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The outermost regions and the EU: a privileged, renewed and strengthened partnership

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The Commission is today presenting a new strategy for the outermost regions, those nine regions located thousands of kilometres from continental Europe, to help them fulfil their full potential.

For many years the EU has acknowledged the specific features common to the Azores, the Canary Islands, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Madeira, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint Martin, and has afforded them a special status. For the first time, however, the Commission is working with the Member States to establish customised support to help these regions build on their unique assets and create opportunities for their inhabitants.

European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “I have always paid particular attention to the nine regions we call the outermost regions, which are first and foremost European regions, and which project Europe’s presence in the world. This strategy, which provides the basis for a renewed, strengthened and privileged partnership, is a new specific example of a Europe that protects, provides the means to act and offers equal opportunities to everyone.”

Commission Vice-President responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, said: “We want these regions to have easier access to the European fund for strategic investment, which is at the heart of the investment plan. A dedicated initiative with the European Investment Bank will help, with enhanced technical support, to make the planning and financing of projects more effective.”

The Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu, added: “The EU is helping these regions to overcome their difficulties, so that none of them feel isolated or left behind. They have many extraordinary assets, such as blue growth, space sciences and renewable energies, and we will also help them to reap the benefits of globalisation.”

The EU is committed to the outermost regions, together with the Member States.

The Commission will seek to shape policies that better reflect these regions’ realities and interests, particularly when negotiating trade or fisheries agreements.

For that purpose, a platform for dialogue will bring together the regions and their Member States, the European institutions and private stakeholders, who will meet to exchange views during the legislative process. The Commission will also establish, on request, special working groups on specific issues, such as making the best use of European funds or promoting employment.

The strategy stresses clearly that ensuring these regions’ prosperity is a shared responsibility among the regions, Europe and the Member States, which must show the political will to support these regions on the path to growth.

The EU helps these regions to capitalise on their strengths in a globalised economy

The strategy supports their full integration into their surrounding regions by means of joint projects with neighbouring countries, which could receive European funds in the future for the prevention of natural risks, waste management, transport or energy, to give some examples.

In order to promote innovation and investment, the EU will help the regions to participate in the Horizon 2020 research programme, with special coordination and support action. A new initiative will be created under the Juncker Plan with the aim of facilitating regions’ access to the European fund for strategic investments (EFSI), in particular via a single access point within the European Investment Advisory Hub.

Making use of the smart specialisation model, which has proved its worth, the strategy seeks to help the regions to build on their assets, supporting greater innovation in traditional sectors such as fisheries and agri-food. To that end the Commission will provide for the POSEI programmes to continue beyond 2020 and will assess whether State aid can be used to support the renewal of small-scale fishing fleets.

The EU is working to create equal opportunities for everybody in these regions

In order to promote the acquisition of skills and mobility, Europe will give young people in these regions a financial boost to enable more of them to participate in the Erasmus programme and in the European Solidarity Corps.Furthermore, better transport links are crucial to these regions’ economic development and to their inhabitants’ quality of life. The Commission will launch a study to identify their connection needs and, where justified, undertakes to co-finance ports and airports.

The EU protects these regions from the effects of climate change

Extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Irma, have demonstrated that these regions need help in tackling the effects of climate change. The EU will incorporate the challenges facing them into its LIFE programme and its strategy on adaptation to climate change, which is currently being evaluated with a view to possible revision. In order to support the reconstruction efforts in Saint-Martin/Sint-Maarten, the Commission is currently considering the best way to combine different European funds.

Background:

Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union acknowledges the special characteristics of the outermost regions and affords them a special status.

In 2004, the Commission presented a first strategy aimed at shaping the partnership between the European institutions and these regions. That strategy is now being renewed in order to tackle persistent challenges, such as high unemployment rates, particularly among young people, greater vulnerability to the effects of climate change and a dependence on economic sectors which have not incorporated innovative processes.

Most of the measures under this strategy respond specifically to requests made by the presidents of the outermost regions in a memorandum submitted to President Juncker at the 4th Forum of the Outermost Regions in Brussels in March 2017.

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Finance

Liberia: Prospects for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth

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The World Bank today launched the third edition of the annual Liberia Economic Update with the theme: “Investing in Human Capital for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth”. The Liberian economy experienced strong growth in 2021. After contracting by 3.0 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, growth recovered to 5.0 percent in 2021. 

The rebound was driven by improved external demand, higher prices for Liberia’s main exports, and the resumption of normal domestic activity. Meanwhile, growth slowed in the first half of 2022, even when mining and construction continued to perform well. In agriculture, rubber and cocoa production dropped by 13.5 percent and 27 percent, respectively. In the industrial sector, iron ore, gold, and cement production all increased, reflecting firmer international prices and an uptick in construction activity. However, services growth fell, as reflected in the decline in beverages and electricity production.  

“The positive economic growth of 5.0 percent in 2021 from the COVID-19-induced recession in 2020 is important for Liberia’s efforts to reduce poverty,” said Khwima Nthara, World Bank Country Manager for Liberia. “Going forward, the focus should be to sustain the recovery and ensure that growth is inclusive through investments in human capital, social protection, and labor-intensive productive sectors such as agriculture,” he added.  

Growth is projected to slow down to 3.7 percent in 2022, reflecting increased global uncertainties and commodity price shock, but reach an average of 5.2 percent over 2023-2024. Beyond 2022, growth is underpinned by significant tailwinds for mining, the government’s planned scale-up of public investment, and the implementation of structural reforms including in key enabling sectors (such as energy, trade, transportation, and financial services).  

Inflation is projected to remain low and stable, averaging 7.2 percent per year in 2022-2024. Sustaining low levels of inflation would help Liberian households to retain their purchasing power, and it is projected that by 2023 poverty rates will start to decrease. The fiscal deficit is projected to widen to 4.3 percent in 2022 but improve in the medium term with reforms aimed at improving domestic resource mobilization and consolidating expenditures. Notably, the lingering effects of the war in Ukraine could pose significant risks to the outlook. 

The economic update also reports that Liberia’s Human Capital Index is as low as 0.32, performing better than only three countries in the world—out of 174 countries assessed. By 2020, the human capital gap in Liberia was mainly driven by poor education (contributing 50 percent), poor health (12 percent), and survival (7 percent). The underlying factors contributing to the country’s low human capital outcomes are multiple and complex. They include weak institutions, ineffective service delivery, demographic pressures, and low and inefficient social spending. In addition, poor coordination among government agencies responsible for human capital development often results in unresponsive or suboptimal service delivery. 

“Liberia human capital outcomes are amongst the worst in the world largely due to slow progress in education and health,” said Gweh Gaye Tarwo, Liberia Country Economist and main author of the report. “Thus, improving the country’s human capital outcomes would require significant interventions in the health and education sectors. Investing in human capital will be crucial for Liberia to grow faster, reduce poverty, and deliver substantial social benefits in the long term. The Liberian Government has made some strides in these sectors, but more can be done,” he pointed out. 

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Crypto Sustainability Coalition to Investigate Potential of Web3 Technologies in Fighting Climate Change

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The World Economic Forum launched the Crypto Sustainability Coalition, which will investigate how web3 and blockchain tools can be leveraged to achieve positive climate action.

Web3, which includes technologies like blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs, has become a catch-all term for the vision of a new, better internet. Members of the coalition will explore the potential positive impacts these technologies can bring to environmental and social agendas.

The coalition launch is timely as there is an urgent need to support the decarbonization of cryptocurrency and ensuring the industry is part of the climate solution. Furthermore, there needs to be regulatory clarity that promotes web3 innovation, protects consumers, and improves financial inclusion.

“I am excited about the work we are expecting from the Crypto Sustainability Coalition. An important and unique aspect of web3 is that it uses technology to support and reward direct community engagement and action. This means we can coordinate the work of many individuals directly with one another, enabling collective action without centralized control – a powerful accelerator for grass roots action,” said Brynly Llyr, Head of Blockchain and Digital Assets, World Economic Forum.

The Crypto Sustainability Coalition is a public-private initiative hosted by the World Economic Forum and comprises 30 partners. It is convening working groups to tackle three specific issues:

  • Energy usage – this working group will analyse the crypto industry’s consumption of energy and materials to build a clearer picture of its impacts on climate and nature.
  • Web3’s potential for climate action – this working group will investigate ways in which web3 innovations could tackle challenges facing the low-carbon transition at the pace required to hit the Paris Agreement’s targets. For example, the decentralized nature of crypto-mining and its ability to operate at off-peak times may provide a new business model for utilities and investors looking to develop renewable energy microgrids.
  • “On-chain” carbon credits – members of the coalition believe blockchain-based carbon credits could address current flaws in global carbon markets, including: the lack of transparency around carbon offsets for either providers or buyers; the failure of markets to remove carbon emissions at the scale and pace required; and the inability of millions of the world’s smallholder farmers, forest stewards and Indigenous communities to participate in or benefit from carbon credit markets.

The Crypto Sustainability Coalition will investigate, collate and highlight industry standards, best practices and examples of tangible action that attest to how web3 technologies can support communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The coalition’s wider aim is to foster a broad education campaign on what web3’s potential and capacity look like, to better inform governments on how they regulate these technologies and incentivize investment and research into their development.

The coalition’s partners include Accenture, Avalanche, Avatree, CC Token, Circle, Climate Collective, Crypto Council for Innovation, Emerge, Energy Web Foundation, eToro, EY, Flowcarbon, Heifer International, KlimaDAO, Lukka, NEAR Foundation, Nori, PlanetWatch, Plastiks, Rainforest Partnership, Recykal, ReSeed, Ripple, Solana, Stellar Development Foundation, STEWARD, Sustainable Bitcoin Standard, The Global Brain, Toucan Protocol, University of Lisbon, and Zero Labs.

The new coalition is part of the Crypto Impact and Sustainability Accelerator (CISA), a grant-funded initiative launched by the Forum in January 2022 with a mission to encourage a greater understanding of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts of crypto technologies.

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Iran: UN condemns violent crackdown against hijab protests

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Authorities in Iran must fully respect the rights of protestors calling for justice for Mahsa Amini, the young woman who died in custody after being arrested for allegedly violating strict dress codes, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday. Later in the day, the UN chief said he was becoming “increasingly concerned” about reports of the death toll rising, “including women and children.”

OHCHR said it was very concerned about the continued violent response to the protests, as well as communications restrictions affecting phones, the internet and social media, Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva. 

Ms. Amini, 22, was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” in the capital, Tehran, on 13 September, for allegedly not wearing a hijab in full compliance with mandatory requirements.   

She fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at a detention centre and died three days later from a heart attack, according to the authorities.

In his statement released via his Spokesperson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he had been following events closely, and he called on security forces to stop using “unnecessary or disproportionate force”.

He appealed for restraint, to avoid any escalation: “We underline the need for prompt, impartial and effective investigation into Ms. Mahsa Amini’s death by an independent competent authority.”

OHCHR’s Ms. Shamdasani noted that the Iranian Government had so far failed to launch an “adequate investigation” into the circumstances surrounding Ms. Amini’s death.  

Wave of demonstrations 

Since her death, thousands have joined anti-government demonstrations throughout the country. 

Security forces have responded at times with live ammunition, and many people have been killed, injured and detained in the protests. 

Violent response to protests 

On Saturday, State media put the number killed at 41, she added. However, non-governmental organizations monitoring the situation have reported a higher number of deaths, including of women and children, and hundreds injured across at least 11 provinces.  

“We are extremely concerned by comments by some leaders vilifying protesters, and by the apparent unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against protesters,” said Ms. Shamdasani. 

“Firearms must never be used simply to disperse an assembly. In the context of assemblies, they should only be used in cases of an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.”   

Number of arrests unknown 

Meanwhile, reports indicate that hundreds of people have also been arrested, including human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists, and at least 18 journalists. The Government has not announced the overall number of arrests.  

Ms. Shamdasani reported that in the province of Gilan alone, the police chief said 739 people, including 60 women, had been detained during three days of protests. 

OHCHR called on the authorities to ensure the rights to due process and to release all who have been arbitrarily detained.  

‘Persistent impunity’ for violations 

“We are concerned that the disruption to communications services has serious effects on people’s ability to exchange information, to carry out economic activities and to access public services,” she continued. 

“This undermines numerous human rights, notably the right to freedom of expression. We call on the authorities to fully restore Internet access.” 

OHCHR also expressed concern over “the persistent impunity with respect to human rights violations in Iran”, including the recurring deaths of protesters due to the alleged use of lethal force by security forces in November 2019, July 2021, and May of this year. 

“Our Office reiterates our call upon the Iranian authorities to fully respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, as a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Ms. Shamdasani. 

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