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Asia-Pacific: Call for integrated liberalization policies to achieve sustainable development in the region

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Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Week closed at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) headquarters in Bangkok today, with the adoption of a set of concrete policy recommendations aimed at improving regional cooperation, amidst a climate of global economic uncertainties.

Policymakers from over 30 countries and representatives of regional bodies underlined that the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved through protectionist policies. Instead, the region and the global economy need targeted trade and investment liberalization policies that are more inclusive and mindful of the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

During the ESCAP Trade and Investment Committee, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar highlighted that for trade and investment to be fully used as means of implementation for the SDGs, effective national governance is needed to achieve synergies between trade, investment, facilitation and complementary policies, including those affecting social and environmental outcomes.

“ESCAP’s analytical work offers a strong case for expanding multilateral and regional cooperation to promote trade and investment liberalisation, but doing so with due regard to ensuring policies and investments minimise the social and environmental risks.”

In his inaugural address to the Committee, H.E. Mr. Winichai Chaemchaeng, Vice Minister of Commerce of Thailand added, “ESCAP could have a vital role to play when it comes to knowledge sharing that would support governments’ initiatives on human resource development and training, as well as policy support.”

Key recommendations of the Committee included better integrating the social and environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in trade and investment agreements, and reducing intra-regional trade costs through implementation of the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific. The Committee also called for increased regional capacity building for evidence-based policymaking through the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT). The Committee acknowledged that the private sector has the potential to enable inclusive growth and called for ESCAP to enhance its engagement with the business community.

The Committee was one of the main events held during the Fifth Trade and Investment Week convened by ESCAP and partners from 30 October to 3 November. The week featured five side events including a high-level dialogue on safeguarding multilateral trading systems for sustainable development, in preparation for the WTO Ministerial Conference later this year. Youth and the digital economy will define the future of the trade and investment landscape in the Asia-Pacific, so for the first time, the week also provided a platform for young entrepreneurs to share their views on trade and investment policies for sustainable development.

Discussions at the Committee were informed by findings in the ESCAP Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2017 launched on 30 October. The report sent a strong message that trade and investment are powerful engines for growth and sustainable development but ‘business as usual’ policies are not sufficient to address the three dimensions of sustainable development effectively. The report also emphasized that cutting trade costs and deepening regional cooperation are key to ensuring the benefits of trade and investment can be shared across the region.

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EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: Solid progress in supporting refugees

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The Commission reported today good progress in the implementation and programming of €6 billion of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. More than 80 projects are currently up and running delivering tangible results to refugees and host communities in particular on education and health.  Out of the €6 billion, some €4.2 billion has been allocated, of which €3.45 billion has been contracted and €2.22 billion disbursed to date. 

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations,said: “We continue to make good progress in the implementation and programming of the Facility. More than 80 projects to date provide vital assistance in the areas of education, health, protection and socio-economic support, and more projects are in the pipeline. We remain committed to continue our support to refugees and host communities in Turkey, addressing current needs and increasing resilience and self-reliance for the longer term.”

Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management,added: “The European Union is continuing to support refugees in Turkey, in line with its commitment. 1.6 million refugees are receiving humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Looking ahead to the future, we are working to make our support more sustainable. We remain committed to continue working closely with Turkey to make this possible.”

Today, the twelfth Steering Committee meeting of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey took place in Brussels. It was chaired by the Commission and brought together representatives of EU Member States and Turkey.

The Committee reviewed the third annual monitoring report on the implementation of the Facility and confirmed the progress made in the programming of the second €3 billion tranche of the budget of the Facility. It completed the evaluation of project proposals in the areas of socio-economic support and municipal infrastructure to the tune of €845 million.

The 84 projects set up in the framework of the Facility bring forth concrete outcomes and a significant positive impact for refugees and host communities alike, facilitating the integration of refugees in the Turkish society.

For education, one of the priority areas of action, the EU signed a €400 million contract to continue its support to existing programmes, which is to be complemented by a further €100 million before the summer. This involves the construction of 136 school buildings and 50 prefabricated schools well under way. This progress in education infrastructure goes hand in hand with the implementation of the project for Promoting Integration of Syrian Children into Turkish Education System (PICTES), which benefits 400,000 students.

In the area of health, 5 million healthcare consultations have been carried out, with 178 migrant health centres now operational, employing over 2,600 staff, two thirds of which are Syrian refugees.

The EU is highly focused on ensuring the sustainability of the Facility’s humanitarian and development activities, which aim to support the Turkish authorities in a structural manner and to facilitate refugee integration. Under the humanitarian strand of the second tranche, the EU is implementing projects for a total of €50 million in addition the ongoing projects under the first tranche, those have already delivered tangible results for refugees and host communities.

Background

The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey was set up in 2015 in response to the European Council’s call for significant additional funding to support Syrian refugees in Turkey.

It has a total budget of €6 billion divided into two equal tranches of €3 billion each, allocated over two periods: 2016-2017 and 2018-2019.Out of the operational funds of €6 billion, €2.22 billion has already been disbursed, €3.45 billion contracted, with over 80 projects rolled out.

The Facility provides a joint coordination mechanism, designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. The support seeks to improve conditions for refugees in Turkey as part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to addressing the refugee crisis inside and outside the EU.

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European Union and World Bank Support to Help Enhance Georgia’s Innovation Ecosystem

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The European Union (EU) and the World Bank launched today the Increasing Institutional Capacity for Innovation (IICI) project, at an event held at Tech Park Georgia. Nika Alavidze, Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus, and Stig Kjeldsen, First Secretary at Delegation of the European Union to Georgia offered opening remarks at the event.

“The World Bank is proud to continue to stand by GITA as it transforms from a young ‘startup’ agency into a mature framework for Georgia’s coordination of its innovation and entrepreneurship policy and practice,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus. “With support from the EU, and the Bank’s technical assistance, this project will allow GITA to take the next step toward greater institutional capacity and effectiveness, test the potential for technology transfer, and improve opportunities for investing in innovative, early stage companies in Georgia.”

“Innovation increases SME competitiveness and creates jobs, and innovation policy is actually at the heart of the EU’s own Europe 2020 strategy for growth and job creation,” said Stig Kjeldsen, Cooperation Officer at the EU Delegation to Georgia. “Further assisting GITA in building Georgia’s innovation ecosystem falls naturally in line with the EU’s commitment to supporting business development in Georgia.”

The IICI project is financed by the EU to the amount of €2.7 million and will be implemented by the World Bank. The overall objective of the project is to increase GITA’s capacity to develop and implement innovation and entrepreneurship policies and programs with medium- and long-term strategies and results; test and demonstrate the viability of technology transfer between educational institutions and the private sector in Georgia; improve the deal flow of innovative start-ups ready for investment, and fund availability for early-stage companies.

The IICI project is expected to generate important results, including: easier access to support and finance for a greater number of small and medium enterprises and innovative firms, a more coherent public approach to supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs and a boost in overall innovative economic activity.

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World Bank Group Releases Little Data Book on Gender

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The World Bank Group today released the Little Data Book on Gender 2019 to provide an easily accessible entry point to statistics tracking gaps between men and women, boys and girls for 217 economies around the world with comparable data for 2000 and 2017.

In addition to demographic and economic information, the Little Data Book on Gender indicators include the proportion of women and men who use the internet, sex-disaggregated smoking prevalence, and the percentage of female graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs in tertiary education.

The book includes two indicators from the Women, Business and the Law database: the length of paid maternity leave and whether women are legally able to work in the same industries as men.

“Progress in eliminating poverty and ensuring shared prosperity can be enhanced and accelerated when we have good data,” said Caren Grown, World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender. “The Little Data Book on Gender offers policymakers and development practitioners easy access to data on males and females in the domains in which we work – health, education, and economic life.  As sex-disaggregated data becomes increasingly available, there is no excuse to not use it in our policy dialogue and to inform choices about interventions.”

This edition of the Little Data Book on Gender also features online tables that will be updated quarterly.

“Regular online updates will make it easier than ever to see how women and men are faring across a range of global indicators, and to track progress over time,” said Haishan Fu, Director, Development Data Group. “This supplements the fuller, curated data and analysis tools provided by the World Bank Group, including through the Gender Data Portal.”

The Little Data Book on Gender shows remarkable broad progress toward gender equality in education enrollment and health, while gender inequality remains stubbornly persistent in access to economic opportunities. On virtually every global measure, the Little Data Book on Gender reveals that women are more likely than men to be engaged in low productivity activities, and to work more in vulnerable employment.

The Little Data Book on Gender can be accessed online through the World Bank’s Gender Data Portal, and can be used by researchers, journalists, policy makers, and anyone interested in gaps between men and women.

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