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Youth, Technology and Growth are Focus of 26th World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Cambodia

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For the first time, Cambodia will host the World Economic Forum on ASEAN. The meeting, in its 26th year, will focus on how the region can harness the potential of a young demographic, as well as the transformative impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, to foster inclusive economic growth.

More than 700 leaders from business, government, academia and civil society will convene under the theme, Youth, Technology and Growth: Securing ASEAN’s Digital and Demographic Dividends, in Phnom Penh on 10-12 May.

The meeting will bring together key stakeholder groups to discuss how the region will balance rapid social, economic and political reforms while ensuring equitable and sustainable growth, employment creation and resource security. As the ASEAN region celebrates its 50th anniversary, the programme will focus on opportunities to bring infrastructure projects to life, how to adapt education systems to the needs of the digital age, and how the ASEAN community can navigate a new course in a world of accelerating change. In addition, the jobs of the future and the impact of empowered and engaged women and youth on economic growth and social development will be the focus of discussions.

“The 50th anniversary of the ASEAN community is a perfect moment not only to reflect on all that the region has achieved over the past five decades but importantly to develop fresh ideas and catalyse new initiatives to take the region into the future,” said Justin Wood, Head of Asia and the Pacific at the World Economic Forum. “The 10 nations of ASEAN have fantastic potential to continue delivering prosperity to their young populations. But in an era of increasingly rapid economic, geopolitical and technological change, the task of identifying opportunities, navigating risks and setting policy requires new approaches. The meeting in Phnom Penh will bring together all stakeholders in society to work on these new approaches.”

“It is an honour and a privilege for our country to host the World Economic Forum on ASEAN this year. The theme of the meeting, Youth, Technology and Growth, is especially significant for our country’s current position in the ASEAN and global markets,” said Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister; Minister of Public Works and Transport of Cambodia. “With over half of the population under the age of 25 and an average GDP growth of over 7% during the last two decades, Cambodia is in a position to continue to grow thanks to our young, dynamic and energetic population who embrace the technological revolution.”

Ahead of the meeting, the World Economic Forum together with the Government of Cambodia invite students and the public to join the Open Forum, a publicly accessible debate session on The ASEAN Dream, at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) on Thursday 10 May from 14.30 to 16.00. Established in 2003, the Open Forum sessions are designed to engage a diverse global public and facilitate the sharing of a broad range of ideas, experiences and stories on pressing and controversial issues, giving students and the public an opportunity to interact directly with business and government leaders.

As the meeting will focus heavily on the region’s young population, inspiring ASEAN leaders under the age of 40 from business, to politics, to the arts, will be featured. From the Forum’s own communities, the Global Shapers, a network of Hubs developed and led by young people between the ages of 20-30 who are making a positive contribution to their communities, will be represented by over 35 Hubs from Asia. In addition, 35 Young Global Leaders and six outstanding Social Entrepreneurs will take an active role in the meeting.

The many government representatives will include: Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, who will lead a strong senior ministerial delegation from the host country; Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos; President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of the Philippines; Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Viet Nam; Minister of Industry of Indonesia Airlangga Hartarto, and Minister of National Development Planning of Indonesia Bambang Brodjonegoro; Minister of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia Mustapa Mohamed; Minister of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand Pichet Durongkaveroj and Minister of Transport of Thailand Arkhom Termpittayapaisith; and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste Hernani Coelho.

Other key participants are: Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer, CARE International, Switzerland; Jin Liqun, President, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Beijing; Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Executive Director of International Trade Centre (ITC), Geneva; Stephen P. Groff, Vice-President, East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, Asian Development Bank; Tan Hooi Ling, Co-Founder, Grab, Young Global Leader, Malaysia; Jamaludin Ibrahim, Managing Director, President and Group Chief Executive Officer, Axiata Group, Malaysia; John Rice, Vice-Chairman, GE, USA; and Tevin Vongvanich, Chief Executive Officer, PTT, Thailand.

On Thursday 10 May, the Grow Asia Forum, a joint initiative by the World Economic Forum and the ASEAN Secretariat, will also hold its annual meeting in Phnom Penh. It will bring together 120 leaders from ASEAN governments, global and regional private sector, civil society and farmers’ organizations to explore solutions and make strategic decisions that will help ensure the sustainability of food systems. The Forum’s work on agriculture has reached 3.6 million farmers to date and mobilized $10 billion, with $1.2 billion already invested.

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Human Rights

ILO calls on Belarus President to respect workers’ rights and freedoms amid protests

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The Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Guy Ryder, has called on the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, to prevent human rights violations and “ensure full respect for workers’ rights and freedoms” during the wave of protests that have swept the country in recent weeks. 

In his letter to the Belarus President, Ryder urged President Lukashenko to release and drop charges against six trade unionists who have been detained by the authorities after participating in peaceful protests and industrial action.

He reminded the President that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure a climate free from violence, threats or pressure against peacefully protesting workers and that any such allegations should be rapidly and independently investigated.

“I must urge you to do all in your power to prevent the occurrence of human rights violations and ensure full respect for workers’ rights and freedoms,” Ryder’s letter said.

He expressed his deep concern at reports coming out of Belarus on the arrest, detention, imprisonment and mistreatment of workers’ leaders.

‘No one should be deprived of their freedom or be subject to penal sanctions for the mere fact of organizing or participating in a peaceful strike or protest,’ Ryder wrote.

The letter recalls that the ILO has been working with the Belarus government, and the national workers’ and employers’ organizations, for 16 years, helping to address issues raised by an ILO Commission of Inquiry in 2004  which was set up following serious infringements of trade union rights and freedoms in the country.

Ryder notes that while there has been some progress on these issues, “the Commission’s recommendations are far from being fully implemented.”

The intervention by the ILO Director-General follows a request made by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

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More can be done to ensure a green recovery from COVID-19 crisis

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Many countries are making “green” recovery measures a central part of stimulus packages to drive sustainable, inclusive, resilient economic growth and improve well-being in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. However some countries are also implementing measures that risk having a negative environmental impact and locking in unsustainable growth, according to new OECD analysis discussed by member country ministers today.

New OECD analysis, Making the Green Recovery Work for Jobs, Income and Growth, indicates that OECD member governments have committed USD 312 billion of public resources to a green recovery, according to a preliminary estimate that will be refined in the coming months. However, a number of other measures within broader recovery packages are going into “non-green” spending such as fossil fuel investments.

“It is encouraging to see many governments seizing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure a truly sustainable recovery, but countries should go much further in greening their support packages,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, during a Ministerial Roundtable to discuss the issue. “Climate change and biodiversity loss are the next crises around the corner and we are running out of time to tackle them. Green recovery measures are a win-win option as they can improve environmental outcomes while boosting economic activity and enhancing well-being for all.” (Read the full speech.)

The analysis finds that among OECD and other major economies, a majority of countries have included measures directed at supporting the transition to greener economies in their recovery strategies. These include grants, loans and tax relief for sustainable transport and mobility, the circular economy and clean energy research; financial support to households for improved energy efficiency and renewable energy installations; and measures to foster the restoration of ecosystems.

At the same time, some countries have unveiled measures likely to have a direct or indirect negative impact on environmental outcomes. Some of these are temporary and form part of emergency economic rescue plans; others risk having longer-term implications. Measures include plans to roll back environmental regulations, reductions or waivers of environment-related taxes or charges, unconditional bailouts of emissions-intensive industries or companies, and increased subsidies of fossil fuel infrastructure investment.

“Addressing global issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean degradation, and inefficient resource use is more important than ever as we seek to rebuild our economies and enhance resilience against future shocks,” said Spanish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge Teresa Ribera, chairing the Roundtable. “Well designed and implemented stimulus packages can drive a recovery that is both green and inclusive, driving income, prosperity and jobs as well as accelerating action on national and global environmental goals.”

The meeting included ministers of environment, climate or ecological transition from OECD member countries and Costa Rica as well as the European Commission Executive Vice President. The Roundtable is part of the preparations of the OECD’s Ministerial Council Meeting, which will take place on 28-29 October under the chairmanship of Spain and with Chile, Japan and New Zealand as Vice-chairs. This Roundtable comes just before the OECD releases its Interim Economic Outlook on 16 September.

The analysis notes that a period of low oil prices offers an opportunity to scale up the introduction of carbon pricing and continue phasing out support for fossil fuels. Taxing environmentally harmful consumption and production can mitigate environmental harm while improving economic efficiency. It is crucial that energy tax reforms do not increase the share of “energy poor”, as good access to energy services is essential for good standards of living. The distributional implications of other pricing instruments, such as taxes and charges on vehicle and fuel use should be also addressed. Similarly, reform of fossil fuel subsidies, which amounted to USD 582 billion in 2019 according to OECD and IEA data, should be accompanied by transition support for industries, communities, regions and vulnerable consumers.

The OECD analysis underlines the need to monitor and evaluate the impact of recovery measures on environmental outcomes, something that was lacking after the 2008 financial crisis. It presents 13 environmental indicators that can be used to measure the impact of stimulus measures, including carbon intensity, fossil fuel support, exposure to air pollution, water stress and environmentally related tax revenue.

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Environment

10 years to restore our planet. 10 actions that count

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Against a backdrop of environmental crisis, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a chance to revive the natural world that supports us all.  A decade may sound like a long time. But scientists say that these next ten years will count most in the fight to avert climate change and the loss of millions of species. Here are ten actions in the strategy of the UN Decade that can build a #GenerationRestoration. 

  1. Empower a global movement  

The UN Decade aims to stop and reverse the destruction and degradation of billions of hectares of ecosystems. It is a daunting task, made more complicated by the diversity of ecosystems and the threats they are facing: from lush forests threatened by wildfires to agricultural soils so eroded that they may only carry a few more years of harvests. No single entity can steer the course in this endeavour. The UN Decade thus connects and empowers the actions of the many. Groups and individuals can get informed about restoration opportunities in their area, joining initiatives already underway, or start their own.  

  1. Invest in restoration

Restoration takes resources. Organizations driving activities on the ground are often underfunded and face financial insecurity. While the benefits of restoration far outweigh the costs, it can only happen with long-term financing. Governments, international lenders, development agencies, the private sector and individuals will have to ramp up their support. 

  1. Set the right incentives  

In the long-term, healthier ecosystems can produce bigger harvests, more secure incomes and a healthier environment. But caring for nature can also mean foregoing some of the financial gains of less sustainable practices. There are ways to change this by incentivizing restoration activities and reducing subsidies that finance harmful practices, in the agriculture and fishing industries, for example.

  1. Celebrate leadership  

Over the past years, we have witnessed incredible momentum around restoration. Campaigns to plant trillions of trees have captured the imagination of many communities. Under the Bonn Challenge, more than 60 countries have committed to bringing 350 million hectares of forest landscapes back to life. Indigenous peoples have acted as defenders of their ecosystems for generations. The UN Decade will celebrate leadership and encourage others to step up.  

  1. Shift behaviours  

Deforestation, the depletion of fish stocks and the degradation of agricultural soils are all caused by global consumption patterns. The UN Decade will work with all partners to identify and encourage restoration-friendly consumption. This can range from changes in diets to promoting restoration-based products.  

  1. Invest in research  

Restoration is complex. Practices that work in one ecosystem may have adverse impacts in another. As the climate changes, new uncertainties arise. Returning to a former state may not be desirable as hotter temperatures or shifting rainfall call for more resilient plants and crops. Scientific understanding of how to restore and adapt ecosystems is still developing. Considerable investments are needed to identify the best practices to restore our planet – one plot at a time.  

  1. Build capacity  

Thousands of conservation and restoration initiatives are already underway. The UN Decade will be fuelled by their vision, expertise and dedication. However, practitioners often face barriers that keep them from taking their projects to scale. Other critical sectors, such as finance, require more data and insights to make informed decisions. The UN Decade’s strategy seeks to build the capacity of marginalized groups that stand to lose most from the destruction of ecosystems – such as indigenous peoples, women and youth to take an active role in restoration. 

  1. Celebrate a culture of restoration 

The power to revive our environment does not lie only with governments, experts and practitioners alone. Healing the planet is a cultural challenge. The UN Decade’s strategy therefore calls on artists, storytellers, producers, musicians and connectors to join the #GenerationRestoration. 

  1. Build up the next generation 

Youth and future generations are most impacted by the current rapid destruction of ecosystems – they also stand to benefit the most from a restoration economy. The UN Decade’s strategy links the wellbeing of youth and the goals of restoration. Education for restoration will turn today’s children into ecosystem ambassadors and provide skills for sustainable jobs.

  1. Listen and learn 

We would like to hear from you. Take a quick survey to help us learn more about you and how you want to be involved.  

UN Environment

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