On 9-10 June 2018, Qingdao, PRC, hosted a meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (CHS SCO).
The meeting was attended by Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sooronbay Jeenbekov, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, and President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The meeting was chaired by President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.
The meeting was also attended by SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov and Director of the Executive Committee of the Regional Antiterrorist Structure (RATS) Yevgeny Sysoyev.
Taking part in the event were President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani, President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga, as well as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed, Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Lim Jock Hoi, Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States Sergei Lebedev, Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation Yuri Khachaturov, Executive Director of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia Gong Jianwei, Chairman of the Collegium of the Eurasian Economic Commission Tigran Sarkisyan, Vice President of the World Bank Victoria Kwakwa, and IMF Department Director Changyong Rhee.
The Heads of the Member States considered the implementation of the results of the 2017 Astana Summit and priorities for further SCO development in the context of current processes in world politics and economy. The parties’ coordinated positions have been reflected in the Qingdao Declaration that was adopted at the meeting.
It was stated that the Member States were firmly committed to the goals and principles of the SCO Charter and, guided by the Shanghai Spirit, were continuing to address the tasks outlined in the SCO Development Strategy until 2025. It was noted that the SCO had asserted itself as a unique, influential and authoritative regional organization whose potential had grown remarkably following the accession of India and Pakistan.
The intention was reaffirmed to continue strengthening practical interaction in the political, security, trade and economic areas, including finance, investment, transport, energy, agriculture, as well as cultural and humanitarian ties. A Plan of Action for 2018-2022 to implement the Treaty on Long-Term Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation between SCO Member States was approved.
In the context of an exchange of views on current international and regional problems, the need was stressed to build up joint security and stability efforts in the SCO space and to facilitate the emergence of international relations of a new type and a common vision of the idea of creating the Community of Shared Future for Mankind.
The Member States consistently advocate the settlement of crises in Afghanistan, Syria, the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula, as well as other regional conflicts within the framework of generally accepted norms and principles of international law. They noted the importance of the steady implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear programme.
The Member States reaffirm their resolute support for UN efforts to ensure international peace and security. They noted the need for reaching a consensus on adopting the UN Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism and supported the Republic of Kazakhstan’s initiative at the UN to promote the Code of Conduct to Achieve a World Free of Terrorism.
The heads of the Member States took note of the intention of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Tajikistan to become non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The SCO’s coordinated policy of waging an effective fight against challenges and threats to security remains unchanged. Practical interaction in this area will be facilitated by the adopted Programme of Cooperation between the SCO Member States in Opposing Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for 2019-2021. A special role in implementation is assigned to the SCO RATS.
The participants praised the results of the International Conference on Countering Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism (Dushanbe, 3-4 May 2018) that became an important venue for interaction between the parties on said issues.
The Heads of the Member States are in favour of launching a comprehensive effort to promote the spiritual and moral education of youth and prevent their involvement in destructive activities. In this connection, they adopted the Joint Appeal to Young People and the Programme of Action to implement the provisions. They also supported the initiative of the Republic of Uzbekistan to approve a special UN General Assembly resolution on Education and Religious Tolerance.
The Member States will further promote cooperation in the fight against illegal drug trafficking based on the SCO Antidrug Strategy and the Programme of Action to implement this strategy as well as the Concept to Prevent the Abuse of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
The SCO continues to contribute to broad-based and mutually beneficial cooperation in the area of information security and to the development of universal international rules, standards and principles for the responsible conduct of states in the information space.
The SCO Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the central role of the United Nations in implementing the Global Agenda for Sustainable Development. They stressed the importance of improving global economic governance architecture and of consistently strengthening and developing the multilateral trade system with a nucleus in the World Trade Organisation in order to form an open world economy.
The SCO is seeking to create favourable conditions for trade and investment and to define joint approaches to simplifying trade procedures, incentivising e-trade, and developing the service industry and trade in services. Efforts will continue to support micro-, small- and medium-size businesses and to promote transport, energy and agricultural cooperation.
The participants supported the initiative to hold the first meeting of SCO railway administration heads in Uzbekistan.
To draw more attention to environmental issues, the Member States adopted the SCO Concept on Environmental Protection. They have also continued working on the draft programme of cooperation between the SCO member states on food security.
Tajikistan’s initiatives on the International Decade of Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028 and the high-level international conference on this subject (Dushanbe, June 20-22, 2018) were appreciated.
The Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan reaffirmed their support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and approved the efforts to jointly implement it, including the coordination of the development of the Eurasian Economic Union and BRI.
The leaders of the Member States support using the potential of the regional countries, international organisations and multilateral associations to form a broad, open, mutually beneficial and equal partnership in the SCO space.
The newly-established SCO Regional Heads’ Forum will contribute to the development of interregional cooperation. The plan is to hold the first meeting of the Forum in 2018 in Chelyabinsk (Russian Federation).
Efforts will continue to achieve the full potential of the SCO Business Council and the SCO Interbank Association.
The participants reaffirmed the position in favour of further strengthening of practical cooperation in the banking and financial sectors and continuing to search for common approaches to the establishment of the Development Bank of the SCO and the SCO Development Fund (Special Account).
Reaffirming the special role of humanitarian cooperation in strengthening mutual understanding, trust and friendship among peoples, the leaders of the Member States spoke in favour of developing multifaceted cooperation in culture, education, science and technology, healthcare, tourism and sport.
They underlined the commitment to enhance multidisciplinary cooperation with observer states and partners in the SCO dialogue, as well as with international and regional organisations.
The participants adopted the Joint Statement of the Heads of State on Trade Facilitation and the Declaration of the Heads of State on the Joint Countering of the Threat of Epidemics in the SCO Space. A joint action plan was signed for the implementation of the SCO Cooperation Programme in tourism for 2019-2020, a Memorandum of Understanding on promoting micro-, small- and medium-sized business cooperation within the SCO, the Regulations for Information Interaction for 24-hour contact points using the channels of the CENcomm RILO-Moscow online platform, and the Memorandum on the exchange of information on transboundary movements of ozone-depleting substances and hazardous waste.
The participants heard and approved a report by the SCO Secretary-General on SCO activities over the past year, and a report by the Council of the Regional Antiterrorist Structure on the activities of RATS in 2017.
The Council of Heads of the SCO Member States appointed Vladimir Norov (Republic of Uzbekistan) as Secretary-General of the SCO and Dzhumakhon Giyosov (Republic of Tajikistan) as Director of the Executive Committee of RATS from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2021.
Since the summit in Astana (June 8-9, 2017), the following high-level events have been held:
a meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government (Prime Ministers) (Sochi, 30 November — 1 December 2017); a meeting of the SCO National Security Council Secretaries (May 21-22 2018); an extraordinary and regular meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (New York, 20 September 2017; Beijing, 24 April 2018); a meeting of the SCO Council of National Coordinators (Yangzhou City, Moscow, Beijing, August 2017 — June 2018); meetings of the Council of the Regional Antiterrorist Structure (Beijing, 17 September 2017; Tashkent, 5 April 2018); a meeting of the Heads of Border Services of Competent Authorities of SCO Member States (Dalian, 29 June 2017); a SCO meeting of Heads of Emergency Prevention and Relief Agencies (Cholpon-Ata, 24-25 August 2017); a meeting of the Ministers of Justice of the SCO member states (Tashkent, 20 October 2017); a meeting of Chairpersons of the Supreme Courts of the SCO Member States (Tashkent, 25-27 October 2017; Beijing, 25 May 2018); a meeting of the Heads of SCO Member States Services in Charge of Ensuring Sanitary and Epidemiological Wellbeing (Sochi, 31 October 2017); a meeting of the SCO ministers responsible for foreign economic and foreign trade activities (Moscow, 15 November 2017); a meeting of the Prosecutor Generals of the SCO (St Petersburg, 29 November 2017); a Conference of the Heads of Ministries and Agencies of Science and Technology (Moscow, 18-21 April 2018); the SCO Forum (Astana, 4-5 May 2018), a meeting of the heads of national tourist administrations (Wuhan, 7-11 May 2018); a Defence Ministers’ Meeting (Beijing, 24 April 2018); a meeting of the Ministers of Culture (Sanya City, 15 May 2018); a meeting of the Heads of the SCO Counternarcotics Agencies (17 May 2018); the SCO Women’s Forum (Beijing, 15-17 May 2018); the SCO Media Forum (Beijing, 1 June 2018); a meeting of the Board of the SCO Business Council (Beijing, 6 June 2018); and a meeting of the Council of the SCO Interbank Association (Beijing, 5-7 June 2018), as well as other events at various levels.
The leaders of the Member States praised the work done by the People’s Republic of China during its Presidency of the SCO and expressed gratitude to China for its hospitality and the quality of the organising of the summit in Qingdao.
The Kyrgyz Republic is taking over the Presidency of the organisation. The next meeting of the Council of the SCO Heads of State will be held in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2019.
Digital Technologies Can Help Maldives Build Back Better From the COVID-19 Shock
Maldives can leverage digital technologies to build back better for a more green, resilient, and inclusive development following the COVID-19 pandemic, says the latest World Bank Maldives Development Update: A Digital Dawn released today.
The Maldives Development Update (MDU) notes that the country, post a massive pandemic led downturn, is firmly on the road to recovery. Thanks to successful marketing campaigns and relatively straightforward entry requirements, Maldives received more than 300,000 tourists in the first quarter of 2021. Assuming that a million tourists visit the country this year, the World Bank forecasts real GDP to grow by 17.1 percent in 2021. There are both downside and upside risks to the forecast.
The Update analyzes the devastating effect of the pandemic on the island nation’s economy. From end-March to mid-July 2020, the country was forced to close its borders to tourists, bringing the economy to a standstill. Tourist arrivals plummeted nearly 70 percent, leading real GDP growth to contract by nearly 30 percent compared to 2019. The government took steps to protect the lives and livelihoods of Maldivians, and yet the pandemic is expected to have led to a temporary increase in poverty.
“The Government of Maldives has shown the world that a safe reopening to tourism is possible,” said Faris. H. Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “With active management of the current macro-fiscal situation, Maldives’ medium-term growth prospects can continue to be positive given its strong reputation as a luxury destination and ongoing investments in tourist infrastructure.”
As Maldives builds back better from the COVID-19 crisis, addressing fiscal and debt vulnerabilities will be important. In 2020, the fiscal deficit reached nearly USD 900 million or 20 percent of estimated 2020 GDP. Total public and publicly guaranteed debt reached USD 5.6 billion or nearly 140 percent of estimated 2020 GDP. Although the recovery is now underway, Maldives’ fiscal deficit and debt ratio are expected to remain elevated over the medium term.
“The pandemic has led to a spike in debt vulnerabilities across the globe, and Maldives is no exception,” said Fernando Im and Pui Shen Yoong, lead authors of the MDU. “Addressing these vulnerabilities would help Maldives build resilience to cope with unexpected future shocks”.
The special focus section of the MDU sheds light on how digital technologies can be game changers for Maldives’ growth and development. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation that was already underway, thanks to relatively high broadband and mobile internet penetration in the country. About 63 percent of the population used the Internet in 2019, a higher proportion than in other South Asian countries and peers outside the region. There is tremendous potential to use digital technologies to improve the delivery of services such as health, education, and disaster risk management, especially to outer atolls.
To leverage the digital dividend, Maldives needs to address policy, legal and regulatory gaps that currently inhibit the adoption of digital technologies. It also needs to boost Maldivians’ digital capabilities and skills to ensure that all Maldivians can take advantage of new technologies in an increasingly digital world.
“Wider use of digital technologies can help the government improve service delivery and allow smaller businesses and informal workers to expand access to markets,” said Junko Narimatsu, lead author of the special focus section. “However, for digital development to play a more prominent role in Maldives’ economic recovery, it is essential to close the digital divide between Male’ and the atolls.”
ADB, Habitat for Humanity to Support Housing Microloans for Vulnerable Communities
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has teamed with Habitat for Humanity International to help microfinance institutions (MFIs) deliver housing loans to low-income families in rural and peri-urban areas of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
The collaboration will expand ADB’s Microfinance Risk Participation and Guarantee Program to include microloans for housing, home improvement, and water and sanitation for vulnerable and climate change-exposed communities. ADB will help MFIs obtain financing for these purposes from commercial banks of up to $30 million in the first phase. Habitat for Humanity will build the MFIs’ capacity to design, pilot-test, and roll out the loans, with technical assistance from ADB.
“Low-income families find it difficult to build resilient houses as they lack adequate and affordable financing options due to the collateral requirements of commercial banks,” said ADB Private Sector Financial Institutions Division Director Christine Engstrom. “MFIs have the networks to reach these communities, but often lack the technical capacities to deliver housing microloans to them. Building on Habitat for Humanity’s technical and training expertise, this inaugural partnership will enable ADB’s Microfinance Program to better address this market gap.”
“The demand for urban housing in Asia remains largely unmet, giving the private sector a critical opportunity to deliver affordable materials, construction quality, access to energy, gender equity, water supply, and sanitation services, while supporting greater gender equity,” said Habitat for Humanity International Chief Operating Officer Patrick Canagasingham. “With ADB, we will create enabling environments for MFIs through risk-sharing and capacity building, helping unlock local private sector capital for housing.”
“This partnership is timely, as micro-housing for the poor and investing in community resilience are key drivers of economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Lead of ADB’s Microfinance Program Anshukant Taneja.
An expected 20,000 households will receive housing microloans from partner MFIs in the program’s first phase to enhance construction quality and climate resilience, including upgrading semi-permanent structures and installing sanitation and water connections. ADB also aims to encourage private sector financing through risk-allocation and guarantees. The collaboration will help to empower women, with 90% of financing targeted for women micro-borrowers.
Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 and has grown into a leading global nonprofit, working in more than 70 countries. Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter works with the private sector to pilot new products and approaches for housing finance, materials, and services. From July 2019 to June 2020, Habitat helped more than 1.9 million people in Asia and the Pacific gain access to better housing.
ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department will also explore opportunities to work with Habitat for Humanity to scale the organization’s catalytic initiatives, including the MicroBuild Fund, which has deployed over $140 million in housing finance loans through MFIs, with 19% allocated in Asia and the Pacific. ADB’s Microfinance Program has helped more than 6 million borrowers gain access to microloans.
The Gambia Secures More Funds for COVID-19 Vaccines
World Bank Board approved $8 million additional financing from the International Development Association (IDA) to provide The Gambia with safe and effective vaccine purchase and deployment.
“With this additional financing, the World Bank is helping The Gambia strengthen their pandemic response and health care systems, as well as scale up its vaccination campaign, with a total contribution of $19 million towards the implementation of the Government’s National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan,” said Feyi Boroffice, World Bank Resident Representative for The Gambia.
The additional financing for Gambia COVID-19 Vaccine Preparedness and Response Project will strengthen immunization systems and service delivery capacity to support the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out. It will expand The Gambia’s access to vaccines, through direct purchases from manufacturers and other arrangements through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust convened by the African Union.
“The COVAX Facility will provide vaccine doses to cover 480,000 people and this additional financing from the World Bank will make it possible to have sufficient vaccine doses to cover 980,000 more people, with nearly all adults in the Gambia having access,” said Samuel Mills, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project. “It is now important for people to be adequately informed that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the risk of not getting the vaccine.”
To help prepare the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 vaccines, the government conducted a vaccine readiness assessment with support from the World Bank, the World Health Organizations (WHO), the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI). The assessment showed that the country has trained medical staff, a monitoring system in place, as well as adequate storage capacity to handle both routine vaccines and COVID-19 vaccine at temperatures between 2°C and 8°C. This additional financing will also support the procurement of ultracold freezers to augment the cold chain to store vaccines such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which require sub-zero storage, and the freezers will subsequently be used by the National Blood Transfusion Center for storing blood plasma.
In addition, the World Bank has supported the Ministry of Health in procuring innovative and environment friendly health care waste treatment technology to allow safe decontamination in hospitals. The Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony will be held tomorrow for the construction of clinical waste treatment centers at Farato and at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital. The project contributed to the renovation of the Ndemban Clinic, which operates as a COVID-19 treatment center, and procured 10 ambulances for intensive care, critical life-saving medical equipment and supplies, as well as six pickup trucks and 18 motorcycles to facilitate contact tracing and response.
This $8 million funding package for The Gambia is one of several projects in support for the COVID-19 vaccination effort across Africa and other regions. Today, the World Bank Board also approved additional financing for Côte d’Ivoire ($100 million), Eswatini ($5 million), Rwanda ($30 million), El Salvador ($50 million) and Honduras ($20 million).
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