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First Tamil Nadu Housing Sector Strengthening Program

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The Government of India, Government of Tamil Nadu and the World Bank today signed an agreement to help low-income groups in the state of Tamil Nadu get access to affordable housing.

The agreement was signed for two projects – $200 million First Tamil Nadu Housing Sector Strengthening Program and $50 million Tamil Nadu Housing and Habitat Development Project – to  strengthen the state’s housing sector policies, institutions, and regulations.

The $200 million First Tamil Nadu Housing Sector Strengthening Program is the first of a series of two single-tranche operations. The first operation supports the government’s ongoing efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing by gradually shifting the role of the state from being the main provider to an enabler. It will also aim to unlock regulatory barriers and incentivize private sector participation in affordable housing for low-income families. The second operation will look to deepen these measures to make the affordable housing sector more efficient and inclusive.

The agreement was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India; Hitesh Kumar S. Makwana, Principal Resident Commissioner, on behalf of the Government of Tamil Nadu; and Sumila Gulyani, Acting Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.

“Providing safe and affordable housing is a key priority for the state of Tamil Nadu as identified in its vision document,” said Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.  “With the allocation provided under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) and the two projects from the World Bank, a large number of the urban poor in the state are expected to get access to better housing and, in the process, improve their living conditions.”  

Nearly half of Tamil Nadu’s population is urban, and this is expected to increase to 63 percent by 2030. An estimated 6 million people are currently living in slums (representing 16.6 percent of the state’s urban population). 

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put urban households at an unprecedented risk of increased poverty, loss of human capital, assets and livelihoods. The impact will be most acute among the poor, particularly those living in overcrowded slums with limited access to basic services,” said Sumila Gulyani, Acting World Bank Country Director in India. “The projects will support the state’s vision of providing safe affordable housing with improved living conditions for the poor and vulnerable.

Concurrently, the Board also approved a $50 million Tamil Nadu Housing and Habitat Development Project to support innovations in housing finance and strengthen housing sector institutions in the state. It will finance the newly created Tamil Nadu Shelter Fund (TNSF) – an innovation in housing finance in India – by providing an equity contribution of $35 million.

This initial support to TNSF will enable cross-subsidization opportunities where higher returns from commercial and high-income developments will compensate for lower returns from affordable housing. This will make affordable housing commercially viable for potential investors. The project will also strengthen the capacity of key housing institutions including the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board, the state’s main provider of affordable housing; Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, the land use planning authority for the Chennai Metropolitan Area; and Tamil Nadu Infrastructure Fund Management Corporation Limited, the asset management company of TNSF.

“Global experience shows that the public sector alone cannot address a growing housing demand, especially as countries undergo rapid urbanization,” said Yoonhee Kim, Senior Urban Economist, World Bank and Task Team Leader for the Housing Sector Strengthening Program. “The public sector can play an important role in providing regulatory and market incentives to make affordable housing more attractive for the private sector.”

Abhijit Sankar Ray, Senior Urban Specialist, World Bank and Task Team Leader for the Tamil Nadu Housing and Habitat Development Project added: “Both projects will complement each other and strengthen key institutions to transform the housing sector in Tamil Nadu.”

The $200 million and $50 million loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), have a maturity of 20 years including a grace period of3.5 years.

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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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Environment

Georgia’s Blue Economy Can Be a Vehicle for Accelerating Climate Change Adaptation

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Greening the Coast and Blueing the Sea for a Resilient Georgiaa virtual event on climate change and marine pollution – was held today with the cooperation of the World Bank, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) andthe Government of Georgia.

The event was focused on the findings and recommendations of two recent World Bank reports: Impacts of Climate Change on Georgia’s Coastal Zone: Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Options and The Cost of Coastal Zone Degradation in Georgia: A Tool for the Coastal Zone Adaptation and the Nationally Determined Contributions.

The reports identify key climate risks and vulnerabilities and the costs of environmental degradation of the coastal zone due to pollution, flooding, coastal erosion, and agricultural soil and forest degradation. Climate adaptation through resilient use of water resources and bringing back tourism to coastal areas after the COVID-19 pandemic are among the recommended priority coastal adaptation interventions.

“Georgia is committed to making its coastal and marine spaces and tourism more resilient, and our Black Sea less polluted,” said Nino Tandilashvili, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.

With the World Bank’s global knowledge and support, Georgia is well positioned to enter a new frontier with its climate pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement. In addition to climate adaptation measures in its coastal zone, transition to a more sustainable Blue Economy can become a public policy goal that can support Georgia’s EU integration agenda and its national development objectives, while preventing environmental degradation and ecological imbalances in the use of coastal and marine resources.

“While the reports seek to raise the level of urgency needed to reduce the impact of climate change on the coastal zone and the escalating cost of inaction, it is not too late for action to ensure that the coastline of the Black Sea of Georgia adapts to climate change. Overall, the blue economy is vital for the social-economic development of Georgia and other countries across the region,” said Sebastian Molineus, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus.

Today’s event also initiated consultations on Blueing the Black Sea, a World Bank and BSEC supported new regional initiative to tackle marine pollution and catalyze Blue Economy investments in the Black Sea region. Recognizing the critical importance that environmental rehabilitation of the Black Sea has for the entire region, the World Bank supports Georgia, as well as other countries of the region, in their collaboration for effective pollution prevention, reduction, and control in the Black Sea.

“Transboundary pollution challenges require regional solutions,” noted Steven Schonberger, World Bank Sustainable Development Regional Director. “However, the regional goals have to translate into national investments that promote economic growth. Any country tackling pollution alone cannot guarantee a desirable quality of the sea water in a closed ecosystem such as the Black Sea. Considering this common ecosystem, collaboration at the regional level is essential.”

The Blueing the Black Sea consultations contribute to strengthened national and regional dialogue to address marine pollution and provide Georgia with a valuable opportunity to integrate the Black Sea into the country’s strategies for climate adaptation and mitigation.

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