How to Stop the ‘Hunger Pandemic’ During COVID-19

Souta Oshiro, Seoul, Korea. “This is a meme that I created. It is about donating foods that you overbought to food banks. I tried to make it funny and effective.”

Souta Oshiro, Seoul, Korea. “This is a meme that I created. It is about donating foods that you overbought to food banks. I tried to make it funny and effective.” Credit: Souta Oshiro

By Sungjoon Ham, Souta Oshiro and Alex Yoon
Seoul, Tokyo, Boston, Jun 13 2022 – Johnny, living in the United States (US), goes to his school and gets free breakfast and lunch there. There may not be enough food for dinner at home. But he knows that he can get fed at school. Sadly, however, after the pandemic, schools were closed, which meant no breakfast and no lunch for him.

Living in the United Kingdom (UK), Peter faces the same problem. He is lucky because he has a caring teacher who painstakingly walks five kilometers every day to deliver his meals. But not everyone is as lucky as Peter.

Farmers produce about 4 billion tons of food globally, but 1.3 billion tons (about one-third) are wasted and lost. Can you imagine how much that is? 100 kg of food loss and waste for every person on the planet!

Are you surprised?

Did you think that the issue of hunger concerns children in developing nations only during COVID-19?

Hunger now extends to countries like the UK, South Korea, Japan, and the US.

In other words, especially during the pandemic, hunger is not their problem but OUR problem.

Therefore, the urgency in solving this issue has become more apparent to those living in developed countries. We hope to inspire a movement of change through our efforts and inspire others to fight hunger by stopping food loss and waste.

We have to ask a fundamental question: Why does Johnny have nothing to eat while Sam in the neighborhood has too much food to eat?

Extending this question to an international level, why are children in Somalia starving while children in the US have obesity problems for overeating? What causes such inequality? And what can we do about it? We know that it sounds like a daunting challenge. How can kids like us, young and inexperienced, make a difference in world hunger?

A contingent of adults thinks we have neither the experience nor the expertise to bring changes to the “real world”.

No one said stopping hunger would be easy, especially during this pandemic. But it’s necessary, and it’s worth it.

From our research, the solution to world hunger, especially during COVID-19, can be two-fold. Firstly, the redirection of excess foods towards those in need, and secondly, the ‘untact’ method.

Let us start with the redirection of excess foods. There is a saying: “Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure.” In other words, the food that Sam wastes can feed Johnny’s entire family.

Let’s take it to a global level. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the food currently lost or wasted in America could feed 300 million people, and in Europe, 200 million people.

If food could be redistributed to people or nations in hunger before it is wasted or lost, we would end the hunger pandemic.

Indeed, many countries are running soup kitchens and making donations of food. But after the COVID-19, many countries closed their borders, banned social gatherings, and even eating-in facilities.

Furthermore, a survey from the Borgen Project revealed that half of the people surveyed had concerns about exposing themselves to the virus in these eating spaces.

So not only less economically developed countries (LEDC) but also more economically developed countries (MEDC) are facing a hunger pandemic due to COVID-19.

According to Feeding America, an estimated 42 million people, or one in eight Americans, faced food insecurity in 2021.

How can we solve this hunger crisis during the COVID pandemic? We are suggesting our second solution: using the ‘untact’ method.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, a new term, ‘untact’ (a combination of the prefix’ un’ and the word ‘contact’), has been floating around our society to indicate contactless movement in our daily affairs.

Can we somehow use the ‘untact’ method to redirect and redistribute foods before they are wasted or lost?

We find the answer in technology – in apps. For example, COPIA is an app created in the US to redistribute surplus food to feed the hungry.

This is how it works: Any restaurants, hotels, hospitals, cafeterias, and other businesses with food can use COPIA’s app to schedule pickups of their surplus food. Then a COPIA donation delivery driver picks up their excess food and delivers it safely to a local nonprofit recipient.

But COPIA’s job doesn’t stop there.

They track surplus trends for those donors so that they can reduce their food waste and loss.

Businesses can also get significant tax savings by using COPIA: For every $1 a company invests in food waste reduction, they can expect a $14 return on investment.

So, it is a win-win situation for all.

And this kind of ‘untact’ technology via an app is observed in other parts of the world: Wakeai app in Japan, Damogo in South Korea, Makan Rescue App in Singapore, Karma app in the EU and the UK, JustNow app in Africa, Flashfood app in Canada, Bring Me Home app in Australia and the list goes on.

We see this ‘untact’ technology as a possible solution that can reduce food loss and waste worldwide. We hope people try these apps and join our efforts to fight the hunger pandemic.

Besides the apps, there are practical solutions that we exercise in our daily lives as middle school students. We will share them here, hoping our actions can inspire others to do the same.

Alex Yoon inside the Stop and Shop, Massachusetts, USA. “I found these unwanted ugly fruits in this cart and decided to buy them to show that I am trying to reduce food waste instead of throwing them away. I blended them and made juice out of them.”

Alex Yoon inside the Stop and Shop, Massachusetts, USA. “I found these unwanted ugly fruits in this cart and decided to buy them to show that I am trying to reduce food waste instead of throwing them away. I blended them and made juice out of them.”

“When I go to a grocery store, I go for the unwanted ugly fruits because most people want to buy perfect-looking fruits only, and those ugly fruits end up in a trash can later because nobody wants them. I bring those ugly fruits home and make juice out of them. I find that they taste the same! So, I am holding up a sign in front of a fruit corner saying, ‘Aesthetics should not matter in produce selection!’, hoping to inspire people to buy all fruits regardless of their appearance,” says Alex Yoon.

Alex’s public campaign in the grocery store encourages many to follow suit by making mindful choices when choosing what to buy.

Souta Oshiro, Seoul (Raemian APT, Due Cose Hannam Branch, Shinsegae Department Store). “I am teaching food waste and loss to my friend. Some tips include buying food that has a shorter shelf time, eating everything on my plate, and planning for dinner to reduce food waste.”

Souta Oshiro, Seoul (Raemian APT, Due Cose Hannam Branch, Shinsegae Department Store). “I am teaching food waste and loss to my friend. Some tips include buying food that has a shorter shelf time, eating everything on my plate, and planning for dinner to reduce food waste.”

Looking at Souta Oshiro’s efforts, we can see how beneficial food loss education can be on a personalized level.

“I run a private campaign with my friends. I go to their homes and educate them about food loss and waste issues in the world. In addition, when I go to a grocery store, I opt for foods that will expire soon and be wasted rather than freshly new products. When I come home with these foods, I feel so good because I saved them from going to a trash can,” Souta says.

“This feeling of satisfaction in preventing food from being wasted does not end here. As a household, when we purchase too much food during our weekly shopping, we choose to donate the extras to a food bank. This encourages us to not only be mindful during our shopping but also beyond the exit doors of the grocery store. The waste is not in landfills but in someone’s mouth. This simple redirection of excess foods means my family is relieved that our surplus will not end up in the trash.”

Chris Ham, Seocho Middle School, Seoul, Korea: “I am holding up a large sign to passionately champion the increase of awareness on the severity of the hunger issue.”

Sungjoon Ham, Seocho Middle School, Seoul, Korea: “I am holding up a large sign to passionately champion the increase of awareness on the severity of the hunger issue.”

Sungjoon Ham has chosen to participate in a public campaign in front of his school grounds so that his peers and teachers can be swayed to make mindful choices in their own lives. He aims to make students, who are hungry at lunchtime, think twice before piling up excess foods. These foods are not likely to be eaten because the students are too full. Furthermore, he hopes this can allow all those more fortunate to take a step back and reflect on being a part of the solution rather than the problem.

“During my campaign efforts, I hoped to increase awareness through my actions and artistic choices, which was why I decided to make my poster large with bold lettering. However, I did not want my efforts to end there. I hope that my actions can spread throughout social media with the help of my friends. Through inspiration from the Ice Bucket Challenge, I plan to upload this picture with the tag #NoFoodLoss. This process will allow many more people to join my campaign that will hopefully not end in Korea but spread worldwide,” says Sungjoon.

After looking at our efforts to end food loss and waste, we hope to encourage others to take part and spread awareness.

We agree that everyone should stop wasting food. However, this cannot be solved simply through a proclamation.

Therefore, we focused on compiling extensive research and explored the depths of this issue, which we found to be enjoyable.

Sadly, many people are not aware of hunger and food waste.

In conclusion, we hope that through reading this article, the depths of food waste and loss are understood and will encourage our audience to develop forward-thinking solutions for the betterment of our future.

Sungjoon Ham, Souta Oshiro, and Alex Yoon are middle school learners living in the USA and Asia. They participated in a joint APDA, and IPS training on developing opinion content. Hanna Yoon led the course and edited the opinion content. 

IPS UN Bureau Report

 


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The Ukraine Stalemate: Dangers of Sleepwalking into Nuclear Armageddon

By Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury
SINGAPORE, Jun 13 2022 (IPS-Partners)

Despite the fact that the post Second World War period witnessed the growth and proliferation of a plethora horrendous weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear bombs, human intellectual ingenuity managed to keep the slide into catastrophe at bay. The idea was proffered, and largely accepted, that these weapons were meant not to fight wars but to prevent them. During much of the Cold War period, when nuclear weapons proliferated, particularly among the superpowers, peace was maintained on the premise of the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Since the key superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, had the capacity to destroy each other many times over, rational logic prevented both from initiating a nuclear war. Defence was achieved by deterrence, that is preventing the enemy from attacking with threat of overwhelmingly unacceptable level of retaliation (“nuclear deterrence”)

Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

Then in the mid – 1970s the US Secretary of Defence enunciated the ‘Schlesinger doctrine’ named after him. It held that there could be small scale, limited nuclear conflicts, using weapons with greater precision but lower yield, specifically targeted, gradually escalating to higher levels of warfare. In other words, a nuclear exchange could imply ‘limited warfighting’ which could also be winnable. The view was that at one point of equilibrium along the escalating curve, one side would capitulate. Design and weapons-production followed theory. Weapons became smaller and more precise. They were tactical with shorter range and more appropriate for battlefield or theatre use. For these very reasons the propensity for possible use increased mathematically, and logically. Sensing this danger leaders negotiated and signed treaties, bringing down numbers of long distance and shortrange ordnances down impressively. The total size of nuclear arsenal came down from much higher numbers to about 13000 strategic and 2000 tactical weapons. Eventually these treaties expired. However, rationality still held sway, and although wars had not ceased. Nonetheless, the danger of a nuclear war seemed to have receded. At least up until now.

The aforesaid discussion largely reflected the extant western theoretical and doctrinal literature. But what about Russia, the successor of the Soviet Union? Briefly Russian thinking in this regard was encompassed in the two concepts of SDERZIVANIE (“nuclear restraint”) and USTRASHENIE (‘intimidation”). This combination is meant to persuade the adversary that it has no chance of achieving its strategic goals by force. This policy which implies use of conventional and strategic weaponry remains in operation both in peace and war. Nuclear weapons are seen as being only one item in the tool- kit of warfare. It includes the western concept of “deterrence” as well as coercive measures and compellence. It is thus designed to be a multi-domain cross-cutting effort using both soft and hard power. Hence the western perception of the Russian doctrine as “hybrid”.

In June 2020, President Vladimir Putin signed Executive Order355 that outlined Russia’s current strategic doctrine. It contained a systematized asymmetric approach, underscoring the severity and certainty of “punishment”. The document lists a whole series of activities by the adversary that may be constituted as a threat to Russia (and its allies) to be “neutralized by the implementation of nuclear deterrence” (meaning “nuclear weapons”). The order also allows for the use of nuclear weapons not only to counter the enemy’s similar capabilities, but also “other types of weapons of mass destruction of significant combat potential of general purpose forces”. Western analysts believe this as entailing a wide range of options to introduce nuclear weapons at an early stage of conflict to prevent its spread. In other words, a reconfirmation of the “escalate to de-escalate” strategy.

Additionally, the Russians are said to have in place what is known as “dead hand” system, or the “perimeter”. It is designed to automatically initiate the launch of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) by sending a pre-entered highest authority order if an enemy nuclear strike is detected by seismic, light, radioactivity, and pressure sensors. It will operate even if the commanding elements are fully destroyed, for instance by a pre-emptive strike. The system is normally switched off, but is supposed to be activated during times of crisis. The current war in Ukraine probably fits the bill, especially when Putin has put the nuclear deterrence on “full alert”. In any case, it is said to remain fully functional and can be pressed into service whenever needed. The US does not operate a “dead hand” counterpart, but the National Command Authority has backup authorities in the event of the death of the President and/or of Secretary of Defence.

Presidents Biden and Putin had got off to a what seemed to be a fairly decent start when in a phone conversation in February last year they agreed to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by five more years. By doing so they were reversing the decision earlier of President Donald Trump. But with the Ukraine crisis boiling over right now, that happy moment seems ions ago. In the war in Ukraine whether by tactical design or military compulsion the Russians have eased pressure on other parts including the capital Kyiv and are now consolidating focus on the east, in Donbass and Crimea. One consequence has been a burgeoning sense among western allies that a Russian defeat is possible. Hence the enthusiasm to arm the Ukrainians with deadlier weapons than earlier thought appropriate, or wise. The Russian leadership have been warning that red lines are being crossed. The peace talks in Belarus and Turkey have all but collapsed. The sanctions- noose around Russia is being tightened. We have reached a stalemate. The world is on edge. This is what the great international relations thinker Coral Bell described as a “crisis -slide”. As things stand now, one hasty decision, an accidental shooting down of a plane, one bomb reaching the wrong target can bring unspeakable results. The danger is very real that one side may be persuaded that the use of a nuclear device would be “rational”. We have climbed high on Herman Kahn’s “escalation ladder” to Armageddon. Are we inexorably sleepwalking towards a horrific conflagration?

There must be a rethink by global leaders while there is time. Just as President John Kennedy and Premier Nikita Krushchev walked away from the brink of disaster during the Cuban crisis in 1962, our chance may lie in that bit of history repeating itself. My own long diplomatic career had been devoted to issues of disarmament and non-proliferation. I have never felt as close to catastrophe as I do now. Should good sense prevail, and disaster avoided, we must look to one glimmer of hope in the dark cloud. That is the UN Resolution 72/31 of 4 December 2017 banning nuclear weapons. It will take enormous leadership and courage, and a great leap of faith to commit ourselves to it. They say victors write the history. But a total nuclear war may leave us with no history at all, as there perhaps may be none alive to write it!

This story was originally published by Dhaka Courier.

A Treasonous President and a Nation in Peril

Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, addresses the General Assembly’s 75th session in September 2020. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Alon Ben-Meir
NEW YORK, Jun 13 2022 – I am at a loss for words to express my horror as I watched the first segment of the public hearing of the Congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. As long as the Republican Party denies what happened that infamous day and Trump remains free, this country faces unprecedented peril.

Righting the Wrong

The Congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection began the first of its public hearings last week. Each of these is of the highest importance to the country, even if many Americans are unlikely to be swayed by them.

Last Thursday’s hearing revealed never-before-seen footage of the violence that erupted in the nation’s capital, and testimony from officials and advisors close to Trump (including Attorney General Barr and Ivanka Trump) made it clear that they did not believe Trump’s fabrication of a stolen election and told him so.

These hearings are crucial to our Republic, to maintaining the integrity of our democratic norms and institutions, and to preventing not simply another violent mob outbreak, but another attack on our democracy orchestrated, as this was, by the highest office in the land.

Indeed, what happened on January 6, 2021, was unprecedented in our history. It was the culmination of a concerted months-long effort by the President of the United States to halt the transfer of power and stage a coup that would have meant the end of this country as we know it, had he been successful.

The rule of law hung in the balance that day. Trump knowingly lied and continues to lie about the results of the 2020 election, and he summoned a mob to the capital promising that January 6 would be “Wild” – a last ditch effort to prevent the certification of Biden’s election victory.

Every president in our nation’s history has honored the constitutional duty to relinquish power and allow the peaceful transfer of executive authority – every president that is, until Donald Trump.

This is what many Americans still fail to grasp or acknowledge: Trump struck at the very heart of our democracy, he broke a solemn oath and in doing so he has made it easier for this to happen again.

If presidents are unwilling to honor the results of free and fair elections, then the future of this Republic in the gravest of danger. As it is, Trump has forever stained the office of the president: in breaking his oath to the constitution he has irrevocably broken the sacred trust between the American people and their chief executive.

Nothing will ever change the fact that a sitting president attempted an illegal, unconstitutional, and profoundly immoral coup to remain in power; that is a cause not only for the gravest concern but for the deepest sadness.

These hearings then are among the most important ever conducted in the 246 years since this nation was born, for they bear on nothing less than the very survival of this country as a constitutional democracy.

The existential danger that burst into deadly mob violence on January 6 has not been laid to rest, it is ongoing. It is still poisoning our country and casting a shadow over the next presidential election.

Trump continues to lie to the public; Republican lawmakers continue to parrot those lies and downplay what happened on January 6 or excuse and even justify it as “legitimate political discourse.”

If a mob attack on the Capitol is “legitimate political discourse” then our fate is already sealed – it is, then only a matter of time until the next violent insurrection; and the next one may well make January 6 look like a mere rehearsal.

If Trump had his way, then Vice-President Pence would have also broken his oath to the constitution and derailed the certification of electoral votes. Our continued existence as a Republic might very well have hung on Pence’s actions that day.

The mob’s response was to call for Pence to be hanged, and a noose and scaffold was erected apparently for that very purpose. What was Trump’s reaction when he was told that the mob was calling for Pence’s summary execution? His words were: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea.” Mike Pence “deserves” it.

Trump did not want the attack to stop, responded angrily to advisors that begged him to call off the mob, and supported their aim to see Mike Pence, one of his most loyal followers, hanged. The country as a whole must reckon with and acknowledge what a sitting president perpetrated and the existential harm he brought on this country with his reckless, abhorrent, and illegal actions.

To be sure, Trump was personally and directly responsible for the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814, and as long as he is at the helm of the Republican Party, he remains a very serious threat to the United States.

The Republican Party has been irredeemably hijacked by Trump’s autocratic ambitions. In following him they are bringing this country ever closer to another existential precipice. Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming – effectively excommunicated from the Republican Party simply for performing her sworn duty as a member of Congress – said what every Republican lawmaker “defending the indefensible” must hear and take to heart:

“There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

Indeed, if these hearings assure us of anything it is that history will not be able to forget or deny the peril in which the nation was placed by a violent mob deployed by the President of the United States to overturn the result of a legitimate elections.

It is now clear, even before we hear more testimony, that Trump and his co-conspirators engineered a coup to prevent the peaceful transfer of power even though he handedly lost the election.

Trump knowingly violated the constitution that he swore to uphold and protect. Thus, there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that he has committed treason against the United States, for which he must be charged and face his day in court.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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Excerpt:

The writer, a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU), taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.

Should Sri Lanka Join the Ranks of the “Poorest of the World’s Poor”?

The long lines for kerosene, used in cooking, which is in short supply island-wide. Credit: Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2022 – As one of the world’s foremost international humanitarian organizations, the United Nations has pledged to provide food and medicines to cash-strapped Sri Lanka –a country suffering from a major financial crisis.

As of last week, a UN team, led by the Resident Coordinator in Colombo, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy has appealed to international donors for more than $47 million in “life-saving assistance” to 1.7 million people in a country with a population of over 22 million.

This stands in contrast to the staggering $5.0 billion the government is seeking for the island’s economic survival during the next six months—primarily for food, fuel and fertilizer.

Last month, the UN announced that with a $1.5 million donation from the Government of Japan, the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF will procure medicines for over 1.2 million people, among them 53,000 pregnant mothers and nearly 122,000 children with immediate medical needs.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is expected to receive about $1.5 million from Japan to provide food assistance to children and families in need of support.

In addition, Australia has made available the equivalent of nearly $5 million for food security, essential medicines for women’s health, nutrition data collection and analysis with UN agencies working together, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund.

Currently, some of the UN’s biggest aid recipients are either countries embroiled in military conflicts such as Ukraine, Afghanistan and Yemen – or the 46 member states categorized as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), “the poorest of the world’s poor”.

The majority of LDCs are from Africa, including Angola, Rwanda, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Central African Republic, while the LDCs from Asia include Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

https://www.un.org/development/desa/dpad/least-developed-country-category/ldcs-at-a-glance.html

According to published reports, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves have hit a low of $1.9 billion, equivalent to funds that could finance less than one month’s imports while its debt service repayments amount to about $6.9 billion. Last month, Sri Lanka defaulted on its debt repayments for the first time in history.

An editorial in the Sri Lanka Sunday Times put the problem in its right perspective: “Once called the ‘Granary of the East’, Sri Lanka is also considering tapping the SAARC Food Bank – from the buffer stocks of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The country is not only financially bankrupt, it is facing a famine in a few months”.

“From a middle-income country not long ago, it has come to this”, said the editorial.

“What an inglorious comedown for the country and humiliating stigma for its people no better personified by the presence of its Foreign Minister and chairman of the ruling party accepting a container of food aid from abroad at the Colombo harbour”.

“Brought about by stupendously irresponsible agricultural policy decision-making at the highest levels of Government, it is now humble-pie that is left to be eaten as Sri Lanka appeals to the world for food in the midst of a global economy facing recession, inflation, and a hurricane of shortages of oil, gas and wheat.”

Should Sri Lanka, long designated by the UN as a “middle-income country,” be heading towards the ranks of the 46 LDCs?

In an interview with IPS, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh and the first Under-Secretary-General and UN High Representative for LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, responded to questions on the benefits and privileges of being an LDC.

“LDCs benefit from exclusive international support measures (ISMs) in the areas of trade, development cooperation and participation in international organizations and processes.”

Such measures in the area of trade, he pointed out, include preferential market access for goods and services; special treatment under World Trade Organization rules and certain regional trade agreements; and technical assistance and capacity building.

A range of financial and technical assistance provided by multilateral and bilateral partners, such as special programmes and budget allocations at the UN, including the Technology Bank for LDCs and Fund for LDCs, established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Support for debt cancellation and/or debt rescheduling are also available for LDCs, he added
.
Other support measures help LDCs participate in international forums, such as caps and discounts on contributions to the budget of the United Nations and financial support for representatives of LDCs to travel to General Assembly and other meetings, said Ambassador Chowdhury, who was also Senior Special Adviser to UN General Assembly President (2011-2012).

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Do you think that Sri Lanka, which has appealed for humanitarian assistance from the UN, may end up being an international basket case?

A: It is not conceivable that Sri Lanka would become an international basket case. But it needs to steer away from the man-made, to say more directly, the current corruption-driven economy, in the right direction to return to its steady developing socio-economic development of yester years.

Among the eight members of SAARC only three are not LDCs, but among the other five LDCs, the Maldives have already “graduated” out of the LDC category and Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh are scheduled to graduate by 2026 (as their economies improve).

Being the victim of a catastrophic economic mismanagement should not prompt Sri Lanka to think of seeking an LDC status. The United Nations defines LDCs as countries that have low levels of income and face severe structural impediments to sustainable development.

Q: If the situation continues to deteriorate, what are our chances of joining the 46 LDCs?

A: Joining the LDCs group involve a long process and requires fulfillment of all three criteria to be eligible. According to the UN, those three are:

    1. Income: Countries must have an average per capita income (GNI) of below USD$1,018 for inclusion, and above USD$1,222for graduation.
    [The Gross Domestic Product per capita in Sri Lanka was last recorded at 4052.75 US dollars in 2020.]
    2. Human Assets: Countries must also have a low score on the Human Assets Index (HAI), a tool that measures health and education outcomes, including under-five mortality rate, maternal mortality, adult literacy rate and gender parity for secondary school enrolment. [Sri Lanka is much above the “60 or below” threshold.]
    3. Economic and Environmental Vulnerability: Countries must score high on the Economic and Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI), which measures factors like remoteness, dependence on agriculture and vulnerability to natural disasters.
    [ Sri Lanka is below “36 or above” threshold. The current economic downturn and challenges faced by Sri Lanka may not fully fit the country’s EVI threshold]

IPS – How does this work? Does Sri Lanka have to apply to the UN for LDC status?

A: The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) reviews the list of LDCs and makes recommendations for inclusion in and graduation from the category every three years.

According to UN guidelines, the time frame of the eligibility procedure includes preliminary finding that the country satisfies inclusion criteria; notifies the country of its findings; prepares a country assessment note; provides a draft to the country; finds the country eligible and formally notifies the country of eligibility conclusion; and the General Assembly finally takes note of the CDP recommendation.

Q: What’s the downside of being an LDC?

A: In reality, there is no downside except the psychological perception of being categorized as one of the poorest countries. Some say that foreign direct investment (FDI) is not forthcoming.

If there is a downside, how come six countries have “graduated” from LDCs over the years since the category was established by the General Assembly in 1971 and ten more are in the pipeline for graduation by 2026.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 


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Brazil: Inequality Sharpened, Social Policies Dismantled, More Millions Pushed into Hunger

Brazil ranks as the third largest economy in the Americas, and the 10th largest in the world, It is a major exporter of food products, but, hunger has surged over 70% in just two years in the country, impacting more than 33 million people, up from 19 million in 2020. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By IPS Correspondents
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 13 2022 – Right now, out of a total of 211.7 million Brazilians, 116.7 million are experiencing some level of food insecurity, 43.4 million do not have enough food, and 19 million were facing hunger, reveals a June 2022 report by the Brazilian Research Network of Food and Nutrition Sovereignty and Security (Rede PENSSAN).

The results of its national survey show that less than half of Brazilian households (44.8%) were food secure, while 55.2% of households were experiencing some level of food insecurity, and 9% of households were facing hunger (severe food insecurity).

In Brazil, someone earning the minimum monthly wage would have to work 19 years to make the same money a Brazilian from the richest 0.1% of the population makes in one month

The situation is even worse in rural areas, where 12% of households are affected by hunger, reveals the survey, while explaining that in rural areas, severe food insecurity is twice as high in households without access to water for food and livestock production compared to those with access to water.


Historic setback

According to the Rede PENSSAN, the current situation in this Latin American largest economy reflects a “historic setback” for a country that had made huge gains against poverty.

Such gains were successively achieved by the Government of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who ruled the Latin American giant from January 2003 to the end of 2010.

Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, continued with the same social policies, from January 2011 to May 2016. Roussef was succeeded by Michel Miguel Elias Temer Lulia from 31 August 2016 to 31 December 2018.


Social policies, dismantled

Thanks to both Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef social policies, Brazil lifted 28 million people out of poverty in just 15 years, reducing poverty to less than 10% of the population.

Then came current president Jair Messias Bolsonaro, an ex-military who took office on 1 January 2019, whose regime has been dismantling the considerable hunger reduction and social gains which were achieved by his predecessors’ governments.

Among other dire consequences, households with income of up to half of a minimum monthly salary per capita face severe food insecurity at levels 2.5 times the national average.

The study also pointed to persistent inequalities among regions, including disparities in household income, which are important determinants of food access.

 

Extreme inequality

In addition to the increasing sharp inequalities between Brazilian regions and between urban and rural populations, economic inequality in Brazil has reached extreme levels, despite being one of the largest economies in the world, reports OXFAM International.

The last decades have seen incredible progress across Brazil. The country has been able to reduce inequality, taking millions of people out of poverty and thereby raising the base of the social pyramid, OXFAM reminds.

But despite this evolution, the pace has been very slow and the Latin American giant is still listed as one of the most unequal countries on the planet, adds OXFAM in its report Extreme Inequality in Brazil in Numbers.

 

The numbers

The report provides some staggering numbers:

  • In Brazil, someone earning the minimum monthly wage would have to work 19 years to make the same money a Brazilian from the richest 0.1% of the population makes in one month.

  • At the current rate inequality is decreasing in Brazil, it will take the country 75 years to reach the United Kingdom’s current level of income equality and almost 60 years to meet Spanish standards.

  • Compared to its neighbours, Brazil is 35 years behind Uruguay and 30 behind Argentina.


Richest 5%, same income as poorest 50%

But while such sharp inequality is hitting the most vulnerable in Brazil, it strikes even harder Brazilian women and blacks. See these OXFAM numbers:

  • Brazil’s six richest men have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the population; around 100 million people. The country’s richest 5% have the same income as the remaining 95%.

  • If Brazil’s six richest men pooled their wealth and spent 1 million Brazilian reals a day (around $319,000), it would take them 36 years to spend all their money. Meanwhile, 16 million Brazilians live below the poverty line.

  • At the current pace of progress, Brazilian women will close the wage gap in 2047. Black Brazilians will earn the same as whites in 2089. Brazil is decades away from wage equality.


Big food producer and exporter

Such is the current harsh reality of a giant country covering more than 8,5 square kilometres of land, home to over 214 million people, which ranks as the third largest economy in the Americas, and the 10th largest in the world by nominal gross domestic product (GDP).

Brazil is rich in resources, being the world’s largest producer of coffee over the last 150 years. It is also a major exporter of food products, such as soy, maize, beef, chicken meat, soybean meal, sugar, tobacco, cotton, orange, among others.

Amidst sharpening inequality and the ongoing dismantling of social policies, hunger in Brazil surged over 70% in just two years, impacting more than 33 million people, up from 19 million in 2020.

Southern Winds in Magallanes Fuel Green Hydrogen in Chile

At the Haru Oni demonstration plant where the ecological fuel based on green hydrogen will be produced, the wind turbine that will provide wind energy to the project promoted by the HIF Global group in the southern Chilean region of Magallanes has been installed. CREDIT: HIF Global

At the Haru Oni demonstration plant where the ecological fuel based on green hydrogen will be produced, the wind turbine that will provide wind energy to the project promoted by the HIF Global group in the southern Chilean region of Magallanes has been installed. CREDIT: HIF Global

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 13 2022 – Patagonia’s strong winds are driving projects that will place Magallanes, in the extreme south of Chile, in a privileged position to produce and export green hydrogen and help the country move towards carbon neutrality.

The projects underway aim to produce green fuel to replace gasoline in any vehicle, competing with the efficiency of electromobility. Another goal is to produce green ammonia to replace, for example, the 350,000 tons of gray ammonia that Chile imports for the large copper mines in the north of the country.

President Gabriel Boric said on Jul. 8 at the IV Business Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, that Chile “is going to bet heavily on green hydrogen, both the State and the private sector.”

He encouraged U.S. businesspeople to invest in Chile while “linking production chains and raising environmental standards.”

“In the Patagonian region alone, if we do things right, the potential is enough to supply 13 percent of the world’s demand for green hydrogen,” said Boric, a native of Punta Arenas, the capital of the Magallanes region, popularly known as Chile’s Patagonia.

Julio Maturana, undersecretary of energy, told IPS that it is essential that green hydrogen be developed in harmony with Chile’s territories and ecosystems.

“We will push for hydrogen to be at the base of the creation of industry, and for Chile to participate in the entire value chain, including technological innovation,” he said.

Maturana said that the government is promoting studies to identify the greatest comparative advantages, “pushing for more sustainable mining, green fertilizers, green steel, zero-emission maritime and aviation fuels, or manufacturing processes so that Chile can add value not only with its winds in Magallanes and the desert sun, but also with its workers, universities and industry.”

According to the undersecretary, when the National Green Hydrogen Strategy was launched two years ago, there were 20 projects submitted – a number that has since risen threefold.

“There are more than 15 projects that have set their operational start date for green hydrogen production on an industrial scale before 2030,” he said, projecting “about 3.7 gigawatts (GW) of electrolysis operating by 2025 and 35 GW of electrolysis operating by 2030.”

In the extreme south of Chile, members of the Environmental Studies Group from the University of Magallanes carry out field work in Bahía Posesión to gather data for the environmental impact study for the H2 Magallanes project of the French group Total Eren. CREDIT: Erika Mutschke/University of Magallanes

In the extreme south of Chile, members of the Environmental Studies Group from the University of Magallanes carry out field work in Bahía Posesión to gather data for the environmental impact study for the H2 Magallanes project of the French group Total Eren. CREDIT: Erika Mutschke/University of Magallanes

Characteristics of the green hydrogen boom

Green hydrogen is obtained by electrolysis using only electrical energy from clean, renewable sources such as wind or sun.

Electrolysis involves using electricity to split the water molecule, consisting of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, H2O.

Of all the hydrogen produced in the world today, 95 percent is gray hydrogen obtained using natural gas, oil or coal, which causes the emission of large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), a major driver of global warming.

The use of electricity represents almost 70 percent of the cost of producing green hydrogen, which is why Chile is in a privileged location due to its enormous solar radiation potential in the northern Atacama Desert and the strong winds in the southern Patagonia region.

Magallanes is exceptionally windy because of the clash of high pressure systems caused by the Pacific anticyclone, which runs from Ecuador to Patagonia, and the low pressures and cold air masses originating from the polar front coming from Antarctica.

In 2019 Chile’s energy mix included 44 percent renewables. It is estimated that by 2030 renewables will make up 70 percent of the mix and that by 2050 the proportion will climb to 95 percent, as part of an energy transition that in addition to decarbonizing energy aims to free the country from costly hydrocarbon imports.

Producing a kilogram of green hydrogen today costs six dollars, but Undersecretary Maturana said that “Chile has the technical conditions to achieve production costs of less than a dollar per kilo.”

This would be important for bringing the cost of green hydrogen closer to that of fossil fuels, while now it is four times more expensive.

“To bring the price down, a series of measures will be required to provide certainty, access to financing and the promotion of a market or critical mass of local demand,” said the undersecretary.

Wind towers near Punta Arenas, capital of the Magallanes region, one of the best areas in the world for producing wind energy because a turbine can operate for more than 5,000 hours a year, according to Daniele Consoli of Enel Green Power, which is promoting the Haru Oni green hydrogen project in Chile’s southern Patagonia region. CREDIT: Ministry of Energy

Wind towers near Punta Arenas, capital of the Magallanes region, one of the best areas in the world for producing wind energy because a turbine can operate for more than 5,000 hours a year, according to Daniele Consoli of Enel Green Power, which is promoting the Haru Oni green hydrogen project in Chile’s southern Patagonia region. CREDIT: Ministry of Energy

Two flagship projects move ahead

A wind turbine has already been installed in Magallanes, part of an assembly platform built north of Punta Arenas at the Haru Oni demonstration plant.

The project, the first phase of which involves an investment of 51 million dollars, is being promoted by the international consortium HIF Global which, in parallel, will build a plant to produce green hydrogen that will then be treated to produce green gasoline.

“Little by little our project is taking shape and this turbine is a fundamental part of it,” said Clara Bowman, general manager of HIF Global, a company with 80 percent Chilean capital as well as the participation of German and U.S. firms.

“In parallel, in various places around the world, such as China, Germany and the United States, the equipment that will allow us to produce carbon-neutral eFuel is already being manufactured. We are working to start operations during the second half of this year,” explained the manager of the company, whose name is the abbreviation of Highly Innovative Fuels.

The French company Total Eren is developing the H2 Magallanes Project in the municipality of San Gregorio, near Punta Arenas, which will have up to 10 GW of installed wind power capacity and up to eight GW of electrolysis capacity, in addition to a desalination plant and an ammonia (NH3) production plant.

“The timeframe puts the start of the construction phase in 2025, and it is projected that by 2027 the first green hydrogen units could be operating,” said Macarena Toledo, environmental and social director of the H2 Magallanes Project.

The estimated investment is 20 billion dollars, she told IPS.

The Environmental Studies Group at the University of Magallanes is preparing the project’s environmental impact study, which includes variables of soil, water, fauna, flora, relief and strategies to inform the community about wind turbines and green hydrogen.

Claudio Gómez, dean of engineering at the university, told IPS that green hydrogen has unleashed “an explosive process that involves a revolution in the education of engineers, who must have a new kind of training to face new challenges.”

A sign reads “Welcome to the municipality of San Gregorio” in the extreme south of Chile, where the H2 Magallanes project is conducting environmental impact studies before starting construction of its project, the initial phase of which is scheduled for 2025. CREDIT: Total Eren

A sign reads “Welcome to the municipality of San Gregorio” in the extreme south of Chile, where the H2 Magallanes project is conducting environmental impact studies before starting construction of its project, the initial phase of which is scheduled for 2025. CREDIT: Total Eren

A cleaner future, not just on paper

The carbon-neutral fuel produced by Haru Oni will be tested in vehicles of the German brand Porsche, which is part of the consortium. The projection is that seven million cars will have green hydrogen cells by 2030 in China, Japan, the United States and South Korea.

The big goal is for green hydrogen to be incorporated into large trucks and machinery in mining, industrial sectors such as steel mills, refineries, fertilizer and ceramics factories, and ships and airplanes.

On Jun. 6, a group of companies launched a project to make Pudahuel International Airport, which serves the capital city of Santiago, the first in Latin America to use green hydrogen.

The group, which includes the company that manages the airport, will evaluate the development of a hydrogen ecosystem, including production and fueling infrastructure to serve the airport complex’s ground operations, as well as aircraft in the future.

An additional key advantage of green hydrogen is that its molecule has a high energy density per unit mass: it is three times higher than that of gasoline and 120 times higher than that of lithium batteries.

In Bahía Posesión in Patagonia, the Environmental Studies Group from the University of Magallanes carries out work for the environmental impact study for the H2 Magallanes project, one of the initiatives that aims to exploit the wind energy potential of Chile’s southern Patagonia region for the production of green hydrogen. CREDIT: Erika Mutschke/University of Magallanes

In Bahía Posesión in Patagonia, the Environmental Studies Group from the University of Magallanes carries out work for the environmental impact study for the H2 Magallanes project, one of the initiatives that aims to exploit the wind energy potential of Chile’s southern Patagonia region for the production of green hydrogen. CREDIT: Erika Mutschke/University of Magallanes

The key role of the State

Undersecretary Maturana stressed that the Boric administration, in office since March, wants the state-owned National Petroleum Company (Enap) and Copper Corporation (Codelco) to play an important role in the production of green hydrogen.

“We want Enap to play a role not only as an infrastructure facilitator, but also as a producer of green hydrogen to accelerate the development of our local and export industry. We expect it to take a leading role in projects given its experience in energy infrastructure,” he said.

And with regard to Codelco, he said it can play an important role in promoting the energy transition from the mining industry, testing and studying low-emission technologies in its operations.

“Public, private, academic and civil society collaboration will be key to expanding this industry,” he said.

Maturana ruled out problems with water use, indicating that the projects presented would include desalination and/or water reuse.

“The cost of water in the production of green hydrogen represents less than one percent, so raising the cost of water to meet sustainable standards would not have a high impact on the final price of energy,” he explained.