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Put People at the Heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The United Arab Emirates plans to create a Centre for Future Readiness, announced Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future of the UAE, in the closing plenary of the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils.

Alongside the new centre, the UAE will create a global framework to assess future readiness, appoint “future ambassadors” and develop – in partnership with the World Economic Forum – global protocols for artificial intelligence and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“We are the world’s largest lab for your ideas, for your thoughts,” said Al Gergawi to assembled community members. He pointed to the creation of the world’s first Minister for Artificial Intelligence as evidence of the country’s readiness to act on the ideas emerging from the Forum’s Global Future Councils. The minister emphasized the importance of putting human-centred strategies in place, saying “our aim is to create a better future for humanity – that’s our calling as a nation.”

Al Gergawi’s comments touched on a key theme of the two-day meeting – the call to put people at the centre of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At a time when the rapid development of new technologies is disrupting societies and threatening people’s sense of individual agency and privacy, action is needed to harness technology for the public good.

Areas of concern cited by constituents in an earlier session, Towards a Shared Narrative about the Future, include the risks posed to personal privacy by advances in neuroscience. “There is no protection of this last bastion of freedom – your brain,” cautioned Nita A. Farahany, Professor of Law and Philosophy at Duke University. Other risks highlighted include the weaponization of artificial intelligence and the role of social media in tribalizing and disrupting societies.

One solution put forward by constituents was new, adaptive regulations that establish minimum safeguards and can swiftly be adapted as technology progresses. “We have to create an environment in which people want to share their information in order to make advances,” said Farahany.

Progress can only be made if younger generations are allowed to play a role in shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “The next generation still feels talked at,” said community member Thomas Ermacora, adding: “we’re robbing them of the ability to co-create and contribute.” Institutions need to open up and embrace “radical transparency”. Public board meetings and youth advisory councils for global organizations are a good place to start. The UAE led the way with last year’s appointment of Shamma Al Mazrui as Minister of State for Youth Affairs – at just 22, she was the youngest cabinet minister in the world.

Also during the meeting:

  • The Forum opened access to its Transformation Maps, a digital tool used by leaders for framing knowledge around 125 issues, industries and economies as well as their sometimes-hidden connections. Future iterations of the platform will be shaped with the engagement of the public as well as some of the world’s leading universities, think tanks and international organizations. Over 1,500 people registered on the platform in its first 72 hours.
     
  • More than 100 senior government leaders from the United Arab Emirates participated in two special strategic sessions that explored emerging technologies and enablers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, engaging directly with experts from the Network of Global Future Councils on policy recommendations.
     
  • The Network of Global Future Councils articulated 10 Visions for 2030, ranging from a decarbonized energy future to a world of ubiquitous information and a workplace where humans will increasingly be working alongside robots. Recommendations relating to these visions will be developed within the ongoing workstreams of the Forum’s 14 System Initiatives.
     
  • The Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics is developing a curriculum for ethics in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in order to help ensure human values are at the centre of all development of emerging technologies. The council also agreed to act in an informal capacity as an advisory group for the United Arab Emirates’ new Ministry for Artificial Intelligence.
     
  • The Council on Neurotechnologies and Brain Sciences agreed to support two initiatives: the development of a network of affordable brain labs, in emerging and developing economies. The council will also support a major public-private collaboration aimed at addressing the prevention of depressive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
     
  • The Council on the Future of Cities and Urbanization published a paper, Data Driven Cities: 20 Stories of Innovation, underscoring innovative ways big data has been deployed in cities to improve efficiency and enhance quality of life.
     
  • The Council on the Future of Climate Change and Natural Resource Scarcity advanced a new 4IR for the Earth Initiative, a collaboration between the World Economic Forum, Stanford University and PwC with support from the Mava Foundation. The purpose of the alliance is to identify, fund and scale up new ventures, partnerships and business models that are able to harness Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to solve the Earth’s challenges.
     
  • The Council on the Future of Human Rights designed four guiding principles governing human rights concerns in machine learning: Active inclusion; Fairness; Right to understanding; and Access to remedy/redress.

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UNDP and IRENA Poised to Support Breakthroughs on Renewables

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Nations around the world should embark on a massive and immediate shift to renewable energy, the United Nations and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said today, adding that such a move would drastically cut emissions and help get the world on track to meet the Paris climate goals and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Action by countries to stop the continued progression of fossil fuels is possible, UNDP and IRENA said at a joint event held at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid.

Renewable deployment would have to accelerate six-fold by 2030 if the world is to achieve the goal of cutting global carbon emissions by 45 percent and keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, IRENA said.

In September, UNDP launched a new initiative called the “Climate Promise”, vowing to support as many countries as possible to revise and submit enhanced climate pledges known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020.

Working with the NDC partnership and other partners, UNDP will support 100 countries to accelerate the enhancement of national climate pledges by 2020, building on its climate action portfolio in over 140 countries. Energy is a crucial part of this work and IRENA will provide the necessary knowledge, and support countries to accelerate energy transitions driven by renewable energy. To date, 78 countries are drawing upon UNDP’s experience in disaster risk reduction, gender, health and nature-based solutions.

“Shifting to renewables will create far-reaching development impacts, triggering an economic stimulus and creating millions of jobs around the world, not to mention widespread health and other welfare benefits. Renewable energy should be an integral part of countries’ climate pledges,” said Achim Steiner, the Administrator of UNDP. “We recognise the challenges, but this transition is achievable. At UNDP we stand ready to support countries to take bolder action on climate change.”

“There is no sustainable development without renewable energy. It’s possible to accelerate the low-carbon energy transition and achieve sustainable development, thereby creating inclusive and prosperous economies,” Francesco La Camera, the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency said at the Madrid Climate Summit.

According to IRENA, out of the 156 NDCs submitted to date, 135 countries mention renewables but most are underutilising renewables to raise their ambition. The agency also estimates that over USD 1.7 trillion would be needed by 2030 annually to implement adequate renewable energy targets, though much of that funding could come as a result of eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.

In September, both partners launched a global campaign called #ItsPossible, engaging policy-makers and investors to join and advocate a decisive renewables push in key countries around the world. The campaign will carry over into the next year.

During the joint event at COP25, IRENA also launched a new report on NDCs in 2020: Advancing Renewables in the Power Sector and Beyond.

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Bangladesh Needs Climate Smart Investments for Higher Agricultural Growth

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Climate change and sea-level rise pose a serious threat to Bangladesh’s impressive growth in agricultural productivity. To address impacts of climate change on agriculture as well as to prioritize investments to improve productivity, resilience and mitigation in the agriculture sector, the government of Bangladesh and the World Bank today launched the Climate Smart Agriculture Investment Plan (CSAIP).

During the last 25 years, Bangladesh’s agricultural productivity growth has been among the highest in the world and supported around 87 percent of the country’ rural household. But, rising temperatures will affect the yield of Aman and Boro rice, the country’s two major staple crops. High water stress can lead to rice yield losses as high as 70 percent. Further, soil salinity has affected 62 percent of coastal land and sea level rise may reduce available cropland by about one-fourth in Coastal Divisions.

“Globally, Bangladesh is known for its success in attaining self-sufficiency in rice through improving agriculture productivity, which enabled the country to feed its large population despite limited arable land. Bangladesh is also diversifying its agricultural production with abundance availability of vegetables and other horticulture products, while the focus is increasingly on safe and quality agri-produce, processing and market development, mechanization and commercialization of agriculture so that it can more effectively enhance food security, farmers’ profitability, employment, and poverty reduction in Bangladesh,” said Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, Minister of Agriculture.  “Evidence based Climate Smart Investments and implementation of the Delta Plan 2100 would help Bangladesh overcome climate change risks for a more productive and climate resilient agriculture sector.” 

Climate-Smart Agriculture can help Bangladesh maintain rice self-sufficiency and increase non-rice crop, livestock and fish production. The Investment Plan identifies five key investment areas totaling about $809 million to set the agriculture sector on a resilient growth path; contribute towards achieving the government’s the 2041 development targets; reduce emissions; and reach Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) regarding climate change and the Delta Plan goals.

Being among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, Bangladesh must take urgent actions to build on its impressive track record in the agriculture sector,” said Dandan Chen, Acting Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “We are encouraged to see that the government considers climate-smart agriculture a strategic priority investment in response to changing climate. The Livestock and Dairy Development Project is a testament to government’s vision of a climate resilient growth path, which will help the country meet demand for essential nutrients such as egg, meat and milk.”

The $500 million Livestock and Dairy Development Project, which was also launched today, will help improve livestock and dairy production as well as ensure better market access of 2 million household farmers and small and medium-scale entrepreneurs. It will also help stimulate private sector investment and the development of livestock value chains in the country.

“Rural households’ livestock assets are highly exposed to climate change risks, including natural disasters and major disease outbreaks. Bangladesh has taken steps to reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers and improve livestock productivity,” said Md. Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru, Minister for Fisheries and Livestock. “The project will help substantially and sustainably increase livestock production to feed the growing population.”

The CSAIP was developed to inform the implementation of major existing policies and policy formulation processes and includes the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100; it builds on the Nationally Determined Commitment (NDC) regarding the climate change and Bangladesh’s seventh five-year plan. During the same time, the LDDP was developed to address the most pressing and emerging issues in the sector, including value chain development with private sector investments, food safety, environmental pollution and climate change.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Bangladesh currently has the largest IDA program totaling $12.15 billion. Since independence, the World Bank has committed more than $30 billion in grants, interest-free, and concessional credits to the country.

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Cleaning Up Indonesia’s Urban Solid Waste

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a $100 million loan for Indonesia to improve solid waste management services for selected cities and districts across the country.

The project will strengthen the role of central government agencies in solid waste management, and help local governments in the Citarum River watershed in West Java improve solid waste management services. A large portion of the loan will finance mechanical and biological treatment infrastructure for cities and districts in the watershed. 

A total of 45 million residents of the cities and districts will benefit from the project. This number includes 18 million people from poor and near-poor communities, around 9 million of whom are women. Among the positive impacts of the program are expected to be improvements in health and hygiene as the result of proper waste disposal and decreased pollution. Vulnerable groups and women involved in informal waste collection will benefit from training opportunities, incorporation of these groups into formal waste management systems, and alternative livelihood operations.

“The government has placed solid waste management increasingly high on the national agenda,” said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment of the Republic of Indonesia. “Universal solid waste collection is part of the current national mid-term development plan targets, and is becoming even more important with the growing number of Indonesia’s urban population.”

Over half of Indonesia’s population now lives in urban areas. While cities and municipalities generate an estimated 105,000 tons of solid waste a day – a number that is expected to increase to 150,000 tons per day by 2025 – 40 percent of the country’s 142 million urban residents still do not have access to basic waste collection services. 

Uncollected waste is a significant source of pollution and health problems for communities around the country. Open dumping is still the most widespread practice for solid waste disposal in Indonesia. The effects of uncollected waste are most prominent along the Citarum River, which has been declared  a national strategic area. The river is the longest in West Java, and is inundated with municipal solid waste that contributes to frequent flooding.

“Solid waste management is critical for the welfare of Indonesia’s rapidly growing urban population and the country’s economy, including its tourism sector. With Indonesia as one of the main contributors to marine waste globally, improving solid waste management in cities along the coast and adjacent to rivers has become increasingly important to address marine debris,” said Rolande Pryce, World Bank Acting Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste. “The project will initiate concrete actions to reduce marine plastics with global significance.”

The World Bank’s support for service delivery and infrastructure is an important component of the World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Framework for Indonesia, which focuses on supporting government priorities that have potentially transformational impact.

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