues that will underpin a regional digital economy in ASEAN so that the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be fully unlocked and become a force for regional economic inclusion. The initiative has launched five task forces, each focussed on a specific digital issue:

  1. Pan-ASEAN Data Policy – Shaping a common regional data policy
  2. ASEAN Digital Access – Optimizing high-quality broadband access for ASEAN
  3. ASEAN Digital Skills – Building a shared commitment to train digital skills for the ASEAN workforce
  4. ASEAN e-Payments – Building a common ASEAN e-payment framework
  5. ASEAN Cybersecurity – Nurturing cooperation and capacity building in ASEAN cybersecurity

By the end of 2020, the aim is for the coalition of companies involved in the pledge to:

  • 20,000,000 Train 20 million people working at ASEAN small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in digital skills;
  • 2,000,000 Raise US$2 million for scholarships for ASEAN technology students;
  • 200,000 Hire directly an additional 200,000 ASEAN digital workers;
  • 20,000 Engage 20,000 ASEAN citizens in “Digital Inspiration Days”, where companies invite students and the public to their offices to learn more about jobs of the future;
  • 2,000 Offer 2,000 internship opportunities for ASEAN university students;
  • 200 Contribute to the training of 200 ASEAN digital regulators; and
  • 20 Contribute to shaping the curricula of technology and computing courses at 20 ASEAN universities.
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Breaking down barriers for recycling industries

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Standardization, awareness-raising, and regional cooperation – these were just some of the solutions to the many challenges faced by recycling industries globally, which were discussed at the Circular Economy: Development of Recycling Industries meeting.

The  meeting, co-organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Environment Department and the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), brought together recycling experts, representatives of UNIDO Member States, and industry leaders from all over the world to discuss existing barriers to recycling industries and innovative approaches to overcome these.

From plastics to textiles recycling, a broad range of presentations from representatives of national governments, NGOs and industry, offered perspectives on how to move forward, with examples of innovative initiatives brought from both developed and developing countries alike.

Mattresses, waste bins, and home furnishings were just some of the recycled (and recyclable) products presented by companies from Italy and Guinea, with industry giants, such as IKEA, also providing insights into their efforts as brand leaders when it comes to recycled cotton and polyester.

The meeting was also an opportunity for UNIDO to showcase some of the projects it has been working on in this area, including e-waste in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Other related projects include metals recycling in Thailand, e-waste in the Philippines, recycling industry development in Senegal and a Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional project helping reduce open burning through the introduction of recycling.

Institutional, structural, and economic barriers were identified during the sessions, with legal and regulatory frameworks representing a challenge in many regions. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was another key theme of the meeting, as well as the establishment of internationally-recognized criteria for recyclables, and the potential for integrating the formal and informal recycling sectors, particularly in developing economy contexts.

Engaging civil society and changing mindsets and attitudes towards recycling at a global level was also seen as essential for the successful development of the recycling industry.

“Civil society must be at the forefront of any recycling activity,” affirmed Ranjit Singh Baxi, President of the BIR.

The meeting highlighted the important role that UNIDO has to play in convening stakeholders to discuss industrial development topics relevant to UNIDO Member States. This meeting’s interactive format allowed participants to take part in digital polls for each session, as well as to pose questions to the various panels, which were then ranked and sorted digitally according to the audience’s preferences.

The insights gained during this event will contribute to UNIDO programming for the coming years and strengthening the Organization’s services in this area.

“Strengthening multilateral dialogue is essential and UNIDO stands ready to continue to foster such dialogue on global environmental cooperation and the circular economy in the name of inclusive and sustainable industrial development,” stated Stephan Sicars, Director of UNIDO’s Environment Department, at the close of the meeting.

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Abu Dhabi Fund for Development Loans Worth over US$50 Million Available

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Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) and The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) are inviting applications for more than US$50 million in funding through the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility. The ADFD-financed initiative is available to government-guaranteed renewable energy projects in developing countries that seek to increase energy access, improve livelihoods and advance sustainable development.

ADFD has committed US$350 million (AED1.285 billion) in concessionary loans over seven annual funding cycles to renewable energy projects recommended by IRENA.

The facility welcomes proposals for projects – especially those submitted by ministries, public utility entities and rural electrification agencies – that are able to obtain a government guarantee for the ADFD loan.

“Renewable energy can have a powerful impact on the livelihoods of people across the globe,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “It is the most cost-competitive option to expand access to energy and improve socio-economic welfare while creating jobs and empowering local communities. Now in its seventh funding cycle, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility has a proven track record of driving positive change through renewable energy deployment, supporting developing countries to benefit from the energy transformation.”

For his part, His Excellency Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of ADFD, said: “Since its launch in 2012, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility has continued to deliver on the UAE’s promise to introduce renewable energy solutions in developing countries as a sustainable and long-term alternative to conventional energy sources. Advancing the renewable energy sector helps achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as well as create jobs and stimulate economic growth. We are proud of the milestones this facility has marked, and look forward to receiving cutting-edge and impactful applications for the seventh and final funding cycle.”

In the first five cycles, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility allocated US$214 million to 21 renewable energy projects across the globe, covering up to 50 per cent of the project costs. The efforts will bring more than 100 megawatts of renewable energy capacity online, improving the lives of over a million people through energy access. Spanning Asia, Africa, Latin America and Small Island Developing States, the projects encompass the complete spectrum of renewable energy sources – wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass – and technologies. To fulfil its commitment to contributing a total of US$350 million towards sustainable development, ADFD will allocate all outstanding funds by the seventh and final cycle.

The projects selected for the sixth funding cycle will be announced in January 2019.

Summary applications for the seventh cycle will be accepted until 17:00 GST on 14 February 2019.

IRENA

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