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EAEU intending to create Eurasian brands

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“We must focus on global integration projects that would create Eurasian brands and help promoting our goods at the third countries’ markets”. This was stated by the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Tigran Sargsyan speaking in Moscow at the plenary session of the XIII International Conference “Eurasian Economic Integration”.

The participants of the annual event arranged by the Eurasian Development Bank discussed the challenges and prospects for Eurasian integration.

Tigran Sargsyan noted that over the years of its existence the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has proved its solidity and efficiency notwithstanding its young age. Next year, the EAEU countries will celebrate the fifth anniversary of signing the Treaty on the Union.

The EEC observes the increase in mutual trade, improvement of its structure, and strengthening of cooperation ties. “This shows that implementing main principles enshrined in the Union’s treaty has positive results for the Union’s economic growth. The Commission assesses the potential of this effect as about 1% of Gross National Product’s annual growth”, – highlighted the Chairman of the EEC Board.

A solid achievement of the EAEU is the third countries’ increasing interest in developing and deepening trade and economic cooperation with the Union. “This proves that the EAEU has established itself as a genuine integration association”, – believes Tigran Sargsyan.

Recently, the EEC has entered into a number of memoranda in Singapore: a memorandum of understanding with the ASEAN and a memorandum of cooperation with the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand. The Commission expects to sign a similar document with MERCOSUR. In May 2018, trade and economic agreements with China and Iran were concluded. The work is ongoing on international tracks approved by the Heads of the EAEU States in order to create free trade areas with Egypt, India, Israel, Singapore, and Serbia. Five rounds of negotiations with Singapore were held. Tigran Sargsyan expressed his hope that in 2019 it would be possible to enter the home stretch on the issue of creating an FTA with the Republic.

“Concluding FTA agreements with these countries is a serious potential for inducing economic growth in our States, and ramping up exports to these countries’ markets. It also means the possibility of additional investment attraction”, – reported the Chairman of the EEC Board.

Tigran Sargsyan also named the problems to be solved with a view to promote Eurasian integration. In his opinion, they are related to “under-integration” within the Union’s space. There are obstacles inhibiting the implementation of the “Four Freedoms” principle, and these must be removed. This is exactly the task the Heads of the Member States set for the EEC.

“Obstacles result from uncoordinated actions. Therefore, the States must pursue agreed policies. Such trends in global economy as protectionism, protection of domestic manufacturers, trade wars are unacceptable in our Union”, – stressed Tigran Sargsyan.
These agreed policies are underlain by harmonization of national legislations, in particular, in financial sphere. Upon instruction of the Presidents, national and central banks of the participating countries are developing the Concept of the EAEU common financial market.

The Chairman of the EEC Board also mentioned the necessity to form Eurasian brands similar to “Airbus” project in the European Union. “We need to launch such large-scale cooperation projects with the participation of all the partners within the Union, which would enable us to hold ourselves out as a united entity in relation to third countries”, – he stated.

The Commission is actively working over creation of a Eurasian brand in jewelry branch, as the Union countries have relative advantages in this field. The work is under way on forming a Eurasian brand in lighting engineering. The EAEU Digital Agenda is being implemented, which encompasses all the areas of activity of the participating countries. About 30 initiatives – major digital projects – are now being examined by the EEC Digital Office, some of them to win funding in 2019.

The Chairman of the EEC Board mentioned that the Commission was interested in cooperation under such projects with the EADB. “The key role in financing such global integration projects may belong to the Eurasian Development Bank”, – reckons Tigran Sargsyan.

Due to increasing demand in the EAEU countries for settlements in national currencies, the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Development Bank Andrey Belyaninov proposed to develop the Eurasian system of financial messaging. “For further promotion of settlements in national currencies within the Eurasian space we need to create a Eurasian financial messaging system using our “regulatory sandboxes” capabilities, – he said.

The Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Alexey Kudrin considers the EAEU’s task on deepening relations between the participating countries, eliminating barriers, forming common standards and new regulation models, in particular, within the financial market, to be an element of integration.

Whereas the Eurasian integration heavily relies upon its largest economy – the Russian economy, the Russian Federation shall, as a country creating the market for all countries, drive up rates of economic growth, remove barriers and enable the participants from the Union countries to access public procurement. “At this point, Russia shall sometimes make a compromise, then it will provide the impetus for the Union’s development”, – Alexey Kudrin believes.

The plenary session was also attended by the Deputy Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation Sergey Storchak, the Deputy Chairman of Vnesheconombank – Member of the Board Andrey Klepach, the Deputy Chairman of the Board of JSC “Development Bank of Kazakhstan” Dmitry Babichev, and the Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics Sergey Karaganov.

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Human Rights

Free press ‘a cornerstone’ of democratic societies

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The United Nations Secretary-General on Monday urged governments to “do everything in their power” to support free, independent and diverse media, which the UN’s top human rights official highlighted as “a cornerstone of democratic societies”. 

In a message on World Press Freedom Day, marked annually on 3 May, Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the importance of reliable, verified and accessible information.

“During the pandemic, and in other crises including the climate emergency, journalists and media workers help us navigate a fast-changing and often overwhelming landscape of information, while addressing dangerous inaccuracies and falsehoods”, he said.

“Free and independent journalism is our greatest ally in combatting misinformation and disinformation.”

Mr. Guterres also noted the personal risks journalists and media workers face, including restrictions, censorship, abuse, harassment, detention and even death, “simply for doing their jobs”, and that the situation continues to worsen.

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has hit many media outlets hard, threatening their very survival, he added.

“As budgets tighten, so too does access to reliable information. Rumours, falsehoods and extreme or divisive opinions surge in to fill the gap”, the Secretary-General said, urging all governments to “do everything in their power to support a free, independent and diverse media”.

Contributing to humanity’s well-being

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also highlighted the importance of free, uncensored and independent press as “a cornerstone of democratic societies”, conveying  life-saving information, improving public participation, and strengthening accountability and respect for human rights.

“Around the world, people have increasingly taken to the streets to demand their economic and social rights, as well as an end to discrimination and systemic racism, impunity, and corruption”, she said.

However, journalists fulfilling their fundamental role of reporting on these social protests have become targets, with many becoming victims of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests, and criminal prosecution, Ms. Bachelet added.

In addition to dissuading other journalists from critically reporting on relevant issues, such attacks weaken public debate and hamper society’s ability to respond effectively to challenges, including COVID-19, she said.

World Press Freedom Day 

Marked annually on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom. It is also an occasion to evaluate press freedom globally, to defend the media from attacks on their independence, and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

The date marks the adoption of the landmark Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press at a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference in the Namibian capital, in 1991.

This year, the World Day focuses on the theme of “Information as a Public Good”, affirming the importance of information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, as well as to improve transparency and empowerment.

Helping platforms become more transparent

The theme ties in with UNESCO’s work to ensure the long-term health of independent, pluralistic journalism, and the safety of media workers everywhere, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN agency tasked with defending press freedom, said.

“As part of these efforts, we are working to create more transparency on online platforms in areas such as content moderation, while respecting human rights and international freedom of expression rules”, she said.

She also highlighted the agency’s work to equip people globally with the media and information literacy skills they need to navigate this new information landscape, so they can avoid being duped or manipulated online.

“As we mark World Press Freedom Day, I call on everyone to renew their commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, to defend media workers, and to join us in ensuring that information remains a public good”, Ms. Azoulay added. 

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Finance

New ways of thinking and working are necessary to reap blockchain benefits in capital markets

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The World Economic Forum today released Digital Assets, Distributed Ledger Technology, and the Future of Capital Markets. Across the capital markets ecosystem, institutions are facing a combination of intensified competitive dynamics and accelerating technology advancements, presenting opportunities and challenges both to incumbents and new entrants. Although DLT is not a panacea, the report underlines how it can positively impact costs, market liquidity and balance sheet capacity while reducing the complexity, opacity and fragmentation of capital markets.

Written in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the report is based on nearly 200 interviews and eight global workshops with capital market incumbent players, new entrants, regulators and governments. It presents use cases from equity markets, debt markets, securitized products, derivatives, securities financing and asset management.

DLT can address real challenges and inefficiencies in some markets by providing a trusted, shared source of truth between market participants. However, the future is uncertain as there is no agreed path for market-wide adoption. What’s more, as institutions still decide where to invest, varying strategies create tensions.

The report calls for a balance between innovation and market safeguards through standardization, the breaking down of silos and regulatory engagement. According to the authors, fundamentally transforming markets will require new ways of thinking and working across the industry.

“Following several years of intense hype, examples of use cases where inefficiencies and challenges are being solved with blockchain are starting to emerge across capital markets,” said Matthew Blake, Head of the Future of Financial Services, World Economic Forum. “With the future for blockchain in financial services still being defined, a nuanced look at the opportunities this technology offers right now is particularly important for the financial services industry.”

“Distributed ledger technology has come of age as it begins to enhance efficiencies, reduce operating costs and create new business models in capital markets, but the use cases and solutions are respective to each asset class,” said Kaj Burchardi, Managing Director, BCG Platinion. “Whilst this makes sense from a commercial perspective, it has led to a complex patchwork of initiatives. For capital markets to unilaterally adopt DLT, they will require cross-institutional alignment to realize the game-changing market opportunities it can offer.”

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Development

Ukraine to Modernize Higher Education System with World Bank Support

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved today a $200 million project to support the Government of Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen efficiency, quality, and transparency of the country’s higher education system. The project – Ukraine Improving Higher Education for Results – will help boost the quality of the higher education sector, as well as its relevance to labor market needs, while also promoting resilience and continuity of learning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project will finance investments in the modernization of teaching and research facilities and digital learning infrastructure of higher education institutions (HEIs) to ensure learning continuity through remote learning modalities and to support resilience and change management over the longer term. It will also support the development of modern digital infrastructure for distance learning and creation of advanced teaching and research laboratories and learning support facilities.

Another objective of this project is to improve transparency of Ukraine’s education sector through modernization of the Higher Education Management Information System and establishment of a National Student Survey and unified information system on competitive research funding of HEIs.

“The World Bank is pleased to partner with Ukraine to modernize teaching and learning in universities in line with European standards in order to equip young Ukrainians with the skills they need for the 21st century,” said Arup Banerji, World Bank Regional Country Director for Eastern Europe. “As Ukraine recovers from the pandemic, we also strongly support Ukraine’s higher education system in its efforts to be better technically and digitally equipped for providing learning in the post-COVID-19 world.”

The Ukraine Improving Higher Education for Results Project will be implemented over a five-year period by the Ministry of Education and Science (MOES) of Ukraine. The MOES will have overall responsibility for project coordination and monitoring of the implementation progress. 

The World Bank’s current investment project portfolio in Ukraine amounts to just over $3 billion, in nine ongoing investment projects and one Program for Results operation, and is expected to grow to around $3.6 billion over the next two months. The investments support improvements in basic public services that directly benefit ordinary people in areas such as water supply, sanitation, heating, power, energy efficiency, roads, social protection and healthcare, as well as private sector development.

Since Ukraine joined the World Bank in 1992, the Bank’s commitments to the country have totaled approximately $13 billion in about 70 projects and programs.

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