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UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism: Seizing the Power of Technology

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Around 600 participants from 52 countries gathered at the 4th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism (Bangkok, Thailand, 30 May to 1 June 2018). Organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Government of Thailand, in collaboration with the Basque Culinary Center, participants addressed topics ranging from the role of technology in achieving sustainable development, to linking the whole tourism value chain to gastronomy.

Partnering with technology providers is among UNWTO’s main priorities. Against this backdrop, creating and sharing knowledge and policy lessons on the digital transformation was among the central aspects of this year’s edition, which included the participation of technology startups of the host country (Bangkok Food Tours, HiveSters, LocalAlike and Trawell).

The startups presented workshops to all participants focusing on the gastronomy tourism offer in Thailand, how to use technology to better reach tourists and showcasing their initiatives.

“Gastronomy is a major driver for tourists when choosing a destination, inspite of which the potential of gastronomy tourism has still to be seized as an intangible cultural heritage. Gastronomy tourism is about harnessing technology to tell a story about people and places to preserve and promote authenticity in local communities”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

The Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat, underscored how “local communities can strengthen themselves and feel proud of their culture through gastronomy tourism”. Referring to the overall economic impact, he added that “agriculture and tourism are significant job creators throughout the country, and Thai cuisine helps us boost tourism expenditure”.

The UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism aims to promote innovative ideas that can help the development of gastronomy tourism worldwide. The ideas put forward during the previous editions of this forum are always founded upon sustainable development and new product development in gastronomy tourism.

On the occasion, UNWTO launched the Report on Gastronomy Tourism: The Case of Japan.

The 2019 edition of the UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism will take place in San Sebastian, Spain followed by Flandres, Belgium, in 2020.

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Cameroon: World Bank Group Helps Boost Hydropower Capacity

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The World Bank Group (WBG) has approved an investment package of $794.5 million for the Nachtigal Hydropower project in Cameroon, to help the country reach its goal of providing access to electricity for 88 percent of its people by 2022.

The Nachtigal Hydro power project builds on a sustained, 20-year engagement in the energy sector by the World Bank Group in Cameroon. Once completed, it will increase Cameroon’s electricity generating capacity by 30% and provide greater opportunities for the poor, who are disproportionately excluded from economic activities due to inadequate power supply.

“This investment in clean energy is key to lowering the cost of electricity and ensuring that Cameroon’s economy is competitive. The Nachtigal Project is one of the very few public-private partnership (PPP) hydropower projects in Sub-Saharan Africa that will accelerate Cameroon’s realization of its development goals, including poverty reduction,” said Elisabeth Huybens, World Bank Country Director for Cameroon.

Over the past two decades, Cameroon has embarked on a series of sector reforms in the power sector to enhance financial viability and attract private sector investment.

Reflecting an integrated approach to maximizing finance for development,’ the WBG has been instrumental in securing private finance for the Nachtigal Hydropower Project. Guarantees amounting to $300 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), guarantees worth $262.5 million from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and equity totaling $70 million, loans worth $152 million, and currency risk management swaps from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have been brought together in a package to bring sustainable private sector solutions to the infrastructure sector.

By working for almost five years as co-developer of the project, the Nachtigal HPP is a great example of how IFC is using InfraVentures to help projects become reality in Africa. In addition, as Global Coordinator of the Project’s senior debt, IFC has mobilized the entire debt package, including senior loans from development finance institutions and local commercial banks of around EUR 735 million ($ 859 million equivalent),” said Oumar Seydi, IFC Director for Africa.

The project will support the government of Cameroon’s Vision 2035 to achieve shared growth, reduce poverty, and create jobs through increased industrialization, improved productivity, and better governance. It will also actively contribute to the WBG FY17-21 Cameroon Country Partnership Framework (CPF), which focuses on addressing multiple poverty traps in rural areas, particularly northern regions, fostering infrastructure and private sector development, and improving governance.

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E-Governance: A powerful tool to combat, mitigate and sustainably manage disaster risks

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The impact of climate change is affecting Lesotho’s progress towards development in a number of areas, including agriculture, food security, water resources, public health and disaster risk management. Photo: FAO

E-governance plays a critical role in building inclusive, resilient societies both before and in response to disasters, according to a United Nations report issued this week.

The 2018 E-Government Survey highlights the complex challenges and varied opportunities of deploying e-government services.

Contributing to the global report, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) highlights that the use of information and communications technology during all phases of disaster risk management presents “substantial opportunities to reduce disaster risks, enhance coping capabilities, and provide inclusive preparedness and response.”

Several regional case studies illustrate that it is critical to integrate emerging innovations in digital technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), social media, space applications and geospatial information for e-resilience efforts.

To ensure undisrupted services and information to citizens before, during and after disasters, the report also reiterates the urgency of embracing e-resilience in e-government initiatives.

The findings and recommendations come against the backdrop of several recent disasters, such as landslides in Japan, an unpresented heatwave in Pakistan and monsoon flash floods in Bangladesh and India, all of which serve to remind us how disaster risk is outpacing disaster resilience in Asia-Pacific.

As the Asia-Pacific region is among the world’s most disaster-impacted, governments have stepped-up disaster risk reduction efforts through digital connectivity and innovations.

“Digitally-driven emerging frontier technologies, such as AI, are expected to offer unparalleled levels of data availability, insights and coping capabilities to support countries address this formidable challenge and advance the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said ESCAP.

Broadband connectivity for all remains critical to the success of e-governance.

Towards this end, ESCAP continues to support the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative to seamlessly increase the regional availability, affordability and resilience of broadband networks as a platform for e-resilience.

Its implementation will be reviewed and discussed by countries and partners in Bangkok, from 27-28 August, followed by an ESCAP intergovernmental meeting of the Second Session of the Committee on Information and Communications Technology, Science, Technology and Innovation on 29 to 31 August 2018.

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Tourism and Construction have Power to Lead Move to Sustainable Economies

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From infrastructure and communication to food production and transport, tourism and construction play key roles in a circular economy framework that supports sustainable development. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), together with the Sustainable Buildings and Construction Programme of the One Planet Network, addressed this challenge during the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (9-18 July, New York, USA).

Tourism and construction are part of the overall economic value chain. Best practices in circular economy thinking that can help these large economic sectors shift to sustainable consumption and production (SCP) were at the centre of the event ‘Tourism & Construction: Circular Economy solutions for SDG12’, organized by UNWTO.

Advancing sustainability in the tourism sector and fulfilling its responsibility in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a task that benefits from new technological advances, continuous innovation and the strengthening of models such as the circular economy. Especially in view of SDG12 on ‘sustainable consumption and production patterns’, and considering the need to grow responsibly as a sector overall, tourism has an important role to play in the decoupling of economic development from resource use.

With its vast links to other economic activities and direct interaction between consumer and producer, tourism can – if managed well – create positive, long-lasting impacts that go well beyond the sector. Adapting circular production and consumption patterns that accelerate sustainability is therefore key to the long-term health and resilience of tourism businesses and destinations.

Against both this background and the review of SDG 12 at the High-Level Political Forum, the event ‘Tourism & Construction: Circular Economy solutions for SDG12underscored that embracing circularity implies robust measurement and monitoring of impacts of tourism and construction activities, including energy and water use efficiency, climate change mitigation, waste management, local sourcing, sustainable land use, biodiversity protection and decent employment, among others.

The 17 SDGs represent a common vision for prosperity, equality, justice and climate action, brought together under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 12 calls for more responsible SCP patterns and practices across sectors, with the One Planet Multi-Partner Trust Fund for SDG 12, inaugurated on 17 July 2018, to support partners’ commitments to accelerating this shift. The Fund is a joint effort of the UN Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNWTO, UN-Habitat and the UN Office for Project Services.

Tourism & Construction: Circular Economy solutions for SDG12 featured panels and presentations from the governments and tourism and development administrations of Bhutan, Botswana, Finland, France, Mexico and Switzerland. The gathering also played host to the launch of UNWTO’s Tourism for SDGs Platform, an interactive online tool that aims to create collaboration, motivate discussion and foster action between the tourism sector and the world of sustainable development. The platform, developed with the support of the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs, is for policy makers, companies and all tourism stakeholders to connect and jointly advance their SDG implementation strategies.

Concluding the event, the Head of Delegation for Sustainable Development from the Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition of France stressed the need to accelerate the shift towards SCP and encouraged both tourism and construction to build cross-sectorial cooperation. If properly developed and used, circular economy solutions will be instrumental to transforming the sustainability of our economic model.

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