Wednesday March 27, 2019

United Nations, Tech Giants Lead Push for Green Tech Solutions

Other new work areas under the forum will cover sustainable cities and food systems and private sector leadership on climate change

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Flag of the United Nations, wikimedia

The United Nations, tech giants and the finance, policy and and science fraternities on Saturday teamed up to push the use of cutting-edge technology to create cleaner, greener and more efficient solutions to sustainable development.

Around 2,000 people, including representatives from IBM, Google and Barclays, attended the 2nd global session of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum here in the run-up to the fourth UN Environment Assembly, beginning on March 11.

The forum launched initiatives on using big data, machine learning and green technology startups to solve major environmental, economic and social problems, said UN Environment, the leading global environmental authority.

The forum also launched works on sustainable cities, food systems and private sector leadership on climate change.

“There is no doubt that rapid technological advancement played a major part in the troubles we face,” said an official statement quoting UN Environment acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya.

“But it is that technology — through humanity’s ability to invent and innovate — which can help to save us. The 4th Industrial Revolution offers a real opportunity to create cleaner, greener and more efficient solutions to sustainable development,” the statement said.

The working group aims to build an open-source platform for big data on environment and explore new spaces in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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UN logo. Wikimedia Commons

It unites tech giants, earth observation institutions, science and policy communities, green tech startups, citizen scientists and the worlds of finance and industry.

“We can’t ensure implementation of the 2030 agenda without concrete data, which allows us to identify opportunities, ensure evidence-based decision making, direct investment and track progress,” said Siim Kiisler, President of the UN Environment Assembly and Minister of Environment in Estonia.

“I am confident that we will make immense progress,” Kiisler said.

Also Read- Gut Microbiota Helps to Maintain Body Temperature in Cold Conditions

Meanwhile, the Green Technology Startup Hub will act as an accelerator and incubator of startup innovation for environment, as it examines the enabling policies and actions required to use such innovation to transform the world into greener and more sustainable living.

Startups are not only transforming markets and economic growth, some are also helping to save the planet. Venture capital investment in startups has surged to its highest level ever — $148 billion in the last year alone. More than 40 venture capital-backed companies have achieved billion-dollar valuations.

Other new work areas under the forum will cover sustainable cities and food systems and private sector leadership on climate change. (IANS)

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Concerns Rise Over China’s Stand at United Nations Human Rights Council

China has passed human rights reviews twice before this one, while more than 120 countries Beijing's human rights record during the most recent process.

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The 22nd session of the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva on Feb. 25, 2013. RFA

Rights activists are increasingly worried that Beijing’s influence operations are having a negative impact on the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which concludes its 40th session on Friday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) China director Sophie Richardson warned in an article this week that China is seeking to undermine the mission of the U.N. Human Rights Council from within.

She also cited HRW research in 2017 which reported threats and harassment of U.N. staff involved in human rights evaluation by Chinese officials.

“As we head towards the final phase of [China’s U.N. human rights review], ask yourself: What other government threatens #humanrights treaty body experts?” Richardson tweeted on Thursday.

“As an [Human Rights Council] member #China is expected to uphold highest standards,” she wrote in another tweet, referencing a report in The New York Times. “Instead it tells people that merely attending an event is a ‘hostile act.'”

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During the recent round, the Chinese government said it accepted most of the 346 human rights recommendations put forward by the council. VOA

According to HRW’s 2017 article based on a 97-page report: “Chinese officials have at times harassed and intimidated U.N. staff, experts on treaty bodies, and independent experts focusing on specific human rights issues.”

The 2014 death in detention of activist Cao Shunli, who was detained on her way to a U.N. human rights event in Geneva, also sent a “chilling” message to Chinese activists who may want to participate in the U.N. human rights process, the article said.

HRW isn’t the only human rights organization worried about Chinese influence at the U.N.

Renee Xia, who heads the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, reported from a side-event of the Human Rights Council conference in Geneva this week that it was “standing room only.”

“Strong show of interest despite #China urging countries not to attend,” Xia tweeted.

“The strong attendance was more remarkable esp. after #China officials went to many countries’ diplomats at the U.N., Geneva, to threaten them with “serious consequences” if they attended the side events,” she wrote in another tweet.

“#Bullying at the UN must stop!” she wrote.

‘So many restrictions’

Wang Dan, a former leader of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, is also in Geneva this week.

“To tell you the truth, my feelings during my two days here are that China has huge influence at the U.N.,” Wang told RFA.

“For example, at one side-event, it wasn’t just the Chinese delegation who spoke against [criticisms of Beijing’s rights record], but other countries came to speak in support of China’s position,” he said.

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“Many of the countries participating in the Human Rights Council are actually the ones that are carrying out the most violations of human rights, Pixabay

Wang said tight controls over public speech also make it less likely that the ruling Chinese Communist Party will have to face criticism of human rights violations coming from within its own borders.

“There are a lot of people online in China, but they are under so many restrictions,” he said. “You can’t mention the Tiananmen Massacre. You can’t mention [late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner] Liu Xiaobo. You can’t say this, you can’t say that.”

“I don’t think that’s how you define freedom … but then the Chinese point to the U.N. charter, which says that all member states must be respected,” he said.

‘Autocratic rule the default’

Veteran New York-based rights activist Liu Qing said the work of the council had become “unrecognizable” to him.

“Many of the countries participating in the Human Rights Council are actually the ones that are carrying out the most violations of human rights,” Liu told RFA.

“The only purpose of these countries in insinuating themselves into the Human Rights Council is to curb the positive role of the Human Rights Council and make autocratic rule the default setting on the international stage,” he said.

Amnesty International blogger Shao Jiang wrote in December 2018 that Beijing is reinterpreting universal human rights as merely the right to survival, freedom to access food, and regards other definitions of human rights as secondary to trade and economic development.

“The Chinese government has appointed government officials as independent experts into the UN’s Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, and the U.N. treaty bodies,” Shao said.

China has passed human rights reviews twice before this one, while more than 120 countries Beijing’s human rights record during the most recent process.

During the recent round, the Chinese government said it accepted most of the 346 human rights recommendations put forward by the council.

Also Read: Myanmar Government Calls Ethnic Armed Groups To Attend Collective Peace Discussions For The First Time

The United Nations now reports annually on government reprisals against human rights defenders participating in U.N. human rights efforts, Richardson wrote in an article in The Hill last December.

“China has topped the list of offenders in every report issued,” she said. (RFA)