How Emerging Economies Are Reshaping the International Financial System

The G20 or Group of Twenty is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development.

By Ian Mitchell and Sam Hughes
LONDON, Feb 23 2023 (IPS)

It’s been 25 years since the 1997 Asian financial crisis led to the creation of the G20 forum for finance ministers; and 15 years since this became a leader-level meeting following the global financial crisis. During this period, there has been significant shift in the global finance and economic landscape.

The ascent of several emerging economies has seen their contributions to the multilateral finance system that supports development rise significantly. Our new report collates those contributions over the last decade for the first time. It charts how China’s annual contributions to the UN and multilateral development banks rose twenty-fold from $0.1bn to $2.2bn.

But it also looks collectively at a group of 13 rising economies whose developmental contributions to multilateral finance institutions have risen five-fold to over $6bn over the last decade.

These contributions now make up an eighth of the total; and have seen the creation of two new multilateral finance institutions.

In this piece, we draw out key findings from our analysis, including the balance between funding existing and new institutions like the New Development Bank.

We consider whether continued growth in the 13 emerging actors could generate enough new funding for development over the next quarter century, and even create an institution as large at the World Bank’s fund for low-income countries (IDA).

Despite recent rhetoric around the return to a bipolar world order, this report is evidence that a wide group of countries are already playing major role in the global economic and development system, and will continue to do so in years to come

The transformational effect of economic growth on the multilateral system

In 1990 most people in the world lived in low-income countries; by 2020, this share had fallen dramatically to just seven percent of people. Meanwhile, the share of the global population living in middle-income countries swelled from 30 percent in 1990 to 73 percent in 2020.

Such a transformation implies a greater number of countries with the economic output to contribute internationally: widening and deepening participation in the multilateral system.

And this is just what we’ve seen. Over the decade to 2019, we find a group of emerging actors have significantly increased their contributions of development finance to multilateral organisations.

These include thirteen major economies outside the group of more established providers within the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which tend to receive more attention.

Ten of these emerging actors are G20 members, including the BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—but others have grown quickly too: Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Collectively, we refer to these thirteen emerging actors as the “E13.”

Over the decade, the E13’s annual contributions of development finance to multilateral organisations (both core and funding earmarked for particular purposes) have increased almost five-fold, from $1.3bn in 2010 to $6.3bn in 2019 (up 377 percent). And their unrestricted core contributions have risen even more: increasing from $1.0bn to $5.2bn (up 410 percent).

Of these core contributions, we see that those to UN agencies more than quadrupled over the decade, steadily rising from $0.3bn to $1.2bn (up 330 percent). But by far the most striking development in E13 core contributions has come from the creation and capitalisation of two new multilateral organisations: the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB).

The role of China

Although China has recently stepped back its bilateral finance efforts, its multilateral contributions increased steadily to 2019; and provided a third (34 percent) of the E13 total over the decade. Our colleagues have examined this in detail, including how China has the second highest aggregate voting share after the US in international finance institutions it supports.

Still, our analysis also highlights the importance of Russia, Brazil and India who each contributed over $3bn over the period and collectively contributed a further third of the total. While China’s multilateral contributions have been concentrated (59 percent) in new institutions it co-founded (see below), other providers have concentrated funding in traditional institutions: for example, Argentina, Chile and Mexico did not support the new institutions while for Saudi Arabia and UAE they were 17 percent and 21 percent respectively.

Creating new multilateral finance organisations

Over the ten-year period we examine, almost half of the E13’s core multilateral contributions were to the two new institutions (AIIB and NDB). After 2016, funding provided to these institutions made up over two-thirds of their contributions. Indeed, in 2016 the first financial contributions to AIIB and NDB causedE13 multilateral development finance to triple in a single year.

The E13 provided an additional $6.0bn of core funds for AIIB and NDB in 2016, without reducing their multilateral contributions through other channels.

Though annual contributions reduced to $3.1bn in 2019, AIIB and NDB still accounted for half of the E13’s multilateral development finance in that year, leaving their contributions at the end of the decade far ahead of the beginning.

Figure 1. E13 core and earmarked contributions of development finance to multilateral organisations (nominal USD billions)

Source: Authors’ analysis

Emerging actors fund a sixth of the UN system

As well as higher absolute contributions (Figure 1), the E13’s role in the multilateral system has also grown in relative terms (Figure 2). As a share of the level of finance provided by the 29 high-income countries in the OECD DAC, the E13’s core multilateral contributions rose from 5 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2019—more than doubling their relative significance.

This was largely due to the effect of AIIB and NDB (clearly seen by the 2016 peak), but we also see that E13 core contributions to the UN system steadily and quickly rose as a share of the DAC level across the decade: from 5 percent in 2010 to 17 percent in 2019.

Figure 2. E13 core contributions of development finance to multilateral organisations as a share of contributions from DAC countries

Source: Authors’ analysis

A look to 2050—what role might the emerging economies play?

As the economies of the E13 continue to grow, what might this mean for their multilateral contributions in the future? Figure 3 shows how the share of economic output provided as development finance to multilateral organisations (either core or earmarked) tends to increase with higher levels of income per capita.

Though the relationship is steeper for the DAC than the E13, even the E13’s current trajectory implies a significant increase in future multilateral development finance from this group.

Ian Mitchell is Co-Director, Development Cooperation in Europe and Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development. Sam Hughes is a Research Assistant at the Center for Global Development.

IPS UN Bureau


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Nicaragua: An Opportunity for Democratic Solidarity

By Inés M. Pousadela
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Feb 22 2023 (IPS)

On 9 February, Nicaragua’s dictator, Daniel Ortega, unexpectedly ordered the release of 222 political prisoners, including several former presidential candidates, opposition party leaders, journalists, priests, diplomats, businesspeople and former government supporters branded as enemies for expressing mild public criticism.

Also released were several members and leaders of civil society organisations (CSOs) and social movements, including student activists and environmental, peasant and Indigenous rights defenders. Some had been arrested on trumped-up charges for taking part in mass protests in 2018 and stuck in prison for more than four years.

But the Ortega regime didn’t simply let them go – it put them on a charter flight to the USA and before their plane had even landed permanently stripped them of their Nicaraguan nationality and their civil and political rights. The government made clear it wasn’t recognising their innocence; it was only commuting their sentences.

The rise of a police state

Ever since being re-elected in a blatantly fraudulent election in November 2021, Ortega has sought to make up for his lack of democratic legitimacy by establishing a police state. The regime effectively outlawed all civil society and independent media, closing more than 3,000 CSOs and 55 media outlets. It subverted the judicial system to falsely accuse, convict and imprison hundreds of critics and intimidate everyone else into compliance.

Political prisoners have been treated with purposeful cruelty, as though they’re enemy hostages – kept in isolation, either in the dark or under permanent bright lighting, given insufficient food and refused medical care, subjected to constant interrogations, denied legal counsel and allowed only irregular visits by family members, if at all. Psychological torture has been a constant, and many have been also subjected to physical torture.

The release of some prisoners hasn’t signalled any improvement in conditions or move towards democracy, as made clear by the treatment experienced by one political prisoner, Catholic bishop Rolando Álvarez, who refused to board the plane to the USA.

In retaliation for his refusal to leave the country, his trial date was brought forward and held immediately, in the absence of any procedural safeguards. It predictably resulted in a 26-year sentence. Álvarez was immediately sent to prison, where he remains alongside dozens of others.

Stripped of citizenship

The constitutional amendment stripping the 222 released political prisoners of their citizenship states that ‘traitors to the homeland shall lose the status of Nicaraguan nationals’ – even though the constitution establishes that no national can be deprived of their nationality.

It was an illegal act on top of another illegal act. No one can be deported from their own country: what the regime called a deportation was a banishment, something against both domestic law and international human rights standards.

On 15 February, the regime doubled down: it stripped 94 more people of their nationality. Those newly declared stateless included prominent political dissidents, civil society activists, journalists and the writers Gioconda Belli and Sergio Ramírez, both of whom had held government positions in the 1980s. Most of the 94 were already living in exile. They were declared ‘fugitives from justice’.

Mixed reactions

By rendering 326 people stateless, the Nicaraguan dictatorship fuelled instant international solidarity. On 10 February, the Spanish government offered the 222 just-released prisoners Spanish citizenship – an offer many are bound to accept. On 17 February, more than 500 writers around the world rallied around Belli and Ramírez and denounced the closure of civic space in Nicaragua.

In Argentina, the Roundtable on Human Rights, Democracy and Society sent an open letter to President Alberto Fernández to request he offer Argentinian nationality to all Nicaraguans stripped of theirs.

But Argentina, alongside most of Latin America, has looked the other way. Its silence suggests that democratic consensus across the region is more fragile and superficial than might be hoped, with willingness to condemn rights violations depending on the ideological leanings of those who carry them out.

Currently all the region’s big democracies – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico – have governments that define themselves as left-wing. But only one of their presidents, Chile’s Gabriel Boric, has consistently criticised Nicaragua’s authoritarian turn. In response to the latest developments he tweeted a personal message of solidarity with those affected, calling Ortega a dictator. The rest have either issued mild official statements or simply remained silent.

Now what?

The Nicaraguan government insisted that releasing the prisoners was its own decision. The fact it was accompanied by further violations of released prisoners’ rights was meant as a demonstration of power.

But the move looks like it was made in the expectation of receiving something in return. The Nicaraguan government has long demanded that US sanctions be lifted; at a time when one of its closest ideological allies, Russia, is unable to provide any significant support, Nicaragua needs the USA more than ever. But the US government has always said the release of political prisoners must be the first step towards negotiations.

Given this, the unilateral surrender of people it considers dangerous conspirators to the state it proclaims is its worst enemy doesn’t seem much like a show of force. And if it isn’t, then it’s a valuable advocacy opportunity. The international community must push for the restoration of civic space and the return of free, fair and competitive elections. The first step should be to support the hundreds who’ve been expelled from their own country, as the future builders of democracy in Nicaragua.

Inés M. Pousadela is CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


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Climate Crisis is a Child Crisis and Climate-Resilient Children, Teachers and Schools Must Become Top International Agenda

From climate change to child marriage, education is seen as the solution. ECW Director Yasmine Sherif protests early marriage with young delegates at the Education Cannot Wait Conference held in Geneva. Credit: ECW

From climate change to child marriage, education is seen as the solution. ECW Director Yasmine Sherif protests early marriage with young delegates at the Education Cannot Wait Conference held in Geneva. Credit: ECW

By Joyce Chimbi
GENEVA & NAIROBI, Feb 17 2023 (IPS)

From southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia, the most severe drought in the last 40 years is unfolding. It is simply too hot to go to school on an empty stomach, and close to 3 million children are out of school, with an additional 4 million at risk of dropping out entirely across the Horn of Africa.

Further afield, months after unprecedented floods and landslides ravaged Pakistan, villages remain underwater, and millions of children still need lifesaving support. More recently, while children were sleeping, a most devastating earthquake intruded, and an estimated 2.5 million children in Syria and 4.6 million children in Turkey were affected.

Today, child delegates from Nigeria and Colombia told the world that climate change is ruining their childhood and the world must act now, for 222 million dreams are at stake. They were speaking at the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference held in Geneva.


Nafisa from Nigeria reminded delegates at the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference held in Geneva that the climate emergency is a child’s rights issue. Credit: ECW

Nafisa from Nigeria reminded delegates at the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference held in Geneva that the climate emergency is a child’s rights issue. Credit: ECW

“I am a girl champion with Save the Children and a member of the children’s parliament in Nigeria. Children are least responsible for the climate crisis, yet we bear the heaviest burden of its impact, now and in the future. Climate emergency is a child’s rights crisis, and suffering wears the face of a child,” said Nafisa.

In the spirit of listening to the most affected, most at risk, Pedro further spoke about Colombia’s vulnerability to climate change and the impact on children, and more so those in indigenous communities and those living with a disability, such as his 13-year-old cousin.

Pedro and Nafisa stressed that children must play a central role in responding to the climate crisis in every corner of the world. They said climate change affects education, and in turn, education has an important role.

This particular session was organized in partnership with the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies, Save the Children, and Plan International, in the backdrop of the first-ever High-Level Financing Conference organized in close collaboration with the Governments of Colombia, Germany, Niger, Norway, and South Sudan, ECW and Switzerland.

Birgitte Lange, CEO of Save the Children Norway, stressed that climate change is not only a threat to the future, “for the world’s 2.4 billion children, the climate crisis is a global emergency crisis today that is disrupting children and their education. Climate change contributes to, increases, and deepens the existing crisis of which children are carrying the burden.

“Last year, Save the Children held our biggest-ever dialogue, where we heard from at least 54,000 children in 41 countries around the world. They shared their thoughts on climate change and its consequences for them. Keeping children in school amidst a climate crisis is critical to the children’s well-being and their learning. Education plays a lifesaving role.”

Rana Tanveer Hussain, Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training in Pakistan, spoke of the severe impact of the floods on the country’s education system, “more than 34,000 public education institutions have been damaged or destroyed. At least 2.6 million students are affected. As many as 1 million children are at risk of dropping out of school altogether.

“During this crisis, ECW quickly came forward with great support, extending a grant of USD 5 million through the First Emergency Response Program in the floods-affected districts in September and October 2022, targeting 19,000 children thus far. In addition, ECW multiyear resilience program has also been leveraged to contribute to these great efforts. But the need is still great.”

Gregorius Yoris, a young leader representing Youth for Education in Emergencies in Indonesia, said despite children being at the forefront of the climate crisis, they have been furthest left behind in finding solutions to climate change.

Folly Bah Thibault, host and broadcast journalist, Al Jazeera and Founder and President, Elle Ira A L’Ecole Foundation Kesso Bah moderated the session on climate change in which child delegates told how children are being left furthest behind in the climate crisis. Credit: ECW

Folly Bah Thibault, broadcast journalist, Al Jazeera, and Founder and President, Elle Ira A L’Ecole Foundation Kesso Bah moderated the session on climate change in which child delegates told how children are being left furthest behind in the climate crisis. Credit: ECW

With one billion children, or nearly half of the world’s children living in countries at extremely high risk of climate change and environmental hazards, Dr Heike Kuhn, Head of Division, Education at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany, told participants it is time to raise climate resilient children.

“Weather-related disasters are growing, and young people are the most affected; we need three things in place: climate resilient schools, climate resilient teachers, and climate resilient students. We need climate-smart schools to stay safe when disaster strikes,” she explained.

“We must never forget about the teachers, for they must be agents of change, and teach children to use resources such as water and energy in a sustainable way. Children must also be taught how to behave during extreme weather changes such as earthquakes without leaving behind the most vulnerable children.”

As curtains fell on the landmark two-day conference, Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait, told participants, “The greatest feeling comes from the fact that all ECW’s stakeholders are here and we have raised these resources together, governments, civil society, UN agencies, private sector, Foundations.

“When I watched the panels and the engagements, I felt that everyone has that sense of ownership. Education Cannot Wait is yours. The success of this conference is a historic milestone for education in emergencies and protracted crises.”

In all, 17 donors announced pledges to ECW, including five contributions from new donors – a historic milestone for education in emergencies and protracted crises and ECW. Just over one month into the multilateral Fund’s new 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, these landmark commitments already amount to more than half of the USD 1.5 billion required to deliver on the Fund’s four-year Strategic Plan.

On the way forward, Sherif said ECW is already up and running, but with the additional USD 826 million, the Fund was getting a big leap forward toward the 20 million children and adolescents that will be supported with holistic child-centered education. This is in line with the new Strategic Plan, whose top priorities include localization, working with local organizations at grassroots levels, youths, and getting the children involved as well.

“We can no longer look at climate-induced disasters and education in silos. Conflict creates disruptions in education, so does climate-induced disasters and then the destiny of children and adolescents having to flee their home countries as refugees or forcefully displaced in-country,” she emphasized.

“Most of all, as we have seen in Afghanistan and across the globe, the right for every girl to access a quality education. And we are moving already, and that is where we are going from here. Thanks to the great contribution in the capital of humanitarian settings, we are bringing the development sector of education to those left furthest behind. Thank you, Switzerland, for hosting us.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Venezuela: The End of Civil Society as We Know It?

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Featured, Gender Violence, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, TerraViva United Nations


MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Feb 16 2023 (IPS) – In late January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, finished an official visit to Venezuela. He said he’d found a fragmented society in great need of bridging its divides and encouraged the government to take the lead in listening to civil society concerns and responding to victims of rights violations.

But Venezuelan civil society had hoped for more. Two days before his arrival, the National Assembly, Venezuela’s congress, had approved the first reading of a law aimed at further restricting and criminalising civil society work. International civil society urged the High Commissioner to call for the bill to be shelved. Many found the UN’s response disappointing.

Another turn of the screw

The bill imposes further restrictions on civil society organisations (CSOs). If it becomes law, CSOs will have to hand over lists of members, staff, assets and donors. They’ll be obliged to provide detailed data about their activities, funding sources and use of financial resources – the kind of information that has already been used to persecute and criminalise CSOs and activists. Similar legislation has been used in Nicaragua to shut down hundreds of CSOs and arrest opposition leaders, journalists and human rights defenders.

The law will ban CSOs from conducting ‘political activities’, an expression that lacks clear definition. It could easily be interpreted as prohibiting human rights work and scrutiny of the government. There’s every chance the law will be used against human rights organisations that cooperate with international human rights mechanisms. This would endanger civil society’s efforts to document the human rights situation, which produces vital inputs for the UN’s human rights system and the International Criminal Court, which has an ongoing case against Venezuela.

The law-making process has been shrouded in secrecy: the draft bill wasn’t made publicly available and wasn’t discussed at the National Assembly before being approved. The initiative was immediately denounced as a tool to control, restrict and potentially shut down CSOs and criminally prosecute their leaders and staff. If implemented, it could mean the end of civil society as we know it in Venezuela.

The UN and Venezuela

The previous High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, visited Venezuela in September 2019. She was criticised for taking a cautious approach. Moreover, most of the commitments in the agreement the government signed with her were never fulfilled.

Following that visit, the UN Human Rights Council established the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (FFMV), tasked with investigating alleged human rights violations. In September 2022, the FFMV issued a report detailing the involvement of Venezuela’s intelligence agencies in repressing dissent, including by committing human rights violations such as torture and sexual violence.

But intimidation only grew as Türk’s visit approached, with some protest leaders put under surveillance, followed and detained.

Venezuelan CSOs called for a more energetic approach, but Türk followed his predecessor’s footsteps. His visit was characterised by secrecy and brevity, particularly in terms of the time dedicated to engaging with civil society.

Bachelet’s agreement with the government had included the presence of a two-person UN team to monitor the human rights situation and provide assistance and advice. This has now been extended for two years, but the details haven’t been made public.

Civil society activists have continued to work closely with the UN field office and wouldn’t want to risk its presence in the country, so to some extent they understand Türk’s caution in dealing with the Venezuelan government. But they also view his visit as a missed opportunity.

Türk’s statement to the media at the end of his visit was very much focused on the political and economic crises and healing divisions in society, with human rights ‘challenges’ occupying third place on his list of major concerns.

Alerta Venezuela, a Colombia-based human rights group, recognised the references Türk made to ‘new issues’ – such as the need for Venezuela to sign the Escazú Agreement on environmental rights and decriminalise abortion – alongside ongoing human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and torture. But it criticised crucial omissions and the UN’s apparent willingness to take government data at face value.

On the anti-NGO bill, the High Commissioner said he’d asked the government to take into account his comments but didn’t provide any information about their content, so it isn’t clear whether he advocated for amendments to a law that can only remain deeply flawed or for it to be shelved – which is what civil society wanted him to do.

The Venezuelan government has all along paid only lip service to cooperation with the UN and hasn’t kept its promises. Repression is only going to intensify in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled for 2024. Any strategy that involves trusting the government and hoping it will change its position seems doomed to failure.

High-level human rights advocacy needed

More energetic criticism came from the independent and less politically constrained FFMV, which expressed ‘deep concerns’ about the potential implications of the draft NGO law for civic and democratic space.

That is the stance civil society would like the High Commissioner for Human Rights to have taken. They want the office holder to be a human rights champion standing independent of states and unafraid of causing a stir.

Türk is only five months into his four-year term. Civil society will keep doing its best to engage, in the hope that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights can become the human rights advocate the world – and Venezuela – need.

Inés M. Pousadela is CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


China and Russia Fail to Defund UN Human Rights Work

Civil Society, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations


UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva

NEW YORK, Feb 15 2023 (IPS) – United Nations member states agreed to fully fund UN human rights mechanisms that China, Russia, and their allies had sought to defund in the 2023 budget. This should set a precedent for UN human rights funding in the future.

Human Rights Watch has warned for years about China and Russia-led efforts to slash funding for UN human rights work, which was aimed at undermining decisions by the UN Human Rights Council, General Assembly, and Security Council.

During the General Assembly’s budget negotiations in late 2022, China, Russia and allies proposed a resolution to defund human rights investigations in Sri Lanka, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Ukraine, Nicaragua, North Korea, Belarus, Syria, and Eritrea. Ethiopia proposed a resolution to defund an investigation of war crimes and abuses in Ethiopia itself.

Israel also urged states to deny funding for an International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the legal consequences of its 55-year occupation of Palestinian territory.

All these efforts failed. The Czech Republic, as European Union president, countered by proposing full funding for human rights mechanisms at the level proposed by Secretary-General António Guterres. The resolution passed by a sizable majority.

There’s more good news. Not only did the defunding efforts fail, the highly problematic recommendations put forward by the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) were rejected.

The Advisory Committee is supposed to be an independent body of experts, but in recent years, its “experts” from countries like China and Russia have been pushing their governments’ anti-human rights agendas and advocating for sharp cuts in funding for human rights work, with no good reasons.

Due to divisions between Western countries and developing states, the standard UN funding compromise had become accepting the non-binding Advisory Committee recommendations. For example, if its recommendations had been adopted, the staff and budget for the Iran commission of inquiry would have been cut in half.

UN member countries should treat the successful UN budget outcome as a blueprint for the future. The job of the Fifth Committee – which oversees UN budget matters – is to allocate resources, not question mandates approved by UN legislative bodies.

They should also reform or replace the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions with an advisory body staffed by genuinely independent experts, not diplomats doing the bidding of their governments.

Meanwhile, UN delegations should build on this success and ensure reliable full funding for all UN human rights mandates.

Louis Charbonneau is UN Director Human Rights Watch

IPS UN Bureau


Outlook for 2023: Children in ‘Polycrisis’

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations


A family walks past a heavily damaged building in Borodianka, Ukraine. Multiple threats are converging to leave families reeling. But putting children at the centre of the response can help shape a brighter future. Credit: UNICEF/UN0765276/Filippov

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 2023 (IPS) – The year 2022 was incredibly difficult for people around the world. We were confronted by a series of major crises, including a continuing pandemic, a major war in Europe, an energy crisis, rising inflation and food insecurity.

These events hit children particularly hard, compounding the already severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of children had to flee their homes because of conflict or extreme weather events. At the same time, child malnutrition and the number of children in need of humanitarian assistance rose.

The war in Ukraine, for example, has led to higher food and energy prices, which in turn has contributed to rising global hunger and inflation. Efforts to address inflation through rising interest rates in the US have driven up the value of the dollar against other currencies, making developing countries’ imports, debt repayments and their ability to access external financing more difficult.

As we explain in our new report, ‘Prospects for Children in the Polycrisis: A 2023 Global Outlook’, these realities have added up to what has been termed a ‘polycrisis’ – multiple, simultaneous crises that are strongly interdependent.

As we look to 2023, it’s clear that the polycrisis is likely to continue shaping children’s lives. The effects of these intertwined and far-reaching trends will be difficult to untangle, and solutions will be difficult to find as policymakers struggle to keep up with multiple urgent needs.

The situation is particularly dire in economically developing countries. Higher food and energy prices have contributed to a rise in global hunger and malnourishment, with children among the most affected.

The polycrisis is also limiting access to healthcare for many children, making it harder for them to receive treatment and routine vaccinations. Recovery from learning losses caused by the closure of schools will be slow and felt for years to come, while the shift to remote learning has left children from low-income families facing the greatest challenges in catching up.

At the same time, the combination of higher financing needs, soaring inflation and a tighter fiscal outlook will widen the education financing gap needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Climate change, too, is also a part of this polycrisis, with visible effects, including devastating floods in Pakistan and droughts in East Africa, making it harder for children to access education, food and healthcare, and causing widespread displacement of populations.

All these factors have led UNICEF to estimate that 300 million children will be in need of humanitarian assistance this year. This staggering number highlights the urgency for international organizations and governments to step in and provide assistance.

But the polycrisis doesn’t have to lead to further instability or, ultimately, systemic breakdown. Some of the stresses we saw in 2022 have already weakened, and new opportunities may arise to alleviate the situation.

For example, food and oil prices have dropped from their peaks, and good harvests in some countries may help to lower global food prices. Fortunately, we know there are solutions and strategies that work.

One potential solution is to increase investment in social protection programmes, such as cash transfers and food assistance, which can help alleviate the immediate economic impacts of the polycrisis on families. These programmes can also help to build resilience and reduce vulnerabilities.

The establishment of learning recovery programmes will help tackle the learning losses and prevent children from falling further behind. And early prevention, detection and treatment plans for severe child malnutrition have been effective in reducing child wasting.

Ultimately, a coordinated and collective effort is needed to protect the rights and well-being of children. This includes not only providing immediate assistance but also addressing the underlying causes of the polycrisis and building resilience for the future.

This cannot be achieved without a more coordinated and collective effort from international organizations and governments to help mitigate the effects of the polycrisis and protect children’s futures.

And, crucially, we must listen to children and young people themselves so that we can understand the future they want to build and live in. In fact, we followed this approach when we were assessing trends for ‘Prospects for Children in the Polycrisis’, asking young people from across the world age 16 to 29 to give us their views on some of the challenges their generation faces.

It’s critical that we take action to protect the most vulnerable among us. The future may be uncertain, but by working together we can help to build a better future for our children.

Jasmina Byrne is Chief of Foresight and Policy, UNICEF Innocenti – Global Office of Research and Foresight.

Prospects for Children in the Polycrisis: A 2023 Global Outlook’, produced by UNICEF Innocenti – Office of Global Research and Foresight, unpacks the trends that will impact children over the next 12 months.

Source: UNICEF

IPS UN Bureau