ISW Holdings Inc. (ISWH) Reports Record Revenue, Forecasts $7M Per Month

NEW YORK, Dec. 20, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — via InvestorWireISW Holdings Inc. (OTC: ISWH) today announces its placement in an editorial published by NetworkNewsWire (“NNW”), one of 50+ trusted brands within the InvestorBrandNetwork ("IBN"), a multifaceted financial news and publishing company for private and public entities.

To view the full publication and forward–looking statements, please visit: https://nnw.fm/YrdIL

Developments are translating to revenue and cash flow, resources that will underscore growth in 2022 and beyond with Pod City and other hosting and mining operations. During Q3, ISW Holdings Inc. (OTC: ISWH) reported revenue from operations of $1.075 million (including deferred revenues), up 2,435% on a year–over–year basis. That didn't include a full three months of 550 new miners acquired from Minerset, 150 of which came as a result of ISWH meeting stock performance milestones. Total assets during Q3 increased 5,263% year to date to $9.56 million, while total liabilities decreased 73%, and total derivative liabilities decreased 98% to under $340,000. …

Looking ahead, revenue at Pod City will be comprised of hosting service fees, which aren't contingent upon cryptocurrency pricing. Once running at full capacity, the company estimates annual revenue in excess of $7 million per month, a tremendous improvement compared to current capacity with the benefit of being recurring under service contracts.

About ISW Holdings

ISW Holdings, based in Nevada, is a diversified portfolio company comprised of essential business lines that serve consumer product demands. The company's expertise lies in strategic brand development, early growth facilitation, as well as brand identity through its proprietary procurement process. Together, with its partners, ISW Holdings seeks to provide a structure that meets large scalability demands, as well as anticipated marketplace needs. The company is able to meet these needs through a variety of strategic innovative processes. ISWH is creating and managing brands across a spectrum of disruptive industries. It maneuvers its proprietary companies through critical stages of market development, which includes conceptualization, go–to–market strategies, engineering, product integration, and distribution efficiency. The company has also partnered with a well–known software development and consulting company, Bengala Technologies LLC, which is developing significant enhancements in the supply chain management space; and the partnership has a vitally needed patent now pending.

For more information about the company, visit www.ISWHoldings.com.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to ISWH are available in the company's newsroom at http://ibn.fm/ISWH.

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Ecuador and the Pandora Papers: Death Threats and Impunity

By Andrés Arauz
MEXICO CITY, Dec 20 2021 – In a ceremony in early October, the president of Ecuador and my opponent in the presidential elections, Guillermo Lasso, issued a warning to those “daring who seek to scrutinize” his assets. He was referring to the Pandora Papers published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which revealed how dozens of world leaders – including Lasso – hid billions of dollars to avoid paying taxes.

His threatening words were directed primarily at me, because of my knowledge of the offshore underworld and my determination to investigate him despite receiving death threats.

In 2017, Ecuador approved an anti-corruption law prohibiting public servants from holding assets in tax havens, directly or indirectly. This term was there to avoid the use of opaque and complex financial structures like trusts, foundations or partnerships. Last year I formally challenged Lasso’s candidacy for that reason, but he then signed an affidavit in which he claimed not to have properties in tax havens and the electoral commission agreed with him.

That led me to drop this issue and when I lost the election in February, I even gave a concession speech and spoke by phone to congratulate him. He offered me to put an end to the political persecution against progressives that former president Lenín Moreno had started.

However, the Pandora Papers revealed that Lasso had in fact transferred shares in limited liability companies representing 130 Florida properties from Panama to two trusts in the state of South Dakota. Lasso also recognised the existence of 14 entities that had been hidden from the Ecuadorian tax authorities.

Lasso denied having ties to these entities before assuming the presidency, including Banco Banisi in Panama. However, an investigation by the Latindadd organisation revealed that Lasso, a day before signing the affidavit, transferred his shares from Banco Banisi to the Banisi International Foundation, a new private interest foundation where his children are nominal beneficiaries but without any decision-making powers.

After the Pandora Papers were released, a large majority in parliament ordered an investigation. Official institutions cooperated little or nothing, claiming that it is confidential information while Lasso refused to attend the hearings. When the parliamentary commission approved the report linking Lasso to tax havens, his government immediately attacked the commission, and the Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation against the parliamentarians.

Soon afterwards, I started receiving threats and intimidation, not for having been a presidential candidate, but for insisting in investigating Lasso and speaking in the media about this case as an economic expert in offshore banking. Government supporters then launched coordinated troll attacks on social media, spreading false news about me, death threats, and insults.

A member of parliament linked to Lasso accused me of money laundering based on a false meme widely disseminated on social media. And criminal investigations were launched against me based on false news, also involving my retired parents and all former progressive candidates. Dozens of national and international civil society organisations, including the Financial Transparency Coalition, published a statement of support which I deeply appreciate.

But unfortunately, nothing has changed.

On December 8, the Comptroller General concluded that Lasso had no offshore interests since it did not consider South Dakota a tax haven, despite being widely recognised for this. But the blockade of the investigation against Lasso did not end there. That same day, a majority of the National Assembly of Ecuador decided not to impeach the president, referring their investigation to other state institutions, but asked him to go to parliament and give an explanation, which he refused to do.

Ironically, Lasso – along with the presidents of other countries such as Kenya and Chile, whose leaders were also revealed in the Pandora Papers to have hidden assets in tax havens – was invited to the recent ‘Summit for Democracy’ organised by the United States. During the summit the creation of a beneficial ownership registry was announced, including for South Dakota trusts, as well as anti-fraud measures on real estate which could impact Lasso, but it’s still uncertain whether these commitments by the US and other countries will become reality.

In total, $7 trillion is hidden in secret jurisdictions and tax havens, equivalent to 10% of global revenues, according to the UN High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity. Meantime especially developing countries are fighting the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impacts, struggling to provide basic social protection to its citizens and purchase vaccines.

So clearly the problem of tax evasion and financial opacity, and money being funneled by powerful individuals to tax havens, is an issue that not only affects my country, but affects everyone. Fighting for financial transparency is a fight for truth and social justice that we cannot afford to give up.

Andrés Arauz is an Ecuadorian economist and candidate for President in the 2021 elections, currently based in Mexico City where he is a Doctoral Fellow at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM.

 


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Quest for Asian Innovation & Solutions in a Networked World

By A .H. Monjurul Kabir
NEW YORK, Dec 20 2021 – The UN’s 76th anniversary in 2021 arrived at a time of great upheaval and change. If the world is to transition from COVID-19 and we are to deliver on our promises to future generations – to secure a world where everyone can thrive in peace, dignity, and equality on a healthy planet – then 2022 must be the year we change both gear and discourse.

We need a multilateral system that is inclusive, networked but accessible, and effective. Member States have identified many areas of action that can only be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism. However, such multilateralism must be backed by inclusive regional and cross-regional good practices and lessons learned.

To achieve this, we must think big – whether inside or outside the boxes! We need to reset the foundations and reaffirm the core values that underpin collective action. Shedding light on the complex interplay between global, regional, and national forces which have transformed the Asia-Pacific [hereinafter ‘Asia’] continent into one of the most vibrant and economically successful regions in the world, often does not tell the story. It certainly draws a picture of Asian success.

On top of it, Innovation, according to Asia’s key stakeholders, is often seen as ‘the process of creating new and novel solutions to fulfil unmet client needs.’ Asia is perceived by many as dominating the global scene for innovation However, such success – with or without innovation – is not without its share of challenges and constraints.

UN-ANDI is a global network of like-minded Asian staff members of the UN system who strive to promote a more diverse and inclusive culture and mindset within the UN. Credit: UN-ANDI

As we examine deeper, Asia and its relations with multilateralism and multilateral institutions is not a monolithic discourse. Like other regions, there is often no ‘one Asia’. Differences and diversity added complexity to the understanding of the Asia.

The business case for diversity and inclusion in Asia region is even stronger because it is a highly diverse region comprising a mosaic of many different sub-cultures. Diversity is the region’s strength.

However, they have to be real. It is also important to note here, that tokenistic diversity and inclusion doesn’t help anyone. It is time to move beyond viewing inclusion through a monochromatic lens. Too many organisations and groups consider diversity and inclusion to be only about gender diversity or only about non-local talent.

These are indeed pressing issues, considering that the Asia Pacific region consistently doing better than others in terms of gender roles at the workplace, and considering that the cultural make-up of numerous Asian countries is multilingual.

We must remain vigilant that the diversity can carry forward with it both equality and inclusion agenda. Without them, neither equality including gender equality, nor income equality can be achieved.

As a member of broader UN fraternity, we must be aware of the challenges posed for multilateralism by many factors so that we can add our voice to innovative solutions, growing Asian Knowledge Based Economy (KBE). And Asia can be a learning hub for the world:

    • Innovative solutions for more voices to be heard in policy making and implementation;
    • Innovative solutions for equitable and effective service delivery;
    • Pragmatic solutions for more equitable distribution of power and wealth [i.e., progressive tax reforms etc.) to reduce poverty;
    • Effective solutions for achieving gender equality and gender parity,
    • Mainstreaming disability inclusion to give real meaning to SDG principle ‘Leave No One Behind’ (LNOB);
    • Ensuring accessibility to address exclusion and digital divide;
    • Innovative solutions for inclusive and lasting peace process and peacebuilding;

It is clear there are multiple ways in which the region is pursuing its knowledge-based economic development for growing prosperity. The first is learning from the KBE journey of advanced economies (i.e., Japan, Korea, China etc.) and making appropriate investments and policy reforms. Large and populous countries of the region (i.e., India, Bangladesh, China etc.) are also demonstrating examples of scaling-up innovation and lessons learned.

Another successful strategy is exploiting the unique strengths and endowments of the region by pursuing strategies that amplify core regional and sub-regional strengths. The last but not the least is leveraging game-changing trends in technology and business processes that can enable emerging economies to leapfrog technology development cycles and catch up with the latest.

And Asia can contribute more, Asians can do more to promote South-South and Triangular Cooperation, they just have to harness the full potentials of the youth, women, and our committed workforce. Take gender-responsive budgeting, for example.

UN Entities like UN Women are facilitating exchange of knowledge, lessons learned and good practices from Ministries of Finance across LDCs, SIDS and beyond so that countries in the south can benefit from mutual support initiatives and integrate gender equality in national budget planning.

This means that women and girls will benefit from inclusive sectoral budgetary allocations that actually meet their specific needs and priorities. This can apply further to ensure women with disabilities can benefit for inclusive sectoral budgetary allocations.

As UN Charter pledged in its preamble, ‘WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED. to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, we must also remain united to save succeeding generations from inequal impact of public policy making whether that is the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination and public health support, reducing poverty, achieving gender party, ensuring accessibility and informed participation of the poor and marginalized communities in public policy and governance, access to justice and social services, or creating equal access to jobs and opportunities for both women and men.

Let us walk the talk, and, reinvigorate our journey for inclusion, equality and accessibility in 2022 and beyond.

Dr. A.H.Monjurul Kabir, currently UN Coordination Global Adviser and Team Leader for Gender Equality and Disability Inclusion, with UN-Women HQ, is a political scientist and senior policy and legal analyst on global issues and Asia-Pacific trends. For policy and academic purpose, he can be contacted at monjurulkabir@yahoo.com. He can be followed at mkabir2011

The blog is based on the speech delivered by the author in his personal capacity at an event commemorating the UN’s 76th anniversary organized by the UN-ANDI based in New York. UN-ANDI is a global network of like-minded Asian staff members of the UN system who strive to promote a more diverse and inclusive culture and mindset within the UN.

 


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What Would Europe, the US, Do with One Billion Climate Refugees?

Credit: UNHCR

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Dec 20 2021 – A bit of fiction. Or maybe not. If things keep going the way they are, the result will be that such a massive flux would create instability and tensions, impact the global markets, cause record prices of fossil fuels, food and everything else, and the bankruptcy of big private financial corporations…

Already seven years ago, a former director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), William Lacy Swing, estimated that the number of climate migrants and refugees could reach one billion humans by the year 2050.

Such a scenario could well happen given the rapid growth of the ongoing climate emergency.

“Hazards resulting from the increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as abnormally heavy rainfall, prolonged droughts, desertification, environmental degradation, or sea-level rise and cyclones are already causing an average of more than 20 million people to leave their homes and move to other areas in their countries each year.”

What would Europe, the US and other rich countries do then? Shall their politicians –and the growing far-right– fuel once more the fear of the “invasion” of migrants and refugees, saying that they include criminals and terrorists, will occupy the homes of honoured citizens, take all their jobs away, rape their daughters and, consequently militarise their borders?

Shall they send them to third countries in exchange for some money, like what already happens with Turkey? Or shall they just force them back to their countries of origin, which they had to flee due to floods, storms, tsunamis and famine, provoked by a climate disaster they did not generate?

 

Climate change and disaster displacement

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that climate change is the defining crisis of our time and disaster displacement is one of its most devastating consequences.

“Entire populations are already suffering the impacts, but vulnerable people living in some of the most fragile and conflict-affected countries are often disproportionately affected.”

Refugees, internally displaced people and the stateless are on the frontlines of the climate emergency, it reports, adding that many are living in climate “hotspots”, where they typically lack the resources to adapt to an increasingly hostile environment.

UNHCR urges all countries to combat the growing and disproportionate impacts of the climate emergency on the most vulnerable countries and communities — in particular those displaced and their hosts.

 

1 Person Is Forcibly Displaced Every 2 Seconds due to conflict, persecution

These displacements are the result of conflict or persecution. At mid-2021, their number already reached 84 million. And there are 10 million stateless people, half of them under the age of 18.

Coincidentally, most of their countries of origin are also among the most hit by poverty and climate emergency.

 

Climate crisis is a human crisis

“The climate crisis is a human crisis. It is driving displacement and makes life harder for those already forced to flee.”

The impacts of climate change are numerous and may both trigger displacement and worsen living conditions or hamper return for those who have already been displaced.

Limited natural resources, such as drinking water, are becoming even scarcer in many parts of the world that host refugees. Crops and livestock struggle to survive where conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet, threatening livelihoods, UNHCR adds.

 

Climate change, a threat multiplier

In such conditions, climate change can act as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing tensions and adding to the potential for conflicts.

“Hazards resulting from the increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as abnormally heavy rainfall, prolonged droughts, desertification, environmental degradation, or sea-level rise and cyclones are already causing an average of more than 20 million people to leave their homes and move to other areas in their countries each year.”

On this, the Global Compact on Refugees, affirmed by an overwhelming majority in the UN General Assembly in December 2018, directly addresses this growing concern. It recognises that “climate, environmental degradation and disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements”.

“We need to invest now in preparedness to mitigate future protection needs and prevent further climate caused displacement. Waiting for disaster to strike is not an option,” says Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

 

Every second 1 person is displaced by disaster

More than five years ago, in july 2016, IPS reported that, in fact, “every second, one person is displaced by disaster,” the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reported, adding that in 2015 only, more than 19.2 million people fled disasters in 113 countries.

“Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide.” See: Climate Victims – Every Second, One Person Is Displaced by Disaster

“On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year. That’s one person forced to flee every second.”

Further on, IPS wrote: Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.

Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, the proven speed with which the process of climate change has been taking place, might lead to such a scenario by 2050. If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then, it added.

“Currently, forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis, with 200 million being the most widely cited estimate, according to a 2015 study carried out by the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University.”

This figure equals the current estimate of international migrants worldwide.

For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal populations.

In an interview to IPS, the former IOM Director General, William Lacy Swing, explained that political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today.

“We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue.” See: Q&A: Crisis and Climate Change Driving Unprecedented Migration

 

Droughts, Desertification

Another warning comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification.

Up to 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain, adds the Bonn-based Convention secretariat.

Meanwhile, the increase in droughts and flash floods that are stronger, more frequent and widespread is destroying the land – the Earth’s main freshwater store, according to UNCCD.

 

The killing drought

“Droughts kill more people than any other single weather-related catastrophe and conflicts among communities over water scarcity are gathering pace. Over 1 billion people today have no access to water, and demand will increase by 30 percent by 2030.”

Africa is particularly susceptible since more than 90 percent of its economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base like rain-fed, subsistence agriculture.

“Unless we change the way we manage our land, in the next 30 years we may leave a billion or more vulnerable poor people with little choice but to fight or flee.”

For its part, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), reports that extreme weather events – from floods and storms, to heatwaves and drought – are already displacing an estimated 41 people each minute, and as temperatures continue to increase, climate extremes will worsen, sea levels will rise, and the world’s most vulnerable will bear the brunt.

 

Hunger and the climate

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that the world produces enough food to feed everyone, yet, about 800 million people suffer from hunger. That is one in nine people. 60 percent of them are women.

And that about 80 percent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. Most of them depend on agriculture.

“Hunger kills more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.”

Most importantly: “No other sector is more sensitive to climate change than agriculture.”

The above-cited causes of massive displacements just add to the fast-growing climate crisis, which will evidently greatly increase the number of migrants and refugees.

No matter if they will be one billion or 500 million or even 100 million. They are humans and victims of circumstances they have not created. What will rich countries do?

 

COP26 Agreed Rules on Trading Carbon Emissions – But They’re Fatally Flawed

One surprise from COP26 was an agreement between world leaders on a new set of rules for regulating carbon markets. This would allow countries to trade the right to emit greenhouse gases

Various states, and many environmental campaign groups, suspect that carbon markets weaken the overall effort to reduce emissions. Credit: Bigstock.

By External Source
Dec 20 2021 – One surprise from COP26 – the latest UN climate change conference in Glasgow – was an agreement between world leaders on a new set of rules for regulating carbon markets. This would allow countries to trade the right to emit greenhouse gases.

Carbon trading is part of how countries intend to meet their obligations for reducing emissions under the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, the manner in which countries agreed these rules may hobble the Agreement in its goal of averting catastrophic warming.

Carbon markets were central to the design of the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which created three different mechanisms for trading carbon. Developing countries had become accustomed to attracting investment via one called the “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM) which allowed industrialised countries to invest in projects to reduce emissions in developing countries and count them against their own targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Many industrialised countries wanted to retain this sort of flexibility in how they met their own treaty obligations.

As a result, most governments were keen to keep carbon markets as part of the Paris Agreement. In Paris in 2015, the bare bones of mechanisms similar to those in the Kyoto Protocol were agreed, but without the details needed to put them into practice.

Why then did it take six years to agree the rules which would govern these markets? This was more than the four years it took countries to do the same in the Kyoto Protocol and, in effect, they were recreating the same mechanisms. The problems in reaching an agreement this time were three-fold, and they weren’t satisfactorily resolved in Glasgow.

 

Going backwards from Kyoto

Various states, and many environmental campaign groups, suspect that carbon markets weaken the overall effort to reduce emissions. As climate change has accelerated over the past decade these concerns have become more acute. Why trade emissions if everyone is trying to get them to zero? There is considerable evidence that carbon offset projects – such as wind farms, which emissions trading can fund – have failed to deliver a reduction in overall emissions. A 2017 study led by the EU Commission found that 85% of projects funded by the CDM hadn’t reduced emissions.

There are also fundamental design issues in the Paris Agreement that make setting up carbon markets under it much more difficult. The Kyoto Protocol expressed the obligations of industrialised states to reduce their emissions as targets. These could be translated into a fixed number of emissions allowances that provided carbon markets with a clear set of accounting rules and indicators of market demand.

No such set of rules exists in the Paris Agreement. Instead, all states submit their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – national plans for reducing emissions. They may or may not have an emissions target and they vary in how they account for emissions or which sources of emissions they include in their plans.

How can a market function if there is no clear way of measuring what is being traded? And how should a country trading with another adjust its own NDC to avoid double-counting, when the design of each country’s NDC varies so much?

And what should countries do with all the credits created in the Kyoto Protocol’s system? Should they just be rolled over to be used in the new markets? Should they be simply abandoned? Or is there some way of allowing them in but controlling their use? A lot of CDM credits in particular remain, and they could flood the new markets and undermine the integrity of the NDCs.

 

A cop out

In the first week of COP26, it looked like these issues would continue to dog the negotiations. India supported unrestricted use of CDM credits in the new mechanism while the Solomon Islands (representing the Least Developed Countries group) opposed using them at all. In week two, these issues were either fudged or hastily agreed. The carbon traders were happy, as were the managers of the COP26 process – the UN secretariat and the UK government. We can now see the cost of failing to grapple with these thorny issues.

The Glasgow decisions on both Article 6.2 and 6.4 of the Paris Agreement are extraordinarily unclear compared with the equivalent ones for the Kyoto Protocol. Specialists in this field are still decoding precisely what they mean in practical terms. It’s likely that states will be able to use this opacity to double-count and claim credit for the same emissions-reducing activities.

Countries are supposed to set new NDCs regularly. At the same time, countries will be negotiating individual emission trades. The possibility for a country to game its NDC – making it appear more ambitious than it really is by counting already agreed trades within them – is impossible to avoid. It’s hard to see how this doesn’t fundamentally weaken the ambition of countries when updating their NDCs.

Monitoring how these mechanisms work in practice and whether they have the desired effect will be important over the coming years. While heralded at the time as a breakthrough in implementing significant tracts of the Paris Agreement, the Glasgow pact on carbon markets might instead be remembered as its undoing.

The Conversation

Matthew Paterson, Professor of International Politics, University of Manchester

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

CMR Surgical expands into the Middle East

CMR Surgical expands into the Middle East

  • Versius being used to perform minimal access surgery (MAS) in several hospitals across the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • CMR's new UAE office will be the first office in the Middle East enabling expansion of operations in the region

Cambridge, United Kingdom. 20 December 2021 00:01 (GMT). CMR Surgical (CMR) "" the global surgical robotics business behind the next–generation surgical robotic system, Versius "" has today announced that it has successfully installed Versius into three hospitals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as the Company continues to expand globally in line with its mission to bring the benefits of minimal access surgery to more people around the world. To support the region, CMR has invested in the opening of a Middle East hub office in UAE and expects further sales in the region in the short–term.

In partnership with Gulf Drug, Versius has been acquired by hospitals across the UAE, where it is being used in a rapidly increasing number of surgeries in both public and private hospitals including at the Saudi German Hospital, Al Zahra Hospital, and American Hospital Dubai. The UAE, amongst other countries across the Middle East, has made considerable and rapid advances to adopt surgical robotics into clinical practice, and is seeing significant benefits by enabling more patients to receive MAS.

The installation of Versius across the UAE follows the introduction of the system in Europe, India and Australia. Versius has been used to perform a range of surgical specialities including Gynaecology, Colorectal, General and Urology surgeries to date. These include complex cancer cases that would otherwise have had to be performed via open surgical techniques, significantly reducing recovery time for patients and getting them out of hospital sooner.

Per Vegard Nerseth, Chief Executive Officer of CMR Surgical said: "It is wonderful to announce our commercial progress in the Middle East and we are excited to be amongst an ecosystem of innovative companies in Dubai. Our presence in Dubai shows how our business approach on an international scale has evolved, representing expansion into an important region where our mission of increasing access to keyhole surgery really resonates. The rapid pace and adoption of Versius into world class hospitals in Dubai has been outstanding and we look forward to further developments across the Middle East."

Dr Hatem Moussa, Director of General and Oncological Surgery at American Hospital Dubai said: "With Versius, our team has been able to perform highly complex surgeries at high volume with greater dexterity, precision and ease. Having successfully performed fifty minimal access surgeries in forty–five days, the introduction of Versius is allowing us to treat more and more patients using minimal access techniques, which has great benefit for both patients and our surgeons, who would otherwise often experience physical discomfort performing a high number of operations manually. Versius is a great asset to us at American Hospital Dubai and the region overall, and I am delighted we have adopted this innovative new technology."

Dr Reem Osman, Regional Chief Executive Officer at Saudi German Hospital Group said: "Introducing robotic surgery will help our doctors achieve their surgeries with much better results and recovery time, delivering what we always promise "" the best healthcare to our patients. This new state–of–the–art technology that is CMR's Versius Surgical Robotic System is a very important advance to the world of surgery, dynamically digitising healthcare while ensuring a safe and comfortable experience for patients."

The new CMR office, located in the Dubai Free Zone brings together top talent and highly experienced teams to help transform surgery and access to robotics for MAS in an advanced market. The UAE has a well–funded healthcare system looking to adopt new innovations providing an opportunity to bring surgical robotics to an underpenetrated region, for the benefit of hospitals and patients. The purpose–built building includes office space, conference and meeting rooms, and a high–tech robotics lounge to showcase Versius and facilitate training for frequent visiting surgeons. Working with partners, CMR anticipates significant growth in the Middle East region in the coming years.

The announcement follows CMR's commitment to an accelerated commercial expansion following a successful $600 million ( 425 million) Series D funding round, the largest–ever private MedTech raise earlier this year. The funding will support the continued expansion of the company, bringing Versius to more hospitals and patients around the world, as well as the continued development of the Versius digital ecosystem, such as Versius Connect "" a specialised app developed for surgeons using Versius.

"" ENDS ""

Media Contacts:

If you wish to see more, please contact CMR Surgical at:

Press Office, CMR Surgical
T +44 (0)1223 755801
E pressoffice@cmrsurgical.com

Notes to editors:

The Versius Surgical Robotic System

Versius resets expectations of robotic surgery. Versius fits into virtually any operating room set–up and integrates seamlessly into existing workflows, increasing the likelihood of robotic minimal access surgery (MAS). The small, portable and modular design of Versius allows the surgeon to only use the number of arms needed for a given procedure.

Biomimicking the human arm, Versius gives surgeons the choice of optimised port placement alongside the dexterity and accuracy of small fully–wristed instruments. With 3D HD vision, easy–to adopt instrument control and a choice of ergonomic working positions, the open surgeon console has the potential to reduce stress and fatigue and allows for clear communication with the surgical team. By thinking laparoscopically and operating robotically with Versius, patients, surgeons and healthcare professionals can all benefit from the value that robotic MAS brings.

But it's more than just a robot. Versius captures meaningful data with its wider digital ecosystem to support a surgeon's continuous learning. Through the Versius Connect app, Versius Trainer and CMR clinical registry, Versius unleashes a wealth of insights to ultimately improve surgical care.

About CMR Surgical Limited

CMR Surgical (CMR) is a global medical devices company dedicated to transforming surgery with Versius , a next–generation surgical robot.

Headquartered in Cambridge, United Kingdom, CMR is committed to working with surgeons, surgical teams and hospital partners, to provide an optimal tool to make robotic minimal access surgery universally accessible and affordable. With Versius, we are on a mission to redefine the surgical robotics market with practical, innovative technology and data that can improve surgical care.

Founded in 2014, CMR Surgical is private limited company backed by an international shareholder base.


Covid-19 Has Accelerated New Agtech Development and Adoption in Asia-Pacific!

By Paul S. Teng and Genevieve Donnellon-May
SINGAPORE, Dec 20 2021 – While the COVID-19 impact has been predominantly negative, the pandemic appears to have sparked increased interest in developing agricultural technology (agtech) to improve the efficiency of food systems, from input supplies through farming and processing to delivery and retail.

Paul S. Teng

The COVID-19 pandemic has admittedly upended economic activity in the Asia-Pacific region, but a recent event in Singapore (Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit, 16-18 November 2021 — https://agrifoodinnovation.com/ ) showed that, in the case of agriculture and food, it has greatly spurred investments in technology to scale up food production sustainably. During 2020-21, momentum has been building up among financial institutions such as venture capital companies to invest in startup companies that produce technological innovations to address the shortcomings in food production and food supply chains. The UN Climate Summit COP26 further spurred activity before and after it was held, to focus on farming with reduced carbon footprints, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and valorization of food waste, all aimed at promoting more sustainable and circular food systems.

During the pandemic, the international media highlighted phenomena like farmers dumping milk and feeding quality produce to cattle, vegetables rotting in fields due to lack of labour to harvest, increased food waste in urban environments, delays in supply of inputs for growing crops or feeding fish, and supermarkets with empty shelves. The pandemic has highlighted the need to produce more food locally and to use techniques which both minimize the use of labour and avoid a high carbon footprint. Governments have responded to some of these through policies and action. The private sector has responded even quicker, having detected investment opportunities to support solutions to these problems. Venture Capital funds like AgFunder and Yield Lab have set up their Asian bases in Singapore to support initiatives throughout the Asia-Pacific.

Some of the exciting new agtech developments deal with ensuring new sources of inputs for farming crops and fish. This is exemplified by waste valorization to extract valuable elements from water and biowaste that can be used to grow plants. Many new ventures use the Black Soldier Fly, a ubiquitous insect that feeds on food waste, to harvest larval protein directly or indirectly for use as feed supplements for fish and chicken. Countries like Singapore and Malaysia, which import almost all their agricultural inputs, have provided incentives to spur these activities so that they have more resilience in their supply of fertilizers and animal feed.

Genevieve Donnellon-May

For on-farm production, digital farming is another area which has seen much progress during the pandemic to safeguard food production. Applications of remote sensors for environmental factors such as temperature, light and water quality increased. These sensors included both stationary and mobile sensors mounted on drones. Many now utilise cloud technology to send data back to a centralized processing facility which, among the more “intelligent” sensors, further have capabilities to take action. In Indonesia, one new company in Java has implemented among several hundred shrimp farmers an “Internet of Things” (IoT) system which not only monitors the water in which the shrimps grow for any danger signs, but also the growth of the shrimps and ultimately links the farmer to a potential buyer. In Singapore, Camtech Diagnostics has created Aquafarm, a remote water management tool for aquaculture farmers, which uses wireless sensors to maintain optimal water quality for their stocks. The remote monitoring and wireless communication system allows farmers to monitor the water quality in real-time, reduce labour costs, and increase the yield rate due to the prevention of stock loss. In India, likewise, a startup company has enabled several hundred fish farmers with ponds and indoor tanks to optimize their stocking density of fish and therefore increase their final harvest with minimized mortality. This company also helps the farmers secure credit from banks by providing risk profiles of the fish farmers. These startups are run by relatively young “agropreneurs” and illustrate the growing phenomenon of younger graduates entering farming by providing value-added services.

There are also exciting developments to help farmers make better use of increasingly scarce or expensive inputs like water and fertilizer. Precision technologies, such as drip-irrigation which are supported by the monitoring of soil moisture and plant water status, are now available in several countries. One company has even developed technology to supply chilled, oxygen-enriched water to stimulate plants growth in the tropics.

In land-strapped countries like Singapore, the number of high tech vegetable and fish farms using vertical farming technology with multiple stacks of vegetables or fish tanks, and supported by digital tools to monitor the growing environment, and plant and fish growth, has increased dramatically during the pandemic. The Singapore government in fact enacted a “30 by 30” strategy to produce 30% of its nutrition needs (vegetables, fish and eggs) by 2030 and incentivized an accelerated research and development programme (called the Singapore Food Story) with some Singapore $144 Million to create new technologies that enable high-density farming. This follows on achievements in other Asian countries, notably Japan, China and South Korea, to increase their share of controlled-environment farming using indoor plant factories, a form of “Smart farming”. Moving forward, these indoor plant factories will also allow countries to address weather patterns attributable to climate change.

One of the significant set of activities precipitated by the pandemic has been on e-commerce – using telecommunications and the internet to link farmers to retailers, manufacturers to traders and food and beverage outlets to consumers at home. The growth of this sector has been spectacular in Asia as movement control measures to reduce the spread of the virus encouraged households to use the internet to order raw and cooked food. It is likely that this practice will continue even after the pandemic has become an endemic.

Apart from agtech, there has been similar growth in fintech and foodtech. Using digital technology and the widespread use of mobile phones and other portable personal devices, even giants like MastercardTM have entered this space of providing financial services to small farmers. Others have linked financial services to marketplace information. Likewise, foodtech is providing food processors and ultimately consumers with many new offerings, such as extending the shelf-life of vegetables and fruits with environment-friendly sealants and packaging are now in use. Precision fermentation technology has also seen an upsurge to produce more diverse plant-based protein, and in the near future, also cellular meat. Concern for the negative effects of producing animal protein on the environment and climate have spurred innumerable startup companies to venture into the “Alternative Protein” space. Furthermore, nutrition-enhanced food, such as with vitamin and essential minerals, is also likely to see an increase in the marketplace.

It can be argued that all the above would have happened even without the stimulus provided by the pandemic. But the pandemic has convincingly increased awareness on food security worldwide, and coupled with the COP26 climate summit urgings, has led to this increase in activity to use modern agtech, fintech and foodtech in sustaining our food systems.

Paul S. Teng is Adjunct Senior Fellow, Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies at Nanyang Technological University Singapore and concurrently Managing Director of NIE International Pte. Ltd. Singapore. He has worked in the Asia Pacific region on agri-food issues for over thirty years, with international organizations, academia and the private sector.

Genevieve Donnellon-May is a research assistant with the Institute of Water Policy (IWP) at the National University of Singapore. She is also a master’s student in Water Science, Policy and Management at the University of Oxford. Genevieve’s research interests include China, Africa, transboundary governance, and the food-energy-water nexus.

 


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In Africa, Vaccine Delayed is Development Denied, Warns UNDP Head

Patients wait for their COVID-19 vaccination at a health centre in Kabale District, Uganda. More than 5.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally, but only 2% of them in Africa, says World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Credit: UNICEF/Catherine Ntabadde

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 20 2021 – The 21-month-long corona virus pandemic has triggered three new phrases in the UN lexicon: “vaccine famine, vaccine apartheid and vaccine nationalism”.

And the largest number of victims facing the triple threats are from developing countries, mostly in Africa, as reflected in grim statistics.

Dr Richard Mihigo, coordinator for the WHO’s Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme in Africa, is quoted as saying that high-income countries are administering more booster doses than even vaccines that are being given in developing countries.

“Remember that we only have 8% — 8% — of people who have been fully vaccinated in this region,” he said, referring to Africa. “This represents around 103 million people in a continent of 1.3 billion.”

Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme (UNDP), says that vaccines delayed is “development denied” for Africa. “Therefore, we must ensure vaccine equity which is the fastest way to end this pandemic”.

Rallying around the unifying strength of the UN, he pointed out, “we need the urgent cooperation of vaccine manufacturers, vaccine-producing countries and countries that already have high vaccination rates to tackle the acute vaccine supply shortage.”

Doing so will help to open-up economic and social opportunities across the (African) continent — boosting GDP and driving forward human development,” Steiner told a recent African Economic Conference in Cabo Verde.

Worldwide, says the New York Times, about 73% of shots that have gone into arms have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Only 0.8% of doses have been administered in low-income countries.

Dr Djibril Diallo, President & CEO of the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network Inc, told IPS Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, ratified in 1948, recognized that the right to health is a human right.

“Now is a time when nations claiming to respect and uplift human rights are being tested. But, more so, it is in their own national interest to pass the test,” he said, pointing out that low inoculation rates are a root cause of the mutation of COVID-19 into new variants.

“From our experience with Delta, and now Omicron, we have seen, in our globally connected world, how swiftly and uncontrollably new variants spread’.

“It is a political fiction to believe that these variants can be contained before they reach a nation’s shore. Instead, we need to shift towards reducing the risks of new variants developing by ensuring that no one is left behind in receiving vaccines,” said Dr Diallo.

As a new COVID-19 variant has just been discovered, says UNDP, flights are being cancelled, travel bans are reinstated, and several countries are closing their borders, African countries are once again most directly affected by the impact of the pandemic has on economies, particularly most vulnerable people.

Despite calls from various international institutions, African countries are still facing critical inequality regarding access to COVID-19 vaccines, leading to what many have called a “COVID-19 vaccine famine”.

According to the World Bank, African countries are still struggling to inoculate all eligible citizens, and vaccine delays are costing Africa $14 billion in lost productivity each month.

When they need additional resources to protect their citizens and plan for a post-pandemic recovery, the cost of borrowing for African countries has increased. African countries pay more than five times more in interest payments for commercial lending than the rest of the world.

“There is an increasingly looming risk of losing more than a decade of efforts to strengthen African countries’ economies and human capital”, the UN agency said.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters December 14:

    • 77 countries have now reported cases of Omicron, and the reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems.

    • Let me be very clear: WHO is not against boosters. We’re against inequity. Our main concern is to save lives, everywhere. It’s really quite simple: the priority in every country, and globally, must be to protect the least protected, not the most protected.

    • There remains a vast gap in rates of vaccination between countries. 41 countries have still not been able to vaccinate 10% of their populations, and 98 countries have not reached 40%. If we end inequity, we end the pandemic. If we allow inequity to continue, we allow the pandemic to continue, he warned.

Asked about WHO trying to have 60/70 percent of the world population vaccinated by next June, and whether this is possible?, British Ambassador Barbara Woodward told reporters December 13: “I think it is possible. As we’ve discussed before, there’s really three elements to this.”

“The first is the manufacture of vaccines, and we are seeing that come on stream now much faster. The second is shipping the vaccines and that is happening, although sometimes with quite short lead-in times”.

“Then the third is the simple logistics of health systems getting needles into people’s arms. And that’s an area where we still need to accelerate work. But again, an area where we can work with UN agencies and with NGOs to help that happen,” she declared.

In a statement released November 29, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the Government, scientists and the health community of South Africa for acting early to identify the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant.  

He is deeply concerned about the isolation of southern African countries due to new COVID-19 travel restrictions.   Low vaccine rates are a breeding ground for variants

“The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available on the continent – and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world,” Guterres said.

He appealed to all governments to consider repeated testing for travellers, together with other appropriate and truly effective measures, with the objective of avoiding the risk of transmission so as to allow for travel and economic engagement.

Samantha Power, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) told a virtual meeting on December 6 that for the past year, the story of COVID-19 around the world has been a struggle for vaccine equity—rich nations replete with doses while poorer nations fought to secure vaccines for their people.

But thanks to the efforts of many people and many institutions and nations, including the United States, thanks to the tireless work of COVAX, the African Union, and other regional leaders, that story is now changing fast, she said.

Over the past year, she pointed out, the United States has committed 1.2 billion vaccines to partner countries and delivered more than 290 million of those.

“We have invested in vaccine production capacity in countries like India, South Africa, and Senegal, so that in the future, fewer people would have to depend on vaccine donations from wealthy countries. All of this has been done with no strings attached or expectations—we do it because it is the right thing to do but it is also, we know, the smart thing to do.”

Today, at this critical inflection point, Power said: “I’m pleased to announce that the U.S. is building on this work by introducing a new effort to get a shot in every arm: the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access”.

“We’re going to spend an additional $400 million to double down on our efforts to help countries raise vaccination rates and save lives. This money will speed efforts both to get shots in arms and to support vaccine manufacturing in low-and-middle-income countries,” she declared.

 


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Green Gas: Energy as a By-Product of Sugarcane in Brazil

The biodigester and part of the biogas plant of the Cocal company, surrounded by a sugarcane plantation on all sides, in the municipality of Narandiba, in the west of the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo, where sugarcane has replaced cattle ranching as the main economic activity. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The biodigester and part of the biogas plant of the Cocal company, surrounded by a sugarcane plantation on all sides, in the municipality of Narandiba, in the west of the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo, where sugarcane has replaced cattle ranching as the main economic activity. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
NARANDIBA, Brazil , Dec 20 2021 – First came sugar. For four centuries, it was the main sugarcane product in Brazil. But since the 1970s sugarcane has grown and diversified as a source of energy: ethanol, electricity and biogas.

“Sugarcane is the green oil,” said André Alves da Silva, commercial and new products director of Cocal, as the company Comércio Indústria Canaã Açúcar e Álcool Ltda. is better known, which started large-scale production of biomethane, i.e. refined biogas, a renewable and clean equivalent of natural gas.

“We have a biofactory here,” he told IPS in an interview in the Cocal plant in Narandiba, a municipality located in the west of the southern state of São Paulo.

Referring to the plant whose scientific name is Saccharum officinarum as “sugarcane” has become obsolete in this region.

In addition to sugar and ethanol, electricity is generated from sugarcane bagasse, and biogas and other by-products are also created, such as biofertilizers, carbon dioxide gas and dried yeast, leftovers from alcohol fermentation, which, when processed, serve as protein-rich animal feed.

Biomethane in place of gas

The big novelty is biomethane, produced since June, as the starting point of a project that will bring gas to three closely grouped cities: Narandiba, Pirapozinho and Presidente Prudente, with a combined population of 264,000 people.

GasBrasiliano, a company of the state-owned oil conglomerate Petrobras, will be in charge of distribution and is building a 65-kilometer gas pipeline, which is scheduled to be inaugurated in June 2022.

“It is our first biomethane project, the first among many,” Alex Gasparetto, director-president of the distributor that holds the concession for piped gas in the west and north of São Paulo state, an area encompassing 375 municipalities and 9.2 million inhabitants, told IPS.

São Paulo, the richest and most populated state in Brazil, home to 46 million of the 214 million inhabitants of this enormous country, accounts for more than half of the national sugarcane production, in more than 150 agroindustrial sugar or ethanol plants next to sugarcane plantations, most of them in the GasBrasiliano concession area.

Sugarcane is the "green oil", says André Alves da Silva, commercial and new products director of Cocal, an agroindustrial company located in Narandiba, in southern Brazil, which uses almost everything from sugarcane to produce electricity, biogas, biomethane, biofertilizers, yeast as animal feed and other gases, in addition to sugar and ethanol. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Sugarcane is the “green oil”, says André Alves da Silva, commercial and new products director of Cocal, an agroindustrial company located in Narandiba, in southern Brazil, which uses almost everything from sugarcane to produce electricity, biogas, biomethane, biofertilizers, yeast as animal feed and other gases, in addition to sugar and ethanol. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

“The potential is huge, sugarcane biomethane can replace all the diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (for cooking) consumed in the state, a privileged situation,” said Alessandro Gardemann, president of the Brazilian Biogas Association (ABiogás).

“Cocal is a demonstration project, which goes from sugarcane cultivation to the final consumer with the supply of biomethane for the entire year,” he told IPS by telephone from Londrina, a city in the southern state of Paraná where his technology services company, Geo Biogas & Tech, which promoted biogas in the sugar-energy sector, is headquartered.

Solution for seasonal limitations

Geo’s technological contribution was decisive for the Cocal biomethane project to take off. It has long been known how to make biogas from vinasse, but this liquid residue from the ethanol (or alcohol) distillery can only be used during harvest season, generally from April to November.

The vinasse is bulky and smelly, impossible to store for many days in the ponds built to collect it before it is put into the horizontal biodigesters where the organic material is broken down in an anaerobic process that produces biogas.

To ensure a year-round supply, Geo adapted a German technology to incorporate into biodigestion another waste product, cachaça or filter cake, a dark sludge resulting from the processing of sugarcane juice to make sugar. Cachaça, for Brazilians, is the name for sugarcane brandy.

A treatment process that removes impurities and part of the moisture converts this waste, which used to be discarded, into raw material for biogas. It has “10 times more organic matter than vinasse,” which is why it is more productive, Eduardo Baptista, supervisor of industrial production at the Cocal biogas plant, told IPS.

A sea of sugarcane plantations flood Narandiba and its neighboring municipalities in the southern state of São Paulo, where the agroindustrial company Cocal grows it as the raw material for its biofactory for energy, fuels and agricultural inputs. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

A sea of sugarcane plantations flood Narandiba and its neighboring municipalities in the southern state of São Paulo, where the agroindustrial company Cocal grows it as the raw material for its biofactory for energy, fuels and agricultural inputs. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

This innovation made it possible to overcome seasonality, as it is stored in four open-air tanks next to the two vertical biodigesters, specifically for the cachaça. “During the harvest, we use the vinasse and between harvests, the cachaça,” avoiding interruptions in the production of biomethane, explained Alves, the company’s commercial director.

A second factor in favor of the project, he said, was that there is local demand for gas that could not be met by the GasBrasiliano pipeline, whose nearest point is more than 100 km from Presidente Prudente, the main city in the region, with a population of 230,000.

Extending the existing network to this limited market would not be economically viable, but a 65-kilometer gas pipeline from Cocal is, said Gasparetto, GasBrasiliano’s director-president.

The third factor is environmental. With biomethane, Cocal seeks to reduce the greenhouse gases emitted in its ethanol production. Replacing diesel with green gas decarbonizes the activity by 95 percent. Additional reductions can be obtained with the new fuel in trucks and agricultural equipment, an alternative that is currently being tested.

In addition, the waste from which the biogas is extracted is converted into clean biofertilizers, which emit 75 percent less carbon than chemical fertilizers, said Cocal’s commercial director.

Lastly, the decision was also based on the dual use of biogas: electricity or biomethane.

“Having two options reduces the risks,” the proportions can be modified according to demand and prices, Alves said. Currently, 53 percent of the biogas is refined into biomethane and 47 percent is used for electricity generation.

The vinasse pond at the Cocal plant, in the Brazilian municipality of Narandiba, feeds the biodigesters that produce biogas, later purified and refined for use in electricity generation or conversion into biomethane, a renewable and clean fuel equivalent to natural gas. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The vinasse pond at the Cocal plant, in the Brazilian municipality of Narandiba, feeds the biodigesters that produce biogas, later purified and refined for use in electricity generation or conversion into biomethane, a renewable and clean fuel equivalent to natural gas. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Cocal has also been generating energy by burning bagasse since 2002. Today it can supply electricity to a city of 730,000 inhabitants, the company reports.

Social contributions

For all this energy production, Cocal has two industrial units, each with its own sugarcane fields around it. The first was installed in 1980 in Paraguaçu Paulista, 135 kilometers from Narandiba.

It employs a total of 5,500 workers in 22 municipalities and has 125,000 hectares planted to sugarcane, mostly on land leased under 20-year contracts, according to Alves. The harvest reached 8.7 million tons of cane last year.

Narandiba currently has about 6500 inhabitants, after 2000 arrived, attracted by the local operation of Cocal, inaugurated in 2008, said the town’s mayor, Itamar dos Santos Silva, who estimated at 600 the direct and indirect employees of the sugar and alcohol plant a year ago – almost 10 percent of the population.

The municipality, which had stagnated when cattle ranching dominated its economy in the last decades of the last century, has prospered again. “Sugarcane totally changed the social and economic situation in the region,” the mayor said in a meeting with IPS in his office.

Deposits of cachaça or filter cake, a residue from sugar production, proved advantageous in the generation of biogas at Cocal's two plants in western São Paulo state, in southern Brazil. The reason is that the residue contains a lot of organic material and is available when there is a lack of vinasse between sugarcane harvests. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Deposits of cachaça or filter cake, a residue from sugar production, proved advantageous in the generation of biogas at Cocal’s two plants in western São Paulo state, in southern Brazil. The reason is that the residue contains a lot of organic material and is available when there is a lack of vinasse between sugarcane harvests. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

In addition to offering more jobs, Cocal pays even the lowest-earning employees double what a ranch worker used to earn, he said. With the rise in purchasing power, “every day a new house is built in Narandiba” and commerce and the demand for schools, health services and recreation has grown, Dos Santos Silva said.

Tax revenue also increased, but it lagged behind the immediate demands created by the influx of new residents, lamented the mayor, whose plans include attracting industry and stepping up the training of young people for the new supply of technical jobs in the sugarcane agro-industry.

Environmental sustainability was the main motive for Liane, a company that makes food products such as biscuits and pasta, to sign the first contract for the purchase of biomethane distributed by GasBrasiliano in Presidente Prudente.

Biomethane does not pollute like fossil fuels and probably has lower costs than “the natural gas that comes to us by truck from far away,” Mauricio Calvo, Liane’s industrial director, told IPS by telephone from the company’s headquarters.

Initially, biomethane will go to companies, fuel stations, shopping malls, hotels and large restaurants, i.e. large consumers.

The supply of piped gas to households remains a long-term goal, Gasparetto told IPS by telephone from GasBrasiliano’s headquarters in Araraquara, a town 280 kilometers from São Paulo.

Vaccines, Diagnostics and Therapeutics as Global Public Goods

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Dec 20 2021 – Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are trying their best to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic by rapidly rolling out vaccination programmes and putting in place public health interventions to reduce its impact. At the end of November, there were 262 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5.2 million deaths globally. About 60 per cent of all COVID-19 cases and half of all COVID-19 related deaths were in Asia and the Pacific. About 7.8 billion vaccines have been administered globally, and vaccine supply is generally improving.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

However, the pandemic has exacerbated inequities between and within countries and communities in the region with regard to access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. Many countries, particularly lower income countries, are lagging in vaccinating their populations, with less than 1-in-5 of the total population fully vaccinated. This vaccine inequity is prolonging the pandemic in both developed and developing countries. The recent emergence of a new strain of the virus capable of spreading faster, threatens to derail recent efforts to open economies and borders.

We recently brought together leaders and experts from across the region to examine the reasons for the large inequities in access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, and the ways to close the gap. The Regional Conversation on Equitable Access to Vaccines, Diagnostics and Therapeutics also highlighted some important factors and pre-requisites for ending the pandemic and preventing future ones.

Firstly, while noting the many initiatives supporting countries’ efforts to contain the spread of the virus, inequities had arisen due to procurement and stockpiling of vaccines by higher income countries across the world well in excess of their requirements. Vaccine production was concentrated in selected countries (mainly developed), and “vaccine nationalism” was spreading, coupled with a lack of effective mechanisms to transfer knowledge, technology and other resources. Multilateral mechanisms like COVAX, which had emerged as a lifeline for many lower- and lower middle-income countries, had not been provided adequate vaccines or resources. For the inequity to be narrowed, it is imperative that multilateral mechanisms like COVAX be transformed from a market and charity model to a global public investment and global public goods model.

Second, vaccines and health technologies for fighting pandemics should be recognized as global public goods. Discussions and promotion of this idea at subregional and regional levels could help advance it before elevating it to the global level. At the regional level, procurement of vaccines could be pooled, and regional hubs built for the development and manufacture of vaccines; where these centres already exist they should be strengthened. Public-private partnerships in vaccine development, manufacturing and distribution must be increased. Exchanges and transfer of knowledge, know-how, technology and resources between countries, using North-South and South-South principles, must be stepped up to achieve vaccine self-sufficiency. Promoting policy coherence through regulatory and normative systems to achieve quality and set standards should be part of regional cooperation. WTO member States are discussing the possibility of intellectual property rights to certain health technologies during health emergencies like pandemics, and this needs to be expedited and supported.

Third, having efficient and well-structured vaccination programmes at the national level, with a clear and transparent strategy for reaching population groups in vulnerable situations, was critical to achieving vaccine equity within and between countries. In many high-income countries with abundant supply of vaccines, vaccination rates were lagging due to “vaccine hesitancy” because of misinformation and a lack of trust. In this context, vaccination programmes need to be rooted in strengthened health systems and universal health coverage, with equal access to high quality, comprehensive and affordable health care. More agile, anticipatory and adaptive health systems also must be developed. There should be multisectoral action for health that puts primary health care at its center. Synergies with other sectors should be harnessed to advance public health objectives and to increase public health care funding.

Building on these concrete suggestions that focus on the Asia-Pacific region, we will revisit this subject at our annual session of the Commission in May 2022, when countries will have an opportunity to consider these ideas. Until then, I remind member States and stakeholders in Asia and the Pacific that no single country will succeed in defeating the pandemic on its own. Our only chance is to work together. We require trust and solidarity within and between nations. Without these essential elements, no regional or global arrangements will hold water or succeed.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP

 


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