The economies of Central Asia must significantly increase financial protection against natural disasters and consolidate efforts to effectively manage disaster risks, said experts at a Regional Forum on Disaster Risk Financing in Almaty today.
Policymakers and disaster risk management experts from five Central Asian countries discussed ways to improve financial protection, including which financing instruments to use, in the context of rising challenges brought about by climate change.
Central Asia is among the world’s most disaster-prone regions. Earthquakes, floods, landslides, extreme weather events and other natural disasters occur almost every year across the region.
In the past three decades, natural disasters have affected over 10 million people throughout the region and caused economic losses of almost $2.5 billion. Earthquakes, which have the potential to cause the most damage, impact 2% of the region’s GDP ever year, while floods impact 1.6%.
The agriculture sector, which employs one-third of Central Asia’s population, is highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as flooding or drought. During 2000-2001, a regional drought caused losses of more than $800 million in agricultural production, with severe consequences for people, especially in rural communities.
“Almost every year, natural disasters affect economies and people’s livelihoods throughout the region,” said Ato Brown, World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan. “Recognizing that disasters are a major burden on their budgets, Central Asian countries are increasingly interested in financial protection. At this Forum, we examine ways to decrease the financial burden, while also ensuring complete recovery in people’s livelihoods after natural disasters.”
Participants at the Forum heard about the experiences of countries from other parts of the world, including Mexico, Kenya, India, and Turkey, which have made important progress in ensuring financial protection against natural disasters.
“Disasters in Central Asia know no borders,” said Valery Petrov, Director of the Center of Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction in Almaty. “And major disasters could be a threat to the entire Central Asia region. Therefore, regional collaboration in this area is critically important.”
Speaking at the Forum, Ede Jorge Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director for Urban, Rural and Social Development at the World Bank, commended the efforts of Central Asian countries in advancing the disaster resilience agenda, while noting that there are opportunities to scale-up these efforts going forward.
Attended by more than 80 participants from Central Asia and beyond, the Forum was organized as part of the World Bank’s efforts to support disaster risk management, including financial protection, in Central Asia. To date, the World Bank has invested over $100 million in projects and technical assistance across the region.
Battery-free smart devices to harvest ambient energy for IoT
By MICHAEL ALLEN
Tiny internet-connected electronic devices are becoming ubiquitous. The so-called Internet of Things (IoT) allows our smart gadgets in the home and wearable technologies like our smart watches to communicate and operate together. IoT devices are increasingly used across all sorts of industries to drive interconnectivity and smart automation as part of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.
The fourth industrial revolution builds on already widespread digital technology such as connected devices, artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing. It is expected to be a significant factor in revolutionising society, the economy and culture.
These small, autonomous, interconnected and often wireless devices are already playing a key role in our everyday lives by helping to make us more resource and energy-efficient, organised, safe, secure and healthy.
There is a key challenge, however – how to power these tiny devices. The obvious answer is “batteries”. But it is not quite that simple.
Many of these devices are too small to use a long-life battery and they are located in remote or hard-to-access locations – for instance in the middle of the ocean tracking a shipping container or at the top of a grain silo, monitoring levels of cereal. These types of locations make servicing some IoT devices extremely challenging and commercially and logistically infeasible.
Mike Hayes, head of ICT for energy efficiency at the Tyndall National Institute in Ireland, summarises the marketplace. ‘It’s projected that we are going to have one trillion sensors in the world by 2025,’ he said, ‘That is one thousand billion sensors.’
That number is not as crazy as it first seems, according to Hayes, who is the coordinator of the Horizon-funded EnABLES project (European Infrastructure Powering the Internet of Things).
If you think about the sensors in the technology someone might carry on their person or have in their car, home, office plus the sensors embedded in the infrastructure around them such as roads and railways, you can see where that number comes from, he explained.
‘In the trillion IoT sensor world predicted for 2025, we are going to be throwing over 100 million batteries everyday into landfills unless we significantly extend battery life,’ Hayes said.
Landfill is not the only environmental concern. We also need to consider where all the material to make the batteries is going to come from. The EnABLES project is calling on the EU and industry leaders to think about battery life from the outset when designing IoT devices to ensure that batteries are not limiting the lifespan of devices.
‘We don’t need the device to last forever,’ said Hayes. ‘The trick is that you need to outlive the application that you’re serving. For example, if you want to monitor a piece of industrial equipment, you probably want it to last for five to 10 years. And in some cases, if you do a regular service every three years anyway, once the battery lasts more than three or four years that’s probably good enough.’
Although many devices have an operational life of more than 10 years, the battery life of wireless sensors is typically only one to two years.
The first step to longer battery life is increasing the energy supplied by batteries. Also, reducing the power consumption of devices will prolong the battery. But EnABLES is going even further.
The project brings together 11 leading European research institutes. With other stakeholders, EnABLES is working to develop innovative ways to harvest tiny ambient energies such as light, heat and vibration.
Harvesting such energies will further extend battery life. The goal is to create self-charging batteries that last longer or ultimately run autonomously.
Ambient energy harvesters, such as a small vibrational harvester or indoor solar panel, that produce low amounts of power (in the milliwatt range) could significantly extend the battery life of many devices, according to Hayes. These include everyday items like watches, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, hearing aids, carbon dioxide detectors, and temperature, light and humidity sensors.
EnABLES is also designing the other key technologies needed for tiny IoT devices. Not content with improving energy efficiency, the project is also trying to develop a framework and standardised and interoperable technologies for these devices.
One of the key challenges with autonomously powered IoT tools is power management. The energy source may be intermittent and at very low levels (microwatts), and different methods of harvesting supply different forms of power that require different techniques to convert to electricity.
Huw Davies, is chief executive officer of Trameto, a company which is developing power management for piezo electric applications. He points out that energy from photovoltaic devices tends to come in a steady trickle, while that from piezoelectric devices, which convert ambient energy from movements (vibrations) into electrical energy, generally comes in bursts.
‘You need a way of storing that energy locally in a store before it is delivered into a load, so you need to have ways of managing that,’ Davies said.
He is the project coordinator of the Horizon-funded HarvestAll project, which has developed an energy management system for ambient energy dubbed OptiJoule.
OptiJoule works with piezoelectric materials, photovoltaics and thermal electric generators. It can function with any of these sources on their own, or with multiple energy harvesting sources at the same time.
The goal is to enable autonomous sensors to be self-sustaining. In principle, it’s quite simple. ‘What we are talking about is ultra-low powered sensors taking some digital measurement,’ said Davies. ‘Temperature, humidity, pressure, whatever it is, with the data from that being delivered into the internet.’
The HarvestAll energy management integrated circuit device adjusts to match the different energy harvesters. It takes the different and intermittent energy created by these harvesters and stores it, for instance in a battery or capacitor, and then manages the delivery of a steady output of energy to the sensor.
Similarly to the EnABLES project, the idea is to create standardised technology that will enable the rapid development of long battery life/autonomous IoT devices in Europe and the world.
Davies said that the energy management circuit works completely autonomously and automatically. It is designed so that it can just be plugged into an energy harvester, or combination of harvesters, and a sensor. As a replacement for the battery it has a significant advantage, according to Davies, because ‘It will just work.’
The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
European ministers adopt “Dublin Declaration” on preventing violence through equality
Thirty-eight Council of Europe member states have committed to a “Dublin Declaration” outlining a series of steps to promote gender equality in order to help prevent domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
The declaration was adopted by Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom following a two-day conference of justice ministers organised by Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of Europe.
Inspired by the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on violence against women, and expert findings on the implementation of the convention so far, states backing the declaration committed to:
- actively promoting, at the highest level, an institutional and political culture which rejects gender-based discrimination and violence, sexism, gender stereotypes and gendered power dynamics in the public and private sector
- ensuring that strategies aimed at preventing and combating violence against women also address the specific role of men and boys in preventing violence against women
- systematically including awareness-raising campaigns as an integral and fully funded part of long-term action plans on violence against women
- taking measures to include in the official curriculum, of all levels of education, teaching material on issues such as the principle of equality between women and men, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender-based violence against women and the right to personal integrity
- providing guidelines for educational material in this area and the training of educational professionals, as well as the creation of knowledge platforms to share best practices
- encouraging initial and in-service training of all relevant professionals, including within the criminal justice system
- taking all possible measures to ensure that episodes of violence are taken into consideration by courts when deciding upon custody and visitation rights
- increasing the provision of perpetrator programmes for domestic violence and for sexual violence operating on the standards and principles set out in the Istanbul Convention
- asking the Council of Europe to carry out a comparative study in member states on the existing models and approaches taken to perpetrator programmes and their results
- inviting states that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention and reinforce efforts to implement existing international legal standards in the area of gender equality and violence against women
To date, 37 Council of Europe member states have ratified the Istanbul Convention, enabling its entry into force in those countries. Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania the Slovak Republic – and the European Union as a whole – have signed, but not yet ratified, the convention. Azerbaijan has not yet signed the convention and Türkiye denounced it in March 2021.
FAO: Join forces to prevent ‘food availability crisis’
As the war in Ukraine stokes a crisis for countries who are struggling just to access the food their populations want and need, the international community needs to ensure that doesn’t spill over into a “food availability crisis”, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Wednesday.
FAO Director-General QU Dongyu told a meeting of agriculture ministers from the G20 industrialized nations in Bali, that with access to Ukrainian grain, cooking oils and other vital foodstuffs for the most vulnerable countries restricted by seven months of conflict, “we must must increase the resilience of global agrifood systems.”
Grain Initiative, ‘an important step’
He lauded the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative as “an important step forward”, and it has now freed-up more than five million metric tonnes of food, with well over a quarter of shipments going directly to lower income countries.
“But still it needs to be complemented to improve the food access of most vulnerable countries”, he said.
Overall, wholesale food prices have been heading down for five months now, but consumer food prices and inflation are soaring, “with devastating implications for global food security and nutrition.”
And beyond the crisis sparked by conflict, an increase in extreme weather is also fuelling to crop destruction and failure worldwide.
“While we witnessed improvements in the forecasts for wheat and soybean markets, the outlook is less positive for maize and rice, and fertilizer markets remain supply-constrained and volatile…Much needs to be done to ensure that all people can afford safe and nutritious food in sufficient quantities to meet their dietary needs and preferences and have a healthy life.”
Recipe for resilience
Mr QU said key steps must be taken, to boost resilience for now, and in the future:
• Improve early warning and early action systems.
• Increase productivity sustainably.
• Accelerate trade; and find innovative solutions to tackle inorganic fertilizer supply constraints.
In the medium-term, he told ministers it was crucial to boost innovation, invest in infrastructure to reduce inequality, reduce food loss and waste, and in the short-term, improve food access.
Support for low-income nations
The idea of the financing facility is to provide funds for 62 lower-income food importing nations that are home to around 1.8 billion people, in order to meet their most urgent needs.
He said it was important to accelerate exports from Ukraine and Russia via the Black Sea Grain Initiative; and “increase fertilizer availability through the comfort letters issues by United States and the new guidelines issued by the European Commission”.
Conflicts, slowdowns and downturns, because of COVID-19, and the climate crisis, he told ministers, “are the major drivers of our crises today and tomorrow.”
“It is important that all nations join in the dividends of peace and stability, so that we all commit to peace. Without peace we will not achieve Zero Hunger and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
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