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Economic Transition into the ‘New Normal’

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Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, Director at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has participated in a webinar entitled “Economic Transition into the ‘New Normal’: How can International Organizations help European Economies Bounce Back?”

The webinar was convened by The Brussels Timesand Huawei Technologies and featured a high-level panel, including Isabelle Mauro, Director, Head Telecommunications, World Economic Forum; Abraham Liu, Vice-President of the European Region, Huawei; Jaroslaw Ponder, Head of Europe Office, International Telecommunication Union; and Nada Sirotic, Counsellor, Permanent Representation of Croatia to the European Union.

Calzadilla-Sarmiento who is Director of UNIDO’s Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation noted a very strong downward pressure on jobs due to the pandemic, with 1.6 billion people at risk, while also observing disruption to global value chains, investment and demand.  He observed that the outbreak presented a challenge to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 24 million people at risk of falling into poverty as a result, and an estimated 3.6 billion people still lacking access to Internet connectivity. 

He also stated that women are particularly affected by the global disruption caused by the pandemic, making Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment more difficult to achieve, while additional medical waste also impacts on environmentally-oriented goals.

Calzadilla-Sarmiento stressed that the Fourth Industrial Revolution would be “at the core” of the “new normal” following the outbreak, with disruptive technologies such as robotics, 3D printing and big data leading to new issues for policymakers and regulators.

“The data sector is coming on very strongly, but we need the regulatory framework to decide how we go about it,” he said, adding,. “Artificial intelligence has to be for the good…we have to put technology on the right track for bringing it to our society, not leaving anyone behind.,”  

Standardization will be particularly important, he suggested, especially finalizing international standards on innovation management systems.  According to Calzadilla-Sarmiento, UNIDO is prioritizing industrial transition for manufacturers, especially to relevant sectors such as mask and ventilator production, as outlined in the Organization’s response paper to the outbreak, “Responding to the Crisis: Building a Better Future”. He also cited “three C’s” for rebuilding trust in the international system and digital networks- confidence, connectivity and collaboration.

Isabelle Mauro emphasized the importance of regulation and dialogue between the public and private sectors. “We really need to look at being a bit more innovative in the way we regulate and the way we make policy, which is a much stronger dialogue between public and private sector. Because we are going into territories that are sometimes new or less known, both sides [should] come together to make sure we don’t hinder innovation, but that we really promote…an environment that is more conducive to innovation,” she urged.

Jaroslaw Ponder stressed the need for a systemic approach to digital upskilling and addressing the digital divide. 

Abraham Liu noted that the digital economy is growing three times faster than other sectors, and underlined how artificial intelligence is key to providing economic and social solutions in the post-COVID-19 era, while Nada Sirotic stressed the need for greater international cooperation, data sharing and trust.

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Environment

Greenpeace Africa reacts to DRC President’s decision to suspend illegal logging concessions

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The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, ordered on Friday, October 15th, the suspension of all dubious logging concessions, including the 6 granted in September 2020. Greenpeace Africa, one of the civil society organizations that denounced these concessions, applauds the decision taken by the Head of State and encourages him to remain vigilant and ensure its effective execution by Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Eve Bazaiba.

Greenpeace Africa reiterates its call for maintaining the moratorium on new industrial logging concessions to prevent a human rights and climate catastrophe. This logging sector, characterized by bad governance, favors corruption and remains out of touch with the socio-economic needs of the Congolese people and the climate crisis we live in.

Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Head of the International Congo Basin Forest Project of Greenpeace: “The decision of H.E. President Tshisekedi against the illegal actions of former Minister Nyamugabo sends an important message to the Congolese people and their government. It is also a red light for the plans of Ms. Ève Bazaiba, current Minister of the Environment, to open a highway to deforestation by multinational logging companies through lifting the moratorium on new industrial concessions.”

The President asks to “Suspend all questionable contracts pending the outcome of an audit and report them to the government at the next cabinet meeting.” Greenpeace Africa maintains that the review of illegalities in the forest sector must be transparent, independent, and open to comments from civil society organizations.

Ms. Wabiwa adds that “Both the protection of the rights of Congolese peoples and the success of COP26 require that the moratorium on granting new forest titles be strengthened. We again call on President Tshisekedi to strengthen the 2005 presidential decree to extend the moratorium.”

Ms. Wabiwa concludes that “instead of allowing new avenues of destruction, the DRC needs a permanent forest protection plan, taking into account the management by the local and indigenous populations who live there and depend on them for their survival.”

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Tech News

Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

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In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”.

In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity and planet. Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centered and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021.

Download it here.

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Human Rights

UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights

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An indigenous community in Paraguay wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. WHO/PAHO

Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday. 

The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

Lands represent ‘home’ 

The decision on Paraguay (in Spanish) marked the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous people, “home” should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.  

“For indigenous peoples, their lands represent their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on indigenous people’s family life, tradition, identity and even lead to the disappearance of their community. It dramatically harms the existence of the culture of the group as a whole,” said Committee member Hélène Tigroudja. 

The decision stems from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, located in Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay. 

The area where they live is surrounded by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans through fumigation, a process which involves the use of banned pesticides. 

Traditional life affected 

Fumigation occurred continuously for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health. 

The damage also had severe intangible repercussions, according to the UN committee.  The disappearance of natural resources needed for hunting, fishing and foraging resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge.  For example, ceremonial baptisms no longer take place as necessary materials no longer exist. 

“By halting such ceremonies, children are denied a rite crucial to strengthening their cultural identity,” the Committee said.  “Most alarmingly, the indigenous community structure is being eroded and disintegrated as families are forced to leave their land.” 

Toxic exposure 

The indigenous community brought the case to the Human Rights Committee after a lengthy and unsatisfactory administrative and judicial process in Paraguay’s courts. 

“More than 12 years after the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period, the investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay,” the Committee said in its decision. 

Recommendations, reparations 

Members found Paraguay did not adequately monitor the fumigation and failed to prevent contamination, adding “this failure in its duty to provide protection made it possible for the large-scale, illegal fumigation to continue for many years, destroying all components of the indigenous people’s family life and home.”  

The Committee recommended that Paraguay complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties responsible and make full reparation to the victims. 

The authorities are also urged to take all necessary measures, in close consultation with the indigenous community, to repair the environmental damage, and to work to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. 

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