It is recognized that raw materials and energy are the backbones for sustainable development. In a world facing multiple social, climatic and environmental challenges, managing the supply of mineral and energy resources is becoming more and more complex. In this context, investors increasingly are interested in channeling funds for both profit and longer-term societal benefits.
A two-day International Scientific-Practical Conference on Harmonization of Approaches in the Assessment of Mineral Reserves and Resources, co-organized by UNECE in Moscow, 30-31 May 2018, convened over 250 experts from Europe, Asia and Africa to explore a new global approach to attracting investment in mining and petroleum projects. There was consensus that the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) is an appropriate point of departure for a new international initiative to assess projects on their social, environmental and economic benefits and support innovative financing mechanisms.
Mr. Anatoliy Yanovskiy, Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia, in his keynote address stressed that the aspiration of every country is to target stable growth, employment and revenues. Having more certainty in mineral and energy flows and their contribution to growth is something that can make a significant impact in all countries including Russia. Mr. Anatoly Torkunov, Rector of Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) University, noted the rising importance of financing of mineral projects in non-traditional ways and improving human competencies to take on the new challenges.
“The mining and petroleum industry is plagued by many issues and risks”, said Mr. Igor Shpurov, General Director of the Russian State Commission of Mineral Reserves (GKZ) and First Vice-Chair of the UNECE Expert Group on Resource Classification. “Having a new language based on UNFC that can be a medium for State institutions, businesses and investors to communicate seamlessly on sustainable production has become urgent”. In the future, smart mining, big data and innovative approaches to financing will gain ascendancy. The role of UNFC will then be even more substantial. This requirement is already becoming visible with the penetration of technologies like blockchain in the new industry ecosystem.
Presentations from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, United Kingdom and Africa highlighted areas for improvement. “Removing duplication of many processes and procedures in the State, companies and financing bodies and unification of rules horizontally, as well as vertically across minerals, oil and gas etc. is becoming urgent”, said Mr. Sergey Shumkov, Deputy Director of Department for Coal and Peat Industry, Ministry of Energy, Russia. “This will also help fix appropriate responsibilities and build trust amongst stakeholders”. Building up institutions for competent persons charged with a new agenda for mineral and energy industries has challenges in some national contexts, but with international collaboration, these could easily evaporate.
New multilateral institutions like the New Development Bank, also known as the BRICS Bank, are committed to harnessing opportunities in a new generation of smart and innovative technologies to support sustainable infrastructure. Making UNFC the universal standard for smart financing looks promising in this context. In parallel, there should be a movement to improve the competencies of the human resources, where universities such as MIGMO in Russia and multi-layered partnerships with other countries and institutions will be crucial.
The conference was organized by UNECE, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation, the Russian State Commission of Mineral Reserves (GKZ) and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) University and sponsored by the Russian coal company Karakan Invest.
Rwanda: EU provides €10.3 million for life-saving refugee support measures
During his visit to Rwanda, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica has announced a €10.3 million support package to the UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Rwanda, which provides a life-saving avenue out of Libya for people in need of international protection, with a view to their further resettlement. The funding is provided through the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. This initiative builds on the example of the ETM Niger, through which more than 2,900 refugees and asylum seekers have been evacuated out of Libya since 2017.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “The Emergency Transit Mechanism in Rwanda is a vital life-saving measure to bring people in need of international protection out of Libya. It is an important sign of African solidarity and of partnership with the European Union. It broadens the support to the most vulnerable people held in Libyan detention centres that need to be closed urgently.”
Commissioner Mimica said: “This project will support efforts of the Government of Rwanda to receive and provide protection to about 1,500 refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya. Such a remarkable and powerful proof of African solidarity should be further encouraged, replicated and supported.”
The UNHCR has evacuated more than 4,250 refugees and asylum-seekers out of Libya to other countries since 2017.
However, around 4,700 people are currently estimated to be held in dire conditions inside detention centres in the country. They urgently need to be moved to safety and to be provided with protection, lifesaving assistance, and durable solutions.
Following the escalation in and around Tripoli, namely the July air strike on a migrant detention centre, the EU continues to support the vital work of the Gathering and Departure Facility on location.
The EU is also supporting the UNHCR’s increased efforts to transfer to Tripoli the most vulnerable people in need of international protection from conflict areas where they are at risk, pending their evacuation outside of Libya.
ADB Program to Help Improve Education and Health in Armenia
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $10 million policy-based loan (in euro equivalent) to assist the Government of Armenia’s efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of education and health services.
Armenia is experiencing a demographic shift with the share of children under the age of 18 declining from 37% of the national population in 1990 to 25% now, signaling an impending decline of the country’s labor force. Access to and funding for quality education and health services are poor, resulting in many people not having the skills to meet employers’ needs and avoidable ill health having a detrimental effect on the population.
In 2017, for instance, public expenditure on education was about 2.2% of gross domestic product (GDP), which is lower than the 5% recommended by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Government health spending was at 1.3% of GDP, below the 5% threshold observed by the World Health Organization as expenditure of countries with low shares of out-of-pocket payments.
To address this, the Government of Armenia has implemented reforms since 2010 to improve education and health services, with a focus on helping women and girls. A preschool law was endorsed to the National Assembly with the aim of boosting the number of children in elementary schools to 70% in 2023, from around 30% in 2017. Teachers have also been receiving training and skills development. A new set of guidelines and protocols, meanwhile, have been implemented in most of the country’s hospitals and health centers, covering topics ranging from preventing hospital-acquired infections to methods in continuing medical education.
“A well-educated and healthy population is essential for the growth and development of a country like Armenia, where human capital is significantly unrealized,” said ADB Senior Health Specialist for Central and West Asia Ms. Rouselle Lavado. “ADB’s assistance will support the government’s ongoing efforts to ensure that citizens are educated, healthy, and productive.
The main focus of the Human Development Enhancement Program is children and youth, starting from the preschool age. As well as improving the accessibility and enhancing the quality of education and health services in the country, the program will also increase financing for these efforts.
ICC gives greenlight for probe into violent crimes against Rohingya
Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday authorized an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, namely deportation, which have forced between 600,000 and one million Rohingya refugees out of Myanmar, into neighboring Bangladesh since 2016.
The pre-trial judges “accepted that there exists a reasonable basis to believe widespread and/or systematic acts of violence may have been committed that could qualify as crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border” the Court said in a press statement, in addition to “persecution on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion against the Rohingya population.”
After a reported military-led crackdown, widespread killings, rape and village burnings, nearly three-quarters of a million Rohingya fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 to settle in crowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.
This is the second strike against the alleged crimes this week, as the tribunal’s decision follows a Monday submission by Gambia to the UN’s principal judicial organ, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Myanmar of “mass murder, rape, and genocidal acts” which violate its obligations under the Genocide Convention, in addition to destruction of villages, arbitrary detention, and torture.
As a member to the Genocide prevention treaty, Gambia “refused to stay silent”, and as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the small African nation has taken legal action to assist the persecuted majority-Muslim Rohingya, with support by other Muslim countries.
In July, the ICC’s top Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, requested an investigation be open into the alleged crimes committed since October of 2016, concerning Myanmar and Bangladesh.
At that time, her Office’s preliminary examination found “a reasonable basis” to believe that at least 700,00 Rohingya were deported from Myanmar to Bangladesh “through a range of coercive acts causing suffering and serious injury.”
Under the Rome Statute that created the ICC, which highlights crimes against humanity as one of its four crucial international crimes, the top Prosecutor concluded sufficient legal conditions had been met to open an investigation.
While Myanmar is not a State party to the treaty, Bangladesh ratified the Statute in 2010, meaning authorization to investigate does not extend to all crimes potentially committed in Myanmar, but will focus on violations committed in part on Bangladeshi territory, the ICC said in July.
‘Only justice and accountability’ can stop the violence
Judges forming the pre-trial chamber, Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia, Judge Robert Fremr, and Judge Geofreey Henderson received views on this request by or on behalf of hundreds of thousands of alleged victims.
According to the ICC Registry, victims insist they want an investigation by the Court, and many “believe that only justice and accountability can ensure that the perceived circle of violence and abuse comes to an end.”
“Noting the scale of the alleged crimes and the number of victims allegedly involved, the Chamber considered that the situation clearly reaches the gravity threshold,” the Court said.
The pre-trial Chamber in addition authorized the commencement of the investigation in relation to any crime, including future crime, so long as it is within the jurisdiction of the Court, and is allegedly committed at least in part in the Rome Statute State Party, Bangladesh, or any other territory accepting the jurisdiction.
The alleged crime must also be sufficiently linked to the present situation, and must have been committed on or after the date of the Statute’s entry into force for Bangladesh or the relevant State Party.
Judges from the ICC have given the greenlight for prosecutors to commence collection of necessary evidence, which could result in the judge’s issuance of summonses to appear in court or warrants of arrest. Parties to the Statute have a legal obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC, nonmembers invited to cooperate may decide to do so voluntarily.
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