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Xi Jinping opens BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China

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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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Humanitarian Aid: EU releases €68 million for Sudan and South Sudan

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The Commission has announced today €68 million in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable communities in Sudan and South Sudan.

The funding comes as millions of people across both countries are in need of assistance, with the conflict in South Sudan triggering an influx of refugees into neighbouring Sudan.

“The EU is stepping up its support as many people in Sudan and South Sudan face massive humanitarian needs. Our aid will provide essential supplies such as food and healthcare and allow our partners to continue their lifesaving work on the ground. Above all, it is crucial that humanitarian workers can deliver aid safely so they can help those most in need. Aid workers are not a target.” said Commissioner or Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.

In South Sudan, €45 million will primarily target internally displaced persons and host communities, providing emergency food assistance, health, nutrition, shelter, water and sanitation as well as protection from gender based violence. Funding will also support measures to protect aid workers.

In Sudan, €23 million will ensure protection of displaced communities, treatment of undernutrition in the most affected areas, as well as food assistance and improved access to basic services such as health, shelter, water and sanitation.

To date, the Commission has mobilised more than €412 million in humanitarian aid for South Sudan since fighting erupted in December 2013. Since 2011, the EU has provided almost €450 million in humanitarian aid in Sudan for those affected by conflict, natural disasters, food insecurity and malnutrition in the country.

Background

Five years of conflict in South Sudan has left 70% of the population in need of assistance, and subject of horrendous levels of violence. The conflict is characterised by wide-scale human rights abuses against civilians, in particular women and children, including rape and sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, destruction of hospitals, schools and food stocks. Among the 7 million people estimated to be severely food insecure, already several thousands of people may be facing famine conditions, according to a report issued by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. At least 101 aid workers have been killed since the conflict started in December 2013, and violent attacks on humanitarian workers are on the rise. Despite increasing impediments on the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the EU is among the biggest donors of humanitarian aid in South Sudan.

Sudan has millions of internally displaced people and the country is now hosting more than 1 million refugees. Most of them are South Sudanese who have fled conflict and famine. This is not the only humanitarian crisis affecting Sudan. Unfortunately millions are still displaced in the country after several years. Undernutrition rates in Sudan are also among the highest in Africa. 1 in 6 children suffers from acute undernutrition, and 1 in 20 from its most severe form which is likely to cause death. This year is marked by a further deterioration due to the socioeconomic crisis, localised drought and new conflict related displacement. More than 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Whilst Sudan has eased travel procedures for humanitarian organisations important obstacles remain for a timely provision of humanitarian assistance due to heavy administrative procedures and undue interferences. Emergency response can then be delayed or inadequate.. On top of addressing the most pressing humanitarian needs in the country, the EU has been strengthening coordination with development programmes in Sudan to better tackle protracted crises linked to forced displacement and undernutrition.

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IEA participates in G20 energy ministerial meeting in Argentina

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IEA Head of Energy Supply Outlook Division delivered a keynote address to the G20 Energy Ministerial (Photograph: G20 Argentina)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) joined energy chiefs from the Group of 20 (G20) countries to discuss and review the various ways to transition to a low-carbon economy under the G20 Presidency of Argentina.

The first G20 Energy Ministerial in Latin America brought together ministers of energy and natural resources and officials from G20 economies, as well as experts form international organizations, to discuss current global energy challenges and shared priorities. Discussions centred around multiple energy transitions, affordable access to energy and the role played by technological innovation.

Tim Gould, one of the two co-lead authors of the flagship World Energy Outlook, and Head of the IEA’s Energy Supply Outlook Division, delivered a keynote address at the Ministerial providing an overview of the IEA’s key messages on the future of the energy sector, from oil and gas markets, to renewables, greenhouse gas emissions and energy access.

Ahead of the Energy Ministerial, IEA officials also participated to the IGU Natural Gas Day, the World Energy Leaders’ Summit, the energy working group meeting of the Business20 (B20) and the second Energy Transitions Working Group (ETWG).

During the gathering, the IEA underscored the need for global collaboration to deliver the emissions reductions targets demanded by the Paris Agreement and the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals. The IEA identified the key role of governments to spur change and provide stable investment conditions.

G20 countries recognised the IEA’s deep expertise and analysis on the challenges of the energy transitions. They welcomed the Energy Transitions report presented by the IEA under the lead of the Presidency, during the ETWG, which assesses countries’ energy transitions, and the Tracking Clean Energy Progress report launched by the IEA in May.

Power system flexibility, clean energy innovation, barriers to carbon capture, utilisation and storage, transparency and sharing of best practice were identified as key areas to accelerate the low-carbon transition. G20 countries also demonstrated great interest to increase collaboration with the IEA on energy efficiency and energy statistics.

The IEA has been collaborating closely with Argentina, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Argentina in March 2017 to increase cooperation on the G20 and a new bilateral programme on energy statistics.

Argentina stressed the importance of data and digitalization to improve energy access and manage the energy transitions. The IEA has helped push forward the new G20 focus on energy data and digitalization, an area that has also benefited from the work of the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Latin American Energy Organization, and the International Energy Forum.

At the conclusion of the gathering, G20 countries adopted a consensus-driven Communique that acknowledged the central role of energy in promoting fair and sustainable development and the need to transform the world’s energy systems. The document also recognises energy security, technology innovation, energy data, and transparency as key areas to transition towards sustainable and cleaner energy systems.

This year’s G20 under the lead of Argentina highlights the importance of Latin America for global energy collaboration, building on its strength in energy supply and the region’s success on energy access, regional integration and renewable energy auctions.

The IEA has been expanding its work with countries from Latin America, working closely with Mexico, which joined the IEA as a full member in February 2018, as well as with Chile, which is an Accession country, and Brazil, which recently joined the IEA Family as an Association country. A regional programme of statistics cooperation has been established with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank in cooperation with the IEA’s opposite number in the region, the Latin American Energy Organization, OLADE.

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Video game addiction: Read official ‘gaming disorder’

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The UN health agency has for the first time, tagged compulsive video gaming as a mental health condition in its updated classification manual, released on Monday.

“For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months,” said the World Health Organization (WHO).

While some media reports welcomed the formal designation of “gaming disorder” within WHO’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) as helpful to sufferers, others saw it as causing needless concern among parents.

“There are few truer snapshots of a country’s wellbeing than its health statistics,” said WHO. While broad economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product may skew impressions of individual prosperity, data on disease and death reveal how a population is truly faring.

According to WHO, ICD is the “bedrock for health statistics,” codifying the human condition from birth to death, including all factors that influence health.

These statistics form the basis for healthcare provision everywhere and are at the core of mapping disease trends and epidemics; helping governments decide how money is spent on health services.

Crucially, in a world of 7.4 billion people speaking nearly 7,000 languages, ICD provides a common vocabulary for recording, reporting and monitoring health problems, says WHO.

“Fifty years ago, it would be unlikely that a disease, such as schizophrenia, would be diagnosed similarly in Japan, Kenya and Brazil. Now, however, if a doctor in another country cannot read a person’s medical records, they will know what the ICD code means,” WHO explained.

Without the ICD’s ability to provide standardized, consistent data, each country or region would have its own classifications that would most likely only be relevant locally.

“Standardization is the key that unlocks global health data analysis,” said WHO.

Ready for the 21st century

The eleventh edition of ICD was released on Monday to allow Member States time to plan implementation before it is presented for adoption at the 2019 World Health Assembly.

Noting that it has been updated for the 21st century WHO said: “Over a decade in the making, this version is a vast improvement on ICD-10,” adding that it now reflects critical advances in science and medicine.

Moreover, the guidelines can also be integrated with modern electronic health applications and information systems – making implementation significantly easier, vulnerable to fewer mistakes and allowing more detail to be recorded.

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