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Archive for the ‘ World News ’ Category

Wildfires rage as China’s Chongqing suffers unrelenting record heat wave

Smoke and flames rise into the sky from a mountain forest fire triggered by persistent drought and heat waves in Chongqing, China on August 21.

North Korea hopes to build ‘socialist fairyland’ with new laws

A meeting of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, North Korea, on September 7.

North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament convened this week to pass legislation aimed at turning the country into a “beautiful and civilized socialist fairyland,” state media reported Thursday.

The North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly met for its first session on Wednesday, and adopted laws on landscaping and rural development, state news agency KCNA reported.
The two laws will help advance the ruling party’s efforts to bring about “a radical turn in the rural community and its policy on landscaping to achieve a rapid development of the Korean-style socialist rural community and spruce up the country into a beautiful and civilized socialist fairyland,” KCNA said, citing a deputy’s speech to the gathering.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who did not attend the session, has vowed to improve people’s livelihoods and boost rural development amid spiralling economic crises caused by self-imposed Covid-19 lockdowns, international sanctions over the country’s nuclear weapons programme, and natural disasters.
Many of Kim’s economic promises have yet to be fulfilled, analysts say, and aid organizations have warned of rampant food shortages and other hardships.
According to a report last month by 38 North, a US-based site that monitors North Korea, Kim’s vow to rebuild a typhoon-ravaged province in the country’s North and transform it into a “model” mining community has made little progress.
The United States has accused Kim of pouring resources into military projects at the expense of the country’s people. It said this week Russia had approached North Korea about buying ammunition, potentially providing a windfall for the cash-strapped government in Pyongyang. Russia said the US report was “fake.”

Israeli military admits Shireen Abu Akleh likely killed by Israeli fire​​​​, but won’t charge soldiers

The Israel Defense Forces have ​admitted for the first time that there is a “high possibility” Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed by Israeli fire while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin in May, the IDF announced Monday.

“[I]t appears that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh. However, there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen during an exchange of fire,” the IDF said in a statement.
But the Israeli military does not intend to pursue criminal charges or prosecutions of any of the soldiers involved, IDF’s Military Advocate General’s Office said Monday in a separate statement.
“After a comprehensive examination of the incident, and based on all the findings presented, the Military Advocate General determined that under the circumstances of the incident, despite the dire result — the death of Ms. Abu Akleh and Mr. Samudi’s injury — there was no suspicion of a criminal offense that warrants the opening of an MPCID investigation,” the statement said. Abu Akleh’s producer Ali al-Samoudi was wounded in the incident.
“The decision was based on the findings of the review, which determined that IDF soldiers only aimed fire at those who were identified as armed terrorists during the incident. As such, there was no suspicion that a bullet was fired deliberately at anyone identified as a civilian and in particular at anyone identified as a journalist,” the statement said.
A senior IDF official who briefed journalists on the findings ​of the military’s investigation before they were released said the IDF troops did not know they were shooting at the press​, and said that Abu Akleh’s back “probably” being turned to the soldiers was a contributing factor. In images from the scene of the shooting, Abu Akleh is wearing a protective vest that is labeled “PRESS” on both the front and back.
“When they were firing in that direction, the soldiers were not aware they were firing at journalists. They thought they were firing at militants firing at them,” the IDF official said.
A CNN investigation in May unearthed evidence — including two videos of the scene of the shooting — that there was no active combat, nor any Palestinian militants, near Abu Akleh in the moments leading up to her death. Footage obtained by CNN, corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, an audio forensic analyst and an explosive weapons expert, suggested that Israeli forces intentionally took aim at Abu Akleh.
Al Jazeera, Abu Akleh’s employer, has consistently asserted that the Israeli military is responsible for her death. The network condemned the IDF investigation, saying the delay of more than 100 days since the shooting “is intended to evade the criminal responsibility it bears for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh.”
“Al Jazeera denounces the Israeli occupation army’s lack of frank recognition of its crime. The network calls for an independent international party to investigate the crime of the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh, in order to accomplish justice for Shireen, her family and fellow journalists around the world,” the network said in a statement.
When asked about investigations, including CNN’s, that found no militants near Abu Akleh when she was shot, the IDF official said: “It is our estimate that there were militants in the vicinity of Ms. Abu Abkleh. Maybe not one meter beside her but they were in that area​,” but the official did not provide evidence to support that claim.​
“When the soldier made that decision, it was a blink of a decision,” the official said. “The soldier did not intend to injure an Al Jazeera journalist or [journalist] from any other network.”
“The soldier is sorry, and I am sorry. This was not supposed to happen and it should not happen. He did not do this on purpose,” the official said. ​He did not name the soldier.
In Monday’s briefing with reporters, the senior IDF official said the bullet that killed Abu Akleh was too badly damaged to be able to identify which gun fired it, the same conclusion a US-led forensic investigation came to.
However, the IDF has concluded that the soldier who likely fired the fatal shot was to the south of Abu Akleh in an armored military vehicle with limited range of sight, did not identify Abu Akleh as a journalist and thought he was shooting at militants.
The official said soldiers in the area had been under fire “for an hour and fifteen minutes” before Abu Akleh was killed.
Asked why the gunfire appeared to continue even after Abu Akleh fell, the official said they counted no more than seven bullets fired after she was shot. There were Israeli drones filming during the operation, the official said, but not in a high enough resolution to be able to see the fatal shot.
In the initial aftermath of Abu Akleh’s death, Israeli officials first posited that it was likely indiscriminate Palestinian militant gunfire that killed her, before acknowledging it was possible Israeli gunfire was responsible for her death.
In their report on Monday, the IDF left open the possibility that Abu Akleh “was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen toward the direction of the area in which she was present.”
According to the Palestinian autopsy, Abu Akleh was killed by a single bullet to the back of the head.
Shireen Abu Akleh’s family slammed the IDF investigation, saying Israel had “refused to take responsibility for murdering Shireen,” and called for an independent US investigation.
The report “tried to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility for killing Shireen Abu Akleh, our aunt, sister, best friend, journalist, and a Palestinian American,” the family said in a statement sent to CNN.
“We’ve known for over 4 months now that an Israeli soldier shot and killed Shireen as countless investigations conducted by CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, Al-Haq, B’tselem, the United Nations, and others have all concluded,” the statement said.
“And yet, as expected, Israel has refused to take responsibility for murdering Shireen. Our family is not surprised by this outcome since it’s obvious to anyone that Israeli war criminals cannot investigate their own crimes. However, we remain deeply hurt, frustrated, and disappointed.”
“Since Shireen was killed our family has called for a thorough, independent, and credible US investigation that leads to accountability, which is the bare minimum the US government should do for one of their own citizens. We will continue to demand that the US government follow through with its stated commitments to accountability. Accountability requires action.”
In a statement Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price welcomed the IDF review and stressed “the importance of accountability in this case, such as policies and procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”
“Our thoughts remain with the Abu Akleh family as they grieve this tremendous loss — and with the many others worldwide who brought Shireen and her news reports into their homes for more than two decades,” Price said. “Not only was Shireen an American citizen, she was a fearless reporter whose journalism and pursuit of truth earned her the respect of audiences around the world.”
In July the United States found that gunfire from the Israeli military was “likely responsible” for the killing of Abu Akleh, although an examination overseen by the US of the bullet “could not reach a definitive conclusion” on its origin due to the condition of the bullet.
The US Security Coordinator — who leads an inter-agency team that coordinates with the Israeli government and the PA — “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel,” according to a statement at the time from the State Department.
The IDF has been carrying out regular raids in the West Bank, especially in the Jenin area, targeting what it says are militants and weapons caches. The raid in Jenin when Abu Akleh was killed came shortly after a months-long wave of attacks by Palestinians that left 19 Israelis and foreigners dead. Some of the suspected assailants of those attacks were from Jenin, according to the Israeli military.

Pakistan UNESCO site Moenjodaro badly damaged by flooding

Pakistani policemen sit around the ancient ruins of Moenjodaro, the UNESCO World Heritage site around 425 kilometres north of the port city of Karachi on February 1, 2014.

One of the world’s oldest preserved human settlements has been significantly damaged by torrential rain in Pakistan as the country battles the worst floods in its history.
Moenjodaro (also styled Mohenjo-daro), a World Heritage site in the Indus River Valley 508 kilometers (316 miles) from Karachi, was built in the Bronze Age, some 5,000 years ago.
“Unfortunately we witnessed the mass destruction at the site,” reads a letter from the Cultural, Tourism, & Antiquities Department of Singh state sent to UNESCO and signed by curator Ihsan Ali Abbasi and architect Naveed Ahmed Sangah.
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The letter adds the site was being used as temporary accommodation for surrounding residents whose own homes had flooded.
“On humanitarian grounds we gave them shelter in our quarters, parking areas, shops (and) ground floor of the museum,” the letter explains.
Currently, an estimated one-third of Pakistan is underwater after monsoon downpours combined with water from melting glaciers.
Most of Moenjodaro’s structures, which were discovered in the 1920s, are above ground and susceptible to environmental damage. Images included in the letter from the site’s guardians show collapsed brick walls and layers of mud covering the site.
The letter explains some of the immediate actions the site team has taken to mitigate the flood damage, like bringing in water pumps, repairing brickwork and cleaning drains.
Several walls collapsed amid the flooding.
Several walls collapsed amid the flooding.
Government of Sindh Cultural, Tourism and Antiquities
But it’s clear that these measures will not be enough.
Abbasi and Sangah end their letter by asking for 100 million Pakistani rupees ($45 million) to cover the costs of full repairs.
Sadly, the conservators of Moenjodaro have known for some time that flooding could pose a serious risk to the site.
Its official UNESCO listing notes that Singh state — which is officially tasked with maintaining Moenjodaro — has flagged the issue before and warned that “a breach of the dam upstream would cause catastrophic damage.”
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Moenjodaro’s significance as a historical and architectural site cannot be underestimated. When it was added to UNESCO’s register in 1980, the organization wrote that Moenjodaro “bears exceptional testimony to the Indus civilization,” comprising “the most ancient planned city on the Indian subcontinent.”
During its heyday, the city was a bustling metropolis. There were markets, public baths, a sewage system, and a Buddhist stupa, mostly constructed out of sun-baked brick.
Workers rushed to cover as much of the site as possible with protective covers.

Workers rushed to cover as much of the site as possible with protective covers.
Government of Sindh Cultural, Tourism and Antiquities
In their letter, Abbasi and Sangah express concern that Moenjodaro could be added to the list of UNESCO sites in danger, which the preservation body updates periodically to highlight historic places that are at severe risk of ruin.
Sites currently on this list include Florida’s Everglades National Park, which is facing significant environmental challenges, and the city of Liverpool, England, whose historic city center is considered at risk from urbanization.

Why is Prince Charles headed to Rwanda?

The British royals are going back on tour, after two visits to the Caribbean earlier this year that were marred by anti-monarchy, anti-colonialism demonstrations.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were caught out by photo ops that some criticized for their colonialist undertones. The Prime Minister of Jamaica told the couple in public that his country would be “moving on.” Prince William later conceded that foreign tours were an “opportunity to reflect.”
A follow-up visit to the region by the Earl and Countess of Wessex then had to be rearranged to avoid Grenada, where there have been calls for the UK to pay reparations for slavery. There were concerns in the government that the issue could overshadow the visit.
A visit to Canada by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall last month was less contentious — while there is a republican movement there, it isn’t rooted to the same extent in issues of slavery and race.
The heir to the throne may be under more scrutiny in Africa next week, when he attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. While the Queen is the head of the Commonwealth, the role is purely ceremonial and the UK has no more power within the grouping than any other country.
Charles will represent her, which will help prepare everyone for the time when he takes over as head. The question that inevitably surfaces is whether he will be as effective as his mother, but he’s no doubt used to that. The more profound question that comes up is whether, with its origins in the British Empire, the Commonwealth is still relevant.
The Queen and Prince Charles at the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in 2018.

The location of the 2022 meeting may provide one argument in favor of the organization. The host, Rwanda, only joined the group in 2009 and has no historical ties to the UK. In fact, this will be the first time a member of the royal family has set foot in the country.
“My wife and I much look forward to meeting Commonwealth leaders and, for the first time, being able to visit Rwanda,” Charles said ahead of the visit. “Over the years, I have learned a great deal from the ideas, concerns and aspirations which people across the Commonwealth have so generously shared.”
There will be other engagements built around the main event. Charles will visit a college and a wildlife sanctuary, and attend summits on sustainable business and tropical disease. Camilla will go to a library and later give a speech on violence against women and girls. Together they will lay a wreath at the Genocide Memorial and meet both survivors and perpetrators of the 1994 massacre of Tutsis.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will also be attending “CHOGM,” as the meeting is known. He won’t be able to avoid questions on his asylum policy, following a storm back home. He has tried and failed — so far — to get legal clearance to fly people seeking asylum in Britain to Rwanda for processing, with successful applicants granted asylum there instead. Charles reportedly described the plan as “appalling.” Photographers will be looking for any signs of tension between the two, though the prince will be keen to avoid any accusations of political interference.
For the inside track on the Rwanda tour, look no further than this newsletter. We will be traveling with Charles and Camilla to and from Kigali. See you back here next week…

WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?

The Queen hits another milestone!
There were no bells and whistles this time round but Queen Elizabeth II quietly broke yet another record in the past week. On Sunday, she officially became the second longest-serving monarch in world history. The Queen overtook Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died aged 88, having achieved 70 years and 126 days on the throne between 1946 and 2016. In case you’re wondering, the record for longest-ever reign belongs to Louis XIV of France. He ruled for 72 years, 110 days, from 14 May 1643 to 1 September 1715.
The Queen smiles during a Platinum Jubilee appearance in early June.

William and Kate attend Grenfell memorial service.
The Cambridges paid their respects to bereaved relatives and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire on Tuesday — exactly five years to the day after the tragedy. The pair chatted with attendees before taking a seat for the multi-faith service at the foot of the building. They joined the congregation in a 72-second silence in memory of the 72 victims who perished in the fire that tore through the west London high-rise. Following the memorial service, the couple laid a wreath in honor of the victims. Back in 2017, William accompanied his grandmother to the site to meet members of the community affected by the blaze.
The Cambridges mark the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14 in London, England.

DON’T MISS

Ahead of Prince Charles’ visit to Rwanda, two daughters have written a plea to the heir to the British throne for CNN. Carine and Anaïse Kanimba are the adopted daughters of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda.” He was convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison last September, in what his supporters said was a politically motivated show trial. The US State Department said last month that Rusesabagina had been “wrongfully detained.” In an op-ed for CNN, his daughters are asking the visiting royal “not to remain silent” and “to not shake the hand of the tyrant who is holding our father as a political prisoner.”
Read their message for Prince Charles here.

ROYAL TEA BREAK

Most of us have read the tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. At the very least you’ve probably seen the 1963 Disney classic “The Sword in the Stone.” Well, it turns out the Arthurian legend has even had a few blue-blooded fans over the centuries. In fact, King Edward III was so taken with it that nearly 700 years ago he created his own group of chivalrous knights — the Order of the Garter.
Now, this elite institution still exists, and every June it gathers for the annual Garter Day procession at Windsor, after which new members are welcomed into the fold, a lunch is put on and then it’s over to St. George’s Chapel for a service. The event is pretty spectacular, as traditionally the Queen and the knights — who are now both male and female — don fabulously grand velvet robes with plumed hats for the parade. Members of the order — 24 in total, as well as certain royal family members — are personally chosen by the sovereign, in recognition of an individual’s service to the nation through public office or to the monarch personally.
The Duchess of Cornwall was installed in the Order of the Garter this year.

This year’s event caused a bit of a stir as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was invested as a member of the Order of the Garter, becoming “Sir Tony.” Beyond the castle’s walls, Stop the War activists and members of the Free Assange movement protested the former leader’s appointment to the country’s most senior order of chivalry, chanting “war criminal” and holding placards. Separately, there was some royal drama after it was revealed Prince Andrew had been blocked from attending parts of the day. A royal source told CNN Monday that the embattled royal would only be going to the private events and would not be seen in public, in what was understood to be a “family decision.”
Max went deeper into Britain’s oldest and most senior order of chivalry over on TikTok:

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Prince Charles peeks at the ponies as he and Camilla — along with several other members of the royal family — enjoyed a day at the races for Royal Ascot 2022. Sadly, the Queen wasn’t in attendance, due to her mobility problems, and was probably watching from the comfort of her Windsor home down the road, especially as she had a couple of horses running on Gold Cup day. Both ended up coming second in their races but the events would have still delighted the monarch, according to her racing manager, John Warren.
He told Britain’s PA Media news agency that he was “disappointed for Her Majesty” but “she gets it.” He explained that horses are “her passion, and the Queen would have absorbed everything that was there to be seen. She is so engaged in it that it is nice to know that she is probably seeing more than we do!”

“If we come together to raise the importance of early childhood development, we’ll soon see that healthy, happy individuals make for a healthier, happier world. Which is why every second we spend with a child, is an investment in our collective future.”

The Duchess of Cambridge

Kate, who founded the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood last year, made the remarks as the organization unveiled new research into public perceptions of early childhood development on Thursday. One of the findings revealed that while nine in 10 agree on the importance of early years in shaping a person’s future, less than a fifth recognize the “unique” importance of the period between 0 and 5. Alongside the new research, the duchess hosted a roundtable discussion with representatives from the early years sector, including the UK Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid and Minister for Families Will Quince.

Putin lambasts the West and declares the end of ‘the era of the unipolar world’

Putin unveils imperialist mission: Taking back land he says is Russia’s 02:59

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared the end of “the era of the unipolar world” in a combative speech that lambasted Western countries at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.

“When they won the Cold War, the US declared themselves God’s own representatives on earth, people who have no responsibilities — only interests. They have declared those interests sacred. Now it’s one-way traffic, which makes the world unstable,” Putin told the audience.
The much-hyped speech was delayed by more than 90 minutes because of a “massive” cyberattack. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists in an impromptu conference call that the speech was postponed due to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on the conference’s systems.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. Ukrainian IT Army, a hacker collective, named the St. Petersburg Forum as a target earlier this week on its Telegram channel.
Putin’s address at the annual conference, one of his more substantial speeches since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine almost four months ago, was seen as an opportunity for the world to get some insight into his thinking.
Once the Russian president took the stage in the western Russian city, he wasted no time on pleasantries and went straight into attacks on the United States and its allies.
“They live in the past on their own under their own delusions … They think that … they have won and then everything else is a colony, a back yard. And the people living there are second-class citizens,” he said, adding that Russia’s “special operation” — the phrase the Russian government uses to describe its war on Ukraine — has become a “lifesaver for the West to blame all the problems on Russia.”
After accusing western countries of blaming their problems on Russia, Putin tried to pin the blame for rising food prices on the “US administration and the Euro bureaucracy.”
Ukraine is a major food producer, but the Russian invasion has affected its entire production and supply chain. The United Nations has said the war has had a devastating impact on supplies and prices and warned it could push up to 49 million more people into famine or famine-like conditions.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said last week that food has become part of the Kremlin’s “arsenal of terror.”
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain, accusations that appear to have been confirmed by satellite images showing Russian ships being loaded with Ukrainian grain. On top of that, Russia is blocking maritime access to the Black Sea ports held by Ukraine, meaning that even the grain that is still under Ukrainian control cannot be exported to the many countries that rely on it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg on June 17, 2022.

The long-time Russian leader also blamed the West for trying to hurt the Russian economy, calling the sanctions on Moscow “crazy” and “reckless.”
“Their intention is clear to crush the Russian economy by breaking down the chain the logistical chains, freezing national assets and attacking the living standards, but they were not successful,” he added. “It has not worked out. Russian business people have rallied together working diligently, conscientiously, and step-by-step, we are normalizing the economic situation.”
The Russian president has long framed his decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine as a response to Kyiv’s growing diplomatic and security ties with the West. Last week, he hinted that his aim in Ukraine is the restoration of Russia as an imperial power.

Putin claims Russia ‘forced’ into the conflict in Ukraine

Speaking about his war on Ukraine on Friday, Putin went straight to his propaganda playbook, claiming Russia was “forced” into the conflict.
He called the invasion “the decision of a sovereign country that has an unconditional right … to defend its security.”
“A decision aimed at protecting our citizens, residents of the People’s Republics of Donbas, who for eight years were subjected to genocide by the Kyiv regime and neo-Nazis who received the full protection of the West,” he said.
The two areas — the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) — fell under the control of Russia-backed separatists in 2014.
The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian authorities of discriminating against ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the regions, a charge Kyiv has denied. Starting 2019, Russian passports were offered to the residents of the two entities.
Finally, in late February, Putin announced he would recognize them as independent, a move that was seen as the opening salvo of the war.
He said on Friday that Russian soldiers and the separatists were “fighting to defend their people” in the Donbas and the right to “reject any attempt to impose pseudo values of dehumanization and moral degradation from outside.”
No country other than Russia recognizes the two as independent. Ukraine and the rest of the international community considers the territories to be under Russian occupation.
The European Commission announced Friday that it was recommending Ukraine and neighboring Moldova as EU candidate states, with the commission’s chief Ursula von der Leyen saying that Ukrainians are “ready to die” for the European perspective.
Speaking about the European Union on Friday, Putin said the bloc had “lost its sovereignty.”
“The European Union has fully lost its sovereignty, and its elites are dancing to someone else’s tune, harming their own population. Europeans’ and European businesses’ real interests are totally ignored and swept aside,” he said.
He later added that Russia has “nothing against” Ukraine joining the EU.
“The EU is not a military-political bloc, unlike NATO, therefore we have always said and I have always said that our position here is consistent, understandable, we have nothing against it,” Putin said during a panel discussion following his speech.
“It is the sovereign decision of any country to join or not to join economic associations, and it is up to this economic association to accept new states as its members or not. As far as it is expedient for the EU, let the EU countries themselves decide. Whether it will be for the benefit or to the detriment of Ukraine is also their business,” he said.

Biden and Trump both plan to watch the hearing

President Biden, who previewed the first prime-time hearing of the committee investigating Jan. 6, plans to watch as much as he can in between meetings and a scheduled dinner with world leaders in Los Angeles, sources familiar with his plan say.

Biden believes the committee has woven together the events of that day — including what happened before, during and after — in a way that will be informative for Americans.

As for former President Trump, who watched those events unfold from the Oval Office on Jan. 6, 2021, will also be keeping an eye on the hearings, one person says. Trump, who is often impressed but agitated by well-produced events, has urged allies to flood the airwaves with attacks on the committee.

Trump won’t be the only one paying attention. Several former members of his West Wing staff say they also plan to watch the hearing to see if it tells a compelling narrative, or falls flat.

BlackRock and UN Women to Promote Gender Lens Investing

New York, 25 May 2022 – BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE: BLK) and UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to cooperate in promoting the growth of gender lens investing. As part of the agreement, signed at the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, BlackRock will develop strategies to mobilize capital in support of economic opportunity for women. UN Women will serve as a knowledge partner and collaborate on data and research.

BlackRock and UN Women to Promote Gender Lens Investing

Gender lens investing is defined by UN Women as the intentional allocation of capital and alignment of investment strategies, processes and products, to achieve positive and tangible contributions against women’s empowerment objectives and that has the potential to generate a financial return.

By bringing together BlackRock’s deep investment experience across public and private markets and UN Women’s convening power and gender equality expertise, the partnership aims to catalyze the growth of gender lens investing and inspire greater mobilization of capital into companies that address women’s needs in education, financial services, childcare, healthcare, and other sectors. BlackRock and UN Women are united by the conviction that investing to help enhance the lives of women and girls around the world can increase their economic participation, realizing value and unlocking greater economic growth. [1]

BlackRock, as an asset manager on behalf of clients, will aim to invest across a broad array of asset classes, regions, and investment styles. At their core is a “dual bottom line” investment thesis that aims to drive or support positive real-world outcomes while delivering attractive, risk-adjusted returns for investors. An initial set of funds will launch gradually over the coming quarters and will be available to a global investor base, across institutional and wealth channels.

Looking ahead, BlackRock and UN Women will engage the broader ecosystem of public and private sector organizations focused on gender equality, seek to strengthen data collaboration and research, and continue to explore additional opportunities to collaborate on and promote return-generating and market-based solutions that improve the lives of women and girls.

Isabelle Mateos y Lago, Global Head of the Official Institutions Group at BlackRock, commented: “We are excited to partner with UN Women, a global champion for women’s empowerment, to help scale the nascent field of gender-lens investing. We believe this partnership will help meet the growing appetite of asset owners around the world to focus more on the “S” pillar of ESG and their growing interest in investing for positive real-world outcomes alongside competitive financial returns.”

Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, commented: “UN Women’s mission is to achieve a world in which all women and girls can exercise their basic human rights and can unlock their full economic and social potential. Achieving gender equality is at the heart of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and requires strong public-private partnerships that will direct greater flows of financing towards gender equality objectives. We are pleased to partner with BlackRock, a leading global asset manager, to make a real impact and to catalyze global markets to bring gender lens investing to the fore.”

Image
UN Women and Blackrock representatives speaking at the press conference.

Later this year, BlackRock and UN Women will co-host an event, “Scaling Up Gender Lens Investing: Examining the Economic Case,” which will bring together leading institutional investors, policymakers, nonprofits, and academics to discuss how market-based strategies can help improve women’s economic participation and close the gender gap in funding.

About BlackRock

BlackRock’s purpose is to help more and more people experience financial well-being. As a fiduciary to investors and a leading provider of financial technology, BlackRock helps millions of people build savings that serve them throughout their lives by making investing easier and more affordable. For additional information on BlackRock, please visit www.blackrock.com/corporate.

About UN Women

UN Women is the United Nations (UN) organization dedicated to gender equality, and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women works to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. UN Women also coordinates and promotes the UN system’s work in advancing gender equality. For more information on UN Women, please visit www.unwomen.org.

The Nature Lover

International Women’s Day in 2022 celebrates the dedicated women activists who are stepping up to save the planet. UN Women presents their stories of climate courage and environmental action through a collaboration with illustrators across the Europe and Central Asia region. Read and be inspired…

The Nature Lover

Statement from UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous on Ukraine, 30 March

As the war in Ukraine continues to take its toll on women and girls, UN Women reiterates the UN Secretary-General’s urgent call for peace. The war must stop now.

Statement from UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous on Ukraine, 30 March

Since the war began, more than 10 million people have been forced from their homes in search of safety and security. UN Women applauds Ukraine’s neighbours who have already received more than 4 million people.

Women and girls constitute approximately 90 per cent of all those displaced from Ukraine, they are uniquely exposed to gender-specific risks such as trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence and denial of access to essential services and goods. Reports of some of these risks already becoming reality have begun to surface. This demands an urgent gender-intentional response to ensure the specific rights and needs of women and girls are prioritized.

Women’s civil society organizations inside Ukraine and in neighboring countries are uniquely qualified to help meet these needs. The majority of these organizations remain operational, committed to supporting Ukraine’s women and girls, increasingly at the risk of their own lives.

They are providing food and shelter, legal assistance, mental health support, and help for those evacuated and on the move. Supporting these organizations must be a priority. Ensuring safe humanitarian corridors for this work, and for the work of humanitarian agencies is imperative. We echo the UN Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire.

Women’s organizations lie at the heart of UN Women’s response in Ukraine. We have directly allocated immediate funds to women’s civil society organisations, with more to follow, alongside additional funds coming through the United Nations Women, Peace and Humanitarian Fund for which UN Women is the Secretariat.

We are making efforts to ensure that women’s priority needs are addressed, specifically, safety; access to shelters; necessities such as food, medicine, and hygiene products, accommodation, water and access to power and connectivity; and access to livelihoods, including the ability to work and earn an income.

We are conducting rapid gender assessments to ensure that up-to-date data and analysis on the gender dynamics of the war and its impacts are available to all those working on the response. And we are providing experts to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council. Our experts are equipped with the skills and experience to investigate sexual violence, abuse and exploitation of women and girls in the context of war. We invest in this work because our experience has shown that to prevent sexual and gender-based violence, it is imperative to investigate these crimes and hold perpetrators to account against these fundamental abuses of the rights of women and girls.

UN Women remains determined to give all we can of our energies, expertise and resources, alongside our partners within and outside the United Nations family. We use our voice in international political fora to ensure that women’s rights, interest, voices and leadership are fully built into the global response to the war in Ukraine.

UN Women is committed to playing our part to ensure that all women and girls everywhere are protected from the consequences of war, and will take every opportunity to support their resilience and leadership.