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UN: Nuclear test ban treaty critical to global collective security

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Every effort should be made to bring a global treaty into force that prevents more countries from developing nuclear weapons, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said.

His appeal came in a message for the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, observed annually on 29 August.

“The history of nuclear testing is one of suffering, with the victims of more than 2,000 nuclear tests often from the most vulnerable communities around of the world,” Mr. Guterres said.

“The devastating consequences – which were not confined by international borders — encompassed impacts on the environment, health, food security and economic development.”

The UN has been pressing for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) to become law.

The treaty prohibits nuclear explosions anywhere – whether on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater or underground.

It also makes it difficult for countries to develop nuclear bombs for the first time, and prevents nations that already possess nuclear technology from developing even more powerful bombs.

More than 180 countries have signed the treaty, most of whom have also ratified it.

However, while nearly universal, the treaty will only enter into force after it is signed and ratified by eight countries with nuclear technology capacity: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

“The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has an essential role within the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime,” the UN chief said. “It fosters international peace and security by constraining the development of nuclear weapons.  Our collective security demands that every effort should be made to bring this essential treaty into force.”

Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the UN commission which promotes the treaty, known as the CTBTO, also called on the international community to “take the final steps” to ensure its entry into force.

“As long as the Treaty is not in force, the established international norm against nuclear testing and the global verification system that has been developed over the past two decades are at risk. I urge the last eight countries to ratify the Treaty and I appeal to others to renew their efforts in supporting it,” he said, also in a message to mark the International Day.

Mr. Zerbo said his conviction regarding the role the treaty can play on the Korean Peninsula was strengthened following a visit to the region last week.

The CBTO is hosting a meeting in Kazakhstan this week, which brings together international experts and young people to look at key issues surrounding denuclearization.

“The significance of being in Kazakhstan on 29 August where nuclear testing has left a poisonous legacy is immense,” Mr. Zerbo added, recalling that the date also commemorates the 1991 shutdown of the Semipalatinsk test site, where the Soviet Union undertook what he called “one of the most extensive nuclear test programmes in history.”

“For Kazakhstan, it was very important to share its own experience in having the nuclear tests conducted in its territory,” said Ambassador Kairat Umarov, the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN, emphasizing that nuclear weapons are not only destructive when they are used, but also that their harmful effects continue to linger on, devastating people’s lives and the environment where they are used.

“If we talk in figures, the after effects of the nuclear tests in the air, on the ground and under the ground, it is like spraying 300 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium over 18,000 square kilometers […] a huge territory that is rendered useless,” he explained.

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Finance

European Innovation Council announces new wave of start-up champions

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The European Commission’s European Innovation Council has selected 65 innovative start-ups and SMEs to receive €363 million of funding for breakthrough innovations. Each company will receive a combination of grant financing and equity investment of up to €17 million to develop and scale up their ground-breaking innovations in healthcare, digital technologies, energy, biotechnology, space and other. This is the first batch of companies that will be funded under the fully-fledged European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “The EIC Accelerator is a unique European funding instrument of the European Innovation Council. It supports the development of top-class innovations through crowding-in private investors and offers a portfolio of services to support their scaling-up. With the European Innovation Council we aim to bring Europe to the forefront of innovation and new technologies, by investing in new solutions for the health, environmental and societal challenges we are facing.”

The companies were selected following a new two-step process, introduced under Horizon Europe. Applications are rigorously assessed by external experts and followed by an interview with a jury of experienced investors and entrepreneurs. Among the companies selected are:

  • Dutch Sensius BV that developed a thermotherapy system to treat the head and neck cancer without negative side effects;
  • French Alice & Bob that invented a new type of self-correcting quantum hardware to build the world’s first fault-tolerant commercial quantum computers;
  • Lithuanian UAB INOVATYVI MEDICINA that developed a smart, sensory, tele-operated robotic system, which allows an endovascular procedure to be performed without exposure to harmful X-rays;
  • Norwegian Bluegrove AS that introduced the most advanced salmon welfare monitoring and prediction solution to take care of fish welfare.

The 65 successful companies are established in 16 countries. The demand for equity financing through the new EIC Fund was particularly high, with 60 out of the 65 companies. This means that €227 million out of the total €363 million are expected to be in the form of investment component.

Background

The EIC Accelerator offers start-ups and SMEs grants of up to €2.5 million combined with equity investments through the EIC Fund ranging from €0.5 to €15 million. In addition to financial support, all projects benefit from a range of Business Acceleration Services that provide access to leading expertise, corporates, investors and ecosystem actors. 

The EIC was launched in March 2021 as a major novelty under the Horizon Europe programme, and following a successful pilot phase between 2018 and 2020. It has a budget of over €10 billion of which approximately €1.1 billion is available in 2021 for the EIC Accelerator. The majority is open to breakthrough innovations in any field, while €495 million is earmarked for Strategic Health and Digital technologies and Green Deal solutions.

There were two rounds of direct equity investments under the EIC Pilot earlier this year, in January and in June, with 111 highly innovative start-ups and SMEs receiving more than €500 million to scale up breakthrough innovations. Among them there were two ‘unicorn’ companies.

A new start-up friendly application process has been introduced this year, under Horizon Europe, where companies can submit their ideas at any time for an immediate fast assessment. Successful candidates are invited to prepare a full application with the help of free business coaching. The full applications are then evaluated at regular cut-off dates approximately every 3 months. Since March over 4,000 start-ups and SMEs have sent their ideas, of which 801 presented full applications to the first cut-off on 16 June 2021 and a further 1098 to the second cut-off on 6 October, which are now being assessed. The results of this second batch of EIC Accelerator companies will be announced by the end of the year and the next cut-off date is expected in the beginning of 2022.

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Environment

Greenpeace Africa reacts to DRC President’s decision to suspend illegal logging concessions

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forest

The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, ordered on Friday, October 15th, the suspension of all dubious logging concessions, including the 6 granted in September 2020. Greenpeace Africa, one of the civil society organizations that denounced these concessions, applauds the decision taken by the Head of State and encourages him to remain vigilant and ensure its effective execution by Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Eve Bazaiba.

Greenpeace Africa reiterates its call for maintaining the moratorium on new industrial logging concessions to prevent a human rights and climate catastrophe. This logging sector, characterized by bad governance, favors corruption and remains out of touch with the socio-economic needs of the Congolese people and the climate crisis we live in.

Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Head of the International Congo Basin Forest Project of Greenpeace: “The decision of H.E. President Tshisekedi against the illegal actions of former Minister Nyamugabo sends an important message to the Congolese people and their government. It is also a red light for the plans of Ms. Ève Bazaiba, current Minister of the Environment, to open a highway to deforestation by multinational logging companies through lifting the moratorium on new industrial concessions.”

The President asks to “Suspend all questionable contracts pending the outcome of an audit and report them to the government at the next cabinet meeting.” Greenpeace Africa maintains that the review of illegalities in the forest sector must be transparent, independent, and open to comments from civil society organizations.

Ms. Wabiwa adds that “Both the protection of the rights of Congolese peoples and the success of COP26 require that the moratorium on granting new forest titles be strengthened. We again call on President Tshisekedi to strengthen the 2005 presidential decree to extend the moratorium.”

Ms. Wabiwa concludes that “instead of allowing new avenues of destruction, the DRC needs a permanent forest protection plan, taking into account the management by the local and indigenous populations who live there and depend on them for their survival.”

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Tech News

Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

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In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”.

In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity and planet. Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centered and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021.

Download it here.

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