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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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Africa Today

Africa faces 470 million COVID-19 vaccine shortfall this year

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The Republic of Congo received just over 300,000 doses of the COVID vaccines through the COVAX Facility in August 2021. © UNICEF/Aimable Twiringiyima

Africa needs around 470 million doses to accomplish the global of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of its population by the end of the year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.  

The international COVAX initiative aimed at guaranteeing global access to the vaccines, recently announced that it was being forced to slash planned deliveries to Africa, by around 150 million doses this year.  

The scheme is now expected to deliver 470 million doses through the end of December. These will be enough to protect just 17 per cent of the continent, far below the 40 per cent target. 

To reach the end-year target, that 470 million figure needs to double, even if all planned shipments via COVAX and the African Union are delivered. 

Export bans, vaccine hoarding 

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said that “export bans and vaccine hoarding have a chokehold on vaccine supplies to Africa.” 

“As long as rich countries lock COVAX out of the market, Africa will miss its vaccination goals. The huge gap in vaccine equity is not closing anywhere near fast enough. It is time for vaccine manufacturing countries to open the gates and help protect those facing the greatest risk,” Ms. Moeti said.  

Besides export bans, challenges in boosting production and delays in approvals have constrained deliveries. COVAX has called for donor countries to share their supply schedules to give more clarity on deliveries. 

The initiative has also called for countries with enough doses, to give up their place in the queue. Manufacturers must deliver in line with their prior commitments, and countries that are well-advanced must expand and accelerate donations. 

About 95 million more doses are set to arrive in Africa via COVAX throughout September, which will be the largest shipment the continent has taken on board for any month so far. Just 50 million people, or 3.6 per cent of its population, has been inoculated to date. 

Only around 2 per cent of the nearly 6 billion doses administered globally have gone to Africans. The European Union and the United Kingdom have vaccinated over 60 per cent of their populations and high-income countries have administered 48 times more doses per person, than low-income nations.  

Variants risk 

“The staggering inequity and severe lag in shipments of vaccines threatens to turn areas in Africa with low vaccination rates into breeding grounds for vaccine-resistant variants. This could end up sending the whole world back to square one,” warned Ms. Moeti. 

WHO is ramping up support to African countries to identify and address gaps in their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. 

The agency has assisted 15 countries in conducting intra-action reviews and offered recommendations for improvements. The reviews have shown that vaccine supply security and uncertainty around deliveries has been a major impediment.  

With over 300 staff in place across Africa supporting the COVID-19 response, WHO is deploying experts and producing support plans in specific areas, including securing staff, financing, strengthening supply chains and logistics and boosting demand for vaccines.  

Case summary 

As of 14 September, there were 8.06 million COVID-19 cases recorded in Africa and while the third wave wanes, there were nearly 125,000 new cases in the week ending on 12 September. 

This represents a 27 per cent drop from the previous week, but weekly new cases are still at about the peak of the first wave, and 19 countries continue to report high or fast-rising case numbers. 

Deaths fell by 19 per cent across Africa, to 2,531 reported in the week to September 12th. The highly transmissible Delta variant has been found in 31 African countries. 

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Human Rights

UN Women’s feminist roadmap tackles triple crises of jobs, care and climate

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The UN’s gender equality and empowerment organization on Thursday published a flagship feminist plan for economic recovery and transformation, which aims to learn the lessons of the past, and seize the opportunity to handle COVID-related crises better.

UN Women’s Beyond COVID-19: A Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice, draws on the latest data, analysis, and input from more than 100 global experts to provide concrete pathways for putting gender equality, environmental sustainability, and social justice at the centre of global development efforts.

“We have a generational opportunity to break the vicious cycle of economic insecurity, environmental destruction and exclusionary politics and shape a better, more gender-equal and sustainable world”, said Pramila Patten, UN-Women’s Acting Executive Director.

A gloomy assessment

In the first UN plan of its kind, the report details how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities and laid bare weaknesses in the already fragile global care economy.

“Globally, in 2019 and 2020, women lost 54 million jobs, and even before the pandemic, they took on three times as much unpaid care work as men”, according to UN Women.

Moreover, women are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation while also being left out of decision-making around policy and financing to address climate change. 

And by the end of 2021, men’s jobs will have recovered, but there will still be 13 million fewer women in employment, the gender empowerment agency pointed out.

Trio of crises

The trio of interconnected crises of jobs, care and climate, systematically undermine gender equality and threaten the survival of people and planet, but there is still an opportunity to change course.

“Today’s report provides a roadmap for how to do this, while recovering the ground that’s been lost on gender equality and women’s rights”, said Ms. Patten.

To address these intersecting crises, UN Women is calling for better policy, action and investment, including in the care economy and social infrastructure, such as creating jobs and increasing support for unpaid caregivers.

The report maintains that public investments in care services could create 40 to 60 per cent more jobs than the same investments in construction. 

Fair shot for women

Under the premise that transitioning to environmental sustainability can create up to 24 million new green jobs, the report stresses that women should have their fair share of these opportunities, including by getting the necessary training and skills. 

And women’s leadership must be promoted across institutional spaces, from governments to civil society and the private sector, and especially in crisis response.

Despite having been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, making up 70 per cent of healthcare workers globally, the roadmap notes that women currently hold only 24 percent of seats on COVID-19 taskforces that have coordinated the policy response around the world.

Raise the financial bar

Moreover, despite their critical roles as watchdogs and providing a social safety net in communities, women’s organizations are woefully under-funded.

In 2018-19, women’s rights organizations received only one per cent of all aid allocated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to gender equality, amounting to only a tiny fraction of total aid.

This must change, says UN Women.

To finance these measures, transformative macroeconomic policies – including progressive taxes and, especially for low-income countries, global cooperation and debt relief – are urgently needed, the report says.   

Equally important will be to achieve a shift in power relations to amplify the voices of historically excluded groups and ensure effective gender mainstreaming.  

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Energy News

Strength of IEA-ASEAN energy cooperation highlighted at Ministerial meeting

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IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol spoke today to Energy Ministers from across Southeast Asia about the latest global and regional energy trends, pathways to net zero emissions and the importance of clean energy investment.

He was participating in the seventh annual dialogue between the IEA and Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – the economic bloc comprised of 10 Southeast Asian economies. The meeting was hosted via video link by Brunei Darussalam, which is chairing ASEAN’s 39th annual Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM). 

“The IEA remains firmly committed to assisting ASEAN and its member states in developing pathways towards net zero that respect their capacities and capabilities,” Dr Birol told the Ministers. “One of the key messages from the IEA’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap is that not all countries are starting the race to net zero from the same place. I have and will continue to underscore the importance of ensuring that a greater share of global clean energy investment is directed towards the emerging and developing economies including in Southeast Asia to unlock new economic growth possibilities and emissions reductions.’’

This year’s ministerial marks the tenth anniversary of IEA-ASEAN energy cooperation, which was established with a Memorandum of Understanding at the 2011 AMEM in Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. The Ministers and Dr Birol welcomed the adoption of a Commemorative Statement on IEA-ASEAN Energy Cooperation. 

The IEA has significantly scaled up its work with ASEAN and its Member States over the past six years. Indonesia and Thailand became IEA Association Countries in 2015, and Singapore did so the following year. In 2019, under Thailand’s Chairmanship, the IEA was named a Strategic Partner of ASEAN.

The IEA is committed to continue working with ASEAN and its Member States on key energy priorities, including energy security, energy efficiency, clean energy, energy investments and decarbonisation. 

“On this, the tenth anniversary of our collaboration, the IEA is more determined than ever to continue to work hand in hand with our partners in the region to help achieve your energy goals,’’ Dr Birol said. “I very much look forward to the next ten years.” 

The ASEAN Chair in 2022 will be held by Cambodia.

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