Last year, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued “a red alert” over a range of dangers confronting the world, which “still persist” as 2019 looms: “These are anxious times for many, and our world is undergoing a stress test,” the UN chief said on Saturday in his message for the New Year.
He reiterated one of his clarion calls during 2018 over climate change, saying that it was still “running faster than we are,” and that deepening geo-political divisions are making conflicts more difficult to resolve.
Record numbers of people are moving in search of safety and protection, inequality is growing and “people are questioning a world in which a handful of people hold the same wealth as half of humanity,” he said.
Moreover, he stated that intolerance was on the rise while trust is declining.
Reasons for hope’
“But”, Mr. Guterres continued, “there are also reasons for hope”, notably in Yemen where breakthrough talks have created an opportunity at least, for peace.
The Secretary-General also cited the September agreement signed in Riyadh between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which has eased long-running tensions and brought improved prospects to an entire region as cause for optimism.
Likewise, he pointed to the agreement between warring parties in South Sudan which has revitalized chances for peace, “bringing more progress in the past four months than in the previous four years.”
The UN was also able to bring countries together in Katowice, Poland, to agree on a programme to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Now we need to increase ambition to beat this existential threat,” asserted Mr. Guterres. “It’s time to seize our last best chance” and “stop uncontrolled and spiraling climate change.”
In recent weeks, the UN also oversaw landmark global agreements on migration and refugees, “that will help to save lives and overcome damaging myths.”
And people everywhere are mobilizing behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which he called “our global blueprint for peace, justice and prosperity on a healthy planet.”
“When international cooperation works, the world wins”, the UN chief stressed.
He maintained that in 2019, the UN “will continue to bring people together to build bridges and create space for solutions” , keeping up the pressure for change.
“As we begin this New Year, let’s resolve to confront threats, defend human dignity and build a better future – together,” concluded the Secretary-General, wishing the world a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2019.
European Innovation Council announces new wave of start-up champions
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.
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.
Greenpeace Africa reacts to DRC President’s decision to suspend illegal logging concessions
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.”
Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age
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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