A placard on display at activists’ demonstration outside the 4th meeting of the CBD Working Group at the UNEP headquarter in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS
Nairobi, Jun 27 2022 (IPS) – As the last working group meeting of the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Agenda concluded here on Sunday, the delegates’ job at COP15 Montreal just got tougher as delegates couldn’t finalize the text of the agenda. Texts involving finance, cost and benefit-sharing, and digital sequencing – described by many as ‘most contentious parts of the draft agenda barely made any progress as negotiators failed to reach any consensus.
Nairobi – the Unattempted ‘Final Push’
The week-long 4th meeting of the Working Group of the Biodiversity Convention took place from June 21-26, three months after the 3rd meeting of the group was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting, attended by a total of 1634 participants, including 950 country representatives, had the job cut out for them: Read the draft Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and its 21 targets, discuss, and clean up the text – target by target, sentence by sentence, at least up to 80%.
But, on Saturday – a day before the meeting was to wrap up, David Ainsworth – head of Communications at CBD, hinted that the progress was far slower than expected. Ainsworth mentioned that the total cleaning progress made was just about 8%.
To put it in a clearer context, said Ainsworth, only two targets now had a clean text – Target 19.2 (strengthening capacity-building and development, access to and transfer of technology) and target 12 (urban biodiversity). This means that in Montreal, they could be placed on the table right away for the parties to decide on, instead of debating the language. All the other targets, the work progress has been from around 50% to none, said Ainsworth.
An entire day later, on Sunday evening local time, co-chairs of the WG4 Francis Ogwal and Basile Van Havre confirmed that those were indeed the only two targets with ‘clean’ texts. In other words, no real work had been done in the past 24 hours.
On June 21, at the opening session of the meeting, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, described the Nairobi meeting as an opportunity for a ‘final push’ to finalize the GBF. On Sunday, she called on the parties to “vigorously engage with the text, to listen to each other and seek consensus, and to prepare the final text for adoption at COP 15”.
Answering a question from IPS News, Mrema also confirmed that there would be a 5th meeting of the Working Group before the Montreal COP, indicating the work done in the Nairobi meeting wasn’t enough to produce a draft that was ready to be discussed for adoption.
The final push, it appeared, had not even been attempted.
Bottlenecks and Stalemate
According to several observers, instead of cleaning up 80% of the texts over the past six days, negotiators had left 80% of the text in brackets, which signals disagreement among parties. Not only did countries fail to progress, but in some cases, new disagreements threatened to move the process in the opposite direction. The most fundamental issues were not even addressed this week, including how much funding would be committed to conserving biodiversity and what percentage figures the world should strive to protect, conserve, and restore to address the extinction crisis.
True to the traditions of the UN, the CBD wouldn’t be critical of any party. However, on Sunday evening, Francis Ogwal indicated that rich nations had been dragging their feet on meeting the commitment of donating to global biodiversity conservation. Without naming anyone, Ogwal reminded the negotiators that the more time they took, the tougher they would get the decision.
At present, said Ogwal, 700 billion was needed to stop and recover global biodiversity. “If you keep giving less and less, the problems magnify. Ten years down the line, this will not be enough,” he said.
The civil society was more vocal in criticizing the delegates for losing yet another opportunity.
According to Brian O’Donnell, Director of the Campaign for Nature, the negotiations were faltering, with some key issues being at a stalemate. It is, therefore, up to heads of state and other political and United Nations leaders to act with urgency. “But time is now running out, and countries need to step up, show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions,” O’Donnell said in a statement.
The Next Steps
The CBD Secretariat mentioned a string of activities that would follow the Nairobi meeting to speed up the process of building a consensus among the delegates. The activities include bilateral meetings with some countries, regional meetings with others, and a Working Group 5 meeting which will be a pre-COP event before COP15.
Finally, the CBD is taking a glass-half-filled approach toward the GBF, which is reflected in the words of Mrema: “These efforts (Nairobi meeting) are considerable and have produced a text that, with additional work, will be the basis for reaching the 2050 vision of the Convention: A life in harmony with nature,” she says.
The upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference will be held from 5 to December 17 in Montreal, Canada, under the presidency of the Government of China. With the bulk of the work left incomplete, the cold December weather of Montreal is undoubtedly all set to be heated with intense debates and negotiations. IPS UN Bureau Report
If done right ocean action will also be climate action but this will require working in concert on a few fronts.
First, we must invest in and support science and technology to produce key solutions. Strengthening science-policy interfaces to bridge practitioners and policymakers contributes to a sound understanding of ocean-climate synergies, thereby enabling better policy design, an important priority of the Indonesian Presidency of the G20 process. Additionally policy support tools can assist governments in identifying and prioritizing actions through policy and SDG tracking and scenarios development.
We must also make the invisible visible through ocean data: just three of ten targets for the goal on life below water are measurable in Asia and the Pacific. Better data is the foundation of better policies and collective action. The Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP) is an innovative multi-stakeholder collective established to enable countries and other stakeholders to go beyond GDP and to measure and manage progress towards ocean sustainable development.
Solutions for low-carbon maritime transport are also a key part of the transition to decarbonization by the middle of the century. Countries in Asia and the Pacific recognized this when adopting a new Regional Action Programme last December, putting more emphasis on such concrete steps as innovative shipping technologies, cooperation on green shipping corridors and more efficient use of existing port infrastructure and facilities to make this ambition a reality.
Finally, aligning finance with our ocean, climate and broader SDG aspirations provides a crucial foundation for all of our action. Blue bonds are an attractive instrument both for governments interested in raising funds for ocean conservation and for investors interested in contributing to sustainable development in addition to obtaining a return for their investment.
These actions and others are steps towards ensuring the viability of several of the region’s key ocean-based economic sectors, such as seaborne trade, tourism and fisheries. An estimated 50 to 80 per cent of all life on Earth is found under the ocean surface. Seven of every 10 fish caught around the globe comes from Pacific waters. And we know that the oceans and coasts are also vital allies in the fight against climate change, with coastal systems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows at the frontline of climate change, absorbing carbon at rates of up to 50 times those of the same area of tropical forest.
But the health of the oceans in Asia and the Pacific is in serious decline: rampant pollution, destructive and illegal fishing practices, inadequate marine governance and continued urbanization along coastlines have destroyed 40 per cent of the coral reefs and approximately 60 per cent of the coastal mangroves, while fish stocks continue to decline and consumption patterns remain unsustainable.
To promote concerted action, ESCAP, in collaboration with partner UN agencies, provides a regional platform in support of SDG14, aligned within the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Through four editions so far of the Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean, we also support countries in identifying and putting in place solutions and accelerated actions through regional dialogue and cooperation.
It is abundantly clear there can be no healthy planet without a healthy ocean. Our leaders meeting in Lisbon must step up efforts to protect the ocean and its precious resources and to build sustainable blue economies.
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
What: This morning, U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, limiting access to abortions across the country. American University has several experts available for commentary that have researched aspects of reproductive rights or worked in the public arena on abortion issues.
We will also be hosting a media briefing on Monday, June 27 with AU experts to discuss further. More details to follow later today.
When: June 24, 2022 – ongoing
Where: Via Skype, Zoom, email, telephone, or in-person
Elizabeth Beske is a professor of legal rhetoric at AU’s Washington College of Law. She teaches civil procedure, federal courts, and constitutional law, and her scholarship focuses on Article III of U.S. Constitution, adjudicative retroactivity, and the separation of powers. Beske clerked for Judge Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court.
Caroline Bruckner is the managing director of the Kogod Tax Policy Center and professorial lecturer in AU’s Kogod School of Business. She has testified multiple times before the U.S. Congress and Internal Revenue Service and released ground-breaking research on the gig economy as well as women business owners and the U.S. tax code. She is available to comment on how a Roe v. Wade reversal would impact business and employees, and how workplace benefits may be expanded to support employees.
Sara Clarke Kaplanis director of AU’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center and a scholar of Black feminist studies. She has expertise in 19th– and 20th-century American/African American literary and cultural studies and is the author of the recently published The Black Reproductive: Feminism and the Politics of Freedom (University of Minnesota Press), which explores reproduction as the defining element of U.S. chattel slavery and its impact on contemporary reproductive politics. She can provide an antiracist analysis, including discussing how the overturning of Roe v. Wade will have a disproportionate impact on poor women, women of color and trans/gender-non-conforming pregnant people; the history of reproductive control and anti-abortion politics in Black communities; and how today’s policies of reproductive control reflect longstanding racial anxieties about decreasing white populations in the United States, among other issues.
Maya Manian is a professor of law and director of the Health Law Program at AU’s Washington College of Law. Her research focuses on access to reproductive health care and explores the relationship between reproductive rights and gender equality. She publishes and presents widely on abortion rights and related constitutional issues. Her publications include “Lessons from Personhood’s Defeat: Abortion Restrictions and Side Effects on Women’s Health” (Ohio State Law Journal, 2013); “Functional Parenting and Dysfunctional Abortion Policy: Reforming Parental Involvement Legislation” (Family Court Review, 2012); “The Irrational Woman: Informed Consent and Abortion Decision–Making” (Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, 2009); and “Rights, Remedies, and Facial Challenges” (Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, 2009).
Rachel Sullivan Robinson is a professor in the School of International Service, is an expert on global health interventions in sub-Saharan Africa, including family planning, HIV/AIDS, and sexuality education. She has used insights from field research in Namibia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Senegal to understand the prioritization of sexuality education in Mississippi, and also studies how social movements support sexual and gender minority populations in conservative contexts. Her research has been funded by the MacArthur Foundation, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and the National Science Foundation. Robinson can discuss issues related to abortion politics in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as how U.S. abortion politics influence health outcomes in countries receiving global health assistance from the U.S.
Jessica Waters is the dean of undergraduate education and vice provost for academic student services, is a faculty member in the School of Public Affairs and has also taught at the Washington College of Law. Her research focuses primarily on reproductive rights law and questions related to the legal impact of women’s medical decisions during pregnancy and childbirth, employment-based conscience protections for reproductive health care providers, and the reproductive rights of employees working for religiously affiliated employers. She has recently written on this issue for USATODAY.
Tracy A. Weitz is a professor of sociology and a national expert on abortion care, policy, culture, and politics. She has been a visiting scholar at the University of California at San Francisco, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and the U.S. Programs Director at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. Weitz co-founded and directed UCSF’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health research program, which influenced the California legislature to pass AB154, which permits nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions. Six additional states have since implemented the same policy change. While at UCSF, Weitz also served as the founding executive director for the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.
Stephen Wermiel is a professor of practice in constitutional law and part of the program on law and government at the Washington College of Law. He is co-author of JUSTICE BRENNAN: LIBERAL CHAMPION, the definitive biography of the late Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. He is also co-author of THE PROGENY: JUSTICE WILLIAM J. BRENNAN’S FIGHT TO PRESERVE THE LEGACY OF NEW YORK TIMES V. SULLIVAN, published by ABA Publishing in 2014. Wermiel holds expertise in the U.S. Supreme Court, having covered the court for the Wall Street Journal from 1979 until 1991. Wermiel teaches constitutional law, First Amendment and a seminar on the workings of the Supreme Court.
American University leverages the power and purpose of scholarship, learning, and community to impact our changing world. AU’s faculty, students, staff, and alumni are changemakers who shape the future from sustainability to social justice to the sciences. Building on our 128-year history of education and research in the public interest, we say ‘Challenge Accepted’ to addressing the world’s pressing issues. Our Change Can’t Wait comprehensive campaign creates transformative educational opportunities, advances research with impact, and builds stronger communities.
The session was chaired by Dr Simon Judkins and Dr Ffion Davies, with a panel discussion facilited by Dr Clare Skinner.
Global health equity and the social determinants of health: the African experience
Dr Mulinda Nyirenda opened the plenary session talking about her experiences as an Emergency Physician in Malawi.
Access to care, system resilience and investment and funding in emergency care continue to be pertinent issues in Africa – more recent investment in resuscitation resources in particular has lead to a spike in better outcomes.
@MulindaNyirenda speaks about how the social determinants of health are increasingly prevalent in emergency care in Malawi, more so than with routine checks or elective care and even more relevant when looking at the challenges between rural and metropolitan healthcare access.
Emergency care in Malawi is primary care; staffing shortages and more broader resource limitations implicate access to healthcare; 40 percent of @MulindaNyirenda’s work is emergency resuscitation medicine but the remainder is often more primary care based.
NCDs are increasingly prevalent in Africa, especially hypertensive emergencies and strokes. Emergency care cannot be only for the rich.
Pursuing health equity for asylum seekers and displaced persons across the globe
Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said: “We have politicised what is a health and human rights issue… The heroes of every story are the refugees – those who fight, risk their life, dignity every day.”
There are still more than 200 refugees in Nauru living in squalor, but despite governmental failings, Karapanagiotidis speaks of the courage and compassion of the Australian public to uphold the human rights of refugees by protesting and blocking exits to hospitals to prevent deportation.
Health is a human right. Ahmed was 24 when he died of a foot infection in Nauru.
He talks about how @ASRC1 doubled down to keep doors open and cover medicines, supply food all through the pandemic. COVID mortality rates for Greek people in Melbourne are eight times higher than the general population – 13 times higher for Middle Eastern people.
So what if we cared for people before the crisis really begins? Prevention is better than cure.
Development of gender equity and equality systems in emergency medicine
Imron Subhan, India and Priyadarshini Marathe, United Kingdom
@imronsubhan and@PRIYAMARATHE10 speaking on the development of gender equity and equality systems in emergency medicine. “We’re here to make you uncomfortable. How does your patient’s gender matter in the ED?”
@imronsubhan has five minutes and one message: gender equality is not solely a woman’s problem. Sex and gender must be embedded early into our health curricula. Biases are introduced when medicine is taught as universal and unisex.
“Teaching gender equity and equality should be like basic life support” – lifesaving and not optional.
Dr Priyadarshini Marathe: Practical everyday tips and tricks for addressing biases and inequity: flagging biases on a ward round; create a WhatsApp group as a safe space with peers (for example, female colleagues in your workplace) to listen, empathise and share knowledge and experience.
Write yourself a couple of stock answers for educating peers and challenging interactions “it sounds we are at a different stage of learning about this”. Recommended reading with books/novels directing to lived experiences.
Equity, First Nations Peoples and healthcare
Professor Greg Phillips now shares insights from his 25 year career in equity and healthcare for First Nations people.
He describes 60,000 years of thriving First Nations culture, science, art, politics, geology, medicine and law long preceding colonisation in Australia.
Recognising privilege and white fragility on an individual and systematic level in healthcare is vital for health equity. It can be extremely confronting to have this pointed out to us as clinicians who genuinely believe we are always trying our best for our patients.
Aboriginal representation at every level and in every discipline is vital, as is rewriting health curricula and integration of culture.
How does our advocacy shape and influence future healthcare?
Professor Phillips references the legacy of the late Professor Paul Farmer who spoke about how the practice of medicine should not be about benevolence, but instead about social justice.
Health inequities in African American and Latin American communities: challenges and solutions
Dr Gillian Schmitz talks about health inequities in the USA, using COVID as an example of disparities in housing, transport, employment and diet influencing health and access to care for African American and Latin American communities.
This reinforces the need for screening in the ED: HIV, hepatitis, STIs as well as smoking cessation & opportunistic vaccinations for flu and hepatitis. Teaching communities about communicable diseases with appropriate language and translation provision is paramount.
@GillianMD1 also talks about firearm violence in the US, a subject that many Australian emergency clinicians are very fortunate to have limited experience of and a pertinent example of how health and political action are directly intersecting and implicated.
Indigenous health service equity
First up of the breakout sessions was Dr Glenn Harrison chairing a discussion on Indigenous health service equity.
Dr Inia Tomash was first up from Auckland, sharing his national research project on examining inequalities in Aotearoa NZ EDs with patient centred markers of care and mortality. Māori people are known to be high users of ED services with room for improvement of care.
Retrospective review of NZ ED admissions 2006-2012: 5.9 million presentations in total. After repression analyses and control for confounders, ED mortality and representation after ED discharge was significantly higher for Māori population, suggesting different patterns in ED usage between Māori & non-Māori people – younger, more deprived, longer triage time.
Tomash’s top tips for redressing ED inequity: accept that this a problem that needs addressing and that puts patients at risk. We can start by quantifying our own biases and develop our critical consciousness.
The mindset of “going overboard for difficult patients” needs to change; this should instead be normalised as the gold standard! Use the resources available and engage with local Indigenous health units, practitioners and liaison officers.
Innovation in First Nations dermatology Crystal Williams and Gabrielle Ebsworth
Gabrielle Ebsworth told us about her important work with the First Nations dermatology clinic. What started as a small rural telehealth service last February is now a dedicated successful face to face and telehealth service for and by First Nations people with easy, open referral processes and patient engagement. Demand currently far exceeds current resources and funding.
There are only four First Nations dermatologists in Australia, all of whom have only become fellows in the last two years. Part of the clinic’s work includes a monthly journal club for Victoria GPs to promote education, awareness and improve quality of referrals.
@g_ebsworth is very clear though – @TheRMH team don’t want this to be a national service. Aboriginal communities are not homogenous. Every region deserves and needs to have their own doctors and specialised services. More info is here.
Overcoming racism and bias Gina Bundle, senior Aboriginal Health Liasion officer @thewomens
Gina spoke about her lived experience of the legacy of the Stolen Generations, how she ensures the hospital is held to their apology to protect every First Nations woman and baby and keeps their promises.
Creating an environment that First Nations people can walk into and know that they feel safe is incredibly important – the presence of Indigenous artwork and possum skin cloaks in a healthcare setting is so much more than decoration.
Part of Gina’s role is to keep her colleagues’ diaries updated with important First Nations calendar events all year round. National Sorry Day is so more than just a march; she wants colleagues to visit their offices, seek advice and share experiences long after NAIDOC week.
Development of gender equity and equality systems
Gender equality in EM – where do we stand today? Dr Sally McCarthy says we still have some way to go – a brief glance at the predominantly female audience here speaks volumes about our approach to improving gender equality in EM and shows we have a long way to go still.
See the article mentioned above here.See the JAMA article here.
Persistence of gender inequality in developed countries – why? Dr Gayle Galletta talks about the persistence of gender inequality in developed countries, sharing her experiences as an American Emergency Physician in Norway.
Taking women leadership to the next level – the 2.0 move Dr Kim Hansen
Equity through advocacy
The role and power of research Professor Brendan Crabb – @CrabbBrendan – shares about how research can be integrated into community care in order to build capacity and self sustained progression in emergency healthcare.
He describes the malaria incidence as an example – barriers to malaria are both technical and non technical requiring a variety of approaches. Research is a powerful tool of hope and a valuable a starting point to implement real, physical change.
The role and power of politics and advocacy for emergency care from the Tuvalu perspective Dr Aloima Taufilo, Tuvalu
Wise words and inspirational efforts from @ATaufilo as she reflects on the power of social media communication to maintain and strengthen not only health literacy but political relationships to advocate for more than 2,000 Tuvali people with COVID last year.
Societal racism feeds into health system, clinician and patient factors – doctors often take cognitive shortcuts in decision making processes, with challenges including time constraints, multi tasking, need for closure, stress and sleep deprivation.
The role and power of education Professor Papaarangi Reid, Aotearoa/New Zealand, talks about the power of education. A key message of COVID was to “listen to the scientists” but this proved insufficient; the science also needs political will and social capital to get anywhere.
The role and power of the media Jo Chandler, Australian journalist
“Did it make a difference?” It can be difficult to know without a parallel universe, but shortly after publication an urgent and reactive mobilisation of resources and funding was injected into PNG.
How do we weigh up the risks of media advocacy and subsequent media exposure to advocate for vulnerable people? A great audience question from Dr Georgina Phillips in our advocacy plenary.
@jo_m_chandler answers that one blessing of social media is immediate engagement w educative, practice changing and informative feedback in real time. Longevity of journalistic relationships is also vital to build relationships and share narratives without damaging consequences.
The role and power of professional advocacy Dr Dinesh Palipana shares his story with our audience – half way through university, he acquired a life changing spinal cord injury in a car accident. He found himself negotiating a minefield of challenges related to his disability & went on to complete medical school
He tells us how the ability to advocate for others reflects an immense position of privilege. Our titles and positions as doctors afford us great authority and privilege. Sometimes we don’t dare to speak up, for fear of reprobation, loss of status, vanity or fear.
“The biggest mistake a physician can make is to treat someone’s body but not their soul.” We have a responsibility to our communities, to acknowledge our privilege and to speak up with courage and make powerful people feel uncomfortable.
Dr Jenny Jamieson concludes today’s events, describing how Emergency Medicine sits at the coalface of society, combining science, sociology, anthropology and health.
In my view, the enthusiasm, storytelling, connections and engagement at this conference offer a lot of cause for optimism.
A final point: as emergency doctors we’re used to life and death situations, and many of us learn how to detach when things get tough for our own psychological self preservation. We need to be empathetic with humanity and humility but burnout is real. How do we find the balance?
The author at work
Final conference reflections
As the conference wound up, participants shared reflections.
The Croakey Conference News Service team acknowledges and thanks #ICEM22 participants for their engaged and contributory tweeting.
According to Symplur analytics, 1,287 Twitter accounts engaged with the hashtag, sending 9,689 tweets and creating 88.2 million Twitter impressions during the period 10-22 June.
Secretary-General António Guterres talks to villagers in Llano Grande, Colombia, where he witnessed how the peace process was developing in Colombia. November 2021. Credit: UNMVC
BOGOTA, Colombia, Jun 22 2022 (IPS) – On Sunday, 19 June 2022, the hopes of millions of Colombians working for a more democratic, safer, ecological, and socially just country came true.
Senator Gustavo Petro, in a duo with his Afro-Colombian vice-presidential candidate, environmental expert Francia Márquez, received approximately 50.44 per cent or 11,281,013 of the votes cast, and has been elected the 42nd President of Colombia.
Both his predecessor Iván Duque and his opponent Rodolfo Hernández publicly congratulated him on his election victory.
Some 22,445,873 people or 57.55 per cent exercised their right to vote in the run-off election on 19 June 2022, about 3.7 per cent more than in the first round three weeks ago. Only in 1998 was the turnout higher.
Getting people to the polls is not always easy in Colombia: Thousands of people in some parts of the country again had to travel for several hours, even days, to reach one of the polling stations. In some regions, heavy rain also prevented people from voting. In addition, threats, violence, and vote-buying continue to restrict voting, especially in remote rural areas.
For the first time in the country’s history, neither a conservative nor a member of the Liberal Party will lead the government of Latin America’s fifth largest economy.
With Gustavo Petro, the winning streak of leftist movements and parties in Latin America continues and provides further momentum for the upcoming elections in Brazil in October 2022.
Gustavo Petro’s opponents
In this historic situation for Colombia, what will matter is how the losers behave. On Sunday, Petro not only relegated his direct challenger, the anti-women and anti-migrant 77-year-old self-made millionaire and populist, Rodolfo Hernández, to second place, but with him also the country’s previous political elite.
With 47.31 per cent or 10,580,412 votes, Hernández received much less support than the polls had predicted.
However, significantly more people than in the last elections opted for neither candidate: 490,118 or 2.23 per cent gave a voto blanco.
This is a Colombian peculiarity that allows voters to express their disagreement with the candidates but, unlike abstention, allows them to exercise their democratic right.
Precisely because this triumph is so unique, President Petro should now reach out to his critics, remind the losers of their responsibility in state politics and call on the opposition to work constructively. At the moment, it is unclear whether the losers will be able to accept their new role.
The military, traditionally strong in Colombia, also remains a key player in this phase of the democratic transition. It is expected that the military leadership will soon send out signals that leave no doubt about Gustavo Petro’s election victory.
He will also be their commander-in-chief after his inauguration on 7 August. Should the recognition fail to materialise publicly, Petro’s presidency would be tainted from the outset and rumours of an imminent coup d’état would continue to do the rounds. Both Colombian NGOs and the international community should keep a close eye on this.
Six urgent challenges
In any case, the new president faces enormous challenges. It is already questionable whether Petro will find a majority in the Colombian parliament for a fundamental change of the unequal living conditions, the high unemployment, inflation rate, national debt, and the necessary socio-ecological transformation of the country.
Although quite a few deputies of his left-progressive alliance Pacto Histórico support Petro after the congressional elections in March, he lacks a legislative majority of his own.
Moreover, the newly elected representatives must first prove that they can stick together and also lead a government together, especially now that the ministers are to be appointed. Tensions are already pre-programmed in the colourful spectrum of the Pacto Histórico.
The government’s most urgent tasks include:
Reviving the peace process: In the last four years under Iván Duque’s ultra-right government, the peace process signed in 2016 with the former guerrilla group FARC was hardly implemented.
President Petro needs to relaunch it, push for its implementation, and ensure that social and local leaders are better protected from displacement, violence, and assassination. This year alone, more than 60 of these líderes sociales have been murdered.
After this process, a dialogue with the guerrilla organisation ELN would be necessary too. It is up to the new government to send out signals define conditions as to whether and how negotiations can take place.
A new economic policy: Petro takes over a country with the highest inflation rate of the last 21 years from his unpopular predecessor. With a current debt of around 63 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and a budget deficit of over six per cent, the president-elect has announced that he will begin his term with a structural tax reform.
This envisages an increase in the tax burden for the richest 0.01 per cent of the population. This idea is vehemently opposed by the political right. During the election campaign, they left no stone unturned to discredit Petro, accusing him of preparing the country’s economic decline.
Commitment to women’s rights and greater equality: Petro proposes the creation of a Ministry of Equality led by Francia Márquez, which would be responsible for formulating all policies to empower women, people of all sexual orientations, the different generations, and ethnic and regional diversity in Colombia.
Under Petro, women in particular could expect to gain priority access to public higher education, credit, and the distribution and formalisation of land ownership.
Petro and Marquez are proposing an energy transition that will rule out new developments of future oil fields.
Land reform and protection of indigenous people, peasants, and Afro-Colombian women: The extremely unequal distribution of land is one of the structural causes of the armed conflict in Colombia. The internal displacement of recent decades has led to the expansion of arable land: the resulting tensions are at the root of conflicts between ethnic communities (indigenous and Afro-Colombian) and peasant women over access to this land.
All these groups have been and continue to be excluded from the development of the country. At the same time, they are among the most affected by the armed conflict’s violent dynamics.
Petro’s government will need to ensure a more equitable distribution that enables the integration of ethnic and farming communities into the production and development circuits.
Better education for more people: During the social protests last year (and already in 2019 and 2020), the demand for more public and quality education was one of the central messages of the mostly peacefully demonstrating Colombians.
Petro promises to provide them with a higher education system in which public universities and secondary schools in particular are properly funded.
More environmental protection: Under the Duque government, environmental and climate protection in Colombia was largely neglected, deforestation increased, and the first fracking pilot wells were approved. Petro and Marquez have announced fundamental change.
They are focusing on a more environmentally-friendly production and service model and are proposing an energy transition that will rule out new developments of future oil fields. This process is to be accompanied by a land reform on unproductive lands – mostly resulting from illegal forest clearance.
A Colombia of social justice
Beyond these urgent reform tasks, the president and his government will also have to find answers in other important areas, such as integrated security reform, a diversified new foreign policy, a different drug policy, and on the regulation of narcotics.
At the same time, they must not disregard the necessary coalition with civil society that ultimately lifted them into office.
Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez achieved something historic on that memorable Sunday in June 2022. The expectations for both are huge, perhaps even unrealistic. On the one hand, the winning couple must stick together and remain capable of compromise.
At the same time, both have raised many hopes and are exemplary for the new Colombia: both want a more social, a more ecological, a more secure, and a more democratic republic.
President Petro will make mistakes and he will hardly be granted the usual 100 days grace period.
The fact that the ultra-conservative and liberal power elites were voted out of office by the majority of Colombians is a political turning point for the country. The losers will hardly accept the new opposition role constructively – and as an important element of a consolidated democracy.
It is more likely that they will torpedo the new government from day one and do everything they can to make it fail.
President Petro will make mistakes and he will hardly be granted the usual 100 days grace period – neither by his hopeful supporters from civil society, nor by the more than ten million people he has failed to convince of his programme and person.
He will have to govern openly, transparently, and with a certain flexibility to be able to react appropriately to national and international challenges. He will have to change his behaviour, which is often described as arrogant and self-centred.
And he should emphasise the social team spirit that was the basis for the victory of the Pacto Histórico. That is the only way he can succeed in breathing new life into the peace process and achieve the urgently needed reforms in economic and social policy for Colombia. And he will need many allies to succeed, both at home and abroad.
German and European politicians would be well advised to pledge their support to the new president and strengthen the peace process along the way. At the same time, this would contribute to the consolidation of democratic institutions after this historic change of government.
Both remain crucial for a sustainable, peaceful development of the country, and necessary for a Colombia of social justice.
Oliver Dalichau heads the office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Colombia.
Source: International Politics and Society(IPS)-Journal published by the International Political Analysis Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin
President Hakainde Hichilema and former head of State Edgar Chagwa Lungu are attending the funeral ceremony of Zambia’s first minister and veteran politician Sikota Wina.
The veteran politician died last week.
The two leaders are following the proceedings at the ongoing funeral Church Service of late Dr Wina at Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
Mr Sikotwa was a member of the Legislative Council and the National Assembly.
He also held the posts of Minister for Local Government and Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism.
The deceased was born on 31 August 1931 and was originally married to Glenda Puteho McCoo, an African-American, before marrying Nakatindi Wina, a politician and member of the Barotseland royal family, in the 1970s.