IDB launches digital platform for sustainable development

The Islamic Development Bank launched in the UK a digital platform called Engage, which will promote technological and scientific solutions to accelerate progress toward the UN’s sustainable development goals. (AN Photo)
Updated 21 February 2018
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IDB launches digital platform for sustainable development

RIYADH: The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) launched in the UK on Tuesday a digital platform called Engage, which will promote technological and scientific solutions to accelerate progress toward the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Dr. Bandar Hajjjar, president of the IDB — one of the world’s largest multilateral development banks — announced the launch at an event hosted by Bloomberg’s European headquarters in London.
He made the announcement alongside Dr. Shamsad Akhtar — UN undersecretary-general and executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) — Dr. Hayat Sindi, chief scientific adviser to the IDB, and business, innovation and development experts.
The IDB “understands the need to innovate and collaborate across all sectors to help build capacity within countries to address their own development requirements,” Hajjar said.
“Engage will provide the right tools and a supportive environment so innovators and businesses can harness the great potential of science, technology and innovation as strategic drivers for economic growth among their local communities,” he added.
“We are grateful to our partners at UNESCAP and the Shell Foundation for their support, and look forward to collaborating with many more companies, entrepreneurs, investors, governments, academics and NGOs as we focus on the importance of investing in science, technology and information.”
Sindi said: “Engage offers three main services: Matchmaking, technology transfer and calls for innovation.”
She added: “Through Engage, innovators, SMEs (small and medium enterprises), private sector companies, governments and NGOs will benefit from tailored mentoring services and expert knowledge sharing that will help activate their ideas and proposals to an internationally recognized standard.”
The platform will focus on six SDGs: Greater food security, healthier lives, inclusive and equitable education, sustainable management of water, access to affordable and clean energy, and sustainable industrialization across the developing world.
“Engage will power the policy shifts needed for science, technology and innovation to have a positive impact, not just on our economy but also on our society and the environment,” said Akhtar.
“The initiatives will also spur a new era of open and collaborative innovation to ensure no country is left behind in the technological revolution,” she added.
“The partnership agreement between the IDB and UNESCAP will bring together skills and sources of capital needed to support innovation solutions for sustainable development.”
To ensure members have access to financing for innovation, the IDB has established the new Transform Fund, which will finance innovative ideas linked to development solutions.
It will provide seed money for innovators, start-ups and SMEs, as well as fund partnerships between researchers and entrepreneurs that will tackle development challenges in line with the SDGs.
The launch event also saw the signing of two landmark memorandums of understanding by the IDB, said its spokesman Abdulhakim Elwaer.
The first, with UNESCAP, commits to building a global network of scientists, technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors, and to nurturing and scaling high-potential innovations to achieve sustainable and inclusive development.
The second, with the Shell Foundation — an independent, UK-registered charity — commits to sharing market insights and investment opportunities to support enterprises that provide energy access and affordable transport for people in low-income areas.


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
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Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.