News, July 3rd

Construction of Vientiane station along China-Laos railway begins

Construction of the Vientiane station, the largest passenger and freight station along the China-Laos railway, officially began at 9:30 am on July 3, 2020, local time.

Vientiane station is the largest of the 20 passenger and freight stations built along the China-Laos railway, and has a construction area of 14,543 square meters. The station, with a length of 220 meters, a width of 90 meters and a height of 25 meters, is located on the south side of the main line and is designed to accommodate 2,500 passengers.

The completion of the China-Laos railway will be of great significance to promoting the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and to accelerating economic and social development in Laos.

The project is scheduled to open by the end of 2021.

Protecting migrant workers in Kuwait: a Resident Coordinator’s blog

In Kuwait, the UN has played an important role in countering xenophobic rhetoric, falsely blaming the spread of COVID-19 on migrant workers. In this opinion piece, Tarek El Sheikh, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the country, highlights the efforts being made to safeguard the rights of foreign residents.

The increase in xenophobic language directed towards migrants – who make up more than 70 per cent of the population of Kuwait – prompted a group of jurists, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the Office of the Resident Coordinator, to launch a media campaign designed to help the authorities counter the problem, which they are beginning to see as a potential threat to a peaceful and stable society; we welcomed the Emir of Kuwait’s televised speech on the subject, in which he emphasized the need to heal divisions, and address misinformation.

This is one example of the role that the UN is playing in Kuwait, to address the consequences of the pandemic. Our response can be divided into four main areas. Firstly, we are helping to prepare the economy and society (for example, by strengthening supply chains, countering economic shocks, and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises). Secondly, we are working to protect vulnerable groups, including migrant workers. Thirdly, we are creating educational content, via different media, and lastly, we are addressing developmental and health issues.

One of the big economic issues we are dealing with is unemployment. The vast majority of the migrant workers who travel to Kuwait have very limited means and, since the pandemic, many of them have found themselves without work.

Large sums of money have been collected to help migrant workers, a sign of the generosity of many Kuwaitis, who have also donated food to help those affected by the downturn. Various UN bodies, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and International Labor Organization (ILO) have been cooperating with the Kuwaiti authorities to find ways to cope with this crisis.

We have developed guidelines and recommendations for dealing with migrants, and mitigating the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, and we are pleased to say that many of these have been adopted by the authorities. The UN Development Program and the World Bank have provided socio-economic advice to counter market instability.

Another consequence of the rise in unemployment, is that many migrant workers no longer have valid work permits, and face deportation to their countries of origin. The members of the UN Migration Network – comprised of IOM, ILO, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Women, OHCHR and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) – are coordinating on this issue, to ensure that voluntary deportations take place in a manner that respects international human rights law.

The IOM and UNHCR have also been working with partners to provide food and personal protection equipment (PPE) to migrants and people of concern, and inspecting centers for voluntary deporting workers, and the victims of domestic violence (including domestic workers).

My message to the citizens of Kuwait, migrant workers living in the country, and everyone who is contributing to dealing with this pandemic, is that this is a time for solidarity, action, humanitarian support, and respect for human rights.

We cannot defeat this new enemy without unity, and agreement on a basic strategy, with the United Nations working hand in hand with government, the private sector, and civil society.

Let us reject hatred, turn to humanity, and respect for human rights, and reiterate what the UN Secretary-General has said: the only way to survive, is to work together.

US CDC reports 2,679,230 coronavirus cases, 128,024 deaths

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday (July 2) reported 2,679,230 cases of new coronavirus, an increase of 54,357 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 725 to 128,024.

Just two weeks ago, the United States was reporting about 22,000 new cases a day. It has now reported more than 40,000 cases for seven straight days and broken records for new cases three days in a row, according to a Reuters tally.

Florida reported the biggest increase of any state so far on Thursday, recording over 10,000 new cases in a single day. With 21 million residents, the state has reported more new daily coronavirus cases than any European country had at the height of their outbreaks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned earlier this week the daily increase in new US cases could reach 100,000 without nationwide measures to slow the rate.

While testing rates have increased, so has the percentage of positive results. Hospitalizations have also skyrocketed.

World Bank Strengthens Partnership with the Federated States of Micronesia

The government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has signed a new partnership agreement with the World Bank.

The Establishment Agreement paves the way for an increased presence by the World Bank in the North Pacific, through the planned opening of a dedicated sub-regional office in the FSM capital, Pohnpei in 2021 that will support World Bank engagement in FSM,  the Republic of Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau.

The agreement comes as the World Bank’s engagement in FSM and the neighboring Marshall Islands undergoes considerable growth: from zero projects or commitments in 2014 to approximately US$472 million in active and pipeline projects across the North Pacific countries.

FSM’s Secretary of Finance, the Hon. Eugene Amor, said the increased presence in the region will help strengthen the relationship and address the critical development challenges of the FSM including in the areas of energy and communications (ICT) – such as the FSM Connectivity and recently-announced Digital Federated States of Micronesia projects and maritime infrastructure – which are helping to connect one of the most geographically-isolated countries on earth.

“We are excited to strengthen our cooperation with the World Bank in the FSM,” said Secretary Amor. “We look forward to expanding our partnership into other transformational sectors that will be essential to our States’ development.

“The World Bank has been steadily growing its presence throughout the Pacific over the past four years – with a quadrupling of our commitments to the Pacific and PNG, together with the opening of a new South Pacific hub in Suva, and significantly growing presence in capitals including Port Moresby, Honiara, Port Vila and Nuku’alofa, among others,” said Michel Kerf, Country Director for the World Bank in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

“This agreement paves the way for a stronger World Bank presence in FSM and the wider North Pacific. Ultimately, this will deliver bigger impacts in tackling many of the most significant development challenges facing FSM, Marshall Islands and Palau,” said Mr. Kerf.

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 85 projects totaling US$1.8 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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