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Good morning, Michelle here. As key trade talks get postponed until March of next year, delegates are left wondering what will happen with negotiations on major issues including fishing subsidies and vaccine rights waivers.

We also get the latest news on the spiralling crisis in Afghanistan as people are left without pay, banks remain closed and prices spike. Plus, at Building Bridges in Geneva this week, Roche vice president André Hoffmann tells the finance audience why net zero is not enough.

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

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The postponement of the WTO ministerial meeting has many worried that important discussions on issues like intellectual rights over Covid vaccines could suffer. (Credit: Pixabay)

🛑 Fret over trade talks uncertainty. The last minute postponement of the World Trade Organization’s major meeting has dealt a blow to hopes that negotiators would finally agree on thorny issues like fishing subsidies and vaccine rights. The WTO has proposed to move the in-person ministerial to March 2022, but delegates are worried that negotiations that were already struggling to make progress will be further stalled.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

⌛ Afghanistan ‘on a countdown to catastrophe’, says UN. Covid-19 and the ongoing conflict had already pushed millions of Afghans out of work and into poverty long before the Taliban takeover. But under the new regime, cash shortages, rapid inflation and the non-payment of salaries have left millions more destitute. Humanitarian organisations are calling for more funding to be released.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Here's what else is happening

Image of the day

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Accelerate2030 dinner in Geneva on Tuesday co-hosted by the International Affairs Directorate, Republic and State of Geneva, and Impact Hub Geneva. (Credit: Kasmira Jefford)

Seed-dropping drones that can reforest vast tracks of land; a coral reef-safe sunscreen made from agricultural waste; an app that tracks air pollution; and a pharmaceutical platform seeking to make medicines more afforable and accessible in Africa. Entrepreneurs from 15 young impact companies from across the world landed in Geneva this week to take part in events at Building Bridges – and make some connections – as part of the Accelerate2030 programme. An initiative of Impact Hub and UNDP, the programme aims to scale entrepreneurial solutions towards the SDGs.

Accelerate2030 (EN)

Science & diplomacy reads by GESDA

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(Credit: Pixabay)

Aged now three, how are Lulu and Nana? You might recall the outburst in late November 2018, when Chinese geneticist He Jiankui announced he had successfully edited the genome inside the embryos of two twin girls with the Crispr-Cas9 “genetic surgery” method, in order to protect them from being possibly infected by the HIV virus. This breakthrough – which, like it or not, at the time put China on the science map as the country where this first took place – was widely condemned.

Since then, more strongly than before, the issue of governance on human genome editing comes back again and again, as an excellent article in PNAS sums up: “Since 2015, more than 60 statements, declarations, and other codes of practice have been published by international organisations and scientific institutions. [...] But although most of the opinions, guidelines, and issues discussed are noteworthy and defensible, their effectiveness in guiding global governance is limited. Genome editing technology has grown too quickly, and stakeholders in the debate are too diverse, for current approaches to establish a robust, credible, and lasting regulatory regime. We need to acknowledge and account for very different points of view from researchers and regions around the world.” In other words, is it still possible to edict governance in that field, especially as scientists move at a fast pace towards further advances? As nicely framed in two New York Times articles last week, researchers can not only do “genetic surgery” with Crispr “scissors” (i.e. modifying a gene by extracting or adding specific DNA parts, as was done on Nana and Lulu), they can also design from scratch and mass-produce genetic material and cell parts. This field, known as “synthetic biology”, is extremely promising: “In the search for the proverbial next big thing over the next 20 years, synthetic biology is a prime candidate,” writes the New York Times.

In the meantime, Nana and Lulu are growing up. With the scientists still discussing about the pros and cons of the Crispr-Cas9 technology, as concludes a very interesting article in Nature Biotechnology (read below): “Given the differing reports on the extent of medical monitoring of the children, the incomplete assessment of the genetic changes that were introduced into them and the widely differing viewpoints on the potential impact of these edits on their physical and mental health, it’s hard to know what lies ahead for the girls. [...] It’s certainly no way ‘to start life’.”

Olivier Dessibourg, GESDA

The CRISPR children. In China, the first children with germline-edited genomes are growing up. How might their edited genomes affect their lives?

Nature Biotechnology (EN)

Can a digital reality be jacked directly into your brain? The idea of a synthetic experience uploaded to the mind has been a sci-fi fantasy. Not any more.


Our AI Odyssey. The powerful effects of the technology are already being felt in many fields, but it also presents significant risks that are best addressed sooner rather than later.

Project Syndicate (EN)

How to make a carbon club work. The Canadian system is a promising – and politically palatable – prototype for other large emitters.

Foreign Policy (EN)

China’s space programme will go nuclear, to power future missions to the moon and Mars.

South China Morning Post (EN)

Will the future of the internet be voice? Proposing a World Wide Voice Web.

HAI Stanford University (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.

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