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ADB 2017 Operations Reach $28.9 Billion

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Asian Development Bank (ADB) operations—comprising approvals of loans and grants, technical assistance (TA), and cofinancing—reached $28.9 billion in 2017 in its continued efforts to help meet Asia and the Pacific’s development needs, according to preliminary figures released today.

Approvals of loans and grants from ADB’s own resources reached a record $19.1 billion, representing a 9% increase from the $17.5 billion seen in 2016. This puts ADB well on its way to meet its $20 billion target by 2020. Of the total, nonsovereign (primarily private sector) operations accounted for $3.2 billion, a 26% increase from $2.5 billion in 2016. TA, meanwhile, increased by about 22% to $205 million from $169 million in the previous year.

Commitments (the amount of loans and grants signed)—ADB’s new performance measure—reached $20.1 billion. This is a significant increase from $13.3 billion in 2016, reflecting the signing of large projects approved in 2016 and 2017.

“The strong figures for ADB operations in the past year were supported by the successful merger of ADB’s concessional Asian Development Fund lending operations with the Ordinary Capital Resources balance sheet—which took effect at the start of 2017,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao said. “This will allow us to deliver a much higher level of assistance to our developing member countries for years to come without seeking a capital increase.”

A highlight of ADB’s operational figures for 2017 is climate financing, which reached a record $4.5 billion (comprising mitigation $3.6 billion and adaptation $0.9 billion), a 21% increase from 2016. This puts ADB in a good position to achieve its $6 billion climate financing target by 2020.

Cofinancing approvals declined to $9.5 billion in 2017 from the $13.9 billion recorded in 2016, partly due to the delay of large expected cofinanced projects. Disbursements were $11.7 billion in 2017, compared to $12.7 billion in 2016. This is because of lower approvals, and hence disbursements, of policy-based lending and counter-cyclical support facility, among other factors.

“Disbursements are essential to make a difference on the ground. Cofinancing and catalyzation is a much-discussed strategy in the international community to realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Nakao. “ADB will come up with additional concrete measures to increase disbursements and cofinancing, building on the new procurement policy approved in April 2017 and ongoing efforts to leverage resources.”

Among ADB’s other operational highlights were projects that combine finance with innovative approaches to development, including satellite data and remote sensing to improve irrigation in Indonesia and Pakistan, pilot testing of climate-smart agriculture practices in Bangladesh, and supporting social welfare reforms in Mongolia to promote human development.

An innovative $100 million TA loan to the Philippines, approved in October 2017, will help the government prepare and deliver infrastructure projects under its Build Build Build program.

On the funding side, ADB offered new and innovative thematic products such as the health bond and gender bond. This is on top of increased efforts to raise local currency funding to meet the growing demand for nonsovereign local currency loans. ADB’s Indonesian rupiah bond in December was the first bond issued from a multilateral development bank of which Indonesia is a shareholder.

ADB launched three high-impact publications in 2017. Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs estimated Asia and the Pacific’s annual infrastructure needs at $1.7 trillion per year until 2030. A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific put forward scenarios of the devastating effects of climate change. The ADB history book, Banking on the Future of Asia and the Pacific focused on the region’s economic development, the evolution of the international development agenda, and the story of ADB over 50 years.

To scale up the bank’s operations with quality, the ADB Board approved the 2018 budget totaling $672.3 million, an increase of 3.9% over 2017, comprising 2.2% price growth and 1.7% volume growth. This budget supports the ongoing investments in IT reforms and organizational resilience. ADB continues to make its utmost efforts at staff optimization and efficiency measures.

A key priority for ADB in 2018 is to finalize its new corporate strategy, Strategy 2030. ADB’s 51st Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors will be held in Manila again in May after 6 years. Strategy 2030, the impact of technological change and globalization on jobs, aging and longevity dividends, role of women entrepreneurs, and private sector participation in infrastructure development will be among the topics discussed. ADB expects more than 3,000 participants to attend the meeting.

Environment

Microplastic pollution is everywhere, but not necessarily a risk to human health

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A woman fetches water in Pakistan. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

Tiny plastic particles known as microplastics are “everywhere – including in our drinking-water”, but they are not necessarily a risk to human health, UN experts said on Thursday.

In its first summary of the latest research into the impact of the tiny plastic pollutants on humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that they have been found in marine settings, waste and fresh water, food, the air and drinking-water, both bottled and from a tap.

Frequently, microplastics are defined as less than five millimetres long, according to WHO.

Its report notes that the particles most commonly found in drinking-water are plastic bottle fragments.

“Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health. “We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking-water.”

According to WHO’s findings, microplastics larger than 150 micrometres (a micrometre is a millionth of a metre) are unlikely to be absorbed in the human body, while the uptake of smaller particles is likely to be limited. 

Absorption of microplastic particles “including in the nano-size range may, however, be higher”, the WHO report continues, before cautioning that available data in this “emerging area” is extremely limited.

Asked by journalists about how levels of plastic pollutants differ between tap water and bottled water, WHO’s Jennifer de France from WHO’s Department of Public Health, replied that bottled water “in general did contain higher particle numbers”.

Nonetheless, Ms. France also cautioned against jumping to conclusions, owing to the lack of available data.

“In drinking water in general, often the two polymers that were most frequently detected were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene,” she said. “Now these polymers – the polyethylene terephthalate – is often used in producing bottled water bottles, and polypropylene, is often used in producing caps. However, there were other polymers detected as well, so more studies are needed to really make a firm conclusion about where the sources are coming from.”

While citing the handful of available studies into the absorption of microplastics and nanoplastics in rats and mice, which showed symptoms including inflammation of the liver, WHO’s report insists that people are unlikely to be exposed to such high levels of pollutants.

Drinking-water contamination: a million lives lost each year

A much more clearly understood potential threat than microplastics is exposure to drinking-water contaminated by human or animal waste, said Bruce Gordon, from WHO’s Department of Public Health, highlighting a problem that affects two billion people and claims one million lives a year.

One way that Governments can tackle this problem is by putting in place better waste-water filtration systems.

The move would reduce microplastic pollution by around 90 per cent, the WHO official explained, before noting that the report had touched on people’s wider concerns about how to live more sustainably and waste less.

“Consumers shouldn’t be too worried,” Mr. Gordon said. “There’s many dimensions to this story that are beyond health. What I mean by that is, if you are a concerned citizen worried about plastic pollution and you have access to a well-managed piped supply – a water supply – why not drink from that? Why not reduce pollution. Of course, there are times when you need a water bottle when you’re walking around, but please reuse it”, he emphasized.

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Brazilian stakeholders of UNIDO-GEF project trained on biogas

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC), and the International Center of Renewable Energy (CIBiogás) trained members and partners of the Steering Committee of its GEF Biogas project on the biogas value chain in Brazil – a renewable source of energy produced from the decomposition of organic waste generated by various enterprises, such as farms and restaurants.

“The potential use of biogas arises from the need to pursue sustainability in agribusiness; at the same time, it represents an opportunity for local economic development”, said UNIDO Project Management Specialist Bruno Neves. “Organic waste generated by the Brazilian agricultural production can result in economic, social and environmental gains as the benefits of biogas production can both be internalized by producers and be made available in the form of thermal energy, fuel and electricity”.

Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA); the Ministry of Environment (MMA); the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME); the Ministry of Planning, Development and Management (MP); the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE); the Energy Research Company (EPE); the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC); the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP); Itaipu Binacional and the German cooperation agency (GIZ) participated in the training.

“The main objective of the training was to raise the awareness of ministries and important institutional agents about the need to make rules around renewable energy generation more flexible”, said CIBiogas CEO Rodrigo Regis. “Today, Brazil is very dependent on diesel and we have a growing demand for energy, which biogas can partly supply in a decentralized way, and can develop a new economy for the country, thereby generating jobs, income, development and progress”.

The training included a visit to the Itaipu hydroelectric dam and to a demonstration unit supported by CIBiogas: with a breeding of five thousand pigs, the farm is capable of generating 770 cubic meters of biogas per day, resulting in savings of over US$1,000 per month in energy costs.

“The development of biogas is one of MCTIC’s strategic priorities”, said Rafael Menezes, Coordinator of Innovation at the Ministry’s Secretariat for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The Brazilian potential for biogas and biomethane production is underexplored; we have to create public policies and a favorable environment so that we can increasingly tap into this potential”.

The GEF Biogas project “Biogas Applications in Brazilian Agroindustry” foresees local and federal actions to stimulate the sustainable integration of biogas in the national production chain. It is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and aims to expand the production of renewable energy and strengthen national technology supply chains in the sector.

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The workplace equality challenge

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This year’s G7 French presidency has chosen the theme for the Biarritz Summit well. ‘Combating inequality’ is indeed one of the key challenges of our time. 

The theme of combating inequality strongly aligns with the International Labour Organization’s mandate for social justice, as articulated most recently by our Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work  adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2019 . The G7 presidency’s intent for the Biarritz Summit to reaffirm the G7 members’ commitment to respond to global challenges through collective action further provides important support for the declaration’s call for stronger multilateralism to confront the issues facing the world of work.

The G7’s labour and employment track, known this year as the G7 Social, furthered the overarching theme of France’s presidency by concentrating on four goals: further integrating international labour standards into the multilateral system, supporting access to universal social protection systems, supporting individuals through digital transformation and its impact on the future of work, and promoting occupational equality between women and men. Because these themes are integral to the Decent Work Agenda, they provided the ILO with an opportunity to engage deeply with G7 members, not only by providing technical inputs on each of them but also by participating during the discussions.

In the context of the G7 Social’s focus on the rapid changes in the world of work, France highlighted the importance of the ILO’s centenary by welcoming Work for a brighter future, the report of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. It also emphasised the critical role played by the ILO in the multilateral debate on economic and social policy, and the importance of the ILO’s groundbreaking new international standard on violence and harassment in the world of work.

The communiqué  adopted by labour and employment ministers when they met in Paris on 6–7 June 2019 reflects the work of the G7 Social through an ambitious set of goals:

A call to action to reduce inequalities in a global world, including a multilateral dialogue and coordination for the reduction of inequalities and a commitment to promoting responsible business conduct in global supply chains;

Commitments in favour of universal access to social protection in the changing world of work;

Commitments to empower individuals for the future of work; and,

Commitments to ensure gender equality in the world of work.

The ministers’ communiqué and the ILO’s Centenary Declaration have many strong points of convergence that reveal key areas of focus for the future of work.

The economic and social link

Both instruments stress the need to strengthen multilateralism. The G7 communiqué emphasises the inseparability of economic and social policies to reduce inequalities. This finds its counterpart in the Centenary Declaration’s recognition of the “strong, complex and crucial links between social, trade, financial, economic and environmental policies”, which leads to a call for the ILO to play a stronger role in broad policy dialogues among multilateral institutions. The communiqué and the accompanying G7 Social Tripartite Declaration reaffirm and implement the G7 members’ commitment to social dialogue as the means of shaping the future of work we want.

Similarly, just as the G7 communiqué stresses that social protection, in line with ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors , “is instrumental in shaping the future of work”, the Centenary Declaration calls on the ILO to “develop and enhance social protection systems, which are adequate, sustainable and adapted to developments in the world of work”. Both instruments draw from the Report of the Global Commission, which underscores the importance of social protection systems to support people through the increasingly complex transitions they will need to navigate the changing world of work in order to realise their capabilities.

The G7 communiqué’s call for empowering individuals hinges on the need to “adapt labour market support and institutions to provide decent working conditions for all platform workers” and “underline[s] the importance of harnessing the potential of current changes to create high-quality jobs for all”. Addressing new business models and diverse forms of work arrangements, the Declaration, for its part, directs the ILO’s efforts to “[harness] … technological progress and productivity growth” to ensure decent work and “a just sharing of the benefits for all”. Both documents draw on prior work of the ILO to call for a transformative agenda for gender equality through a broad range of policies, including by closing persistent gender gaps in pay and participation in the labour market. Both instruments recognise the persistent challenges of informality.

As the ILO begins our second century, we are preparing our next programme and budget to respond to the key priority areas identified in the Centenary Declaration. We look to the G7 summit to provide an important boost for the ILO’s efforts to bring that about, and by so doing to provide our own contribution to the G7 priority of combating inequality.

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