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IEA for EU4Energy Policy Forum discusses opportunities and challenges for bioenergy use

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Forum participants came from 11 Eastern Partnership and Central Asian countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan (Photograph: IEA)

Officials and experts from the 11 IEA for EU4Energy countries met in Vienna on April 24 for the EU4Energy programme’s fifth renewables policy forum. Previous forums in Astana, Minsk, Kiev and Odessa examined renewable energy policy more broadly, system integration and renewable heat. As a follow-up to the Kiev heat forum, this event focused on bioenergy barriers, drivers and best practice. It included presentations from the European Commission and European bioenergy associations, as well as several country case studies.

Globally, bioenergy is the largest renewable energy source and especially important in the heat sector. In the IEA for EU4Energy countries, the potential for bioenergy generally remains underexploited and reliance on fossil fuels for heat production is high.  At the forum, presentations from three EU4Energy countries demonstrated the diversity of the challenges facing bioenergy development.

In Georgia, 90% of rural households depend on wood energy which is generally combusted at very low efficiency. This has led to the unsustainable exploitation of the country’s forestry resources forests. However, this is likely to change with the country having recently joined the European Energy Community. New renewable energy targets and a new forestry code provide a more optimistic outlook for the future use of bioenergy in the country and protection of forests.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, energy security has been a main driver of the deployment of bioenergy in the district heating sector. The Ukrainian government adopted a new energy strategy in 2017 which aims to achieve a large increase in renewable heat consumption from 6% at present to 40% in 2035. Much of this growth will have to come from agricultural residues and a lot of effort is needed to develop this potential.

In Moldova, bioenergy also plays an important role in reducing dependence on energy imports. An EU/UNDP biomass programme in the country has successfully promoted the use of bioenergy in the public sector and supported the development of local biomass boiler manufacturing to reduce costs and create local jobs.

Austria has demonstrated that it is possible to use a high share of bioenergy (which provides 30% of heat consumption), create local jobs and continue to grow the forest stock. Air pollution concerns can also be dealt with through modern boilers which have very low emissions, and ensuring best practice in fuel selection. In the future, the contribution of bioenergy can grow still further, provided this goes hand in hand with energy efficiency improvements in buildings.

While not all countries have as good a resource base as Austria, most EU4Energy countries agreed that they had some potential for expanding bioenergy, for example from a variety of agricultural residues such as straw, manure, and cotton stalks. Challenges include developing supply chains, creating awareness about bioenergy options amongst the public and decision-makers, as well as building technical capacity.

The IEA for EU4Energy programme will continue to engage with the 11 countries to explore how bioenergy and the deployment of other renewables can progress.

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Human Rights

The pandemic is fuelling slavery and sexual exploitation, UN experts warn

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UN human rights experts are warning of a direct link between the pandemic, socio-economic vulnerability and the risk of exploitation, including forced labour or being sold, trafficked and sexually exploited. © UNICEF/Noorani

The COVID-19 pandemic has played into the hands of slavers and traffickers and requires stronger government measures to prevent exploitation of vulnerable people, more than 50 independent UN human rights experts said in a statement on Monday. 

There was a direct link between the pandemic, socio-economic vulnerability and the risk of exploitation, they said. Exploitation could mean forced labour, including the worst forms of child labour, or being sold, trafficked and sexually exploited. 

Governments and businesses should recognise how the loss of jobs, income or land could put vulnerable groups at greater risk, such as people already facing discrimination on grounds of sex, race, age, disability, religion, nationality and economic status, and people without basic services such as sanitation and education.

“If workers don’t receive adequate economic, social and other support from governments, without discrimination on grounds of migration and other status, they face serious risk of exploitation, including being subjected to slavery, servitude, forced or bonded labour, or trafficking in persons”, the statement said.

“In this regard, we are concerned that these practices have increased in the past months. In some cases, victims are further subjected to ill-treatment, torture, or even disappearance when they are prevented from informing as to their fate and whereabouts and put outside the protection of the law.”

Signatories to the statement included many Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups –independent experts who report to the UN Human Rights Council – as well as the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, which was set up by the UN General Assembly in 1991. 

Governments must do more to protect victims

They said governments must increase their efforts to identify and protect victims of slavery and trafficking, ensuring their access to essential health services, including reproductive health services, psycho-social counselling, legal assistance, vocational training, income-generating support and remedies without discrimination.

Governments should also try to remove social and employment inequalities that can make some people more at risk of slavery and exploitation, while international solidary was needed to ensure child protection was adequately funded, the human rights experts said.

“We call upon Member States and other entities to address the structural causes that contribute to slavery and exploitation and continue providing support to those offering comprehensive assistance to victims, including through contributions to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year”, they said.

The statement’s first signatory, Tomoya Obokata, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, plans to hold a webinar on Tuesday to discuss aid for racially discriminated groups subjected to slavery during the global pandemic.

The statement was issued ahead of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on 2 December, which marks the day in 1949 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first Convention to fight human trafficking.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

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Top 3 Effective Strategies for Using Push Notifications

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A lot of businesses are actively using push marketing to raise their sales, attract more customers, and build a strong brand. Although some marketers achieve their goals, there are many who cannot make push marketing work for them. So, what are the secrets of successful push notifications? What key aspect of push marketing should you be aware of? In this post, we have prepared the top-3 most effective strategies that will make your business fly.

1. A/B Testing

Before sending a notification to a large audience, test its effectiveness with a small group of people. This will help you determine which parts of the notification are working and which should be reconsidered. Start by testing elements and factors such as:

  • Post content – You can measure how well users are responding to your posts by tracking your open or click rate. Your job is to find out what factors lead to an increase in your targets. Test how effective simple URLs, short sentences in a message are, etc. Refer to evadav.com/faq-publisher information for more details.
  • Frequency/timing – To find out how often to send push notifications, try different frequency options (for example, weekly and daily) and choose the one that will result in fewer unsubscriptions. You can also use metrics such as open rate and CTR to find out what time of day or night users are most likely to respond to your posts.
  • Message delivery method – Open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, and conversion rate – all of these metrics indicate whether your push notifications are successfully engaging users. Use these data to determine which delivery method is most positively treated by your audience.

A/B testing will only be beneficial if you have quality tools at your disposal to measure success. You may not be able to get it right the first time around, but don’t be discouraged. Just keep testing!

2. Personalize Your Messages

To achieve the same level of personalization that messages from friends, family, and colleagues have, you should take into account all the details about the user’s identity. Event settings, language, and lifecycle – considering all these characteristics will help you make your message as personal and targeted as possible. You can go even further and segment users based on their activity on your website or landing page. It’s only when you start sending them notifications that are relevant to their interests, users will feel like you’re really trying to provide them with some value.

3. Avoid Complex Wording: Write Clearer

Interactive notifications will mean little if the content you communicate is of no value to the user. Most companies continue to use notifications as some kind of bait – as a piece of obscure, cryptic content, whose task is to lure the user back into the application. But notifications work more efficiently when they have some other meaning, a message.

A push notification can be considered successful if it:

  • Is written in a laconic form;
  • Conveys something interesting and intriguing to the user;
  • Justifies the user’s choice to perform a target action.

Companies that have worked hard on their push notifications engagement strategy end up gaining user loyalty and engagement, increased traffic, and more page views – metrics that impact readiness for conversion. And all this for a lot less than what you could invest in retargeting tools.

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Human Rights

Human rights breaches in Belarus, Ethiopia, and Algeria

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A girl stands outside her home in the Tigray Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/Tanya Bindra

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted three resolutions taking stock of the human rights situation in Belarus, Ethiopia, and Algeria.

Human rights violations in Belarus, in particular the murder of Raman Bandarenka.

Parliament condemns in the strongest possible terms the murder of Raman Bandarenka in Belarus, and expresses its condolences to his family and to all families who have lost loved ones as a result of the repression of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s regime.

Mr Bandarenka, a 31-year-old art teacher, was brutally beaten on the evening of 11 November by a group of plain-clothed men in masks who reportedly had close ties to the regime. Mr Bandarenka was taken into detention where he was subjected to further beatings. He later died as a result of his injuries.

MEPs demand prompt, thorough, and independent investigations into his death and the protest-related deaths of other Belarusian civilians. They reiterate their support for the protesters’ demands for freedom, democracy, dignity, and the right to choose their own destiny, while condemning the ongoing human rights violations, intimidation, and disproportionate use of force by the authorities towards peaceful demonstrators.

The text was adopted by 613 votes in favour, 41 against and 35 abstentions.

The situation in Ethiopia

MEPs are deeply concerned by the current armed conflict between the federal government of Ethiopia and the regional administration of Tigray led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), including the ongoing violence and allegations of serious breaches of fundamental human rights. They call on both parties to commit to an immediate ceasefire and to settle political differences by democratic means within the framework of the country’s constitution.

The resolution deplores the loss of life and killing of innocent civilians and the extrajudicial killings, regardless of their perpetrators. Parliament implores Ethiopia’s central government and the TPLF to take immediate action to deescalate the conflict and criticises the severe restrictions preventing humanitarian workers from accessing the area.

The text was adopted by 643 votes in favour, 5 against and 46 abstentions.

Human rights abuses in Algeria, in particular the case of journalist Khaled Drareni.

Parliament strongly condemns the escalation of arbitrary and unlawful arrests, detentions, and judicial harassment of journalists, human rights defenders, trade unionists, lawyers, civil society, and peaceful activists in Algeria. It also urges the Algerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release journalist Mohamed Khaled Drareni and all those detained and charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

In August, Mr Drareni – a correspondent for TV5 Monde – was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 50 000 Algerian dinars for filming police attacking demonstrators in Algiers. He was formally charged with ‘inciting an unarmed gathering’ and ‘undermining the integrity of national territory’. In September, his sentence was reduced to two years on appeal.

MEPs reiterate their call on the Algerian authorities to stop all forms of intimidation, criminalisation, or the arbitrary detention of critical voices such as journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders. They insist that appropriate steps be taken to guarantee for all the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. The resolution was adopted by 669 votes in favour, 3 against and 22 abstentions.

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