Vladimir Voronkov, Head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, said the global coronavirus crisis underscored the challenges involved in eliminating terrorism, as he presented the UN Security Council with the latest report on ISIL’s impact on international peace and security.
“This pandemic environment raises several strategic and practical challenges for counter-terrorism, which we discussed during the Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week organized by my Office last month,” he told Council members during video-teleconference briefing.
Since the start of this year, the threat has grown in conflict zones, as seen by the regrouping and increased activity of ISIL and some of its affiliates in Iraq and Syria, he explained.
ISIL expands ‘opportunistic propaganda’ efforts amid pandemic
In non-conflict areas, the threat seems to have decreased in the short term, with COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions apparently lowering the risk of attacks.
However, “opportunistic propaganda efforts” by ISIL could be fuelling an ongoing trend of attacks by individuals and small groups, he said.
Unclear, he added, is how the pandemic is affecting ISIL’s recruitment and fundraising efforts, or whether there is a change in strategic direction under its new leader, Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla. His predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed during a US military operation in Syria in 2019.
Putting a spotlight on regional developments, Mr. Voronkov said that ISIL continues to consolidate its position in some parts of the Middle East previously under its control, “operating increasingly confidently and openly”.
More than 10,000 ISIL fighters are estimated to be active in Iraq and Syria, moving freely in small cells between the two countries, he said, adding that 2020 has seen a “significant increase” in ISIL attacks in both States compared to 2019.
COVID-19 and suspected terrorists
The COVID-19 crisis has further complicated the already dire and unsustainable situation of several thousand people – especially women and children – with suspected links to ISIL. Some countries are still repatriating children, but there has been only limited progress on overcoming legal, political and practical hurdles to repatriation, he said.
“The global threat from ISIL is likely to increase if the international community fails to meet this challenge,” Mr. Voronkov warned, calling for decisive action from Member States on humanitarian, human rights and security grounds.
Turning to Africa, he described Islamic State in West Africa Province and its 3,500 members as a “major focus of ISIL global propaganda” as it reinforces its links with Islamic State in the Greater Sahara – “the most dangerous group in the tri-border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger”.
While ISIL has only a few hundred fighters in Libya, it is exploiting tensions between ethnic groups and represents a portent threat capable of broader regional impact, he said, adding that ISIL could potentially expand its activities if the conflict in the North Africa nation escalates.
In Europe, the main threat comes from Internet-driven homegrown terrorist radicalization, he said. Acute concerns surround the release of prisoners with terrorist background and connections, while the rise of right-wing violent extremism means that intelligence services in some European countries are shifting their priorities away from ISIL.
Looking towards Asia, he said that ISIL’s affiliate in Afghanistan, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan, remains capable of high-profile attacks – despite territorial losses and the arrest of its leaders – as it seeks to use the country to spread its influence across the region and to attract fighters who oppose the peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States.
Hurricanes and cyclones bring misery to millions, as Ian makes landfall in the U.S.
Hurricane Ian caused devastation across western Cuba and increased its strength and size as it made landfall mid-afternoon local time on Wednesday, in the United States; meanwhile Typhoon Noru underwent an “explosive” intensification before it hit the Philippines, the UN Meteorological agency, WMO, has said.The two tropical cyclones came quick on the heels of Hurricane Fiona, which caused deadly flooding in the Caribbean and was the strongest storm on record to hit Canada. Typhoon Nanmadol, prompted the evacuation of nine million people in Japan.
Fingerprints of climate change
The World Meteorological Organization has reminded that climate change is expected to increase the proportion of major tropical cyclones worldwide, and to increase the heavy rainfall associated with these events.
Meanwhile, sea level rise and coastal development are also worsening the impact of coastal flooding.
“The human and socio-economic impacts of these cyclones will be felt for years,” warned Cyrille Honoré, WMO Director of Disaster Risk Reduction and Public Services branch.
Hurricane Ian slammed into Cuba on 27 September as a Category 3 storm, with sustained winds of 205km/h and even stronger gusts leading to flash flooding and mudslides.
It is estimated that more than three million people have been affected, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office informed.
According to WMO, Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel said that the damage caused by Ian will likely be significant, though only preliminary assessments have been carried out.
There were no immediate reports of casualties. But there was severe damage to infrastructure, housing, agriculture, and telecommunications, with power reportedly lost to the entire country. Pinar del Río, the hardest hit province, is home to 75 per cent of the country’s tobacco production – a key export for Cuba – and about 40 per cent of the nation’s bean production.
Florida on high alert
Ian is intensifying rapidly and is now a very strong category 4 hurricane (maximum sustained winds near 155 mph (250 km/h) with higher gusts). It is expected to maintain this intensity.
Ian is the first hurricane to make landfall in mainland United States this season.
The US national weather service warned of catastrophic wind damage near the core of Ian when it moves onshore and of life-threatening storm surge and catastrophic flooding.
The combination of storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline, according to expert forecasts. The water could reach up to 12 to 16 feet (3.5 to 4.8 meters) in the worst affected areas.
Heavy rainfall will spread across central and northern Florida through Thursday as it is forecasted to slow its forward motion. Ian is forecast to reach portions of the US Southeast later this week and this weekend (1-2 October).
Catastrophic flooding is expected across portions of central Florida with considerable flooding in, northern Florida, south-eastern Georgia and coastal South Carolina.
“Ian poses an exceptional threat because of its size, its strength and its landfall in a heavily populated, low-lying area”, WMO has warned.
Meanwhile, in the eastern hemisphere, Typhoon Noru, known in the Philippines as Karding, hit the northeastern part of the Philippines on 25 September as a “super typhoon” with sustained winds of 195 km/h (121 mph) before tracking across the main island of Luzon on 25 September.
More than two million people live in the worst affected areas, according to a disaster analysis, and nearly 430,000 people were directly impacted. Despite the relatively short space of time for mobilization, thousands of people were successfully evacuated, limiting loss of life.
From 26-27 September, typhoon Noru made its way towards Viet Nam, and intensified once again.
The importance of early warnings
WMO underscored that accurate early warnings and coordinated early action are proving key to limiting casualties during extreme weather events such as Hurricane Ian, Fiona and Thyphoon Noru.
“It is more important than ever that we scale up action on early warning systems to build resilience to current and future climate risks in vulnerable communities,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
Liberia: Prospects for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth
The World Bank today launched the third edition of the annual Liberia Economic Update with the theme: “Investing in Human Capital for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth”. The Liberian economy experienced strong growth in 2021. After contracting by 3.0 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, growth recovered to 5.0 percent in 2021.
The rebound was driven by improved external demand, higher prices for Liberia’s main exports, and the resumption of normal domestic activity. Meanwhile, growth slowed in the first half of 2022, even when mining and construction continued to perform well. In agriculture, rubber and cocoa production dropped by 13.5 percent and 27 percent, respectively. In the industrial sector, iron ore, gold, and cement production all increased, reflecting firmer international prices and an uptick in construction activity. However, services growth fell, as reflected in the decline in beverages and electricity production.
“The positive economic growth of 5.0 percent in 2021 from the COVID-19-induced recession in 2020 is important for Liberia’s efforts to reduce poverty,” said Khwima Nthara, World Bank Country Manager for Liberia. “Going forward, the focus should be to sustain the recovery and ensure that growth is inclusive through investments in human capital, social protection, and labor-intensive productive sectors such as agriculture,” he added.
Growth is projected to slow down to 3.7 percent in 2022, reflecting increased global uncertainties and commodity price shock, but reach an average of 5.2 percent over 2023-2024. Beyond 2022, growth is underpinned by significant tailwinds for mining, the government’s planned scale-up of public investment, and the implementation of structural reforms including in key enabling sectors (such as energy, trade, transportation, and financial services).
Inflation is projected to remain low and stable, averaging 7.2 percent per year in 2022-2024. Sustaining low levels of inflation would help Liberian households to retain their purchasing power, and it is projected that by 2023 poverty rates will start to decrease. The fiscal deficit is projected to widen to 4.3 percent in 2022 but improve in the medium term with reforms aimed at improving domestic resource mobilization and consolidating expenditures. Notably, the lingering effects of the war in Ukraine could pose significant risks to the outlook.
The economic update also reports that Liberia’s Human Capital Index is as low as 0.32, performing better than only three countries in the world—out of 174 countries assessed. By 2020, the human capital gap in Liberia was mainly driven by poor education (contributing 50 percent), poor health (12 percent), and survival (7 percent). The underlying factors contributing to the country’s low human capital outcomes are multiple and complex. They include weak institutions, ineffective service delivery, demographic pressures, and low and inefficient social spending. In addition, poor coordination among government agencies responsible for human capital development often results in unresponsive or suboptimal service delivery.
“Liberia human capital outcomes are amongst the worst in the world largely due to slow progress in education and health,” said Gweh Gaye Tarwo, Liberia Country Economist and main author of the report. “Thus, improving the country’s human capital outcomes would require significant interventions in the health and education sectors. Investing in human capital will be crucial for Liberia to grow faster, reduce poverty, and deliver substantial social benefits in the long term. The Liberian Government has made some strides in these sectors, but more can be done,” he pointed out.
Crypto Sustainability Coalition to Investigate Potential of Web3 Technologies in Fighting Climate Change
The World Economic Forum launched the Crypto Sustainability Coalition, which will investigate how web3 and blockchain tools can be leveraged to achieve positive climate action.
Web3, which includes technologies like blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs, has become a catch-all term for the vision of a new, better internet. Members of the coalition will explore the potential positive impacts these technologies can bring to environmental and social agendas.
The coalition launch is timely as there is an urgent need to support the decarbonization of cryptocurrency and ensuring the industry is part of the climate solution. Furthermore, there needs to be regulatory clarity that promotes web3 innovation, protects consumers, and improves financial inclusion.
“I am excited about the work we are expecting from the Crypto Sustainability Coalition. An important and unique aspect of web3 is that it uses technology to support and reward direct community engagement and action. This means we can coordinate the work of many individuals directly with one another, enabling collective action without centralized control – a powerful accelerator for grass roots action,” said Brynly Llyr, Head of Blockchain and Digital Assets, World Economic Forum.
The Crypto Sustainability Coalition is a public-private initiative hosted by the World Economic Forum and comprises 30 partners. It is convening working groups to tackle three specific issues:
- Energy usage – this working group will analyse the crypto industry’s consumption of energy and materials to build a clearer picture of its impacts on climate and nature.
- Web3’s potential for climate action – this working group will investigate ways in which web3 innovations could tackle challenges facing the low-carbon transition at the pace required to hit the Paris Agreement’s targets. For example, the decentralized nature of crypto-mining and its ability to operate at off-peak times may provide a new business model for utilities and investors looking to develop renewable energy microgrids.
- “On-chain” carbon credits – members of the coalition believe blockchain-based carbon credits could address current flaws in global carbon markets, including: the lack of transparency around carbon offsets for either providers or buyers; the failure of markets to remove carbon emissions at the scale and pace required; and the inability of millions of the world’s smallholder farmers, forest stewards and Indigenous communities to participate in or benefit from carbon credit markets.
The Crypto Sustainability Coalition will investigate, collate and highlight industry standards, best practices and examples of tangible action that attest to how web3 technologies can support communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The coalition’s wider aim is to foster a broad education campaign on what web3’s potential and capacity look like, to better inform governments on how they regulate these technologies and incentivize investment and research into their development.
The coalition’s partners include Accenture, Avalanche, Avatree, CC Token, Circle, Climate Collective, Crypto Council for Innovation, Emerge, Energy Web Foundation, eToro, EY, Flowcarbon, Heifer International, KlimaDAO, Lukka, NEAR Foundation, Nori, PlanetWatch, Plastiks, Rainforest Partnership, Recykal, ReSeed, Ripple, Solana, Stellar Development Foundation, STEWARD, Sustainable Bitcoin Standard, The Global Brain, Toucan Protocol, University of Lisbon, and Zero Labs.
The new coalition is part of the Crypto Impact and Sustainability Accelerator (CISA), a grant-funded initiative launched by the Forum in January 2022 with a mission to encourage a greater understanding of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts of crypto technologies.
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