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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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Global value chains and development in sub-Saharan Africa

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photo: UNIDO

Some 40 postgraduate students, faculty members and international researchers have been exposed to the theoretical underpinnings of the role of industrialization and global value chains (GVCs) and learnt to apply the analytical frameworks to the sub-Saharan African region.

A two-day workshop was organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Policy Research on International Services and Manufacturing (PRISM) Institute at the School of Economics, University of Cape Town.

A key component of the workshop was the use and analysis of data indicators and tools which can facilitate evaluation of industrial competitiveness and country participation within global and regional value chains. The focus was on introducing participants to the newly developed UNIDO Industrial Analytics Platform (IAP) through a set of interactive learning sessions.

The second day of the workshop focused on the past and current experience of sub-Saharan Africa in industrialization and GVC participation, as well as the policy lessons for the region. One particular emphasis was on the need to promote regional integration to facilitate regional value chains and increase engagement with key multinational enterprises that are coordinating the targeted GVCs.

The workshop in Cape Town was the second of a series of pilot capacity-building activities delivered by making extensive use of the IAP. The first was delivered to a group of 40 policymakers from the Thai government in July 2019.

The Industrial Analytics Platform (IAP) can be accessed free of charge here.

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Human Rights

UN human rights report shows rise in reprisals against activists, victims

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Cases of intimidation and retaliation against victims, civil society and activists who cooperate with the United Nations are on the rise, a new report from the UN Human Rights Office reveals.

The study documents incidents from nearly 50 countries, such as the detention and imprisonment of activists, and the filming of participants at meetings, including on UN premises, without their consent. 

Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said there are also cases of authorities threatening and harassing relatives of activists.

“Some governments seem prepared to go to almost any lengths to punish people who cooperate with us.  This may actually underscore the justice of the victims’ causes,” he said.

The report covers the period from 1 June 2018 to 31 May of this year.  It also notes misuse of online spaces to promote hate speech, cyberbullying and smear campaigns, particularly against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Mr. Gilmour expressed concern over the continued trend in the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies as justification for blocking access to the United Nations.

“Reported cases include individuals or organizations being charged with terrorism, blamed for cooperation with foreign entities or accused of damaging the reputation or security of the State. These have also been used to justify restrictions on foreign funding,” he wrote in the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

“A disproportionate number of cases of enforced disappearance or detention, many which have been deemed arbitrary by United Nations experts, relate to these national security arguments. This is a worrisome trend that I have addressed publicly, including in my previous report, and, regrettably, it continues.”

He said the UN will continue to strengthen its response to these developments, including through improved reporting on allegations.  However, he added, the onus remains on countries as “Member States must be accountable for their own actions and practices, and provide remedy when reprisals occur.”

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Humanitarian Investing to Provide Impact Financing to Address Crises

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The World Economic Forum, in partnership with the co-chairs of the Humanitarian Investing Initiative, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Bank Group, announces today the release of a new white paper entitled, Humanitarian Investing – Mobilizing Capital to Overcome Fragility.

The paper outlines the role and initial landscape of humanitarian investing, which provides financing to address crises and fragility while seeking a return on that investment. By harnessing the growing pool of investment capital looking for a double bottom line, humanitarian investing also focuses on situations of conflict and fragility that are causing increasing flows of migrants and refugees.

There is a clear need to rethink humanitarian assistance. About 2 billion people live in countries that are affected by fragility, conflict and violence and, according to OECD predictions, by 2030, more than 80% of the world’s poorest people will live in such conditions. Climate change could bring internal displacement figures to 140 million by 2050, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

While the number of internationally led responses to crises doubled between 2005 and 2017, the current environment faces increasing pressures and there is a lack of investment opportunities for investors who are looking to drive impact.

At the same time, there has been increased focus among investors seeking more purpose-oriented investment options and an emerging opportunity to bring together a new mix of partners to design long-term solutions.

Humanitarian investing acts as a market to match impact-driven investment capital to opportunities that enhance resilience, mitigate crises or promote stability and recovery. The paper explores how this inclusive, sustainable financing model complements traditional humanitarian assistance, leverages development financing instruments and broadens the potential to use investment opportunities to tackle long-term challenges.

“We are challenging humanitarian and development communities, as well as investors and business leaders, to rethink their role in providing support and financial assistance to those most affected by fragility and crises,” said Borge Brende, President, World Economic Forum. “Humanitarian investing can unlock new capital and identify investable opportunities to support vulnerable communities.”

Humanitarian investing applies capital to investable opportunities that:

  • Directly impact and empower people exposed to fragility, conflict and violence and the ecosystems around them
  • Address the needs of the fragility-crisis cycle, from resilience to response to recovery
  • Are structured to take advantage of differences in mandates, return objectives, risk tolerances and investment horizons
  • Bring together public and private partners, expertise and capabilities
  • Create collaboration guided by humanitarian principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality
  • Help to transform the efficiency of the humanitarian system
  • Measure and report on human impacts and financial performance

Humanitarian investing helps those most affected by fragile situations and crises by responding to their needs, ensuring their dignity and agency, addressing inefficiencies in aid and aid delivery systems, overcoming restrictions on the nature of aid given, and advocating for high-need communities.

“We must build on the current momentum toward addressing fragility, protracted crises and forced displacement and develop new financial tools for people,” said Peter Maurer, President, International Committee of the Red Cross. “I see a real opportunity to bring development, humanitarians, investors and business communities together to build inclusive, sustainable markets and harness capital to deliver impact, and help those in greatest need.”

In the months ahead, the initiative plans to develop a collaboration platform, to continue working with key stakeholders to promote organizational readiness, and to form dedicated industry and regional tracks that will engage stakeholders to co-develop investable opportunities as proofs of concept that will enable future deal pipelines.

The Humanitarian Investing Initiative brings together key humanitarian and development actors and representatives from the investor and corporate communities. The members of the initiative are the International Committee of the Red Cross, World Economic Forum; World Bank; World Food Programme; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Capricorn Investment Group; IFC; Gulf International Bank; Novo Nordisk Foundation; Impact Advisory and Finance; Credit Suisse; US Agency for International Development; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, European Commission; the Conduit; and IKEA Foundation.

The Sustainable Development Impact Summit takes place 23-24 September in New York. This year’s meeting will convene more than 800 regional and global leaders from government, business, civil society and academia. The meeting will explore four themes: transforming markets; accelerating climate action; financing sustainable development; and mobilizing action for inclusive societies.

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