Latin America’s Challenge of Financing Energy Recovery

A covid vaccination center in Mexico City. Given the economic impact of the pandemic in Latin America, mass immunization is considered the indispensable step to the recovery of productive activities. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

A covid vaccination center in Mexico City. Given the economic impact of the pandemic in Latin America, mass immunization is considered the indispensable step to the recovery of productive activities. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 31 2021 – Hit by the pandemic’s socioeconomic and health impacts, Latin America is facing the challenge of financing an economic recovery based on a sustainable energy sector and a transition to clean sources of energy.

Most of the region have embarked on disbursements to alleviate these consequences, but these resources seem to be insufficient and are aimed at rescuing the hydrocarbon industry, in spite of its environmental connotations.

During his participation this Friday 28th in the XXX La Jolla Energy Conference, the Uruguayan Alfonso Blanco, Latin American Energy Organization’s (Olade) executive secretary, reminded that the region was already in a precarious financial position due to the weakness of its fiscal revenues.

The region is debating between contracting more foreign debt and levying more taxes, but cases such as the failed tax reform in Colombia, which sparked protests at the end of April, exemplify the consequences of changes that punish the middle and lower classes and ignore big capital

The meeting was held virtually, due to covid-19, between May 7 and Friday 28, organized by the non-governmental Institute of the Americas (IA), based in the coastal city of La Jolla, California.

“In the recovery, the role of energy transition is important to create more and better jobs in the region. Accelerating the energy transition will have a major impact on the economic situation, it is the role of green recovery in the immediate future. The transition is part of the decarbonization strategy to achieve the environmental objectives of the international negotiations,” Blanco told IPS.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic in the region, Olade initiated a dialogue with energy ministers and other multilateral agencies to support governments for a post-pandemic recovery.

With more than half a million deaths and an economic contraction of 7.4 percent in 2020, the region has been the hardest hit in the world by covid, which has had repercussions not only on health, but also on employment, infrastructure and the economy as a whole, as highlighted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In some countries, the blow was more severe, due to the decline in revenues from the production and export of hydrocarbons, such as oil and gas, due to the paralysis of global activities and the consequent drop in consumption.

And although the regional economy is already showing a rebound in 2021, the after-effects of the crisis will have a prolonged outcome, such as an increase in poverty.

The region is debating between contracting more foreign debt and levying more taxes, but cases such as the failed tax reform in Colombia, which sparked protests at the end of April, exemplify the consequences of changes that punish the middle and lower classes and ignore big capital.

Regional governments recognized the importance of sustainable recovery as early as October 2020, during the 38th session, also digital, of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). But this strategy is far from the measures implemented.

 

Looking for money

José Luis Manzano, the private fund Integra Capital’s director, said during the last day of the XXX Conference that “the tools the world has are multinationals, multilateral organizations and national development agencies. Money will come to the region, but we have to create competition.

The Argentine businessman suggested “turning to” Joe Biden’s government in the United States so that its policy of billionaire public investment “Build Back Better” expands to the south, beyond its borders, in an action that would have mutual benefits, and in a region in dispute with China -which in the last decade has sent public and private companies to invest in the area-.

In recent years, Latin America has made progress with wind and solar alternatives, but faces the challenge of reducing the burning of fossil fuels in the industry, transportation and improving energy efficiency.

This transition has come to a halt in countries such as Argentina and Mexico, which favor support for hydrocarbons, and Brazil, which promotes the gas industry.

In fact, data from the intergovernmental Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the non-governmental International Institute for Sustainable Development agree that energy measures are far from sustainable.

Countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru apply unsustainable policies. In a recent episode, state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) announced on May 24th the purchase of 50 percent-stake of the Deer Park refinery, in the U.S. state of Texas, from the Anglo-Dutch firm Shell for 600 million dollars, to assume its total ownership.

The benefits of sustainable recovery and pursuing zero net emissions by 2050 are impressive, particularly in the context of the pandemic.

The region could achieve annual savings of 621 billion dollars by 2050 if the region’s energy and transport sectors achieve net zero emissions, which would also create 7.7 million new permanent jobs, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In this regard, Stéphane Hallegatte, lead economist of the World Bank’s Climate Change Group, highlighted the building of resilience to covid-19 and assured that it is still “early” to say whether the recommendations will be implemented.

“All the mechanisms that have been applied can help in the future if we maintain them. We can get out of the crisis that way and build resilience,” he told IPS during the “Innovate for Climate” virtual meeting.

“Governments can play a role in helping to create jobs and public investment,” Hallegatte stressed, during the meeting sponsored by the multilateral institution and which analyzed climate actions between Tuesday, May 25th, and Thursday, May 27th.

 

Green options

Innovative though still under-deployed, green bonds can serve for a partial recovery financing.

“There has been a lot of progress in green bonds. There is a lot of interest in Chile and some national development banks,” said Gema Sacristan, head of investments at Invest IDB, the IDB’s private financing arm, during the XXX La Jolla Energy Conference.

Green bonds are instruments to obtain exclusive financing for projects such as renewable energy, sustainable construction, energy efficiency, clean transportation, water, waste management and agriculture.

Between 2014 and 2021, the region sold more than 20 billion dollars in green bonds, led by Brazil and Mexico, with most sales occurring in the last two years.

From Olade’s headquarters in Quito, Blanco expressed his optimism regarding the economic recovery and job creation, but stressed that “better and more modern regulations are needed, focused on sustainable recovery. We have to incorporate new technologies and energies”.

 

Slower Population Growth: The Goods and the Bads

In addition to the emotional stress and sorrow of widowhood, most people are unprepared to deal with the daunting challenges following the death of a spouse. Rather than treating widowhood as a taboo subject or something to ponder only in old age, couples need to discuss, plan and make decisions early on regarding the eventual and inevitable passing away of one’s spouse

Credit: Maricel Sequeira/IPS

By Joel E. Cohen and Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, May 31 2021 – Results from the 2020 population censuses in the United States and China recently made headlines. But rather than recognizing the social, economic and environmental benefits of slower rates of population growth for the U.S., China and the planet, much of the media stressed the downsides of slower growth and wrote about population collapse, baby bust and demographic decline.

The U.S. population increase of 7.4 percent from 2010 to 2020 was the second lowest rate of growth since the country’s first census in 1790, and half typical growth rates since 1790. Only during the Great Depression of the 1930s did U.S. population grow more slowly, by 7.3 percent. However, even slower rates of U.S population growth are expected in the coming decades (Figure 1).

 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

 

The populations of 55 countries or areas will decrease by 1% or more between 2020 and 2050. China’s population is projected to fall by almost 3%, Italy by 10% and Japan by 16%. By contrast, the population of the United States, currently at 333 million, is projected to grow by nearly 14%

China’s population grew 5.3 percent in the decade ending in 2020, the lowest decadal growth rate since the catastrophic famine of the late 1950s. India projects for 2011-2021 its lowest decadal rate of population growth, 12.5 percent, since its independence.

Lopsided lamentations have focused on the downsides of slower population growth. For example, some commentators who favor more rapid U.S. population growth contend that Americans desire to have more children than they are presently having.

However, while some Americans want more children than they are having, some want fewer. In 2011 (the latest available year), of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the United States, 1.6 million (27 percent) were mistimed and 1.1 million (18 percent) were unwanted at any time. Of all 2011 U.S. pregnancies, 45 percent were not intended.

Some public handwringers maintain that a large population size aids the United States’ competition for economic and geopolitical dominance with China. But the mercantilist view that there is strength in numbers alone is obsolete by centuries. A large or rapidly growing population is hardly necessary or sufficient for prosperity.

Finland, ranked the happiest country in the world, has an average number of children per woman per lifetime of 1.4, compared to the U.S. rate of 1.6 children per woman, South Korea’s 0.8, Singapore’s 1.1, Italy’s 1.3, Japan’s 1.4, Norway’s 1.5 and Denmark’s 1.7. China currently has an average 1.3 children per woman per lifetime, markedly fewer than the United States (Figure 2).

 

Source: National Statistical Offices.

 

Some advocates of more rapid population growth argue that it would permit more people who want to move to the U.S. to do so. About 158 million adults in other countries would like to settle permanently in the U.S., according to the Gallup poll in 2018. Would the U.S. willingly accept many or most of these would-be migrants?

More rapid population growth, especially through increased immigration of working-age adults, would temporarily ease the pressures on pay-as-you-go public programs for the elderly, particularly Social Security and Medicare, by broadening the country’s tax base.

But there’s a catch: in the future those additional workers would retire, requiring additional workers to broaden the tax base again for the retiring workers. This demographic expansion would need to continue indefinitely.

Public discussion has largely ignored the notable social, economic and environmental upsides of slower American population growth. Slower population growth increases economic opportunities for women and minority groups, and exerts upward pressures on wages, especially for unskilled labor.

For a given rate of capital investment, slower population growth also raises capital per person, raising productivity. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grows more slowly, but GDP per person grows faster.

All else equal, slower population growth lessens America’s contributions to climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, and pollution from commercial, industrial, agricultural, and domestic activities such as heating and cooling buildings and fueling transport. Slower population growth makes it easier for governments, schools, and civic and religious organizations to adapt to increasing demands of more people.

Worries about impending demographic doom for the U.S. seem decidedly misplaced. The United Nations projects that the populations of 55 countries or areas will decrease by 1 percent or more between 2020 and 2050. China’s population is projected to fall by almost 3 percent, Italy by 10 percent and Japan by 16 percent (Figure 3). By contrast, the population of the United States, currently at 333 million, is projected to grow by nearly 14 percent, largely through immigration, to 379 million by 2050.

 

Source: United Nations Population Division.

 

The world’s population growth rate peaked in the 1960s and is falling in most regions except sub-Saharan Africa. Whereas the U.S. population increased nearly four-fold during the 20th century, it is expected to increase by roughly 50 percent in the 21st century.

The United States and many other countries, including China, face real population challenges, but not principally slower population growth or even gradual population decline. The problems include rapid population aging, managing cities and economies in recognition of climate change, regulating and responding to migration, and enabling people to have the children they want through reproductive health care and child-care support.

As COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated worldwide, real population challenges include protecting people against present and future pandemics, maintaining competitive technological change with better investments in education and worker training, and raising the value placed on today’s children, who are tomorrow’s future problem solvers. In 2021, 22 percent of all children under age 5 years are stunted from chronic undernutrition, despite record cereal production globally.

The global slowdown in population growth rates is not a transitory demographic phenomenon. It signals important durable successes. Couples are having smaller numbers of children in an increasingly urbanized world while men and women pursue education, employment and careers and live longer than ever before.

It is time to recognize that slower population growth benefits America, China, and the Earth.

 

Joel E. Cohen is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations at The Rockefeller University and Columbia University in New York and author of “How Many People Can the Earth Support?”.

Joseph Chamie is a former Director of the United Nations Population Division, New York, former research director of the Center for Migration Studies and editor of International Migration Review, now an independent demographer and author of “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters”.

 

Leprosy Must Not Be Forgotten amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

A 14th century painting depicts two leprosy patients denied entrance to town. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Yohei Sasakawa
May 31 2021 (IPS-Partners)

The 74th World Health Assembly (WHA) takes place from May 24 to June 1. This year’s gathering is likely to be dominated by Covid-19, but here I want to talk about a different disease—leprosy—and a resolution that was adopted at the WHA exactly 30 years ago.

This resolution called for the elimination of leprosy as a public health problem at the global level by the year 2000, with elimination defined as a prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10,000 population. It was a landmark resolution for the time.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae. It mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves and is said to be one of the oldest diseases in human history.

Today an effective treatment exists in the form of multidrug therapy (MDT) and with early detection and treatment, the disease is completely curable. But if treatment is delayed, leprosy can cause impairments to the skin, nerves, face, hands and feet, and lead to permanent disability. Together with deep-seated fears and misperceptions about the disease, this has subjected persons affected by leprosy as well as their family members to severe discrimination, which regrettably continues to this day.

And, amid the coronavirus pandemic, we can see parallels between the discrimination and hostility toward Covid-19 patients, their families and health personnel that has been reported in different parts of the world and society’s attitudes toward leprosy.

Following the 1991 WHA resolution, elimination of leprosy as a public health problem was successfully achieved at the global level by the end of 2000, and almost all countries, including Bangladesh, have replicated that success at the national level. Unfortunately, this does not mean that leprosy has disappeared.

Each year, around 200,000 new cases of leprosy are reported to the WHO, with Bangladesh accounting for over 3,600 cases in 2019, the fifth highest total.

There are still endemic areas and scattered hot spots of leprosy in many countries and there are some 3-4 million people living with visible impairments or deformities due to leprosy. Meanwhile, the persistence of stigma and discrimination can inhibit people from seeking treatment.

Since becoming the World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination in 2001, I have visited some 120 countries and observed the situation on the ground for myself. This has led me to think of leprosy in terms of a motorcycle: the front wheel symbolises curing the disease, and the back wheel represents eliminating discrimination. Unless both wheels are turning together, we will not reach our ultimate goal of zero leprosy.

As regards the front wheel, the WHO recently published its new Global Leprosy Strategy 2021-2030, which includes the ambitious targets of zero leprosy patients in 120 countries and a 70 percent decrease in new cases detected globally by 2030. In order to achieve these targets, there will need to be commitments and financial support from governments; this is not something the WHO can achieve on its own.

Concerning the rear wheel, I have worked hard to have leprosy recognised internationally as a human rights issue since the early 2000s when I first approached the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. One result has been the resolution on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2010. But the real measure of success will be when principles and guidelines accompanying the resolution are fully implemented.

Over the past half-century, the dedication of a great many people has brought us a step closer to a world without leprosy, but our work is not yet done. In Bangladesh, the government has committed to achieving zero disability, zero discrimination and zero disease due to leprosy by 2030, following a National Leprosy Conference held in 2019, attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Especially now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that we do not lose sight of leprosy and that we continue to build on the progress we have made. Recalling how countries decided 30 years ago to unite in a fight against leprosy, let’s redouble our efforts to vanquish a disease that has been a common enemy of humankind for millennia.

Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

The Killings in Gaza and Two Jewish Philosophers’ Hope for a Better World

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, May 31 2021 – I hear about casualties and numbers, but cannot perceive the faces, the human beings behind them. A week ago, eleven days of havoc ended after at least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, had been killed in the Gaza Strip and 12 people, including two children, in Israel. An open, gravely infected wound which continuous to bleed, causing never ending human suffering.

The issue of Palestine and Israel generates strong emotions and quite often aggressiveness, making it difficult to nuance opinions and causes, an endeavour that may be likened to stepping out on a minefield. The reasons for the catastrophe is quite correctly considered to be a question about politics, religion, and ethnicity, though the dimension of personal suffering is easily forgotten.

Judaism (Yahadut) is a religion, while “Jews” are not a race. All Jews are not adherent to Judaism, though most Jews identify themselves as belonging to an ethnic group, others consider them all to be both a “race” and adherents to Judaism. In world politics, Israel is generally characterized as a “democratic Jewish state”, a notion that has been criticized as an anomaly. Generally speaking, a democratic nation ought to adhere to a principle meaning that every citizen is considered to be equal and it is difficult to reconcile such a perception with constructs like “Christian nations” or “Islamic Republics”. Nevertheless, as late as in 2014, Israel’s cabinet advanced a bill that would define Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”, declaring that Jewish law would be a “source of inspiration” for its Parliament.

The existence of Israel as a “Jewish state” is less than a hundred years old. In 1917, the so called Balfour Declaration was announced by the British government, stating its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Why should the British in 1917 care about the fate of the Jews? The answer is that the British Empire was at war with the Ottoman Empire and needed support from Jews and Arabs who were subjects to Turkish rulers, allied with Britain’s enemies – Germany and Austria-Hungary.

In 1920, leading men of the victorious powers met in the Italian seaside resort San Remo to divide the defeated Ottoman Empire. It was decided that Great Britain would receive a governing mandate for Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine. A prerequisite for the British temporary rule over Palestine was that they were supposed to prepare the creation of a “Jewish homeland”. After the horrors of World War II, when six million Jews had been deliberately and systematically exterminated within a Nazi-dominated Europe, the United Nations did in 1947 approve of the so called Resolution 181, which recommended a partition of the former British mandate of Palestine into “a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.”

At that time, 1,181,000 Muslims, 630,000 Jews and 143,000 Christians lived in Palestine. Most Muslims opposed an “ethnic” partition of their homeland. According to the UN plan, the majority of the land (56 percent) would go to a “Jewish state”, at that stage Jews legally owned only seven percent of the area supposed to be designated to them, while the territories proposed to end up within an “Arab state” contained much land deemed to be unfit for agriculture. When the British Mandate expired on the 14th of May 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, which had accepted the UN partition, declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.” The day after, war broke out between Israel and surrounding Arab States, which had not accepted the partition of Palestine. However, since they suspected that the Arab States did not intend to support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, few Palestinian Arabs joined the Arab Liberation Army.

The war ended in 1949 with an armistice which meant that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) were occupied by Egypt and Transjordan respectively. This First Arab-Israel War was followed by a second one in 1956, and in 1967 the so called Six Day War was waged from June 5 to June 10 between Israel and Jordan, Syria and Egypt. The Israeli army captured the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. The Six Day War was in 1973 followed by the October War, but Israel was able to hold on to its occupied territories.

Partly as a result of these wars, more than 850,000 Jews left Muslim dominated nations and entered Israel, often due to persecution, anti-Semitism and outright expulsion. However, Palestinians who fled, or were evicted, from Israel, were often not welcomed in other nations. As of 2020, more than 5.6 million Palestinians were still registered with The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as refugees, of which more than 1.5 million continue to live in UNRWA-run camps.

On the 7th of June 2021, Israeli has occupied the West Bank for 53 years. An 8 metres high wall now separates Israel from its conquered territory, which has been split into 167 Palestinian “islands”, under partial Palestinian National Authority civil rule, while 230 Israeli “settlements” has been established inside the area. Israel maintains complete “security control” for over 60 percent of the West Bank territory.

After the Six Day War, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 242, which established the categorical prohibition under international law to acquire territory by force. The Oslo Accords, which in 1993 were signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), established that a negotiation process would aim at achieving a peace treaty based on the UN resolution 242 and the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” However, these aims seem to be lost in a dim future, while Israel continues to support “Jewish settlements” on the West Bank, treating their residents under Israeli law.

In 1982, as a result of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and in 2005 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip were dismantled and Israeli troops left the area. Nevertheless, Israel retained its control of airspace, territorial waters, border crossings, currency and trade. After local elections in June 2007, Hamas took control of Gaza and after rocket attacks on Israel the Gaza Strip was by Israel declared as “enemy territory”. Israeli retaliation attacks have so far killed approximately 3,450 Palestinians in Gaza, while Israeli causalities have been estimated at 200, of whom 33 have died during rockets attacks.

Approximately 2 million people live in the Gaza strip. With the excuse that terrorists use Gaza as a base, the area has been blocked by both Israel and Egypt. It is not only the smuggling of weapons that is affected by this blockade – import of vital building materials, medicine and food is also obstructed. Along the Israeli border, Gaza is separated by a six metres high wall, supplemented by an underground barrier several metres in depth and equipped with sensors that can detect tunnel construction. A six metres high wall has also been constructed along the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as an underground steel barrier extending 18 meters into the ground.

Getting accustomed to the senseless killing and destruction in Gaza world opinion seems to have become numb to the suffering. People have been turned into abstractions, politically determined numbers. This is completely opposed to the teaching of two Jewish philosophers, Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, who as many Jews had been scared by the exterminations during World War II.

Even if Martin Buber (1878-1965) was a deeply religious Jew, he was opposed to the establishment of a “Jewish state”. He wanted Palestine to be an exemplary society without a Jewish domination over Arabs, hoping and believing that the two groups one day would live in peace within a shared nation. According to Buber, some persons live on the basis of their essence, trying to adapt themselves to their inner sense of being, while others live according to imagery, determined to adapt to the opinions of others and thus turn human existence into an abstraction. Authenticity depends on how we relate to others, or ability to meet and talk casually and unconditionally. To live is to be listened to and be seen, as well as listening, seeing and feeling.

Buber’s most important book was called I and Thou and Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) developed Buber’s thoughts further. Levinas taught that we “must welcome the other”, recognize other persons as “fellow beings”. The face-to-face encounter with “the other” is the primal moment from which all language and communication spring. The face of the other demands that we care for her/him because it establishes the basic I-Thou relationship. Recognition of and care for the other is the basis for resistance to the merciless callousness of genocides, which arise from a reduction of human beings to the status of commodities. To look into the face of the other is to hear the injunction not to kill.

This may sound banal, but it was written by persons who knew what suffering was. Such voices need to be listened to and it is now high time that the international community unities to amend all this animosity, suffering and bloodshed. Human rights have to be assured and respected, the UN resolutions must be followed, otherwise the misery will be endless. This is far from utopian thinking, it is a necessity.

Buber, Martin (2000) I and Thou. New York: Scribner. Levinas, Emmanuel (1989) The Levinas Reader. Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
                                                                      Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s Time to Reimagine Our Relationship with Nature

Greenpeace Brazil activists have joined forces with Munduruku Indigenous leaders to protest the Brazilian government’s plans to build a mega dam on the Tapajós river, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest in the Pará state. Credit: Rogério Assis / Greenpeace

By Savio Carvalho
AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands, May 31 2021 – Our natural earth is dying. It is on the brink of collapse.

Due to human impacts the planet is losing species – its biodiversity – at a rate so alarming it’s said to be comparable to the 5th mass extinction 65 million years ago, bringing the era of the dinosaurs to an end. Just 15% of the world’s forests remain intact, and only 3% of the world’s oceans are free from human pressures.

Intertwined with the biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis exacerbates species loss and social inequality, threatening the safety of our communities and our planet. Governments must work fast to stop the climate crisis in its tracks, and work with Indigeneous peoples and local communities to protect and restore nature.

Business-as-usual backed by polluted politics and corporate greed is holding us all to ransom. The same destructive systems that are stripping our forests and oceans of life are killing environmental defenders and pushing people into peril.

To balance our relationship with nature, we need governments to push back corporate interests and place people’s needs at the centre of future policies. This needs systemic changes in the way we relate to nature: a shift in how we produce and consume and how we operate our economies.

Savio Carvalho

This year’s meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) offers an opportunity for governments to help humanity balance it’s relationship with nature. To live in “harmony with nature”, as the CBD vision states, we must listen to those communities who have been depending on it for generations. Indigenous Peoples and other local communities must be heard and supported, their rights fully respected and protected.

11-24 October 2021, in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.

We’ve seen over and over how local communities are instrumental in protecting our planet against corporate greed. In Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, local communities secured legal protection and are reviving marine life and livelihoods. Studies from Brazil show that the most effective way to safeguard forest and biodiversity in the Amazon is to provide Indigenous people with the legal rights and instruments to defend their territories from encroachment, invasion and exploitation.

It’s time to move beyond “fortress conservation” – an antiquated and colonial approach to nature protection that has led to the eviction of Indigenous peoples and local communities of their ancestral lands, human rights violations, and outright atrocities.

Instead, Greenpeace is calling for an ambitious plan to protect and restore nature – a commitment to bold targets that protect at least 30% of our lands and oceans by 2030 – made in partnership with not against local and Indigenous communities.

For the CBD to succeed rights-based conservation must be an indispensable prerequisite, enshrined in it’s post-2020 global biodiversity framework. They must ensure local and Indigenous rights to land, and leadership in planning and managing protected areas. And provide robust legal instruments to defend these rights.

Deforested area Amazon. Credit: Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

Governments must also cut out dirty industries such as fossil fuel, forestry, and big agricultural companies from attempts to co-opt nature protection as a substitute for real emission reductions. Known as ‘offsetting, this approach is not only bad for our climate, but also puts a massive burden on those marginalised communities most affected by climate change.

As part of such offset schemes frontline communities often lose access to forests which are deeply connected to their lives and culture. They also provide them with food, medicine and income from non-timber forest products, getting a ridiculous amount of money in return.

In other cases, they lose access to land they rely on for food production, as it is being occupied by large corporations for planting monoculture tree plantations. All that for an often bogus and always uncertain reduction in emissions from land use, or increased sink capacities from ecosystem restoration.

We need widespread vigilance against insidious greenwashing tactics, and an unwavering commitment to cut emissions at their source, enforced by strict regulation. Partial measures to solve the climate crisis only serve as tactics that block necessary progress towards the protection of biodiversity and the 1.5oC Paris goal.

It’s imperative that governments protect nature and people and not let the fossil fuel industry hijack the agenda via their dirty lobbying and advertising tricks. Governments also need to ensure that COVID recovery must in no way cause more harm by investing or expanding in fossil fuel companies.

The worst-case outcome of land protection targets would be a rush for offset or other greenwashing projects that allow states and corporations with large greenhouse gas emissions to retain their unsustainable business model by investing in top-down managed protected areas.

This would further exacerbate social injustice, infringe rights, and undermine dignity and avenues for prosperity for local and Indigenous communities. This neo-colonialism must not be allowed to happen.

It’s time to act. Governments must recognise the urgency of the interconnected crises of climate and biodiversity and promote a shift of power that restores justice, and acknowledges and enables local communities to continue as the guardians of nature.

If nature disappears, our planet, our health, wellbeing and even our lives will disappear with it. Protecting nature is the only way to protect ourselves.

 


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The writer is Global Campaign Lead, Food and Forests, Greenpeace International

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The following Oped is part of a series of articles to commemorate World Environment Day June 5

World Environment Day 2021

By External Source
May 31 2021 (IPS-Partners)

These are just some of the beautiful ecosystems that we are lucky to have on our planet.

An ecosystem is the interaction between living things and their surroundings – from plants to animals to people.

The health of our ecosystems is what keeps us humans alive.

But we are destroying them and losing them at an alarming rate.

Forest areas the size of a country like Denmark are destroyed every year.

That’s the same as losing one football pitch every three seconds.

More than half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared over the last century.

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow and our planet is now at risk of a climate change catastrophe.

Imagine this: COVID-19 and everything that it did to our way of life is an example of what happens when ecosystems are allowed to die.

When a natural habitat for animals begins to shrink, we create the ideal conditions for harmful diseases to spread from them to us.

But we can make a change for the better.

We can act now to help the children of our future. Like me.

This year’s World Environment Day is all about Ecosystem Restoration.

It is a call for all of us to do our part in helping to heal our world and build a better future for everyone.

Restoring our ecosystems is a massive world project to repair billions of hectares of land so that people have access to food, clean water and jobs.

It means bringing back plants and animals from the brink of extinction.

But it also involves many small acts of kindness that every human can take – like planting a tree, rewilding our gardens, cleaning up trash and asking others to do the same.

The next 10 years of our lives are so important.

 


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Micro Insurance Company and ImaliPay Partner to Deliver Digital Insurance Products to Africa’s Gig Workers

NEW YORK, May 31, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — MicroEnsure (now part of the Micro Insurance Company) and ImaliPay are partnering to deliver digital insurance products to Africa's gig workers. These unique insurance products will provide this underserved sector with a safety net, so when the unexpected happens, people are able to bounce back swiftly.

Micro Insurance Company (MIC) is focused on providing end–to–end microinsurance products to the mass market at affordable premiums. ImaliPay is a fast–growing Pan African and VC–backed financial services platform focused on offering credit, savings, and insurance via a single channel or API to Africa's gig economy platforms. ImaliPay deploys short–term finance easily and quickly to enable their customers to generate more revenue from their gig work.

ImaliPay is partnering with MIC to deliver insurance products to their growing customer base of gig workers in Kenya. This partnership will empower gig workers by providing insurance tailored to their needs and their level/proportion of income generation. Furthermore, the addition of this insurance product will help improve the quality of life for delivery, ride–sharing, and mobility sector workers.

The majority of gig workers, especially in the ride–sharing sector, remain active despite the Covid–19 pandemic. Due to the nature of their jobs, they remain at high risk for contracting Covid–19 with minimal access to insurance coverage to protect them. Therefore, this insurance product being offered through the partnership between MIC and ImaliPay will cover Covid–19 as well as a range of other risks including health, death, disability, and property destruction.

Micro Insurance Company brings its comprehensive trajectory and track record in providing microinsurance which ImaliPay will leverage to provide insurance products to its customers.

Ms. Wairimu Njoki, Country Manager, MicroEnsure East Africa, says:

"We are delighted to be partnering with ImaliPay to boost the rising gig economy by providing social protection through innovative, need–based insurance. This is in line with our audacious goal of insuring the 4 billion un/underinsured lives globally."

Uptake of insurance remains low in Kenya, with poor product design and constrained distribution channels contributing to low insurance penetration levels. MIC and ImaliPay join forces to address both of these issues "" using ImaliPay's platform as a route to access these services along with their knowledge of the gig workforce, and MIC's expertise in product design to ensure optimal product consideration and adjusted premiums.

Tatenda Furusa, Co–founder of ImaliPay, says:

"At the very heart of our business, we are concerned with re–defining our customer experience by providing a wider product basket and prioritising the products that are most important/necessary to our customers. Insurance sits right at the forefront of our customer needs and we're happy to be catering to those needs with this collaboration."

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/a03b4557–90ee–4a47–9930–15ef8fe577c7


Motorcycle Diaries with a Twist

By Sania Farooqui
NEW DELHI, India, May 31 2021 – Four women, two motorbikes, 64 districts and a journey of a lifetime, this is the story of Dr. Sakia Haque from Bangladesh. In November 2016, Dr Haque co-founded “Travelettes of Bangladesh – Bhromon Konya,” a women’s only group, with the motto of “empowering women through travelling.” This platform is not just an ordinary online travel group, but it is a platform of connection, sisterhood and networking of almost 60,000 girls and women in Bangladesh that empowers them by teaching them to raise their voices and encourages them to step out of their comfort zones and to “go see the world”.

Dr. Sakia Haque

“I believe motorcycles give us freedom, you have amazing views, you can stop whenever you want to and you get to see so much beauty around you,” says Dr. Sakia in an interview to me. “We wanted to prove that women can do it, they can step out of their comfort zones and travel, also because everyone was against it, our families and our society. Have you ever seen a girl ride a bike? They would say this to keep us dependent. It was a rare site, no doubt about that, but now, a lot of women ride scooters and motorcycles.”

When Dr. Sakia is not traveling, she works as a Medical officer, Disease control, Civil surgeon office, at Cox’s Bazar, one of the largest refugee camps in the world. Dr Sakia likes to call herself a full time doctor and a part time traveller. Using her knowledge of medicine and her passion for the outdoors, Dr. Sakia took her travelling as an opportunity to connect with young girls she would meet on the way and engage them in open discussions on their rights, sexual and reproductive health, particularly about menstruation, which is often considered a taboo topic in the country.

“We wanted to go to the root level, talk to women, understand what they are facing and interact with them. What we realized is, it is hard to pour water in a cup which is already full, and that was the reason behind choosing school going girls because we felt we could motivate them more. They were much more open minded towards grasping the idea of empowerment, so that became our goal.”

Dr. Sakia has spent over two years on the road, through highways, small towns, villages, muddy rural roads, including sandy river-chars, stopping at one school in each district/ area they visited. However the road and this journey has not always been an easy one, Dr. Sakia and her fellow volunteers have faced multiple challenges and a lot of criticism for their work. They have been harassed on the roads, eve-teased while riding through cities and even questioned, what and why they were doing what they were doing.

“Women on bikes and traveling alone is not something people were used to seeing, atleast not five-six years ago. But now, women don’t even need Travelettes of Bangladesh to go anywhere, and this is what we wanted, we didn’t want women to depend or rely on any organizations. We wanted them to go on their own, travel on their own, so this has been a major change in the country,” says Dr. Haque.

In Spite of this significant achievement for women in the country, Bangladeshi women and girls continue to face violence in all facets of their lives. In a report published by the Humans Rights Watch, titled, “‘I Sleep in My Own Deathbed’: Violence against Women and Girls in Bangladesh,” draws on 50 interviews to document the obstacles and challenges women face in the country. Human Rights Watch found that “despite some important advances, the government’s response remains deeply inadequate, barriers to reporting assault or seeking legal recourse are frequently insurmountable, and services for survivors are in short supply.”

In an interview given to me earlier by Shireen Huq, a women’s rights activist and founder of Naripokko, a non-profit organization that has been working on women’s rights and impact of sexual violence in Bangladesh since 1983, said “ There is a culture of impunity in the country and when it comes to accessing justice, corruption continues to be a major obstacle. Violence, male dominance and male aggression have existed for years, the tendency to glorify that these things didn’t happen in the past, and that it’s only happening now in our lifetime, is not true. Misogyny has been part of our culture, politics and society for centuries, especially across South Asia.

“At the root of sexual violence there is a culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity that drives it. Looking at the gang rapes that happened in 2020 which sparked off a huge movement in Bangladesh in October, they were all committed by the student wing or the youth wing of the ruling party.”, Shireen said.

According to Ain O Salish Kendra, a Bangladeshi human rights organization, 975 women were raped in the first nine months of 2020, 43 women were killed after being raped and 204 women were attempted to be raped by men in Bangladesh.

Despite a number of major strides made by women in Bangladesh over the past decades, which includes right to vote since 1947, electing its first female Prime Minister in 1991, Bangladesh has the eight lowest gender gap in political empowerment in the world, partially due to the fact that it has had a female head of government for longer than any other country in the world. The proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament doubled from 10 percent in 1990 to 20 percent in 2011.

Bangladesh could be a textbook example of “what is possible when women are involved in decision-making positions”, however unless the Bangladeshi government doesnt take concrete actions, works on making structural reforms against sexual violence and domestic violence against women, and remove obstacles to reporting violence and obtaining justice, no progress can be made in the country.

“The Bangladeshi justice system is failing women and girls with devastating consequences,” says Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should seize this pivotal moment to implement real reform that could save lives and promote the equal society it envisions,” Ganguly said.

The challenge not only lies in the lack of acknowledgement in government structures, but also in the need to create and put in place gender responsive policies that would pave the way for a more equitable environment.

While Dr. Sakia has managed to shatter a big glass ceiling in the country, making solo female travellers a more common sight than what it was before, she has also challenged the notions of what a woman can or cannot do, including riding a motorbike – with or without the street harassment and violence.

“What women also need to do now is know their value and worth, and believe in whatever they want to achieve. Collective workshops are not enough, we have to instill the idea that a woman can be empowered, because she is equal to a man, not just physically, but this equality comes from the mind and her belief system, that’s the change we need,” says Dr. Sakia.

The author is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The Sania Farooqui Show where Muslim women from around the world are invited to share their views.

 


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Is Sharing More than Water the Key to Transboundary Governance in the Meghna River Basin?

The Meghna River Basin is significant to both Bangladesh and India as it supports the livelihoods of almost 50 million people. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

The Meghna River Basin is significant to both Bangladesh and India as it supports the livelihoods of almost 50 million people. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, May 31 2021 – Kajol Miah is a rice farmer from the Bangladesh side of the Meghna River Basin. And in towns on the Indian side of the river basin, Bangladeshi rice is in great demand.

The example is a simple one that highlights the concept of benefit sharing between riparian countries. Benefit sharing goes beyond the mere sharing of water resources. It includes equitably dividing the goods, products and services connected to the watercourse.

According to Raquibul Amin, country representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Bangladesh, benefit sharing can provide a solution to conserve water resources and ensure integrated and cooperative management of the Meghna River Basin.

“Negotiations on benefit sharing are based on the principles of the International Water Law, such as reasonable and equitable utilisation of the shared water resources, not inflicting harm, and achieving win-win outcomes for multiple stakeholders,” Amin told IPS, adding that governance based on benefit sharing was more holistic than traditional governance, which has historically been about allocating water.

One example of traditional water governance is the 1996 Ganges Water Treaty between India and Bangladesh, which is based on sharing volumes of water.

But, according to Amin, parties negotiating a benefit sharing agreement are usually not interested in the water itself, but rather in the economic opportunities and ecosystem services that can be obtained and enhanced through the joint management of a river basin.

The Meghna River Basin is significant to both Bangladesh and India as it supports the livelihoods of almost 50 million people.

The area is also considerably large — almost twice the size of Switzerland — with 47,000 km2 of the basin located in India and 35,000 km2 located downstream in Bangladesh.

A rice paddy in the haor region of Bangladesh. Benefit sharing goes beyond the mere sharing of water resources. It includes equitably dividing the goods, products and services connected to the watercourse. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

A rice paddy in the haor region of Bangladesh. Benefit sharing goes beyond the mere sharing of water resources. It includes equitably dividing the goods, products and services connected to the watercourse. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Close to 90 percent of the forest or watershed of the Meghna river basin is located in India and is the source of river water flowing downstream into Bangladesh. For example, the Meghalaya plateau in India is rich in forests and is the source of many transboundary tributaries of the Meghna river system, such as the Umngot and the Myntdu, flowing from Jaintia hills into the haor region of Bangladesh, known for numerous wetlands of considerable areal extent representing important sites for fish breeding. 

Tanguar haor and Hakaluki haor are examples of wetland ecosystems rich in aquatic diversity and a roosting place for many migratory species of birds. Both are Ramsar sites, and Hakaluki haor holds the designation of Bangladesh’s largest inland waterbody.

But what happens upstream, affects downstream. This can be seen in the nearly 6 million tonnes of sediment that flows from the Indian side of the basin, down to Bangladesh’s haor region which creates problems for the management of these wetlands. 

“The benefit sharing approach to water dialogue will allow the two countries to engage in joint management of the forest and wetlands. The natural infrastructure of the Meghna Basin is critical for the maintenance of its hydrology,” Amin said.    

Amin noted that Bangladesh and India can discuss ways to jointly manage the forest of the basin for improving flood and silt management — two main challenges that affect the productivity of the fisheries and agriculture sector in the Surma-Kushiyara region in the Upper Meghna Basin in Bangladesh.

Miah, who is a resident from Kalmakanda in the Netrakona District, has also experienced recurring floods.         

“We, the haor [wetland ecosystem] dwellers, are dependent on Boro [rice] paddy as there is no alternative to cultivating other crops in haors. But, flash floods frequently damage our lone crop for lack of proper flood forecast, putting our life in trouble,” he told IPS.

The fortunes of rice farmers of the haor also impacts Bangladesh’s food security as their rice production constitutes 20 percent of the country’s total rice production.

The dialogue of benefit sharing for the Meghna River Basin is part of a larger project by IUCN called Building River Dialogue and Governance in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basins (BRIDGE GBM), funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) through the Oxfam Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) programme.

The Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna or GBM delta is a transboundary river system that traverses the five countries of Nepal, India, China, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

“IUCN is providing a neutral platform for facilitating transboundary dialogues and joint research among the relevant stakeholders from Bangladesh and India. These have documented a variety of ecosystem benefits provided by the Meghna River Basin, and identified priority areas, such as joint management of forest for flood and erosion control, development of transboundary navigation and ecotourism circuits where the two countries can work jointly to enhance these benefits from the basin,” Vishwa Ranjan Sinha, Programme Officer, Natural Resources Group, IUCN Asia Regional Office, told IPS. 

IUCN developed a six-step process to support the development of benefit sharing agreements in a shared river basin:

  • identifying benefits provided by the basin,
  • identifying stakeholders and potential equity issues,
  • identifying and building benefit-enhancing scenarios,
  • assessing and distributing benefits and costs,
  • negotiating a benefit sharing agreement, and
  • strengthening the institutional arrangement for the implementation of the agreement.

IUCN also facilitated joint research and data sharing on land use and socio-economic changes across the Meghna River Basin to create data and evidence for the bilateral dialogue. Institutions conducting research include the Dhaka-based think-tank Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) and the Asian Centre for Development as well as India’s Northeast Hill University and the Institute of Economic Growth. 

Dr. Malik Fida A Khan, executive director of CEGIS, is optimistic of the advantages of benefit sharing. If done well, he told IPS, local communities of both countries will come forward to support the joint management of the basin because it provides for their livelihoods. He said their mutual benefit could also lead to data sharing for each other’s benefits.

Freshwater Conservation is one of the themes of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which will be held from Sept.3-11,  2021 in Marseille. One of the Congress sessions will specifically focus on nature-based solutions that have been used as a tool to strengthen inclusive governance in the BRIDGE GBM project.

** Writing with Nalisha Adams in BONN, Germany

 


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ST, RAMSEM open first African sorting lab

NAVASOTA, Texas, May 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Global livestock semen sorting leader and innovator Sexing Technologies (ST) has partnered with pioneering livestock artificial insemination company RAMSEM to establish Africa's first semen sorting lab. The lab is at RAMSEM's facility near Bloemfontein, South Africa.

The lab will produce fresh and frozen sex–sorted semen from sheep, goats and cattle. ST's sex sorting method separates X chromosome (female) bearing sperm from Y chromosome (male) bearing sperm through a process called flow cytometry. This provides customers with semen that is more than 90 percent accurate for the desired gender and achieves conception rates comparable to conventional (unsorted) semen used for artificial insemination.

RAMSEM is a globally renowned leader in sheep and goat reproductive services, most notably the semen freezing and laparoscopic artificial insemination (A.I.) techniques introduced to South Africa in 1985 by Dr. Johan Steyn, one of the company's founders. Since its founding, RAMSEM has expanded its service offerings to include embryo transfer (ET) and exporting sheep genetics worldwide. Dr. Johan Steyn remains on staff as head of the company's laparoscopic A.I. and ET programs

"Ramsem is privileged to partner with Sexing Technologies, the most reputable name in the business of semen sorting services," says Dr. Fanie Steyn, RAMSEM Managing Director and son of Dr. Johan Steyn. "This partnership introduced semen sorting to the African continent and is set to revolutionize the breeding industry for Southern African cattle, sheep and goats. ST's cutting edge research and development work has resulted in its flagship sorted semen product, SexedULTRA, which is already producing results comparable to conventional fresh semen laparoscopic A.I. in South Africa.

"This partnership truly embodies RAMSEM's motto that "experience plus technology equals results!'" Dr. Fanie Steyn adds.

RAMSEM also works to help conserve Africa's wildlife. The company is providing semen freezing services to ARK Biotech for preservation of African Buffalo, Rhinoceros and Lion genetics. With the opening of the lab, RAMSEM will expand its partnership with ARK Biotech to include semen sorting and invitro fertilization services.

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Sexing Technologies is the world leader and innovator and leader in livestock semen sex–sorting technology.

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