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Advancing the SDGs through impact investment

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Photo: UNIDO

Representatives of more than 20 Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) have come together to learn and deliberate about novel approaches in investment promotion.

The three-day training organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), together with its partners, the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), includes lecture and workshop sessions, as well as practical site visits and bilateral meetings.

The training reflects the fundamental premise that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without enormous additional volumes of “quality” foreign and domestic investments – a finding which clearly emerged during the Vienna Investment Conference – Quality FDI, Growth and Development, organized by UNIDO in September 2016.

Participants in the training agreed that the focus of international investment promotion is shifting away from the mere financial side of international investments towards a wider combined economic, social and environmental impact – known as “impact investments”. They also recognized that many challenges remain to properly identifying and gauging impact investments, and confirmed the need to adjust services and instruments to augment the various dimensions of impact investments. UNIDO received important feedback on IPAs’ interest in participating in follow-up training on specific impact investing themes to be developed as part of a larger UNIDO Impact Investing strategy.

The training also provided participants with an opportunity for intensive networking and for deepening contacts with institutional stakeholders in Turkey, including the Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Investment Support and Promotion Agency (ISPAT).

The joint workshop marked a concrete milestone in the implementation of the Memoranda of Understanding that UNIDO has concluded with both WAIPA and TIKA in 2016.

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EU Politics

Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe

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European Commission set out its ideas for shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe, which should be launched on Europe Day, 9 May 2020 and run for two years. The Communication adopted is the Commission’s contribution to the already lively debate around the Conference on the Future of Europe – a project announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in her Political Guidelines, to give Europeans a greater say on what the European Union does and how it works for them. The Conference will build on past experiences, such as citizens’ dialogues, while introducing a wide range of new elements to increase outreach and strengthen ways for people to shape future EU action. The Conference will allow for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with citizens of diverse backgrounds and from all walks of life. The Commission is committed to follow up on the outcome.

The Commission proposes two parallel work strands for the debates. The first should focus on EU priorities and what the Union should seek to achieve: including on the fight against climate change and environmental challenges, an economy that works for people, social fairness and equality, Europe’s digital transformation, promoting our European values, strengthening the EU’s voice in the world, as well as shoring up the Union’s democratic foundations. The second strand should focus on addressing topics specifically related to democratic processes and institutional matters: notably the lead candidate system and transnational lists for elections to the European Parliament.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, commented: “People need to be at the very centre of all our policies. My wish is therefore that all Europeans will actively contribute to the Conference on the Future of Europe and play a leading role in setting the European Union’s priorities. It is only together that we can build our Union of tomorrow.”

Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, stated: “We must seize the momentum of the high turnout at the last European elections and the call for action which that brings. The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity to reflect with citizens, listen to them, engage, answer and explain. We will strengthen trust and confidence between the EU institutions and the people we serve. This is our chance to show people that their voice counts in Europe.”

A new public forum for an open, inclusive and transparent debate

The Commission sees the Conference as a bottom-up forum accessible to people well beyond Europe’s capitals, from all corners of the Union. Other EU institutions, national Parliaments, social partners, regional and local authorities and civil society are invited to join. A multilingual online platform will ensure transparency of debate and support wider participation. The Commission is committed to taking the most effective actions, with the other EU institutions, to integrate citizens’ ideas and feedback into EU policy-making.

Background

All Members of the College will play their part in helping to make the Conference a success, with Vice-President Šuica leading the Commission’s work on the Conference, supported by Vice-President Jourová on the institutional strand, as well as Vice-President Šefčovič on the foresight and inter-institutional side.  

The European Parliament and the Council are also working on their contributions to the Conference on the Future of Europe. The European Parliament resolution of 15 January 2020 called for an open and transparent process which takes an inclusive, participatory and well-balanced approach towards citizens and stakeholders. Meanwhile, the European Council conclusions of 12 December 2019 called on the Croatian Presidency to begin work on the Council’s position. The Croatian Presidency has itself listed the Conference among its Presidency Priorities.

After this, it is of crucial importance that the three institutions work together towards a Joint Declaration to define the concept, structure, scope and timing of the Conference on the Future of Europe, as well as setting down its jointly agreed principles and objectives. This Declaration will later be open to other signatories including institutions, organisations and stakeholders. National and regional Parliaments and actors have an important role to play in the Conference and should be encouraged to hold Conference-related events The Commission underlines in its contribution today that it is commited to follow up on the outcomes and recommendations of the different debates.

The Commission proposes to officially launch the Conference on Europe Day, 9 May 2020 – 70 years after the signing of the Schuman Declaration and 75 years after the end of the Second World War.

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APEC to Bring a New Vision in 2020

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photo: APEC

APEC’s 21 member economies will finalize in 2020 a new vision for the forum’s next phase, said the APEC Secretariat’s Executive Director Dr Rebecca Sta Maria.

“We will see the completion of our long-term goal of free and open trade known as Bogor Goals at the end of this year. The question for us now is, where do we go next?” said Sta Maria to senior diplomats and business leaders at a panel discussion about the future of global trade hosted by the Asia Business Trade Association.

Since 1994, the Bogor Goals have inspired member economies to pursue individual and collective action to reduce barriers to trade and investment. These efforts have led to a region-wide reduction in average tariffs, which were 17 percent in the 1980s to around 5 percent today. 

“We will take stock of what we have done for the past 30 years and work closely together to draw the next phase of the vision that will guide the forum for the next decades,” she added.

APEC has been preparing for this transition. Three bodies—the APEC Vision Group, the APEC Business Advisory Council, and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council—have respectively issued recommendation reports for the forum’s next direction.

“There are common threads throughout the reports, including trade and investment liberalization, regional economic integration, sustainability, the digital economy, and skills,” explained Sta Maria.

During the discussion, Sta Maria highlighted APEC’s substantial achievements in 2019—Chile’s host year—which include roadmaps for women and inclusive growth, marine debris, and combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Throughout 2020, APEC economies will be discussing action plans to operationalize the roadmaps, led by Malaysia as the host of APEC this year.

The first Senior Officials Meeting (SOM1), which will kick off APEC 2020 in earnest, will be held from 3 to 22 February in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

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Artificial intelligence: EU must ensure a fair and safe use for consumers

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Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee approved on Thursday a resolution addressing several challenges arising from the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) and automated decision-making (ADM) technologies.

When consumers interact with an ADM system, they should be “properly informed about how it functions, about how to reach a human with decision-making powers, and about how the system’s decisions can be checked and corrected”, says the committee.

Those systems should only use high-quality and unbiased data sets and “explainable and unbiased algorithms” in order to boost consumer trust and acceptance, states the resolution. Review structures should be set up to remedy possible mistakes in automated decisions. It should also be possible for consumers to seek human review of, and redress for, automated decisions that are final and permanent.

“Humans must always be ultimately responsible for, and able to overrule, decisions” that are taken via ADM processes, especially in relation to the medical, legal and accounting professions and the banking sector, MEPs underline.

Adjust safety and liability rules to the new technologies

AI-enabled products may evolve and act in ways not envisaged when they were first placed on the market. MEPs urge the Commission to table proposals adapting the EU’s safety rules for products (e.g. directives on machinery and toy safety) to ensure that consumers are protected from harm, manufacturers are clear on their obligations and users are informed about how to use those products.

The Product Liability Directive, adopted over 30 years ago, would also need to be updated to adapt concepts such as ‘product’ ‘damage’ and ‘defect’ as well as rules governing the burden of proof, says the committee.

MEPs call for a risk-assessment scheme for AI and ADM and for a common EU approach to help secure the benefits of those processes and mitigate the risks across the EU.

Check differentiated pricing and discrimination

Under EU law, traders must inform consumers when the price of goods or services has been personalised on the basis of ADM, MEPs recall, asking the Commission to closely monitor the implementation of those rules. It must also check how the EU regulation banning unjustified geo-blocking is applied to ensure that ADM is not being used to discriminate against consumers based on their nationality, place of residence or temporary location.

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Petra De Sutter (Greens/EFA, BE), Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, said: “Technology in the field of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making is advancing at a remarkable pace. The committee has today welcomed the potential of these advances, while at the same time highlighting three important issues that need to be addressed. We have to make sure that consumer protection and trust is ensured, that the EU’s rules on safety and liability for products and services are fit for purpose in the digital age and that the data sets used in automated decision-making systems are of high-quality and are unbiased”.

Next steps

The resolution, approved in committee by 39 votes in favour, none against and four abstentions, will be voted on by the full House in a forthcoming plenary session. It will further feed into Parliament’s work on this topic.

After the vote in plenary, the resolution will be transmitted to the EU Council (member states) and the Commission, so that they take into account MEPs’ views on AI and ADM. The Commission announced that it is due to present its plans for a European approach to AI on 19 February 2020.

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