Climate Crisis Exacerbates Urban Inequality in Latin America

Long staircases, like the ones in this section of the Pavão-Pavãozinho favela, are the daily slog of residents of the steep hillside slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – a symbol of Latin America's urban inequalities. CREDIT: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Long staircases, like the ones in this section of the Pavão-Pavãozinho favela, are the daily slog of residents of the steep hillside slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – a symbol of Latin America’s urban inequalities. CREDIT: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 8 2021 – The Brazilian megalopolis of São Paulo recorded 932 flooded premises on Feb. 10, 2020. The Mexican city of Tula de Allende was under water for 48 hours in September 2021. In Lima it almost never rains, but the rivers in the Peruvian capital overflowed in 2017 and left several outlying municipalities covered with mud.

Floods have become increasingly frequent in large Latin American cities, probably due to the effects of global warming and also to local factors, such as the extensive areas of concrete and asphalt that have replaced vegetation.

Extreme weather events are aggravating inequality “in a Latin America that has the most inequitable societies in the world,” said engineer Manuel Rodríguez, professor emeritus at the Universidad de los Andes who served as Colombia’s first minister of environment and sustainable development (1993-1996).

“The poorest of the poor live in shantytowns and slums in the areas most vulnerable to environmental risks, on undevelopable land along riverbanks or in the foothills,” where they are tragically affected by floods and landslides, he told IPS by telephone from Bogotá.”There is a spatial inequality that results from the low-density expansion model of cities, which pushes low-income families to the periphery, makes access to public transportation difficult and requires long commutes.” — Pablo Lazo

This is especially important in Latin America, the world’s most urban region, where one in five people live in cities.

Thus, in addition to the 932 points of flooding reported to the fire department on Feb. 10, 2020, São Paulo also suffered 166 landslides that destroyed many houses. No deaths were reported on that day, but torrential rains usually claim lives in Greater São Paulo, which is home to 22 million people.

Brazil’s largest city, which spreads among rolling hills and numerous small valleys, has many neighborhoods that have had to learn to cope with flooding in the rainiest summers. This is due to the 300 streams that crisscross the area, most of which are covered by avenues or enclosed in channels that are unable to contain heavy downpours.

A good part of the 1.28 million inhabitants of the “favelas” or shantytowns of São Paulo, according to the 2010 official census, live on low-lying land, often along streams, without sanitation, and they are the first victims of floods. The poor make up 11 percent of the population of São Paulo proper.

In Rio de Janeiro there are also riverside favelas, but the ones built on hillsides or on the tops of hills that separate the city and some neighborhoods are much better known. The risk in these areas is landslides, which have killed many people.

In Brazil’s second largest city, favelas are home to 1.39 million people, 22 percent of the total population, according to the 2010 census.

“The topography allows them to live close to their jobs” so the choice is “between formal employment or living where housing is cheaper,” said Carolina Guimarães, coordinator of Rede Nossa São Paulo, a non-governmental organization that seeks to promote a “fair, democratic and sustainable” city.

This favela is next to a middle-class neighborhood in São Bernardo do Campo, the former capital of the automobile industry on the outskirts of São Paulo. The industry attracted migrants from other parts of the country who, without the jobs they dreamed of, could only build their precarious houses on occupied land on a hillside. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

This favela is next to a middle-class neighborhood in São Bernardo do Campo, the former capital of the automobile industry on the outskirts of São Paulo. The industry attracted migrants from other parts of the country who, without the jobs they dreamed of, could only build their precarious houses on occupied land on a hillside. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Lima, which has 10 million inhabitants, and other cities in Peru and Ecuador were victims of El Niño Costero, a climatic phenomenon that warms the waters of the Pacific Ocean but only near these two countries, where it also leads to more intense rainfall.

These and other Andean countries also face the threat of melting glaciers that could deprive the population of the Andes highlands of water, said Rodríguez. In the Caribbean, the biggest threat is hurricanes, which are becoming more frequent and more intense.

Greater poverty, more impacts

In addition to the fact that these phenomena hit the poor harder in Latin America, in the world’s most unequal region the poor have fewer resources to overcome the losses caused by the climate crisis, added the Colombian expert.

“Buying a new refrigerator and other appliances damaged each time it floods costs them much more. Poverty is a cause, driving them to disaster, and also a consequence of the disasters themselves,” said Guimarães, a former knowledge management coordinator at UN Habitat, the UN agency for human settlements.

It is a perverse logic.

The real estate business drives up the costs of the best, safest sites complete with infrastructure and services. There are too many at-risk areas where the poor “build their homes with their own hands,” without the support of a public policy that ensures them housing with “access to the city,” she told IPS by telephone from São Paulo.

“There is a spatial inequality that results from the low-density expansion model of cities, which pushes low-income families to the periphery, makes access to public transportation difficult and requires long commutes,” said Pablo Lazo, director of Urban Development and Accessibility at the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Mexico.

“Building a more equitable and democratic city requires including, in planning, low-income areas that sustain the city in day-to-day life but don’t have the right to participate in decision-making.” — Aruan Braga

WRI Mexico designed the Urban Inequality Index (UDI), a tool for the formulation of public policies, which initially covers 74 metropolitan areas. It measures the public’s access to formal employment and services such as education, health and transportation, as well as food and culture.

This urbanization model also gives rise to shantytowns in risky areas, “a constant pattern that is repeated in Mexico City, whose eastern neighborhoods are built on hillsides, where water runs off very quickly, fueling landslides,” he said in an interview with IPS via video call from the Mexican capital.

Greater Mexico City is home to nearly 20 million people.

Rodríguez said this precariousness “is a widespread phenomenon in Latin America and the Caribbean, where 25 percent of the urban population lives in informal settlements.” Pushed to the periphery, where land is cheaper, but there are no jobs or public services, nor urbanization, the poor prefer slums near the center, he said.

Each one of hundreds of tents in a Homeless Workers Movement camp in 2017 represents a family that dreamed of obtaining a plot of land in the center of the industrial city of São Bernardo do Campo. The land they occupied had unclear ownership, but the attempt did not pan out. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Each one of hundreds of tents in a Homeless Workers Movement camp in 2017 represents a family that dreamed of obtaining a plot of land in the center of the industrial city of São Bernardo do Campo. The land they occupied had unclear ownership, but the attempt did not pan out. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Making inequality even more glaring

“The covid-19 pandemic laid bare the inequalities,” Lazo stressed.

As an example, he said “there were more deaths on the eastern periphery of Mexico City, where inequality is greater. One factor is distance: it takes five times longer to get to the hospital from the periphery than from the center, so many people don’t even take patients to the hospital.”

In addition, without water for hygiene and hand washing, the disease spreads more readily among the poor.

There is also a disparate power relationship between cities themselves. Tula de Allende, a city of 115,000 inhabitants located 70 kilometers north of the Mexican capital, suffered a major two-day flood in September 2021, not only because of the rains.

Mexico City’s water authorities discharged an excess of rainwater and wastewater into the Tula River that could flood the capital and its outlying neighborhoods, to the detriment of the city downstream, where the river overflow displaced more than 10,000 people and left a hospital without electricity, resulting in the death of 16 patients.

Concerted action is needed. A new governance model based on planning and coordination at a citywide level could be the way forward, said Lazo.

In Rio de Janeiro, Aruan Braga, urban policy coordinator for the Favelas Observatory, told IPS that “building a more equitable and democratic city requires including, in planning, low-income areas that sustain the city in day-to-day life but don’t have the right to participate in decision-making.”

Favelas lining hills are the best-known image of Rio de Janeiro, but there is also a large vulnerable population in low-lying, flood-prone areas. One example is the Maré Complex, where some 130,000 people live in 16 favelas.

On the shores of Guanabara Bay and the Cunha channel, so polluted they are like an open sewer, the complex suffers “floods every year,” said Braga, a sociologist with a master’s degree in development policies, who explained that the Maré Complex was built on a large piece of land reclaimed from mangroves and flood plains.

It was built by settlers relocated from more central favelas or from wealthy and beachside neighborhoods five decades ago, in a wave of “expulsion” from favelas that continues today. Maré also grew because it is next to Avenida Brasil, the main access route to the city center, and because it is home to industrial facilities.

View of a favela on a central hill in Rio de Janeiro, Santa Tereza. The upper part is a middle-class neighborhood of intellectuals and artists. The city’s hillsides are home to many favelas known for their high rates of violent crime. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

View of a favela on a central hill in Rio de Janeiro, Santa Tereza. The upper part is a middle-class neighborhood of intellectuals and artists. The city’s hillsides are home to many favelas known for their high rates of violent crime. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

New policies for a new model

The four interviewees agreed that public policies are needed to make it possible to start reducing urban inequality in Latin America.

Lazo highlighted the need for mechanisms to control the market’s “greed”, such as a requirement that private housing projects include low-cost units.

“In France that proportion is 50 percent,” he said, to illustrate.

Braga said one good possibility for reducing the housing deficit in Rio de Janeiro would be by allocating empty public buildings to social housing. There are many unused state-owned buildings because the city was the capital of the country until 1960.

Movements seeking community solutions, “social urbanism”, urban agriculture and mobilization of the population for a more equitable and inclusive city point to the future, according to Guimarães.

Her Rede Nossa São Paulo has conducted studies on inequality that pointed to a difference of up to 22.6 years – from 58.3 to 80.9 years – in life expectancy between poor and rich neighborhoods in the city.

Bogota is in the process of organizing its territorial planning and there is talk of the “30-minute city”, following the example of Paris, which seeks to ensure that no one has to walk more than 15 minutes to do everything they need, Rodriguez said, describing a new model in Latin America.

Future Fertility Fantasies

Many low fertility countries are having future fertility fantasies. It’s time for them to end those fantasies and prepare for a future of below replacement fertility with demographic ageing and without immigration declining populations

Over the coming decades the proportion aged 65 years and older in countries with below replacement fertility will increase substantially. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

By Joseph Chamie
PORTLAND, USA, Dec 8 2021 – Many low fertility countries are having future fertility fantasies. It’s time for them to end those fantasies and prepare for a future of below replacement fertility with demographic ageing and without immigration declining populations.

Over the past 50 years the general fertility pattern has been unmistakable: once a nation’s fertility rate falls below the replacement level, it tends to stay there. Despite this demographic pattern, the governments of many countries with below replacement fertility believe that they can persuade couples to have additional children.

Today the fertility rates of approximately 80 countries and territories are below the replacement level, i.e., less than 2.1 children per woman. Together those countries represent nearly two-thirds of the world’s population of nearly 8 billion people (Figure 1).

 

Source: United Nations Population Division.

 

Countries with below replacement fertility are all the developed countries as well many developing countries, including Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, Cuba, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey. The latest addition to this group is India, which recently announced that its fertility rate had fallen just below the replacement level at 2.0 births per woman.

Many of those countries have fertility rates that are more than a half child below the replacement level. For example, the total fertility rates for China, Italy and Japan are 1.3 births per woman. An even lower fertility rate is that of South Korea, which at 0.8 births per woman is the world’s lowest (Figure 2).

 

Source: National surveys and United Nations Population Division.

 

Largely the result of sustained below replacement fertility levels, many countries are experiencing or facing population decline. By midcentury, for example, the populations of nearly 40 countries are expected to be smaller than they are today, including China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain and Ukraine (Figure 3).

 

Source: United Nations Population Division.

 

In addition to population decline, the age structures of those countries will undergo rapid demographic ageing. Over the coming decades the proportion aged 65 years and older in countries with below replacement fertility will increase substantially.

Largely the result of sustained below replacement fertility levels, many countries are experiencing or facing population decline. By midcentury, for example, the populations of nearly 40 countries are expected to be smaller than they are today, including China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain and Ukraine

By 2050, for example, many nations, including Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, France, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Ukraine, are expected to have approximately one-fourth of their populations aged 65 years and older. Also in some countries, such as Greece, Italy, Japan, Poland, Singapore and South Korea, the proportion elderly will be no less than one-third of their populations.

Rather than turning to international migration to increase or stabilize the size of their populations and labor forces, as some countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States are doing, many countries want to raise their low fertility levels. Those governments maintain that the only truly sustainable solution to population decline and demographic ageing is to raise the fertility rates of their own indigenous populations to at least the replacement level.

While immigration may increase the size of the population and labor force as is occurring in some countries, it will not reverse population ageing, which is the result of low fertility levels and increased longevity. In addition, the numbers of immigrants needed to offset population aging in most cases would not only be unacceptably large, but also over the longer term the immigrants themselves would age and eventually join the elderly population.

Of course, fertility rebounds in the near future are certainly possible and cannot be ruled out. However, population projections for countries over the 21st century generally expect that once fertility rates fall below the replacement level, they will remain there.

Virtually every country’s fertility rate is expected to remain below the replacement level once its fertility rate has fallen below 2.1 births per woman. In addition, by the close of the century only about 20 countries, virtually all in Africa, are projected to have fertility rates slightly about the replacement level, or about 2.2 births per woman.

Some countries believe that the demographic consequences of below replacement fertility constitute threats to their economy, society and culture. Those countries have attempted to return to at least replacement level fertility through pro-natalist policies, programs and various incentives, including reduced taxes, subsidized care for children, parental leave and financial bonuses, as well as limiting access to contraceptives and abortion. However, governmental pro-natalist attempts have by and large failed to raise fertility back to the replacement level.

Powerful forces are responsible for bringing about and maintaining fertility rates below replacement levels. In addition to urbanization, education, employment and modern contraceptives, other important forces influencing the fertility decisions of women and men include the costs of living, pressures and demands of childrearing, improved status of women, decline of marriage, increased divorce and separation, career aspirations, childlessness and independent lifestyles.

Given the likely trends in fertility rates, many countries should anticipate and prepare for a demographic future of smaller and older populations. Official retirement ages, for example, will need to be raised, perhaps to 70 years, which will not only increase the size of the labor force, but also reduce the numbers of retired persons.

In addition, countries will need to turn to and invest in advanced robotics, androids and artificial intelligence. Not only will existing and emerging technologies help to address the shrinking labor forces, but they will also contribute to meeting the needs of elderly persons.

Besides programs promoting healthy ageing, preparing people for old age and making services and assistance readily available will be required for the growing numbers and proportions of elderly persons. To meet the increasing demands, governments will need to seriously reconsider their budgets, taxes and priorities, particularly expenditures on healthcare and defense.

The era of relatively high fertility, which was most recently experienced during the mid-20th century, is largely over. It is increasingly being replaced by low fertility rates, typically below replacement levels.

In all likelihood, world population is projected to add billions more in the coming decades, likely reaching 10 billion around mid-century. At the same time, countries need to acknowledge the realities of today’s fertility levels and their likely trends and major consequences in the coming decades.

In sum, many governments of low fertility countries need to dismiss their fantasies about returning to the comparatively high fertility levels of the past. They need to prepare their countries for a future of sustained below replacement fertility with demographic ageing and without immigration declining populations.

 

Joseph Chamie is an international consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters.”

 

Conagen's Fermentation Technology To Support DARPA's ReSource Sustainability Program

Bedford, Mass., Dec. 08, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Massachusetts–based biotech Conagen announced its participation in a collaboration supporting the ReSource program funded by a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) grant. The project aims to leverage Conagen's proprietary fermentation technology to convert plastics and other energy–dense waste into valuable, reusable materials.

“Humanity needs to make better use of plastic resources and close the recycling loop,” said Casey Lippmeier, Ph.D., vice president of innovation at Conagen. This cooperative agreement project will demonstrate the value of recycled material for building a sustainable infrastructure.”

Under the DOD, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Biological Technologies Office created the ReSource Program to research and develop an integrated self–containment system. The project explores using a combination of synthetic biology and chemical technology for turning plastic waste into critical supplies.

Professor Chris A. Voigt, Ph.D., directs the project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in collaboration with Conagen and Novoloop. The Voigt lab has expertise in microbial genetic design and engineering and has created tools and platform technologies central to the effort.

Conagen was selected as the fermentation scale–up partner for its synthetic biology expertise, purification process development capability, and world–scale manufacturing.

“While conventional fermentation has been used for centuries to make foods and beverages, precision fermentation has become the core resource for commercializing natural and sustainable synthetic biology products,” said Lippmeier.

Novoloop uses chemical technologies to decompose plastic waste into chemical building blocks, enabling the downstream fermentation to make bio–products.

“Recycling plastic waste is just the beginning,” says Lippmeier. “This DARPA–funded project primarily seeks to improve the efficient use of resources by our troops. However, the technology for converting plastics and bio–plastics into other higher–value materials should create incentives to remove these pollutants from the environment and support humanitarian efforts with renewable sources of food, nutrition, and water.”

Now that Phase I is complete, the MIT team, including Conagen, advance to Phase II when they
hope to achieve purifying, scaling, and upcycling waste into valuable products.

###

About Voigt Lab, MIT
Voigt Lab is focused on the development of a programming language for cells. A genetic program consists of a combination of genetic circuits, each of which uses biochemistry to replicate a function analogous to an electronic circuit (e.g., a logic gate) and applying these tools to problems in biotechnology http://web.mit.edu/voigtlab/.

About Conagen

Conagen is a product–focused synthetic biology R&D company with large–scale manufacturing capabilities. Our scientists and engineers use the latest synthetic biology tools to develop high–quality, sustainable, nature–based products by precision fermentation and enzymatic bioconversion. We focus on the bioproduction of high–value ingredients for food, nutrition, flavors and fragrances, pharmaceutical, and renewable materials industries. www.conagen.com

About Novoloop
Novoloop was founded in 2015 to deliver next–generation materials made from plastic waste via its patented low–carbon upcycling technology ATOD. Through its proprietary dicarboxylic acid platform, hard–to–recycle plastic waste is transformed into virgin quality materials with superior sustainability at competitive pricing. With its first product, Oistre, Novoloop provides sustainable and customizable thermoplastic polyurethane solutions for the footwear, sporting goods, and automotive sectors.

Distribution Statement “A”
Approved for Public Release, Distribution Unlimited. If you have any questions about DARPA, please contact the Public Release Center.

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APDA Young Leaders Devise Solutions for the Future

Representatives from the APDA Global Young Leaders’ Course during their presentations to the Asian and Arab parliamentarians, with Dr Hanna Yoon, who led the first youth course. Credit: APDA

By Erin Lee, Jayun Choi, Seungeun Lee and Chaeeun Shin
Seoul, South Korea, Dec 8 2021 – Whether you look at society, the environment, or technology – the world is changing rapidly. Global organizations strive to adapt to this change. The United Nations, for example, has developed the Sustainable Development Goals as a blueprint for human development.

Youth must and should be at the forefront when tackling the changing world. Consequently, a socially literate, educated generation equipped to tackle these challenges is crucial, and many institutions are taking up this challenge.

The APDA Global Young Leaders’ Course is one such initiative. It has just completed its first year, supported by UNFPA, IPPF, and AFPPD.

The program’s founder Dr Hanna Yoon says future societal issues will be complex and multifaceted.

She wanted “to create a program where young leaders could learn to explore the relationships between two seemingly unrelated ideas.”

APDA Global Young Leaders’ Course participants learned new skills during the inaugural course. The participants, who are all at school, were required to create projects which would benefit people and the planet. Credit: APDA

Yoon devised the Leaders’ Course to help students develop skills to assist them in dealing with diversity. The course curriculum brought them in contact with unique ideas and perspectives, leadership through teamwork, and the ability to solve problems.

The program effectively combines a holistic curriculum and active learning techniques. APDA’s holistic curriculum, which featured ten different experts, seeks to prepare students for the multicultural societies of the future.

Dr Helen Lee taught students about the design thinking process, which they would later utilize in their projects.

Dr Osamu Kusumoto, APDA’s secretary-general, spoke about population issues.

Students learned how to initiate and manage innovative startups from Semoon Yoon from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The vice executive director of Okayama University, Professor Mitsunobu Kano, introduced solutions that use medical care for social issues.

Farhana Haque Rahman, senior vice president of IPS, encouraged the students to write journals and spoke about the role of media in contemporary society.

Dr David Smith (need the first name, please), associate professor, Anglia Ruskin University, lectured on the correlation between ethnicity and inequality in global health.

Siobhán Tracey from Concern Worldwide Korea informed the students about the cause and impact of hunger.

UNFPA regional advisor Dr RintaroMori gave a lecture on aging and low birth rate.

Kevin Sanjoto, the group CEO at Alfabeta, taught about the fourth industrial revolution with its components of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and more, which can solve social problems.
Finally, Mr Saroj Dash, the director of the international programs of Concern Worldwide Korea, taught about climate-smart agriculture.

The course also featured various active learning opportunities, which prompted students to develop their knowledge and skills. They participated in discussions, carried out group activities, and gave presentations based on what they — and their teammates — had learned.

These problem-solving activities encouraged students to explore the material on their own. They based their learning on the design thinking process, which allowed students to consider a fundamental problem and independently create a solution.

It also ensured that students had room to develop their perspectives about what they had learned. These varying viewpoints could then be shared and improved as the students worked together.

APDA’s active, interdisciplinary approach sets it apart from the other programs.

It pushes students to challenge their pre-existing beliefs and understand the nuances behind various social issues. It also provides students with the right tools to harness the information they learned.

This process has helped us uncover our potential as the leaders of the 21st century.

At the end of the course, the future leaders presented at a youth forum. The teams then spoke to parliamentarians about the proposals they had been developing throughout the course. The students joined teams based on their interests in the global issues identified.

These issues included technological inequality among different social classes, another was negligent/careless littering, and a third was an uninformed citizenry.

The first team spoke about utilizing technology to empower social minorities and resolve poverty.

Their presentation included proposals like involving the youth in smart agriculture.
The second team discussed ways to reduce littering while increasing recycling. They introduced an application that utilizes collective intelligence to map out trash cans in public spaces.

The third and final team spoke about the need for an information-sharing system between government departments and firms. They used the Australian precedent to support their views on sharing health information.

Moreover, they devised a plan to call on the youth to combat the older persons’ issues with internet technology.

After the presentation, teams answered questions and debated their ideas with Arab and Asian parliamentarians.

The open discussion ranged from general feedback and questions of how to encourage the youth to participate in parliaments to specific inquiries regarding several policies proposed by the teams. Delegates also asked the students to collaborate with the youth in their countries.

Students eagerly responded to their offers, hoping to maintain a close and steady relationship in the future.

  • This opinion editorial was written by the APDA Global Young Leaders’ Course students. The writers are all school-going pupils selected by their schools. This is the first in a series of opinion editorials written by participants on the 2021 course.
  • Editing: Dr Hanna Yoon

 


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What Explains Vaccination Rates in EBRD Regions?

Credit: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

By Cevat Aksoy, Maxim Chupilkin, Zsoka Koczan and Alexander Plekhanov
LONDON, Dec 8 2021 – Officially reported deaths from Covid-19 started to rise again in autumn 2021 in a number of economies in the EBRD regions. While in advanced economies in Europe the mortality rate has remained low despite the pick-up in Covid-19 cases, in the EBRD regions the mortality and infection rates continued to move in tandem.

Reflecting this, daily Covid-19 deaths per million population were four times higher in the EBRD regions than in advanced Europe as of November 2021.

These patterns may in part reflect differences in vaccination rates. In the EBRD regions, 36 per cent of the population (of all ages) were fully vaccinated by November 15 compared with 72 per cent in advanced economies in Europe.

Aggregate numbers mask significant differences within the EBRD regions, with these shares ranging from 9 per cent in Armenia to 65 per cent in Lithuania.

The regression analysis conducted by Cevat Aksoy, Maxim Chupilkin and Zsoka Koczan in the EBRD’s Office of the Chief Economist links differences in vaccination rates across more than 100 economies (including 28 economies in the EBRD regions) to average beliefs about safety of vaccines.

Attitudes towards vaccines are inferred from Wellcome Global Monitor, a representative survey conducted in 2018.

The analysis also takes into account Covid-19 deaths, income per capita, demographic factors, quality of economic institutions, early availability of vaccines, people’s mobility (movements to transit stations, places of work, retail and recreation and grocery stores compiled by Google Analytics) and other relevant factors.

Since the economic and epidemiological situation may itself be affected by the vaccine rollout, mobility indices and Covid-19 deaths relate to 2020, the period prior to the vaccination campaign.

As could be expected, Covid-19 vaccination rates are typically higher in economies where a larger share of the population believe vaccines to be safe and effective. In the EBRD regions, the prevalence of such beliefs was relatively low before the Covid-19 crisis.

On the supply side, the share of the population that was fully vaccinated in October 2021 is higher in economies with higher number of doctors per capita and where vaccinations started earlier, according to the regression analysis.

On the demand side, a ten percentage point improvement in attitudes toward vaccines increases the vaccination rate by about 2 percentage points. Lower economic mobility in the past is associated with higher vaccination rates – reflecting greater impact of the Covid-19 on livelihoods as well as lower tolerance of health risks reflected in lower mobility of people during the pandemic.

Both on the demand and on the supply side, economies with higher income per capita and better economic institutions tend to have higher vaccination rates, owing to better administrative capacity to roll out vaccination campaigns and higher levels of trust (which tend to be highly correlated with income and institutions).

The measure of economic institutions averages Worldwide Governance Indicators of control of corruption, rule of law, government effectiveness and regulatory quality.

These factors together account for almost 80 per cent of the variation in vaccination rates observed across more than 100 economies. Once various country characteristics are taken into account, vaccination rates in the EBRD regions are somewhat lower than in other economies but the difference (of around 4 percentage points) is not statistically significant.

Favourable attitudes to vaccines, in turn, are higher among individuals who trust their governments. This conclusion emerges from the 2018 Wellcome Global Monitor, a representative survey of over 100,000 individuals in 138 economies.

Indeed, a recent EBRD working paper shows that governments face the challenge of convincing the public that vaccines can be trusted and effectiveness of such communication, in turn, depends on trust in governments themselves.

Respondents were asked whether they viewed vaccines as safe and, separately, effective. The analysis links responses to these questions to individuals’ stated trust in government while taking into account various individual characteristics: residing in an urban area, having a child under 15, gender, employment status, religion, level of education, income quintile, age cohort and the country of residence.

Individuals who trust in their government are around 8 percentage points more likely to have positive attitudes towards vaccination. Further analysis reveals that these relationships are similar among people of different gender, education and age.

The EBRD was created in April 1991 to ‘foster the transition towards open market-oriented economies and to promote private and entrepreneurial initiative’.

Alexander Plekhanov is Director, Transition Impact and Global Economics; Cevat Giray Aksoy is Principal Economist; Zsoka Koczan is Associate Director, Senior Economist; and Maxim Chupilkin is Macroeconomic Analyst.

Source: EBRD

 


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A Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone in the Middle East— & the Elephant in the Room

Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, which took place November 29 through December 3. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 8 2021 – Israel’s nuclear presence in the Middle East is best characterized as “the elephant in the room” -– an obvious fact intentionally ignored with deafening silence.

A Wall Street Journal cartoon, amplified the idiom, when it depicted a group of animals huddled together in the jungle with the elephant complaining: “I don’t know why they keep ignoring me when I am in the room.”

Nobody wants to openly discuss Israel as a nuclear power because it is a politically-sensitive issue, particularly in the United States.

And Israel has remained tight-lipped in the company of the world’s eight other nuclear powers– US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and North Korea— and it has never formally declared itself a nuclear power.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times last August, Peter Beinart, a Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York, wrote that US attempts at “feigning ignorance about Israeli nuclear weapons makes a mockery of America’s efforts at non-proliferation.”

Last December, President-elect Joe Biden warned that if Iran goes nuclear, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt might go nuclear too — “and the last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a build-up of nuclear capability.”

But like most US politicians and presidents, including Barack Obama, Biden too believes that Israel’s nuclear weapons are best ignored—and never challenged in public.

Back in 2009, says Professor Beinart, when Obama was asked by a reporter if he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, he said: “I don’t want to speculate.”

It is time for the Biden administration to tell the truth, Beinart wrote.

The nuclear weapons gamesmanship in the militarily and politically volatile Middle East goes in circles and semi-circles reaching a point of no return.

If Israel gets away with its nukes, the Iranians argue, “why shouldn’t we go nuclear too”, while the Saudis, the Egyptians and Turks warn: “If Iran goes nuclear, we will follow too”.

The Busher nuclear power plant in Iran. Talks about the country’s nuclear deal have restarted. Credit: IAEA/Paolo Contri

Meanwhile, since 1967, five nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) have been established worldwide — in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central Asia.

But such a weapons-free zone in the conflict-ridden Middle East continues to remain elusive.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres points out that the established five zones include 60 percent of the UN’s 193 Member States– and cover almost all of the Southern Hemisphere.

Guterres welcomed the successful conclusion of the Second Session of the “Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction,” which took place November 29 to December 3, and congratulated the participating States “on their constructive engagement and the decision to establish a working committee to continue deliberations during the intersessional period”.

Dr M.V. Ramana, Professor and Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, told IPS establishing a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East is not only a major challenge but it is also important.

The challenge is primarily due to Israel’s refusal to not just discuss its decades-old nuclear weapons program but even acknowledge it, while at the same time attacking countries like Iran over even its nuclear energy-related programs, he argued.

Being backed by the United States, which adopts one rule for Israel and another rule for other countries, it is very difficult to involve Israel, said Dr Ramana, who is also Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues and the Acting Director of the Centre for India and South Asia Research (CISAR) in the Institute of Asian Research.

The only way to change this state of affairs is for efforts like this to be mounted. Even if they are not successful, they at least raise the issue publicly, Dr Ramana declared.

Hillel Schenker, Co-Editor, Palestine-Israel Journal, told IPS there is no question that a Nuclear and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Free Zone in the Middle East is in the interests of all the peoples of the region.

However, the issue of a WMD Free Zone is simply not on the political or public agenda in Israel, whose leaders and people find it very convenient to be the only presumed nuclear power in the region, he noted.

“And it also doesn’t appear to be on the agenda of the Egyptians who used to be the primary advocates for the Zone.”

Right now, he said, the main possible step to advancing towards this goal is a successful conclusion of the talks being held in Vienna for a revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement with Iran and the Western powers.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have expressed opposition to a renewed deal, many senior figures in the Israeli security establishment support it, and believe it was a major mistake for former Prime Minister Netanyahu to have urged former US President Trump to withdraw from the JCPOA, he added.

If the talks are not successful, and Iran moves forward towards becoming a nuclear threshold state, it could produce a very dangerous chain reaction which might motivate Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and perhaps others to also try to go nuclear, seriously destabilizing the entire region, said Schenker.

Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, President of the UN General Assembly, said nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regimes remain pivotal in ensuring that such an intolerable reality never manifests. And Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones are crucial to the success of disarmament and non-proliferation regimes, he said.

Like other regions, he argued, the geopolitics of the Middle East are complex. Reaching just settlements that will satisfy all parties requires sound diplomacy and negotiations based on good faith.

The addition of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction to the region’s politics will complicate an already challenging process, undermining trust and portending existential consequences.

It was in recognition of this that the General Assembly mandated a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East back in 1974, he said last week.

 


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Nikkiso Cryogenic Services Announces Soletec Group (Qatar) As Authorized Representative & Service Partner

TEMECULA, Calif., Dec. 07, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Nikkiso Cryogenic Industries' Clean Energy & Industrial Gases Group ("Group"), a subsidiary of Nikkiso Co., Ltd (Japan), is proud to announce that Soletec Group (Soletec) has become the Authorized Representative and Service Partner for Nikkiso Cryogenic Services (NCS) in Qatar.

With the growth of the Middle East market, this association has allowed the Group to extend their regional presence for the industrial gases, hydrogen, marine, natural gas processing and petrochemical industries. Since July 1, 2021, Soletec has been able to provide aftermarket service and support to the local customers and shipyards with service and support of pumps, turbo expanders and process plants, including packaging, repairs, spare parts and field service.

Based in Doha, Qatar, Soletec will support Nikkiso Clean Energy & Industrial Gases Group in establishing a strong long service operations to support all our existing customers.

"The newly formed partnership with Nikkiso Clean Energy & Industrial Gases Group and Soletec gives us a stronger presence in Qatar and strengthens our ability to better serve our key customers," according to Jim Estes, President, Nikkiso Cryogenic Services. "I am looking forward to continuing to provide Nikkiso's customers top quality service and support by eliminating costly downtime to their operations and processes."

Soletec Group has been providing services to the Oil and Gas industry for more than 50 years. As a leading provider of design, engineering and production services across the upstream, midstream and downstream supply chain, Soletec Group has established long–term relationships with some of the world's most important oil and gas companies.

ABOUT CRYOGENIC INDUSTRIES
Cryogenic Industries, Inc. (now a member of Nikkiso Co., Ltd.) member companies manufacture engineered cryogenic gas processing equipment and small–scale process plants for the liquefied natural gas (LNG), well services and industrial gas industries. Founded over 50 years ago, Cryogenic Industries is the parent company of ACD, Cosmodyne and Cryoquip and a commonly controlled group of approximately 20 operating entities.

For more information, please visit www.nikkisoCEIG.com and www.nikkiso.com.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Anna Quigley
+1.951.383.3314
aquigley@cryoind.com