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Bangkok hosts Regional Policy Dialogue on Strengthening Transport Connectivity in Southern and Central Asia

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Between 7-8 February 2018, the UN conference centre in Bangkok hosted the Regional Policy Dialogue on Strengthening Transport Connectivity in Southern and Central Asia. The event involved representatives of the SCO Secretariat.

The event was organised by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), a partner organisation of the SCO.

Apart from SCO Secretariat experts, the Regional Dialogue involved over 50 leading experts from the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the World Bank, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, the Organisation for Cooperation of Railways, as well as representatives of state agencies, research institutes and commercial transport companies from South and Central Asian states.

Experts discussed subjects seen as topical by Asian countries and regarding more proactive international transport communications, the launching of new trans-regional transit corridors as well as the reconstruction of existing corridors. They analysed current problems and drafted recommendations for developing and expanding the transport sector.

Regional Dialogue participants attended a presentation dealing with intra-SCO international transport cooperation. The participants reviewed the development of practical mechanisms and the international-law framework regarding intra-SCO transport cooperation in great detail. They focused on the SCO’s unique positive results, as well as planned measures to strengthen diverse transport cooperation between SCO countries.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, a partner organisation of the SCO, is a large UN regional commission. Its activities aim to resolve socioeconomic problems concerning the Asia-Pacific region.

The SCO Secretariat and the ESCAP Secretariat cooperate under a memorandum of understanding, signed in 2008.

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World Bank Supports Young Digital Entrepreneurs in Botswana

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Digital ecosystems and entrepreneurs are essential to innovation and development in Africa. With support from the World Bank, the Botswana Business Angels Network and the Global Entrepreneurship Network in Botswana brought together local entrepreneurs and global thought leaders to share knowledge and strengthen the operating environment for digital entrepreneurs in the country.

The workshop built upon the recent XL Africa competition, a pan-African acceleration program to find the 20 most promising digital start-ups in Africa and demonstrate that Africa can produce world-class digital entrepreneurial talent.

“The World Bank supported today’s event to help ensure that Botswana’s digital entrepreneurs are able to learn lessons from other ecosystems across Africa,” said Xavier Furtado, World Bank Country Representative for Botswana. “We hope that, over time, this can help address Botswana’s pressing youth unemployment challenge while also contributing to national economic diversification.”  

Through relevant case studies, participants were exposed to methods and tools to help accelerate digital entrepreneurship. With a supportive and dynamic ecosystem, local digital technology companies can spread new technologies across Botswana and abroad.

“Today’s event indicates that supporting Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and investors requires a thriving and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere, Founder of Ngwana Enterprises. “Over time, we hope that the digital ecosystem will attract and link digital startups, more mature entrepreneurs, and impact entrepreneurs from Botswana with potential investors across the continent and beyond.”

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Job creation around agriculture can spur youth employment in Africa

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Agriculture will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, but businesses around farming, including processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and financial services, could also create jobs for young people, especially those in rural areas, a senior United Nations official said Thursday.

“Countries need to promote a rural and structural transformation that fosters synergies between farm and non-farm activities and that reinforces” the linkages between rural areas and cities, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told a regional conference on employment being held from 19 to 23 February in Khartoum, Sudan.

FAO Regional Conference for Africa primarily focuses on the theme of creating decent and attractive employment in the world’s “youngest” continent in terms of the average age of its population.

Estimates suggest that up to 12 million new jobs will have to be created every year to absorb new labour market entrants over the next 20 years. Today some 54 per cent of Africa’s work force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income and employment, especially in family farming.

With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities. But FAO believes that more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services.

“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

He warned however that more profitable urban markets can lead to a concentration of food production in large commercial farms, and also the creation of value chains dominated by large processors and retailers.

“In this contest, smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” he added, stressing how social protection programmes, including cash transfers can link public food purchase to family farmer’s production.

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Asia’s youth give their take on the region’s environment

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Twelve young people between the ages of 25 and 35 met in Singapore today to kick off preparations for a youth-oriented version of the UN Environment Regional Assessment for Asia Pacific.

The Asia-Pacific assessment is one of five regional reports on the health of the environment that will feed into the 6th Global Environment Outlook. The youth version of the Asia-Pacific assessment, slated for release at the end of this year, will include the latest information and updated data on the findings of the report.

“While the regional assessment is largely targeted to policymakers, it is also important that we bring young people into the conversation. They constitute nearly 40 per cent of the population in this region and certainly have a vested interest in where we are heading in terms of the environment,” said Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director, UN Environment Asia Pacific. “We also want to inspire young people to consider the environment in their jobs and disciplines and initiate actions that will shape a healthier environment and, in turn, well-being of people.”

The 12 participants were among 50 youth selected to serve as lead authors, contributing authors and reviewers. Areas that they explored include the state of the environment in the region presently, what can be done to address challenges, how to bring value to nature, and climate change and its impacts.

“I am very excited to be part of the team working and contributing towards the publication of GEO-6 Youth for Asia Pacific with UN Environment,” said NEO Mei Lin, Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore. “This is a wonderful opportunity for a young scientist like myself to give back to society by making scientific information more accessible to everyone, especially youths. I hope that this publication will be technically accessible, as well as inspire youths to take small actions in making the environment a better place.”

Jose Isagani, Associate Professor from De La Salle University in the Philippines said that the meeting was engaging and the outcome of the meeting very relevant. “In this era where fake news and post-truth are rampant, the need for reliable and credible information is critical. It is my fervent hope that the documents produced from these meetings will raise awareness about the deteriorating state of our environment, and thus initiate more steps in taking care of our common home.”

The Global Environment Outlook Regional Assessment for Asia Pacific was released in 2016 and found that changing demography and lifestyles, increasingly inefficient use of resources, growing vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters and environment-related health risks could offset the region’s development gains, threaten water and food security, and worsen poverty and inequity. The findings of the regional assessment and youth report will contribute to the 6th edition of the global outlook, due to be released in 2019.

First published in UN Environment

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