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

By Inga Jacobs-Mata - Maya Rajasekharan - Namukolo Covic - Mose
Nyando climate-smart villages are home to a mix of technologies tailored to boost farmers’ ability to adapt to climate change, manage risks and build resilience. These technologies will in turn improve livelihoods & incomes. Credit: S.Kilungu (CCAFS)

PRETORIA, South Africa, Jun 18 2024 (IPS) - All news is local, they say. The same is true of innovations—those many new technologies, policies, and practices that steadily stream from research to enhance our lives.

It is in specific regions, cultures, and locales across the Global South that innovations for agricultural development first get taken up and adapted to meet people’s needs. Or not. Only by understanding that all innovations are local can innovators meet the diverse needs of diverse peoples.

From the library and laboratory to the farm and kitchen

Acknowledging that dreaming up innovative solutions is the easy part, and that delivering innovations to real people facing real problems is the hard part, CGIAR – the world’s largest publicly funded agrifood research network – put “innovation scaling” at the heart of its Regional Integrated Initiatives (RIIs).

CGIAR’s six RIIs are operating in six regions: Latin America, West and Central Africa, East and Southern Africa, Central and West Asia and North Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Asian Mega Deltas. Commencing in 2022 and operating through 2024, these RIIs are working with over 750 local public and private partners and research centres to help transform these regions’ agrifood systems. Serving as CGIAR’s “living labs”, the RIIs support more local organizations to adapt, apply, validate, and scale solutions from many disciplines and to integrate these into local programs and platforms. By building local capacities, the RIIs are empowering “last-mile stakeholders” to apply, adapt, and use the innovations, to take ownership of them, and to lead the innovation process as it evolves over time.

The context is decisive

With a strong foundation laid in their first two years of operation, these RIIs offer big opportunities for upscaling engagement in more local food systems, crowding in investments, and uniting efforts in specific locales. With a wealth of local partners offering local experience, these initiatives provide granular insights that can help to transform conventional “hit-and-run” agrifood systems projects into enduring solutions to specific high-order problems. For example, through technical and business support from CGIAR’s Food Systems Accelerator, Zambian fruit processing company Forest Africa has developed a non-dairy milk from the fruit of the baobab tree that provides economic benefits to local communities while helping to avoid deforestation.

In particular, the six RIIs and their partners are maximizing impact by focusing on innovations at mature levels of readiness, employing digital agroclimatic advisory tools and services, strengthening local capacity in agrifood system development, and providing relevant policies and regulations with evidenced-based recommendations. For example, by partnering with the popular “Shamba Shape Up” farm makeover reality TV show in Kenya, CGIAR has helped bring proven innovations to more than eight million viewers every week.

In 2023 alone, these RIIs enhanced regional and local agrifood systems with 577 reports and papers, 341 products and events strengthening local agrifood system capacities, 198 new innovations, and 31 policy changes.

The Ukama Ustawi Initiative

With a new CGIAR portfolio (2025–2030) now under development, CGIAR’s RII on Diversification in East and Southern Africa, led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and co-implemented with 154 other partners, is a model for how CGIAR and its many partners can play a larger role in scaling as well as developing agrifood innovations for the continent.

Given the byname Ukama Ustawi (a blending respectively of Southern Africa’s Shona word for “partnership” with East Africa’s Swahili word for “well-being”), this Initiative works in a dozen African countries with local food producers and agribusiness dealers, innovators, and influencers. Our partners are invaluable in helping us both to overcome obstacles to scaling research-based innovations and to avoid any unintended consequences of their adoption.

Innovating the “how”

Part of what makes Ukama Ustawi unique are the ever evolving and participatory ways in which it works.

A regular series of vibrant rural share fairs and virtual field trips allows for the exchange of knowledge, ideas, experiences and expertise—flowing not only from farmer to farmer but also, importantly, from farmer to village elders, to scientists, to government officials, and to donor agents. These deliberately “immersive” physical fairs and virtual field trips not only accelerate and widen farmer-farmer learning, but also bring the world of smallholder farming to decision-makers, who meet the farmers, hear their stories, and experience their challenges—directly and in real time.

Innovations are also being accelerated through award competitions promoting “scaling-ready” agricultural innovations in the region. Through the CGIAR Food System Accelerator, Ukama Ustawi supports innovation scaling through agribusinesses that receive substantial support to help them diversify their maize cropping into more nutritious agricultural products and systems. Each local agribusiness is matched with suitable mentors from CGIAR and elsewhere and provided with tailored technical as well as financial assistance. In 2023, this matchmaking resulted in initial financial commitments exceeding US$11 million for the 10 selected agribusinesses. Ukama Ustawi also initiated an annual competition for research groups to apply for Scaling Fund grants. Three winning research Initiatives were each awarded US$125,000 in 2024.

CGIAR’s RIIs are certainly where the rubber hits the road, and with the new CGIAR reorganization now under way, it is an opportune time to take this more local innovation scaling work to new levels of productive partnerships for billions of productive people.

Inga Jacobs-Mata, CGIAR “Ukama Ustawi” Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa
Maya Rajasekharan, CGIAR African region managing director
Namukolo Covic, CGIAR regional director for East and Southern Africa
Moses Odeke, Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA)

IPS UN Bureau

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By Palitha Kohona

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jun 18 2024 (IPS) - Today Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the environmental threats they confront require our urgent attention —and the global spotlight needs to be trained deliberately and maintained consistently on their concerns, in particular, climate change, marine biological diversity loss and sustainable development goals (SDGs).

A world in which other pressing matters compete for attention, this challenge could easily be neglected.

There is a significant community of small island states in the world. The United Nations recognizes 39 of them. The aggregate population of all the SIDS is 65 million, slightly less than 1% of the world’s population but nevertheless a population that requires our attention.

https://www.un.org/ohrlls/content/list-sids

They share similar sustainable development challenges, including small populations, limited local resources, including land, remoteness, susceptibility to frequent natural disasters, easy vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on external trade and almost all are highly threatened by climate change.

SIDS were recognized as a special case both for their environment and development challenges at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development  in Rio de Janeiro. 

High import and export costs will continue to be a factor in their economies, while their dependence on external markets due to the narrow resource bases make them particularly vulnerable. Since they control sea areas (in particularly the Exclusive Economic Zones),on average 28 times the size of their land mass, much of their natural resources come from the seas and oceans that surround them.

Therefore, the seas and oceans are critical from their perspective. Vulnerability to exogenous economic shocks and fragile land and marine ecosystems make SIDS particularly susceptible to biodiversity loss and climate change.

The Blue Economy, defined by World Bank as the “sustainable use of ocean resources to benefit economies, livelihoods and ocean ecosystem health” becomes particularly relevant to SIDS.

Over 40 percent of SIDS are affected by, or are on the edge of, unsustainable levels of debt, severely constraining their ability to invest in resilience, climate action and sustainable development. This is why they have been recognised as a special group that requires concentrated assistance.

The four main geographical regions in which SIDS are concentrated are the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. 

4th International Conference on SIDS, 27 – 30 May, 2004

In his opening address as the President of the 4th International Conference on SIDS, Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, forcefully underlined the importance of its theme — “Charting the Course Toward Resilient Prosperity”.

Stressing that such States are “on the front lines of a battlefield of a confluence of crises — none of which they have caused or created” — he said that the small size of such States, limited financial resources and constrained human capital, place them at a marked disadvantage on the global stage. Further, their journey towards development has been repeatedly disrupted by monumental crises, among them the financial meltdown of 2008 and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting the sentiments of many, he called for urgent, multilateral solutions, and he observed that those present are gathered “not only to reiterate challenges, but also to demand and enact solutions”. The Global North, in particular, must honour its commitments — including providing $1 billion in climate financing to assist with adaptation and mitigation.

Gaston Browne identified a clear gap in the oft expressed pious sentiments of the international community and actual action taken to implement these.

SIDS Dependency on the Seas and Oceans

Traditionally most small island states, surrounded by the seas and oceans, have been dependent on the oceans far more than bigger states for most of their needs. The seas provide a significant part of their food, including, fish, crustaceans, sea weed, etc, energy needs are imported across the seas, introduced and imported food, tourism which plays a considerable economic role, daily essentials and exports.

Sea food is a critical source of protein for SIDs. Today lobsters, prawns, scallops, mussels, etc are also a major income source for fishermen and a critical foreign exchange earner.

The income and protein source provided by the seas and oceans is threatened in some areas by overfishing, pollution, predatory and unregulated fishing by distant water fishers and, critically, by the impacts of climate change. The warming of the oceans is already having a devastating impact on coral reefs, so important as spawning grounds for myriads of fish and other economically important species.

Warming seas are likely to cause some fish species to migrate away from their traditional habitats and others to become extinct. Tuna migration habits in the Pacific Ocean, for example, are changing due to the heating of the ocean. This could have an enormous impact on Pacific small island states whose food supplies and economies depend on the tuna catch, and could cause an estimated $140 million loss in average government revenue per year.

Given the importance of the marine environment to small island states, it is vital that the exploitation of the resource takes place sustainably. Once a vital resource of this nature is lost, it is unlikely that it will recover in a short time, if ever. International agreements and arrangements in place at present with need to implemented with vigour and other arrangements may have to be put in place.

International Action and Options for SIDS

With their small economies, SIDS are at the mercy of the elements and with limited fall back options. A single hurricane could wipe out the economies of some small island states. Despite their minimal historical greenhouse gas emissions, SIDS face some of the most severe impacts of climate change, with serious loss and damage in the form of destroyed infrastructure, economic and cultural loss, loss of lives and livelihoods, loss of biodiversity and forced displacement.

It is now widely acknowledged that the depletion of the resource of the seas and oceans will result in numerable and unpredictable consequences including, massive unemployment, increased poverty, malnutrition, overall negative economic impacts, economic migration which will have repercussions for neighboring countries and possible community unrest.

Some international initiatives offer adaptation options to the SIDS.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Regional Seas Programme in 1974. (The Programme now administers this regional mechanism for the conservation of the marine and coastal environment to address the accelerating marine pollution). 18 regions participate in the Programme, of which 14 Regional Seas programmes are underpinned by legally binding conventions. The participating regions include, South Asian Seas, South-East Pacific, Western Africa and the Wider Caribbean where many of the SIDS are located.

In January 2015, the General Assembly began the negotiation process on the post-2015 development agenda, essentially the post Millennium Development Goals agenda. The process culminated in the adoption, at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with 17 SDGs and 169 targets at its core.

Following the adoption of Agenda 2030, the Regional Seas Programme seeks to assist Member States in achieving the ocean-related SDGs by coordinating national actions at the regional level. SIDS stand to benefit considerably from these programmes. Thus the Regional Seas programmes set the Regional Seas Strategic Directions (2017-2020) and decided to:

1. Reduce marine pollution of all kinds in line with the SDG Goal 14.1.
2. Create increased resilience of people, marine and coastal ecosystems, and their health and productivity, in line with the SDG Goal 13 and decisions made at the UNFCCC COP21.
3. Develop integrated, ecosystem-based regional ocean policies and strategies for sustainable use of marine and coastal resources, paying close attention to blue growth.
4. Enhance effectiveness of Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans as regional platforms for supporting integrated ocean policies and management.

Under the Paris Accords of 2015, developed country Parties to the Accords agreed to provide financial resources to assist highly vulnerable country Parties with regard to both mitigation and adaptation consistent with their existing obligations under the Convention.

The UNEP Adaptation Finance GAP Report estimates that adaptation finance needs in developing countries will reach $140 billion – $300 billion per year by 2030, and $280 billion to $500 billion per year by 2050. SIDS, if they are proactive in the search for funding, are expected to be a major beneficiary under this commitment.

It is recalled that under the Paris Accords, developed countries reaffirmed the commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, and agreed to continue mobilising finance at this level until 2025. This commitment included finance for the Green Climate Fund, which is a part of the UNFCCC, and also for a variety of other public and private programmes. This amount has not been reached at all.

The Paris Accords also recognize loss and damage. Loss and damage can stem from extreme weather events, or from slow-onset events such as the loss of land to sea level rise for low-lying islands and the warming of the seas. Tuna migration habits in the Pacific Ocean, for example, are changing due to the heating of the ocean.

The push to address loss and damage as a distinct issue in the Paris Agreement came from the Alliance of Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries, whose economies and livelihoods are most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.

At Cop 27 in 2022 countries agreed to establish a Loss and Damage Fund, which would provide financial assistance to climate-vulnerable countries. The fund was officially operationalized at Cop 28 in November 2023. The major beneficiaries can be the SIDS.

In 2021, Tuvalu in the Pacific and Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean established a Commission for Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law. The intention is to take claims for loss and damage to international judicial tribunals.

Vanuatu is also leading a campaign to ask the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on climate change. This initiative had its beginnings in2014 under the sponsorship of Mauritius.

Now we have an additional development which should make us think deeper.

June 2023, the United Nations adopted a new treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (‘BBNJ’). Today, this is also known as the High Seas Biodiversity Treaty.

During the negotiations on this treaty, while the developed North focused more on Marine Protected Areas, and these are important, the South was equally interested in the equitable sharing of the benefits of exploiting the mega genetic pool of the oceans.

Properly managed, implemented in the right spirit, the sharing of benefits under this treaty could bring considerable material rewards to SIDS. They will benefit considerably if the sharing of benefits of the exploitation of BBNJ works well. It has been said that a single bucket of sea water could contain more genetic material than hectares of dry land.

Already major pharmaceutical companies are producing drugs developed from genetic material recovered from the high seas.

Dr Palitha Kohona is former Sri Lanka Ambassador to China and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN and one-time Co-Chair of the UN ad hoc committee on BBNJ.

IPS UN Bureau

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By Francine Pickup
The UN says that corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust. Credit: UN News/Daniel Dickinson
 
The 21st IACC -Anti-corruption Conference will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania 18-21 June

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 17 2024 (IPS) - 58 percent of respondents to a worldwide survey believed that their political system has been captured by an elite that is corrupt, obsolete, and unreformable. Corruption thrives in environments characterized by weak governance, where transparency, accountability, and public decision-making are compromised by conflicts of interest and political interference.

Efforts to combat corruption and restore trust in governance must translate the core tenets of good governance—information dissemination, transparency, integrity, accountability, and participation—into tangible action across sectors.

The 21st International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, under the theme “Confronting Global Threats: Standing up for Integrity” from June 18 to 21.

It gathers diverse participants, ranging from heads of state to civil society representatives, youth activists, business leaders and investigative journalists from across the globe.

The IACC stands as the foremost multi-stakeholder biennial global platform on anti-corruption, attracting approximately 1,500 participants worldwide. Since 2003, UNDP, in partnership with GIZ/BMZ and the U.S. State Department, has played a pivotal role in shaping the discourse and global anti-corruption agenda through the IACC series.

The conversations we will have in Vilnius in the coming days are critical for four reasons:

First, the meeting convenes amidst a backdrop of complex and multifaceted crises: climate change, conflict, geopolitical tensions, polarization, democratic erosion, economic volatility and unregulated frontier technologies—each posing a threat to hard-earned developmental gains.

The latest Human Development Report 2023-2024 underscores a widening gap in human development, fraught with the peril of irreversible setbacks. Corruption remains a significant impediment to equitable development progress, exacerbating existing inequalities and further reducing people’s trust in governance.

In this tumultuous era, the 21st IACC must galvanize sustained collective actions, partnerships and actionable strategies to combat corruption. Its outcomes should feed into the 2024 United Nations Summit of the Future and the 2025 Fourth International Conference on Financing for Development because these platforms present vital opportunities to rejuvenate multilateralism and foster a spirit of international cooperation and partnerships to tackle our shared challenges.

The IACC can also accelerate momentum for collective action and foster effective partnerships by addressing the focus of the three Rio Conventions—Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Desertification—all converging this year.

Forestry crimes, including unregulated charcoal burning and large-scale corporate malpractice in timber, paper, and pulp sectors leading to extensive deforestation, critically impact global greenhouse gas emissions, water reserves, desertification, and rainfall patterns.

At the same time, many nations also urgently require climate finance in order to invest in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Effective climate action relies on robust institutions, necessitating a coordinated approach to combat corruption and safeguard environmental initiatives from compromise.

Second, the IACC’s theme, “Confronting Global Threats: Standing Up for Integrity,” broadens the scope of the governance and anti-corruption agenda to address a range of issues including conflict resolution, climate action, global security, and human security, ensuring also integrity in development financing and the roll-out of frontier technologies.

The outcome of the IACC will be instrumental in continuing global efforts to bring governance and anti-corruption to the centre of the global development agenda, drawing on experiences such as the Data in Climate Resilient Agriculture (DiCRA) initiative in India. Digitalisation and open data can challenge corruption by reducing discretion, increasing transparency, and enabling accountability by limiting human interactions.

This multi-stakeholder collaboration for data sharing – involving governments, research organizations, citizens and data scientists across the world –promotes open innovation and transparency to strengthen climate resilience in agriculture.

Third, the interlinkages between sustainable development financing and the strength of governance systems, both at the national and global levels, will be front and centre in the discussions. As the global financial framework grapples with the fallout of multiple crises, $4 trillion is needed to address the financing deficit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The quality of governance in any nation shapes the effectiveness of its financing mechanisms and policies, while the availability of robust financing also influences the stability and quality of governance systems.

A breakdown in either of these jeopardizes the social contract, exacerbating crises, with international bodies and governments overly focused on short term and reactionary responses. Urgent reforms are needed in national and global governance systems to prevent corruption and illicit financial flows, to accelerate progress towards the SDGs

Fourth, in these challenging times, countries need to be able to evaluate the impact of their anti-corruption initiatives and reforms and, most importantly, learn from what works, and what doesn’t.

The conference offers a platform to introduce innovative approaches to measuring corruption, drawing on UNDP’s work with partners in this area. Robust measurement methodologies are fundamental, since without standardized tools and methodologies, collecting data and evidence to inform policy decisions on anti-corruption reforms is difficult.

In UNDP, we strive to ensure that every dollar spent goes to development activities while strengthening UNDP’s status as a trusted partner in delivering development results. The UNDP Transparency Portal is UNDP’s commitment to ensuring transparency, accountability, and continuous self-reflection and learning with the support of independent assessments, audits, and oversight mechanisms. The site provides the public with access to data on over 10,000 UNDP projects.

Addressing corruption demands effective and innovative partnerships, increased resource allocation, and sustained commitment to anti-corruption endeavours, including in complex political environments where UNDP works, such as in Ukraine.

Only then can countries effectively tackle the interconnected challenges they face and restore trust in governance. The discussions at the 21st IACC will play a pivotal role in shaping the global anti-corruption agenda for the next biennium.

Francine Pickup is Deputy Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

IPS UN Bureau

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By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 17 2024 (IPS) - When the 193-member UN General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution, back in September 2015, the goals were highly ambitious: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, eliminate inequalities, protect human rights, promote gender empowerment and ensure economic, social and environmental development—and much more.

The deadline for achieving these targets was set at 2030.

But nine years after the resolution– and six years ahead of 2030– the SDGs are mostly far behind, particularly among the world’s developing nations.

And the targeted goals are like a mirage in a parched desert: the more you get closer, the further it moves away from you.

According to the UN, the implementation of the SDGs has been mostly undermined by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the devastating impact of the ongoing climate crises, rising debt burdens, the growing military conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza and the rash of civil wars in Asia, Africa and the Middle East triggering unprecedented humanitarian crises resulting in a setback to economic progress worldwide.

As a result, there is a demand that the unattainable 2030 deadline should be extended by world political leaders meeting in New York September 22-23 for a much-ballyhooed Summit of the Future.

Meanwhile a new report on SDGs released June 17, is considered especially timely amidst deep climate crises, declining multilateralism, and ahead of the “Summit of the Future,” as it provides a new Index of countries’ support to UN-based multilateralism, identifies priorities to upgrade the United Nations (endorsed by 100+ leading scientists and practitioners worldwide), and illustrates new pathways demonstrating how to achieve sustainable food and land systems by mid-century.

According to the 9th edition of the Sustainable Development Report (SDR) released by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), none of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track to be achieved by 2030, and only an estimated 16% of the SDG targets are progressing.

The report was prepared by the SDSN’s SDG Transformation Center and coordinated by Guillaume Lafortune in cooperation with Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs. Since 2016, the global edition of the SDR has provided the most up-to-date data to track and rank the performance of all UN member states on the SDGs.

Globally, the five SDG targets on which the highest proportion of countries show a reversal of progress since 2015 include: obesity rate (under SDG 2), press freedom (under SDG 16), the red list index (under SDG 15), sustainable nitrogen management (under SDG 2), and – due in a large part to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors that may vary across countries – life expectancy at birth (under SDG 3).

Goals and targets related to basic access to infrastructure and services, including SDG9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), show slightly more positive trends, although progress remains too slow and uneven across countries.

Additional key insights include:

–Barbados ranks the highest in its commitment to UN-based multilateralism on a new Index; the United States ranks last.
— SDG targets related to food and land systems are particularly off-track. Globally, 600 million people will still suffer from hunger by 2030 while obesity is on the increase.

Danielle Nierenberg, President and Founder, Food Tank, told IPS: “I think this report finds that there is a lack of political will to achieve the SDGs–most nations are not investing enough in food and agriculture or farmers”.

She said policy-makers have their heads in the sand and need to realize the urgency of investing in solutions that help farmers, eaters, and food businesses.

“We need more investment in food system transformation that actually meets the needs of food producers and achieves a planet-friendly diet–food that are nutrient dense, resilient to climate change, delicious, and accessible and affordable,” said Nierenberg.

Frederic Mousseau, Oakland Institute’s Policy Director, told IPS: “This new report is yet another alert that we urgently need to take decisive action on food and agriculture.”

“The world already produces over twice as much food than we need to feed the population. However, over half of the food harvested goes into agrofuels and animal feed, with massive detrimental impacts on the environment, biodiversity, and our health”.

Agrochemical corporations and governments, he said, continue to tell us that “we need to increase food production to feed the world, using more land and fossil-fuel based industrial agriculture.”

“The truth is that we actually need to produce less food. We must drastically curb the amount of commodities used for animal feed and agrofuels and phase out the use of polluting chemicals for agricultural production”, he declared.

According to the SDSN report, the pace of SDG progress varies significantly across country groups. Nordic countries continue to lead on SDG achievement, with BRICS demonstrating strong progress and poor and vulnerable nations lagging far behind.

Similar to past years, European countries – notably Nordic countries – top the 2024 SDG Index. Finland ranks number 1 on the SDG Index, followed by Sweden (#2), and Denmark (#3), plus Germany (#4), and France (#5).

Yet, even these countries face significant challenges in achieving several SDGs.

Average SDG progress in BRICS (Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa) and BRICS+ (Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) since 2015 has been faster than the world average.

In addition, East and South Asia has emerged as the region that has made the most SDG progress since 2015. By contrast, the gap between the world average SDG Index and the performance of the poorest and most vulnerable countries, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), has widened since 2015.

In addition to the SDG Index, this year’s edition includes a new Index of countries’ support for UN-based multilateralism covering all 193 UN Member States and new FABLE pathways demonstrating how to achieve sustainable food and land systems by mid-century.

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, President of the SDSN and a lead author of the report, says: “Midway between the founding of the UN in 1945 and the year 2100, we cannot rely on business as usual. The world faces great global challenges, including dire ecological crises, widening inequalities, disruptive and potentially hazardous technologies, and deadly conflicts, we are at a crossroads.”

“Ahead of the UN’s Summit of the Future, the international community must take stock of the vital accomplishments and the limitations of the United Nations system, and work toward upgrading multilateralism for the decades ahead.”

IPS UN Bureau Report

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jun 17 2024 (IPS) - Since 2008, farmland acquisitions have doubled prices worldwide, squeezing family farmers and other poor rural communities. Such land grabs are worsening inequality, poverty, and food insecurity.

Squeezing land and farmers
A new IPES-Food report highlights land grabs (including for ostensibly ‘green’ purposes), the financial means used, and some significant implications.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Powerful governments, financiers, speculators, and agribusinesses are opportunistically gaining control of more cultivable land. The report notes the 2007-08 food price spike and financial crash catalysed more land acquisitions.

Quantitative easing and financialization after the 2008 global financial crisis enabled even more land grabs. Investors, agri-food companies, and even sovereign wealth funds have obtained farmland worldwide.

Agribusinesses and other investors want land to make more profits, urging governments to enable takeovers. Cultivable land is being used for cash crops, natural resource extraction, mining, real property and infrastructure development, and ‘green’ projects, including biofuels.

The land squeeze has developed in novel ways, with most large-scale deals diverting farmland from food production. Instead, environmentally damaging ‘industrial agriculture’ has spread, worsening rural poverty and outmigration.

The new land rush has displaced small-scale farmers, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, and rural communities or otherwise eroded their access to land. It has worsened rural poverty, food insecurity, and land inequality. Marginalising local land users has made family farming less viable.

‘Green grabs’ involve governments and corporations taking land for dubious large-scale tree planting, biodiversity offsets, carbon sequestration, conservation, biofuels, and ‘green hydrogen’ projects. Water and other resource demands also threaten food production.

The land rush has slowed recently, but underlying pressures and trends continue. The pandemic, Ukraine and Gaza wars, and government and market responses have revived alarmist ‘food shortage’ narratives, justifying more grabs.

Investing in dispossession
Agricultural investments rose tenfold during 2005-18. By 2023, 960 investment funds specialising in food and farming assets had properties worth over $150 billion.

Nearly 45% of all farmland investments in 2018, worth $15 billion, were by pension funds and insurance companies. During 2005-17, pension, insurance and endowment funds invested $45 billion in farmland.

Unsurprisingly, land prices have risen continuously for two decades in North America and three in Canada. During 2008-22, land prices nearly doubled worldwide, even tripling in Central and Eastern Europe!

Pension funds and other private investments doubled UK farmland prices during 2010-15. More recently, investments in US farmland have doubled since the pandemic!

The largest one per cent of farms worldwide now have 70% of farmland. In Latin America, 55% of farms only have 3% of farmland!

More than half the farmland thus obtained is for water-demanding crop production. While a fifth of large-scale land deals claim to be ‘green’, 87% are in areas of high biodiversity!

Mining accounted for 14% of large-scale land deals over the past decade.
Growing demand for rare earths and other critical minerals is driving mining on former farmland, worsening environmental degradation and conflicts.

Instead of protecting national, social or community interests, regulations seem to protect the culprits. The terms of such deals often make things worse. Thus, foreign corporations successfully sued the Colombian government for trying to stop their large-scale mining project.

Green land grabs
Some governments and big businesses advocate compliance with environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. They invoke sustainability, including climate goals, to justify elitist conservation and carbon offset schemes.

Over half of government carbon removal pledges involve the land of small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples. ‘Green grabs’ – for carbon offsets, biodiversity, conservation and biofuel projects – account for a fifth of large-scale land deals.

Government pledges to absorb carbon dioxide into the land surface commit almost 1.2 billion hectares, equivalent to the world’s cropland area! Despite modest climate benefits, problematic carbon offset markets are expected to quadruple over the next seven years, driving even more land grabs.

Carbon offset and biodiversity markets drive such transactions, drawing major polluters into land markets. Oil giant Shell alone has committed over $450 million for offset projects.

African land grabbed
The land squeeze is worldwide, affecting various places differently. Land grabs have significantly affected Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, while land inequality grows in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and South Asia.

Susan Chomba and Million Belay found almost a thousand large-scale land deals in Africa since 2000. Mozambique had 110 such deals, followed by Ethiopia, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Some 25 million hectares involve Blue Carbon, run by a Dubai royal. The company has bought rights to forests and farmland to sell carbon offsets. The land is from five Anglophone African governments, involving a fifth of Zimbabwe, a tenth of Liberia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Large-scale land deals put indigenous and pastoralist communities at greater risk. In Ethiopia, Ghana, and elsewhere, land sales have forced farmers to work on smaller fragmented plots, become wage labourers, or migrate, undermining their ability to feed themselves, their communities and others.

African smallholders, pastoralists, and indigenous communities have long protected their land and biodiversity. However, most now lack the rights and means to do so more effectively, let alone feed Africa and improve climate action. Thus, the climate crisis is being used against rural African communities.

IPS UN Bureau

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By Humberto Marquez
A map of fake solutions shows projects with climate-friendly intentions or appearances but with counterproductive social and environmental impacts. Indigenous communities are one of the most affected population sectors. Credit: Platform for Climate Justice
A map of fake solutions shows projects with climate-friendly intentions or appearances but with counterproductive social and environmental impacts. Indigenous communities are one of the most affected population sectors. Credit: Platform for Climate Justice

CARACAS, Jun 14 2024 (IPS) - Government and private initiatives and programmes to address the climate crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean are in fact a vast array of fake solutions, according to a new regional map made by environmental organisations in several of its countries.

The map “offers an overview to understand the dynamics and the deceptive language of fake solutions, which allow big polluters to obtain allocations to continue their activities and contribute to global warming,” Ivonne Yánez, president of Ecuador’s Acción Ecológica, told IPS.

Made by the Latin American and Caribbean Platform for Climate Justice, a network of environmental groups, the map shows the fake solutions of dozens of projects for green energy and the production of its inputs, and for storing carbon in forests, other ecosystems and agricultural systems.

There are also geoengineering projects to prevent climate change, and climate change adaptation based on ecosystems, infrastructure and engineering projects.

"The map offers an overview to understand the dynamics and the deceptive language of fake solutions, which allow big polluters to obtain allocations to continue their activities and contribute to global warming": Ivonne Yánez

“More than a format, it is a tool for visibility, a pedagogical tool that joins very diverse players, such as scholars, researchers, NGOs and activists gathered in the Platform,” said Liliana Buitrago, a researcher at the Observatory of Political Ecology of Venezuela, which released the map in May, to IPS.

The network “states that transition initiatives coming from the territorial fabric and communities, outside the frameworks imposed by the green economy, corporate greenwashing and corporate capture” of carbon emissions, “are urgent,” Buitrago said.

Presenting the map, Yánez explained that “what green capitalism seeks is not only to appropriate nature’s ability to cleanse itself, to recreate life, to photosynthesise”.

“Through fake solutions, it also takes advantage of and appropriates what indigenous peoples have done for thousands of years, which is protecting and taking care of forests, or peasants that care for the soil. And for what? To carry on an escalation of fossil fuel extraction,” said the activist.

In March 2021, environmentalists from Greenpeace threw green paint on the fuselage of an Air France plane at Paris airport to protest the company's purchase of carbon credits. Major firms purchased the offsets without backtracking on the expansion of carbon-intensive operations. Credit: Fenis Meyer / Greenpeace

In March 2021, environmentalists from Greenpeace threw green paint on the fuselage of an Air France plane at Paris airport to protest the company’s purchase of carbon credits. Major firms purchased the offsets without backtracking on the expansion of carbon-intensive operations. Credit: Fenis Meyer / Greenpeace

Carbon, an unscathed villain

An analysis of the 83 cases that make up the first map – 100 more will appear in future editions – shows that 70 per cent of fake solutions to the climate crisis are privately funded, and that indigenous communities and small farmers are the most affected.

The most common among fake solution categories are projects to store carbon in forests, other ecosystems and agricultural systems, in 50 per cent of cases.

REDD+ projects (Reducing Emissions – mainly carbon dioxide, CO2 – from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries) account for 33 per cent of the cases.

The REDD+ framework allows countries to issue and market carbon offset certifications “that are put in the financial system at the disposal of companies that want to use them as licenses to continue polluting and generating emissions”, criticizes Yánez.

Wind energy projects, and new forestry plantations justified by carbon sequestration, comprise 10 and 11 per cent of the projects on the map.

The Platform considers the recent launch of blue carbon credits (debt issues that finance ecosystem conservation projects) in oil-producing Trinidad and Tobago, for work in the southwest of Tobago and in the Caroni swamp in Trinidad, as a form of greenwashing.

In Brazil, among several cases, Portel-Pará is shown at the head of four carbon storage projects in 7,000 square kilometres of forests and other ecosystems, through land negotiations and agreements on deforestation boundaries with communities in the northern Amazonian state of Pará.

The Latin American platform Alianza Biodiversidad criticises that these projects create carbon credits that are bought by large firms that continue to pollute, such as Repsol (oil), Air France, Delta Airlines and Boeing (aviation), Amazon and Aldi (commerce) or Samsung and Toshiba (technology).

View of a solar farm in Namasigue, southern Honduras. In several countries in the region, large solar and wind energy installations force the displacement of communities, due to alterations in land tenure and use, with impacts on water and crops. Credit: Scatec / Cepad

View of a solar farm in Namasigue, southern Honduras. In several countries in the region, large solar and wind energy installations force the displacement of communities, due to alterations in land tenure and use, with impacts on water and crops. Credit: Scatec / Cepad

Displaced people, a cliché

Looking at the map from North to South, the fake solutions start in Mexico, with the example of lithium mining in 13 salt flats in the states of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí (north-central Mexico) by the Canadian firm Advance Gold Corp.

This project has caused displacement of peasant populations, pollution, and changes in land ownership and use.

Projects for solar photovoltaic power plants in Quetzaltepeque (eastern Guatemala) and Namasigüe (southern Honduras), run by private consortiums with capitals from the Norwegian firm Scatec, have in common the displacement of peasant and fishing populations, loss of habitats and biodiversity.

In Colombia, the San José ranch received funding from the Green Climate Fund and Dutch banks for a project in the eastern department of Vichada to expand its cattle herd from 9,000 head on 8,000 hectares to 750,000 animals on 180,000 hectares.

The company is singled out in the Fund for sequestering more carbon than it emits, but the Platform questions the cattle expansion’s contribution to climate and highlights risks to a neighbouring reservation of the Sikuani people.

Helicopter view of the last, diminished glacier in the Venezuelan Andes, whose end is being delayed with plastic sheeting. Some climate action initiatives are not only misguided in their goals and approaches, but can also become pollution hotspots. Credit: Minec

Helicopter view of the last, diminished glacier in the Venezuelan Andes, whose end is being delayed with plastic sheeting. Some climate action initiatives are not only misguided in their goals and approaches, but can also become pollution hotspots. Credit: Minec

Energy with colour

In Costa Rica, a hydroelectric “green energy” facility was proposed in 2013 in the southwestern canton of Pérez Zeledón. It lacked the necessary documentation, had falsified land-use permits by the mayor’s office, and would cause foreseeable pollution and loss of habitats and biodiversity.

The state environmental technical secretariat granted it expedited permits but, in the face of public criticism and rejection, the government cancelled the project.

In Jamaica, a “green energy” project has been underway since 2016, 90 kilometres west of Kingston. A wind farm of 11 wind turbines, with funding from the United States and Canada, is supposed to cover three percent of the island’s electricity demand and reduce emissions by 66,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The map points out that, at the same time, Jamaica is handing out concessions for bauxite mining and aluminium reduction, a key material for energy transition but whose production causes desertification, disease, and deepens extractivism.

The Dominican Republic hosts the largest photovoltaic power plant in the Antilles, the Girasol solar park, in the southern municipality of Yaguate, west of Santo Domingo. It has 268,200 panels installed, with an investment of 100 million dollars by the Cayman Islands-based firm Haina Investment.

The map shows the changes in territorial dynamics, the relationship of locals with the environment, and the impact caused in the lands from which minerals are extracted to produce the installed technology.

Monocultures and deaf ears

In 2006, oil-producing Venezuela presented a project for ethanol production with sugar mills, using sugar cane grown on 300,000 hectares in the southwestern plains. This never came to fruition but showed an inclination to favour monoculture for fuels instead of diversified food production.

The map also shows the country recently initiated a project to slow down the extinction of its last glacier, more than 4,000 metres above sea level on Humboldt Peak, in the southwestern Andes, by covering it with polystyrene mesh.

The project ignored recommendations from the University of the Andes concerning risks in its implementation, plastic pollution of air, water and soil, and because it will not prevent the glacier from melting due to global warming.

The Luxembourg-based Arbaro Fund, active in seven countries in the South, bought 1,080 hectares of land in three Ecuadorean provinces and is planning another 500 hectares for monoculture tree plantations, whose management aims, in theory, to protect the environment and capture CO2.

The same fund acquired 9,000 hectares in the central department of San Pedro in Paraguay, and two thirds will be planted with eucalyptus trees. The Platform warns that the project legalises land grabbing, with devastating effects on the environment and on indigenous and small farming communities.

Some 100 civil society organisations alerted the Green Climate Fund in 2020 about the harm small farmers may suffer from land regime change and pollution, plus the loss of habitats, biodiversity and agro-diversity. However, Arbaro Fund received 25 million dollars to support its plantations.

A view of Yasuní National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where a nationwide public consultation determined a major oil field was to be left in the ground undeveloped. Environmental groups see these measures and initiatives as part of a successful climate drive. Credit: Snap

A view of Yasuní National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where a nationwide public consultation determined a major oil field was to be left in the ground undeveloped. Environmental groups see these measures and initiatives as part of a successful climate drive. Credit: Snap

New searches

A stark contrast to the “fake solutions” on the map are initiatives such as Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s decision to set a deadline on his country’s dependence on fossil fuels, or the rejection of certain oil and mining operations decided in a referendum by the people of Ecuador.

“The people’s decision to leave oil in the ground is a clear contribution to the fight against climate change, as is the decision to ban mining in the Andean Chocó, which is rich in biodiversity,” Yánez stressed.

In the referendum held on 20 August 2023, 59 per cent of Ecuadorians voted to prevent oil exploitation in the Yasuní national park in the Amazon. In Quito, 68 per cent of the vote vetoed gold and copper prospecting in the Andean Chocó area, west of the capital.

Buitrago believes that, “far from being solutions to the problem, fake solutions are ways of perpetuating the extractivist and exploitative model of accumulation that has caused the climate crisis”.

That is why the map, by showing contrasts and criticisms of fake solutions, “also seeks to state that other organisations can make the real ones visible”, said Yánez.

(Read)NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY: IPS
By Jayendu De and Genet Zinabou
Credit: Ibnul Asaf Jawed Susam/iStock via Getty Images. IMF

WASHINGTON DC, Jun 14 2024 (IPS) - Bangladesh has made major gains for its population, the world’s eighth largest with more than 170 million people. Per capita incomes, one of the best measures of broad economic well-being, have risen seven-fold in the past three decades while poverty has been reduced to a fraction of former levels.

Such progress has been driven in part by greater labor force participation by women, most notably in the garment industry, and has been accompanied by other meaningful improvements in women’s empowerment.

Our recent analysis, however, shows there are still large gaps between women and men. Notably, women’s labor force participation is only half the rate of men.

Prior IMF research shows that closing this gap could increase the country’s economic output by nearly 40 percent. Women also remain less likely than men to obtain tertiary education, and they face greater barriers in accessing financial services. Remedying both factors could raise the entire economy’s productivity.

At the same time, efforts to close gender gaps face headwinds from Bangladesh’s extreme vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters. Like other economic shocks, climate shocks generally affect the already poor and vulnerable the most. This means that Bangladeshi women, who on average have fewer resources than men, are likely to be disproportionately impacted.

Our analysis further highlights several factors that render women in Bangladesh uniquely exposed to the effects of climate change and natural disasters:

• Women’s employment in Bangladesh is highly concentrated in agriculture and informal work. Climate change very directly affects agricultural production, whereas informal workers are often particularly vulnerable to climate shocks as they lack access to social insurance programs.
• International and internal migration are important climate adaptation strategies, availed mostly by men. Bangladeshi men are 16 times more likely to be employed overseas than women, who tend to be primary care givers for children and the elderly, leaving them less mobile and more likely to remain living in areas highly exposed to climate change.
• Women in Bangladesh carry primary responsibility for collecting drinking water and cooking fuel. As warming temperatures, rising sea levels, deforestation and more frequent cyclones and droughts render these tasks more time-consuming, women’s time poverty is expected to be exacerbated.

Bangladesh already recognized the need to integrate gender perspectives in its 2009 Climate Change Strategy. Following this, the government adopted the first Climate Change and Gender Action Plan 2013, which it updated in March 2024.

Renewed efforts will be needed to ensure successful implementation of the plan and achieve simultaneous progress on climate action and gender equality.

To this end, policymakers should capitalize as much as possible on the synergies between women’s empowerment, economic growth, and increased resilience to climate change.

Policies that support women’s labor force participation deserve particular attention, including those that expand their access to skills development and higher education, ease unpaid care burdens by expanding affordable childcare, reduce informality, and address gender norms that discourage women from seeking formal jobs and higher pay.

Boosting health and education spending would help empower women while raising labor productivity and making the whole population more resilient to climate change.

Persistent gaps between women and men in access to finance should be tackled by instilling confidence in formal finance, strengthening women’s property rights and carrying out financial literacy campaigns targeted at women.

Bangladesh was an early adopter of gender responsive budgeting and has more recently introduced climate budget tagging, a tool for tracking climate-related spending in the national budget.

However, insufficient integration of gender and climate considerations during the initial strategic phase of budget formulation means that the system in Bangladesh currently functions primarily as an ex-post accounting exercise.

Improvements in this area combined with more systematic impact assessment of government programs would enable more efficient channeling of public resources toward achieving the country’s gender equity and climate goals.

Lastly, women should not be thought of as mere beneficiaries of climate action. Rather, just as women played an integral role in the development of the garment industry and Bangladesh’s growth success in recent decades, they should be empowered to play an active role in the country’s green transition.

The IMF’s engagement with Bangladesh, including the country becoming the first in Asia to access our new Resilience and Sustainability Trust, aims to support policy efforts in many of these directions.

Jayendu De is the IMF Resident Representative in Bangladesh. Genet Zinabou is an economist in the Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF.

Source: International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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