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Hello, this is Michelle and today we hear rights groups call for a global plastics treaty as two rival proposals threaten to derail efforts for a tough agreement only a little over two months before the start of negotiations.

And we travel to Sierra Leone to learn about a new initiative that seeks to bring UN treaty bodies from Geneva to the field, to better understand countries most pressing rights issues and enable states to fulfil their international rights obligations.

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

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Plastic bottles. (Credit: Pixabay)

👇👆Tug of war on plastics. With global talks for a plastics treaty just around the corner, over 600 rights organisations have urged states to strike a deal to tackle the health and environmental impacts of plastic pollution. However, a recent proposal by Japan for a less ambitious agreement than what has been proposed until now by Peru and Rwanda could derail efforts.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

🇺🇳Bringing UN treaty bodies to the field. The United Nations’ treaty bodies are the so-called guardians of the world’s human rights treaties. But the 50 year-old system has been hampered by challenges and inefficiencies, sparking calls for reform and several reviews by the UN into how to make it more effective. A new pilot project hopes to address this.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Here's what else is happening

Science and diplomacy reads by GESDA

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(Credit: Vectors Point/The Noun Project)

Implanting microchips in people’s brains to establish a permanent connection between the living organ and a computer, or a robotic tool: That is what tech mogul Elon Musk promised on 7 December to do next year, through his Neuralink technology, as the Daily Mail explains. In April, Neuralink showed off its brain chip in a monkey, which allowed the animal to play a game of Pong using only its mind.

This article comes as another report (read below) says that “time is running out to regulate neurotechnology. Headbands for scanning brain activity are already on sale to the public. But regulations for how such products should be used are lacking”.

Promises have a long history in making science fantastic – or not, as an expert in the field told me a few years ago in an in-depth interview for Le Temps. Marc Audétat, from University of Lausanne, summed it up: “Excessive promises and one-upmanship lead to decisions that are more political than scientific, to misplaced hopes; they do not illuminate the vision of the possibilities offered by the state of the art, they obscure it.” So, I always take such news sceptically, especially as Musk isn’t the first one to try this.

Still, with neurotechnologies, and largely beyond the billionaire’s announcements, the field is moving tremendously fast, as a session at the recent Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipation Summit underlined. And it now becomes urgent to act: “Two years on from the world’s first official ethical recommendations for mind-reading technology, experts in the field worry that the industry is still an unregulated Wild West, with the risk that will go down the same privacy-invading, manipulative path taken by social media, eventually triggering a public ‘techlash’,” writes Science|Business.

Olivier Dessibourg, GESDA


Time is running out to regulate neurotechnology. Headbands for scanning brain activity are already on sale to the public, but regulations for how such products should be used are lacking.

Science|Business (EN)

Panel calls for $2.5bn in ocean geoengineering research. Technologies to store carbon in the ocean would stave off climate change, but studies needed to understand their consequences.

Science (EN)

Quantum computing nears a quantum leap. A new class of powerful computers is on the brink of doing something important: actual useful work.

Axios (EN)

These maps reveal the profound progress and peril of modern civilization. In the project “Terra Incognita: 100 Maps to Survive the Next 100 Years”, scientists use maps to explain the multi-faceted impacts of our modern civilization.

Singularity Hub (EN)

Community of ethical hackers needed to prevent AI's looming 'crisis of trust', experts argue. This is one of the recommendations made by an international team of risk and machine-learning experts.

TechXplore (EN)

The UN must get on with appointing its new science board. The decision to appoint a board of advisors is welcome – and urgent, given the twin challenges of Covid and climate change.

Nature (EN)

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This selection is proposed by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator GESDA, working on anticipating cutting-edge science and technological advances to develop innovative and inclusive solutions for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants.

GS news is a new media project covering the world of international cooperation and development. Don’t hesitate to forward our newsletter!

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