Displaying items by tag: Switzerland
Before talking in Geneva relations between the USA and Russia were at rock bottom. After talking, both presidents praised their talks but have made little concrete progress at the first such meeting since 2018. Disagreements were stated, said Joe Biden, but not in a hyperbolic way, and he said Russia did not want a new cold war. Vladimir Putin said Mr Biden was an experienced statesman and the two ‘spoke the same language’. They agreed to begin a dialogue on nuclear arms control and said they would return ambassadors to each other's capitals. However, there was little sign of agreement on cyber-security, Ukraine, or the fate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a penal colony. Mr Biden said there would be ‘devastating consequences’ for Russia if Navalny died in prison. Mr Putin hinted at a possible deal on exchanging prisoners, saying he believed compromises could be found.
US president Joe Biden and Russia's president Vladimir Putin will hold their first summit on 16 June in Geneva, setting the stage for a new chapter in their fraught relationship. The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, seeking to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship. The Kremlin said that Putin and Biden would be discussing ‘issues of strategic stability,’ as well as ‘resolving regional conflicts’ and the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden, making his first international trip as president, will go to Geneva immediately after separate summits with his key Western allies in the G7, NATO, and the EU. To prepare the ground, US secretary of state Antony Blinken and veteran Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met last week in Reykjavik. After their meeting, a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that repairing ties ‘will not be easy’, but he saw ‘a positive signal’.
The World Economic Forum annual meeting of 3,000 of the world's richest and most powerful people took place this week in Davos. One of the speakers was Greta Thunberg, who opened a debate entitled, ‘How to avert a climate apocalypse’. Attendees were not able to avoid climate change, as the theme was ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.’ Meanwhile let us pray for Canadian residents cleaning-up after a monstrous winter storm that brought thirty inches of snow, causing chaos; for Australians dealing with the aftermath of severe thunderstorms, floods and hail the size of golf balls in different areas, while fire weather warnings cover parts of Western Australia; and for tens of thousands living near the restless Philippines volcano ‘recharging’ with fresh magma and toxic gas. The forum is asking all companies in Davos to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Amid growing alarm over accelerating extinctions, a major two-week international conference opened in Geneva on 17 August. 183 member states aim to tighten rules on trade in elephant ivory and other endangered animal and plant species. One million species are now at risk of extinction due to human activities. One of the 56 proposals on the agenda aims to prevent traffickers from passing off illegal elephant ivory as coming from mammoths, by listing the long-extinct mammals as a threatened species and thus subject to regulated trade. White rhinos, the American crocodile, and a range of shark and ray species are also on the agenda, as is the giraffe. The future of biodiversity is at stake, and we have a unique opportunity to change its course. WWF reported that Earth’s animal population has plummeted 60% in 44 years.
Facebook will launch a Swiss-based cryptocurrency and payment system, called Libra, which could ‘reinvent money’. It is a huge political gamble, but the rewards could be enormous. Facebook is asking its 2.5 billion users and government regulators to entrust it with a power that governments jealously protect - access to money. Currently ‘Big Tech’ has become powerful but is not doing enough to protect the privacy of users or put a stop to fake news. Nevertheless it wants to launch a project that could give Silicon Valley the ability to track not just what people say and like but how they spend their money. If Libra overcomes political and regulatory storms and develops trustworthy technology and financial stability, it would attract 1.7 billion people around the world who currently lack access to traditional bank accounts. It is claimed that they could use their smartphone to make payments, as inexpensively as sending a text message.
It is illegal to be anything other than a Muslim in Afghanistan, a tribal society where leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of the tribe. Christians who are discovered may be sent to a psychiatric hospital, on the grounds that no sane person would leave Islam. Baptism is punishable by death. Radical Islamic militants rule in over 40% of the country. If the Swiss government succeeds in deporting an Afghan Christian convert (known as AA), he faces persecution, imprisonment, or death. A religious liberty advocacy group appealed to the European Court of Human Rights on his behalf on 18 October, after the Swiss authorities refused his application for asylum. The Swiss were accused of ‘turning a blind eye to the situation of religious minorities in Afghanistan’.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) boycotted a UN donor conference in Geneva that was seeking to raise £1.2bn for the country. Over 13 million Congolese need humanitarian aid. It is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Aid agencies say 4.5 million people have been forced from their homes by violence, hunger and instability. Tens of thousands of Congolese have sought refuge in western Uganda. DRC is rich in mineral and other resources, but is affected by armed conflicts, corruption and a political crisis. In the past two years, more people have been displaced in DRC than in any other country. Many believe the international community is ignoring the crisis, where two million children are at risk of starvation.
Theresa May’s speech at Davos spoke of the UK as a centre of Artificial Intelligence, stating that in the past few years a new AI startup has been created in the UK every week, and technologies like the internet were developed with a philosophy that connecting us together would improve people’s lives. She said that the UK is developing a digital charter, at the heart of which is a set of principles that the same rights people have offline should be protected online; the internet should remain free, open and accessible; people should understand the rules that apply to them when they are online; personal data should be respected and used appropriately; and protections should be in place to help keep people safe online, especially children.
Experts from Microsoft, Audi and others gathered with UN leaders and academics to debate the pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Geneva. ‘AI is probably the most significant technology we will ever create,’ said Peter Diamandis, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Experts discussed the huge unleashed potential of AI that can heal healthcare, make travel safe, and boost wealth. There is a desire to harness AI for good, but also a stark warning that AI also has the power to harm. Weapons already in service are capable of selecting targets, and there are no technical boundaries to machines making(?) decisions to take a human life. Automation of the battlefield lowers the threshold for the use of deadly force and transparency, meaning that accountability in the use of force is needed to keep these AI tools in check.