Protecting Human Rights in the Euro-Med Monitor Way as proposed by Richard Falk, should not come as a surprise. The Mediterranean Sea today is a vital corridor for the world. It has been so for time immemorial.
Not as widely known as it deserves to be given its accomplishments and creative approach, is a small human rights civil society organization called Euro-Med Human Monitor (EMM). It was inspired 11 years ago by the oppressive conditions existing in Gaza, and founded by a group of activists led by Ramy Abdu, then a resident of Gaza while still a doctoral student at the University of Manchester.
From the beginning EMM’s dedication to the promotion of human rights spread beyond the borders of Occupied Palestine, and EMM now has offices or representatives in 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, known as the MENA region and Europe, it is becoming a truly international organization with headquarters in Geneva, supported by volunteers and representatives spread throughout the world. In its short lifetime EMM has developed a strong reputation for political independence, staff dedication, effectiveness and efficiency, and most of all for its distinctive way of operating.
To begin withl, EMM is youth-oriented and much of its work is done by volunteers who learn by doing and working as teams with more experienced defenders of human rights. By adopting this mode of work, EMM has avoided diversions of its energies by major fundraising efforts, preferring to move forward with a small budget offset by big ideas, an impressive record of performance, continually motivated by outrage resulting from the widespread wrongdoing of governments throughout MENA. The initial idea of Euro-Med Monitor was inspired by popular rebellions against tyranny and oppression. This spirit of resistance swept through the Arab region in 2011 and continues to make its influence felt everywhere. Euro-Med Monitor strives to support these movements by planting seeds for international mobilization and stimulating international organizations and decision-makers to focus on violations of the people’s right to expression, freedom, and self-determination.
Perhaps, one the most innovative features of EMM is its stress on empowering victims of abuse to tell their stories to the world in their own voices. A recent example was the testimony at the Human Rights Council in Geneva of Suhaila al-Masri, the grandmother of Fatima al-Masri, who told the heart-rending story of how her 20 month old granddaughter died of suffocation because her exit permit from Gaza to receive emergency treatment was delayed without reason. EMM prides itself by working with victims to recover their sense of worth in a variety of struggles against the abuses they endured in the hope of avoiding similar suffering by others. In this innovative sense the empowerment of victims is complemented by establishing sites for training young human rights defenders to go on to have a variety of societal roles as they older.
Another example of this empowerment ethos practiced by EMM involves a 22-yearr old Palestinian woman, Zainab al-Quolaq, who lost 22 members of her family in an air attack that destroyed her home in Gaza a few year ago. Zainab herself miraculously survived despite being buried in rubble from the attack for 20 hours. EMM encouraged Zainab to write her story, but writing did not come easily to her, but it was discovered that she was a natural artist. Not only could she draw but she could depict a range of emotions, especially of torment and loss, that derived from her tragic encounter with the mass death of her family members. In what was a dramatic success story, Zainab al-Quolaq, began serious study of painting, going on to become an acclaimed artist, even holding gallery exhibitions of her work in her native Gaza, but also in Geneva, even in the United States, evoking media enthusiasm. Zainab also spoke before the Human rights Council on behalf of Euro-Med Monitor in March. EMM and UN Women helped her release her first booklet containing 9 of her paintings describing her feelings during and in the aftermath of the attack. After she was isolating herself for months following the traumatizing attack, Zainab is now more open and has begun a Master’s degree in business administration.
At this time, EMM feels its special identity is solidified by having 70% of its active staff either drawn from youth or from the ranks of those victimized by human rights abuses. The organization reaches out beyond victims of war and torture to more subtle forms of encroachment on human dignity such as prolonged refugee status or mistreatment of women. An instructive example is the encouragement of the formation of a Gaza initiative with the assertive name, We Are Not Numbers, suggesting human rights is about self-preservation of human identity under circumstances of pervasive oppression of which Gaza is the most vivid instance, but by no means the only site of such struggles within the MENA region.
It would be a mistake to suppose that EMM, despite its origins, was only concerned with the Palestinian agenda. A look at its Website or Twitter account would quickly dispel such an idea as would a glance at the titles of recent EMM reports or appearances before the Human Rights Council. Among the topic covered in recent reports are the targeting of journalists in Sudan, disguised and punitive racism toward MENA asylum seekers and immigrants from MENA, human displacement in Yemen, interferences with the freedom and safety of journalists in various countries within their scope of concern. EMM uses a network of 300 writers to tell the stories of those who have been abused when the victims themselves are not available. The overall EMM undertaking seeks to convey the issues of concern in different countries by employing what Ramy Abdu calls ‘the real discourse of the people.’
With its headquarters in Geneva, EMM is particularly active in the formal proceedings and side events associated with the Human Rights Council. It has mounted actions and testimony on such matters as opposition to EU surveillance of asylum seekers in Europe, arms exports to Yemen, and the rescue of persons who have been coercively disappeared in Yemen and Syria.
In my judgment, EMM is creating a new and exciting model for how to combine civil society activism with effective efforts to improve the overall protection of human rights. It is a young organization, but one with incredible promise, having already compiled a record to admire and emulate.
Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, Chair of Global law, Queen Mary University London, and Research Associate, Orfalea Center of Global Studies, UCSB.
The Washington Post published an Analysis by Michael Robbins and Amaney Jamal on how in the MENA, people are worrying about food.
In the Middle East and North Africa, people are worrying about food
Five things to know from Arab Barometer’s latest survey
What do people across the Middle East and North Africa think about food security, gender equality, democracy, climate change and China? Arab Barometer, the largest and longest-standing public opinion survey covering the MENA region, provides insights.
The new seventh wave includes more than 26,000 face-to-face interviews covering 12 MENA countries. The survey, conducted October 2021 to July, is the largest public opinion survey in the region since the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some takeaways.
Food insecurity has hit alarming levels
In half of the countries surveyed, a majority of citizens reported that they have often or sometimes run out of food within the previous 12 months. And most citizens in three-quarters of the countries surveyed say they worried that they would run out of money before they could afford more food, over the same period.
The bulk of these surveys were carried out before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which means the results don’t capture the full extent of the subsequent jump in food costs and shortages of food across much of the region. The growing sense of food insecurity is of particular concern beyond the clear human cost. Salma al-Shami explains in a new report how the lack of food is linked to a lower commitment to democracy, a higher desire to emigrate and diminished concerns about addressing climate change and other critical issues facing the region.
Citizens want democracy — but realize it’s not perfect
In previous Arab Barometer survey waves, the vast majority of respondents affirm that democracy remains the best system of governance. This seventh wave is no exception — but there have been dramatic changes in the perception of democracy overall. In the past few years, MENA publics have become far more likely to say that the economy runs poorly under democracy, that democracy leads to instability and that democracy is indecisive.
These outcomes could reflect the broader global retrenchment of democracy. Or perhaps these shifts are the result of MENA citizens reflecting on the recent challenges experienced by countries in the region such as Tunisia, Lebanon and Iraq — three countries where governments have changed as a result of elections in the past decade. Regardless, the results make clear that citizens value democracy, though many have updated their views of how democracy works.
MENA countries are far from achieving gender equality
Arab Barometer surveys asked respondents whether men and women should play equal roles in public and private life. In most of the surveyed countries, majorities responded that men are better political leaders and that men should have the final say over decisions in the family. However, new analysis by MaryClare Roche demonstrates how these views are changing across much of the region.
In the case of Tunisia, over the past four years, Arab Barometer surveys show a 16-point decline in the perception that men are better at politics. And in Lebanon, surveys note a 16-point drop in the perception that men should have the final say within the household, compared with the 2018 survey. This recent survey wave found smaller but meaningful declines on these perceptions in a number of countries, suggesting that the region is moving toward a greater acceptance of women’s equality.
China remains more popular than the United States, but that might change
Arab citizens are more positive toward China than toward the United States, but views of America have improved, while views of China are rapidly changing. In Jordan and the Palestinian territories, citizens are now 20 points less likely to want closer economic ties with China than in 2018-2019. In Sudan, Morocco, Libya and Lebanon, Arab Barometer found a decline of at least five points on this same question. And none of the countries surveyed showed a meaningful increase in citizen support for closer economic links with China over this period.
China’s relative decline probably comes down to a closer familiarity with Beijing’s foreign policies. Arab Barometer also looked at perceptions of Chinese economic investment in local infrastructure. Although MENA publics largely see Chinese investment as the most affordable option for infrastructure projects, they also perceive these projects as low-quality investments that pay lower salaries to the local workforce than companies from other countries would probably pay.
Ultimately, most publics appear more likely to prefer investment from a U.S. or European company vs. a Chinese company. As China continues to pursue economic engagement in the region, these findings suggest that views of China might not improve as a result of this strategy.
Citizens worry about climate change but rank other concerns higher
The global COP27 meeting in Egypt will take place in November. New questions developed for this wave reveal that many MENA citizens think climate change is a critical issue and they want their governments to do more to address the problem. When asked about their primary environmental concerns, the primary issue is water — water scarcity, pollution of drinking water and pollution of their country’s waterways.
Citizens are also likely to assign equal blame the government and their fellow citizens for the lack of progress on environmental issues. Majorities in all the countries surveyed say that both parties are responsible for existing environmental challenges.
The survey also finds that levels of recycling or reusing basic items varies widely across the region. However, questions that asked why respondents recycle reveal that few cite the environment. Instead, the primary personal motivations behind recycling are cost savings and convenience. In short, concerns about the environment take a back seat when compared with other issues, but MENA publics are aware of environmental challenges and want action.
Michael Robbins is director and co-principal investigator at Arab Barometer.
Amaney Jamal is dean of the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and co-principal investigator of Arab Barometer.
Arab Barometer data and data analysis tools are freely available online thanks to our funders, including the Middle East Partnership Initiative, USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Carnegie Corp. of New York and the BBC Arabic.
How Autodesk is helping its customers in creating a sustainable future
Louay Dahmash, senior director at Autodesk, talks about the company’s vision to create real, meaningful impact with its technology and accelerate industry transformation
Tell us about the highlights of the Autodesk FY22 Impact report.
The Impact Report outlines our approach and performance within the business across important environmental, social and governance issues. Notably, we have neutralised greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across our operations and entire value chain for the second year in a row. We believe we have the power to create real, meaningful impact and accelerate industry transformation. In October 2021, we issued our first sustainability bond offering, totalling $1bn, to further align our financial and impact strategies. In this year alone, Autodesk has reduced 1.4 million+ metric tons CO2 of GHG through the Autodesk Foundation’s global portfolio and $18.5m was raised in philanthropic funding by Autodesk and the Autodesk Foundation. We’re proud of the progress that has been made, but much work remains to be done, and we have multiple levers in place to drive progress across the business and that of our clients and the wider industry.
Why should sustainability be considered by tech companies and how are you incorporating it within your ecosystem?
Each year, we see a rise in demand for more and cleaner resources as the global population and standards of living continue to increase. We envision a low-carbon future with minimal pollution and waste, where renewable energy powers our world and materials maintain value while cycling through a circular economy. We remain steadfast in our commitment to advance sustainable business practices toward net-zero carbon emissions, both here in the region in line with the UAE net-zero goals, as well as globally. Technology, deployed appropriately, has the power to solve the most challenging global issues, measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve global health and resilience. Our technologies create a positive impact across industries, by empowering customers to harness data, automation, and insights to improve the impact of design and make decisions – enabling them to reduce costs and energy.
Is there specific legislation that compels companies to declare their carbon production to achieve sustainability goals?
Approximately 19 per cent of global GHG emissions are from the manufacturing industry. In addition to that, the buildings sector represents 38 per cent of energy and process-related GHG emissions globally. Legislations can therefore, provide a framework to regulate the path to sustainability. For example, in order to comply with materials regulations worldwide, such as the European Union’s legislation, and the UAE’s National Climate Change Plan of the UAE 2017–2050, which sets a clear path to reducing emissions, companies face increasing pressure to assess and document the materials used in their products, and in some cases to ensure materials’ traceability throughout the supply chain. We work with our customers to better manage and measure their impact through advanced data and analytics and enable them to reduce embodied carbon, decrease construction waste, and develop smart and sustainable cities.
What are the challenges that you have faced when making your business model more sustainable?
There are specific technology related challenges to achieving the above goals as firms worldwide grapple with digital transformation. Supporting our customers with critical technology is therefore an important opportunity area for us. In addition, the accelerated pace of change today demands that we work beyond industries to drive cross-sector collaboration and catalyse industry-wide innovation. It is also imperative to upskill our employees for the challenges of Industry 4.0 to ensure a resilient and prosperous future. We prioritise the health, wellbeing, and safety of our employees, who advance our efforts in this area. They create and deliver the practices and technologies that our customers and other innovators can use to design and make products and places that are safer, healthier, and more resilient. Finally, for business models to be truly sustainable, it is important for the entire value chain to be sustainable. The focus should be on creating a truly sustainable business with efficient operations committed to net-zero carbon and 100 per cent renewable energy commitments alongside a prosperous workforce to enable a sustainable future for all.
How are you helping customers drastically reduce their own environmental footprint?
Our customers represent our largest opportunity to create a positive impact at scale. Our software platform helps automate complex processes and transform data into actionable insights that empower innovators to improve the impact of everything they design, make, own and operate. Cloud solutions and connected data environments fuel innovation – across technology, processes, supply chain and industries. Through our technology, we are empowering them to create solutions, connect their data, and accelerate the outcomes that matter to them.
How does sustainability affect society and the future of work?
It is important to address workforce prosperity and the needs and desires of multiple stakeholders, from employees to customers to communities as well as investors. As more and more stakeholders become involved in business decision-making, it’s driving the movement toward more sustainable future operations. Governments can also support stakeholder capitalism with initiatives that protect consumer data and the environment and promote investment in employees. The UAE is an ideal platform to advance our future skilling initiatives as we align with the goals of the visionary leadership of instilling digital education and skills into the youth, and providing an array of opportunities for them to access lifelong learning which will empower them to become the change makers of tomorrow. The global economy is changing, and the workforce of tomorrow won’t look the same as today. While new technologies can enable great efficiency, we believe the future of work is still human.
The overwhelming majority of global trade contributes negatively to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to new research, which calls for better guidance for banks and corporates around what sustainable trade should look like.
Released this week by trade data and analytics provider Coriolis Technologies in partnership with MEP Saskia Bricmont and the Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, Measuring sustainability through trade maps countries’ export and import data against the 17 SDGs to identify negative and positive contributions.
It found that, on a scale of -1 to +1 where -1 means that all trade makes negative contributions, zero is neutral and +1 means that all trade makes positive contributions, world trade scores -0.58, with 80% of global trade by value being unsustainable.
A closer look at the numbers reveals some interesting findings. First, if the SDGs are broken down into their environmental, social and governance (ESG) elements, world trade scores -0.73 with regard to its environmental impact, and an almost entirely negative -0.91 for its social impact. However, when it comes to the ‘G’ in ESG – governance – global trade scores a positive 0.43.
“In other words, the world of trade and trade finance, alongside regulators, has put in place the governance structures to minimise economic risks in the form of employment, economic growth and provisions of basic health, but the price for the environment and for social equality and justice is overwhelmingly high,” the report says. It adds that trade policy can do “significantly more” to promote the basic human rights of trade as represented by the commitment to fair and open trade to promote sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption, and to shore up the institutions of trade that help peace and justice.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the most advanced economies that have the least sustainable trade, with the G20 nations accounting for some US$18.5tn in value terms in negative contributions to responsible consumption and production (SDG 12).
“These are economies where automotives, consumer electronics and machinery and components are routinely among the top five sectors for both imports and exports,” the report says.
However, while the poorest nations in the world score better, this is because imports are often for subsistence purposes rather than being aimed at luxury or consumption-based markets.
“If we are to meet the ambitious targets laid out at Cop26, we cannot afford to ignore the messages here – that the majority of world trade is unsustainable, and where it is not, it is a symptom of under-development,” the report says.
In its research, which it calls “an initial contribution to the process of creating an automated and consistent mechanism for measuring sustainability”, Coriolis Technologies has built on a methodology established by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, which takes HS codes – the internationally standardised system of names and numbers to classify traded products – and compares them against the 17 SDGs.
For example, trade in tobacco negatively contributes to SDG 3 – good health and wellbeing – while trade in medicine would be a positive contributor. Because the methodology uses HS codes at six-digit level, it is able to distinguish between, for example, a diesel car (870332) and an electric car (870380) or, indeed, a hybrid car (870360), each of which have varying impacts on SDG 7 – clean and affordable energy, and SDG 12 – sustainable consumption.
The methodology isn’t without its shortcomings. For example, while specific goods may not in themselves be sustainable, they can often be used for purposes such as sustainable infrastructure. The same also applies in reverse when it comes to the trade of sustainable goods for non-sustainable purposes. What’s more, Coriolis Technologies adds that the scope to distinguish between resource utilisation for the same product in different countries is limited: “For example, a fruit such as a strawberry produced in the Middle East requires more water and energy to produce than in its indigenous environment,” the report says.
However, industry bodies and regulators are in wide agreement that the SDGs are an adequate taxonomy of reference to enable a comprehensive framework for sustainability, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which refers to them in its recent position paper on defining and setting common standards for sustainable trade and associated financing.
By providing a quick and simple measurement, Coriolis Technologies has laid bare the enormous amount of work ahead to make global trade more sustainable – but has also provided a call to action for policymakers.
“Since we know the sustainable development goals where the largest negative contributions are likely to be across world trade, we know the levers we should pull,” the report says, adding that too much of world trade contributes negatively to zero hunger, affordable and clean energy, clean water and sustainable cities.
“We also know the sectors which are to blame for the low scores of some countries: automotives, consumer electronics, machinery and components, plastics, iron and steel, and oil and gas. Oil and gas alone contributes some 10% to the value of EU trade, so if we can reduce our dependency on it, we can also reduce the negative contributions to the SDGs,” the report says, adding that the countries that have the worst scores all have automotives in their top five imports and/or exports. As a solution, it puts forward policy incentives towards the use of electric cars and clean energy in order to address the negative role that automotive and fossil fuel trade play at present.
Although Coriolis Technologies admits that the challenge of ensuring trade becomes a positive contributor to sustainable development is not an easy one to address, its development of a model to map out ESG weaknesses in trade should go some way to focusing minds as the trade and trade finance industry attempts to become more sustainable.
Hydrogen produced from waste could soon be flowing from Egypt to Germany, with US-based H2-Industries signing deals this week that could see its ‘carbon-negative’ supplying the market with the lowest cost of hydrogen yet. This week, the company announced plans to produce 300,000 tons of hydrogen per year in Egypt, out of 4 million tons of organic waste and non-recyclable plastic. The announcement comes just days after talks at the MEFED energy conference in Jordan, where Germany climate minister Robert Habeck agreed to collaborate with H2-Industries to find German off-takers for the hydrogen produced in the MENA region, as part of the country’s new strategy to ramp up hydrogen imports to replace Russian gas.The company has also recently signed MoUs for the design, delivery, installation, and operation of hydrogen production plants in Egypt and Oman. In late April, it unveiled plans to develop a $1.4 billion waste-to-hydrogen plant in conjunction with 300 MW of solar power plants and baseload capacity in Oman. It claims that it is in discussion for subsequent projects in “30 countries from South America, Europe, the Middle East to all areas in Africa.” In total, the company’s projects in the MENA region will aim to produce up to two million tons of clean hydrogen per year from 2030.Further agreements are also being negotiated to see the hydrogen produced stored using the company’s liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) technology, which will then be transported to Germany for industrial off-takers.H2 Industries hydrogen production uses a process called thermolysis, which unlike combustion, uses a high-temperature conversion process to produce hydrogen without oxygen. In thermolysis units – which take a similar form to pre-assembled and scalable shipping container frames – waste is decomposed through steam-reforming at a temperature of around 900 degrees Celsius. The product from this reaction is a hydrogen-rich gas mixture, from which hydrogen can be extracted and purified, as well as some additional waste, which can be discarded, or sometimes used in fertilizers.The system can use a range of waste materials as its feedstock, including non-recyclable plastic waste such as hydrocarbons like polyethylene, biogenic residues from agriculture, forestry, food waste, and sewage sludge.Through preventing any emissions from this process, such production of hydrogen can essentially be labelled as ‘carbon negative.’ On a global scale, the vast majority of municipal waste goes into open dumps (33%) and landfills without gas collection (28.9%). With a high biomass content in this situation, waste can be a major source of methane – with an 84-times greater impact on the climate than CO2, over a 20-year period. By processing waste for green hydrogen, the methane emitted from waste can theoretically be eliminated. As could the emissions of toxic gases like dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls which occur when waste is incinerated.The other issue that the technology addresses is the current capacity to source green hydrogen solely from renewables. Using alternative technologies, wind and solar can be left dedicated to electricity production. To reach suggested targets of 24% of the world’s energy mix by 2050, green hydrogen production would demand 31,320 TWh of electricity – more than the 26,000 TWh of global power generation from all sources, and far more than the 3,000 TWh of wind and solar power generation used for electricity today.Another key advantage is that the costs of this type of hydrogen could be offset significantly by the ‘gate-fees’ that local authorities typically require for treating waste, as well as the carbon credits for avoiding landfill methane emissions. In California, for example, municipalities must pay in excess of $100 per ton to have their waste processed.By competing with these gate fees, H2 Industries believes that the cost of hydrogen it produces will be around half of the existing green hydrogen production technologies, and lower than the $1.50 per kilogram benchmark cost of grey hydrogen.One thing that must be considered, however – and is often neglected due to some sneaky accounting – is the significant energy needed to dry to waste before it can be turned into hydrogen.The Suez Canal project will be the first of its kind at this scale, although there are several others focused on producing hydrogen using waste feedstocks.Boson Energy – a Luxembourg based company – has developed a plasma-assisted gasification process that uses extremely high temperatures to break waste down into hydrogen, carbon dioxide and a molten slurry that solidifies into a glassy rock that can be sold for profit and used in cement, concrete or road building. The company claims that the income from this could offset the cost of hydrogen production, and allow the hydrogen to be produced at zero or even sub-zero costs.
Ways2H, similarly, is looking to use a processed feedstock of Municipal Solid Waste, mixed with ceramic beads that have been heated to around 1,000°C. At this heat, the bulk of the waste is converted to methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and CO2, while a portion is left as solid char – which can be identified as ‘stored carbon.’ This char is recovered and burned as the supply of heat for the ceramic beads.
The mixture of gases then undergoes steam reforming, to produce hydrogen and CO2 from the methane – improving hydrogen yield by 50%. Depending on the initial feedstock, Ways2H claims that one ton of dry waste can produce up to 120 kilograms of hydrogen – although typical yields sit between 40 and 50 kilograms. This depends on the water content of the feedstock – which inherently boosts hydrogen content – with the 120 kg figure coming from Ways2H’s pilot in South America, which uses sewage sludge as its feedstock.
Last week, the UK also approved its second waste plastic to hydrogen plant, with the £20 million West Dunbartonshire facility using Powerhouse Energy’s technology aiming to produce 13,500 tons of hydrogen per year.
The above-featured image is of H2-Industries (Photo Credit: Shutterstock/ Alexander Kirch
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