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The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.

By Naureen Hossain
UN Live’s CEO Katja Iversen at the launch of ‘Sounds Right’. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS
UN Live’s CEO Katja Iversen at the launch of ‘Sounds Right’. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS

NEW YORK, Apr 22 2024 (IPS) - UN Live’s CEO, Katja Iversen, says the way to engage people in the environment is through popular culture—film, music, gaming, sports, food, and fashion. She is excited about the Sounds Right project, which puts the sounds of nature—bird songs, waves, wind, and rainfall—at the center of a campaign to support those involved in climate action.

In an exclusive interview with IPS, Iversen shares the motivation behind this innovative project.

The Sounds Right initiative was officially launched on April 18. It established NATURE as an official artist, eligible to earn royalties. Music fans were invited to support nature conservation by listening to NATURE’s recordings or tracks with musicians. This initiative was developed and delivered by the Museum for the United Nations (UN Live) and a broad range of partners in the music and environmental sectors.

IPS: How was the Sounds Right initiative conceived? What is the significance of recognizing NATURE in the same way that we recognize and reward musical artists through royalties?

Katja Iversen: The “Sounds Right” initiative was conceived as a global music movement to prompt conversations about the value of nature, raise innovative financing for conservation, and inspire millions of fans to take action.

The original idea came out of a project called VozTerra in Colombia, which the Museum for the United Nations—UN Live helped initiate. The initiative, as it looks today, has been developed by UN Live in close partnership with musicians, creatives, and nature sound recordists, as well as environmental, campaigning, and global advocacy organizations and VozTerra.

The significance of the initiative is that it treats NATURE as the artist she truly is and nature’s sounds—such as bird songs, waves, wind, and rainfall—as artistic works deserving of royalty payment. It leverages the power of music to connect fans with nature by having artists feature natural sounds in new and existing tracks.

It is going to be really big. To test things out, NATURE was discretely established as an official artist two weeks ago on various streaming platforms, including with some pure nature sounds. As of today, on Spotify alone, NATURE is in the top 10 percent of artists, with over 500k monthly listeners and almost 5 million streams—even before the initiative is officially launched and a playlist with artists featuring nature tracks goes online.

IPS: How was the Museum for the UN—UN Live able to bring together artists, music executives, and environmental groups for this initiative?

Iversen: The Museum for the UN—UN Live, together with EarthPercent, has organized the collaboration between artists, music executives, and environmental groups by leveraging our unique position at the intersection of culture, sustainable development, and diplomacy. We, at UN Live, have a track record of engaging very diverse communities in innovative cultural programmes, and we were able to draw on our extensive networks and entrepreneurial skills to bring together a broad variety of groups around a great idea.

It is a truly unique coalition of partners, including EarthPercent, AKQA, Hempel Foundation, Dalberg, Count Us In, VozTerra, Axum, Music Declares Emergency, Earthrise, Eleutheria Group, The Listening Planet, Biophonica, Community Arts Network, Limbo Music, LD Communications, No. 29, and Rare.  We developed the initiative in consultation with the UN Department of Global Communications, and we’ve also joined forces with The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, APCO, Riky Rick Foundation, AWorld x ActNow and others to reach the many millions of people.

Sounds Right poster.

Sounds Right poster.

IPS: How do you foresee artists and environmental groups from developing countries connecting with this initiative now and in the future?
Iversen: We are very serious about this not being a Global North undertaking. Recognizing that the global majority is often at the forefront of experiencing the impacts of loss of biodiversity and climate change while living in some of the world’s most important ecosystems, this is also where the solutions and the most important voices are found—both the voices of humans and nature. Of the first group of 16 artists on the first Feat Nature playlist, there are musicians from Venezuela, Colombia, Kenya, India, and Indonesia. And on future compilations, more will come.

Just imagine that as NATURE the artist grows and grows, more and more musicians will want to collaborate and feature nature in their music. We are looking forward to working with musicians from across the globe and will, in time, potentially also develop special releases focused on certain geographies, issues, or groups.

The funds raised will be distributed under the guidance of the Sounds Right Expert Advisory Panel, a group of world-leading biologists, environmental activists, representatives of Indigenous Peoples, and experts in conservation funding. The majority of the experts are from the global majority.

IPS: How does ‘Sounds Right’ go toward serving the SDGs?

Iversen: Well, we are the Museum for the United Nations, and we are here to rally the world around the work, values, and goals of the United Nations, so naturally Sounds Right is also aligned with the SDGs.

More particularly, it aligns with the goals related to life on land (SDG 15) and underwater (SDG 14) by funding conservation projects through royalties collected from nature-based recordings. Additionally, by raising awareness and fostering an appreciation for the environment through music, the initiative supports SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals) and also justice.

Importantly, Sounds Right is an example of the power of popular culture and exemplifies how creative industries and popular culture platforms can contribute to achieving the SDGs, including by merging artistic expression with environmental activism.

IPS: How does the Museum for the UN—UN Live leverage culture to promote the SDGs?

Iversen: If we could solve the world’s problems and achieve the SDGs with data, facts, figures, and reports alone, it would have been done. What we also need is to work with culture, norms, opinions, feelings, and hearts. We know that popular culture—film, music, gaming, sports, food, fashion—affects people’s opinions, norms, and actions. So if we really want to change and if we want to reach the many, we go to where the many are. It’s in their earbuds, it’s on their phones, it’s on their screens, and it’s on their sports fields. That’s where you hit both the head and the heart.

That’s what we need, in addition to the facts and the figures. U.N. Live worked with popular culture, unleashed the power of popular culture to reach many people—millions and billions of people—because they use popular culture. So we have to go where the people are with the messages they can understand and the actions they want to take.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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By External Source
Taliban's decree imposes radio ban on Afghan women, further restricting media freedoms. Credit: Learning Together.
Taliban's decree imposes radio ban on Afghan women, further restricting media freedoms. Credit: Learning Together.

Apr 22 2024 (IPS) - Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in 2021, the space for women in the public sphere has significantly narrowed, with successive orders further restricting their presence in various sectors, including the media.

The Taliban have recently decreed that women’s voices should no longer be broadcast on radio in four provinces – Khost, Logar, Helmand, and Paktia.

Women and men must stay separate from each other in media houses, and women are even banned from calling radio stations during social discussion programmes to seek solutions to their problems.

The radio stations are constantly monitored by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue, even where there are no male workers, says Halima, a presenter in one of the radio stations. “Every time they come, they warn us not to laugh and not to joke in the programmes because it is a great sin”, she says.

“We used to have four and a half thousand female journalists and media workers in Afghanistan”, says Ahmad (name withheld), a media activist, “but unfortunately, due to the recent political developments, the imposition of restrictions, and the lack of economic opportunities, many female journalists lost their jobs”. Last year a substantial 87 per cent of female journalists left the industry.

In the eastern provinces, Ahmad says, the Taliban do not allow women’s voices to be broadcast on the radio, while in the Southern provinces, journalists are not allowed to take photos because, to the Taliban it is a great sin.

At the end of February the Afghan Centre for Journalists sent out information to media outlets, according to which, Mohammad Khaled Hanafi, Acting Minister for the Promotion of Virtue warned that women would be banned entirely from working in the media if they show their faces on television or in interviews. A representative for the Ministry was reported brandishing sample pictures of appropriately dressed women with only two eyes peering from behind a hijab.

Female workers now manage only seven media houses. Two of these are in Badakshan one in Balkh, one in Farah one in Herat and two in Kabul – all of these face a huge number of challenges. Although most of these media houses are symbolically run in the name of women, but the important work and decision-making of media are in the hands of men.

In Helmand Province, women are banned entirely from appearing on television, neither should their voices be heard on radio. According to the local newspaper Hasht Sobh, Abdul Rashid Omari, the Taliban security commander in Khost province, has warned local media officials in an official letter that they would be prosecuted if they allow girls or women make phone call to radio stations.

“Some private radio stations in Khost promote moral corruption, a good example of which is broadcasting school lessons or social programs in which many girls participate” the letter states. Adding further, “By abusing these educational and social programs, girls make illegitimate phone calls with the organizers of the programs during the official and unofficial time, which, on the one hand, leads the society to moral corruption and, on the other hand, against Islamic standards”

There is not much space left for the media in Afghanistan, complains Frishta (name withheld). It is even hard for them to breath, but despite all of those restrictions, she continues to work.

“It is true that I am in charge of the radio station, but I can never make important decisions on its operations. The owner of the radio, who is a man, always makes the decisions. I produce the programs according to his guidelines and orders,” says Frishta.

But, the reason why Frishta perseveres is that a few international organizations provide financial support for women’s work in radio and television, and the money is much needed. Among them are United Nations agencies, UNICEF and UNESCO, which support 28 regional or local radio stations across the country in the publication of humanitarian information and training programmes. Also, an EU-funded project,”Support to Afghan Media Resilience to Foster Peace and Security”, has assisted several women’s radio stations produce education, cultural and news programmes.

Besides the increasingly diminishing space for women in the media, the Taliban are clamping down the media in every other way. For instance, Youssef Bawar (name changed), one of the reporters in the Eastern Zone, says journalists of Persian language external broadcasts, such as Afghanistan International TV and AMU TV, cannot work openly inside Afghanistan. If found, they will be arrested and tortured. The Taliban Department of Information and Culture in Nangarhar Province last year, warned journalists that those who criticize the Taliban have no right to complain if they are arrested and treated in whatever way.

According to Yousef Bawar, foreign journalists coming to report on Afghanistan must obtain permission from the Taliban Department of Information and Culture. Once they are inside the country, a member of the Taliban will accompany them around in order to prevent them saying anything negative about the Taliban rule. The Taliban do not disclose charges brought against foreign reporters.

Yalda (not real name) is a journalist who worked as a journalist for seven years but could no longer stand the conditions anymore and left the profession. According to Yalda, the Taliban would come to their office several times a month, inspect their work and ask managers why they are working with women.

“Many times, they warned our manager that if male and female colleagues were seen together, then we wouldn’t have the right to complain about whatever happened to them”, she says.

“The media are not allowed to produce critical reports about the lack of facilities or services in the educational or health sectors in general. They are not allowed to criticize the government, and most of the media’s programs focus on the achievements publicised by the Taliban,” Yalda says.

The fall of the Republic created an adverse impact on the media in Afghanistan and many media outlets closed down and many journalists became unemployed. Previously there were 438 radio stations, but that has now been reduced to only 211; the number of newspapers has fallen from 91 to 13. Afghanistan’s 248 television channels have now been whittled down to just 68 since the Taliban took power three years ago.

Yet the few media outlets that are left still face great difficulties along with the disappearance of female journalists. They are bedevilled with lack of timely access to information, lack of programming support and above all, direct media censorship.

The return of the Taliban has brought about immense challenges across all sectors, but perhaps none as profound as the stifling of media freedom and the suppression of journalists’ voices.

Excerpt:

The author is an Afghanistan-based female journalist, trained with Finnish support before the Taliban take-over. Her identity is withheld for security reasons

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By Naureen Hossain
At the Sounds Right launch were Cathy Runciman, CEO, EarthPercent, AURORA, Martyn Stewart, and Louis VI. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS
At the Sounds Right launch were Cathy Runciman, CEO, EarthPercent, AURORA, Martyn Stewart, and Louis VI. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS

NEW YORK, Apr 22 2024 (IPS) - Spearheaded by the Museum for the United Nations, a new campaign brings together music and ecology to spark people’s interest and engagement in environmental conservation through consciously listening to music.

On April 18, 2024, the Museum for the United Nations—UN Live, along with its partners, officially launched Sounds Right, a global initiative that recognizes nature’s contributions to music with the purpose of increasing conservation funding for the environment.

The Sounds Right initiative brings together environmental groups, nature sound libraries, and members of the global music industry to bring attention to the environment and encourage collaboration through music. Through this campaign, nature is now recognized as a verified artist, with a stage name to boot: NATURE. On major streaming platforms such as Spotify, NATURE has its own profile and includes several audio tracks under its ‘name.’. Already to NATURE’s name are recordings of the sounds of nature around the world, from rainstorms to bird calls to nocturnal activity.

Sounds Right poster.

Sounds Right poster.

What further distinguishes this campaign is that musicians can include NATURE as a featured artist, through which NATURE earns royalties. Artists from different parts of the world, including India, the UK, Colombia, Norway, Denmark, Kenya, and the US, have already joined Sounds Right. As part of the campaign’s launch, these artists released new songs or remixes featuring NATURE, wherein the songs include nature sounds. So far, fifteen songs have been released ‘feat. NATURE’, and are available on Spotify, with the promise of more releases to come throughout 2024.Through these outputs, NATURE is able to earn royalties for their contribution when people listen to these verified tracks on streaming sites like Spotify.

“So far as we know, Sounds Right is unique in its approach to making NATURE an official artist whose royalties are donated to conservation initiatives,” said UN Live’s Global Lead Programmer, Sounds Right, Gabriel Smales. He confirmed that NATURE tracks are also available on other music streaming platforms such as Apple Music, YouTube Music, Soundcloud, and Deezer. There is also interest in making NATURE tracks accessible through streaming services in countries in the Global South, such as India’s JioSaavn. It’s been projected that Sounds Right will make USD 40 million through royalties, with 600 million active listeners over the next four years.

The distribution of royalties, or fund management, will be overseen by one of UN Live’s partners, EarthPercent. The US- and UK-based charity brings together artists and members of the music industry to pledge a small portion of their income to climate causes.

According to their CEO, Cathy Runciman, they, along with UN Live, formed an expert advisory panel for Sounds Right’s conservation fund, which includes environmental activists, conservation scientists, and indigenous rights leaders. The panel will review and advise on grant applications that are received and determine whether they meet the impact model that they’ve determined. At present, the conservation fund will go towards addressing biodiversity loss in key biodiversity areas in India, the Philippines, Madagascar, and the Indian Ocean Islands. 

According to Runciman, through the pure nature sounds, 70% of royalties will go towards the conservation fund, with 30% going towards the two sound partners that have collected and shared the sounds: VozTerra and the Listening Planet. These non-profit groups will use their shares to continue to make recordings. In the case of music tracks and remixes, royalties will be split evenly by 50 percent between the musician and the conservation fund at minimum. As Runciman told IPS, this is an example of the company’s passionate belief that artists need to earn a living from their work.

“At EarthPercent, we’ve always felt that these two things go hand in hand. The absolute win-win situation is that artists should be successful and earn a living in order to create more art because otherwise we have no music,” she said. “The other participant in the world of music, who should be a stakeholder, is the planet. In this case, particularly ‘nature.’ We are working to fund nature’s restoration and protection…Artists need just compensation for the work that they do. Without artists being fully paid, we will have no music. Sounds Right couldn’t exist.”

It was through EarthPercent that several musicians who have released tracks for this campaign were first brought on to join Sounds Right. Musicians present at the launch event told IPS that they were already working with EarthPercent when they learned of Sounds Right and were invited to contribute their music to the initiative.

UK rapper Louis VI has previously used his music to talk about climate change and biodiversity loss, giving a platform to the narrative of the Black and Brown diaspora worldwide. “Let’s be honest; for us to move forward to a more livable future where nature is at the heart of it, we need all the narratives,” he said. “I felt like music was so well placed to put that at the forefront. So to have Sounds Right making that official was so special.”

Norway-based artist AURORA remarked that Sounds Right allowed for a meeting of the brain, the heart, and the soul. In other words, the logic of science, finance, and philanthropy was combining with the emotional resonance that is brought on through music to bring the Sounds Right initiative forward. Speaking of her own experience with bringing nature to her music, she told IPS: “I’ve been working for and breathing for Mother Earth because I grew up with her around me and only her around me, so it was easy for me to understand her beauty. I know that the world doesn’t necessarily have that access to see her beauty so clearly, so naturally in your core.”

As an affiliate organization of the UN, the Museum for the UN—UN Live’s mandate involves generating progress against the SDGs and adhering to the mission values of the UN, which they achieve through mass culture campaigns. Smales explained to IPS in the case of Sounds Right, their programs typically involve three factors: the science or social cause that needs attention (biodiversity loss), a cultural genre through which the message could be carried to people (music), and finally, a scaling platform that can engage people (music streaming platforms).

Through employing popular culture to advance the UN’s mission values and the SDGs, UN Live is able to reach people and take risks on creative ventures not often seen in bigger organizations. For the average music fan, the act of listening to music can now have a direct impact on protecting the environment. Sounds Right also has the potential to empower musicians to use their work to raise awareness. The initiative has taken steps towards raising up the voices and perspectives of musicians from the Global South, particularly in countries that will suffer disproportionately from climate change and biodiversity loss.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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By Kaveh Zahedi
Bananas encased in plastic bags to protect them from insect and parasitic infestation. Credit: FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri
Bananas encased in plastic bags to protect them from insect and parasitic infestation. Credit: FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

ROME, Apr 22 2024 (IPS) - There is a growing wave of plastics, smothering our countryside and lapping at our shores.

Studies have shown we are breathing microplastics, eating microplastics, drinking microplastics, and picking them up through skin contact. Evidence is mounting that they can pose a potential threat to food safety and human health.

Scientists have found microplastics in the gut, human heart tissue and blood. They’ve been detected in breast milk, placentas, and developing brains. There is currently research suggesting that microplastics, a complex mix of chemicals, leach chemical compounds during cooking processes.

Agriculture is a large contributor to this wave. There were 12.5 million tonnes of plastic used in crop and livestock production in 2019 and 37.3 million tonnes in food packaging.

There were 12.5 million tonnes of plastic used in crop and livestock production in 2019 and 37.3 million tonnes in food packaging. Bringing crops and meat from field to fork accounts for 10 million tonnes of plastic every year, followed by fisheries and aquaculture with 2.1 million tonnes and forestry with 0.2 million tonnes, FAO estimates

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that bringing crops and meat from field to fork accounts for 10 million tonnes of plastic every year, followed by fisheries and aquaculture with 2.1 million tonnes and forestry with 0.2 million tonnes.

In the short term, materials like plastic mulch film on farms are relatively low cost and help improve yields and profits. But once they’re abandoned or lost, the plastic breaks down into microscopic pieces, which pollute soil and water supplies and habitats, and reduce productivity and food security in the long term.

Urgent action is needed – crossing national boundaries and sectors – by governments, producers, farmers, and individual consumers too.

The international community is suiting up for the plastics challenge. The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution could reach a conclusion by 2025. At the same time FAO members are considering means to promote sustainable use and management of plastics in agriculture for stakeholders across the agrifood value chain.

The FAO has also just begun executing a project in Uruguay and Kenya, as part of the Financing Agrochemical Reduction and Management Programme.

Led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the USD379 million initiative aims to develop legal and financial frameworks in seven pilot countries in all, to help farmers phase out pesticides and plastics and adopt better practices.

Developers forecast the five-year programme will prevent the release of more than 20,000 tons of plastic waste, avoid 35,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and protect more than 3 million hectares of land from degradation.

The FAO promotes a variety of solutions to the plastic pollution problem, based on the principles of a circular economy.

Depending on the context, these include adopting agricultural practices that avoid the use of problematic plastics; substituting natural, biodegradable, or compostable alternatives; reusing plastic products if there are no harmful contaminants; establishing mandatory schemes for collecting waste and establishing financial incentives to drive behaviour change from production to consumption.

One thing is important. The solutions must not stop at national borders but overlap across agricultural sectors. We need the global framework provided by the legally binding global plastic pollution agreement and the specific details of best practices in the agriculture sector too.

But importantly we must begin now. Everyone must play a part. Plastic pollution in agriculture is a global problem that requires urgent action at every link in the production chain – from governments to farmers, plastics producers to grass roots users and consumers.

We are no strangers to a challenge such as this. The world united on behalf of the ozone layer and won. It is recovering. It’s time to suit up again and employ all the means at our disposal, try as many of the suggested solutions as possible, to slow down and disperse this ever-growing wave. Our health depends on it.

Excerpt:

Kaveh Zahedi is the Director of the Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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By Hafez Ghanem

PARIS, Apr 22 2024 (IPS) - The world is facing multiple crises that must be tackled quickly, with innovative approaches and brave decisions. The global financial architecture is an area that needs reform and thinking outside the box. The system created 80 years ago is not able to deal with today’s problems that range from climate change to pandemics, to increasing inequality, to conflict and fragility, to food insecurity and poverty.

Hafez Ghanem

The climate battle is being lost and the world is failing to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of maintaining global warming at below 1.5°C. It is also off track for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement as well as the SDGs, the whole world (especially EMDEs) will need to accelerate investments for climate and for development. This represents a huge financing challenge for EMDEs (excluding China). According to the Independent High Level Expert Group on Climate Finance they will need to invest $2.4 trillion a year by 2030 just for climate action, with total investments being around $5.4 trillion of which $1trillion will have to be externally financed.

The current global financial architecture is not delivering for the EMDEs: official development assistance (ODA) is too low, net private capital flows are negative, and EMDEs are facing debt sustainability problems. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ODA in 2022 was $204 billion, nowhere near the trillion that is needed. Moreover, the $204 billion figure includes in-donor refugee costs of $29.3 billion and assistance to Ukraine of $16.1 billion. That is, actual ODA to the EMDEs, the so-called country programmable aid, was much less than $200 billion. At the same time, private capital is leaving EMDEs. Calculations by Kharas and Rivard (2024) show that in 2022 net private capital flows to EMDEs was minus $125 billion and that negative figure increased to minus $193 billion in 2023. This is happening in the face of rising sovereign debt problems. According to the World Bank about half of the world’s poorest countries are either in debt distress or are at high risk of debt distress. In some countries debt service costs are higher than the budgets for health and education.

In view of this situation the United Nation’s Secretary General, (SG) (as well as many voices in the Global South) is calling for reforms of multilateralism including the global financial architecture. The UN is organizing a Summit of the Future in September 2024 to discuss possible reforms and has issued a report entitled our Common Agenda with a companion policy brief on reforms of the global financial architecture. The Global Economy program at the Brookings Institution organized a series of roundtables to discuss the UN proposals, and issued its own report with a series of recommendations for reforming the global financial architecture. The recommendations cover: (1) the system’s governance, (2) increasing financing for climate and development and dealing with unsustainable debt; (3) expanding the global financial safety net; and (4) reforming the international tax system. In the remainder in this blog, I shall summarize some of the recommendations pertaining to increasing financing for climate and the SDGs.

The first set of reforms to be considered concern increasing the lending capacity of the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). The G20 has been very active in this area and has supported several studies, the most recent ones are: a 2022 independent review of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) capital adequacy frameworks (CAF); a 2023 report on further MDBs reforms titled “The Triple Agenda”; and finally also in 2023 a Roadmap for the Implementation of the CAF Report. Implementation of the recommendations on the capital adequacy frameworks would increase MDBs lending capacity by $196.5 billion and are on the road to implementation. In addition to those reforms, it will be necessary to increase the capital of the MDBs.

The G20 has called for a recycling of $100 billion equivalent of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to EMDEs through the MDBs. In 2021 the Fund injected $650 billion worth of SDRs into the world economy to help countries deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic. Countries received SDRs in proportion to their IMF quotas. Thus, according to Georgieva et al (2023) rich countries, who already had sufficient reserves received $350 billions of additional liquidity which they did not need ;and therefore it sits “dormant”. An initial recycling of SDRs has occurred through the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) and the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST). But so far, no recycling has been done through the MDBs; even though (unlike the PRGT and the RST) the MDBs are able to leverage the recycled SDRs. Using the ratios in the G20’s Triple Agenda Report recycling $100 billion of SDRs as hybrid MDB capital would raise a total of $1.5 trillion of additional financing, $700 billion in direct lending and $800 billion in indirect private financing.

Increasing the lending capacity of the MDBs is important but will not be enough to meet all the financing requirements for climate action. There is a need to distinguish between climate investments that are national public goods (adaptation and loss and damage estimated to require $600 billion/year) that are also mostly financed by public resources; and mitigation which is a global public good that should be mostly financed by the private sector. Mitigation is estimated to require about $1.8 trillion/year; about 1.5 trillion for the energy transition and $300 billion for agriculture and natural capital. The existing system of MDBs could handle adaptation and loss and damage. But, as suggested by Ghanem (2023) a new institution, a Green Bank, which could be completely independent or could be part of the World Bank Group, is needed to finance mitigation. Green Bank would be different from existing MDBs because it would be a public-private partnership with private shareholders participating in its funding and governance. Moreover, it would only finance (through equity and loans) private sector climate mitigation projects.

There are many proposed reforms of the global financial architecture that are being discussed and debated. In this short blog I chose to focus on those that aim at increasing the system’s ability to finance climate and development. These are key challenges that currently the international financial system appears unable to adequately address. Among the reforms presented here there is a consensus on the need to implement the CAF recommendations and they appear on their way. There is still resistance to the idea of recycling “dormant” SDRs through the MDBs and a decision on this issue has been postponed several times. The Green Bank proposal has not yet gained much traction as many people worry about the creation of another international organization. I would like to point out, though, that there are currently 62 multilateral climate funds that are only disbursing 3-4 billion dollars a year and that are not well coordinated. It would make sense to close most of those funds and replace them by one Green Bank that could mobilize private support and the trillions needed and be accountable for results.

Hafez Ghanem, a former World Bank Vice President for Africa, is a non-resident senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution and senior fellow at the Policy Centre for the New South.

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By Felix Dodds and Chris Spence
Credit: United Nations
 
With current UN Secretary-General António Guterres set to step down in 2026, who is in the running to replace him? In this seven-part series, Felix Dodds and Chris Spence reveal who might be nominated and assess their chances.
 
The potential candidates include Amina J. Mohammed (Nigeria), Mia Motley (Barbados), Alicia Barcena (Mexico), Maria Fernanda Espinosa (Ecuador), Rebeca Grynspan (Costa Rica) and Michelle Bachelet (Chile). These are names that have come up in conversations with UN insiders and other experts. All six would offer skills and experiences we believe would be valuable in these fast-paced, uncertain times.
 
“Violence against women in all its forms is a human rights violation. It's not something that any culture, religion or tradition propagates.”

APEX, North Carolina / DUBLIN, Ireland, Apr 22 2024 (IPS) - Michelle Bachelet is a formidable candidate to be the next UN Secretary-General. Some would even make her the frontrunner, should she choose to stand. Bachelet was the first female head of state in Chile, having served as president on two separate occasions: 2006 to 2010, and 2014 to 2018. Bachelet can also boast a long pedigree when it comes to human rights.

Bachelet lived in exile in Australia and Germany during the early part of Augusto Pinochet’s period as dictator, although not before being tortured by Pinochet’s secret police. She studied medicine and, on returning to Chile several years later, began to campaign for restoring democracy.

In 2000, she was appointed as Minister of Health by then-President Ricardo Lagos, introducing several major reforms and reducing hospital waiting lists. In 2002, she was appointed Minister of National Defense—a first for a woman in any country in the region.

Among various reforms, she strove to position the military so it would never be involved in subverting democracy, while also seeking reconciliation between the armed forces and the victims of Pinochet’s dictatorship.

In her first term as President (2006-2010), Bachelet introduced a range of reforms, including strengthening social security systems to offer more support for children and the elderly. She also appointed a cabinet with equal representation of men and women, and supported legislation to legalize gay marriage and promote women’s reproductive rights.

Michelle Bachelet

After her first term as President, Bachelet took a senior role at the UN. In 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that Bachelet would become the first executive director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Also known as UN Women, the new entity was the result of a merger of several previous UN groups. UN Women’s role is to advocate for the rights of women and girls and address specific issues such as violence against women and LGBT people. Bachelet held this position from 2010-2013.

Returning to Chilean politics, in late 2013 Bachelet was elected President of Chile for a second term. Again, Bachelet focused on strengthening human rights and supporting vulnerable communities, as well as promoting environmental protections.

Some policies—such as an attempt to introduce free education to a large number of poorer students—caused controversy and opposition—although some progress was still ultimately achieved.

In 2018, Bachelet returned to the UN. Perhaps appropriately considering her focus as President, she was appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, serving from 2018 to 2022. Bachelet spoke out strongly during this time on a number issues, from alleged human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to the situation in the Nagomo-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the detainment of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China, and the situation in Yemen.

Assessing Bachelet’s Prospects

Could Michelle Bachelet become the next UN Secretary-General? Here is our assessment of her advantages and disadvantages, should she choose to enter her name into the contest.

Advantages

– Seniority: Bachelet has held the top job in Chile not once, but twice. Not only that, but she has also held two senior roles within the UN. Her experience has been at the highest level, and her networks are impressive. It is hard to imagine someone with a more appropriate mix of expertise.
– UN Credentials: As a former head of both UN Women and the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Bachelet’s insider knowledge is considerable. She would know how to navigate the organization effectively from her first day in the job.
– A Female Leader: As with other candidates featured in these articles, Michelle Bachelet would be a strong candidate to break the glass ceiling and become the first female leader of the UN.
– A Latina Leader: With the tradition that the UN Secretary-General is chosen by rotating through the various UN regions, Bachelet would likely satisfy those who believe it is Latin America and the Caribbean’s “turn” to nominate Guterres’ successor.
– Proven Impact: There are few potential candidates who could point to such broad impact both as a national leader and during two separate stints in high-level UN roles, especially in the fields of human rights and supporting vulnerable populations. Given the unprecedented uncertainty swirling around international diplomacy these days, a figure with a reputation as a “doer” may be welcomed.

Disadvantages

– A Threat to the Big Five? Like Mia Mottley of Barbados, Bachelet has made comments in the past, particularly during her time as the UN High Commissioner Human Rights, that may not have been welcomed by some UN member states. It is worth bearing in mind that whoever emerges as Guterres’ successor will need to convince all five permanent Security Council members—China, Russia, France, the US, and UK—that they are the best person for the job. It will be a difficult line for anyone to walk, especially when even a single veto could scuttle their hopes.

In spite of Bachelet’s obvious credentials, if just one of the “Big Five” members of the Security Council show signs of sensitivity to her comments on human rights in the past, Bachelet may have her work cut out to change their point of view. Still, her credentials are impressive and even opponents might have a hard time making a case against her.

Prof. Felix Dodds and Chris Spence have participated in United Nations conferences and negotiations since the 1990s. They co-edited Heroes of Environmental Diplomacy: Profiles in Courage (Routledge, 2022), which examines the roles of individuals in inspiring change.

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IPS UN Bureau

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By Mandeep S.Tiwana
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

NEW YORK, Apr 22 2024 (IPS) - Today, the spectre of a major regional conflict, and even a possible nuclear conflagration, looms large in the Middle East. Despite stark warnings issued by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, the multilateral system is struggling to resolve the very challenges it was supposed to address: conflict, impoverishment and oppression. In a deeply divided world, this September’s Summit of the Future offers a rare chance to fix international cooperation and make good on gaps in global governance.

The problem is, too few people and civil society organisations, outside UN circles, even know the Summit is happening. This is characteristic of a lack of broad consultation. Things started poorly with limited time and opportunities for civil society to provide inputs last December into the zero draft of the Pact for the Future, which is supposed to be a blueprint for international cooperation in the 21st century.

The zero draft, released in January 2024, lacks the ambition many hoped would be on show to tackle the enormity of the challenges before us. It included just one mention of the role of civil society and nothing about civic space, even though growing restrictions on fundamental freedoms are severely impeding the transparency, accountability and participation needed to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the set of ambitious but largely unrealised universal commitments the Summit intends to reaffirm.

To be clear, the Summit’s co-facilitators, Germany and Namibia, are in an unenviable position, having to balance the demands of states that want the process to be purely intergovernmental and others that see value in civil society’s engagement. Some don’t see any role for civil society: in February, a handful of states led by Belarus sent a letter to the Special Committee on the UN Charter questioning the legitimacy of civil society organisations. If their demands were acceded to, the UN would miss the innovation and reach that civil society participation brings to the table.

Next month, the UN is hosting a major civil society conference in Nairobi with the aim of providing a platform for civil society to contribute ideas to the Summit of the Future. But, with barely a month between the selection of applicants and the hosting of the conference, it remains to be seen how many civil society representatives, particularly from smaller organisations in the global south, will be able to make it.

There remains a need for the UN to take on board the Unmute Civil Society recommendations, which include a call for the appointment of a civil society envoy. Such an envoy could drive the UN’s outreach to civil society beyond its hubs. With many finding the institution remote, an envoy could champion better and more consistent participation of people and civil society across the UN’s sprawling agencies and offices. So far, civil society engagement with the UN remains deeply uneven and dependent on the culture and leadership of various UN departments and forums.

The Summit can only benefit from civil society engagement if it’s to achieve it aims, particularly as many conflicts are raging around the world, including in Gaza, Myanmar, Sudan, Ukraine and elsewhere. Many of civil society’s reform ideas are included in the UN Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace, which will be deliberated at the Summit, including nuclear disarmament, strengthening preventative diplomacy and prioritising women’s participation in peace efforts.

There’s also an urgent need to address the soaring levels of debt many global south countries face, which is diverting public spending away from essential services and social protections into debt servicing. Civil society backs efforts such as the Bridgetown Initiative to secure commitments from wealthy countries on debt restructuring and debt cancellation for those countries facing a repayment crisis. But civil society needs to be included to help shape plans, because if financing for development negotiations don’t include guarantees for civic space and civil society participation there’s no way of ensuring that public funds benefit people in need. Instead, autocratic regimes could use them to shore up repressive state apparatuses and networks of corruption and patronage.

Civil society further calls for reforms in the international financial architecture. These include demands to bring decisions by the G20 group of powerful economies into the ambit of the UN’s accountability framework, and to equitably distribute shares and decision-making at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, presently controlled by a few highly industrialised countries.

But it’s unclear how many of civil society’s transformative proposals for global governance reforms will end up in the final outcomes of the Summit of the Future. So far, there’s been limited transparency in relation to UN member state negotiations, records and compilation texts, despite civil society having shown its commitment by making over 400 written submissions to the Pact for the Future process.

Troublingly, few governments have consulted nationally with civil society groups on their positions for the Summit of the Future negotiations. If these trends continue, the international community will miss a key chance to make life better for future generations. It isn’t too late to robustly include people and civil society in the process. The aims of the Summit are too important.

Mandeep S. Tiwana is CIVICUS Chief Officer for Evidence and Engagement and representative to the UN in New York.

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