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Philippine President Duterte Bestows National Honor on ADB President Nakao

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President of the Philippines Mr. Rodrigo Duterte (left) with ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao at Malacañan Palace on 7 January 2020. Photo: ADB

President of the Philippines Mr. Rodrigo Duterte awarded outgoing Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Mr. Takehiko Nakao the Order of Sikatuna, the Philippines’ highest civilian recognition, with the rank of Grand Cross, or Datu, Gold distinction, at Malacañan Palace today.

“At the helm of the ADB, Mr. Nakao has proven to be a true partner of the government in its pursuit of sweeping reforms and ambitious development programs to bring about President Duterte’s goal of liberating Filipinos from poverty and transforming the Philippines into an upper-middle-income economy on his watch,” said Philippine Finance Secretary and ADB Governor Mr. Carlos G. Dominguez. “Under Mr. Nakao’s leadership, the ADB has demonstrated its full confidence in the Duterte presidency’s capability to carry out a comprehensive development strategy for rapid and inclusive growth by raising its lending commitment to the Philippines for programs geared toward closing the country’s infrastructure gap, enhancing the local business climate, promoting countryside development, and achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.”

The Order of Sikatuna was established in 1953 by former President of the Philippines Mr. Elpidio Quirino as the country’s national order of diplomatic merit. It is given to individuals who have rendered exceptional services to the Philippines in developing and strengthening relations with the country.

“I receive this award with my deepest gratitude to President Duterte, Secretary Dominguez, the Government of the Philippines, and its people,” said Mr. Nakao. “As our host country since ADB’s establishment in 1966, the government’s support of ADB over the years has been essential to the success of our operations throughout Asia and the Pacific. ADB has been a strong development partner of the Philippines since the country became a founding member, with our support considerably expanding in the last three years.” 

Mr. Nakao also mentioned the highly successful 2018 ADB Annual Meeting hosted by the Government of the Philippines. “For the event, I worked closely with Secretary Dominguez, who served as Chairman of ADB’s Board of Governors. I benefited from the valuable advice from the Secretary about how to make the Annual Meeting more focused and efficient,” he said.

Mr. Nakao assumed office as ADB President on 28 April 2013. Under his leadership, ADB operations in the Philippines have grown significantly. ADB has been supporting the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program and the 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda including rural development and investment in human capital. ADB’s sovereign lending to the Philippines reached a record high of $2.5 billion in 2019, building on $1.4 billion in 2018, compared with an annual average lending commitment of about $800 million in previous years. ADB has also provided knowledge support to the government on its tax reform initiative and K-to-12 extention of school years up to senior high school (from 10 years).

In 2019, about half of ADB’s assistance financed the first phase of the Malolos–Clark Railway Project, one of the government’s major infrastructure investments under BBB. ADB’s support for the project, which is expected to be partially operational in 2022, will total $2.75 billion, making it ADB’s largest project financing in Asia to date. Construction work is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2020.

The new Philippines Country Partnership Strategy for 2018–2022, designed under Mr. Nakao’s leadership, paves the way for providing considerably larger assistance to the country. ADB’s planned assistance through 2022 includes a significant number of major infrastructure projects, such as railways, bridges, flood risk management, and irrigation. In addition, ADB will support the government’s Bangsamoro peace process through lending and technical assistance. ADB will also support policy reforms to improve the country’s investment climate, public financial management, and local economic development.

Mr. Nakao will step down as ADB President on 16 January. He will be succeeded on 17 January by Mr. Masatsugu Asakawa, Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs of Japan until July 2019.

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Health & Wellness

Over 500,000 people have been inoculated against COVID-19 in Moscow

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The number of people who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Moscow has reached half a million, and over 500,000 of them have already received their first jab. Every day between 12,000 and 20,000 residents of the city sign up for vaccination.

Vaccines are being administered in 100 vaccination points in city polyclinics and 20 popular public places, where mobile teams have been deployed. The list of categories of citizens entitled to vaccination is constantly expanding and the city’s vaccination campaign is picking up pace.

The list of categories of citizens prioritized for vaccination also includes Muscovites over the age of 60 years old (who form the largest risk group and are most vulnerable to COVID-19). More than 9,000 residents of 33 retirement homes have already been vaccinated. In addition, vaccination is recommended for people with chronic diseases who need to stay at home, as well as college and university students over 18 years of age.

A convenient online vaccination appointments system has been set up specially for Muscovites in the mos.ru portal. It can be accessed by going to ‘Doctor’s Appointment’ in the list of services and selecting ‘Vaccination Against COVID-19’.

In addition, vaccine appointments can be made via the My Moscow mobile app, the Moscow Gosuslugi government services website and the emais.info medical services portal, as well as by calling a vaccination center. The vaccine is administered in two doses, with appointments for the second injection being made automatically.

Many large employers are requesting on-site vaccination of their staff, and this network will be gradually expanded. Naturally, the throughput capacity of such organizations and, most importantly, the employers’ wishes are being taken into account.

Detailed information on the vaccination program has also been posted in the portal’s special project.

The Sputnik V vaccine consists of two components requiring two injections, and provides a reliable immune response. Volunteers will first be injected with the first component of the vaccine, with a second vaccination following 21 days later. Only the first appointment needs to be booked, as the doctor will arrange the patient’s second visit on the day of their first vaccination. To ensure that people do not forget about their re-vaccination, they will receive an SMS message the day before it, reminding them of the date, time and clinic they need to attend.

The vaccination process takes at least an hour, including a 10-minute examination by a doctor before the vaccination and 15 minutes spent preparing the vaccine, which is stored in frozen state (with five doses in one vial) and thawed for five patients at once when they have been examined. Post-vaccination observation and examination take a further 30 minutes. Each patient receives a certificate recording the two injections and confirming that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The vaccine was produced using a biotechnological process based on the most modern technological platform created by Russian scientists. It is safe because it does not contain the coronavirus. It is based on special structures (carrier vectors) created in the laboratory that contain only a part of the virus gene. Upon encountering the vaccine, the human immune system produces protective antibodies.

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Human Rights

Belarus human rights situation deteriorating further

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Large crowds have demonstrated their anger at the results of the presidential election in Belarus. Photo: Kseniya Halubovich

A “systematic crackdown” against dissent in Belarus is continuing, months since the country’s disputed presidential election last year, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has told the Human Rights Council.

In comments to the Geneva forum on Thursday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted that curbs on demonstrators had got worse since last August’s poll returned President Alexander Lukashenko to office.

Those protests had led to “mass arbitrary arrests and detentions” of largely peaceful demonstrators, along with “hundreds of allegations of torture and ill-treatment”, Ms. Bachelet said, before noting that “not one of the hundreds of complaints for acts of torture and ill-treatment” had been investigated.

The High Commissioner highlighted concerns about Government proposals which would reportedly “enable harsher punishments” for those taking part in peaceful demonstrations from now on.

To date, nearly 250 people have received prison sentences on allegedly politically-motivated charges context of the 2020 presidential election, Ms. Bachelet said.

‘Unprecedented’ human rights crisis

The OHCHR report “covers serious violations” of rights between 1 May and 20 December last year. “The events that unfolded before and immediately after the election have led to a human rights crisis of unprecedented dimension in the country”, added Ms. Bachelet.

All of the violations detailed “committed with impunity, created an atmosphere of fear”, she said, noting the further deterioration since December.

She said journalists were being increasingly targeted, “and human rights defenders both institutionally and individually. Just last week, large-scale searches of human rights defenders, journalists, and organizations such as the Belarusian Association of Journalists and Viasna (A Minsk-based human rights centre) were conducted, reportedly in connection with criminal investigations for ‘mass disorder’”.

Release innocent protesters

She told the Council it was “essential for the future of the country that respect for human rights, and the broadest possible civic space, be established. All those who have been detained for peacefully exercising their rights should be released.”

The rights chief called for “thorough, effective, credible and transparent investigations” into all the allegations of serious violations, with perpetrators being brought to justice, as well as an “immediate end” to the Government policy of harassment and intimidation of civil society and media workers.

“I further recommend comprehensive reform of the national legal framework”, she concluded. “Our report includes specific recommendations, which address key systemic issues, including with respect to fair trials, due process and the independence of the judiciary.”

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Health & Wellness

Natalia Vodianova joins UNFPA to tackle stigma and advance women’s health

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Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova has been appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA. Photo: UNFPA

The UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, on Wednesday appointed supermodel, philanthropist, and impact investor Natalia Vodianova as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, in an effort to empower women and girls, including fighting stigma surrounding menstruation.

“For too long, society’s approach to menstruation and women’s health has been defined by taboo and stigma”, said Ms. Vodianova, stressing that the situation “has undermined the most basic needs and rights of women.”

In her new role with UNFPA, officially known as the UN Population Fund, Ms. Vodianova will seek to help culturally redefine menstruation, as a normal bodily function.

On any given day, more than 800 million women and girls aged 15 to 49 are actively menstruating. In many countries, taboos surrounding the cycle leaves girls vulnerable and can even be life-threatening, says UNFPA, as they are excluded from public life, denied opportunities, sanitation and basic health needs.

Major mission

The agency said in a press release, that the issue has been starved of the attention it deserves, but in recent years that has started to change, and “achieving this, is central to UNFPA’s mandate”.

“It’s a tragic irony that something as universal as menstruation can make girls feel so isolated…We all have a role to play in breaking the taboos around menstruation”, said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, underscoring the significance of spotlighting the damage caused.

She added that the agency “is pleased to partner with such a powerful and committed advocate. Societies prosper when girls are confident, empowered and making their own decisions!”

Building on past momentum

Over the past three years, Ms. Vodianova has teamed up with UNFPA to launch a series of “Let’s Talk” events worldwide, which have mobilised policy makers, civil society and the private sector to help tackle shame, exclusion and discrimination, faced routinely by millions of women and girls.

Leaders from various sectors such as fashion, politics, sport, technology and media have also gathered in Turkey, Kenya, Switzerland, Belarus and India to advance women’s health.

Raised in poverty by a single mother in Russia, along with caring for a half-sister who has cerebral palsy and autism, Ms.Vodianova is a passionate advocate for human rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of people living with disabilities, UNFPA noted.

The agency said it was looking forward to working with her in her role as a bridge builder across the fashion and technology industries, where she’s an influential international voice, to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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