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UN launches ‘South-South Galaxy’ knowledge-sharing platform in Buenos Aires

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Flag Raising Ceremony for the Second High Level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 19 March, 2019. Photo: UNIC Argentina.

When countries of the Global South forged an historic technical cooperation deal among themselves 40 years ago, digital technology was a thing of the future, but developing nations have come a long way since then.

China, for example, has managed to send an exploration vehicle to the dark side of the Moon, while India has a satellite orbiting Mars. A new digital tool launched on Tuesday, just ahead of the Second High-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation, aims to strengthen the ways countries share their technology, to benefit developing countries.

The “South-South Galaxy”, is a global knowledge sharing and partnership platform, officially launched in the city hosting the “BAPA+40” conference – the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires – by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

The project aims to give systematic and effective support to countries of the South so they can connect, learn and collaborate with potential partners in the wider digital world.

“The Galaxy project will place in a single digital space all the great experiences of South-South cooperation”, said Jorge Chediek, Special Envoy of the Secretary General, and Director of the UNOSSC, in an interview with UN News, which will be covering the conference throughout the week. “We are talking about the best cases, the best opportunities to establish contacts and partnerships”, he added.

The project, which was launched on the eve of the conference, seeks to unite existing platforms developed by UN agencies and their partners, allowing all in the South-South cooperation field to access and navigate a wide range of knowledge, solutions, research, and development initiatives.

“I look forward to making it a live database. The key for that is to have a strong institutional commitment of many partners and to develop it in a way that it becomes an useful element where users can find what they need to build a better reality in their countries”, Mr. Chediek explained.

From recipients, to tech pioneers

For the Special Envoy, technology has become essential for developing countries, which are increasingly taking the initiative to innovate in the digital world.

“Traditionally, the countries of the South were the recipients of technology. The productive technology, the information technology, was generated in the North,” said Mr. Chediek. “Currently these countries are creating new technologies and have developed new models of how to use them for the benefit of their societies. In this context, South-South cooperation becomes very important for other developing countries to learn and take advantage of these new tools”, he added.

The Envoy stressed during the event how in 1978, when the Buenos Aires Plan of Action was adopted to promote technical cooperation among developing countries, there was still no notion of what technology will actually represent in the 21st century.

“Who would have thought that after 40 years we would meet in Buenos Aires, at the same time that China has managed to send an exploration vehicle to the dark side of the Moon, and India orbits a satellite on Mars”, Mr. Chediek said.

UNOSSC also launched its new report “South-South Cooperation in a Digital World”, on Tuesday, which further explores and analyzes development prospects and trends affecting and impacting digital industries in the Global South, and puts forward proposals for digital industrial cooperation among Southern countries.

Uruguay hails digital opportunities

The President of Uruguay, Mr. Tabaré Vásquez, echoed the Special Envoy’s words of the Envoy saying the world was going through a torrent of technological changes, changing the development paradigm.

“The economy as we have conceived it until now has a new discipline: the digital economy, which is advancing by leaps and bounds. If we look closely at the Big Data market from 2011 to 2017, it has multiplied by 5, and it is estimated that in the next ten years it will triple”, he said.

“The immense amount of data available, the ability to process and transmit it, opens a wide range of development opportunities. However, the challenge is that these changes benefit the largest number of inhabitants of our planet and reach the entire population, serving the neediest”, Mr. Vásquez added.

Flags fly at BAPA+40

On Tuesday, the United Nations flag was raised next to flag of Argentina at the Convention and Exhibition Center of Buenos Aires, marking the formal opening of BAPA+40. UN Development Programme (UNDP) chief Achim Steiner, was joined by Jorge Chediek, and the Argentine Foreign Minister, Jorge Faurie, at the ceremony.

“South-South Cooperation enables countries to reach their development goals and reduce poverty through mutual assistance and solidarity. The Conference will adopt a crucial roadmap to accelerate the implementation of concrete solutions to achieve the sustainable development agenda”, said the UNDP chief.

“We are not talking about abstract realities. We are talking about practices and exchanges that are oriented to improve the quality of lives”, the Special Envoy told UN News.

More than 1,000 participants and high-level delegations from dozens of countries, will debate the importance of South-South Cooperation as a tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030.

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Africa Today

World Bank Supports Recovery and Resilience of Rwanda’s COVID-19-Affected Businesses

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The World Bank Group today approved $150 million from the International Development Association (IDA)* to help the Government of Rwanda increase access to finance and to support recovery and resilience of businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Access to Finance for Recovery and Resilience (AFIRR) Project also benefits from $25 million in IDA grants, as well as an additional $7.5 million grant from the Global Risk Financing Facility (GRiF), to help enhance business’ access to finance.

This project is an important contribution to the government’s post-COVID Economic Recovery Plan, promoting investment in priority growth sectors, supporting jobs and reinforcing Rwanda’s financial system’s crisis preparedness.” said Rolande Pryce, World Bank Country M anager. “The AFIRR project provides significant resources to help further capitalize the Economic Recovery Fund coupled with enhanced support programs to improve firms’ capacity and remove barriers to access to finance. It provides a suite of instruments that strengthen the existing recovery ecosystem ranging from financial instruments to adjustment mechanisms that include innovative risk mitigation solutions.”

The project will provide financing targeting affected businesses to facilitate refinancing of existing debt obligations, provide working capital, and support investments for business adaptation and growth through the provision of longer-term sources of finance. This will be complemented by risk sharing instruments, including a partial credit guarantee scheme and a bridge loan and insurance facility, to increase access to finance for underserved segments, such as micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs). In addition, the project will provide targeted technical assistance to firms, participating financial institutions, and government implementing agencies, to address existing constraints for increasing uptake of the Economic Recovery Fund.

Interventions under the project will help businesses to continue to operate and adapt to the post-COVID-19 environment. They will also provide a lifeline to firms in growth-potential sectors that find it difficult to access financing from financial institutions; this will contribute to preserving jobs and mitigating loss of otherwise productive firms that can help drive economic recovery” said Brice Gakombe, World Bank Financial Sector Specialist, and Task Team Leader of the project.

In addition to providing financing, the AFIRR project will bolster the capacity of key government and private sector stakeholders on the technical aspects of the financing and risk-sharing instruments, as well as disaster risk financing principles. As women were hardest hit by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the project focuses on increasing the share of women-inclusive enterprises able to access financing under the liquidity and financing facility and through targeted training to address gender specific constraints for MSMEs as well as improve outreach in underserved segments.

The AFIRR project will be co-financed in the amount of $100 million by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), of which Rwanda is a non-regional member. It is AIIB’s first investment in Rwanda.

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How to Make Your Hospitality Business More Sustainable

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Climate change and its impact on the world has been a major news story for decades, but it’s only in recent years that awareness has been pushed to the fore. This is thanks to the actions of activists such as Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough.

However, it’s also because 2020 was the joint hottest year on record, tying with 2016 – although, unlike 2016, there was no El Nino event last year to contribute to these temperatures.  

While there is pressure on companies to play their part and think more sustainably, there are things that smaller businesses can do too. As someone who runs a hospitality business, you can make operations more environmentally aware. If you want to think green, here are some ideas to help. 

Consider the materials

How much paper does your business use? There’s a real trend for cardboard menus and paper flyers showcasing the latest dining deals. Hotel rooms are filled with directories and leaflets, too – and these need replacing when they get tatty.

To resolve the issue, try switching to digital. Create online menus that diners can access, have a screen detailing the latest meal deals and specials, and introduce tablets to bedrooms in your hotel. If you’re reluctant to include tablets, try creating a directory on the TV where guests can browse the services your hotel offer, from breakfast serving times to the food on offer.

Rethink utilities

How much electricity does your business use a day? How much water is wasted?

Try looking at introducing motion sensitive lighting to avoid empty rooms being lit. Also, while it can be tricky to encourage guests to think about the water they use, you can get your staff to set an example by switching off taps when not in use. Even small changes can both save energy and money.

Manage waste

Hospitality businesses see a lot of waste, especially hotels. There’s paper waste, bottles, and food waste to consider, among other things.

Having a robust recycling system in place can help to keep your business sustainable. Introduce recycling bins in guest bedrooms and have these in offices too to encourage best practice.

Additionally, separate food waste bins for your restaurant are an essential part of waste management. By keeping food waste separate, it can be easily removed from the premises.

As with any waste management, there are risks here. Staff could cut themselves on glass or encounter other injuries, so think about how to keep your team safe while they do their job. Arm protection and overalls, for instance, can be useful.

Look at the décor

As well as the day-to-day operations in your business, it’s worth thinking about the materials used in the design and décor. Where possible, try to source reclaimed furniture and trawl the vintage and flea markets for beautiful pieces that could work well in your hotel foyer or guest rooms.

By taking the time to reassess the way your business runs, you could find that you’re lowering your carbon footprint and becoming more sustainable.

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Tech News

New Space Sustainability Rating Addresses Space Debris with Mission Certification System

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In early 2022, space organizations will be able to give their missions, including satellite launches and crewed missions, certifications for sustainability with the finalization of the Space Sustainability Rating (SSR).

With ever more satellites being launched each year, the risk of collisions and the proliferation of space debris continues to rise. This has created a need to find ways to maximize the long-term sustainability of the space environment and encourage responsible behaviour.

The SSR system aims to address these issues by quantifying the sustainable behaviour of space actors. These scores will be based on factors ranging from data sharing, choice of orbit, measures taken to avoid collisions, plans to de-orbit satellites on completion of missions, and even how well they can be detected and identified from Earth. The choice and characteristics of a launch provider will also have an impact on the score.

There will be bonus marks for adding optional elements, such as de-orbiting fixtures, which could be used for the active removal of the object once its operational lifetime has been fulfilled.

“The Forum is very glad to support such an innovative approach to a global challenge of space debris,” said Nikolai Khlystov, Lead for Mobility and Space, World Economic Forum. “Incentivizing better behaviour by having actors compete on sustainability will create a race to the top and eSpace at EPFL is a great organization to take the SSR to the next level.”

After a robust selection process involving close to 20 stakeholders, the EPFL Space Center (eSpace) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), based in Lausanne, has been selected to lead and operate the SSR, in preparation for the roll-out of the transparent system for scoring the space sustainability efforts of different space actors.

“Space sustainability is in eSpace’s DNA, as one of our research projects led to the creation of ClearSpace – a pioneer spin-off selected by ESA [European Space Agency] for the first debris removal mission. Hosting the SSR is a strategic move for our Center. With our experience and the partners that will support SSR at EPFL, Switzerland and international levels, we intend to initiate in 2022 what could be a game changer in the way space missions are carried out,” said Jean-Paul Kneib, Professor of Astrophysics and Director of eSpace.

“The SSR aims to influence behaviour by all spaceflight actors, especially commercial entities, and help bring into common usage the sustainable practices that we desperately require,” said Holger Krag, Head of ESA’s Space Safety Programme. “To achieve this, the SSR rating includes a peer-reviewed assessment of the short- and long-term risks that any mission presents to other operators and for our orbital environment in general.”

The SSR initiative was developed over the past two years by the Forum, the ESA and a joint team led by Space Enabled Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, with collaboration from BryceTech and the University of Texas at Austin, and it comes at a critical time. While satellites have long been used for navigation services, weather monitoring and television broadcasts, humankind’s reliance on space infrastructure is set to increase sharply with the launch of large constellations of small satellites designed to boost global internet access.

“The design process of the SSR catalysed a creative community of commercial firms, universities, government agencies and civil society organizations,” said Danielle Wood, Director of the Space Enabled Research Group at the MIT Media Lab. “There is more important work to do in engineering research, policy-making and norm building to ensure that the global community can operate in space for decades to come. All of us who contributed to the SSR are committed to continuing this important work and we hope others will continue to join in.”

There are now nearly 4,000 active satellites in orbit, including the inhabited outposts of the International Space Station and the Tiangong Space Station, currently under construction. As many more organizations from many more countries prepare to launch new missions, this number is set to grow exponentially. The risk of collisions will inevitably increase and raise questions about the capacity of near-Earth orbit to accommodate so many objects safely and sustainably.

By voluntarily taking part in the new SSR system, spacecraft operators, launch service providers and satellite manufacturers will be able to secure one of four levels of certification which they can share externally to show their mission’s level of sustainability.

This will increase transparency, without disclosing any mission-sensitive or proprietary information. The goal is to incentivize good behaviour by all space actors in addressing the problem of space debris. A favourable score for a particular rated party might, for example, result in lower insurance costs or improved funding conditions from financial backers.

Over the two-year development period of the SSR, numerous operators within the space industry have been engaged in the evolution of the rating system and there is already widespread interest in this new tool. Several companies, including Airbus, Astroscale, AXA XL, elseco, Lockheed Martin, Planet, SpaceX and Voyager Space Holdings, have actively supported the SSR concept and expressed interest in participating once it is publicly launched.

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