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Easter: Do Not Lose Hope in Coronavirus Times – Pope

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Pope Francis called on the faithful at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, not to lose hope in the protracted coronavirus crisis.

“In the hour of darkness when humanity is grappling with the pandemic and other ills, Christians need to take to heart the Easter message of the angel not to be afraid,’’ the 84-year-old head of the Catholic Church said in St Peter’s Basilica.

One message of Easter, he said, is that it is always possible to start anew.

“Even from the shambles of human history, God has created something new from the rubble of our hearts,’’ the Pope said.

“God can create a work of art from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can prepare a new history.’’

“In these dark months of the pandemic … listen to the Risen Lord as He invites us to begin anew and never lose hope,’’ the pope said.

About 200 faithful and clergy joined in the service.

Only a limited number of people were allowed to attend as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Christians commemorate the resurrection of Jesus during the Easter weekend.

At the beginning of Saturday’s vigil service, the pontiff carried the Easter candle – the light of Christ – into the dark St Peter’s Basilica.

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For devout Christians, Easter is the most important feast in the church year. (dpa/NAN)

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Business Leaders Join UN Chief to Step Up Action for Global Sustainability

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Business leaders joined UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday, to step up delivery of critical investments for a ‘sustainable, net zero, resilient and equitable world’.

The Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance, which brings together 30 business giants worth an estimated $16 trillion dollars, met Guterres in New York and outlined concrete actions for the future, the UN Correspondent reported.

Since October 2019, when the secretary-general convened the GISD Alliance, its CEOs and other top executives had been working with the UN and other partners to develop guidelines and products that align the existing finance and investment ecosystem with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Acknowledging the “great responsibility” facing private sector leaders, Guterres said that the goals were clear.

The goals, according to him, are to “build a sustainable, net zero, resilient, and equitable world, to better align investments with sustainable development, and to act on their commitments, with credible timelines, targets and plans.

Since its creation, the GISD Alliance had developed standards and tools aimed at moving trillions of dollars to bridge the gap in financing, and to realise the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

The group works through increasing the available supply of long-term investment for sustainable development, realising SDG investment opportunities in developing countries, and enhancing the impact of private investment for sustainable development.

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“I count on the members of the GISD Alliance to catalyze greater investment for developing countries and make net zero and sustainability the core of everyone’s policies and business models,” Guterres said.

GISD also sprang into action to address crises, including in 2020, by developing a COVID Bond Call to Action. The call prompted companies and governments to use innovative social bonds to respond to the pandemic, contributing to a sustainable economic recovery.

In 2021, GISD published its latest investment tool designed to align financing with the SDGs. Through a set of sector-specific metrics, it proposes to accurately measure the impact of companies on sustainable development targets and provide investors with key insights.

This is an important step, since previous reporting frameworks largely focused on measuring the impact of company operations on sustainability across whole industries.

According to Leila Fourie, GISD co-chair and group CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, “industry-agnostic performance indicators, while useful, tend to fall short in capturing the full sector-specific impact of products and services that companies produce.”

In the coming months, GISD will launch a net-zero Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) and a blended finance fund, helping the “move toward creating real life opportunities to finance the SDGs,” said Oliver Bäte, GISD co-chair and CEO of Allianz.

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GISD is also working with the G20 Sustainable Finance Working Group, the COP26 climate conference bureau and G7 leading economies, as well as engaging with the multilateral development banks, to develop actionable recommendations on ways to scale up private investment for sustainable development. (NAN)

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Global Investment Flows Rebound, Reaches $852bn in 2021

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After a big drop in 2021 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) reached an estimated 852 billion dollars in the first half of 2021, showing a stronger than expected rebound.

The latest Investment Trends Monitor released on Tuesday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) showed increase in the first two quarters.

It shows the increase in the first two quarters in FDI, recovered more than 70 per cent of the losses stemming from the COVID-19 crisis in 2020.

For the UNCTAD’s director of investment and enterprise, James Zhan, the good news “masks the growing divergence in FDI flows between developed and developing economies, as well as the lag in a broad-based recovery of the greenfield investment in productive capacity”.

Zhan however warns that “uncertainties remain abundant”.

The duration of the health crisis, the pace of vaccinations, especially in developing countries, and the speed of implementation of infrastructure stimulus, remain important factors of uncertainty.

Other important risk factors are labour and supply chain bottlenecks, rising energy prices and inflationary pressures.

Despite these challenges, the global outlook for the full year has improved from earlier projections.

The growth in the next few months should be more muted than the in the first half of the year, but it should still take FDI flows to beyond pre-pandemic levels.

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Between January and June, developed economies saw the biggest rise, with FDI reaching an estimated 424 billion dollars, more than three times the exceptionally low level in 2020.

In Europe, several large economies saw sizeable increases, on average remaining only five per cent below pre-pandemic quarterly levels.

Inflows in the United States were up by 90 per cent, driven by a surge in cross-border mergers and acquisitions.

FDI flows in developing economies also increased significantly, totalling 427 billion dollars in the first half of the year.

There was a growth acceleration in east and southeast Asia (25 per cent), a recovery to near pre-pandemic levels in Central and South America, and upticks in several other regional economies across Africa,  and West and Central Asia.

Of the total recovery increase, 75 per cent was recorded in developed economies.

High-income countries more than doubled quarterly FDI inflows from rock bottom 2020 levels, middle-income economies saw a 30 per cent increase, and low-income economies a further nine per cent decline.

Growing investor confidence is most apparent in infrastructure, boosted by favourable long-term financing conditions, recovery stimulus packages and overseas investment programmes.

International project finance deals were up 32 per cent in number, and 74 per cent in value terms. Sizeable increases happened in most high-income regions, and in Asia and South America.

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In contrast, UNCTAD says investor confidence in industry and value chains remains shaky. Greenfield investment project announcements continued their downward path, decreasing 13 per cent in number and 11 per cent in value until the end of September.

After suffering double-digit declines across almost all sectors, the recovery in areas relevant to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries remains fragile.

The combined value of announced greenfield investments and project finance deals rose by 60 per cent, but mostly because of a small number of very large deals in the power sector.

International project finance in renewable energy and utilities continues to be the strongest growth sector.

The investment in projects relevant to the SDGs in least developed countries continued to decline precipitously.

New greenfield project announcements fell by 51 per cent, and infrastructure project finance deals by 47 per cent. Both had already fallen 28 per cent last year. (NAN)

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700,000 South Sudanese Hit by Worst Floods in Decades, says UN

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The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday said it was alarmed by the humanitarian impact of the worst flooding in decades in South Sudan, as it affected more than 700,000 people across the country.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, disclosed this at a news conference at the  UN headquarters in New York, saying that the UNHCR was working to help the victims of the floods, the UN correspondent reported.

Dujarric said the UN humanitarian agency was working with the government and partners to help the most affected people – by providing food, emergency shelter, hygiene items and solar lanterns.

“In Upper Nile state alone, UNHCR teams met around 1,000 people who had walked for seven days to reach Malakal town,’’ he said.

The spokesman said some of these people had not eaten in days, noting that women were deeply worried about the health of their children, with the increased risk of infections from deadly water-borne diseases.

“UNHCR said that while the effects of the climate emergency are being felt on every continent and in every region, its impacts are profoundly felt in East Africa.

“Communities, which are already struggling, are facing unprecedented floods and storms, unpredictable rainfall, and distress under hotter and drier conditions as their basic needs and rights to water, food, livelihoods, land, and a healthy environment are hit hard,’’ he said.

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On Ethiopia, Dujarric said the humanitarian colleagues reported that the situation in Mekelle, in Tigray as at Tuesday was calm, but tense.

He said local health workers had reported that three children were killed and one person injured in an airstrike on the outskirts of Mekelle on Monday.

“A second airstrike in Mekelle town later in the day reportedly injured nine people and damaged houses and a nearby hotel.

“Our humanitarian colleagues are alarmed at the intensification of the conflict and once again remind all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

“We also call for unrestricted and sustained humanitarian access to all people in need.’’

Giving an update on COVID-19, Dujarric said a UN team led by acting Resident Coordinator Dirk Wagener, had continued to help authorities respond to the pandemic in Papau New Guinea.

“Our team has provided health supplies and supported the vaccination campaign, following a recent rise in the number of cases. The number of new cases this week has doubled compared to last week.

“Around 10 per cent of the target population has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while just 5.7 per cent of the target population is fully vaccinated.

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“The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF are working closely with the government to increase the number of people who are vaccinated. They are also working to combat misinformation surrounding the vaccine,’’ he said. (NAN)

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