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Trade Lifting Developing Asia’s Growth as ADB Upgrades GDP Forecast

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts that economic expansion in developing Asia will accelerate to 6% in 2017 as stronger than expected exports and domestic consumption fuel growth. Excluding Asia’s newly industrialized economies, growth is now expected at 6.5% this year, according to a new ADB report.

In a supplement to its Asian Development Outlook Update 2017 report, ADB upgrades its 2017 growth domestic product (GDP) outlook in the region by 0.1 percentage points compared to its September 2017 forecast, while its 2018 forecast remains unchanged at 5.8%. An unexpectedly strong expansion in Central, East, and Southeast Asia has offset a downward adjustment in South Asia. 

“Developing Asia’s growth momentum, supported by recovering exports, demonstrates that openness to trade remains an essential component of inclusive economic development,” said Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB’s Chief Economist. “Countries can further take advantage of the global recovery by investing in human capital and physical infrastructure that will help sustain growth over the long-term.”

Combined growth for the major industrial economies is revised upward to 2.2% for 2017 and 2% for 2018, due to robust domestic demand in the euro area, and in Japan due to private investment and net exports. Growth projections for the United States remain unchanged at 2.2% in 2017 and 2.4% in 2018.

By subregion, growth for East Asia is revised upward to 6.2% in 2017, from 6%, while 2018 projections of 5.8% are unchanged. Growth prospects in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—the world’s second largest economy—are revised up on resilient consumption. Growth in the PRC is now expected to expand by 6.8% in 2017 and 6.4% in 2018.

South Asia will remain the fastest growing of all subregions in Asia and the Pacific, despite a downward revision from previous projections from 6.7% to 6.5% in 2017, and is expected to pick up to 7% in 2018. GDP growth in India—the subregion’s largest economy—is revised down to 6.7% in 2017 and 7.3% in 2018. Although the strong manufacturing expansion helped the economy reverse 5 consecutive quarters of deceleration in the second quarter of fiscal year 2017, the recovery is more subdued than assumed earlier due to rising crude oil prices, soft private investment growth, and weather-related risks to agriculture.

Growth for Southeast Asia is picking up faster than earlier forecast with GDP set to expand by 5.2% in 2017 and 2018, compared to September 2017 forecasts of 5% and 5.1%. The subregion is benefiting from stronger investments and exports, with accelerating growth for Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Infrastructure investment continued to play an important role in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Robust domestic demand—particularly private consumption and investment—will continue to support growth in the subregion, according to the report.

The outlook for Central Asia this year has further improved as stronger domestic demand and exports in some countries have fueled recovery in the subregion. Growth is expected to reach 3.6% in 2017 compared to the 3.3% originally projected. The 2018 forecasts for Central Asia are unchanged at 3.9%.

Growth in the Pacific is expected to remain at 2.9% in 2017 and 3.2% in 2018 with Papua New Guinea—the subregion’s largest economy—continuing its gradual recovery due to rebounding mining and agriculture industries. Post-disaster reconstruction and tourism are expected to drive growth further in the subregion, particularly in Fiji and Vanuatu.

Meanwhile, rising commodity prices have not yet driven inflation across the region, with consumer price inflation tame and stable. Price inflation is unchanged from previous projections of 2.4% in 2017 and 2.9% in 2018.

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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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