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.

 


Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 

Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 
Updated 56 min 56 sec ago
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Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 

Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 
  • Estimated 2.9 million Afghan children under five years of age to suffer acute malnutrition in 2024, says Save The Children 
  • Afghanistan reels from immediate impacts of flood, long-term effects of drought and return of refugees from Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: About 6.5 million children in Afghanistan were forecast to experience crisis levels of hunger in 2024, a nongovernmental organization said.

Nearly three out of 10 Afghan children will face crisis or emergency levels of hunger this year as the country feels the immediate impacts of floods, the long-term effects of drought, and the return of Afghans from neighboring Pakistan and Iran, according to a report released late Tuesday by Save The Children.

New figures from global hunger monitoring body Integrated Food Security Phase Classification forecast that 28 percent of Afghanistan’s population, about 12.4 million people, will face acute food insecurity before October. Of those, nearly 2.4 million are predicted to experience emergency levels of hunger, which is one level above famine, according to Save the Children.

The figures show a slight improvement from the last report, released in October 2023, but underline the continuing need for assistance, with poverty affecting half of the population.

Torrential rain and flash floods hit northern Afghanistan in May, killing more than 400 people. Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged and farmland was turned into mud.

Save the Children is operating a “clinic on wheels” in Baghlan province, which was hit the worst by floods, as part of its emergency response program. The organization added that an estimated 2.9 million children under the age of 5 are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2024.

Arshad Malik, country director for Save the Children in Afghanistan, said that the NGO has treated more than 7,000 children for severe or acute malnutrition so far this year.

“Those numbers are a sign of the massive need for continuing support for families as they experience shock after shock,” Malik said. 

Children are feeling the devastating impacts of three years of drought, high levels of unemployment, and the return of more than 1.4 million Afghans from Pakistan and Iran, he added.

“We need long-term, community-based solutions to help families rebuild their lives,” Malik said.

More than 557,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since September 2023, after Pakistan began cracking down on foreigners it alleges are in the country illegally, including 1.7 million Afghans. It insists the campaign isn’t directed against Afghans specifically, but they make up most of the foreigners in the South Asian country.

In April, Save the Children said that a quarter-million Afghan children need education, food and homes after being forcibly returned from Pakistan.

Malik added that only 16 percent of funding for the 2024 humanitarian response plan has been met so far, but nearly half the population needs assistance.

“This is not the time for the world to look away,” he said.

Meanwhile, the European Union is allocating an additional 10 million euros (nearly $10.9 million) to the UN food agency for school feeding activities in Afghanistan. These latest funds from the EU follow an earlier contribution of 20.9 million euros ($22.7 million) toward the World Food Program’s school meal program in Afghanistan for 2022 and 2023.

The funding comes at a timely moment and averts WFP having to downsize its school meal program this year because of a lack of funding, the WFP said in a statement.

“Hunger can be a barrier to education. The additional EU funding to our long-standing partner WFP ensures that more children in Afghanistan receive nutritious food,” said Raffaella Iodice, chargé d’affaires of the EU’s delegation to Afghanistan.

The WFP’s statement said that the agency will be able to use the funding to distribute fortified biscuits or locally produced nutritious school snacks to pupils in more than 10,000 schools in the eight provinces of Farah, Ghor, Jawzjan, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Uruzgan and Zabul.

Last year, WFP supported 1.5 million school-age children through this program.


Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’

Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’
Updated 29 May 2024
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Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’

Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’
  • The Ukrainian citizen, identified as Oleksandr D., was arrested in early March
  • He is suspected of having “encouraged a Polish citizen to participate in foreign intelligence activity against Poland“

WARSAW: Poland’s security services on Wednesday said a 26-year-old Ukrainian man had been charged with provocation and incitement to espionage against the NATO member.
In recent months Poland, a staunch Ukraine supporter, has seen several sabotage plots on its territory that it has blamed on neighboring Russia.
The Ukrainian citizen, identified as Oleksandr D., was arrested in early March and is suspected of having “encouraged a Polish citizen to participate in foreign intelligence activity against Poland,” security services spokesman Jacek Dobrzynski said in a statement.
“This activity was to consist of sharing photos of military vehicles that were intended for aiding Ukraine and which were crossing the border between Poland and Ukraine,” he added.
In exchange for information, the Polish man was to receive a payment of 15,000 euros ($16,000), Dobrzynski said, without specifying if he had accepted the offer.
Oleksandr D. was charged on Tuesday and faces at least eight years in prison if found guilty.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said previously that several attempts at diversion, sabotage and arson had been undertaken in Poland on behalf of Russia over the past few months.
These acts “were fortunately averted thanks to the vigilance of our services and allies,” Tusk said in mid-May.
He also said that Poland would reinforce its intelligence services amid the sabotage attempts and concerns over Russia.
A loyal ally of Kyiv’s, Poland is a main country through which Western nations are transferring weapons and munitions to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russia.


Volcano in Iceland erupts again

Volcano in Iceland erupts again
Updated 29 May 2024
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Volcano in Iceland erupts again

Volcano in Iceland erupts again
  • Authorities had warned of the risk of renewed volcanic activity in the area just south of the capital Reykjavik

COPENHAGEN: A volcano in southwestern Iceland erupted on Wednesday, live video from the area showed, making it the fifth outbreak since December.
The new outburst happened as another eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula recently ended after spewing fountains of molten rock for almost eight weeks.
Authorities had warned of the risk of renewed volcanic activity in the area just south of the capital Reykjavik as studies showed magma accumulated underground.
The fiery spectacle underlines the challenges the island nation of almost 400,000 people face as scientists have warned eruptions could happen over and over in Reykjanes for decades or even centuries.
The eruption was the eighth on the peninsula, home to some 30,000 people, since 2021 when geological systems that were dormant for some 800 years again became active.
Previous incidents had disrupted district heating, closed key roads and even razed several houses in the Grindavik fishing town, where only a few residents have since returned.
In an attempt to prevent further damage man-made barriers have been built to steer lava away from infrastructure including the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, the Blue Lagoon outdoor spa and Grindavik.
Icelanders often refer to their country as the “Land of Fire and Ice” as a tribute to its otherworldly landscape forged by glaciers and volcanoes which is positioned between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, making it a seismic hotbed.
While a 2010 eruption in a different part of Iceland grounded some 100,000 flights internationally due to huge ash clouds, Reykjanes is typically home to fissure outbreaks which do not reach into the stratosphere.


Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island

Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island
Updated 29 May 2024
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Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island

Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island
  • Known for its beaches and coral reefs, Boracay is one of the world’s most famous islands
  • Philippines wants to grow its Muslim-friendly and halal tourism portfolio, tourism secretary says

MANILA: The Philippines is developing halal-friendly options in its top resort island of Boracay to attract more Muslim visitors, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said on Wednesday.

Located in the province of Aklan, in the center of the Philippine archipelago, Boracay is known for its white sand beaches and coral reefs that make it one of the world’s most famous islands.

Tourism is a key sector for the Philippines, and its Department of Tourism has lately been trying to attract more Muslim visitors, particularly by ensuring that they have access to halal products and services.

“Muslim-friendly and halal tourism is a portfolio that we wish to grow,” Frasco told reporters.

“We are now in talks with a Boracay local government unit, as well as the Department of Tourism, to … offer halal-friendly tourism in Boracay.”

 

 

The predominantly Catholic Philippines — where Muslims constitute about 10 percent of the nearly 120 million population — welcomed more than 2 million international travelers since the beginning of the year and marked a 10 percent increase in visitors arriving from Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have been among the Philippine government’s key emerging-market targets.

The Philippines was recognized with the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year award in 2023 at the Halal in Travel Global Summit in Singapore. Since then, the Muslim market has been its priority.

Earlier this month, the Department of Tourism led a delegation to the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, where it promoted the country’s best destinations.

“When we attended the Arabian Travel Market … we signed a memorandum of understanding with Megaworld such that all their properties will be converted into Muslim-friendly and halal-friendly tourism establishments,” Frasco said, referring to one of the largest Philippine hospitality chains.

“What we expect is really to be able to tap into this billion-dollar industry that is halal and Muslim-friendly tourism.”


Dutch police say they’re homing in on robbers responsible for multimillion-dollar jewelry heist

Dutch police say they’re homing in on robbers responsible for multimillion-dollar jewelry heist
Updated 29 May 2024
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Dutch police say they’re homing in on robbers responsible for multimillion-dollar jewelry heist

Dutch police say they’re homing in on robbers responsible for multimillion-dollar jewelry heist
  • Police said they now have narrowed down the location of the robbers, who they previously said came from the Balkans
  • The investigation team also said that a diamond taken from a necklace that was stolen in the robbery had been found in Israel and another in Hong Kong

THE HAGUE: An international investigation is homing in on a gang of robbers believed to be responsible for a brazen multimillion-dollar jewelry heist at an art show in the Netherlands and two stolen gemstones have been recovered, Dutch police said Wednesday.
Smartly dressed robbers wielding sledge hammers snatched jewelry from display cases at an international art fair in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht nearly two years ago, triggering an international police operation to hunt them down and recover the loot that police say is worth tens of millions of dollars.
In their latest update on the progress of the investigation, police in the southern Dutch province of Limburg said they now have narrowed down the location of the robbers, who they previously said came from the Balkans.
“It is now clear that this concerns Serbia, more specifically the town of Nis. It cannot be ruled out that the suspects are currently staying there, but possibly also in Belgrade or the surrounding area,” police said in a statement.
The investigation team also said that a diamond taken from a necklace that was stolen in the robbery had been found in Israel and another in Hong Kong. Police last year reported the discovery of one of the diamonds, but at the time gave no further details.
“Both diamonds have been seized for examination,” police said in Wednesday’s statement, without giving details of when the stones were recovered.
Police had previously revealed that they were hunting for four men and said Wednesday that a woman also is a suspect in the heist.
Two more women are under investigation for allegedly returning a rental car to a company near the airport in the German city of Frankfurt. The two women are “at the moment, not suspects in the investigation into the robbery,” police said.