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With proposed reforms, UN closer than ever to a development system that is ‘fit for purpose’

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There are serious threats to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations, especially its development system, must be effectively reformed in order to be able to limit the impact of those threats Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday.

In his address to the opening of the annual operational segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Mr. Guterres warned that the world is facing a crisis of legitimacy, confidence and trust, rooted in legitimate fears

And while the benefits of globalization should be clear to all, “too many are being left behind.”

“Women are still far less likely to participate in the labour market – and gender pay gaps remain a global concern. Youth unemployment is at alarming levels. And inequalities are rampant – stretching the fabric of societies to the breaking point and undermining the social compact,” he stated, pointing out that “a handful of men hold the same wealth as half of humanity.”

Mr. Guterres underscored that exclusion resulted in frustration, alienation and instability.
“All of this compels us to do all we can to achieve inclusive and sustainable development – a goal in its own right, but also our best form of prevention against all kind of risks,” Mr. Guterres stressed.

An economic and social model that drives exclusion and environmental destruction cause deaths, missed opportunities, division and future conflicts.

“We need a global economy that works for all and creates opportunities for all,” he asserted.

According to the UN chief, the 2030 Agenda is crucial to rebuild the trust needed for fair globalization.

The Secretary-General flagged poverty eradication as the UN’s top priority, with the 2030 Agenda acting as its roadmap and the goals and targets its tools to get there.

He saw the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as outlining the Organization’s commitment to expand dignity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet by empowering women, meaningfully including young people, reducing climate risk, creating decent jobs and mobilizing clean investments for inclusive growth.

“Finance is pivotal,” espoused Mr. Guterres, pointing to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda as stressing the importance of upholding Official Development Assistance commitments.

He underscored the need to support countries’ efforts to mobilize domestic resources, which must be accompanied by the international community’s commitment to fight tax evasion, money laundering and illicit financial flows, which threaten development.

“We are focused on building a system that is demand-driven, oriented around achieving results at scale, and accountable in providing support to achieve the 2030 Agenda,” Mr. Guterres said, mentioning a proposed a set of global adjustments to make operations on the ground “more cohesive, effective and efficient.”

He encouraged all present to take inspiration from the 2030 Agenda to forge the future we want.

“We are now closer than ever to repositioning sustainable development at the heart of the organization and to having a development system that is an even stronger partner as we seek to deliver for people,” said the UN chief.

“Together, let us make good on our shared promise to humanity – a future of prosperity, peace and dignity for all,” he concluded.

Development system ‘fit for purpose’

Opening the meeting, Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations and Vice-President of ECOSOSC said that repositioning the UN’s development system would be a unique opportunity to create a more integrated, effective, efficient and accountable system that matches the world’s commitments.

In short, he said, a development system that is “fit for purpose.”

He referred to the 2030 Agenda as demonstrating the commitment of Member States to promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies based on human rights, gender equality, empowerment of all women and girls, and free from poverty and fear and violence.

Mr. Pecsteen recalled the Secretary-General’s vision and concrete proposals to realign and reinvigorate the UN development system, which is necessary for the adequate and timely response Member States expect from the UN in the 21st century to help deliver on the 2030 Agenda promises.

He thanked Mr. Guterres for his leadership, vision and determination “to take on a challenge that is not easy,” adding that it was now up to the Member States to be “as bold in their desire to transform the system.”

He detailed that the ECOSOC Segment for Development will lay the groundwork for the consensus that will be forged in the coming weeks.

Panelists include senior government representatives from capitals, board chairs, UN leaders and key partners in the system.

Also addressing the meeting, Amina Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, reiterated the importance of utilizing the opportunities offered by the  2030 Agenda to address the myriad challenges facing the world as well as to seize the momentum offered by it to ensure that the Organization is “fit to support” national efforts to realize the global goals.

In that context, she highlighted the important role that UN Resident Coordinators have to play.

“We know that if we want to strengthen our ability to support the 2030 Agenda in a cohesive, effective, accountable and efficient manner – then we must strengthen the Resident Coordinator system,” underscored the deputy UN chief, noting that a “reinvigorated” Resident Coordinator system is at the core of the proposals to reposition the UN development system.

“And it is at the centre of the mandate of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review,” she added.

The Policy Review is the mechanism through which UN Member States assess the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and impact of UN development work. It also provides policy orientations for development cooperation at country level.

In her remarks, Ms. Mohammed also stated that strengthened Resident Coordinator system would ensuring a more accountable UN development system on the ground, one that is more responsive to national needs and more capable to deliver meaningful results.

“A system that can draw on the expertise across all entities – including non-resident entities, DESA [the Department of Economic and Social Affairs] and the regional economic commissions – to respond to country priorities,” she added.

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ADB Loan to Unlock Long-Term Financing for Solar Power in Viet Nam

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a $37.8 million loan deal with TTC Energy Development Investment Joint Stock Company (TTC Energy) to provide long-term financing to develop and operate a 50-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic solar power plant in Tay Ninh Province in Viet Nam.

ADB’s assistance for the Gulf Solar Power Project was provided through an innovative project finance structure, which ensured the bankability of the project. It will help catalyze commercial financing for one of the first large-scale solar power project finance transactions in the country. The loan is composed of an $11.3 million A loan and a B loan of up to $18.9 million.

An additional $7.6 million loan was provided by the Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund, which is supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The loan marks the first transaction under the fund’s Non-Parallel program and improves the bankability and financial viability of the project to allow other lenders to provide long tenor, US dollar-denominated financing. The B loan will be funded by Bangkok Bank PCL, Siam Commercial Bank PCL, and Standard Chartered Bank (Thai) PCL.

“ADB is excited about this transaction because the project will have a significant impact on the sustainability and security of Viet Nam’s energy sector for years to come,” said the Director of Infrastructure Finance Division of ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department Mr. Jackie B. Surtani. “Apart from providing much-needed financing to develop solar power in Viet Nam, the project will also help reduce perceived risks in the country’s renewable energy sector.”

“We believe the project’s fundamentals were improved significantly as a result of its competitive financing structure and longer tenor led by ADB, and we are confident that the project will be developed successfully according to plan,” said Gulf Energy Development Public Company Limited (GED) Executive Director Ms. Yupapin Wangviwat.

The Government of Viet Nam plans to increase the share of renewable energy sources, such as hydropower, solar, wind, and biomass, as a percentage of total installed capacity to 21% by 2030 to meet rapidly growing energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25% by 2030.

The project will develop and operate the 50 MW solar power plant and its associated facilities in Tay Ninh Province, which is about 50 kilometers northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. The solar power plant will directly serve the electricity demand of residents and businesses of Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas. It will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 29,760 tons by 2020.

TTC Energy, established in 2017, is 90% owned by GED. GED is a leading private power generation company and has the largest portfolio of gas-fired power projects in Thailand.

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Technology can help track choices to balance nutrition and climate impact

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Like the popular fitness apps, which help users track their exercise activities, food intake and more, an app called Evocco aims to give consumers information about their shopping habits to help cut their carbon footprint by estimating the climate impact of their choices.

By taking a photograph of food receipts, shoppers can check their score which combines the climate impact of the food they’ve bought with their nutritional value, helping customers get the most nutritious food for the lowest climate impact.

“We see food as the first step in somebody’s climate action journey,” said Hugh Weldon, Evocco co-founder and Young Champion of the Earth for Europe 2018. “With this tool, we aim to make it easier for people to join the climate movement.”

At the start of the year as a Young Champion, Evocco had completed its first alpha tests with users of the Android smartphone app. The company was a team of five. Then, the design was overhauled based on feedback from testers, and the team refocused for a public release originally slated for January 2019.

“The year has been one of many lessons for Evocco,” said Weldon. “Technology challenges and changes in the team saw the launch of the app delayed. Targets had to be reconsidered, and the team had to be restructured.”

Yet despite challenges, Evocco’s Weldon was named on many of Ireland’s hottest upcoming talent lists and honored in the Ten Outstanding Young Persons awards. Weldon and the Evocco team presented at climate change conferences in New York, Xiamen, Nairobi, Stockholm, Estoril, and at a climate youth festival in Dax.

“These opportunities have resulted in huge personal growth for me and have boosted the credibility of Evocco immensely,” said Weldon. “There have also been further opportunities that we simply did not have the capacity to take.

There have been serious challenges this year, too.

“The effects have been a real setback but we have learned some important lessons. With few resources, we have had to find other ways to launch our technology and use our data to the best advantage. In the end, the challenges we have faced have forced us to become more resourceful and to find low-tech solutions. It’s been a huge challenge, but we’re really excited to be almost there.”

In April 2019, Evocco launched Tracker in Ireland, allowing shoppers to upload their food receipts and receive an email star rating for their basket, with tips to improve. Then in May, Ursula Clarke joined as Head of Software Development, Evocco’s first senior tech hire and a huge boost to the team.

“Over the course of the year, our business plan has evolved greatly, and in addition to our consumer app, we are excited to launch a corporate product in January. This allows employees to compete against each other on sustainability, and has sparked some great interest,” said Weldon.

With the first cohort of users in Ireland already enjoying the benefits of the Evocco app, the focus is now to grow user numbers and secure investment from angels and venture capitalists.

Clementine OConnor, sustainable food systems expert at the United Nations Environment Programme, said: “Food systems generate around 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Shifting to healthy sustainable diets is one of the most powerful things individuals can do to reduce their climate impact, while improving their own health and well-being. “Evocco’s app provides a really practical tool to help consumers understand the impact of their food purchases and make small changes to make their diet more sustainable.”

UN Environment

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Governing the Coin: WEF Announces Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance

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Following extensive consultation with the global community, the World Economic Forum announced today the Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance. Digital currencies are often cited as a tool for financial inclusion, but this opportunity can be realized only when paired with good governance.

This is the first initiative to bring together leading companies, financial institutions, government representatives, technical experts, academics, international organizations, NGOs and members of the Forum’s communities on a global level. To tackle the challenge ahead, an international, multistakeholder approach with the public and private sectors working alongside civil society is needed.

This consortium will focus on solutions for a fragmented regulatory system. Efficiency, speed, inter-operability, inclusivity and transparency will be at the heart of this initiative. It will call for innovative regulatory approaches to achieve these goals and build trust. A set of guiding principles will be co-designed to support public and private actors exploring the opportunities that digital currencies present.

“Digital currency, a cross-cutting topic that requires input across sectors, functions, and geographies, is a key area of interest for the Forum,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. “Building on our long history of public-private cooperation, we hope that hosting this consortium will catalyse the conversations necessary to inform a robust framework of governance for global digital currencies.”

“Any evaluation of digital currencies should consider both policy and business objectives, as well as the unique circumstances that face different economies around the world, in order to fully evaluate their risks and benefits,” said Lesetja Kganyago, Governor of the South African Reserve Bank. “Bringing together diverse perspectives through this consortium will allow for this holistic review. In order to achieve this, we need the public and private sector to collaborate.”

“While digital currencies offer wide possibilities, these have to be assessed against the fundamental objectives of economic advancement and shared prosperity,” said Patrick Ngugi Njoroge, Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya. “Global governance of the diverse initiatives provides greater assurance of this outcome.”

“Governance is the core pillar of any form of digital currency,” said Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England. “It is critical that any framework on digital currencies ensures security, efficiency and legitimacy of payments while ensuring fair and open competition. We welcome the World Economic Forum’s platform to help develop a robust governance framework for inclusion through digital currencies.”

“We are exploring the potential that properly-regulated digital currencies hold for cheaper and faster cross-border payments, financial inclusion, and rooting out illicit finance,” said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Chairman, Monetary Authority of Singapore. “This dialogue between public and private sector players is now essential, so we find the right roles for each in realizing this potential.”

“We are watching closely as digital currencies increasingly become an area of focus around the world,” said Eric Parrado, Chief Economist, Inter-American Development Bank. “They may unlock new opportunities for efficiency and inclusion, but this can only happen with the appropriate infrastructure and guardrails.”

“The release of digital currencies will have far-reaching implications, from domestic financial stability to international trade,” said Rania A. Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt. “As such, it is imperative that efforts to regulate digital currencies are well-informed, collaborative, and global in nature.”

“Building on our collaboration around the World Economic Forum’s Central Bank Digital Currency Toolkit, we are eager to continue exploring the pillars of well-informed approaches to digital currency through this consortium,” said Rasheed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain.

“Having witnessed firsthand technology leapfrog East and West African financial markets forward over the last decade, we are excited that this initiative will bring leaders from around the world to share best practices and will work on truly global policy recommendations,” said Elizabeth Rossiello, Chief Executive Officer of AZA Finance.

“We welcome the dialogue the World Economic Forum is facilitating about digital currencies,” said David Marcus, Head of Calibra, Facebook, Libra Board Member. “We agree that good regulation is important for the success and safe adoption of digital currency platforms and are looking forward to continue to engage in this constructive conversation.”

“Digital currencies have the potential to improve access to financial markets, but proper oversight and governance are required,” said Rob Heyvaert, Founder and Managing Partner of Motive Partners. “The World Economic Forum is uniquely placed to bring together the private and public sectors to discuss these issues and tackle the challenges ahead.”

“Digital currencies are a tremendous opportunity to make the financial system more accessible and fair,” said Neha Narula, Director, Digital Currency Initiative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Creating an inclusive, integrated global digital currency system requires dialogue across stakeholders ranging from finance ministers to open source developers, and the World Economic Forum is in an ideal position to facilitate this important conversation.

“Trust is needed in this space now more than ever,” said Joseph Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of AID:Tech. “Creating new economic opportunities and a paradigm shift in how technology is used can benefit all societies. What we need now is multistakeholder cooperation that is anchored in principles of social justice.”

“It’s rare that such an important global organization takes into consideration the context of developing countries in the application of Fourth Industrial Revolution technology to achieve the SDGs,” said Maria Antonia Arroyo, Principal of the Ignite Impact Fund. “Stablecoin is an important development that, if properly implemented and responsible to the concerns of civil society, will be effective at universal financial inclusion.”

“New technologies, like blockchain, have helped catalyze a revolution in the mechanics of money,” said Joseph Lubin, Founder of ConsenSys. “We applaud the efforts by the WEF in actively researching digital currencies, including those that are blockchain-based, as a means to foster innovation but also ensure that central banks can maintain their role as stewards of the economy. The future of money is digital and central banks and the public sector have a crucial part to play in ensuring that this future is sustainable, inclusive and positive for society.”

This initiative builds on work done by the Forum over the past year, convening a global community of central banks to co-design a policy framework for the adoption of digital currencies. The Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit will take place in San Francisco from 21-22 April. Governance of digital currency will be a core pillar.

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