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ADB Approves $415 Million Loan to Improve Georgia’s North–South Road Corridor

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $415 million loan to Georgia to build a new highway as part of a wider government program to improve the country’s transport network and enhance Georgia as a regional trade and tourism hub.

The Kvesheti–Kobi Road Project is the first in a series of upgrades planned for the North–South Corridor, which is a vital transit route for Georgia, Armenia, and regional trading partners. The corridor also intersects with the East–West Highway to the north of Tbilisi, the capital, providing access to the shortest link connecting Central Asia with Europe and East Asia.

The 23-kilometer (km) bypass will be built between the towns of Kvesheti and Kobi and pass through the spectacular Caucasus Mountains in the country’s northeast. It will provide a safer and faster travel alternative for residents, tourists, and freights trucks who face worsening delays on the current road, especially on the Jvari Pass section, which is highly exposed to avalanches in winter.

The bypass will follow a new alignment through the Khada Valley and include engineering features such as Georgia’s longest tunnel (9 km) and its most advanced arch bridge spanning the Khadistskali River. The road will also provide a much-needed link to services and job opportunities for the valley’s remote communities.

Currently, the 3,500 vehicles that use the existing 35-km road each day face high accident risks as well as road closures of more than 40 days a year, mostly in winter. With traffic numbers expected to double over the next 10 years, building a shorter, safer, and faster road that is operational all year is a national priority.

“A high-quality road network is essential for the growth and development of Georgia, which is located at the center of transit and trade routes linking Europe and Asia,” said ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Mr. Werner Liepach. “The new bypass road will greatly improve the North–South Corridor and help enhance trade and regional connectivity, as well as increase the number of visitors in the region, which is home to world-class natural and cultural heritage assets.”

Total transit trade along the North–South Corridor in 2015 amounted to 1.3 million tons of freight, or 12% of Georgia’s total transit trade. Meanwhile, tourism accounts for around 7% of Georgia’s gross domestic product, with the North–South Corridor towns of Gudauri and Stepantsminda among the country’s prime destinations. By diverting freight trucks away from Gudauri via the bypass, the Kvesheti–Kobi Road Project will contribute vital infrastructure for Gudauri to become an internationally-recognized winter resort.  

The project is estimated to cost $558.6 million, with cofinancing of $60 million anticipated from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and $83.6 million from the Government of Georgia. The road has been designed to European standards and will be single lane each way plus an additional climbing lane uphill for heavy vehicles. To overcome difficult terrain challenges in the Caucasus Mountains, it will require 5 tunnels at a total length of 11 km and 6 bridges at a total length of 1.6 km.

During project preparation, the Roads Department of Georgia, ADB, and EBRD conducted extensive assessments and consultations with local communities, civil society organizations, and other project stakeholders. Every care has been taken to ensure the environmental and social impacts of the project are minimized and mitigated, including measures to protect the Khada Valley’s biodiversity and cultural heritage sites.

Informed by consultations with local residents, the bypass will be complemented by around 5 km of access roads to connect remote communities in the Khada Valley, which are currently snowbound during winter. The project will also establish a multipurpose visitor center as a hub for tourism activities and to enhance women’s access to economic opportunities.

“The bypass and connecting roads will provide these communities with year-round access to hospitals, schools, and other vital services,” said ADB Transport Specialist for Central and West Asia Mr. Kamel Bouhmad. “The visitor center will focus on community-based tourism to increase the benefits the road will bring.”

Road construction is expected to begin in 2020.

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Human Rights

Partnerships key to taking landlocked countries out of poverty

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The challenges faced by landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), some of the poorest in the world, can be overcome through more effective partnerships, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared on Thursday, at a conference held at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Midterm Review of the 10-year Vienna Programme of Action For Landlocked Countries, is an opportunity for the international community to renew commitments made, to lifting LLDCs out of poverty.

Challenges they face include underdeveloped forms of connectivity, from roads to railways and internet infrastructure, a lack of access to sea ports, and poor integration into global and regional markets.

Cooperation amongst the countries concerned is therefore crucial, said the UN chief: “We need the right policy mix; increased investment, reliable transit infrastructure, efficient customs operations and improved access and use of technology”.

The international community should support landlocked countries, he said, in building up their private sectors, enhancing the business environment, and strengthening statistical systems, because policies must be based on data.

‘Headway in key areas’

The UN chief pointed to “headway in some key areas”. These include higher GDP in many of the countries; and progress on indicators related to health, education, energy, gender equality and ICT (Information and Communication Technology).

Transport connectivity is improving, noted Mr. Guterres, with transit and economic corridors developing. Examples of growing economic links include the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, and the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement, which provide opportunities for landlocked countries to link up to external markets and global value chains.

Since the Vienna Programme was adopted in 2014, LLDCs are now benefiting from modest increases in development aid from governments, as well as increased aid for trade and cooperation between developing countries.

Struggling ‘in the shadows of historical injustices’

Muhammad-Bande, the President of the General Assembly, in his speech to the conference.

Ramped-up action is sorely needed if the international community is to change the “grim picture” of the current situation for LLDCs, many of which “continue to struggle in the shadows of historical injustices”, he said, going on to list some of the severe problems these countries face.

Economic growth in the landlocked developing countries has declined in the last five years, one third live in extreme poverty, and the average ranking for LLDCs in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP’s) Human Development Index lags behind the world average by 20 per cent.

Undernourishment in landlocked developing countries reached a rate of 23.2 per cent in 2016, and food insecurity affects 51.6 per cent of their population, a problem that is compounded by the effects of climate change. In addition, 40 per cent of the population of these nations do not have access to electricity.

Deal for landlocked countries a ‘testament to multilateralism’: GA President

Mr. Muhammad-Bande described the Political Declaration due to be adopted at the Midterm Review of the Vienna Programme as “a testament to multilateralism”, and a “roadmap by which we can align the objectives of the Programme with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” and, in particular, Sustainable Development Goal 1, which calls for the eradication of poverty.

The General Assembly President outlined the types of action that can support the sustainable development of landlocked developing countries.

Some government programmes and grassroots anti-corruption movements have used digital technology to tackle illicit financial flows; financing for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises needs to be strengthened; economic governance and business regulation should be improved; and technical support should be provided, for infrastructure and transport development projects.

“To ensure sustainable development for generations to come we must work together now”, said Mr. Muhammad-Bande. “Our actions must be guided by the spirit of cooperation and solidarity”.

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Energy News

Assessing the challenges and opportunities of Africa’s energy future

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The International Energy Agency has significantly deepened its engagement with Africa in recent years, including through greater dialogue with governments and business leaders, increased training programmes for policy makers and expanded analytical work.

Today, several ministers from African countries took part in a special roundtable event about the continent’s energy future that was hosted by the IEA ahead of the Agency’s biennial Ministerial Meeting. It was chaired by Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union’s Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, and Alessandra Todde, Italy’s State Secretary of Economic Development.

The roundtable included the Energy Ministers of Morocco, Senegal and South Africa, as well as other key stakeholders from government, industry and international organisations. The discussions assessed Africa’s energy challenges, took stock of the findings from the IEA’s recent Africa Energy Outlook 2019 and explored the opportunities for further IEA engagement to help African countries’ achieve universal access to affordable, secure and sustainable energy.

“How Africa meets the energy needs of a fast-growing and increasingly urban population is crucial for its economic and energy future – and the world. That is why the IEA is strategically enhancing its engagement with African leaders and convening its partners here today,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “The IEA is fully committed to supporting African countries in achieving sustainable and prosperous energy transitions in the coming decades.”

In June, the African Union Commission and the IEA co-hosted their first joint ministerial forum, which brought together high-level representatives from government and industry in Addis Ababa to discuss the development of Africa’s energy sector. Dr Birol announced today that the second ministerial forum will take place in April 2020 and that South Africa has offered to host the event in line with its 2020 presidency of the African Union.

Following the meeting, the IEA and Senegal signed a Memorandum of Understanding to increase cooperation.

The 2019 IEA Ministerial Meeting is taking place in Paris on 5-6 December. It is chaired by Mr Michał Kurtyka, Poland’s Minister of Climate and the President of COP24. Ministers of IEA Member, Accession and Association countries and CEOs of leading companies are attending the meeting.

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EU Politics

8th Euronest Assembly: The future of relations with Eastern partners

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Energy security, EU-Eastern relations and geopolitical challenges are set to be among the focus points of the 8th session of the joint parliamentary assembly.

Members of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Tbilisi, Georgia, for the 8th Ordinary Session, from 8 to 10 December. The Assembly is comprised of 60 MEPs and 10 members from each of the participating parliaments of the Eastern European partners (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine).

Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze will open the session on 9 December. The meetings will be co-chaired by MEP Andrius Kubilius (EPP, LT) and Ivan Krulko, member of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament).

European Parliament President David Sassoli will be represented in Tbilisi by Vice-President Klara Dobrev (S&D, HU).

Political affairs, economic integration, energy security and social matters

The opening session will be preceded by several meetings of the different Euronest committees and working groups, focussing on a wide range of subjects.

Participants will adopt resolutions on political affairs, economic integration, energy security and social matters. As 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership, members will also reflect on the future of this policy, in the run-up to the next Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled to take place in the spring of 2020.

Background

The Euronest PA was established on 3 May 2011 in Brussels, when the Presidents (or their representatives) of the Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Moldovan, Ukrainian and European Parliaments signed the Assembly’s Constitutive Act.

The mission of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly is to promote the conditions necessary to accelerate political association and further economic integration between the EU and the Eastern European Partners, as well as to strengthen cooperation within the region and between the region and the EU. The multilateral Assembly contributes to strengthening, developing and making the Eastern Partnership visible.

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