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Xi Jinping opens BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China



Chinese President Xi Jinping opens an annual summit of BRICS leaders. The BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — had gathered in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen hoping to counter accusations that the group of big emerging economies was drifting apart and becoming irrelevant.

The BRICS event already has been upstaged by North Korea’s latest nuclear weapons provocation.

North Korea stole the spotlight the previous day by announcing it had detonated a powerful hydrogen bomb and claiming it could fit the device on a long-range missile, dramatically raising the stakes in its standoff with the world.

The nuclear test came just before Xi took the stage for a pre-BRICS address in Xiamen, timing that seemed deliberate and will doubt angered Beijing, which swiftly condemned the explosion.

The North Korean hydrogen bomb claim represents an apparent major advance in Pyongyang’s banned nuclear weapons program and brought condemnation from the international community, which has forbidden North Korea’s pursuit of atomic weapons and missiles.

The summit includes Vladimir Putin of Russia, Brazil’s Michel Temer and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BRICS was already struggling to live down doubts about its own cohesion that have spiked since nuclear-armed China and India engaged in a protracted standoff over a disputed Himalayan region. They backed off last week — perhaps to avoid ruining the summit — but the issue remains tense and eyes will be on the interplay between Modi and Xi on Monday.

In his speech on Sunday, Xi stressed the need for BRICS members to show mutual respect and “avoid conflicts” but otherwise did not mention the border dispute.

BRICS nations, who comprise more than 40 percent of humanity, came together a decade ago to advocate for the developing world’s interests. But policy analysts have increasingly questioned the group’s relevance, pointing out that its members have little in common and face various economic challenges. Xi alluded to these questions in his speech.

President Xi said that some people, seeing that emerging markets and developing countries have experienced growth setbacks, assert that BRICS countries are losing their lustre, he admitted the group’s members faced various “headwinds”.

BRICS includes Communist-ruled China, Russia and the democracies of Brazil and South Africa and ultra fanatic India. . China remains an economic powerhouse, though a slowing one, while India is rising. But slumping commodity prices have hit hard the economies of exporters Russia, Brazil and South Africa. Brazil’s Temer and South Africa’s Zuma, meanwhile, are distracted by political turmoil at home.

Perhaps the BRICS’ biggest success has been the 2016 establishment of the Shanghai-based New Development Bank, envisioned as the developing world’s World Bank, but many economists doubt it will be influential.

Intra-BRICS trade is heavily tilted in China’s favour, fuelling complaints from fellow members. India alone has lodged several trade cases against China this year.

Xi and Putin held a bilateral meeting late Sunday during which they discussed the North Korea blast and pledged to “appropriately deal” with the issue, China’s official Xinhua news agency said, without giving details.

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Ethiopian airlines pledges to plant 9 million trees: “one for every passenger”




Exploring innovative ways in which the airline industry can be combined with a sustainable business outlook, UN Environment and Ethiopian airlines have forged a partnership that will focus on greening the airlines operations.

The MoU, signed in Addis Ababa this week, outlines several action areas to promote sustainability, most notably the development of the ‘Plant one tree for every passenger flown’ project, in collaboration with UN environment’s ongoing REDD+ programme in Ethiopia. The objective of the project is to plant 9 million trees in the name of Ethiopian Airlines in different regions of Ethiopia.

“We’re delighted to launch one of the first such agreements of its kind, with Ethiopian Airlines really raising the bar on environmental responsibility and green business,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. “This sends a strong, positive message across the aviation sector.”

Other areas of collaboration include:

  • Greening Ethiopian Airline business through the provision of training on sustainable consumption and production, integrated waste management, hazardous chemical treatment and capacity development on air quality monitoring.
  • Development of environmental awareness raising materials for use in- flight entertainment.
  • Support for the Ethiopian Aviation Academy, with the introduction of a course on the UN Environment Sustainable Consumption and Green Economy Programme.

“Because UN environment and Ethiopian Airlines share common goals and objectives […] we wish to collaborate in areas of mutual concern,” said Juliette Biao, head on UN Environment’s regional office for Africa.

The signing of the MoU took place in the margins of the African Civil Aviation Biofuel Summit held in the Ethiopian capital this week, and follows the adoption of the “Single Air Transport Market” by African nations last January.

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World Bank Signals Strong Support for Nepal’s Transition to Federalism




The World Bank today signaled strong support for Nepal’s ambitious transition to federalism when its Board of Executive Directors approved a $200 million credit to improve public financial management.

The Fiscal and Public Financial Management Development Policy Credit is the first in a two-part program to support the Government of Nepal in establishing a framework for fiscal federalism and improved public financial management.

Nepal today is at a historic juncture as it transitions from a unitary to a federal democratic republic. Expectations are high that the new structure will deliver on greater equity and accountability,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. “This operation will help establish a fiscal framework that will ensure that the newly elected governments can deliver better services to all Nepali citizens.”

This operation will support implementation of the Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangement Act; establishment of the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission; adoption of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Bill; strengthening of public financial management systems; improvements in budget execution; and reforms to improve revenue collection.

Commending Nepal for successfully concluding local, state and federal elections under the new constitutional framework, the Executive Directors welcomed the Bank’s strategic shift to supporting federalism to help avoid disruptions, improve service delivery and promote transparency and accountability. Directors encouraged the Bank to fully support Nepal’s transition to achieve inclusive development, especially in traditionally underserved areas, in coordination with other development partners.

This Development Policy Credit approved today is one of several components in the World Bank’s overall support on federalism in Nepal. Other support includes policy advice, new investment lending to improve service delivery and improve capacity, as well as restructuring of the existing portfolio to align with the new federal structure.

The World Bank also approved a $66 million credit to modernize Phase 2 of the Rani Jamara Kulariya Irrigation Scheme. The project will modernize sub-branches, tertiary canals and water courses so that irrigation water can reach farmer fields with optimal flows.  It will also help strengthen Water User Associations and provide agriculture production support.  During Phase 1, which closed in September 2017, the project upgraded intakes and feeder canals and initiated an agriculture development program.  Spread over a command area of 14,300 hectares, the project will benefit one of the poorest areas in the southwest of the Karnali basin in the Tarai.  Nearly half of the people benefitting from the project belong to the indigenous Tharu community.

The World Bank Group and Nepal

The World Bank Group (WBG) fielded its first economic mission to Nepal in 1963 to assess the country’s development prospects and challenges. It approved its first credit in 1969 for a telecommunications project. Since then, the World Bank has provided Nepal $4.75 billion in assistance ($3.48 billion in credits and $1.27 billion in grants). Nepal is eligible for concessional financing support from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). During the IDA17 period (17th replenishment of IDA covering FY2015-2017), the World Bank committed $1.2 billion. This amount included additional financing of $300 million from the IDA Crisis Response Window to respond to the emergency needs after the 2015 earthquake. During IDA18 period (FY2018-2020), Nepal may access approximately $1.3 billion in IDA financing. This includes additional financing from the IDA Exceptional Risk Mitigation Regime financing window. The current portfolio comprises 22 active projects with a net commitment of $2.32 billion. In terms of the number of proj­ects, the energy sector makes up the largest share (5 projects) followed by agriculture and education (4 projects in each sector).

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Somalia: Poor rains forecast put food security, livelihoods at risk




Below-average rains forecast for Somalia could lead to devastating cattle losses and intensify malnutrition in the Horn of Africa nation, the United Nations food security agency has warned.

The grim scenario follows massive livestock deaths due to drought – up to 60 per cent of herds in some areas – that have severely damaged pastoralists’ livelihoods.

“Somalia is traditionally an agro-pastoral economy [and] livestock losses have severely affected its economy and people,” Daniele Donati, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) programmes in the country, said in a news release Wednesday.

“It is crucial that we continue to support pastoralist households build resilience against climate-related shocks by providing timely veterinary and feeding assistance for their animals,” he added.

According to the UN agency’s Global Information and Early Warning Report, while the country’s overall food security situation improved to some extent in early 2018, primarily due to large-scale and sustained humanitarian assistance, the number of Somalis suffering severe food insecurity still remains 170 per cent above pre-crisis levels.

Furthermore, recent cattle losses have also resulted in sharp rises in prices of livestock and livestock products, including milk. Pastoral households in the worst-hit northern and central regions have also reported increased household debts, drive by credit purchase of water, food and for care of their animals.

The losses have also severely hit Somalia’s exports, a country where the livestock sector accounts for approximately 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

FAO response

Responding to the situation, FAO stepped up its response, providing health services to some some 38.3 million animals, supplementary feeding interventions to close to 1 million, and delivered over 53 million litres of water in 2017.

In 2018, the UN agency aims to support some 2.7 million rural Somalis and has appealed for $236 million to sustain its livestock interventions, help farmers secure a good harvest and provide cash transfers to the most vulnerable so families can afford to eat while restoring their own food production.

“Providing livelihood support and cash in rural areas not only fights hunger, but minimizes displacement and the sale of productive assets that ultimately feed people and sustain their livelihoods,” it said.

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