Lawmakers Deliberate on ICPD30, Water Security at Tajikistan Conference

Mavsuma M. Muini, deputy chairperson of the Majlisi Namoyandagon Majlisi Oli (Parliament) of the Republic of Tajikistan.

Mavsuma M. Muini, deputy chairperson of the Majlisi Namoyandagon Majlisi Oli (Parliament) of the Republic of Tajikistan.

By IPS Correspondent
Jun 10 2024 – It’s been 30 years since the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD30) was adopted in Cairo, transforming policy and thinking on population and development issues.

During this crucial year, parliamentarians are participating in the 30-year review, recognizing that while there has been significant progress, this is threatened by multifaceted crises, including the backsliding on the rights and choices of women and girls and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regional parliamentarians are gathering this week on the sidelines of the Third Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference in the Republic of Tajikistan.

On the agenda are topics related to demographic shifts, gender equality, young people’s empowerment, water scarcity and climate change, which will form a milestone on the way to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP29) in Baku in November 2024.

Ahead of the meeting, IPS interviewed Mavsuma M. Muini, deputy chairperson of the Majlisi Namoyandagon Majlisi Oli (Parliament) of the Republic of Tajikistan.

IPS: What role do people see for addressing climate change and ensuring that water scarcity is not exacerbated?

Mavsuma M. Muini: The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) provides a good basis for multilateral cooperation across the entire spectrum of population issues. Adopted in Cairo in 1994, the document remains relevant and appropriate in the context of contemporary demographic processes.

With the adoption of the ICPD Programme of Action, governments set an ambitious agenda for achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable global development and contributed to significant improvements in gender equality and women’s empowerment, poverty reduction, increased access to health and education, and environmental sustainability. The ICPD Program of Action was a landmark in the history of human rights, women’s empowerment and sustainable development.

Based on the ICPD agenda, we must now mobilize our supporters and our governments to implement the strategies, principles, goals, and targets identified in the Programme of Action related to demographics, climate change, water and food security, and increased access to renewable energy. More concrete and inclusive climate solutions must be accelerated and scaled up to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Environmental challenges, such as global climate change, which is largely driven by unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, are exacerbating threats to the well-being of future generations.  This situation is exacerbated by increasing and recurrent extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, which are straining our ecosystems and having catastrophic consequences for global food security.

In view of the above, the water initiatives of the Republic of Tajikistan, supported by the UN General Assembly, including the declaration of 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater, 2005–2015 as the International Decade of Action “Water for Life,”  2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation, and 2018–2028 as the International Decade of Action “Water for Sustainable Development,”  have strengthened the understanding of the world community of the need to move from the discussions on the expression of water for sustainable development. The International Decade of Action “Water for Life,” the 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation and the International Decade of Action “Water for Sustainable Development,”  2018-2028, strengthened the understanding of the world community’s need to move from discussions, expression of intentions and declaration of commitments to the implementation of practical measures. This is a new strategic goal of the international community for the sake of life and humanity.

Speaking at the World Water Forum in Istanbul, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rakhmon, proposed adapting fundamental international legal documents in the field of water resources management, taking into account modern requirements and challenges. He also took the initiative to declare 2012 the International Year of Water Diplomacy to strengthen cooperation in the settlement of water relations.

The solution to water problems on a global scale is becoming more complicated due to climate change, which is becoming increasingly evident in all regions of the globe. Recognizing climate change as the main challenge to water resources, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan proposed to declare 2025 the International Year of Glacier Conservation, as well as to define World Glacier Conservation Day and establish a special Trust Fund under the UN to promote glacier conservation.

On December 14, 2022, the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on declaring 2025 the International Year of Glacier Conservation, proposed by the Republic of Tajikistan. It is unique in its essence, as it simultaneously declares both the International Day and the International Year of Glacier Conservation. All these efforts of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, respected Emomali Rahmon, are characterized by the desire to attract more attention from the world community to solving water issues and improving water cooperation.

IPS: As parliamentarians responsible for the legislative framework and financial resources for the ICPD POA, what key messages would you like to take to the Summit of the Future regarding reproductive health rights and women’s empowerment for the region?

Muini: The commitment of parliamentarians is vital as a bridge between the people and the government in creating support and an enabling environment to accelerate and implement the SDGs to increase gender equality and violence development.

Tajikistan, having endorsed the ICPD Programme of Action, adopted it as a framework for achieving national development priorities and implemented several policies and strategic and practical measures to ensure human rights and equality, which are fundamental to the country’s development. The Government of Tajikistan has identified reproductive health as a key priority of health reform and reproductive health-oriented measures as priorities of the National Development Strategy 2030 and SDGs.

It is significant that in order to implement the ICPD Program of Action in Tajikistan, a National Council on Population and Development was established, which brought together the efforts of the Parliament, the Government and civil society to develop and implement legislative acts, set and solve joint tasks and jointly monitor the implementation of legislation on population and development. It is clear that the development challenges facing the global community require the systematic involvement of all stakeholders in developing responses.

A world where everyone can live their lives with greater dignity is within reach. We must ensure that people’s rights and choices remain central to ensuring a sustainable future in a demographically diverse world. Parliamentarians must therefore focus their efforts in tandem with UNFPA, AFPPD and other regional or international partners to protect people’s rights and needs, reproductive health rights and women’s empowerment by improving or introducing more effective laws.

The legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan guarantees young people’s access to health care, reproductive health and family planning services, and training in healthy lifestyles.

We are fully committed to the continued implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and call for the inclusion of the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General and the results of the regional reviews in the 2030 Development Agenda.

IPS: While there is a perception that the world is far behind the projected outcomes of the ICPD, there are successes to celebrate. The conference has planned a session about how parliamentarians have contributed to adopting laws and policies addressing inequalities, positioning population dynamics in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and empowering women and young people. Could you please share some of these?

Muini: In April 2019, UN Member States at the UN Commission on Population and Development adopted a Political Declaration calling for the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This provided the political impetus for governments and all other relevant partners to come together, celebrate the adoption of the ICPD Programme of Action and celebrate its success in advancing rights and choices for all.

Our countries have made some progress towards achieving the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development, but concrete measures still need to be taken to fully implement the program. This requires, inter alia, systematically integrating population dynamics into national and international strategies and policies, reflecting such factors as population ageing and declining fertility, climate change, natural disasters, conflict and displacement, the reversal of the HIV pandemic, and comprehensively addressing international migration in the context of the ICPD.

In this regard, we reaffirm our commitment to the ICPD Programme of Action, recognizing that its implementation is essential for countries to eliminate social and economic inequalities, improve the lives of all their peoples, ensure the health and rights of women, men, girls and boys, including sexual and reproductive rights and health, promote gender equality and women’s health, create an environment in which all people can live in dignity, protect the environment, and protect the rights of women, men, girls and boys. We also reaffirm the commitments made at earlier ICPDs and emphasize our willingness to act with a sense of urgency.

We believe that progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the next steps in accelerating action to achieve the three transformative results by 2030 can only be achieved with an increased focus on protecting and promoting the rights and inclusive participation of women, adolescents and youth.

Note: The UNFPA, the Japan Trust Fund, the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) and the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) supported this workshop.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Venezuela’s Opportunity for Democracy

Credit: Jimmy Villalta/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

By Inés M. Pousadela
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Jun 10 2024 – Venezuela’s 28 July presidential election could offer a genuine chance of democratic transition. Despite an array of challenges, the opposition is coming into the campaign unified behind a single candidate. Many Venezuelans seem prepared to believe that voting could deliver change.

But the authoritarian government is digging in its heels. The opposition reasonably fears the election could be suspended or the government could suppress the opposition vote. Large-scale fraud can’t be ruled out.

All credible opinion polls show that authoritarian president Nicolás Maduro, in power since the death of Hugo Chávez in 2013 and seeking a third term in office, is highly unpopular. But his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) extensively controls the state apparatus. Electoral authorities aren’t neutral and the election system is riddled with irregularities. A recent decision by the government-controlled National Electoral Council (CNE) excluded from voting over five million Venezuelans who’ve emigrated.

If the opposition defeats the PSUV at the polls, the government will only accept the results if the costs of repression outweigh the costs of withdrawal. This means some form of exit guarantees will need to be agreed. An agreement to coexist would also be needed for a transition period that could last several years, during which PSUV supporters would continue to hold important positions and the party would need to be given the chance to reinvent itself as a participant in democratic processes.

Civil society in resistance mode

Venezuelan civil society has long played a key role in promoting democracy and defending human rights. But civic space has increasingly been shut down, with activists and journalists routinely subjected to threats, harassment, intimidation, raids, arrests, detention and prosecution by courts lacking any independence.

Many civil society organisations (CSOs) and media outlets have closed and others self-censor or have changed their focus to avoid reprisals. Numerous journalists, academics and activists have joined the exodus to other countries.

The government give repression legal cover through a barrage of laws and regulations, supposedly on grounds such as the defence of sovereignty and the fight against terrorism. Many of these, starting with the 2010 National Sovereignty and Self-Determination Law, sought to restrict access to funding to financially suffocate civil society.

In 2017, the state introduced the Constitutional Law Against Hatred, for Tolerance and Peaceful Coexistence, known as the Anti-Hate Law, imposing heavy punishments, including lengthy jail sentences, for inciting hatred or violence through electronic means, including social media. The law leaves the definition of what constitutes hate speech to the government-aligned courts.

In 2021, the government passed an International Cooperation Act that includes a mandatory register of CSOs and an obligation to provide sensitive information.

The government has doubled down ahead of the election. In January, the National Assembly approved the first reading of a draft law known as the Anti-NGO Law, which would prohibit CSOs from engaging in vaguely defined ‘political activities’. The National Assembly is also currently discussing a law against fascism, aimed at banning and criminalising ideas, expressions and activities it deems to be ‘fascist’.

A united opposition

Over the years, the opposition has found it hard to present a unified front and a credible alternative. But this has changed in the run-up to the 2024 election, with the opposition agreeing to select a single presidential candidate.

María Corina Machado emerged as a consensus candidate with over 90 per cent of the vote at the October 2023 primary election. More than two million people were said to have taken part, defying threats from the authorities, censorship and physical attacks on candidates.

In an attempt to regain the initiative, the government sought to stir up nationalist sentiment by activating its dispute over Essequibo Guiana, a large territory in Guyana claimed by Venezuela. In December 2023 it held and predictably won a consultative referendum on the issue.

A week after the opposition primary, the Supreme Court suspended the process and results. In December, Machado filed a Supreme Court writ, but instead the court ratified her disqualification. So on 22 March, three days before the deadline for candidate registration, she announced 80-year-old academic Corina Yoris-Villasana as her replacement.

The government couldn’t find any excuse to disqualify Yoris, so instead it blocked the registration website. Right up to the deadline, the automated system had selective technical issues that affected opposition candidates.

Following an international press conference in which Machado denounced the manoeuvre, support came from two unlikely allies, the leftist governments of Brazil and Colombia. The CNE eventually authorised a 12-hour extension to register its candidates.

As a result of further negotiations in April, all registered opposition candidates withdrew apart from one. The compromise candidate was former diplomat Edmundo González Urrutia, a moderate few could object to.

International community’s role

Some countries, notably European Union (EU) members and the USA, have supported the Venezuelan opposition and urged the government to respect human rights and hold free and fair elections.

Anything the USA does is open to the accusation of imperialist interference, but the EU has been able to supply a credible set of proposals on how to hold fair elections. Recommendations of its report following 2021 regional and municipal elections included strengthening the separation of powers, abolishing disqualifications, holding a public voter education campaign, allowing balanced media coverage, repealing the Anti-Hate Law and ensuring enough properly trained and accredited polling station officials are available on election day.

However, the EU’s role in the upcoming election remains in doubt. After the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Machado’s disqualification, the National Assembly leader said the EU wouldn’t be allowed to do election observation.

A key step in the right direction was taken in October 2023, just ahead of the primary, when government and opposition representatives met in Barbados and signed an agreement on the right of political organisations to choose their presidential candidates, an electoral timetable and a set of procedural guarantees.

The day after the signing of the Barbados Agreement, the US government eased its oil and gas sanctions but warned it would reinstate them if the government didn’t honour its commitments; in April 2023, it brought them back. The Venezuelan government immediately breached the agreement’s first point, as it initiated legal proceedings against the opposition primary.

Upon the signing of the agreement, the US Secretary of State also said that political prisoners were expected to be released by November. Five were immediately freed, but many more remain behind bars. Their release is a key opposition demand ahead of the election.

Two months before the big day, everything hangs in the balance. The unofficial campaign is well underway. Machado and González are touring the country, promising orderly and peaceful change. The government has launched an aggressive smear and disinformation campaign against González. Relentless harassment follows Machado wherever she goes. Local activists are routinely arrested following opposition rallies in their area.

There are surely many more twists and turns ahead. The Venezuelan government is used to ignoring international criticism, but it’s harder when calls to respect the democratic process come from leftist Latin American leaders. They can play a key role in urging Venezuela to let genuine elections happen and accept the results. The logic of democracy is that sooner or later Maduro will have to go. It would be wise for him to start negotiating the how.

Inés M. Pousadela is CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


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Climate Change, Pollution Push Karnaphuli Fishers Out of the Profession

Jishuram Das has been catching fish from the Karnaphuli River since his childhood. Nowadays, he often sits idle after drastic fall of fish in the river due to pollution and salinity intrusion. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Jishuram Das has been catching fish from the Karnaphuli River since his childhood. Nowadays, he often sits idle after drastic fall of fish in the river due to pollution and salinity intrusion. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam
CHATTOGRAM, Bangladesh, Jun 10 2024 – Jishuram Das, a sexagenarian who was born in Jelepara, located in Chattogram, has been catching fish from the Karnaphuli River since his childhood. But nowadays, he often sits idle without going to catch fish, as their catches have drastically fallen.

“Once there were plenty of fish in the Karnaphuli River, where we caught fish generation after generation. But, in recent years, salinity has entered the river water, driving the freshwater fish species to disappear, which makes our lives harder,” Jishuram said.

Recalling the days when fishermen were able to catch enough fish from the river about 10 to 12 years ago and earn handsome money by selling their catches, Jishuram said nowadays he can catch merely half a kilogram of fish in a day and many days even he has to return home empty-handed.

“My son and I used to catch fish together from the Karnaphuli River. As we cannot catch enough fish from the river for our living, I am not taking my son fishing. I asked my only son to find an alternative livelihood. Now he has been working at a factory so that he can support my family,” he said.

The seasoned fisherman said, as he does not know any other work, he still continues their traditional fishing despite the drastic fall of fish in the river.

“But many have already changed their livelihoods for a better life,” he told IPS.

Gopal Das (55), who learned fishing from his father, said when he was young, he caught big fish from the river by fishhook. But now he could not catch a single fish in a whole day as big fish have disappeared from the river due to unchecked pollution, he said.

“In the past, I caught big fish like rui (rohu fish), catla, chitol (chitala chitala), and boal (wallago fish), weighting 15-20 kg, from the river, but these are not found there right now. We can now catch only three or four sea fish species, including shrimp and poya fish; the river has become salty,” Gopal said.

The families of fishermen in Karnaphuli struggle to make a living and feed their families, and many have fallen into a debt trap.

Gopal, a fisherman living in Jelepara, said, “We have fallen into economic hardship. I borrowed Taka 30,000 (nearly USD 300) from a microcredit organization, and now I am repaying the loan. Like me, many others in our locality get trapped in the circle of debt.”

Gopal has changed professions and now works as an assistant to a mason.

“So, we are not taking our children to fishing boats anymore. We are sending our children to educational institutions so that they can choose other professions except fishing after completing their studies,” he added.

The younger generation of Jelepara has left their time-honored way of life.

“I caught fish from the Karnaphuli River but now I am working as a shopkeeper.  There is a scarcity of fish in the river, so I have chosen another work. The young generation is not interested in fishing and that’s why they are looking for jobs or other work,” Soman Das (28) told IPS.

Md Sarowar Hossain Khan, town manager of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said they have been providing training to young fishermen on livelihood options under its Livelihood Improvement of Urban Poor Communities (LIUPC) Project so that they can find suitable professions.

“Young people in Jelepara have been given training on driving and ready made garment (RMG) work, while many of them have already switched to these from fishing,” he said.

A 2016 study revealed that salinity and dissolved oxygen (DO) were the two most important variables shaping the species makeup in the Karnaphuli River estuary. Species diversity was low as the river estuary is highly polluted due to industrial pollution and the high discharge of polluted material from oil tankers, fertilizer factories, and Chattogram City Corporation.

Earlier in March 2024, various species of fish and aquatic animals died in the Karnaphuli River due to melted raw sugar burned in a fire at a warehouse in Chattogram. The burnt sugar fell to the river, declining its water quality, leading to various fish species dying.

“Fish stock in the Karnaphuli River has drastically declined due to overfishing and unchecked water pollution,” Dr Mohammed Shahidul Alam, Associate Professor of the Fisheries Department at the University of Chittagong, told IPS.

Factories and tanneries located on the banks of Karnaphuli have been discharging chemical waste into the river, destroying the habitat of aquatic species, he said, adding that climate change-induced salinity is also contributing to the rapid decline of freshwater fish species in the river.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Let’s play!

Lesotho games. Credit: David Lazar

By Heike Kuhn
BONN, Germany, Jun 10 2024 – For the first time ever, we will commemorate the joy of playing with an International Day of Play“ on June 11, 2024. On their website, the UN state that this „marks a significant milestone in efforts to preserve, promote, and prioritize playing so that all people, especially children, can reap the rewards and thrive to their full potential“. But why ist playing so important?

Here is a closer look, starting with children: We all have witnessed globally that children do learn best through play, everywhere, in each region and in each culture. Through play children can be creative, learn to express themselves and to cooperate. By playing with peers, they connect with others, learn to put themselves in the position of others, follow and respect rules and develop resilience when winning or losing, understanding that both come along with playing.

The right to play is protected: The UN Convention on the Rights of the Children declares that „states parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts“ (Article 31). Remembering that this Convention is one of the most ratified UN conventions, one could suppose that engaging in play would be easy for children everywhere as this right is implemented.

However, we face big differences between countries: In so called developed countries,playing does take place at home and in public spaces: At home children play with animals, dolls, games and electronic devices. At kindergartens and schools children can furthermore play during sports lessons. And even in small cities you will find public playgrounds with swings, climbing frames and whipping tops.

Coming to developing countries where the majority of global youth is living, we see a quite different situation: Many children simply have no time to play, but instead have chores (especially girls), are working on fields in rural areas to support their families living in poverty, are working in factories or are refugees on the move, threatened by wars, conflicts or climate change. Yet – whenever, wherever there is a chance for it, you see children playing with their peers – be it kicking in the streets, playing hide and seek or local games. By playing children’s well-being is secured – everywhere. Playing gives a sense of normalcy even in the most difficult circumstances.

Turning now to adults: Why do we still like to play? Let us start with sports: football, tennis, cricket, kabbadi, just to name some. Mental exercises comprise bridge, backgammon, chess or multiple forms of quizzes. Many adults find a great satisfaction in playing, getting a distance from their daily routine, coming together with peers, exchange and have fun, sink into the game, immerse in playing, having all the attention in this very moment, just as children do.

So what is the magic in playing? In her introduction in the guide to the outdoor exhibition „Radical Playgrounds – from Competion to Collaboration“, taking place in Berlin, the Curator Joanna Warsza, states: „The core idea of ludology, the study of play, tells us that play is necessary for a human being to thrive and needs to be based on voluntary participation involving a set of fictive rules and the possibility to quit at any time …“

From my point of view, the participation on a voluntary basis is key for playing as much as the factor of having fun: The activity is optional, there is no enforcement. You are either interested because your mind is attracted and you concentrate as you experiment new ideas or materials (free play) or you like the task, the team or the competition, e.g. in sports during a match (competitive play). Playing creates communities, playing let you thrive as you can be anyone, play is fun, be it alone or with others. At the same time you are learning, as „Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning“, to quote American writer Diane Ackermann.

Digging a little deeper in competitive play and transferring lessons to our daily lives: Whenever we play with others, first we have to agree on the rules, jointly. Afterwards, we all have to respect them. Of course, temper and emotions come in and have to be handled. Still, without respecting the rules once agreed upon, you cannot play as some of us will get frustrated and stop it. How important rules are you can also witness in the position of a referee, who secures their respect during the tournament, e.g. in football matches: You will get yellow- or red-carded if you do not obey the rules in place.

So what are the lessons? Playing means enjoying and learning. Playing is a most powerful tool for all societies, bringing together persons from all social classes and enjoying themselves. Here in Europe, my continent, three big sports events will attract many people this summer: The European Athletics Championships in Rome, the European Championship tournament in football in Germany and the Summer Olympics in Paris. We will witness how athletes will show maximum performance, will respect rules and therefore have to play fair. They will be role models for many of us an will inspire millions, especially the youth. And we will have fun. That’s another reason why I embrace the first ever International Day of Play!

Dr. Heike Kuhn is Head of Division, Education, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Bonn, Germany

IPS UN Bureau


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Quantexa Debuts Q Assist, New Context Aware Generative AI Technology Suite

  • HSBC is among several industry leaders participating in Quantexa’s Lighthouse Program for early adopters
  • HSBC anticipates that streamlining of analysis and acceleration of processes could lead to significant productivity gains within the first year of deployment
  • Q Assist combines Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence Platform and Generative AI to augment decisions for sales, customer service, and compliance teams in financial services, TMT, and government agencies

LONDON, June 10, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — This Monday, on the Centre Stage at London Tech Week 2024, Quantexa, the global leader in Decision Intelligence (DI) solutions for the public and private sectors debuted Q Assist, a context aware generative AI technology suite to help organizations augment trusted decision–making across teams of frontline and information workers. The announcement demonstrates progress against the company’s platform innovation roadmap and comes nearly a year after Quantexa detailed a significant investment in the global artificial intelligence (AI) industry and previewed Q Assist as a stand–alone LLM agnostic copilot.

With the new Q Assist Technology Suite, Quantexa customers will be able to operationalize generative AI for transformational gains without significant investment in infrastructure, tooling, and additional skilled resources.

Frontline and information workers can leverage the power of copilots, linked data, Quantexa’s knowledge graph capability, and other Decision Intelligence Platform features to enhance the accuracy and reliability of generative AI models that interact with all data (structured and unstructured), context, and insight across their organization. Combining LLMs with the rich context within Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence Platform enables a better understanding of data, safely grounds responses, increases performance and trust, and ensures teams have the most accurate, up–to–date information in a single place.

Find out what Q Assist is and how it works with Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence Platform.
View the full video

Helping Customers Succeed in the Era of AI
HSBC is one of the organizations currently participating in the Lighthouse Program for early adopters. Each organization in the program envisions using Q Assist in several ways, including:

  • Streamlining analysis, investigation, and reporting tasks for information and knowledge workers to achieve greater efficiency.
  • Reducing the reliance on data science and operations teams for ad–hoc data requests, giving them time to focus on more strategic tasks.
  • Empowering customer facing teams with access to enriched data and insights they need to increase revenue and enhance customer experiences.
  • Enabling teams across an organization to consistently make trusted decisions that are traceable and accelerate operational process improvement.

BNY Mellon is currently evaluating joining HSBC in Lighthouse effort. Quantexa worked with Lighthouse Program participants to project one–, three–, and five–year benefits from deploying Q Assist within their customer facing, data science, and investigative teams. It found an almost immediate productivity gain across three core areas: time saving and efficiency, new opportunity identification, and increased conversion rates.

HSBC anticipates that democratizing analytics and accelerating processes across these areas could lead to productivity gains within the first year of deployment. The company also expects to free up employee’s time, allowing them to refocus on other strategic tasks.

David Rice, Global Chief Operating Officer, Commercial Banking at HSBC, said: “This new solution has the potential to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of complex tasks such as anti–money laundering investigations and sales strategies by providing trusted data and contextual analytics. The introduction of contextual analytics and innovation will enable HSBC to concentrate our resources more productively and ultimately help our customers.”

Quantexa estimates that a tier one global financial institution with three levels of defense in financial crime and fraud compliance efforts, generating approximately 15k alerts a month, could realize significant efficiencies and cost savings by deploying the Q Assist Generative AI Technology Suite:

  • Over £17M in savings enabled annually by enhancing and automating investigating and reporting processes across financial crime and fraud.

Quantexa’s CTO, Jamie Hutton, said: “Quantexa’s engineering principle of shaping solutions to deliver maximum customer value has allowed our clients to play an integral role in helping to shape the product requirements for Q Assist. Through the company’s Lighthouse Program for early adopters, we have the benefit of working with industry leaders that provide valuable feedback throughout our roadmap process.”

Eric Hirschhorn, Chief Data Officer, BNY Mellon, said: “We are excited to see this continued innovation from Quantexa. Our multi–year collaboration has helped us to break down data silos and unify our data with unprecedented accuracy. The next phase in our innovation efforts will see us exploring the potential of enabling frontline workers across the bank to use Gen AI to act on the data insights confidently and reach new levels of efficiency in the process.”

How the New Q Assist Generative AI Technology Suite Works
Quantexa’s new generative AI technology suite will combine Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence Platform and Generative AI through a new data integration layer, prompt builder, and copilot that accelerates the ability of teams to make critical business decisions.

Q Assist delivers trusted, extensible AI anchored by Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence Platform. This lets non–technical teams benefit from Quantexa’s critical platform capabilities including a connected data foundation, graph analytics, modeling, and scoring to augment and automate decision making. The Q Assist Technology Suite is comprised of three components:

  • Q Assist Integration Layer: the nerve center of Q Assist. It is a framework of tools, connectors, and APIs designed to securely link Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence Platform with LLMs and conversational AI systems right out–of–the–box.
  • Q Assist Prompt Builder: an extensible prompt management and sharing capability that easily integrates with external prompt engineering tools and frameworks, such as Microsoft’s Azure Prompt Flow, Semantic Kernel or AutoGen, to put the power in the hands of administrators to define and control prompts and responses that are grounded in contextual data generated by Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence Platform.
  • Q Assist Copilot: allows users to query large and disparate data via a natural language interface, understand and summarize data, insights, and findings in real–time, and automate research, investigation, and reporting tasks.

Today, the company is making Q Assist Generative AI Technology Suite capabilities available to a limited set of customers, with wider public availability planned for early 2025.

To learn more about how Quantexa is helping organizations get their data ready for AI, or to download the Total Economic Impact™ of Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence Platform by Forrester and start measuring the ROI of Decision Intelligence investments, please visit

About Quantexa
Quantexa is a global AI, data and analytics software company pioneering Decision Intelligence to empower organizations to make trusted operational decisions with data in context. Using the latest advancements in AI, Quantexa’s Decision Intelligence platform helps organizations uncover hidden risk and new opportunities by unifying siloed data and turning it into the most trusted, reusable resource. It solves major challenges across data management, customer intelligence, KYC, financial crime, risk, fraud, and security, throughout the customer lifecycle.

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Will European Momentum Help Generate a Move to Recognize Palestine as a Sovereign State?

Credit: UNRWA

According to Gaza’s health ministry, more than 270 people including children and other non-combatants were killed during intense fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in and around the Nuseirat refugee camp on June 8, in the middle area of the war-torn enclave. More than 600 were reportedly injured with hospitals overwhelmed. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a post on X that the Nuseirat camp “is the epicentre of the seismic trauma that civilians in Gaza continue to suffer.” “Seeing shrouded bodies on the ground, we are reminded that nowhere is safe in Gaza”, he said.

By HMGS Palihakkara
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jun 10 2024 – Since the eviction of Palestinians from their homeland pursuant to the controversial Balfour declaration of 1917, the quest for regaining Palestinian statehood has continued as a means towards lasting peace and security within and between Israel and Palestine.

The effort straddled two centuries but the issue remained unresolved. It became a core question of peace and security in the Middle East and the world. The so-called rules-based order of the international system that grew out of the carnage of two world wars was unable or unwilling to find a reasonable consensus on this issue as major powers juggled ‘rules-based-justice’ with ‘power-based practice’.

The unresolved conflict thus peaked in atrocious violence in Gaza with Hamas and Israel being accused of things ranging from war crimes to genocide including the brazen massacre of over 200 civilians in a hostage rescue drama over the week end. The heart-rending tragedy in Gaza is therefore obvious but the opportunity embedded therein not so.

In a not- so-strange irony of war, it was the unprecedented human suffering and devastation in Gaza, not the political will of the major powers, that brought back the Palestinian statehood issue to the fore as a new inflection point in building peace among parties to this conflict.

What is new is that the bold joint move by Ireland, Norway and Spain to recognize the Palestine State as a precursor to peace rather than in its aftermath, can set in motion a new dynamic.

It has somewhat shaken the US led conventional Euro-Atlantic posture on the Israeli Palestinian conflict that peaceful and secure two states can only emerge at the end of a bilateral peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

The question is — will that posture now face a reboot calling for international recognition of two States– first, as a via media to peace between the two nations. Israeli intransigence and the devastation in Gaza has brought the need for this re-sequencing into sharper focus.

It can generate a constructive momentum especially if more European countries join Norway,Spain,and Ireland plus 140 odd other countries of the world. Slovenia has already done that.

Obviously, it is not a big snow ball- at least not yet- but something has started to roll. Norwegian Foreign Minister Eide signalled this when he declared at the press conference that if present double standards continue, it will undermine the ‘rules-based international order’-a rebuke to their ‘hold out’ Western partners who preach human rights to some and protect impunity by others.

These four European countries have taken the first step. Will the United States now re-assert its leadership by taking the next ‘giant step’?.

After all, it was President John Kennedy announcing the other ‘giant step’ his great country took in the last century, who famously said -“ we decide to go to the moon and do other things not because they are easy but because they are difficult”.

This is 21st Century, There is an unprecedented opportunity to follow the European lead to recognize the reality of two states and end the forever-war between an Iron-domed State backed by ‘Western might’ and a hapless and stateless people – the latter being a creation by ‘Western democracies’ themselves. If the US does not seize the opportunity, the opportunists will seize it.

HMGS Palihakkara is former Foreign Secretary, Sri Lanka, former Ambassador to the United Nations, and a one-time chairman of the UN Israeli Practices Committee.

IPS UN Bureau


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Solar Energy, Vetoed as a Source of Income for the Poor in Brazil

A village with 9,144 solar panels about eight kilometers from Juazeiro, a city and municipality in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast region, hosts a failed electricity and income generation project, which for three years enabled investments in the urbanization and community development of the 1,000 resident families. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS - Brazilian regulation only allows “prosumers” (consumer producers) to deduct from their electricity bill the amount of energy generated and supplied to the distribution network, which is the basis for the development of community or distributed electricity

A village with 9,144 solar panels about eight kilometers from Juazeiro, a city and municipality in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast region, hosts a failed electricity and income generation project, which for three years enabled investments in the urbanization and community development of the 1,000 resident families. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
JUAZEIRO, Brazil , Jun 10 2024 – “I feel like a mother who lost her son to drugs, to vice, destroying himself,” says Lucineide da Silva, 56, mother of eight children and grandmother of 11.

With her lost son, she symbolizes a novel solar energy project that used the roofs of a village built by the government programme “My House My Life” in Juazeiro, a municipality with 238,000 people in the state of Bahia, in the Northeast region of Brazil.

The 174 two-story buildings, totaling 1,000 family housing units, turned into a small power plant, with 9,144 photovoltaic panels installed on their roofs. With an output of 2.1 megawatts and the capacity to supply 3,600 low-consumption homes, the installation generated electricity from February 2014 to October 2016.

In addition to self-supply, each family in the village earned income from energy surpluses sold to the local power distribution company. Of this income, 60 per cent was distributed among the villagers and 10 per cent went to equipment maintenance.

The remaining 30 per cent of the profits were invested in Morada do Salitre and Praia do Rodeadouro, the two complexes the unnamed village was divided into for community administration.

Lucineide da Silva helped install the solar panels, having been trained with other residents of the two complexes that make up the unnamed village in northeastern Brazil. Her efficient work and passion for the project earned her the nickname “Galician of the panels”. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Lucineide da Silva helped install the solar panels, having been trained with other residents of the two complexes that make up the unnamed village in northeastern Brazil. Her efficient work and passion for the project earned her the nickname “Galician of the panels”. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Energy for community cohesion

This income enabled residents to urbanize the town, with trees, clean streets, speed bumps for vehicles and security officers. Also, two community centers were built, offering medical and dental care, as well as computer and sewing courses.

Such benefits helped build a real community, with a sense of belonging and social organization, the stated goal of the project, developed by the company Brasil Solair and financed by the Socio-environmental Fund of the Caixa Economica Federal, a state bank with social purposes.

“It’s the best of the My House My Life villages I know,” assured Toni José Bispo, 64, despite his criticism of the solar project. “I had no benefit, the panels break the tiles, better take them all off as a neighbor did,” said the food merchant, who built a store in the front yard of his house.

A Community Center built by one of the two complexes in the city of Juazeiro, with income from the sale of electricity. Computer and sewing courses, apart from doctors and dentists, were other benefits of the small photovoltaic power plant installed in the village in northeastern Brazil. Image: Mario Osava / IPS

A Community Center built by one of the two complexes in the city of Juazeiro, with income from the sale of electricity. Computer and sewing courses, apart from doctors and dentists, were other benefits of the small photovoltaic power plant installed in the village in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The useless photovoltaic panels have caused widespread complaints since October 2016, when the state-owned National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel) cancelled the license to operate the small power plant.

The project had been launched with a license from Aneel, with a three-year deadline for it to comply with the specific regulation for distributed generation, up to five megawatts and carried out by the consumers, who can produce energy for self-supply and not for sale.

Brazilian regulation only allows “prosumers” (consumer producers) to deduct from their electricity bill the amount of energy generated and supplied to the distribution network, which is the basis for the development of community or distributed electricity. Certain types of association, such as cooperatives, allow this benefit to be shared, but without commercial purposes.

With the non-compliance by Brasil Solair, a company that disappeared from the market, and Caixa Economica Federal, the 9,144 photovoltaic panels remain for the last eight years a sad reminder of the project that was to be the inspiration of other My House My Life communities, which since early 2019 has provided 7.7 million homes.

Toni José Bispo's small store, set up in front of his home, as is typical of the northeastern Brazilian town, has caused strong competition in a community with low demand and income. Image: Mario Osava / IPS

Toni José Bispo’s small store, set up in front of his home, as is typical of the northeastern Brazilian town, has caused strong competition in a community with low demand and income. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Social decay

The town, with an estimated population of almost 5,000, is evidently in decay. Aging, fading walls, broken or missing roof tiles, garbage in the streets that was not noticeable during IPS’ previous visit in June 2018, are the most apparent signs. Some panels also appear damaged.

Violence and drug trafficking are other side-effects that can be attributed, at least in part, to the impoverishment of the local community.

Nicknamed “the Galician of the panels” because she excelled in their installation, Lucineide da Silva is “proud” of working on the project, as one of the trained villagers, and dreams of its restoration.

“We have many poor families. Solar energy would help them with their expenses, to have air conditioning to counter the heat, that is strong here”, he said.

“This complex is better than others, it gets top marks, but if the project were active it would be a reference for everyone”, said Da Silva, who rejected offers to continue installing panels, because she would have to work far away. She prefers to take care of children and senior citizens.

Gilsa Martins was an administrator in one of the two complexes organized for community management. She failed in her attempt to restore the photovoltaic energy and income generation project, but did not lose hope of giving back to her community the benefits of distributed generation. Image: Mario Osava / IPS

Gilsa Martins was an administrator in one of the two complexes organized for community management. She failed in her attempt to restore the photovoltaic energy and income generation project, but did not lose hope of giving back to her community the benefits of distributed generation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Gilsa Martins, who was a community administrator of the Morada do Salitre complex during the good years while the project was active, and the bad ones that followed, still hopes to restore it. At 66, she is willing to “return to Brasilia” to negotiate with the government, as she has done in the past.

The useless photovoltaic panels have caused widespread complaints since October 2016, when the state-owned National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel) cancelled the license to operate the small power plant

“Everything is deteriorating as a result of the neglect we are subjected to, with no support from the public administration,” she lamented. The computer and sewing courses are cancelled, and without the income from the solar power plant “we no longer have dentists or doctors here, since the public authorities don’t contribute anything,” she added.

The numerous stores in residential front yards reveal a lack of income sources. Many try to survive with informal businesses in a local market with insufficient demand. “Too much competition and not enough buyers,” Bispo said.

“The local population is sustained by the jobs offered by the irrigation districts, including young people who finish high school, but they have no opportunities in nearby commerce and industry,” he explained.

Juazeiro is at the center of an irrigated agriculture hub, with water from the São Francisco river pumped to seven irrigated districts or perimeters where the government settled small, medium and large farmers, and to large independent farms that stand out as the largest producers of mango and grapes for export.

Hired workers commute daily on buses from these companies and from the districts, generally subject to the seasonality of the fruit. “They are our salvation,” said Martins.

The Bolsa Familia, a government income transfer program, also “protects many unemployed mothers. That’s why we don’t go hungry here,” he said.

But people complain about inadequate transportation. They only have one bus to commute to the city of Juazeiro, the municipal capital, eight kilometers away. It is a common adversity among My House My Life communities, usually located far from the city and its urban infrastructure and services.

A roof with solar panels and transformers installed on a neighboring building. This equipment is going to waste since the small power plant was shut down in 2016. Brazilian restrictions on distributed or community generation make its restoration difficult. Image: Mario Osava / IPS

A roof with solar panels and transformers installed on a neighboring building. This equipment is going to waste since the small power plant was shut down in 2016. Brazilian restrictions on distributed or community generation make its restoration difficult. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Solar roofs

Complaints against photovoltaic panels are also widespread, assured Martins. “Many complain of holes in the roof and blame them on the panels, others want them removed,” he said.

“Since the panels were installed I’ve had leaks in the roof, draining down the walls. Then they spread to one room and the corridor, then to two rooms. My husband plugged them with cement. We have already lost a bed and a closet,” explained Josenilda dos Santos, 37 and with five children.

She remembers having received income from electricity only for three months, 280 reais (about 120 dollars at the time) the first time and only 3 per cent of that the last time. “I will take all of them off, since they are useless, they only heat the rooms,” she concluded.

“The sun, like water, is a common wealth, but only capital appropriates it. Solar roofs for decentralized electricity generation can generate income for the population and reduce poverty, especially in the countryside,” according to Roberto Malvezzi, a local activist with the Catholic Pastoral Land Commission.

The failure of the My House My Life pilot project hinders a promising path, in addition to wasting 9,144 panels already installed on the roofs.