Restoring Our Degraded Planet

By Tim Christophersen
NAIROBI, Jun 7 2019 – On the 1st of March 2019, we saw one of the rare moments in history when the entire world comes together and agrees on a joint way forward. The United Nations General Assembly recognized the urgent need to tackle the compounded crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss, and passed a resolution to proclaim 2021-2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. With the aim to restore at least 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030 – an area the size of India – the UN Decade is a loud and clear call to action for all of us. And it is a great opportunity for the UN-REDD Programme and its partner countries to build on 10 years worth of relevant experience with safeguards, impactful policies and measures, and attracting private and public investments.

Tim Christophersen

It is high time that we bring more attention to the essential role of nature for a peaceful, fair and prosperous future. Nature can provide more than one third of the solution to climate change, but nature-based solutions such as ecosystem restoration and forest conservation currently receive less than 3 percent of climate finance. Neglecting nature in our implementation of climate solutions means we are also not doing enough to save biodiversity. The double whammy of climate change and biodiversity loss has impacts that go far beyond our economy. If we do not act now, the very foundations of our culture, and our cohesion as a global civilization could be at risk.

How can we turn the tide? While ecosystem restoration is not a silver bullet for our current crisis, it is a useful approach to shift the narrative, from despair to action. Restoration is about active participation at all levels. The restoration of ecosystems can at the same time restore a sense of community, and restore dignity and hope to disadvantaged and marginalized communities around the world. It can provide many young people with a new sense of purpose and opportunity, and help vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change.

To harness the full potential of this UN Decade, we need three key changes, at global and national level:

    Investments: public funding needs to crowd more private sector investments into restoration. For the 350 million hectare target, we need an estimated 837 billion USD of public and private investments by 2030. This can be achieved through a mix of shifting subsidies and other fiscal incentives, and public risk capital to attract private investments.
    Capacity: we need a huge cadre of young (or young-at-heart) green entrepreneurs, who will need a combination of skills on ecology, social transformation, and sound financial and business sense. There are potentially millions of jobs world-wide, if we can train and help these ‘eco-preneurs’ of the future.
    Government leadership: above all, we need Governments to step up. They need to take over the baton now from the citizens who are protesting for better climate protection, more decent jobs, and more equality. There is already a ‘regreening revolution’ underway across degraded landscapes and coastal areas world-wide. But we need Governments to ensure this is going in the right direction, by giving clear policy signals, and setting solid strategies to integrate nature-based solutions into national climate action and sustainable development pathways.

The restoration of ecosystems across the globe, at a significant scale, has the potential to be a big part of the required joint effort of humanity to turn the tide of environmental degradation. We have risen to critical global challenges before, and we can do it again.

Mothers in the US Are Dying: What Are We Doing to Save Them?

By Juan Pablo Segura
WASHINGTON DC, Jun 7 2019 – The maternal mortality rate in the United States is the highest of any developed country – and the rate is rising. The US is currently the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world.

Few to none of these maternal deaths are due to medical mismanagement. Instead, problems of access, care coordination, and inequities in health care resources and social services are at the heart of maternal death rates.

Minority women, particularly those facing socioeconomic challenges, are the primary victims behind these statistics — nationally, African American women are three to four times more likely to die from childbirth than non-Hispanic white women.

Heavy hitters like The New York Times, USA Today, NPR, and others have highlighted the problem of maternal mortality and called for action; and cities like DC have responded to the call by implementing maternal mortality task forces.

Consistently, these task forces have arrived at the same conclusion: the causes affecting pregnancy-related deaths are not separate threads, but a web; and these overlapping social, economic, behavioral, and genetic determinants cannot be adequately addressed by siloed stakeholders.

There are many who have long recognized this problem, and a few who have been actively committing resources toward creating solutions. They have put energy, time, and capital on the line to disrupt the status quo, addressing the problems to make improved pregnancy outcomes a reality.

Cradle Cincinnati is an exemplar. They have formed a coalition that connects all of the significant stakeholders in the pregnancy space to combat the high infant mortality rates in Hamilton Country, Ohio, joining families in the community to payers and health systems (including traditional competitors).

Cradle’s strategic model has made significant steps toward improving outcomes: for five years in a row, the number of sleep-related infant deaths in Hamilton County was lower than their historic average, dropping from 16 to 12 annually.

But 12 is still over the national average of nine, and the national average is nine too many. While a single life is at stake, we need to be taking leaps, not steps, to better outcomes.

While effective, models like Cradle and others like it (group prenatal care, for example) all share a dependence on human interaction, and this physical requirement is a huge constraint to scaling such programs. Without scalability, outcomes will continue to improve at a snail’s pace, eventually plateauing. We need to be able to scale these best practices in every community — not tomorrow but today.

This is where technology comes in. Tech can bridge the gap created by the human limitations of these models, and embedding proven workflows and care protocols in tech experiences that enable more interventions — like remote patient monitoring (RPM) through internet of things (IoT) devices — can be the key to scaling these alternative and more effective care models.

Digital tools provide the connectivity that models like Cradle deliver in the physical setting, while addressing the problems of cost, inefficiencies, and scalability that have slowed progress in the past.

More than 4 years ago, George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates (GW-MFA) anticipated this vision. They were one of the first providers in the United States to recognize the power of tech to disrupt outdated and insufficient standards of care in the pregnancy space — standards that had woefully failed in their purpose.

GW-MFA were early adopters of a novel model that directly addresses three troubling realities in the status quo: absence of education, lack of access to necessary care, and failure to stratify risk.

That new model was a partnership to create and deploy a technology-powered pregnancy solution to directly impact the pregnancy journey and its associated outcomes, supporting patients and providers with increased digital touchpoints, educational materials, and interventions through remote monitoring and digital engagement.

Now, in an industry first, the vision to connect all stakeholders in the space is being realized through a new partnership with AmeriHealth Caritas DC, a managed care organization, which has joined with GW-MFA to further deploy tech-enabled prenatal and postpartum care in the Medicaid population, a population often ignored by the technology community.

Partnerships such as this one begin to solve some of the structural difficulties in coordinating care between insurance companies and doctors for Medicaid patients. It will focus on increasing access to tech-enabled pregnancy care that allows all patients, regardless of their socioeconomic status, to receive the benefits of remote monitoring and virtual care with the same privacy and security as a physical interaction at the doctor’s office.

There is no excuse for the current statistics of maternal death. The healthcare industry has had the technology to impact care, but what has been missing is the combined vision to make these tools powerful agents of change. Mothers and infants in our communities have a right to a safe and healthy life, and partnerships such as this one have the power to be the difference.

Empower Ocean Women

Women in the fisheries sector are largely concentrated in low-skilled, low-paid seasonal jobs without health, safety, and labor rights protections. Pictured here are Rita Francke and another fisherwoman at a jetty, in front of the old crayfish factory at Witsands, South Africa. Credit: Lee Middleton/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 7 2019 – Our oceans play a major role in everyday life, but they are in grave danger. To protect the ocean, we must look to a crucial, largely overlooked component: gender.

For World Oceans Day this year, which occurs every year on Jun. 8, the United Nations and the international community is shining a spotlight on the intersections between the ocean and gender—an often underrepresented and unrecognised relationship.

“Gender equality and the health and conservation of our oceans are inextricably linked and we need to mainstream gender equality both in policies and programs and really in our DNA,” UN Women’s Policy Analyst Carla Kraft told IPS.

Founder of Women4Oceans Farah Obaidullah echoed similar sentiments to IPS to mark the occasion, stating: “It’s a great step that the UN is recognising the importance of addressing gender when it comes to achieving healthy oceans. You can’t achieve healthy oceans without achieving gender equality.”

Women make up approximately 47 percent of the world’s 120 million people, working in fisheries around the world, outnumbering men both in large-scale and small-scale fisheries.

However, women in the fisheries sector are largely concentrated in low-skilled, low-paid seasonal jobs without health, safety, and labour rights protections. In fact, women earn approximately 64 percent of men’s wages for the same work in aquaculture.

At the same time, women’s contributions both towards ocean-based livelihoods and conservation efforts remain invisible.

“There’s a disproportion valuation or recognition of women’s work and skills in marine and coastal development and ocean and marine resources,” Kraft said.

“Women’s economic empowerment is very much related to ocean activities and resources so it’s really about having gender equality as both a goal and a process through which we can conserve, preserve, and use the ocean in economic activity,” she added.

 

As ocean degradation and climate change deepens, women are left with even less access to economic resources, protection, and stable livelihoods, which thus exacerbates gender inequalities.

According to UN Women, women and children are 14 times more likely to die or get injured in natural disasters due to unequal access to resources.

While women’s political participation is increasing, Obaidullah noted that women are still left out of the table in decision-making and lack recognition around fisheries and ocean governance, telling IPS of her own experiences as an ocean advocate.

“It’s difficult—sometimes it’s because I’m a woman, sometimes it’s because of my ethnic background—to have my voice heard in certain settings. I’ll go to a conference and try to talk about serious topics with fellow delegates but [only to] be put down,” Obaidullah told IPS.

“I have seen how women have left the conservation movement and academia because of being in the minority in the fields that they work. And that has to change because we are losing out on all this capacity, intelligence, and training because of the inequality in this sector,” she added.

For instance, UN Women found that in Thailand men make 41 percent of decisions compared to 28 percent by women regarding fish farming. Such decisions are often related to establishing farms, business registration, feeding, and dealing with emergencies.

Obaidullah highlighted the need to empower  and support women across the globe to ensure sustainable ocean governance, including at the UN.

“Bringing in different voices from different backgrounds and from different genders is essential if we are going to set a healthier course for humanity…. we need to be making role models across geographies, across cultures if we are to get people motivated and inspired to take action for the ocean,” she said.

“There are a lot of women and people from different cultures and countries that are really on the ground fighting the fight for our ocean but they don’t get the spotlight.”

Women make up approximately 47 percent of the world’s 120 million people working in fisheries around the world, outnumbering men both in large-scale fisheries and small-scale fisheries. Credit: Lee Middleton/IPS

Already, the work towards inclusive conservation has begun.

In Seychelles, numerous organisations have put women and youth at the centre of efforts. One such organisation is SOCOMEP, a woman-run fisheries quality and quantity control company.

In Kenya, women are promoting conservation education within the mangrove forests through the Mikoko Pamoja mangrove conservation and restoration project, helping contribute to ecotourism, better health care and education while generating an income.

Kraft pointed to the need for data as the intersections between gender and the ocean still remain unexplored.

“One of the biggest issues right now that we have is the lack of sex-disaggregated data so it makes it harder to make really adequate policy responses when we don’t know the exact status of where women are in the economic activities in ocean and marine-related fields,” she said.

At the end of the day, the international community must also recognise that gender is related to and should be mainstreamed through all sectors.

“We have gone too long without having a gender lens really used for all of these policymakers…gender equality will benefit sustainable ocean governance and sustainable ocean governance with a gender lens will contribute to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment,” Kraft said.

OGP-APRM Collaboration A Positive Step for Good Governance in Africa

A memorandum of understanding was just signed between Open Governance Partnerships (OGP) and Africa’s flagship governance programme, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), sealed on the sidelines of the just concluded 6th Convening of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), in Ottawa, Canada.

By Korir Sing’Oei
NAIROBI, Jun 7 2019 – When two high profile governance initiatives strategically collaborate, the expected intent is to effect significant outcomes. Thus, the universe of democratic governance – lately buffeted by adverse winds of nationalism, intolerance and other threats – should take a keen note of the memorandum of understanding between Open Governance Partnerships (OGP) and Africa’s flagship governance programme, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), sealed on the sidelines of the just concluded 6th Convening of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), in Ottawa, Canada.  

Although the APRM was established in 2003 as a small project by the African Union (AU) under the framework of the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), it was under President Kenyatta’s chairmanship (2015-2017), that it reinvigorated and upgraded into a Specialized Agency of the AU.

OGP stands to gain from its collaboration with APRM since a critical challenge it faces is inadequate linkage with AU institutions. This challenge has contributed to perceptions that the West conceived it with little African involvement.

APRM’s robust mandate now encompasses not only support for African countries in the voluntary self-assessments of their governance and socio-economic processes but also monitors implementation of specific country commitments while tracking key Continental governance initiatives.

As such, the APRM is a mechanism for identifying governance deficiencies and assessing constraints to political stability, economic growth and sustainable development of a country. With a membership of 38 African countries and the ambition of universal participation by all the 54 states by 2020, APRM is a significant vehicle that the continent cannot ignore.

On the other hand, Africa has been a critical cog of the OGP since its inception in 2011, as reflected by the fact that 17% of the current membership of OGP is from Africa. Similarly, 3 of the 20 sub-national members of OGP (including Kenya’s Elgeyo Marakwet) are from Africa.

Rather than present mandate compliance of its membership with prescribed targets as does APRM, OGP mandates that participating countries curate National Action Plans (NAPs) detailing commitments towards good governance based on a participatory process that involves state and non-state actors.  The Independent Review Mechanism then reviews these co-created, context-specific and autonomous commitments.

As a country involved in both OGP and APRM, Kenya can state without equivocation that both initiatives are not placebo treatment to governance challenges that continue to imperil the continent.

Instead, they represent a serious attempt at tackling the impediments to sustainable development by mobilising important constituencies to the aid of governance.

In 2006, when Kenya went through the first APRM review, the outcome document revealed the clear need for a review of our constitution to create mechanisms for managing diversity and addressing land-related grievances.

These issues were to hurt the country a year later during the contested 2007 elections. On the ashes of this unfortunate development, Kenya proceeded to craft a reasonably progressive constitution that has served the country better over the last ten years.

Similarly, Kenya, now on its 3rd National Action Plan, has leveraged on its OGP membership to advance participatory budgeting, strengthen transparency in procurements through beneficial ownership and open contracting regimes and facilitate the enactment of laws on climate change and freedom of information.

Moreover, Kenya has become a vital laboratory by which the APRM may address one of its perceived weaknesses: disconnect with citizens of African member countries. Under Kenya’s 3rd NAP 2018-2020, APRM Kenya Office is working on modifying indicators used in country assessments for application at county levels.

Enabling counties to engage in a peer review process that will provide an opportunity for county reports on the state of their governance processes to be produced and submitted to the Council of Governors by the peer review with the ed county.

The APRM mashinani is bound to ensure that citizens at the grassroots level understand the relevance of this critical continental initiative, leading, hopefully to greater ownership. By cascading APRM to counties, the precise aim is also to enable counties to meet their constitutional obligation

Likewise, OGP stands to gain from its collaboration with APRM since a critical challenge it faces is inadequate linkage with AU institutions. This challenge has contributed to perceptions that the West conceived it with little African involvement.

It further impedes OGP from high-level political engagement with the AU, especially at the Heads of State Summit level. As the APRM is now even more firmly grounded in the African governance architecture than at its inception, and given it is well poised to bring most members of the AU block under its ambit; through APRM, OGP will find apposite structures to socialise African states regarding the potential presented by OGP in furthering good governance on the continent.

Kenya OGP community will undoubtedly lend its support to the effective activation of the OGP-APRM collaboration.