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FAO and EBRD mark 20th anniversary with renewed commitment to sustainable food value chains

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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have agreed to step up their joint efforts to make agrifood systems stronger, greener and more inclusive across Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean.

The two institutions also stressed the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives for agriculture as they marked 20 years of collaboration with a Memorandum of Understanding, signed today in London by EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.  

“We see our partnership with FAO as crucial for fostering the transition of the agribusiness sector in our region,” President Chakrabarti said. “By drawing on FAO’s technical and policy expertise, we are able to make more effective investments across agrifood chains, helping to enhance productivity, improve energy efficiency, create jobs and promote sustainable and inclusive growth,” he added. 

FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva said: “The regions where we work together – Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean – play critical though contrasting roles in global food and agricultural markets. I am confident that together we will continue to build on our respective strengths and support the emergence of an enabling environment for all private players – from small scale farmers to leading agribusinesses.”

Public private dialogue in action

Since the start of their cooperation the EBRD and FAO have teamed up in more than 150 projects with a total value of US$ 36 million over the past two decades. For example, after Ukraine imposed grain export restrictions and quotas nearly ten years ago – negatively affecting investment in the sector and the country’s agriculture in general – the EBRD and FAO initiated a new era of public-private dialogue on government policies and sector issues.

Since then, working groups in the grain, dairy, meat, horticultural and other sectors have facilitated changes in food standards, removed investment-obstructing regulations and supported diversification into new markets.

This has helped Ukraine to become a leading global food exporter and active member of the G20’s Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) – an inter-agency platform to enhance food market transparency and policy response for food security.

“Greening” the agribusiness sector

Looking ahead, making agrifood systems more sustainable will be a top priority for future joint efforts of FAO and EBRD. This will include helping countries curb food losses, use resources more efficiently and reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.

The two institutions have already developed an approach that enables countries and investors to prioritise the adoption of climate technologies in the agricultural sector – from solar-powered water pumps to energy-efficient cold storage. The approach has been applied in Morocco and is currently under consideration in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic.

FAO and the EBRD are also exploring the potential of converting unused agricultural residues into bioenergy for heating, cooking and electricity in countries such as Egypt and Turkey.

Greater value chain inclusion

Equally important to ensure sustainability from “farm to table” is the inclusion of producers and small and medium-sized enterprises in modern food value chains. To achieve this, FAO and the EBRD are assisting such businesses in adjusting to higher food quality and safety standards. Successfully targeting more advanced markets means creating added value, but is rewarded with higher returns.

In Georgia, Serbia and Montenegro the two institutions have supported the development of the so-called “Geographical Indications” – an origin-based official labelling system that protects the reputation of traditional agrifood products, helping them to stand out in the fierce competition for market shares thanks to recognised high quality standards.

In Tunisia and Morocco, FAO and EBRD are supporting stronger and more efficient olive oil sectors to increase market opportunities and create jobs, especially for young people. 

Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 – from ending extreme poverty and hunger to combating climate change and reducing inequalities – will require greater public-private sector cooperation, strategic alliances and innovation. The EBRD and FAO are well on track to making a strong contribution to these goals.

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EU Politics

EU Parliament to host conference on abolishing the death penalty

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The opening ceremony of the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty will be held in the European Parliament in Brussels on 27 February.

The World Congress Against the Death Penalty, organised by ECPM (Together against the Death Penalty) from 26 February to 1 March, is the world’s leading abolitionist event, and brings together more than 1000 stakeholders from over 140 countries.

The official opening ceremony will take place in the European Parliament’s hemicycle on Wednesday 27 February at 10.00. It will gather MEPs, high-level guests including EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders, and various governmental and civil society representatives to reflect on positive efforts in the abolition movement and address what future work must be done to convince retentionist nations to abolish the death penalty.

The ceremony will also feature a panel of Ministers of Justice from non-abolitionist countries, as well as video messages from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Robert Badinter, former Minister of Justice and a driving force behind the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, and Pope Francis.

An exhibition (The Great Witness of Abolition) and sculpture installation (Chaise LXB) will be displayed in the Menuhin Hall in the European Parliament’s Paul-Henri Spaak building from Monday 25 February to Friday 1 March.

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Energy News

Nepal Hosts First Regional Conference of Women in the Power Sector

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The first regional #WePOWER conference kicks off in Kathmandu, Nepal (photo: World Bank)

More than 250 engineers and energy-sector professionals represented their countries at the first regional conference of the Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER)–a forum to promote and diversify female practitioners’ opportunities in the power and energy sector. They included representatives from 60 participating institutions from local and international power utilities, energy sector organizations, and multilateral agencies.

Pravin Raj Aryal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation in Nepal, opened the two-day conference. “Energy access and infrastructure development are critical elements in South Asia’s regional development strategy. However, women’s opportunities to contribute to the energy sector are limited, with a visible lack of gender diversity in technical and senior management positions,” he said.

He added that initiatives such as WePOWER would help nurture partnerships among women professionals, leading to an increase in their engagement across the sector. The conference was organized by the World Bank, with support from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian AID and Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

It drew senior and junior professionals and engineering students from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Besides panel discussions on the viability of jobs, skills, and opportunities in the sector, the conference also had a special interactive session for secondary school girl students to encourage them to find their footing in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

“WePOWER aims to support greater participation of women in energy projects and utilities, and promote normative change regarding women in STEM education,” said Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.  “This initiative also fits the broader work of the World Bank, aimed at removing constraints for more and better jobs as part of our Gender Strategy.”

Caren Grown, World Bank Senior Director of the Gender Group, added: “Women’s low participation in the sector is a constraint to gender equality and equality of opportunities. It is imperative for men and women to have access to good quality jobs, and events like WePOWER reinforce this need.”

Peter Budd, Australian Ambassador to Nepal, opened the second day of the WePOWER conference and said, “Forums such as WePOWER are and will continue to be an important mechanism for deliberation on low carbon gender integrated pathways that meet the growth needs of the countries in the region.”

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Human Rights

Discover the new Right to education handbook

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photo: UNESCO

Education is a fundamental human right of every woman, man and child. However, millions are still deprived of educational opportunities every day, many as a result of social, cultural and economic factors.

UNESCO and the Right to Education Initiative (RTE) recently released the Right to education handbook, a key tool for those seeking to understand and advance that right. It is also an important reference for people working towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 by offering guidance on how to leverage legal commitment to the right to education. 

Why is this handbook important?

The aim of this handbook is to make sure that everyone enjoys their right to education. Its objective is not to present the right to education as an abstract, conceptual, or purely legal concept, but rather to be action-oriented. It provides practical guidance on how to implement and monitor the right to education along with recommendations to overcome persistent barriers. It seeks to do this by:

  • Increasing awareness and knowledge of the right to education. This includes the normative angle of the right to education, states’ legal obligations, the various sources of law, what states must do to implement it, how to monitor it, and how to increase accountability.
  • Providing a summary of current debates and issues regarding education and what human rights law says about them, including on forced migration, education in emergencies, the privatization of education, and the challenge of reaching the most marginalized.
  • Providing an overview of the UN landscape and its mechanisms, including a clear understanding of the role of UNESCO and more generally the United Nations, as well as all relevant actors in education, particularly civil society.  

Who should use this handbook?

The handbook was developed to assist all stakeholders who have a crucial role to play in the promotion and implementation of the right to education. This includes:

  • State officials, to ensure that education policies and practices are better aligned with human rights.
  • Civil servants, policy-makers, ministers, and the ministry of education staff, officials working in ministries and departments of justice, development, finance, and statistics, as well as National Human Rights Institutions.
  • Parliamentarians, their researchers and members of staff will find this handbook useful in evaluating and formulating education, human rights, and development legislation, and in implementing international human rights commitments to national law.
  • Judges, magistrates, clerks, and lawyers and other judicial officials can use the material to explain the legal obligations of the state and how to apply them.
  • Civil society including NGOs, development organizations, academics, researchers, teachers and journalists will benefit from this handbook as it includes guidance on how to incorporate the right to education in programmatic, research, and advocacy work.

Those who work for inter-governmental organizations, including at key UN agencies, will find this handbook useful in carrying out the mandate of their organizations. Private actors, multilateral and bilateral donors, and investors can use this handbook to ensure their involvement complies with human rights and that they understand and can apply their specific responsibilities.

How to use this handbook?

The handbook was designed to be accessible. Each chapter starts with the key questions addressed in the chapter and ends with a short summary consisting of key points and ‘ask yourself’ questions, designed to make the reader think deeper about issues raised in the chapter or to encourage people find out more about the situation in their own country.

For more than 70 years, UNESCO has been defending and advancing the right to education, which lies at the heart of its mandate. It recently ran a digital campaign on the #RightToEducation to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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