UNCTAD Meeting on Investment, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development

Meeting: UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): Multi-year Expert Meeting on Investment, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship for Productive Capacity-Building and Sustainable Development, fifth session

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Speakers: Representatives from Ecuador, India, Kenya, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and France

Date/Location: Monday October 9, 2017; 15:00-16:30; Building E Room 26, Palais Nations, Geneva

Written By: Marli Kasdan

 

On Monday at Palais Nations, UNCTAD convened a meeting on the need to reform international investment agreements (IIAs) in order to spur foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries – an important source of finance when it comes to meeting the SDGs. As it stands, IIAs are mostly ineffective in creating a significant increase in the flow of FDI to developing countries that have signed on to them. Furthermore, most IIAs have strict Investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses – mechanisms that provide for arbitration in the event of disputes between investors and states. However, the clauses give investors many more rights and protections than the state, creating an unfair environment where investors rights’ are privileged. Since ISDS clauses are biased towards investors, and in most cases IIAs have not produced the volume of FDI necessary to adequately finance the SDGs, the need for IIA reform was called for across the board.

The meeting began with a statement from Ecuador, which emphasized the negative effects of ISDS arbitration and highlighted the need for more specific definitions of protection standards when it comes to the environment and human rights in new IIA arbitration clauses. Next, India spoke about the many bilateral investment treaties (BITs) it signed from 1990-2013, with most containing arbitration clauses so broad that they were detrimental to India’s economy. India called for the need to balance rights and obligations in arbitration clauses and the importance of focusing on alternative models of dispute settlement, such as mediation, in future IIAs. The representative from the Kenya Investment Authority spoke about how FDI is the largest and most constant source of external finance for developing countries, and he called for reform that will meet the objective of attracting private sector investment for sustainable development.

Most developed country governments that spoke during this meeting also agreed on the need for reform. The statements from developed country delegations all highlighted the importance of IIAs and the need to modernize them in order to harness finance for sustainable development. As part of IIA reform, the Netherlands explicitly called for a reference to the right of developing countries to regulate their investments, the need for corporate social responsibility, and more safeguards in ISDS arbitration. Furthermore, Spain called for the need for reform that strikes a balance between the public interest and a healthy relationship with investors. In addition, Switzerland emphasized how IIAs are beneficial because they increase legal security and predictability in international investment, although they are in need of continued examination and adjustment. Lastly, both Spain and France called for the creation of a multi-lateral EU investment court to regulate ISDS going forward.

While all country governments who spoke at this meeting, in addition to academics and NGOs, called for the need to reform IIAs and BITs, the process of achieving this reform is going to be difficult. As it stands, IIAs overtly benefit investors and developed countries, even though one of the main goals identified by UNCTAD is that IIAs should spur private sector investment for sustainable development in developing countries. Due to the power imbalances present in IIAs and the entrenched nature of the system, reform is fraught with competing priorities. A major challenge going forward is the issue of previously concluded IIAs and BITs with restrictive ISDS clauses, and what is to be done with these formerly concluded agreements during the reform process.

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UNHCR Executive Committee Meeting

Meeting: United Nations High Commission for Refugees – Executive Committee Meeting, 68th Session

Date/Location: Monday, October 2, 2017; 15:00-18:00; Assembly Hall – Palais Nations, Geneva

Speakers: M. Yackoley Kokou Johnson, Ambassadeur extraordinaire et plénipotentiaire, Représentant permanent de Togo auprès de l’Office des Nations Unies à Genève; H.E. Mr. Peter Sørensen, Ambassador, Permanent Observer to the United Nations Office at Geneva for the European Union; S.E. M. Lejeune Mbella Mbealla Ministre des relations extérieures de la cameroun; Lt. Gen. Abdurahman Bello Dambazu, Minister of Interior for Nigeria; Mr. Simon Henshaw, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, U.S. Department of State

Written By: Marli Kasdan

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UNHCR met for its 68th executive committee meeting last week in Geneva at Palais Nations. The meeting began with representatives of member states and international organizations convening on Monday for the General Debate in order to discuss pressing issues faced by refugees across the globe. Framed by the protracted crisis in Syria that is causing widespread displacement in the Middle East along with massive refugee flows to Europe, the ethnic cleansing that has forced Rohinyga Muslims to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh, protracted displacement in the Lake Chad Basin stemming from Boko Haram, and a rising tide of populism across Europe and the United States fueling animosity towards refugees, the debate was ripe with commitments across the board to “do more for refugees”. However, UNHCR and the member states of the UN will only live up to this commitment if words are turned into action. Below are highlights from this meeting:

The debate began with Ambassador Yackoley Kokou Johnson from Togo speaking on behalf of the African Group. He stressed that the full support of the international community is essential in order to address refugee crises in Africa, noting that the UNHCR budget for Africa is severely underfunded. There is a funding gap of over 50%, with actual funding for UNHCR operations in Africa only financed at 27%. Ambassador Johnson discussed the importance of using cash based transfers to address humanitarian crises in order to stimulate the local economy and provide a sense of empowerment and choice to those who receive assistance.

Ambassador Peter Sørensen spoke on behalf of the EU and its member states. His address focused on the need to mobilize funds for refugees, and he outlined the top priorities for the EU in its response to refugees and migration. These priorities included development oriented with a focus on reducing aid dependency and fostering self-reliance, as well as a major focus on protection and empowerment of women and girls in refugee situations. He also noted the EU Commission’s recommendation to resettle 50,000 refugees across Europe over the next two years.

The Minister of Exterior Relations from Cameroon, Lejune Mbella Mbella, spoke about the sharp rise in migration and humanitarian crises, particularly in Africa. He emphasized that Africa, and in particular Cameroon, share an outsized burden of hosting refugees compared with the rest of the world. His main focus was on the more than 90,000 Nigerian refugees residing in the northern region of Cameroon due to displacement from violence caused by Boko Haram. The delegate from Nigeria, Abdurahman Bello Dambazau, followed this statement by praising the cooperation between Nigeria and Cameroon to voluntarily repatriate Nigerian refugees who want to return home.

Lastly, the delegate from the United States, Mr. Simon Henshaw, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration, spoke about U.S. support for refugees worldwide, despite the recent anti-refugee sentiment coming from the Trump administration. The United States called on the government of Myanmar to allow UN access to Rakhine state and urged further international engagement in responding to the Rohingya crisis. He also spoke about the crisis in Syria and announced that the United States pledged $697 million for new humanitarian assistance in the region. In conclusion, Mr. Henshaw emphasized the use of cash based transfers in response to humanitarian emergencies and the need to put the dignity and safety of refugees at the center of effective refugee response.

Eleventh Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Name

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Representatives gathered to discuss the United Nations Global Geo-spatial Information Management through a variety of discussions. The conference began as the  representative of the Netherlands was nominated president of this conference by acclamation. He began the discussion by claiming new data storage and distribution techniques should be reflected in the work of the UN. By adapting to new circumstances, the conference should continue to fulfill its mandate and role by taking the steps to maintain the quality of digitized databases. The Director of UNSD continued the conversation, asking the quality of information to be used in its appropriate context. He stated the main challenge regarding the integration of various information systems, statistical and geospatial, is their efficacy. Such systems must come together into one national information integrated system such that it can support the various policy concerns at the local, regional, and national levels. Furthermore, better communication is necessary as well, as member states are shown to be doing good work, but struggling to connect such work to the events at the high policy level so that they can receive sufficient resources. In addition to the election of the president, the officers of the conference were elected as well, along with the chairs, vice chairs, and rapporteurs of the four technical meetings. Ormeling then presented about the importance of national geospatial information. He claimed the SDG metrics for monitoring and measuring processes are vital to determine the lifecycles of SDGs, as geographical locations need identification. He reinstated the UNGGIM is not physically doing any work in member states, but rather giving advice and providing procedures. The meeting ended as Kerfoot presented about milestones of the past conferences, covering various aspects of their work including advancing national standardization, outreach to Africa, and establishing and improving operations.

Meeting: Eleventh United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names by the Economic and Social Council

Date/Location: Tuesday, August 8th, 2017; 10:30-13:00; Conference Room 3

Speakers: Representative of Germany; Representative of Netherlands; Director of UNSD; Representative of Canada; Representative of New Zealand; Representative of Canada; Representative of Indonesia; Representative of Australia; Representative of Norway; Representative of Palestine; Representative of South Africa; Representative of Azerbaijan; President of Conference; Director of UN Department of Statistical Information; Helen Kerfoot, Representative of Canada; Ferjan Ormeling

Written By: WIT Representative Janet Lee

Seventh Session of the Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information: Economic and Social Council

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Representatives gathered to coordinate, discuss, and propose work-plans to promote global frameworks, common principles, policies, guidelines interchangeability of geospatial data and services. Specifically, the discussion topics at hand were 1) integration of geospatial, statistical and other related information, 2) national geospatial data and information systems, and 3) geospatial information and services for disasters.

The representative of Poland started the discussion by asking the promotion of geospatial information. The representative of the United States agreed, endorsing the global geospatial framework and claiming such a framework would benefit member states and international efforts to leave noone behind. The representative of Cuba emphasized the need for creating  data sources and strengthening the dissemination of technology as well as the availability and accessibility of data. On the other hand, some representatives asked for the academic network to introduce more education in the fields of geospatial and statistical information, such as the representatives of Singapore and China. China emphasized the need for a post graduate program to promote the integration and monitor the progress of its geospatial group. Representatives from Barbados and Nepal provided a different perspective on the same matter. They asked member states help at the regional level, as small island developing states need not be left behind. Nepal, in particular, has been working with geospatial and statistical agencies while producing the socio-economical atlas. The representative of Argentina similarly claimed member states must do the utmost to assist statistical institutes as the representative of Urisa Caribbean suggested an overarching framework to be adopted in each respective country. Other countries spoke, suggesting the implementation of framework, knowledge management, consolidation, and practical cooperation. Wellenstein then spoke, affirming member states overcome complex challenges of the geospatial divide. She asked countries to recognize their own unique attributes and tailor the principles, guidelines, and good practices respectively.

Meeting: Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management Seventh Session by Economic and Social Council

Date/Location: Thursday, August 3rd, 2017; 10:00-13:00; Conference Room 4

Speakers: Co-Chair; Representative of Poland; Representative of the United States of America; Peter Tiangco, Co-Chair of the Working Group on Disasters; Representative of Denmark; Representative of Cuba; Representative of Singapore; Representative of Peru; Representative of Canada; Representative of Australia; Representative of India; Representative of Nepal; Representative of Barbados; Representative of Malaysia; Representative of the Republic of South Korea; Representative of Argentina; Representative of Ecuador; Representative of Norway; Representative of Urisa Caribbean; Representative of Philippines; Representative of Cote D’ivoire; Representative of China; Representative of Costa Rica; Representative of Honduras; Representative of Eclac; Representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis; Representative of the Dominican Republic; Representative of the State of Palestine; Representative of GEO; Representative of ESCAP; Representative of Mexico; Representative of Ethiopia; Representative of Japan; Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran; Representative of Belgium; Representative of the Netherlands; Representative of Jamaica; Representative of Spain; Representative of Burkina Faso; Representative of Slovenia; Representative of United Kingdom; Representative of Guatemala; Representative of Sweden; Anne Wellenstein; GGIM Secretariat

Written By: WIT Representative Janet Lee

Overview of the 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development

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Theme: “Eradication Poverty and Promoting Prosperity in a Changing World”

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25th September 2015, the first HLPF on Sustainable development was held in 2016 with theme “Ensuring no one is left behind”. This theme was featured in almost all the meetings held at the United Nations throughout the year 2016 and helped some member state and organizations to push for the implementation of the SDGs.
This year, the HLPF on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from July 10th to July 19th of 2017 brought together not only Ministers from member states, but also NGOs, Civil Society and Stakeholders, with the theme “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”. The 2017 HLPF included a three-day ministerial meeting where member states presented their reviews. More countries were seen to be committed to the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and volunteered to present their national voluntary reviews during the 8 days HLPF session. In total, 44 countries volunteered to present their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) during the 2017 HLPF compared to only 22 countries that volunteered to present their VNRs in 2016.

The following set of goals were reviewed in detail during the session, including Goal 17

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The voluntary national reviews (VNRs) enable countries to share their experiences on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including their successes, challenges, and lessons learned during the HLPF. The VNRs also facilitates partnerships including the participation of major groups and other stakeholders during the HLPF.
In brief, the HLPF is a central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. During the HLPF, Ministers adopts a ministerial declaration, which is expected to provide political leadership, guidance, and recommendations on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It also addresses new and emerging issues with respect to the implementation of the SDGs and highlights country experiences.
Written by WIT Representative: Fred Yonghabi

 

High Level Political Forum 2017: Impact Investment and Innovation for SDGs

UNDP is on a journey to connect development assistance with impact investment. Impact investing is an investment that aims to generate specific benefits of social or environmental effects along with financial gains. Impact investing includes venture capital, private equity, debt and range of philanthropic investment tools. UNDP has agreed with the Office of the Prime Minister of Armenia to create a national SDGs Innovation Lab and the work is going on towards achieving SDG’s through impact investment which involves promotion of new financial mechanisms as a vehicle of change for the public sector.

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INSEAD Business School is committed to “business as a force for good”, the issue of leveraging impact investment for development is particularly relevant for INSEAD and hence their partnership with Armenia and UNDP to bring about innovations in SDG’s. The panel altogether believed in three things – collaborate, understand and implement. Stanford Change Lab believes that, SDGs do not exist in isolation and cannot be solved in isolation. So the problems that haven’t been solved in the past, past solutions cannot be used. Therefore, creating new solutions become a design task. And that is exactly what Stanford Change Lab is providing platform for. Mr. Jones believes that, the SDG’s make sense to investors and they make sense to development, so it is all inter-connected. Therefore, innovation in SDG’s are important and should be looked at from the eye of impact investment which gives opportunities for many new business models and growth for upcoming entrepreneurs. Armenia believes in facilitating an enabling environment for letting innovation come through and ultimately achieving SDG’s through impact investment mechanism, which would also boost the economy of their country.

Meeting: High Level Political Forum 2017: Impact Investment and Innovation for SDGs

Date/Time/Location: July 13, 2017, 10:00 AM – 01:00 PM; Conference Room 11, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers: HE Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Permanent Representatives of Armenia to the UN; Ms. Cihan Sultanoglu, Assistant Secretary General and Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS; Mr. Bradley Busetto, UN Resident      Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Armenia; Mr. Hans Wahl, Director of Social Entrepreneurship Programme at INSEAD; Alex Khachatryan, Director, Center for Strategic Initiatives of the Govt. of Armenia; Mr. Garo Armen, Founder and Chairman of Children of Armenia Fund; Mr. Souren Aloyan, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Dasaran Educational Program; Ms. Marie Lou Papazian, MD, Tumo Center for Creative Technologies; Mr. Banny Banerjee, Director, Stanford ChangeLabs; Mr. Kevin Jones, Co-founder and Convenor, Social Capital Markets, SOCAP; Mr. Mika Pyykko, Project Director, Impact Investing, Sitra

Written by: WIT Representative Harsh Agarwal

Trafficking in Persons and the Sustainable Development Goals to End the Scourge of Trafficking in Women and Girls

This meeting addressed the troublesome indication that, while gender equity is critical for the successful implementation of many Sustainable Development Goals, little has been done to address global trafficking of women and girls.

Trafficking of human bodies is a complex form of organized crime driven by extreme profit potential. A majority of trafficked women and girls are sold into sex slavery. Unlike illicit drugs, which have a one-time use, a human body can be sold to complete a task repeatedly. The only way to take down traffickers is to follow the transference of money in both legal and illegal markets.

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The speakers collectively emphasized the importance of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which was adopted by the General Assembly on 30 July 2010. The Plan is currently under review, and the panelists ask member states to issue political declarations to guide future U.N. actions to combat trafficking of women and girls.

Regulation of trafficked women and girls is complicated by geographic location and systems of inequality that vary among the countries of the world. Still, inter-institutional bodies must cooperate to combat this issue. The question that we must now ask is: what are developing countries doing to combat demand for cheap sex labor, and how can developed countries help stop the trafficking tide?

Meeting: Trafficking in Persons and the Sustainable Development Goals to End the Scourge of Trafficking in Women and Girls

Date/Time: 21 June 2017; 13:15-14:30; Conference Room 12, UNHQ, New York, NY

Co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Panama and Sweden, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Equality Now and Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Speakers: Christine Lahti, member of Equality Now advisory board; Simone Monasebian, Director of ODC in New York; H.E. Laura Flores, Ambassador to permanent mission to the United Nations, Panama; H.E. Olof Skoog, Ambasador, Sweden; Ruchira Gupta, Founder Apne Aap Women Worldwide

Written by: WIT Representative Mariel Brunman

Addressing ISIS’ threat to international peace and security

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The 7962nd Security Council meeting was held to discuss the threat that ISIS (Da’esh) poses to international peace and security, and to report the efforts that the United Nations has made to support Member States against this threat.

Reports made by various members of the Security Council all confirmed that ISIL is indeed succumbing to military pressures across Iraq and Syria. However, in spite of this pressure, all members of the Security Council acknowledge the need for persistent vigilance, as ISIL is constantly evolving its tactics to gain both funds and supporters.

Japan, in particular, raised concerns over ISIL’s increasing interest in South East Asia. As such, Japan has urged other Member States to join in with funding South East Asian countries’ implementation of resolutions that will buttress them against the threat of ISIL. Thus far, Japan has provided 30 million USD to countries in South East Asia to facilitate the development of resources including advanced passenger information and counter-propaganda plans.

In his closing remarks, the representative from Egypt called for a reconsideration of anti-terrorism vocabulary, in particular the phrase “Islamic extremism”. He asserts that Islam is a religion that does not know extremism; rather, individuals use Islam as a pretext to create violence.

MEETING: Security Council 7962nd Meeting
DATE/LOCATION: Thursday, 8th June, 2017; 10:00 – 12:00; Security Council Chamber, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY
SPEAKERS: Members of Security Council
WRITTEN BY: WIT Representative Sophie Pu

Arctic Ocean Resilience: Can critical tipping points still be avoided?

This meeting was a side event for the Ocean Conference concerning the resilience of the Arctic. It was held by the Government of Sweden, Stockholm Environment Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centrum.

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H.E. Ms Isabella Lövin opened the meeting with statistics and images’ displaying global warming’s effects on the Arctic Ocean. She emphasized that the Arctic has been changing due to global warming for much longer than the time these changes have received scientific and media attention.

Regarding the Arctic Resilience Report, Dr Marcus Carson believed that the Arctic communities could be highly resilient if they could be organized and integrated with knowledge. Dr Tom Armstrong emphasized that what happened in the Arctic didn’t stay in the Arctic; the Arctic-Pacific Ocean interaction increased the temperature and the acidity of the water which was the direct the evidence of human impact on climate and oceans. Ms Matilda Ernkrans asserted that we all had to be passionate and patient on the issue because it was never easy to get a broad agreement.

Meeting: Arctic Ocean Resilience: Can critical tipping points still be avoided?

Date/Location: Friday, June 9, 2017; 13:15-14:30; Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers: H.E. Ms Isabella Lövin, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister; Dr Marcus Carson, Stockholm Environment Institute, Project Director, Arctic Resilience Assessment; Dr Tom Armstrong, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program; Mr Joel Clement, Director, Office of Policy Analysis, U.S Department of the Interior; Dr Pinsak Suraswadi, Director, Marine and Coastal Resources Research Institute, Bangkok, Thailand; Ms Liisa Rohweder, Secretary General, WWF Finland, Chair – WWF Arctic Program; Ms Matilda Ernkrans, Member of the Swedish Parliament, Chair of the Committee for Environment and Agriculture; Dr Tom Arnbom, Senior Advisor, Marine and Arctic, WWF Sweden; Ambassador Jouni Laaksonen, Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN

Written by: WIT Representative Brady Leung

Edited by: WIT Representative Mariel Brunman

The Rights of Refugees and Migrants with Disabilities

This meeting was a side-event of the Conference of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It explored the issue of refugees and migrants with disabilities.

The struggled integration of refugees with disabilities into the labour market bolsters the severity of the global refugee crisis.

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According to European Pillars of Social Rights, disability is taken into the humanitarian considerations when assessing refugee status, but untrained personnel frequently struggle to spot refugees with intellectual disabilities. Further problems emerge when reception centres are ill equipped to accommodate disabilities.

The international community has to reaffirm its commitments to New York Declaration by improving the Refugee Response Framework. Non-discrimination screening must be held and need-based assistance must be provided.

The World Food Programme has begun efforts to ensure food accessibility to all refugees. Ms. Iseminger anticipated that a data collection process will contribute to the creation of a disability handbook to assess and address disabled refugee needs going forward.

Refugees with disability must be protected to ensure no one is left behind.

Meeting: Persons with disabilities on the move- the rights of refugees and migrants with disabilities

Date/Location: Tuesday, 13th June 2017; 13:15 to 14:30; Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers: Ms. Diane Kingston, Deputy Director of CBM International Advocacy and Alliances; Mr. Michel Servoz, Director General for Employment, European Commission; Ms. Mia Farah, Inclusion International – ‘Working with refugees with disabilities in Lebanon;’ Mr. Andrew Painter, Senior Policy Advisor of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – ‘Global Compact on Refugees;’ Mr. Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Assistant Secretary-General, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – ‘Global Compact on Migration;’ Ms. Michelle Iseminger, Senior External Partnerships Officer-in-charge, World Food Programme – ‘Including persons with disabilities in mainstream programmes.’

Written by: WIT Representative Edward Chan

Edited by: WIT Representative Mariel Brunman