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Myanmar can draw on UN expertise in tackling Rohingya returns

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The United Nations can help Myanmar to defuse inter-communal tensions and create an environment for safe and dignified repatriation of Rohingya refugees, the Organization’s top political official said Tuesday, stressing that the country could also tap the UN’s capacities and experience in tackling other challenges, including democratic consolidation.

“We hope Myanmar will draw upon the wealth of expertise the UN can offer,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council in his briefing on developments in Myanmar.

The estimated number of refugees who entered Bangladesh from Myanmar since 25 August now exceeds 626,000.

He said that the UN is grateful for the continued generosity of the Government and people of Bangladesh, and called on the international community to continue to support these efforts.

“But the origins and solutions to the Rohingya crisis rest in Myanmar. Repatriation and reconciliation policies will fail without accountability and non-discriminatory rule of law and public safety measures to address the fears and distrust among communities in Rakhine,” he emphasized.

To that end, one of the major developments Mr. Feltman highlighted was a bilateral agreement on the issue of returns reached on 23 November between the two countries – a pact that recognizes the need for a comprehensive and durable solution through the safe, dignified, and voluntary return in accordance with international law.

Mr. Feltman said returns must be supported by reconciliation efforts, and central to this is the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations.

The Advisory Commission, established by Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, recommends that the Government take concrete steps, such as ending enforced segregation of Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims and ensuring full and unfettered humanitarian access throughout Rakhine state.

Mr. Feltman said that during his October visit, he explored with the authorities potential UN support in key areas.

“We urge all Myanmar leaders, including in the military, to condemn incitement to racial hatred and violence. We encourage them to adopt measures to defuse tensions between communities and create an environment for safe and dignified repatriation, including through interfaith initiatives,” he said.

“The origins and solutions to the Rohingya crisis rest in Myanmar,” he said. “Repatriation and reconciliation policies will fail without accountability and non-discriminatory rule of law and public safety measures to address the fears and distrust among communities in Rakhine.”

Mr. Feltman noted that the 2020 national elections will stand as an important test in the consolidation of the nation’s democratic institutions.

He noted that the General Assembly is expected to approve a resolution that requests the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy for Myanmar. This initiative can strengthen the partnership between the UN and Myanmar, in close consultations with interested Member States in the region and beyond.

“We believe we have much to offer in working with Myanmar on a number of challenges the country faces, in full respect of Myanmar’s sovereignty,” he concluded.

Today’s meeting is a follow-up to the Council’s presidential statement on the situation in Myanmar adopted on 6 November, which requested the Secretary-General to brief on developments 30 days after its adoption.

Also briefing the Council was Pramila Patten, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who visited Bangladesh from 5 to 13 November. Describing “the most heartbreaking and horrific” accounts of sexual atrocities against girls and women in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, she said that every woman or girl she had spoken with during her visit to Rohingya encampments in Bangladesh had either endured brutal assault or had witnessed sexual violence, including seeing women literally being raped to death.

Such shocking accounts indicate a pattern of grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Sexual violence was being used as a “push factor” for forced displacement on a massive scale, with some survivors being told to leave because they were not citizens of Myanmar.

It was crucial that safe return of the Rohingya people be accompanied by basic security and guaranteed rights, stated Ms. Patten, emphasizing that otherwise, the cycle of violence, impunity and forced displacement risked being repeated if the underlying conditions did not change.

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Energy News

IEA hosts high-level meeting on Africa’s energy outlook

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Workshop findings will provide input to a special report on Africa that will be published later this year in the World Energy Outlook. (Photograph: IEA)

The International Energy Agency held a day-long workshop on Wednesday to discuss ways to promote greater energy development across the African continent.

More than a hundred senior representatives from governments, energy companies, financial institutions and academia attended the meeting, which was opened by H.E. Dona Jean-Claude Houssou, Minister of Energy of the Republic of Benin, and H.E. Chakib Benmoussa, Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to France.

Findings from the Workshop will provide input to a special report on Africa that will be published later this year in the World Energy Outlook, the IEA’s flagship publication. It will also inform the IEA’s first ministerial summit with the African Union Commission, which will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in June. 

“Promoting access to energy across Africa is one of the world’s major development challenges and one of the IEA’s key priorities,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, during his opening remarks. “While the challenges are important – particularly with regards to access to energy or clean cooking fuels – the continent’s energy resources are tremendous. With the right policies and investments, they could be harnessed to provide greater economic benefit for all populations across the continent.”

Developing Africa’s energy sector potential is an essential step to providing greater economic opportunities and prosperity across the continent, which is home to vast energy resources. Still, today more than 600 million people across the continent remain without access to electricity. The workshop addressed policies, technologies, business models and financing to accelerate the transition to a thriving and sustainable African energy sector, set against a favourable backdrop of declining energy technology costs, increasing digitalisation, and strengthened policy commitment, including through Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The workshop marked an important milestone in the IEA’s strengthened engagement with Africa. In recent years, the IEA welcomed Morocco and South Africa to its family and recently forged a strategic partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC). The IEA is also stepping up its collaboration with African countries and regional organisations on capacity building for data and long-term planning, and technical policy dialogues on a range of topics.

The workshop was followed by deep-dive sessions on energy access, energy and gender, energy and growth, and power system reliability and sustainability.

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EU is strengthening its political partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean

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The European Union is strengthening its political partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean by focusing it on four priorities – prosperity, democracy, resilience and effective global governance – for common future.

The vision for a stronger and modernised bi-regional partnership focused on trade, investment and sectoral cooperation is set out in a new joint communication presented by the European Commission and the High Representative. This new partnership aims at working together in changing global and regional realities that require joint efforts to address common challenges and opportunities.

On this occasion, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini commented: “Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe have social, cultural and economic deep links, a long history of common work for peace and prosperity, and share the same attachment to cooperation and multilateralism. With this communication, we lay the ground for further strengthening our collaboration, for the sake of our peoples and of the whole world.”

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “Our commitment remains to continue engaging with countries in the region according to their different levels of development through tailor-made partnerships and innovative forms of cooperation such as transfer of knowledge or triangular cooperation. In this context, we will pay particular attention to countries least developed and in situations of conflict where the potential to raise finance is the lowest. Only when we join forces can we deliver on our ambitious Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development or the Paris Agreement”.

Building on the achievements of the last decades, the partnership should concentrate on four mutually reinforcing priorities, underpinned by concrete initiatives and targeted EU engagement with the region:

Partnering for Prosperity – by supporting sustainable growth and decent jobs; reducing socio-economic inequalities; transitioning towards a digital, green and circular economy; as well as further strengthening and deepening the already solid trade and investment relationship

Partnering for Democracy – by strengthening the international human rights regime including gender equality; empowering civil society; consolidating the rule of law; and ensuring credible elections and effective public institutions

Partnering for Resilience – by improving climate resilience, environment and biodiversity; fighting against inequalities through fair taxation and social protection; fighting organised crime; and deepening dialogue and cooperation on migration and mobility, in particular to prevent irregular migration, trafficking in human beings

Partnering for effective global governance – by strengthening the multilateral system, including for climate and environmental governance; deepening cooperation on peace and security; and implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Background

The strategic partnership between the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean is based on a commitment to fundamental freedoms, sustainable development and a strong rules-based international system. As a result, there is an unprecedented level of integration and our economies are closely interconnected.

The EU has signed association, free trade or political and cooperation agreements with 27 of the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Close to six million people from both regions live and work across the Atlantic, and more than one third of Latin American and Caribbean students studying abroad do so in the EU. The EU is the third largest trade partner of Latin America and the Caribbean and the first investor. Total trade in goods amounted to €225.4 billion in 2018, while foreign direct investment reached €784.6 billion in 2017.

The EU has promoted the cooperation in areas of strategic interest, efforts to tackle anti-microbial resistance, improving aviation safety, working together against climate change and promoting a safe and human-centric digitalised economy are some concrete examples that illustrate this partnership towards a common future.

The EU has been the largest provider of development cooperation to its partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, with €3.6 billion in grants between 2014 and 2020 and over €1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance in the last 20 years, including assistance under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in case of natural disasters.

The EU and LAC countries often align in the United Nations, and have closely cooperated on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.

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Tech News

EU plans to invest €9.2 billion in key digital technologies

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The Digital Europe Programme is a new €9.2 billion funding programme whose goal is to ensure that all Europeans have the skills and the infrastructure needed to meet a full range of digital challenges.

It is part of a strategy to further develop the digital single market, which could help to create four million jobs and boost the EU’s economy with €415 billion every year while increasing the EU’s international competitiveness.

“For too many years, Europe’s tech sector has lagged behind third countries such as the US and China. We need a coherent Union-wide approach and an ambitious investment to secure a solution to the chronic mismatch between the growing demand for the latest technology and the available supply in Europe,” said Austrian ALDE member Angelika Mlinar, one of the MEPs repsonsible for steering the plans through Parliament.

A part of the budget  would be allocated to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises and public administrations to use technology more often and better, while other parts will cover strategically important fields such as supercomputers, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

“We can count on European excellence when it comes to research and innovation, but our businesses, especially SMEs, still found it difficult to access and take advantage of new solutions,” said Milnar. “This programme has been crucially designed to tackle the low take-up of existing testing technologies. We are on track to deliver one of the most promising and necessary funds for Europe’s future.”

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