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Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit 2018

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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.

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Finance

PM Kishida Outlines Vision for a New Form of Capitalism

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Image source: Wikipedia

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio called for a new form of liberal democratic capitalism, balancing economic growth and distribution, in a special address to business, government and civil society leaders taking part in the World Economic Forum’s virtual event, the Davos Agenda 2022.

“A key focus of my administration will be the revitalization of Japan through a new form a capitalism,” he said. Unfettered state capitalism without adequate checks and balances produces problems such as widening income gaps, rural-urban disparities and social tensions, he added.

Kishida emphasized that the time has come for “historic economic and social transformations”. He said Japan will pioneer a new form of public-private partnership, with leaders of government, industry and labour all working together to develop paradigm-shifting policies. “There has been an overreliance on competition and self-regulation to constrain the excesses of market forces,” he added. “This must change.”

These reforms will build on emerging strength shown by Japan’s economy. However, he reiterated that current policies are not sufficient to ensure that growth is sustainable and inclusive.

The prime minister called for Japan to lead the world in green transformation. He said investment in green technology “will be more than doubled” and become an engine of growth. He also announced that a carbon pricing system will be introduced as soon as possible and Japan will continue to support the Asian emissions trading market.

“Japan remains committed to the Paris Agreement and will achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” he said. Private and public sector leadership will work tightly together on the demand and the supply side to support the transformation. One focus for Japan’s clean energy strategy is to reform the energy sector, which accounts for more than 80% of greenhouse gas emissions. Smart grids, upgraded power and distribution networks as well as low-carbon energy sources like solar and wind energy are all part of the solution, he said.

Another important pillar for Japan’s transformation is digitization. “While Japan has traditionally lagged in digital uptake, COVID-19 has given Japan a chance to leap-frog its digitization efforts,” Kishida said. To support this, the government will invest heavily in next-generation networks, optical fibre and 5G-related infrastructure – extending it to 90% of the population over two years.

Kishida also laid out plans for increased corporate disclosure to encourage investment in human capital. “Investment in people is often regarded as a cost, but it is a source of medium to long-term corporate value,” he said.

The prime minister pointed out that Japan continues to take a cautious approach to COVID-19, with borders closed until the end of February. “Changes will be made to border policies as more data comes in,” he said. The government is taking a realistic view and he stressed that a zero-tolerance policy towards COVID-19 is neither possible nor appropriate.

Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, thanked Japan for taking an active part in collaborative global efforts to combat shared challenges. “The capabilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution open up new possibilities and opportunities,” Schwab said. “The future will be much greener, more digital and human-centred.”

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Environment

In Jamaica, farmers struggle to contend with a changing climate

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Althea Spencer harvests her tomato crop. Dwindling rainfall in central Jamaica has made farming a challenge. Photo: UNEP / Thomas Gordon-Martin

It’s 9 am and the rural district of Mount Airy in central Jamaica is already sweltering. As cars trundle along the region’s unpaved roads, chocolate-brown dust clouds burst from behind their back wheels. 

It is here, 50km west of Kingston and 500 meters above sea level, that the Mount Airy Farmers group are having a morning meeting. There are around two dozen people and they all say the same thing; they’re struggling to keep their plots productive amid dwindling rainfall, a byproduct of climate change.

“The weather here’s a lot drier for longer these days,” says Althea Spencer, the treasurer of the Mount Airy Farmers group, which is based in Northern Clarendon. “If  you don’t have water, it makes no sense to plant seeds because they will just die.”

The farmers though, have recently gotten some help in their search for water.

Just meters from where they are gathered stands a two-storey shed with a drainpipe on the roof that funnels rainwater into a tall, black tank. It’s one of more than two dozen reservoirs dotted across these mountains. They are part of a project backed by six United Nations (UN) bodies to help Mount Airy’s farmers adapt to climate change.

“This partnership among the UN and with communities is exactly the type of activity needed to address the day-to-day and practical impacts of climate change,” says Vincent Sweeney, Head of the Caribbean Sub-Regional Office at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “As we look beyond the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, it is vital that we… adapt to the new realities of a warmer planet in order to protect lives and livelihoods in Jamaica and the Caribbean.”

The challenge is not unique to the region. Droughts, floods, and the spread of pests, the byproducts of climate change, are threatening agricultural production around the globe, says the Food and Agriculture Organization. That is potentially disastrous in a world where almost 700 million people go hungry each year.

Small-hold farmers, who work more than 80 per cent of the world‘s farms, in particular, will need support to remain resilient in the face of climate change, say experts.

A country at risk

Farmers in Jamaica, an island nation of 3 million, are especially vulnerable. In 2020, Jamaica became the first Caribbean country to submit a tougher climate action plan to the UN because the country was at risk from rising sea levels, drought and more intense hurricanes, its government said.

In 2018, the Mount Airy farmers enrolled in the United Nations-backed programme that helps build the resilience of communities to threats such as climate change, poverty and water insecurity. It is regarded as the first joint programme of the United Nations  in Jamaica, combining the resources of six agencies, including UNEP.

In Mount Airy, the UN programme has invested in 30 new water harvesting systems. The large, black tanks, which appear across the hilltops like turrets, catch and store rainfall, allowing the farmers to use it evenly via a drip irrigation system. This reduces the emerging threat of longer and more intense dry spells.

The new irrigation system also frees farmers from watering their crops by hand. “Before we got the new system, you had to predict rainfall to put seedlings in,” says Spencer, a rollerball pen tucked neatly into her hair and her feet shifting on the sunbaked earth. “It feels pretty good. It allows me more time to do housework, keep up with my farm records, and I have time to go down to the market.” 

Alongside the tanks sit drums which mix fertilizer with water and spread it evenly among the crops, saving the farmers valuable time. The dissolvable fertilizer is also cheaper than standard fertilizers.

On top of that, the irrigation system improves yields. Spencer now grows and sells more sweet potatoes, peppers and tomatoes than ever before.  

Coupled with the water tanks, the programme has also prioritized education. Seminars are run by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, a government agency, which aims to broaden the farmer’s knowledge and skills. 

Although it is not unusual for women to farm these lands, Spencer speaks about how the trainings have helped to empower the female members of the group by coming together. “To me, the learnings and the trainings bond us ladies together,” she says. 

A life in the mountains

Back at the gathering of the Mount Airy farmers, the assembled say some prayers and repeat their mantra aloud two times: “We are the Mount Airy Farmers Group our motto is: All grow in fear and failure bearing fruits of confidence and success.”

Spencer, who is in her 40s, is a vocal participant at the meeting and obviously well-liked. She was born in Mount Airy and has been farming these fields most of her life. She has vivid memories of working on her father’s farm as a child. Unable to afford to pay anyone else, he often pulled her out of school to sow and reap the fields.

That’s a common refrain among many who grew up in Mount Airy – and one the new UN programme is aiming to change. 

“If my father had this harvesting system, would I have gone to school more?” Spencer asks herself. “Yes, probably. But even then, he was always working us. So I’m sure he’d find something for us to do,” she says laughing. 

Spencer welcomes the introduction of the water tanks. However, she says current rainfall patterns mean water sometimes still runs out. “If you don’t manage your water properly, one will run out before you get anywhere,” she says ominously.

Her story may be one of success today, but it shows that living with climate change will require adaptation and continued investment for years to come. UNEP’s 2021 Adaptation Gap Report called for an urgent increase in financing for climate adaptation. It found that adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows, and the adaptation finance gap is widening.

UNEP

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Africa Today

FAO launches $138 million plan to avert hunger crisis in Horn of Africa

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A man collects water from a water tank in Kenya. ©FAO/Patrick Meinhardt

More than $138 million is needed to assist rural communities affected by extended drought in the Horn of Africa, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday, launching a comprehensive response plan for the region. 

A third consecutive year of poor rains is posing a major threat to food security in countries already facing natural resource limitations and conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and locust invasions during 2020-21. 

FAO fears that a large-scale hunger crisis could break out if food-producing rural communities do not receive adequate assistance timed to the needs of the upcoming agricultural seasons. 

Millions at risk 

The bulk of the funding under the FAO Horn of Africa Drought Response Plan, $130 million, is urgently needed by the end of February, to provide critical assistance to highly-vulnerable communities in the three most impacted countries: Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia 

Projections indicate that some 25.3 million people will face “high acute food insecurity” by the middle of the year.   

Should the scenario materialize, FAO said it would place the Horn of Africa among the world’s largest-scale food crises. 

Now is the time 

“We know from experience that supporting agriculture at moments like this is hugely impactful – that when we act fast and at the right moment to get water, seeds, animal feed, veterinary care, and much needed cash to at-risk rural families, then hunger catastrophes can be averted,” said Rein Paulsen, the agency’s Director of Emergencies and Resilience. 

“Well, the right moment is now. We urgently need to support pastoralists and farms in the Horn, immediately, because the cycle of the seasons waits for no one.”  

Mr. Paulsen warned that the clock is already ticking as the lean season, which just started, has been marked by limited grazing opportunities for pastoralist families whose livestock will need nutritional and veterinary support. 

Meanwhile, families who rely on producing crops will need seeds and other supplies in time for the Gu planting season that begins in March.  

Water and seeds 

The FAO plan targets 1.5 million of the most at-risk rural populations in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. 

For pastoralist families, support will include providing animal feed and nutritional supplements, as well as mobile veterinary health clinics, to keep their livestock healthy and producing milk; transporting water to 10,000 litre collapsible water reservoirs set up in remote areas, and upgrading existing wells to run on solar power. 

Crop-reliant families will receive seeds of drought-tolerant early-maturing varieties of sorghum, maize, cowpea and mung bean, and nutrient-dense vegetables.  The UN agency also aims to arrange for pre-planting land-ploughing services and access to irrigation, as well as training on good agricultural practices. 

Extra income

Cash for work programmes would allow able-bodied households to earn extra income by helping to rehabilitate irrigation canals, boreholes or other agricultural infrastructure.  

Those not able to work due to health or other reasons will receive “unconditional infusions of cash”. FAO said that providing rural families with extra disposable income gives them the means to buy food at market while they wait for their harvests to come in. 

In Somalia, the FAO plan calls for the provision of boats, equipment and training to help coastal communities who do not typically fish, to secure a new and much-needed source of nutrition, building on existing programmes to promote the diversification of livelihoods in the country.   

FAO said if fully funded, the plan would allow for the production of up to 90 million litres of milk and up to 40,000 tonnes of staple food crops in the first part of 2022, putting over one million highly food insecure people on a safe footing, for at least six months. 

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