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World Economic Forum on ASEAN in VietNam

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A record number of regional heads of state or government will participate in the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Ha Noi, Viet Nam on 11-13 September. The meeting will take place under the theme ASEAN 4.0: Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In all, eight ASEAN countries will be represented by their prime minister, president or state counsellor.

Among the registered heads of state or government are President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of the Philippines; newly elected Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia, meeting his regional peers for the first time on the international stage, and Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar, participating for the first time since the meeting took place in her home country in 2013. They and four more ASEAN government leaders will be hosted by Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc of Viet Nam.

“We are honoured to be welcoming this record delegation of regional government leaders,” said Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “The ASEAN region is currently one of the world’s bright spots for economic growth, and their presence shows the commitment they have to ensure this remains the case as the Fourth Industrial Revolution expands in economic scope and impact, and the geopolitical environment around them changes rapidly.”

The full list of ASEAN heads of state or government who have confirmed their participation so far are:

  • Cambodia: Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen
  • Indonesia: President Joko Widodo
  • Laos: Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith
  • Malaysia: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad
  • Myanmar: State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Singapore: Prime Minister Lee Hsien-Loong
  • The Philippines: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
  • Viet Nam: Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc

They are joined by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of Sri Lanka, as well as several senior cabinet ministers from the Republic of Korea, Thailand and other countries.

More than 800 leaders from business, government, civil society and media will join these heads of state and senior ministers to discuss issues ranging from the region’s geopolitical friction points to entrepreneurship and employment in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They will do so with the help of leaders of 100 early-stage start-ups, whose companies represent the dynamic nature of entrepreneurial spirit of ASEAN.

Issues to be discussed at the meeting include Asia’s New Balance of Power, Factory Asia’s Next Frontier, the Future of Jobs in ASEAN, Asia Economic Outlook, Accelerating the ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN Pluralism and Designing Cities 4.0. Topics surrounding the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles, blockchain, drones and fintech, will be highlighted. The meeting will also include workplace sessions on topics such as Sexual Harassment at Work, and Workplace 4.0.

The meeting Co-Chairs are Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Chief Executive Officer, Plan International, United Kingdom; Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance of Indonesia; Kang Kyung-Wha, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea; Nguyen Manh Hung, Acting Minister of Information and Communications of Viet Nam; Nazir Razak, Chairman, CIMB Group Holdings, Malaysia; and Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company, Hong Kong SAR.

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Rwanda: Boosting Exports Through Technology, Innovation, and Trade in Services

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Released today, the new Rwanda Economic Update finds that, after a strong economic recovery last year, Rwandan GDP growth is expected to be moderate in 2022 due, in part, to the effects of the war in Ukraine and the persistent risk of the COVID-19 pandemic in major economies.

 According to the 19th edition of the Rwanda Economic Update (REU19) titled Boosting Exports Through Technology, Innovation, and Trade in Services, GDP growth is projected at 6% for 2022, after reaching 11% in 2021. Inflation continues to mount as increases in international commodity prices and the disruption of global supply chains have led to substantial increase in energy, transport, and food prices.

 “The mounting inflation in Rwanda, which comes at the time when employment has not yet recovered to its pre-pandemic level, has the potential to undo hard-won achievements in terms of poverty reduction and human capital development. Government interventions to protect the most vulnerable, building on the country’s social safety nets continue to be critical,“ said Rolande Pryce, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda.

In its special focus on trade, the report gives an insight into Rwanda’s export performance. The REU19 notes that Rwandan firms have increased their participation in international trade (particularly in services) over the last decade, to levels exceeding that of regional and continental peers. Discussing the main drivers of trade performance, the report highlights that securing a certification for an international quality standard, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certificate, is a critical factor in facilitating firms’ participation in international trade. Firms with ISO certification are 36% more likely to be exporters. However, this remains a major challenge for Rwanda as only 3% of Rwandan firms had obtained ISO certification in 2019.

The REU19 also shows a significant correlation between the adoption of e-commerce in Rwanda and the participation in international trade and noted its limited use by Rwandan firms.

The strong link between e-commerce and exporting, and the lack of information regarding foreign markets regularly cited by firms in Rwanda, suggests investment in internet infrastructure can provide isolated enterprises, such as those in rural and underdeveloped urban areas, low-cost connectivity to markets and customers, and increase local firms’ participation in international trade,” said Calvin Djiofack, World Bank Country Economist .

According to the REU19, Rwanda has placed great emphasis on services development to raise employment, income, and export earnings. Yet, the country is facing a skills deficit that, if not addressed, will constrain potential growth for high-skill services exports.

One of the measures the report recommends to boost openness to trade in services, is for Rwanda to address its skills shortage in the short-run by recognizing qualifications of regional professionals, and abolishing work-permit regimes for them.

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Lavrov: Russia had ‘no choice’ but to launch ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine

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Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of the Russian Federation addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-seventh session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Faced with the “inability” of Western countries to negotiate and the Ukrainian Government’s “war against its own people” in the east, Russia had “no choice” but to launch what the Government refers to as its special military operation, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

The operation launched on 24 February had been carried out to protect Russians living in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and eliminate threats to Russian security, said Mr. Lavrov, that the EU and United States-led NATO military alliance had consistently created in the territory, since what he described as the “bloody coup” by the current “Kyiv regime”, in 2014.

“I am convinced that any sovereign, self-respecting State would do the same in our stead, which understands its responsibility to its own people.”

‘Throwing a fit’

Mr. Lavrov accused the West of “throwing a fit” over this weekend’s referenda being conducted in the Donbas and other Russian-controlled areas on becoming a part of the Russian Federation, countering that people there were simply following an order from Kyiv, to “get out and to go to Russia”.

The Russian Foreign Minister said the crises surrounding the war were growing, and the international situation was rapidly deteriorating, but instead of having an honest dialogue and searching for compromise, the West was “undermining confidence in international institutions” and encouraging negative tendencies within the United Nations as well.

He said the United States was trying to turn the whole world into its “backyard”, and together with its partners, punishing dissenters from its world view, through what he called “illegal unilateral sanctions” which violate the UN Charter, and hurt poor citizens in poorer countries, targeting their medicines, vaccines and food imports.

‘Provocations’

Attempts by the US to impose dividing lines, telling nations “you’re either with us or against us”, meant that instead of “honest dialogue” there was instead “disinformation, crude staging, and provocations”.

He praised the UN Secretary-General for mobilizing efforts to overcome the global food and energy crisis fuelled by the war but blamed the West for economic mismanagement in the pandemic, claiming that sanctions against his country amounted to an “economic war against Russia.”

He praised the Black Sea Grain Initiative to free up food and fertilizer from Ukraine, and Russia, to alleviate price inflation and supply, but said the poorest countries were still not benefitting, and again criticized the US and EU for not fully removing “obstacles” to Russian exports he said were trapped in European ports.

‘Russophobia’ claim

Mr. Lavrov told the Assembly that there was now a “crusade by the West against the objectionables”, with NATO seeing Russia as simply a threat to its domination of the region and beyond.

Furthermore, Russophobia, he said, had reached unprecedented proportions, with Western powers making no secret of their ambition to militarily defeat Russia, and try to “destroy and fracture Russia…What they want to do is to remove from the global map, a geopolitical entity, which has become all too independent.”

He warned countries beyond Europe and North America, that the Western alliance, in an effort to impose its will, was seeking to expand influence and hegemony further into Asia, South America, and Africa, and ended his remarks by quoting the hugely influential and charismatic second UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld:

Save humanity from hell

“The UN wasn’t created to take mankind to paradise, but rather to save humanity from hell. These are very topical words. They call upon us, to understand our individual and collective responsibility for creating conditions for a peaceful and harmonious development for our future generations, and everyone needs to show political will for that.”

Ending his speech on a conciliatory note, and a nod to a brighter future for multilateralism, he said he was convinced that the stability of the world order could be ensured, by returning to “the origins of UN diplomacy”, based on the key principle of “sovereign equality of States”.

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War crimes have been committed in Ukraine conflict

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Dozens of bodies near the cemetery in Bucha. Photo By Rodrigo Abd. Image source: war.ukraine.ua

Almost seven months to the day since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, UN-appointed independent human rights investigators said that war crimes have indeed been committed in the conflict.

The finding came in the first report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which was set up in March this year, at the request of Human Rights Council Member States.

Much of the Commission’s work focused on investigations in the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy, where allegations of the most serious rights violations were made against Russian, or Russian-backed forces, early in the war.

Thorough investigation

Commission chairperson Erik Møse said that investigators visited 27 towns and settlements and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses. They also inspected “sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture”, as well as remnants of weapons.

Based on the evidence gathered so far during the Commission’s existence, we found out after having carried out the investigations in these four areas just mentioned, we found that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” he told journalists in Geneva.

That conclusion is in line with findings published earlier this year by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU).

It documented unlawful killings – including summary executions of civilians – in more than 30 settlements in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, by Russian armed forces while they controlled these areas in late February and March.

Brutal executions

Other key findings from the report include the surprisingly “large number of executions” in 16 towns and settlements, where “common elements” of the crimes included “visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats”.

The report, delivered to the Human Rights Council earlier on Friday, also documented how explosive weapons had been used by the Russian Federation forces, “without distinguishing between civilians and combatants in populated areas”.

“We were struck by a large number of executions and other violations by Russian forces, and the Commission received consistent accounts of torture and ill-treatment.”

Sexual violence, including against children

Horrific allegations of sexual violence against Ukrainian communities – including children – were also found to be based in fact.

“The Commission investigated cases of sexual gender-based violence. It documented cases in which some Russian Federation soldiers made such crime,” said Commissioner Jasminka Džumhur.

Ukrainian forces were also responsible for human rights violations, said Commissioner Pablo de Greiff: “We have found two instances of ill-treatment of Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian soldiers, and we mentioned this in our statement. We have found obviously significantly larger numbers of instances that amount to war crimes on the part of the Russian Federation.”

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