19 AUG 2019

Need to Know: Top 10 facts about world humanitarian day

  1. World Humanitarian Day is a United Nations initiative that aims to honor humanitarian efforts worldwide and raise awareness of supporting people in crisis.
  2. In December 2008, the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day.
  3. The date of August 19 was chosen as it marked the anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, in which 22 people lost their lives.
  4. This year’s theme for World Humanitarian Day focuses on “Women Humanitarians” and their contributions to making the world a better place.
  5. Women make up a large number of the world’s humanitarian workers, many of whom are working in difficult conditions, including Afghanistan, South Sudan and Syria, among others.
  6. Globally, more than 7 million children in 2018 were provided with emergency education in more than 20 countries around the world.
  7. The UAE was last year named as the world’s biggest donor of official development assistance (ODA) after contributing a total Dh19.32 billion to humanitarian aid in 2017.
  8. Natural disasters and climate change affect 350 million people on average each year and cause billions of dollars of damage.
  9. In 2018, global humanitarian funding reached a new high of $22 billion, surpassing the $21.5 billion raised in 2017.
  10. According to the UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview 2019, nearly 132 million people in 42 countries around the world will this year need humanitarian assistance, including protection.

Source: United Nations

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15 JAN 2020

The Decade of Energy Transformation Lies Ahead of us

As we enter a new decade, IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera suggests the 2020s will be the golden age of renewables 

The 2010s will be remembered as the decade when renewable energy went from the marginal to the mainstream. Cost reductions and the growing climate crisis have propelled renewable energy sources into the social and political discourse in almost every country on earth. Of all the major power generation technologies – traditional or renewable – solar accounts for the largest share of additional capacity over the last 10 years. 

Encouraging as this progress might be, the hard work is ahead of us. Our actions in the 2020s will define the long-term future of our economies, our people and our planet. Any chance we have of mitigating the climate crisis and achieiving sustainable development by mid-century, lies in the policies, investments and emission reductions made this decade. And this critical period of action begins in Abu Dhabi at the 10th IRENA Assembly during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. 

The 2020s are set to be the decade that redefines our socioeconomic system. If successful, we will have unleashed 10 breathtaking years of energy system transformation putting us well on the way to generating nearly nine tenths of electricity from renewables by 2050. The hard work starts now to ensure that by the end of this decade renewables contribute half of all power generation globally. 

It could also be the decade in which demand for both coal and oil peaks, where we see 157 million electric vehicles on our roads, and when the last person on earth without reliable and affordable access to electricity is enjoying the benefits of its productive uses. It’s possible. To ensure this happens, however, we must urgently address two key things. Investment and policy. 

Planned energy investments are currently misdirected and should pivot to low-carbon technologies. By our calculations more than USD 18 trillion of energy investments by 2050 are fossil fuel related, including exploration and production of gas, oil and coal. At best, these investments risk stranding trillions of dollars of assets in uneconomical fuels in just a few years. At worst, they threaten to blow the world’s carbon budget this decade, and with it any hope of a climate safe future. 

To hold rising temperatures in the 10 years ahead of us, annual investments in renewable energy must rise from today’s USD 330 billion to nearly USD 750 billion per year. Redirecting capital into more socially and economically beneficial low-carbon technologies, is imperative and must start now. It is also the most economic climate action pathway. Inaction will cost up to 7 times more than the capital needed to transform the energy system.

The Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries are taking up the renewable energy race and have everything to gain from moving quickly into a leadership position on future energy. Conservative estimates suggest that by 2030 the region could save more than 350 million barrels of oil equivalent and create close to a quarter of a million new jobs by executing current plans. Solar and wind resources are rich and attractive, and policies have made it cheaper to generate power from renewables than from any other source. Moving from oil, gas pipelines and coal shipments to solar panels and wind turbines strengthens energy security, supports energy independence and builds prosperity for all, not just for the few. 

There is no question we are moving in the right direction. In the last decade renewable power generation capacity has doubled and its growth has consistently outpaced fossil fuels since 2012. A third of global power generation capacity today is renewable. This is the result of investments of around USD 3 trillion over the last 10 years including large hydro. In the decade of transformation ahead of us however, the next three trillion dollars of renewable investments should take around four years. 

Policies must align with the opportunity and reflect the necessity. Under current policies, the peak production of fossil fuels happens somewhere between 2030 and 2035, dramatically out of step with the Paris Agreement which requires a peak in 2020 and a steady, continuous decline from that point. Furthermore, renewable energy targets in nationally determined contributions (NDCs) lag market progress. By 2030 NDCs should target double the amount of renewable capacity, they do today.  

It is no longer a question of direction, but of speed. With policy support, smart investment decision-making and clear recognition of the benefits associated with a renewables-based energy system, the speed of transformation ahead of us could rival the that of any in the post-industrial age. Anything short of this, risks everything.   

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25 SEP 2019

The growing role of space in a sustainable future

Sustainability has always been a fundamental motivation behind our mission to explore life and resources beyond our planet.

The consequences of the environmental challenges Earth is facing are becoming more severe as time goes by. The impact of climate change is already evident in the UAE, the region and in most countries worldwide. As such, contributing to a sustainable future is now more critical than ever both within our country and globally.

The space sector plays a vital role in providing global solutions for the environmental threats facing our planet. These threats include climate change, resource scarcity, desertification, rising sea levels, and an increased frequency and severity of national disasters.

We are already putting space technology to work for the benefit of humanity by forming partnerships to foster innovative technologies, launching satellites to monitor and measure the impact of climate change, and establishing research centres dedicated to advanced sciences.

Today, the accumulated knowledge of more than 50 years of observation provides us with a better understanding of Earth, with improved knowledge of its various components including its atmosphere, land, oceans and ice coverage.[1]

A study conducted by the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) suggests that Earth observation data has a role to play in relation to most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).[2] The United Nations announced 169 targets associated with these goals, 65 of which directly benefit from the use of Earth observation and navigation satellite systems.[3]

Space technologies can be utilised to pinpoint structures for urban planning purposes, apply global navigation satellite systems, Earth observation and satellite telecommunications, improve city services like the smart waste management systems, monitor air quality, manage disasters, monitor infrastructure, and help in search and rescue operations.
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20 AUG 2019

The growing role of space in a sustainable future

Q@&A: We sit down with Manjula Ramakrishnan, the President of SmartLife Foundation, to learn more about the Dubai-based NGO and its humanitarian activities to help low-income workers and their families

Can you tell us more about the SmartLife Foundation?

Licensed by the Community Development Authority in Dubai, the SmartLife Foundation is an NGO that works closely with blue-collar workers living in labor camps to help them improve their potential and quality of their lives by offering them a diverse range of programs.

In our 10 years of operations in Dubai – and still counting – our core philosophy is to devise projects by not sitting in the comfort of our corporate meeting rooms, but by being in their midst – in their labor accommodations – to learn about their requirements and to devise relevant programs that will help them.
What issues did you identify as the most urgent for the blue-collar workers?

We discovered that financial and old-age planning were not a priority for many blue-collar workers, even after working for 20 or more years in the Gulf. To help the workers with planning for their retirement, we started our SmartElder program to help steer them towards a healthy and robust retirement. Our volunteers guide the workers on a range of topics, such as how to deal with old-age problems and manage their finances when they return home.

What initiatives do you have to help women?

When we learnt that there were very few women-centric projects for blue-collar ladies in the UAE, we launched SmartWoman. Here, women can learn new hobbies, discover their creativity and engage with others in a relaxing atmosphere. The idea behind this project is to enable women to use their spare time creatively and productively, thus keeping negative thoughts, if any, at bay.

Do you have a youth program? 

Yes, we do. Our SmartBuddy project uses a “buddy” system to encourage students to inspire and motivate each other. The program pairs a “Dubai buddy” with a “native buddy” (students in their own countries). The students are paired together based on the same gender, language and age group.  The buddies are supervised by our adult SmartLife volunteers who act as mentors. 

 
What other programs do you offer?

One of our flagship projects is the SmartReading program, which is in line with the reading initiative of the Dubai government and helps semi-literate workers to enjoy the pleasures of reading. Our SmartReading program also aligns with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4, which focuses on offering inclusive and quality education, and promoting lifelong opportunities for all. The initiative helps to build confidence with English communication and reading skills, and about 1,500 blue-collar workers have so far “graduated” from the program and now feel confident when interacting in basic, simple English.

We have a dozen active projects, including SmartIdol, which is a fun platform for the blue-collar workforce to showcase their talents in singing, dancing and playing musical instruments. We help to train them and hone their skills in the best academy in Dubai and then give them a stage to perform to a larger audience. Other projects include SmartMedic, which offers periodic health check-ups and addresses wellness in workers.  This is in alignment with SDG Goal #3, which ensures good health and well-being for people of all ages. SmartCup is a cricket tournament where blue and white-collar workers are part of the same team vying for the coveted trophy. SmartFitness helps workers to stay fit in fun ways with zumba dancing, skipping and running, while SmartRelaxation deals with anger management, de-stressing and breathing techniques coupled with light yoga and meditation.


Where do you get your inspiration for the projects?

We work in conjunction with the Federal Government’s initiatives. A case in point is SmartReading. This started in 2016 as part of the Year of Reading; when The Year of Zayed was announced in 2018, we worked on promoting the core philosophies of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE. This year, 2019, is the Year of Tolerance, and we are delighted to confirm that each and every project of SmartLife is about inclusiveness, having the maximum number of nationalities on board – both as beneficiaries and as volunteers.


What does the future hold for SmartLife Foundation?

Not an NGO to rest on our past laurels, we are in the process of initiating a social impact audit to gauge where further improvement and value add-on can be brought in. The journey therefore continues, for service to humanity knows no finish line. SmartLife functions with a sizeable pool of volunteers who are united in their mission to give back to society and to derive immeasurable joy from the very act of giving.

By Manjula Ramakrishnan / President of SmartLife Foundation