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Record-high opium production in Afghanistan creates multiple challenges for region and beyond

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Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record-high last year, leading to unprecedented levels of potential heroin on the world market, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a new report released on Monday.

The report noted opium cultivation increased by 63 per cent; from 201,000 hectares in 2016 to an estimated 328,000 hectares in 2017.

UNODC said that it would be possible to produce between 550 and 900 tons of export-quality heroin from the poppies harvested throughout the country during 2017.

The report highlighted that the record level of cultivation creates multiple challenges for the country and its neighbours, as opiate-based illegal drugs make their way across the Afghan border.

Poppy production and illicit trafficking of opiates also fuel political instability, and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan who profit from the trade.

The report revealed that the record-high production led to a rapid expansion of the illegal economy in 2017. Being worth between $4.1 billion to $6.6 billion in 2017 – or 20 and 32 per cent of gross domestic product – the value of the opiate-based economy exceeded by far, the value of Afghanistan’s legal exports of goods and services during 2016.

Opium poppy production has become so engrained in the livelihood of many Afghans, that it is often the main source of income for not only farmers, but also many local and migrant workers hired as day-labourers on farms. In 2017, opium poppy weeding and harvesting provided the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas.

The report concluded that addressing the opiate problem in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility. Reducing production, requires an international approach that targets the supply chain of opiates at every stage; from source to destination.

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Tech News

100 Start-ups Join WEF’s Technology Pioneers Community in 2021 Cohort

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The World Economic Forum announced today its 2021 Technology Pioneers, young and growing tech companies taking on top global concerns with innovative technologies and business models. From artificial intelligence (AI) to fintech, the 2021 Tech Pioneers cohort is using new tech to protect the climate, improve healthcare and much more.

“The 2021 cohort of Tech Pioneers includes many future headline makers at the forefront of their industries,” said Susan Nesbitt, Head of the Global Innovators Community, World Economic Forum. “These companies show great potential to not only shake up their industries but offer real solutions to global problems. They’ll bring great value to the World Economic Forum’s mission of improving the state of the world with their participation in the Technology Pioneers community.”

This year’s Technology Pioneers are emerging leaders in a wide range of industries that span healthcare, cleantech, AI, logistics and more. While at the cutting edge of their industries, many Technology Pioneers are also addressing global societal issues by using new tech to improve education options, address climate change issues and others.

Ceretai, for example, is a Technology Pioneer helping media companies uncover stereotypes and representation gaps in their content through automated diversity and equality analysis. Banyan Nation is using technology to support circular economy climate solutions in India. Century Tech is supporting personalized education options through combined innovations in learning science, AI and neuroscience.

This year’s cohort has the highest gender diversity yet, with over 30% of companies led by women. There are also 26 economies represented this year, with the United Arab Emirates, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe represented for the first time. All the 2021 Technology Pioneers are bringing great innovation to their regions.

FlexFinTx, for example, is building self-sovereign digital identities to help the over 400 million Africans that lack proper forms of identification. Meanwhile, Cambridge Industries is addressing climate change by developing sustainable city infrastructure to support waste-to-energy products.

Following their selection as Technology Pioneers, this year’s companies will join an impressive group of alumni that include many household names, such as Airbnb, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Palantir Technologies, Spotify, TransferWise, Twitter and Wikimedia.

The 2021 cohort will also be invited to participate in World Economic Forum workshops events and high-level discussions throughout their two years in the community.

The 2021 Technology Pioneers include:

Africa

  • Cambridge Industries, Ethiopia: Innovating next-generation urban infrastructure through sustainable city parks
  • FlexFinTx, Zimbabwe: Building the next generation of identity management
  • Kuda Technologies, Nigeria: Providing Africans with access to credit and free banking services
  • Moringa School, Kenya:A workforce development platform serving African students
  • mPharma, Ghana:Building good health in Africa through technology-driven healthcare
  • Sokowatch, Kenya: Offering same-day delivery and working capital to African retailers

Asia Pacific

  • AI Medical Service, Japan: Developing the world’s first endoscopic AI for gastric cancer
  • Aspire, Singapore: Banking South-East Asia’s internet economy
  • Avant Meats, China: Biotechnology for healthy, tasty meats made sustainably without animals
  • Banyan Nation, India: Driving circular economy via technology-driven informal recycler integrative technology solutions
  • Black Lake Technologies, China: Cloud-based collaboration software empowering manufacturers with real-time data
  • Cinnamon, Japan: An AI platform to drive digital transformations
  • Civic Ledger, Australia: Helping the world reduce its water footprint
  • CredoLab, Singapore: Developing bank-grade digital credit scorecards built on mobile device metadata
  • DoBrain, Republic of Korea: Game-based learning to unlock and optimize children’s potential
  • Equota Energy, China: AI intelligence-based energy optimization, maintenance and carbon management company
  • HiNounou, China: Using AI to promote healthy ageing and intergenerational solidarity
  • Learnable, China: Interactive and explainable AI solutions on less data
  • MakinaRocks, Republic of Korea:Making industrial technology intelligent and delivering it as transformative solutions
  • mClinica, Singapore:Building the largest digital network of pharmacies in South-East Asia
  • Minieye, China: Using cutting-edge computer vision technology to lead automotive industry change
  • Ocean Protocol, Singapore: Unlocking the value of data – a new asset class
  • Praava Health, Bangladesh: A healthcare platform providing high-quality digital health and in-clinic experiences
  • SandStar, China: Providing leading computer vision technology for retail
  • Shannon Technology, China: A language-understanding intelligent service powered by advanced AI technology
  • Standard Energy, Republic of Korea:Manufacturer of vanadium ion batteries specifically for energy storage systems
  • Videonetics Technology, India:AI and deep learning-powered video computing platform development
  • Zyllem, Singapore:Software-as-a-service solution for logistics network management

Europe

  • Aave, United Kingdom: Built Aave Protocol, an open source and non-custodial liquidity protocol
  • Adhara, United Kingdom: Providing liquidity management and international payments for decentralized financial networks
  • Avrios, Switzerland: Empowering companies to own the true cost of mobility
  • Carbios, France: Green chemistry company providing an industrial solution to PET recycling
  • Century Tech, United Kingdom: Developing AI-based learning technologies
  • Ceretai, Sweden: Media diversity partner supporting companies with diversity strategies and insights
  • CloudNC, United Kingdom: Making manufacturing autonomous
  • Enapter, Italy: Providing green hydrogen technology through anion exchange membrane electrolyser manufacturing
  • EnginZyme, Sweden: Developing the definitive technology platform for sustainable chemical production
  • Greyparrot AI, United Kingdom: Waste recognition to increase transparency and automation in waste management
  • Hydrogenious, Germany: Enabling high-performing hydrogen value chains globally.
  • Parity Technologies, United Kingdom: Employing the blockchain pioneers who launched Ethereum, now building Polkadot
  • Polymateria, United Kingdom: A new scalable solution for the plastic pollution pandemic
  • Powell Software, France: Digital workplace solutions that improve the employee experience
  • PQShield, United Kingdom: Protecting information for the quantum era
  • Riaktr, Belgium: Developing software enabling telecom employees to make better data-driven decisions
  • Senseon, United Kingdom: A full-stack cyber-defence capability for the future, today

Latin America

  • Algramo, Chile: A platform connecting smart-reusable packaging with internet-of-things dispensers
  • Fondeadora, Mexico: Eliminating the inefficiencies related to the traditional banking system
  • Hugo Technologies, El Salvador: A multi-category marketplace for everyday products and services
  • Truora, Colombia: Fast, innovative, safe background checks and identity theft detection solutions

MENA

  • CHEQ, Israel: A global leader in customer acquisition security
  • CropX, Israel: Revolutionizing soil sensing, leading farmers into the connected soil era
  • MDClone, Israel: Self-service, big data, healthcare platform
  • MyndYou, Israel: Improving healthcare quality and lowering costs, engaging and listening
  • Phinergy, Israel: Clean energy generation and storage, using metals as energy carriers
  • Souqalmal, UAE: Building an online financial education platform in the Middle East

North America

  • 54gene, USA: Equalizing precision medicine
  • Airside Mobile, USA: Empowering businesses and people with privacy-based identity management
  • Akash Systems, USA: Manufacturing artificial diamond radios and satellites for low-cost internet access
  • AllStripes Research, USA: Unlocking new treatments for people affected by rare disease
  • Calibrate, USA: A telemedicine metabolic health business
  • CloudKnox, USA:Enabling organizations to implement least-privilege and zero-trust architecture
  • Crowdz, USA: Building a global ecosystem for good for receivables
  • DefinedCrowd, USA: A trusted data partner for AI
  • Diligent Robotics, USA: Building robots to support and empower patient care teams
  • Duality Technologies, USA: Enabling privacy-preserving collaboration and artificial intelligence on sensitive data
  • Dyndrite, USA: Powering the next generation of digital manufacturing
  • Enko Chem, USA:Crop health solutions, discovered and designed with intention
  • Evernym, USA:Leading globally in verifiable credential technology
  • FinMkt, USA: Omni channel and scalable point of sale financing software-as-a-service solutions
  • Gatik, USA: Developing and operating autonomous vehicles for B2B short-haul logistics
  • Gro Intelligence, USA: An AI-powered decision engine where ecology meets economy
  • Hazel Technologies, USA: Dedicated to solving the problem of food waste
  • HumanFirst, USA: Healthcare coming home, starting with digital clinical measures
  • Hypergiant, USA: Focusing critical infrastructure, space and defence using enterprise AI
  • Ionomr, Canada: Commercializing advanced ion-exchange materials to enable the hydrogen economy
  • January, USA: Analysing blood sugar and diet for diabetes control and prevention
  • Jopwell, USA: A diversity, equity and inclusion tech and human capital solution
  • Journera, USA: Helping brands improve marketing, customer experience and operations
  • Kobold Metals, USA: Deploying vanguard scientific computing to discover key battery material deposits
  • Kyndi, USA: Accurate and fast answers to any natural language question
  • LiveLike, USA: Converting passive audiences into engaged communities
  • Metabiota, USA: Building resiliency products and services for infectious disease threats
  • Mori, USA: Reducing waste and creating more sustainable supply chains
  • Natural Fiber Welding, USA: Creating circular and sustainable materials from plants and natural fibres
  • Numina, USA: Measuring street-level activity, privacy-first, to make the real world queryable
  • Pachama, USA: A tech-verified marketplace for nature-based carbon removals
  • Parsley Health, USA: Reversing chronic conditions with cutting-edge holistic medicine
  • Patientory, USA: Empowering users with insights from health data, improving health outcomes
  • Propel, USA: Helping low-income Americans make it through the month, every month
  • Propy, USA: An end-to-end real estate transaction platform facilitating transactions online
  • Reelgood, USA: An all-in-one streaming TV guide
  • Sinai Technologies, USA: Software to cost-effectively measure, analyse, price and reduce emissions
  • Skyhive, Canada: Optimizing human economies for companies, communities and countries
  • Tellus You Care:Improving eldercare with dignity and privacy
  • Unit21, USA: The command centre for risk, fraud and compliance
  • Upguard, USA: A cybersecurity platform that helps global organizations prevent data breaches
  • WooBloo, USA: Passionate about disrupting the smart home space
  • Wright Electric, USA: Building the next generation of aircraft – large, zero-emissions aircraft
  • Xanadu Quantum Technologies, Canada:A quantum technology company building fault-tolerant quantum computers using photonics
  • ZeroAvia, USA: The first practical zero-emissions, hydrogen-fuelled, powertrain technology provider for aviation

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Energy News

Korea shares experience of electric vehicles and renewable energy with Thailand

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is supporting South-East Asian countries in combatting climate change through policy consultation and capacity building in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

At an event organized in cooperation with the Korea Energy Agency (KEA) and Thailand’s Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE), Ministry of Energy, Stein Hansen, UNIDO Regional Director and Representative of UNIDO Regional Office Hub in Thailand, highlighted the UNIDO project’s study on electric vehicle promotion in Thailand and the impact on the biofuel industry throughout the supply chain, and a road map to achieve 100% renewable energy use by industrial sector. 

Prasert Sinsukprasert, the Director General of DEDE, spoke about Thailand’s 20-year National Strategy plan and said the DEDE is delighted to partner with the project to come up with the draft policy of electric vehicles and roadmap to 100% renewable energy in Thai industry.

In a presentation on the current status and policies of electric vehicle distribution in the Republic of Korea, Minkoo Park remarked that in Korea the authorities provide incentives in the form of discounts on highway and parking charges and financial support for people purchasing electric vehicles. Hyein Jin provided information about Korea’s 2050 Carbon Neutrality Strategy.

All speakers agreed that the eco-friendly energy is challenging both in electric vehicles and renewable energy but that it is worth it to achieve sustainable growth.

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Africa Today

Mozambique: Violence continues in Cabo Delgado, as agencies respond to growing needs

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A woman and her baby who fled their home in northern Mozambique in November 2020 are now living in a camp for displaced people. © UNHCR/Juliana Ghazi

Civilians continue to flee armed conflict and insecurity in northern Mozambique, more than two months after militants attacked the coastal city of Palma, located in Cabo Delgado province, UN agencies reported on Friday. 

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reports that some 70,000 people have fled the city since 24 March, bringing overall displacement to nearly 800,000. 

People have been escaping daily for districts further south, or to neighbouring Tanzania. Thousands more are reported to be stranded in areas around Palma, with restricted humanitarian access. 

Shots fired, houses burned 

“Those fleeing have told UNHCR staff that the situation in Palma remains very unstable, with regular gunfire at night and torching of houses”, Spokesperson Babar Baloch said during a briefing in Geneva. 

UNHCR and partners recently assisted people living in dire conditions in remote areas around Palma, distributing relief items to some 10,000 who have been displaced. 

The agency continues to advocate for internally displaced people to receive protection and assistance, and for those seeking safety in Tanzania, to access asylum. 

Forced back into danger 

Mozambican authorities report that many people attempting to cross the river, which marks the border between the two countries, have been forcibly returned.  More than 9,600 have been pushed back since January, with 900 removals occurring over a two-day period this week. 

“UNHCR reiterates its call for those fleeing the conflict to have access to territory and asylum, and, in particular, for the principle of non-refoulement (no forced return) to be respected”, said Mr. Baloch. “Refugees must not be forced back into danger.” 

‘A children’s crisis’ 

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said needs are enormous in Cabo Delgado, located in a region that has barely recovered from a deadly cyclone in 2019.  

In the wake of the attack in Palma, some 2,000 children have no idea of the whereabouts of their parents, or even if they are alive, agency Spokesperson James Elder told journalists

“What is happening in Cabo Delgado is a children’s crisis – an emergency on top of an emergency – a deadly cocktail from the impacts of climate change, conflict and COVID-19”, he said. 

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