Paris conference urges global financial system overhaul to combat poverty and climate change 

Special Paris conference urges global financial system overhaul to combat poverty and climate change 
From right: South African President Ramaphosa, EC President Von Der Leyen, Egyptian President El-Sisi and Colombian President Petro Urrego take part in a roundtable at the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris on Thursday. (AN Photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo)
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Updated 23 June 2023
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Paris conference urges global financial system overhaul to combat poverty and climate change 

Paris conference urges global financial system overhaul to combat poverty and climate change 
  • Summit for a New Global Financial Pact aims to improve lending system for developing countries 
  • Without equitable access to finance, poor nations could remain mired in poverty, world leaders warn

PARIS: Without an overhaul of the global financial system, the international community will fail to address the twin challenges of poverty and climate change, world leaders heard on the opening day of the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris on Thursday.

The two-day conference, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and attended by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was organized to find ways to improve the lending system for developing countries mired in poverty and threatened by climate disaster. 

In his opening remarks, Macron told delegates that the world needs a “public finance shock” — a global surge of financing — to fight these challenges, adding the current system was not well suited to address them.




French President Emmanuel Macron opening the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris on Wednesday.  (Photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo)

“Policymakers and countries shouldn’t ever have to choose between reducing poverty and protecting the planet,” Macron told the summit. 

Indeed, those nations that are most vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by climate change are often the least equipped to respond to protect their populations or to implement emissions-cutting policies of their own.

Without some form of debt relief for developing countries to address environmental challenges, or new methods of financing that take into account their poverty-reduction priorities, experts believe the fight against climate change and hardship is already lost. 

During a roundtable on day one of the summit, titled “A new method: green growth partnerships,” moderated by Catherine Colonna, France’s minister for Europe and foreign affairs, world leaders discussed the potential for multi-stakeholder partnerships.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (2nd right) attending the New Global Financing Pact in Paris, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on his left and Tunisian President Kais Saied on his right. (AN Photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo) 

Questioned by Colonna about the collective challenges posed by rising temperatures, panelist Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Egyptian president, said: “Climate change threatens all countries worldwide and requires states to work together to face these challenges.” 

Recalling the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh last November, El-Sisi said: “We have heard many commitments during COP27, but the major problem that persists concerns access to financing both at the national and international levels.” 

El-Sisi called for the implementation of a fair financing system in all sectors that promote sustainable development, highlighting access to vital resources such as water, food and energy. 

“These development programs require the establishment of partnerships,” he said. “We must continue to finance projects that align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. We must continue to develop multilateral partnerships with defined programs centered on sustainable development.” 

El-Sisi further emphasized the need to find solutions and recommendations to curb or erase the debts of poor countries and to suspend or cancel taxes to enable banks to meet current requirements.

“In Egypt, we have implemented a renewable energy development plan. We need the assistance of our partners and international financial institutions to support us in project implementation,” he added.




Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the panel discussion.   (Photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo)

During her own intervention, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called for the creation of an “environment conducive to private capital and to encourage investors to be more involved in energy transition projects.”

She said access to capital markets is crucial. 

“At the European Commission, we are interested in the most attractive sectors in green growth, particularly in emerging and developing countries that face limited financing, lack of training, and an increase in interest rates practiced by banks,” she said.

“We must share our expertise and limit risks for investors.”

Another way to even out the burden of climate costs is the implementation of carbon pricing. One method is to make polluters such as transport and logistics companies pay a tax on their emissions, thereby incentivising more sustainable practices. 




European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (R) and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attending the Global Climate Finance summit in Paris on June 22, 2023. (Pool via REUTERS)

“They will have the choice to either adopt more environmentally friendly methods or pay a tax that will finance sustainable and environment conscious projects,” von der Leyen told the roundtable.

“Carbon pricing will generate revenue that will be allocated to financing a greener economy,” she added.

Speaking on the same panel, Gustavo Petro Urrego, president of Colombia, said nations should change production methods in industry and agriculture, and cooperate on water conservation. 

“We must reorganize territories and change methods, but these strategies require the mobilization of billions of dollars,” he said. “We all know that capital is essential in achieving the goals of ecological transition and sustainable development.”

To make access to financing more just and equitable, Petro called for a global Marshall Plan — in reference to the post-war reconstruction fund provided to Europe by the US — to address global challenges related to climate change and sustainable development.




French President Emmanuel Macron, right, welcomes Colombian President Gustavo Petro at the New Global Financial summit in Paris onJune 22, 2023. (Pool via AP) 

He also called for debt cancelation for poor countries in exchange for concrete commitments to sustainable development.

A separate roundtable on Thursday focused on ways to enable environments for the private sector to implement sustainable infrastructure and financing for small- and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs. 

According to Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s minister of foreign affairs, achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will be challenging due to the post-pandemic global context.

Nevertheless, asked about the contribution of the private sector to sustainable development and the green economy, Hayashi said Tokyo had incentivised firms to make private capital contributions to the development of green economy programs. 

“We encourage the private sector to get involved in achieving our objectives in terms of sustainable development and respect for human rights,” he said. 




Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stressed the need for the public and private sectors to work together to invest in infrastructure construction. (Pool photo via AFP) 

Hayashi said the public and private sectors must work together to invest in infrastructure construction, citing Japan’s support for programs launched by companies involving the ecological transition.

Speaking on the same roundtable, Khadem Khadem Al-Remeithi, executive director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a UAE sovereign wealth fund, recommended working “with various organizations such as the French Development Agency to identify concrete solutions, particularly in terms of building infrastructure.”

In the course of his work, Al-Remeithi said he ensures the actions carried out by the investment fund are committed to implementing regulatory rules and operational platforms to organize selected projects and programs.

“We ensure that our actions yield results,” he said, citing successful projects carried out by the African Development Bank in many countries. 

“The financing of small- and medium-sized enterprises engaged in sustainable development and the investments necessary for the construction of basic infrastructure require the support of capital from international financial institutions.”

Al-Remeithi, who called for the establishment of regulatory mechanisms that effectively combat “the hesitations of banks and potential investors regarding risks,” said such measures would encourage dialogue between public and private operators to enhance their contributions to sustainable development programs.

Beyond policy shifts at the nation and boardroom level, however, the world’s developing countries need to see tangible change in the rules-based order of finance if they are to reap any benefits in the short-to-medium term.

Speaking during the summit’s opening session on Thursday, Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, called for a reimagining of the role of the World Bank and IMF in an era of climate crisis.




Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. Supplied)

Mottley, whose Caribbean island nation is threatened by rising sea levels and tropical storms, said: “What is required of us now is absolute transformation and not reform of our institutions. We come to Paris to identify the common humanity that we share and the absolute moral imperative to save our planet and to make it livable.” 

Outlining the challenges facing developing countries, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said more than 50 nations were now in or near debt default, while many African countries are spending more on debt repayments than on health care. 

Guterres said the post-Second World War global financial system was failing to rise to modern challenges and now “perpetuates and even worsens inequalities.”




UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) is received by French President Emmanuel Macron (C) for an official dinner at the Elysee Palace on the sidelines of the New Global Financial Pact Summit in Paris on June 22, 2023. (AFP)

“We can take steps right now and take a giant leap toward global justice,” he said, adding that he has proposed a stimulus of $500 billion a year for investments in sustainable development and climate action. 

In a nod to those looking for tangible progress from the summit, IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva announced that a key pledge to rechannel $100 billion of liquidity boosting “special drawing rights” into a climate and poverty fund had been met. 

Macron said he was hopeful that a 2009 pledge to deliver $100 billion a year in climate finance to poorer nations by 2020 would finally be fulfilled this year, although actual confirmation the money has been delivered will take months, if not years.

 


Prosecutor urges jury to convict Trump, citing ‘powerful evidence’

Prosecutor urges jury to convict Trump, citing ‘powerful evidence’
Updated 8 sec ago
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Prosecutor urges jury to convict Trump, citing ‘powerful evidence’

Prosecutor urges jury to convict Trump, citing ‘powerful evidence’

NEW YORK: Donald Trump engaged in “conspiracy and a cover-up” to hide from voters that he had paid hush money to a porn star, prosecutors told a jury Tuesday in closing arguments at the first ever criminal trial of a former US president.

Less than six months before an election in which Trump is seeking to return to the White House, the stakes riding on the verdict are high — both for the 77-year-old personally and for the country.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, afraid that her account of an alleged sexual encounter could doom his 2016 presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass delivered the summation for the prosecution after Trump’s defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, called for his acquittal, insisting the case against the former president was based on lies.

Steinglass said Daniels’s story about her 2006 tryst with the married Trump was the motive for the alleged crime, but the “case at its core is about a conspiracy and a cover up” on the eve of an election.

“The people have presented powerful evidence of the defendant’s guilt,” he said.

Blanche told the jury that Trump was “innocent.” The only outcome should be a “very quick and easy not guilty verdict.”

Cohen, the one-time Trump fixer who became the star prosecution witness, was motivated by “outright hatred” for his former boss, Blanche said.

“He told you a number of things on that witness stand that were lies, pure and simple,” he said.

Blanche said Trump was busy “running the country” when the reimbursements were made to Cohen and he did not closely inspect all the invoices that came across his desk.

“There was no intent to defraud and beyond that there was no conspiracy to influence the 2016 election,” Blanche said.

But Steinglass countered that there was a mountain of corroborating evidence in addition to Cohen’s testimony.

“They want to make this case about Michael Cohen,” he said. “This case is about Donald Trump and whether he should be accountable for causing false entries in his own business records and whether he did that to cover up his own election violations.”

Speaking to reporters before entering the Manhattan courtroom, Trump called it a “very dangerous day for America.”

“We have a rigged court case that should have never been brought,” he said as three of his five children — Don Jr, Eric and Tiffany — stood behind him.

The 12 anonymous jurors were to start deliberations as early as Wednesday.

Polls show Trump neck and neck against President Joe Biden and the verdict will inject new tension into the White House race.

Speaking on behalf of the Biden campaign outside court, legendary actor Robert De Niro berated Trump as a “clown” intent on destroying the country.

The first former or sitting president under criminal indictment, Trump faces charges ranging from the relatively minor hush money case to accusations he took top secret documents and tried to overthrow the 2020 election.

The New York case, which featured more than 20 witnesses over five weeks and gripping testimony by Daniels and Cohen, is the only one likely to come to trial by election day.

If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison on each of 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender he is unlikely to get jail time.

A conviction would not bar him from appearing on the ballot in November.

Trump chose not to testify in his defense.

Instead, he used his trips to court to stage tirades against “corrupt” Judge Juan Merchan, and to claim the trial is a Democratic ploy to keep him off the campaign trail.

To return a guilty or not guilty verdict requires the jury to be unanimous. Just one holdout means a hung jury and a mistrial, although prosecutors could seek a new trial.


Biden’s blurred red lines under scrutiny after Rafah carnage

Biden’s blurred red lines under scrutiny after Rafah carnage
Updated 11 min 24 sec ago
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Biden’s blurred red lines under scrutiny after Rafah carnage

Biden’s blurred red lines under scrutiny after Rafah carnage

WASHINGTON: Joe Biden’s red lines over Israel’s assault on Rafah have kept shifting, but the US president faces growing pressure to take a firmer stance after a deadly strike in the Gazan city.

Despite global outrage over the attack in which 45 people were killed, the White House insisted on Tuesday that it did not believe Israel had launched the major operation that Biden has warned against.

John Kirby, the US National Security Council spokesman, said that Biden had been consistent and was not “moving the stick” on what defined an all-out military offensive by key ally Israel.

But Biden faces a difficult balancing act both domestically and internationally over Gaza, especially in a year when the 81-year-old Democrat is locked in an election battle with Donald Trump.

“Biden wants to appear tough on Rafah, and has really tried to be stern with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu, but in an election year, his red lines are increasingly blurred,” Colin Clarke, director of research at the Soufan Group, told AFP.

“I think he’ll continue shifting those lines, ducking and weaving, largely in response to events on the ground.”

Facing US campus protests over his support for Israel, Biden said earlier this month that he would not supply Israel with weapons for a major military operation in Rafah, and he halted a shipment of bombs.

Yet he has since taken no action even as Israel has stepped up air attacks and, as of Tuesday, moved tanks into central Rafah.

Instead, the White House has largely retreated to arguing about what does, and does not, constitute an invasion.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last week there was “no mathematical formula” and said that “what we’re going to be looking at is whether there is a lot of death and destruction.”

At the White House on Tuesday, his colleague Kirby faced intense questioning over the Israeli strike, which sparked a fire at a displaced persons camp in which dozes of people burned to death.

Kirby said the deaths were “heartbreaking” and “horrific” but again said there would be no change in policy toward Israel.

“We have not seen them smash into Rafah,” he said.

“We have not seen them go in with large units, large numbers of troops, in columns and formations in some sort of coordinated maneuver against multiple targets on the ground.”

But internationally the pressure is growing on Biden, a self-described Zionist who has stuck by Netanyahu despite deep disagreements since the war began with the October 7 Hamas attack.

Questions are mounting over how long the United States can tolerate an Israeli assault on Rafah when the International Court of Justice — the UN’s top court, of which both the US and Israel are members — ordered it to stop.

Political pressure is also mounting on Biden at home.

Protests against his support for Israel have roiled university campuses across the United States, while many on the left wing of his Democratic Party also oppose his stance.

Republicans however have assailed Biden over what they say is his faltering support for Israel, with US House Speaker Mike Johnson inviting Netanyahu to address Congress.

“It is indeed a difficult balancing act,” Gordon Gray, a former US ambassador who is now a professor at George Washington University, told AFP.

“Threading the proverbial needle — as the Biden administration is apparently seeking to do — will only disappoint voters who feel strongly about the issue one way or another.”

Gray however said he believed Biden’s decades-old support for Israel meant he would unlikely change his position, saying he was a “rare politician who is acting out of genuine conviction rather than for his own electoral benefit.”


Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
Updated 28 May 2024
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Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
  • Labour, if elected, would recognize Palestinian statehood, says Angela Rayner

LONDON: Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the UK’s Labour Party, has promised that her party will do everything in its power to ease the suffering in Gaza as it bids to regain Muslim voters’ support, a leaked video surfacing on social media has revealed.

The footage was first reported by the political blog Guido Fawkes, which claimed to have obtained the leaked tape from a meeting in Ashton-under-Lyne, Rayner’s constituency.

The MP is seen appealing to voters upset with the party’s stance on Israel’s assault on Gaza, The Telegraph reported.

Rayner — claiming she worked “day and night” to get three British doctors out of Rafah and is now attempting to secure aid for the enclave — said: “I promise you, the Labour Party, including myself, is doing everything we can, because nobody wants to see what’s happening.”

She acknowledged the party’s current inability to halt the fighting, admitting that Labour’s influence would be “limited,” even if it came to power after July’s general election.

Rayner added: “Only last week the Labour Party were supporting the ICC (International Criminal Court). The Conservatives didn’t support the ICC, so with this general election on that issue, we can’t affect anything when we’re not in government.

“And I’ll be honest with you, if Labour gets into government, we are limited. I will be honest. I’m not going to promise you … because (Joe) Biden, who’s the US (president), who has way more influence, has only got limited influence in that.

“And Qatar, Saudi Arabia, all of these people, we are all working to stop what’s happening at the moment; we want to see that. So I promise you, that’s what we want to see.”

Rayner also promised that, if Labour was elected, the party would recognize Palestinian statehood.

She added: “If Labour gets into power, we will recognize Palestine. I will push not only to recognize … there is nothing to recognize at the moment, sadly. It’s decimated.

“We have to rebuild Palestine; we have to rebuild Gaza. That takes more than just recognizing it.”

Gaza has been a divisive issue for Labour since Oct. 7, with reports revealing that Muslim voters have abandoned the party as a result of what they perceive as its politicians enabling the war.

The Telegraph found that Labour’s support had dropped in local elections in areas with large Muslim populations, including Oldham in Greater Manchester, where the party lost control of the council in a surprise defeat.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has expressed his determination to re-establish trust among those who have abandoned his party due to his handling of the Gaza war.

However, when probed on particular commitments, he remained vague.

Rayner said in the video: “I know that people are angry about what’s happening in the Middle East.

“If my resignation as an MP now would bring a ceasefire, I would do it. I would do it if I could effect change.”

However, she said such an eventuality was not “in my gift” due to the “failure of the international community.”

In response to the footage, Nigel Farage, Reform UK’s honorary president, accused Rayner of “begging” for the Muslim vote, The Telegraph reported.


12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
Updated 28 May 2024
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12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
  • Several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides, and all schools were shut
  • India’s weather office warned of extremely heavy rains in northeastern states on Tuesday

Guwahati: Torrential rains in the wake of a powerful cyclone caused the collapse of a quarry in India’s Mizoram state killing 12 people, government officials said Tuesday.

“So far 12 bodies have been found, we are looking for more,” deputy commissioner of Aizawl district Nazuk Kumar told AFP.

Rescue efforts in the quarry were being hampered by “heavy rains,” police director general Anil Shukla said, NDTV news network reported.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma offered compensation to families of the victims of the “landslide due to Cyclone Remal.”

“I pray for the success of rescue and relief operations and wish a speedy recovery of the injured,” India’s President Droupadi Murmu said on social media.

In Mizoram, several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides. All schools were shut and government employees asked to work from home.

India’s weather office has issued warnings of extremely heavy rainfall across Mizoram and other northeastern states on Tuesday.

In India’s neighboring Assam state, one person was killed and heavy rains had cut the power supply, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a statement.

The cyclone made landfall in low-lying Bangladesh and neighboring India on Sunday evening with fierce gales and crashing waves.

Overall, at least 38 people died in the cyclone or storms in its wake.

In India, eight people died in West Bengal state, officials said Tuesday, updating an earlier toll of six, taking the total killed in the country to at least 21.

In neighboring Bangladesh, which bore the brunt of the cyclone that made landfall on Sunday, at least 17 people died, according to the disaster management office and police.


Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
Updated 28 May 2024
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Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
  • Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
  • “We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do”

WARSAW: Poland’s foreign minister says the NATO nation should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine and should keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in suspense over whether such a decision would ever be made.
Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
“We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do,” Sikorski said when asked whether he would send Polish troops to Ukraine.
Sikorski said he has gone to Ukraine with his family to deliver humanitarian aid.
But a spokesperson for Poland’s Defense Ministry, Janusz Sejmej, told Polish media on Tuesday he had “no knowledge of that” when asked about a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine suggesting Poland might send troops to Ukraine.
The idea of sending foreign soldiers to Ukraine, which is battling Russian military aggression, was floated earlier this year in France, but no country, including Poland, has publicly embraced it.
Poland supports neighboring Ukraine politically and by providing military equipment and humanitarian aid.