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If Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament

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Hosting the World Cup is what many countries dream of, but hosting does not come without its drawbacks. It is a very costly event with no guarantees on economic return.

Any country that hosts the World Cup must meet strict infrastructure requirements, amongst many other standards required by all. These minimum requirements include criteria for all infrastructures, stadiums, hotels, transit, and communications and electrical grids. Despite all that is allowed by the accumulated petrodollars, fans could face accommodation shortages.  

For that, Qatar will make a newly built and yet to be completed City in the Desert available for the event. Meanwhile, here is another aspect of the fothcoming tournament.

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World Cup 2022: if Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament, an Olympic bid could be next

By Leon Davis, Teesside University and Dan Plumley, Sheffield Hallam University

The above image is for illustration and is of beIN SPORTS.

A prize for the taking. Shutterstock/fifg

When FIFA picked Qatar as the first Middle Eastern country to host the men’s football World Cup in 2022, some considered it a bold gamble. Others thought it was a mistake – including former FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Since then, controversy has never been far from a mega-event which is now less than a year away. Aside from allegations of bribery during the bidding process, there have been serious concerns raised about human rights, with particular focus on the migrant workers building the new stadia.

Whether these issues will ultimately dissuade supporters from travelling to Qatar in late 2022 remains to be seen. The organisers will certainly not want a repeat of what happened when Qatar hosted the IAAF World Athletics Championships of 2019, which took place in half empty stadia.

Football has more global appeal than athletics, of course, and so far both Qatar and FIFA remain bullish that millions of fans will travel to the Gulf from all over the world. The event is certainly “unique” in sport event terms and that may drive fan interest. No expense has been spared by Qatar to deliver this unique experience, that is for sure. They have certainly spent big in the lead up to the tournament.

Even as early as 2010, estimates of the total cost for Qatar were in the region of US$65 billion (£48 billion) – a different level to the then record-breaking US$14 billion which Russia spent hosting the tournament in 2018. More recent reports, however, cite costs closer to US$300 billion.

The reason for such staggering sums is not just grandeur. The actual stadium costs, at around US$10 billion, are low in relation to the overall estimated total. The bulk of the money has been spent on infrastructure and transport projects in the country. Some of these were planned anyway, with the forthcoming tournament merely accelerating developments.

Different goals

There is also a bigger picture at play here. In many ways, it has never been about the money for Qatar, one of the richest countries in the world.

The primary gains Qatar is seeking are non-commercial, with international relations at their heart, and and an opportunity to introduce itself to billions of people across the world. This has led to accusations of “sportswashing”. This can be defined as using sporting events as a way of seeking legitimacy or improving reputations and has been used in the context of Qatar 2022 given the controversies cited above.

Despite the negative press, Qatar will be encouraged by its latest foray into major international sporting events, including the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in Formula One. The race was the first of a three-part Middle-East finale to the F1 season which also includes races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. This could help place Qatar on a comparable level to its Arab neighbours in another very marketable sport.

Education City Stadium in Doha, Qatar. EPA-EFE/ NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL

Events like these, alongside the 2022 men’s World Cup, are designed to provide a legacy both socially and culturally – a legacy which creates national identity and places Qatar as a legitimate actor on the world stage.

Yet although money may be no object to the hosts, one organisation hoping to make some is FIFA. Their entire business model is geared around a successful World Cup. Russia 2018 helped FIFA to generate record revenues of US$6.4 billion, much of which is spent on “education and development”, and it will be hoping for similar takings from Qatar 2022. In the same way, FIFA’s (widely condemned) proposals to hold the tournament every two years are largely driven by the desire for more income.

So while the goals for Qatar and FIFA are different, both parties need the rest of the world to play ball. It’s worth bearing in mind that to make this happen, the majority of men’s domestic professional football leagues have altered their schedules to allow the 2022 competition to be staged, for the first time ever, in the months of November and December.

If the timing works, and Qatar’s non-commercial plans are achieved, it will then surely aim to become a regular major player in the sports event hosting market – so expect to see a bid to host a future Olympic Games. Money again here will be no object. Qatar will no doubt put on a show for the World Cup. A show that it hopes the rest of the world will be watching.

Leon Davis, Senior Lecturer in Events Management, Teesside University and Dan Plumley, Senior Lecturer in Sport Finance, Sheffield Hallam University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Devex Newswire: Africa’s energy-climate conundrum

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By Michael Igoe 


In the 1st November 2021 article, Devex Newswire elaborates on Africa’s energy-climate conundrum. This should address not only the sub-Saharan countries but should also include all those countries of the MENA region, especially those without any fossil fuels resources. Climate change is a major threat to people’s and countries’ future prosperity, and it has by now been felt and/or sensed by all regardless of the varying levels of development.

In the COP23 in Bonn, Germany on November 6 to 17, 2017, an analysis addressing the strategic components of the necessary energy transition for Africa was published. It would be worth it to look at it again. After of course going through Michael Igoe‘s thoughts

Devex Newswire: Africa’s energy-climate conundrum

By Michael Igoe 

COP 26 is officially underway in Glasgow. On a long list of thorny questions is this one: Should lower-income countries be denied access to fossil fuels even while wealthier countries continue to exploit them?

Europe and the United States have led a charge at the World Bank to end the institution’s support for fossil fuel projects while their own economies continue to rely heavily on polluting energy sources.

That disparity has fueled a growing debate over how financial institutions and development strategies should maintain a role for fossil fuels — particularly natural gas — as they look to balance climate mitigation and energy access goals. The debate comes to a particular head in Africa, where nearly 600 million people still lack access to energy, Adva Saldinger reports.

“The idea that in the West, gas is part of energy security, but a climate problem in Africa, is an ethically and politically untenable position,” says Todd Moss, executive director of the Energy for Growth Hub.

The question of how to balance these two imperatives — climate and energy — is a key sticking point in the conversation about what constitutes a “just transition” to low-carbon economies. The impacts of climate change continue to mount, particularly in the same countries where energy access remains limited and which have contributed least to global emissions.

The challenge facing delegates at COP 26 is to offer a collective vision for remaking the global energy system that combines a commitment to fairness with the resources and policies to achieve it.

Read more in the original Devex publication.

What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work

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This article republished from The Conversation is by Shelley Inglis, University of Dayton, Ohio, USA. It looks at the forthcoming international gathering of Glasgow on Climate Change and on the potential confrontations from a practical point of view and elaborates in its own way on What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work.

The image above is about U.N. climate summits that bring together representatives of almost every country. UNFCCC

What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work and what’s expected from the Glasgow summit

Over two weeks in November, world leaders and national negotiators will meet in Scotland to discuss what to do about climate change. It’s a complex process that can be hard to make sense of from the outside, but it’s how international law and institutions help solve problems that no single country can fix on its own.

I worked for the United Nations for several years as a law and policy adviser and have been involved in international negotiations. Here’s what’s happening behind closed doors and why people are concerned that COP26 might not meet its goals.

What is COP26?

In 1992, countries agreed to an international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which set ground rules and expectations for global cooperation on combating climate change. It was the first time the majority of nations formally recognized the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming that drives climate change.

That treaty has since been updated, including in 2015 when nations signed the Paris climate agreement. That agreement set the goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), and preferably to 1.5 C (2.7 F), to avoid catastrophic climate change.

COP26 stands for the 26th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC. The “parties” are the 196 countries that ratified the treaty plus the European Union. The United Kingdom, partnering with Italy, is hosting COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 12, 2021, after a one-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why are world leaders so focused on climate change?

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, released in August 2021, warns in its strongest terms yet that human activities have unequivocally warmed the planet, and that climate change is now widespread, rapid and intensifying.

The IPCC’s scientists explain how climate change has been fueling extreme weather events and flooding, severe heat waves and droughts, loss and extinction of species, and the melting of ice sheets and rising of sea levels. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a “code red for humanity.”

Enough greenhouse gas emissions are already in the atmosphere, and they stay there long enough, that even under the most ambitious scenario of countries quickly reducing their emissions, the world will experience rising temperatures through at least mid-century.

However, there remains a narrow window of opportunity. If countries can cut global emissions to “net zero” by 2050, that could bring warming back to under 1.5 C in the second half of the 21st century. How to get closer to that course is what leaders and negotiators are discussing.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called the latest climate science findings a ‘code red for humanity.’ UNFCCC

What happens at COP26?

During the first days of the conference, around 120 heads of state, like U.S. President Joe Biden, and their representatives will gather to demonstrate their political commitment to slowing climate change.

Once the heads of state depart, country delegations, often led by ministers of environment, engage in days of negotiations, events and exchanges to adopt their positions, make new pledges and join new initiatives. These interactions are based on months of prior discussions, policy papers and proposals prepared by groups of states, U.N. staff and other experts.

Nongovernmental organizations and business leaders also attend the conference, and COP26 has a public side with sessions focused on topics such as the impact of climate change on small island states, forests or agriculture, as well as exhibitions and other events.

The meeting ends with an outcome text that all countries agree to. Guterres publicly expressed disappointment with the COP25 outcome, and there are signs of trouble heading into COP26.

Celebrities like youth climate activist Greta Thunberg add public pressure on world leaders. UNFCCC

What is COP26 expected to accomplish?

Countries are required under the Paris Agreement to update their national climate action plans every five years, including at COP26. This year, they’re expected to have ambitious targets through 2030. These are known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.

The Paris Agreement requires countries to report their NDCs, but it allows them leeway in determining how they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The initial set of emission reduction targets in 2015 was far too weak to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

One key goal of COP26 is to ratchet up these targets to reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

Another aim of COP26 is to increase climate finance to help poorer countries transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change. This is an important issue of justice for many developing countries whose people bear the largest burden from climate change but have contributed least to it. Wealthy countries promised in 2009 to contribute $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations, a goal that has not been reached. The U.S., U.K. and EU, among the largest historic greenhouse emitters, are increasing their financial commitments, and banks, businesses, insurers and private investors are being asked to do more.

Other objectives include phasing out coal use and generating solutions that preserve, restore or regenerate natural carbon sinks, such as forests.

Another challenge that has derailed past COPs is agreeing on implementing a carbon trading system outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Chinese street vendors sell vegetables outside a state-owned coal-fired power plant in 2017. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Are countries on track to meet the international climate goals?

The U.N. warned in September 2021 that countries’ revised targets were too weak and would leave the world on pace to warm 2.7 C (4.9 F) by the end of the century. However, governments are also facing another challenge this fall that could affect how they respond: Energy supply shortages have left Europe and China with price spikes for natural gas, coal and oil.

China – the world’s largest emitter – has not yet submitted its NDC. Major fossil fuel producers such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia seem unwilling to strengthen their commitments. India – a critical player as the second-largest consumer, producer and importer of coal globally – has also not yet committed.

Other developing nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa and Mexico are important. So is Brazil, which, under Javier Bolsonaro’s watch, has increased deforestation of the Amazon – the world’s largest rainforest and crucial for biodiversity and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

What happens if COP26 doesn’t meet its goals?

Many insiders believe that COP26 won’t reach its goal of having strong enough commitments from countries to cut global greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030. That means the world won’t be on a smooth course for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and the goal of keeping warming under 1.5 C.

But organizers maintain that keeping warming under 1.5 C is still possible. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been leading the U.S. negotiations, remains hopeful that enough countries will create momentum for others to strengthen their reduction targets by 2025.

The world is not on track to meet the Paris goal. Climate Action Tracker

The cost of failure is astronomical. Studies have shown that the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius can mean the submersion of small island states, the death of coral reefs, extreme heatwaves, flooding and wildfires, and pervasive crop failure.

That translates into many premature deaths, more mass migration, major economic losses, large swaths of unlivable land and violent conflict over resources and food – what the U.N. secretary-general has called “a hellish future.”

[Get The Conversation’s most important politics headlines, in our Politics Weekly newsletter.]

Shelley Inglis, Executive Director, University of Dayton Human Rights Center, University of Dayton

Read the original article.

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass

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The World Bank at a time when according to the IMF, the MENA region is on track for a recovery, despite some rising social unrest threatening the ‘fragile’ progress of low-income economies, produced the following enthusiastic remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass address to the Arab Governors of the World Bank Group.

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass to the Arab Governors of the World Bank Group

Let me begin by congratulating Minister Khalil.  Your appointment as Minister of Finance comes at a crucial moment in Lebanon’s history. The World Bank Group will work with you to support the critical reforms needed to address Lebanon’s challenges.   Thank you for mentioning Hela in your opening.  She’s the new IFC Vice President for the region, and I want you all to know the high priority we place on private sector advancement in the region.  All parts of the World Bank Group are making that a high priority.

Dear Governors and distinguished guests, it is a pleasure to be with you again to discuss the challenges and opportunities in your region.  Thank you for your recent annual letter outlining the key and urgent development challenges of the region. Let me also thank our Dean Dr Merza Hassan for helping to convene this meeting and for his unwavering support to the MENA region.

We meet today against a backdrop of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to reversals in development gains in many regions, threatening jobs, social stability – and lives.

MENA was hit particularly hard by Covid 19. Even before the pandemic, growth had stalled, poverty was on the rise, and the social contract between citizens and the state was strained. Climate change adds a further burden to the development challenge.

During my recent visits to the region, to Sudan, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, I saw firsthand the impact of this multi-pronged crisis. I was concerned by low investment levels, high unemployment rates, and low female labor participation rates.

I also saw potential via regional integration, pro-growth investment, and improvements in the enabling environment for business. The recovery in global growth provides opportunities to make positive changes, and I was encouraged by my discussions with officials and businesses.

As you know, MENA is the least economically integrated region in the world. We have expressed our support for any initiative aimed at developing economic ties between countries in the region, and we are thus looking at ways to support the gas and electricity potential connection between Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

While we are not in a position to engage in Syria, we nevertheless are concerned about the Syrian people’s economic woes due to the degradation of the situation in the country. Our position has always been to look after the people, and we are doing so for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

In the year leading up to the next annual meetings in Marrakesh, my message will remain focused on the importance of improving access to vaccines; recovering from Covid; overcoming conflict; mitigating and adapting to climate change; containing debt; and creating strong sustainable jobs for the youth of this region.

Morocco has made progress on all of these, and I want to thank you for graciously hosting us in 2022.

As a region, MENA will need to generate 300 million new jobs by 2050. These will be created largely by the private – not public – sector.  Reaching this critical goal of sustainable job creation needs governance and transparency, rule of law, and an attractive business environment.

IBRD, IFC and MIGA are fully engaged. I’m interested in hearing from you where the World Bank Group can position itself better.

As we move toward Marrakesh in 2022 and Cop27 in Egypt, how can the Bank Group assist in making these events a launching pad for more sustained and comprehensive development in MENA?

Thank you again for inviting me and let’s now open our discussion.

To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade

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Usman Ahmed, Senior Director; Head, Global Public Policy and Research, PayPal with Aditi Sara Verghese, Policy Analyst, International Trade and Investment, World Economic Forum Geneva elaborate in This article as part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit, on how in order To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade.

The above Image is of Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade

21 Sep 2021

  • A new vision for the global trading system must encompass equitable access to the benefits of trade for all of society, and some nations have signalled support in this regard.
  • Reforms to trade policy could have a meaningful impact on domestic economic inequality if a range of concrete steps are taken.
  • The WTO, and trade policy and practice more generally, can be reframed to reflect the notion of economic justice, and the time to make this shift is now.

Divides and discrimination within countries along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender and Indigenous identity have resulted in longstanding social, economic and political challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has further laid bare the stark inequalities among societal groups.

Yet resistance and restorative action have spread too. Social movements for racial justice in the United States have inspired similar initiatives in other countries. The #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual abuse and harassment and catalysed broader conversations about women’s participation in economic, social and political life. Meanwhile, some governments are coming to terms with their historical and current treatment of Indigenous peoples.

In this context, a new vision for the global trading system must encompass equitable access to the benefits of trade for all sections of society. This is an important aspect of building support for trade, as emerging research indicates that minority groups are often either negatively affected by trade shocks or do not have equitable access to the opportunities it provides.

Some countries have signalled support in this regard. For the first time, the US’s trade agenda includes the goal of racial equity. Canada, Chile and New Zealand signed a Global Trade and Gender Arrangement in August 2020. The relationship between trade and the rights of Indigenous peoples has been increasingly recognized in international economic agreements, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

Image: Usman Ahmed and Aditi Sara Verghese (2021)

Understanding the problem

The effect of trade on inequalities between countries is well covered in economic literature. Differential trade impacts within countries among different income groups, between small and large firms, and on labour is well studied and discussed.

The effects of trade on different societal groups within countries – whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, Indigenous identity or gender – has received less attention. This may be because domestic policies are considered the most direct way to tackle these inequalities. However, trade constitutes 58% of global GDP and is an important aspect of economic empowerment. And, while domestic policies can help with inequities created by trade if properly designed, reforms to trade policy could also have a meaningful impact on domestic economic inequality if a range of concrete steps are taken.

Developing and implementing inclusive policy

Better policymaking begins with better data. Governments should understand the industries that underserved populations are most likely to own and work in or rely on for inputs and final products. For instance, in 2016, minority-owned businesses represented 19% of US firms, but only 12.8% of US manufacturing firms. Governments should examine tariff lines to determine if they are discriminatory against those sectors that have a disproportionate representation of minority businesses and workers.

Underrepresented groups must be actively invited to participate in developing trade policy and negotiating positions. The advantages of such engagement were apparent in the provisions for Indigenous peoples in Canada’s trade agreements, for instance. New Zealand has carved out exceptions in their agreements to respect commitments made to Māori.

Trade agreements can also improve labour standards and remove discrimination against minority, migrant and female workers through labour chapters. These should include commitments by advanced economies to support and build capacity for the implementation of the necessary domestic reforms by trading partners.

Technical assistance and capacity building efforts that often accompany trade agreements must take into account equity considerations. Organizations should actively measure impacts of their initiatives on women and minority groups.

Inclusive trade in practice

Businesses also have an important role to play in enabling inclusive trade. Many have stepped up to publicly support movements for minority rights and inclusion. Investments in minority businesses can help raise the overall wellbeing of underserved communities. Supplier diversity programmes can support women-owned, minority-owned and Indigenous businesses to meet procurement standards, access financing and comply with export and import requirements.

Access to trade finance for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) could result in major gains for those underrepresented groups and for the broader economy. The IFC estimates that 70% of women-owned formal MSMEs in developing countries are unserved (or underserved) by financial institutions, with an estimated funding gap of $285 billion.

New technologies and digitalization can also make trade more inclusive – whether by enabling MSMEs to connect and transact with international buyers, providing natural language processing for translation, or automating trade processes that might otherwise lend themselves to discriminatory practices.

Public-private partnership for economic inclusion

Active engagement by all stakeholders at all stages of the process – from research, consultation and policy development to implementation and capacity-building – will be essential in realising a truly inclusive approach to trade.

Businesses and civil society organizations have an opportunity to voice support for government action through the World Trade Organization on these issues in the runup to the 12th Ministerial Conference. Moreover, governments can work with the private sector and civil society organizations to create programs like trade finance guarantees targeting underserved populations.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

International trade has done yeoman’s work in lifting millions out of poverty, driving economic growth and encouraging economic integration that reduced incentives for armed conflict between nations. There are green shoots that make the current moment an ideal time for trade to address domestic socio-economic divides.

We believe that the World Trade Organization, and trade policy and practice more generally, can be reframed to reflect the notion of economic justice and that the time to make this shift is now.

Read the Global Future Council on Trade and Investment paper on “International Trade and Economic Justice” here.

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