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Our selection of useful news items from around the world

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Global Geneva

See also Genève Internationale's Daily Update OR's selection for Global Geneva

Human rights nominees all women for first time

Three women are the finalists for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award: "a demonstration of the leading position now occupied by women in the defence of human rights," in the statement by the jury.

In Yemen, Huda Al-Sarari has exposed and challenged the existence of secret prisons and many cases of torture. In Mexico, Norma Ledezma is fighting against femicides and disappearances. In South Africa, Sizani Ngubane is fighting for access for women to education and to land.

The 2020 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders will be presented to one of them on 19 February 2010 during a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva.

Martin Ennals Award (LINK: media kit in PDF)

Al Gore tells millennials: climate change investment biggest opportunity in history

al gore
Receiving Nobel Peace Prize, 2007

Millennials should see fixing climate change as "the single biggest investment opportunity in history," Gore told a conference San Francisco. Deutsche Bank Wealth Maonagement event is only latest sign of increased attention on ESG (Environment, Sustainability and Governance) investing at big banks," reported MarketWatch.

MarketWatch. (LINK)

Plans to save species from extinction are ignoring climate change

New Scientist (LINK)

Officials to meet on Mekong crisis

Mekong River Commission will meet in Phnom Penh as dams and drought take toll on the once-mighty waterway.

AlJazeera (LINK)

What to do to save Venice?

Venice collage
The Guardian (LINK)

By 2020 the manufacture, import and export of mercury-added products will no longer be allowed

The Third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which took place on 25-29 November in Geneva, agreed on a framework to monitor the effectiveness of the Convention.


As Minamata Conference opens in Geneva, Swiss authorities admit knowing of mercury pollution in Valais 50 years ago but did little

Just before the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the 2017 Minamata Convention on Mercury opened in Geneva on 25 November, a Swiss commission report on mercury pollution by the Lonza aluminium company in the Valais revealed that the contamination around the town of Visp had been known to authorities since 1970, but the local authorities took no real action till 2010 and only started a clearup of polluted building land in 2017 (Le Nouvelliste, paywalled).

Slogan for the one-week Geneva meeting in the International Conference Centre: Make Mercury History.

Minamata Convention (LINK). Programme schedule (LINK PDF)

Several countries target environmental activists with counterterrorism measures

Human Rights Watch longer article (LINK)

euronews (LINK)

IOM: 270 million people are migrants, who send home a staggering $689 billion

UN News (LINK)

Roundup: 20 years after landmark treaty, many countries far from mine-free

"A five yearly gathering this week noted some progress, but several countries lagging behind in clearance efforts."


Innovative WHO HIV testing recommendations aim to expand treatment coverage

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new recommendations to help countries reach the 8.1 million people living with HIV who are yet to be diagnosed, and who are therefore unable to obtain lifesaving treatment. The WHO guidelines are released ahead of World AIDS Day (1 December), and the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA2019) which takes place in Kigali, Rwanda on 2-7 December. Today, three in 4 of all people with HIV live in the African Region.


Cured but still contagious: How mixed messages on sexual transmission and breastfeeding may help Ebola spread

Here's what you need to know:

The New Humanitarian (LINK)

WHO Scales Back Ebola Response Following Deadliest Attacks Ever On DRC Health Workers

Health Policy Watch (LINK)

New UNAids chief vows to stamp out sexual misconduct and abuse of power

Photo: Brian Otieno/UNAIDS

Winnie Byanyima says known cases of sexual harassment were 'tip of the iceberg' as she pledges to restore trust in organization

The Guardian, U.K. (LINK)

'I'm known as an activist.'

"In December 2018 an independent panel sharply criticized the organization, and its leader Michel Sidibé, for fostering a 'boy's club' culture that did not properly thwart sexual harassment and bullying of women."


Why does so little aid money go to preventing violence against women and girls?

Of the $41.5 billion spent on humanitarian responses between 2016 and 2018, just $51.7 million – less than 0.2 percent – was spent on GBV (gender-based violence) prevention for women and girls.

The New Humanitarian (LINK)

Gordon Sondland: US ambassador to EU accused of sexual misconduct

The allegations, published by Portland Monthly magazine and ProPublica, date back to before he became an ambassador. Mr Sondland denies all of the allegations, and accuses the women of targeting him for his role in President Donald Trump's impeachment hearings.


UK police explain decision on Prince Andrew case


Sudan approves law to 'dismantle' former regime, repeal Bashir-era limits on women's rights

France24/agencies (LINK)

Fiona Hill and Mr. Putin: the book

fiona hill photo

For those intrigued by Fiona Hill of the Trump impeachment investigations, Brookings Institution Press is circulating the link to her highly regard co-authored study of Vladmir Putin, described as "damning in its conclusions" by The Washington Post. A Financial Times Best Summer Book in 2015.

Eurospan Bookstore: described as new and expanded edition of Mr. Putin: operative in the Kremlin. €34 (LINK)

Fiona Hill, Globalist

The Globalist website has put up a page with Fiona Hill's articles for this analysis platform ('Rethinking globalization') before she joined the U.S. National Security Council. (LINK)

Singapore tells Facebook to correct user's post in test of 'fake news' laws

Singapore instructed Facebook on Friday to publish a correction notice on a user's social media post under a new 'fake news' law, raising fresh questions about how the firm will adhere to government requests to regulate content.

Reuters (LINK)

International Humanitarian Law and Cyber Operations during Armed Conflicts

ICRC position paper presents its views on cyber operations and international humanitarian law


Politicians drop below ad execs in veracity index


Journalists fourth from bottom scoring 26%, but almost double the 14% rating for politicans. Nurses score tops with 95%.

P.S. the graph originally had the wrong year. But pollsters still score 54% for accuracy. They make mistakes less than half the time.


Antibiotic resistant superbugs kill 32 plane-loads of people a week

Interview using figures from an April 2019 WHO report: "Drug-resistant diseases already cause at least 700,000 deaths globally a year, including 230,000 deaths from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, a figure that could increase to 10 million deaths globally per year by 2050 under the most alarming scenario if no action is taken." (LINK to PDF)

The Conversation (LINK includes 21 min audio)

Business and human rights. You guessed it: a long way to go

report covers

The United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, established in 2011, convened in Geneva on 25 November to meet in 60+ panels with 2000 participants until 27 November 2019, offering webcasts of its sessions. (LINK)

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) said in a report: "Governments need to do more to help businesses understand, mitigate and improve their human rights impacts — by strengthening transparency and reporting requirements." So far 23 countries have produced National Action Plans. (LINK to GRI report on human rights action / PDF). Other reports:

In Europe in 2019, while "90% of companies expressed a commitment to respect human rights in their annual reports, only 36% described their human rights due diligence system. Reporting needs to go beyond stating general policies and processes or other generic quantitative metrics" — Alliance for Corporate Transparency on responses to the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive.

"72% of companies don't provide KPIs {Key Performance Indicators] in a single summarised statement and 56% don't provide information in a clear structure. Many companies refer to information provided outside of the report, but 56% don't provide direct links to it.

"With a few exceptions, companies present at least some non-financial information. However, in only 50% of cases for environmental matters and less than 40% for social and anti-corruption matters, this information is clear in terms of concrete issues, targets and principal risks."

Corporate Social Responsiblity Newswire (LINK)

Greece completes early repayment of expensive IMF loan

The move concerns loans worth 2.7 billion euros and will allow Athens to reduce its debt-servicing costs. (LINK)

Sphere releases info sheet on protecting environment in humanitarian projects

sphere photo of fires

"I recently visited a humanitarian project aiming to create more permanent shelters for a large displaced population. The agency was planning to purchase brick kiln ovens to fire bricks for houses while also doubling as a livelihood activity for the disaster affected population. This sounds reasonable; however, you may not know that it takes around 20 trees to produce five small houses worth of burnt bricks. This operation was taking place in a context where deforestation was already a critical issue, dramatically affecting water quality and worsening the flooding." — Amanda George, Sphere

Sphere (LINK)

A Green New Deal For Email? U.K. Study Shows "Environmental Harm"

"The UK's carbon footprint could be reduced by 16,000 tons per year if each person sent one less unnecessary email per day. These emails do the same damage as 81,152 jet plane flights to Madrid. [...] Sounds like a bit of a stretch."

MediaPost (LINK)

Tim Berners-Lee unveils global plan to save the web

"We could end up with a digital dystopia if we don't turn things around." The Contract for the Web, which has been worked on by 80 organizations for more than a year, outlines nine central principles to safeguard the web – three each for governments, companies and individuals.

Microsoft, Google, Facebook and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have signed on. But not Amazon or Twitter.

The Guardian, U.K. (LINK)/Contract for the Web

A Swiss take on Facebook's Libra

Dated 22 August 2019 but issued with latest newsletter.

Avenir Suisse (LINK)

Expanded UN geographical trademarks to take effect

wipo pboto
EU signs on to geographical trademark pact

An international system that broadens protections for brands which identify their products based on geographical origin, like Darjeeling tea, Swiss watches, Scotch whiskey or Tequila, will come into force on 26 February 2020 now the EU has signed on, the World Intellectual Property Organization said.

Digital Journal (LINK / WIPO)

ILO: the positive impact of labour standards on peoples' lives

"Reading through reports dating back decades I found that recommendations from the Committee on Freedom of Association had, in some countries, led to the release of hundreds of workers from jail. In others, workers were reinstated in their jobs. Elsewhere, workers had been granted the right to organize in trade unions." — Eric Gravel, Senior Legal Officer, ILO.

On 28 November 2019, the role and accomplishments of ILO's supervisory mechanisms were reviewed at a special centenary event

ILOblog (LINK)

Hong Kong's shock election result shows how Beijing falls victim to its own propaganda

"The local government and Beijing seemed convinced that a 'silent majority', tired of blocked roads and school suspensions, would cast their votes decisively against 'violent rioters'."

Quartz (LINK)

DR Congo crowd vents anger at UN troops for failing to stop deadly attack

Residents in DR Congo's volatile city of Beni set fire to the local town hall and accused US peacekeepers of inaction after eight civilians were killed overnight in a militant attack, an AFP reporter said.

France 24 / News wires (LINK)

Geneva citizens vote to control nuisances from airport development

By 56.27% Geneva voters on Sunday approved a popular initiative to protect the city from nuisances caused by air traffic. Turnout was 36.82%. They rejected a Rightwing parliamentary counter project. The new law requires the Geneva government to "take all adequate measures to limit the nuisances caused by air traffic". Rightwing parliamentarians said the new law probably would not change much at the moment because Cointrin airport is already regulated by federal laws.

RTS (LINK, French)

Geneva recognizes Swiss historian of Nazism

Philippe Burrin is head of the Geneva Graduate Institute. The Foundation for Geneva makes its award on 2 December 2019.

tdg (LINK in French)

Hitler's top hat donated to Israeli foundation

A Lebanese philanthropist based in Switzerland has donated a top hat owned by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler to an Israeli foundation. He said that he did not want neo-Nazis to get their hands on it.


Bougainville votes on independence from Papua New Guinea

bougainville map
Largest of the Solomon Islands

About 207,000 Bougainvilleans are registered to vote on whether Melanesian isles will become world's newest country.

U.S. takes aim at judges pay in new attack on WTO system

WTO facade
WTO HQ, Geneva. Photo: E. Murray, wikimedia

See earlier articles below. Reuters. (LINK)

Members reiterate joint call to launch selection process for Appellate Body members

A group of 117 WTO members again issued a call at the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body meeting on 22 November to launch the process for filling vacancies on the Appellate Body, marking two years since proponents first issued their joint appeal. The United States repeated that it was not in a position to agree to the proposal because its systemic concerns regarding the Appellate Body remain unaddressed.


Christine Lagarde's first speech as ECB chief

lagarde portrait

She warned that export increases could no longer be relied upon to boost growth. DW (LINK)

U.K. ignores deadline for Chagos return

chagos map

Earlier: UN orders UK to end 'colonial' rule of Chagos Islands. Britain separated the Indian Ocean islands from Mauritius in 1965. The UK and the US both have major military bases on the largest island. (LINK). DW: Chagos islands: The fight over Africa's last British colony (LINK)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange 'could die' in British jail: 60 doctors

The WikiLeaks founder is serving a 50-week sentence in the United Kingdom ahead of an extradition hearing in February.


Uber Loses Operating License in London over Unsafe and Fraudulent Trips, Uber Stock Is Down

The regulator said it "has identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk."

Irish Times (LINK) / Coinspeaker (LINK)

Here's How to Order a Car in London if Uber Ban Is Enacted Time (LINK)

Sacha Baron Cohen gave the greatest speech on why social networks need to be kept in check

Sacha Baron Cohen photo

Receiving Anti-Defamation League award, actor says six US billionaires focused on their share prices shouldn't be allowed to dictate what is acceptable online. They should follow same regulations as publishers and other media companies. "If there are standards and practices for what cinemas and television channels can show, then surely companies that publish material to billions of people should have to abide by basic standards and practices too."

ZDNet: full text and video. (LINK)

Anti-doping committee puts Russia's Olympic future in peril

flag arrives in Tokyo

Russia could be declared non-compliant for tampering with data. The World Anti-Doping Agency announced its compliance and review committee delivered the recommendation to the agency's executive committee, which will discuss it on Dec. 9.

AP: Eddie Peils. (LINK)

New 2020 Olympic boxing 'clarity, transparency and integrity' regulations

"The IOC Boxing Task Force has confirmed today that the technical & competition rules to be applied at the Olympic boxing qualifying events and the boxing tournament at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will include the end-of-round display of scoring and other measures aimed at increasing clarity, transparency and integrity."

IOC, Tokyo (LINK)

The WTO Could Help End the Overfishing Crisis. But Will It?

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that in 2015, only two-thirds of the world's fish stocks were being harvested at sustainable levels, down from 90 percent in 1974. Although the WTO is close to an agreement, it won't meet a year-end deadline proposed by the U.N.

World Politics Review (LINK)

Most adolescents do not exercise enough to stay healthy, WHO study finds

The World Health Organization study presents the first-ever global estimates of insufficient physical activity among adolescents ages 11 to 17. The report says the biggest gender gaps are seen in the United States and Ireland where 15 percent more girls than boys were physically inactive. The World Health Organization recommends adolescents do moderate or vigorous exercises for one hour every day of the week to stay fit.

VoA: Lisa Schlein (LINK) / (WHO LINK)

Improvised mines trend and high civilian casualties raising alarm

A 20-year review: "The 2018 casualty total was nearly double the lowest number of annual casualties recorded by Landmine Monitor  — 3,457 casualties in 2013

Land Mine Monitor 2019. (LINK PDF)

The Small Arms Survey welcomes New Director Daniel de Torres

"The Small Arms Survey was founded in 1999 and has established itself as a leader in small arms and armed violence expertise [...] The Survey is a global centre of excellence producing research and evidence-based policy recommendations for practitioners and decision-makers alike, and information for the wider public."

He is former head of the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance's (DCAF) Gender and Security Division. He took over at the Graduate Institute on 1 November 2019.

Graduate Institute Geneva (LINK)

Attempt to 'Criminalize Basic Human Kindness' Fails as Activist Scott Warren Found Not Guilty on All Charges

An Arizona jury on Wednesday found human rights activist Scott Warren not guilty of "harboring" undocumented migrants, charges that were levied by federal prosecutors after the geography teacher provided food, water, and shelter to two men traveling through the desert in 2018.

Common Dreams (LINK)

Michael Møller receives honorary Geneva citizenship

Geneva's Parliament (Grand Conseil) has awarded former UN Geneva's Director-General honorary Genevan citizenship to recognize his commitment to international Geneva.

ATS/swissinfo. (LINK in French)

More than 40% of the world's internally displaced are children


Does China Comply with its WTO obligations?

"China may not be perfect, but it does a reasonably good job of responding positively to WTO complaints and complying with rulings against it. This conclusion becomes even more apparent when you compare China's behavior to that of other Members, including the United States and the European Union, who have ignored rulings in several WTO cases."

Cato Institute: Simon Lester. (LINK)

Trump can no longer impose auto tariffs after missing deadline - experts

The clock has run out on President Donald Trump's "Section 232" tariffs on imports of foreign-made cars and auto parts, after he failed to announce a decision by a self-imposed deadline, trade law experts say.

Reuters: David Lawder. (LINK)

United Nations Office at Geneva signs contract for the renovation of the historic Palais des Nations

The Italian/Swiss firms were selected to renovate the historical buildings at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, built in the 1930s, following an international competitive tender process. The cost of renovating these buildings is estimated at 270 million CHF. A separate tender process will later take place for the renovation of Building E, which was constructed in the 1970s.


Things the UN does (that you might not know about)

swissinfo: Imogen Foulkes (LINK)

Swiss EPFL spinoff leads space debris clear-up project

ClearSpace, based in Lausanne at EPFL, was named head of the project at the 22-state European Space Agency (ESA) meeting in Seville, reports the Swiss web news site Heidi (LINK in French).

ESA is not without its problems. "Earlier this year, the EU proposed renaming the agency that oversees its Galileo programme from the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency to the European Union Agency for the Space Programme, prompting criticism from ESA, which is independent from the EU." SpaceNews (LINK)

ClearSpace (LINK)

Economic development: even minor changes in institutions can lead to major unexpected results

In his PhD thesis for the Graduate Institute, Geneva, Pedro Guimarães Naso  — now with the One Acre Fund* in Burundi  — used microeconomic models and impact evaluation techniques to show that "minor changes in [institutional] networks can lead to major unexpected outcomes".

"For example, in the case of China, I found that the introduction of national pollution standards ends up moving technology from the coast to the interior of the country. In South Africa, following the end of the Apartheid regime, a more ethnic diverse body of public servants decreased the decision power of pollution inspectors."

Dr Naso argues: "From the moment that [policy ]designers are aware that minor changes can have major consequences, they will plan interventions more carefully."

Geneva Graduate Institute: Interview (LINK)

WTO the next casualty of Trump's tariff war?

For two years the Trump administration has been blocking appointments to the top body that rules on trade disputes, which means it will soon have too few members to function at all.

Reuters: Philip Blenkinsop (LINK). South China Morning Post (LINK)