Kofi Time: The Podcast

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Climate Change, Food and Agriculture, Health, Multimedia, Peace, Podcast

Aug 24 2022 –  

About the Podcast

Regarded as one of the modern world’s icons of diplomacy, what is Kofi Annan’s legacy today? What can we learn from him, and how can we prepare for tomorrow, based on his vision for a better world?

In this exclusive 10-part podcast, Ahmad Fawzi, one of Kofi Annan’s former spokespersons and communication Advisor, will examine how Kofi Annan tackled a specific crisis and its relevance to today’s world and challenges.

Kofi Annan’s call to bring all stakeholders around the table — including the private sector, local authorities, civil society organisations, academia, and scientists — resonates now more than ever with so many, who understand that governments alone cannot shape our future.

Join us on a journey of discovery as Ahmad Fawzi interviews some of Kofi Annan’s closest advisors and colleagues including Dr Peter Piot, Christiane Amanpour, Mark Malloch-Brown, Michael Møller and more.

Listen and follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and SoundCloud

Brought to you by the Kofi Annan Foundation and the United Nations Information Service.


Kofi Time: The Official Trailer

Join us as we take a journey of discovery about Kofi Annan’s leadership style and what makes it so relevant and important today.


Multilateralism: Then & Now | Kofi Time with Lord Mark Malloch-Brown | Episode 1

In this episode, Lord Malloch Brown shares insights with podcast host Ahmad Fawzi on how Kofi Annan strengthened the United Nations through careful diplomacy and bold reforms, and how significant advances were made during his tenure as Secretary-General. He comments on the state of multilateralism today, as the organization is buffeted by the crisis in Ukraine and the paralysis of the Security Council.


Making Peace: Then & Now | Kofi Time with Christiane Amanpour | Episode 2

In this episode of Kofi Time, host Ahmad Fawzi interviews renowned journalist Christiane Amanpour. Together, they discuss a world in turmoil, and what would Kofi Annan – who did so much for peace – do today?

Christiane shares her thoughts on the ‘Kofi Annan way’, the difficult job mediators and peacebuilders face, and the courage they must show. With Ahmad, they deliberate whether there is a type of ‘calling’ for those who work in this field.


Health Crises: Then & Now | Kofi Time with Dr Peter Piot | Episode 3

In this episode of Kofi Time, our special guest is Dr Peter Piot. Dr Piot discusses how he and Kofi Annan worked together to reverse the HIV/AIDs tide that swept through Africa in the 1990s, through patient but bold diplomacy, innovative partnerships and an inclusive approach that brought to the table previously marginalized communities. Dr Piot and podcast host Ahmad Fawzi discuss whether this approach be replicated today as the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and must prepare for future heath emergencies.


Fighting Hunger: Then & Now | Kofi Time with Catherine Bertini | Episode 4

In episode 4 of Kofi Time, our special guest is Catherine Bertini. Ms. Bertini discusses how she worked with Kofi Annan to fight hunger and malnutrition around the world. Not only is access to food far from universal, but it is also severely impacted by conflicts and climate change. As food prices increase and access becomes even more challenging, how can we replicate Kofi Annan’s approach to improving food systems to make sure no one gets lefts behind on the path to food security globally?


Leadership: Then & Now | Kofi Time with Michael Møller | Episode 5

In episode 5 of Kofi Time, host Ahmad Fawzi interviews diplomat Michael Møller on Kofi Annan’s special kind of leadership. A respected leader among his peers and the public, Kofi Annan served the people of the world with courage, vision and empathy. Embodying moral steadfastness and an acute political acumen, his leadership was one of a kind. What drove him, and how can we emulate his leadership style to face today’s global challenges?


Human Rights: Then & Now | Kofi Time with Zeid Raad Al Hussein | Episode 6

In episode 6 of Kofi Time, our special guest is Zeid Raad Al Hussein. Zeid discusses his friendship with Kofi Annan and how they worked together to protect human dignity and promote human rights. Through the creation of the Human Rights Council and International Criminal Court, Kofi Annan played a critical role in establishing the mechanisms that we have today to protect human rights and fight impunity. How can we uphold Kofi Annan’s legacy and ensure that respect for human rights is not just an abstract concept but a reality?


Podcast Host & Guests


 

Ahmad Fawzi Kofi

Time Podcast Host

Mr Fawzi is the former head of News and Media at the United Nations. He worked closely with Kofi Annan both during his time as Secretary-General and afterwards, on crises including Iraq and Syria. Before joining the United Nations, he worked for many years in broadcast journalism, as a news editor, reporter and regional news operations manager. From 1991 to 1992, he was the News Operations Manager for the Americas for Visnews — now Reuters Television. Also with Reuters Television, Mr Fawzi served as Regional News Manager for Eastern Europe, based in Prague, from 1989 to 1991 — a time of tumultuous political change in that region. Concurrently with his assignment in Prague, he coordinated coverage of the Gulf war, managing the war desk in Riyadh, as well as the production centre in Dahran, Saudi Arabia. In 1989, Mr Fawzi was Reuters Television Bureau Chief for the Middle East, based in Cairo. Prior to that, he worked in London as News and Assignments Editor for Reuters Television. Previously, he was Editor and Anchor for the nightly news on Egyptian Television.


 

Lord Mark Malloch-Brown

Episode 1 Guest

Mark Malloch‐Brown is the president of the Open Society Foundations. He has worked in various senior positions in government and international organizations for more than four decades to advance development, human rights and justice. He was UN Deputy Secretary‐General and chief of staff under Kofi Annan. He previously Co-Chaired the UN Foundation Board. Malloch-Brown has worked to advance human rights and justice through working in international affairs for more than four decades. He was UN deputy secretary‐general and chief of staff under Kofi Annan. Before this, he was administrator of the UNDP, where he led global development efforts. He covered Africa and Asia as minister of state in the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office. Other positions have included World Bank vice president, lead international partner in a political consulting firm, vice-chair of the World Economic Forum, and senior advisor at Eurasia Group. He began his career as a journalist at the Economist and as an international refugee worker. He was knighted for his contribution to international affairs and is currently on leave from the British House of Lords. Malloch-Brown is a Distinguished Practitioner at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, an adjunct fellow at Chatham House’s Queen Elizabeth Program, and has been a visiting distinguished fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.


 

Christiane Amanpour

Episode 2 Guest

Christiane Amanpour is a renowned journalist, whose illustrious career has taken her from CNN where she was Chief international correspondent for many years, to ABC as a Global Affairs Anchor, PBS and back to CNN International for the global affairs interview program named after her. She has received countless prestigious awards, including four Peabody Awards, for her international reporting and her achievements in broadcast journalism. She served as a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression and Journalist Safety. She is also an honorary citizen of Sarajevo and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2007 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.


 

Dr Peter Piot

Episode 3 Guest

Dr Peter Piot co-discovered the Ebola virus in Zaire in 1976. He has led research on HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and women’s health, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Peter Piot was the founding Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1995 until 2008. Under his leadership, UNAIDS has become the chief advocate for worldwide action against AIDS. It has brought together ten organizations of the United Nations system around a common agenda on AIDS, spearheading UN reform Peter Piot was the Director of the Institute for Global Health at Imperial College; London and he held the 2009/2010 “Knowledge against poverty” Chair at the College de France in Paris. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and was elected a foreign member of the National Academy of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences.


 

Catherine Bertini

Episode 4 Guest

An accomplished leader in food security, international organization reform and a powerful advocate for women and girls, Catherine Bertini has had a distinguished career improving the efficiency and operations of organizations serving poor and hungry people in the United States and around the world. She has highlighted and supported the roles of women and girls in influencing change. She was named the 2003 World Food Prize Laureate for her transformational leadership at the World Food Programme (WFP), which she led for ten years, and for the positive impact she had on the lives of women. While in the US government, she expanded the electronic benefit transfer options for food stamp beneficiaries, created the food package for breastfeeding mothers, presented the first effort to picture healthy diets, and expanded education and training opportunities for poor women. As a United Nations Under-Secretary-General, and at the head of the World Food Programme for ten years (1992 to 2002), she led UN humanitarian missions to the Horn of Africa and to Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. During her time serving with WFP, Catherine Bertini was responsible for the leadership and management of emergency, refugee, and development food aid operations, reaching people in great need in over 100 countries, as well as advocacy campaigns to end hunger and to raise financial resources. With her World Food Prize, she created the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education to support programs to increase opportunities for girls and women to attend school. At the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, where she is now professor emeritus, she taught graduate courses in humanitarian action, post-conflict reconstruction, girls’ education, UN management, food security, international organizations, and leadership. She served as a senior fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation early in its new agricultural development program. Bertini is now the chair of the board of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Concurrently, she is a Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She has been named a Champion of the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. She is a professor emeritus at Syracuse University.


 

Michael Møller

Episode 5 Guest

Mr Møller has over 40 years of experience as an international civil servant in the United Nations. He began his career in 1979 with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and worked for the United Nations in different capacities in New York, Mexico, Iran, Haiti, Cyprus and Geneva. He worked very closely with Kofi Annan as Director for Political, Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs in the Office of the Secretary-General between 2001 and 2006, while serving concurrently as Deputy Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General for the last two years of that period. Mr Møller also served as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Cyprus from 2006 to 2008 and was the Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation from 2008 to 2011. From 2013 to 2019, Mr Møller served as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva as well as Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Conference of Disarmament. He currently is Chairman of the Diplomacy Forum of Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator. A Danish citizen, Mr Møller earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Sussex, in the United Kingdom.


 

Zeid Raad Al Hussein

Episode 6 Guest

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is IPI’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Previously, Zeid served as the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014 to 2018 after a long career as a Jordanian diplomat, including as his country’s Permanent Representative to the UN (2000-2007 & 2010-2014) and Ambassador to the United States (2007-2010). He served on the UN Security Council, was a configuration chair for the UN Peace-Building Commission, and began his career as a UN Peacekeeper in the former Yugoslavia. Zeid has also represented his country twice before the International Court of Justice, served as the President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court from 2002-2005, and in 2005, authored the first comprehensive strategy for the elimination of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in UN Peacekeeping Operations while serving as an advisor to Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Zeid is also a member of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights, founded by Nelson Mandela. Zeid holds a PhD from Cambridge University and is currently a Professor of Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.


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Gender Equality & Women’s Rights Wiped out Under the Taliban

Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

The writer is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

Women receive food rations at a food distribution site in Herat, Afghanistan. Credit: UNICEF/Sayed Bidel

NEW YORK, Aug 15 2022 (IPS) – In the year that has passed since the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan we have seen daily and continuous deterioration in the situation of Afghan women and girls. This has spanned every aspect of their human rights, from living standards to social and political status.


It has been a year of increasing disrespect for their right to live free and equal lives, denying them opportunity to livelihoods, access to health care and education, and escape from situations of violence.

The Taliban’s meticulously constructed policies of inequality set Afghanistan apart. It is the only country in the world where girls are banned from going to high school. There are no women in the Taliban’s cabinet, no Ministry of Women’s Affairs, thereby effectively removing women’s right to political participation.

Women are, for the most part, also restricted from working outside the home, and are required to cover their faces in public and to have a male chaperone when they travel. Furthermore, they continue to be subjected to multiple forms of Gender Based Violence.

This deliberate slew of measures of discrimination against Afghanistan’s women and girls is also a terrible act of self-sabotage for a country experiencing huge challenges including from climate-related and natural disasters to exposure to global economic headwinds that leave some 25 million Afghan people in poverty and many hungry.

The exclusion of women from all aspects of life robs the people of Afghanistan of half their talent and energies. It prevents women from leading efforts to build resilient communities and shrinks Afghanistan’s ability to recover from crisis.

There is a clear lesson from humanity’s all too extensive experience of crisis. Without the full participation of women and girls in all aspects of public life there is little chance of achieving lasting peace, stability and economic development.

That is why we urge the de facto authorities to open schools for all girls, to remove constraints on women’s employment and their participation in the politics of their nation, and to revoke all decisions and policies that strip women of their rights. We call for ending all forms of violence against women and girls.

We urge the de facto authorities to ensure that women journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society actors enjoy freedom of expression, have access to information and can work freely and independently, without fear of reprisal or attack.

The international community’s support for women’s rights and its investment in women themselves are more important than ever: in services for women, in jobs and women-led businesses, and in women leaders and women’s organizations.

This includes not only support to the provision of humanitarian assistance but also continued and unceasing efforts at the political level to bring about change.

UN Women has remained in country throughout this crisis and will continue to do so. We are steadfast in our support to Afghan women and girls alongside our partners and donors.

We are scaling up the provision of life-saving services for women, by women, to meet overwhelming needs. We are supporting women-led businesses and employment opportunities across all sectors to help lift the country out of poverty.

We are also investing in women-led civil society organizations to support the rebuilding of the women’s movement. As everywhere in the world, civil society is a key driver of progress and accountability on women’s rights and gender equality.

Every day, we advocate for restoring, protecting, and promoting the full spectrum of women’s and girls’ rights. We are also creating spaces for Afghan women themselves to advocate for their right to live free and equal lives.

One year on, with women’s visibility so diminished and rights so severely impacted, it is vital to direct targeted, substantial, and systematic funding to address and reverse this situation and to facilitate women’s meaningful participation in all stakeholder engagement on Afghanistan, including in delegations that meet with Taliban officials.

Decades of progress on gender equality and women’s rights have been wiped out in mere months. We must continue to act together, united in our insistence on guarantees of respect for the full spectrum of women’s rights, including to education, work, and participation in public and political life.

We must continue to make a collective and continuous call on the Taliban leadership to fully comply with the binding obligations under international treaties to which Afghanistan is a party.

And we must continue to elevate the voices of Afghan women and girls who are fighting every day for their right to live free and equal lives. Their fight is our fight. What happens to women and girls in Afghanistan is our global responsibility.

IPS UN Bureau

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‘Aid Organizations Must Include the Youth Voice’ August 12, 2022—International Youth Day

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Global, Headlines, Health, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations, Youth Thought Leaders

Opinion

NEW YORK, Aug 12 2022 (IPS) – Today marks International Youth Day, a global celebration of the transformative power of young people. Introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999, the event was inaugurated not only to observe the power of the youth voice, but to serve as a promise from those in power to activate the power of youth across the development sector.


Yasmine Sherif

Since then, the United Nations appointed a Youth Envoy, dedicated to the diffusion of the day’s promise, and many aid organizations have followed suit by including the voices of young people in social media campaigns, high-level events, and stakeholder forums.

In 2021, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, took a further, concrete step to democratically include youth in its governance structure and decision-making processes. Scores of youth-led NGOs applied to join a newly created youth constituency, and after only a few weeks, the sub-group had become one of the largest, most active, and most diverse constituencies within the fund.

On the Executive Committee and High-Level Steering Group of ECW, young people were represented for the first time alongside government ministers, heads of UN agencies and civil society organizations, and private sector leaders — a refreshing example of intergenerational collaboration at the highest levels of humanitarian aid.

Another significant step in the race for youth inclusion occurred when ECW partnered with Plan International to support a group of youth activists through the ‘Youth for Education in Emergencies Project,’ a campaign by youth panelists aiming to demonstrate the value of youth participation.

As ECW builds momentum towards its High-Level Financing Conference in February 2023 with the #222MillionDreams Campaign, we call on strategic partners to include the youth voice as we come together to mobilize funding resources for the 222 Million crisis-impacted children and adolescents worldwide that require urgent educational support.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of exceptional young people ready to lead the charge. The Global Student Forum, for example, has brought together more than one hundred national student unions, composed of millions of youth activists, and successfully lobbied governments around the world with its democratic force.

H.D. Wright

The success of Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s 100 Million Campaign, a global, youth-led effort to end child exploitation, further illustrates the immense value of grassroots organizing. And at a local level, youth-led NGOs have brought change to their communities in ways equally substantial.

Aid organizations and professionals have changed the lives of countless young people around the world. By including them, aid organizations can tap into their extraordinary resilience and strength, and actually learn from them. Using their reach on social media, young people excel at spreading awareness and engagement around the world. Just as unknown singers become famous because of the young people who promote them, previously unknown issues have reached national prominence overnight and created substantive change.

With regard to fundraising, each young person is surrounded by a community, offering a network ready to lend a hand. In terms of policy, young people affected by crises can identify their needs with an ease unmatched by any humanitarian policy professional, for they are experts in their own lives, challenges and opportunities. Young people are intelligent and capable of shaping their own futures. They have an idealism and a courage that the world so desperately needs today. Their unflinching optimism, powerful energy, and uncompromising commitment to change will ensure that those futures are not only safe, but better than the present they inherited.

ECW can attest to the enlightening and inspiring vitality of young people. Since its creation, the youth constituency has worked energetically on behalf of this breakthrough global fund, providing valuable input and guidance on multi-year programs and first emergency responses in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Haiti, Iraq and Mali. When schools shut down due to the pandemic, the youth constituency persisted, working together to inform aid programmes dispersed across crisis-affected countries.

The youth constituency even responded in real time to developing crises, including the earthquake in Haiti, the deteriorating crisis in Afghanistan, and most recently, the war in Ukraine. Their contributions played a role in meaningful projects: since its inception in 2016, ECW’s programs have reached over 5 million children and adolescents, providing them with quality support, including educational materials, school meals, mental health programs, and other basic necessities.

On this day, it is important to observe the power of young people, and the impactful work that aid organizations have conducted across the sector. Yet celebration and transformation must go hand in hand, ensuring that next year, when International Youth Day returns, we are one step closer to fulfilling its original promise to unleash the power of the youth.

Yasmine Sherif is the Director of Education Cannot Wait. H.D. Wright is Youth Representative at Education Cannot Wait

IPS UN Bureau

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Colombia’s New President May Need U.S. Blessing to Realize his Domestic Agenda

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

The writer is a Geneva-based researcher for the Third World Network

A woman paints a mural for Peace and Reconciliation in Colombia. Credit: UNMVC/Jennifer Moreno

GENEVA, Aug 9 2022 (IPS) – For the first time in its contemporary history, Colombia has a left-wing government. The presidency of Gustavo Petro, who took the reins August 8, marks a significant break from the political status quo. He also represents a stiff test for U.S. influence in Latin America.


Colombia is Washington’s most enduring ally in the region, and in recent years their relationship has been built around combatting the nation’s drug cartels. But despite major efforts to curb supply, Colombia remains a top source of cocaine for the United States.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently estimated that Colombia’s cocaine harvest hit a record high in 2020. On the back of new coca varieties (the base ingredient for cocaine) and better cultivation techniques, Colombia’s potential output reached 1,228 tonnes in 2020. This was triple the 2010 level and four times greater than in the early 1990s, when Pablo Escobar was at the height of his infamy.

Since launching its controversial ‘war on drugs’ in 1971, successive Republican and Democratic administrations have supplied more than $13 billion in military and economic aid to Colombia. To little avail.

According to a 2021 United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency report, over 90 percent of the cocaine seized in the U.S. originates from Colombia. The U.S. remains the biggest consumer market for Colombian cocaine.

Petro is among those who have denounced the U.S.’s counter-narcotics strategy as counterproductive. In particular, he’s taken aim at US-backed aerial fumigation campaigns to destroy coca fields.

He favours expanding crop substitution programs that provide credit, training and enhanced land rights to rural farmers. For Petro, tackling Colombia’s violent drug trade is bound up with the county’s historic land ownership inequality.

He has also been an ardent critic of Colombia’s free-trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S. for pushing farmers into coca production and for exacerbating Colombia’s over-reliance on fossil fuel and coffee exports.

At the same time, imports from America’s highly subsidized agricultural sector have displaced whole segments of Colombia’s agrarian economy, forcing thousands of farmers into coca production.

Petro’s election campaign called for “smart tariffs” to protect Colombia’s rural farmers from U.S. imports and, by extension, criminal activity. “The free trade agreement signed with the United States handed rural Colombia to the drug traffickers,” he told the Financial Times in May. What’s more, he noted that “agricultural production cannot be increased if we do not renegotiate the FTA.”

An ex-member of the M-19 guerrilla group, Colombia’s new president has vowed to tackle asymmetric trade relations in line with land reform and the drug trade. But he will likely face severe opposition from the armed forces, who themselves fought leftist guerrilla movements during Colombia’s 52-year civil conflict.

Further, the military have a longstanding role in the U.S.-led war on drugs. For his part, Petro has accused Colombia’s top brass of corruption and human rights abuses, even since the Government-Farc peace treaty of 2016.

Elsewhere, the President faces a divided congress and deep hostility from landowning elites. It will require skilful manoeuvring to unite a fractured country around his domestic policies. And even if Petro can generate sufficient national support around his policy aims, he would still need to convince the Biden administration to back-track on the U.S.’s ideological commitment to free trade.

So, what cards can Petro play?

His opening gambit is likely to be a financial argument. While cocaine overdoses claim far fewer lives than opioids, the fiscal costs associated with interceding cocaine into the U.S. are staggering.

Navy and Coast Guard seizures alone cost American taxpayers US$56 billion in 2020, to say nothing of land border expenditures. State funds are also used for cocaine-linked policing, incarcerations and medical treatment.

The current geopolitical landscape may also provide Petro with an unlikely Trump card. Given President Joe Biden’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he will be careful avoid pushing Colombia (which he has described as a security “linchpin”) into a closer embrace with Cuba and Venezuela, who are diplomatically aligned with the Kremlin.

To isolate Russia even further, Biden will likely soften America’s stance in renegotiating its FTA with Colombia.

Last month, senior representatives from the Biden administration met with Petro to discuss, among other things, the FTA. While the U.S. has taken tentative steps towards renegotiating the deal, Petro should be wary of a favourable result.

Over the past twenty-five years, an intricate web of government and military bureaucracy has been constructed around U.S.-Colombian counter-narcotics operations. It will be difficult to disentangle.

IPS UN Bureau

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Colombia Votes for Social Justice

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

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.

Oliver Dalichau

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

IPS UN Bureau

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Reclaiming Our Future

Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, COVID-19, Education, Headlines, Inequality, Labour, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

BANGKOK, Thailand, May 23 2022 (IPS) – The Asia-Pacific region is at a crossroads today – to further breakdown or breakthrough to a greener, better, safer future.

Since the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was established in 1947, the region has made extraordinary progress, emerging as a pacesetter of global economic growth that has lifted millions out of poverty.


Yet, as ESCAP celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, we find ourselves facing our biggest shared test on the back of cascading and overlapping impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, raging conflicts and the climate crisis.

Few have escaped the effects of the pandemic, with 85 million people pushed back into extreme poverty, millions more losing their jobs or livelihoods, and a generation of children and young people missing precious time for education and training.

As the pandemic surges and ebbs across countries, the world continues to face the grim implications of failing to keep the temperature increase below 1.5°C – and of continuing to degrade the natural environment. Throughout 2021 and 2022, countries across Asia and the Pacific were again battered by a relentless sequence of natural disasters, with climate change increasing their frequency and intensity.

More recently, the rapidly evolving crisis in Ukraine will have wide-ranging socioeconomic impacts, with higher prices for fuel and food increasing food insecurity and hunger across the region.

Rapid economic growth in Asia and the Pacific has come at a heavy price, and the convergence of these three crises have exposed the fault lines in a very short time. Unfortunately, those hardest hit are those with the fewest resources to endure the hardship. This disproportionate pressure on the poor and most vulnerable is deepening and widening inequalities in both income and opportunities.

The situation is critical. Many communities are close to tipping points beyond which it will be impossible to recover. But it is not too late.

The region is dynamic and adaptable.

In this richer yet riskier world, we need more crisis-prepared policies to protect our most vulnerable populations and shift the Asia-Pacific region back on course to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as the target year of 2030 comes closer — our analysis shows that we are already 35 years behind and will only attain the Goals in 2065.

To do so, we must protect people and the planet, exploit digital opportunities, trade and invest together, raise financial resources and manage our debt.

The first task for governments must be to defend the most vulnerable groups – by strengthening health and universal social protection systems. At the same time, governments, civil society and the private sector should be acting to conserve our precious planet and mitigate and adapt to climate change while defending people from the devastation of natural disasters.

For many measures, governments can exploit technological innovations. Human activities are steadily becoming “digital by default.” To turn the digital divide into a digital dividend, governments should encourage more robust and extensive digital infrastructure and improve access along with the necessary education and training to enhance knowledge-intensive internet use.

Much of the investment for services will rely on sustainable economic growth, fueled by equitable international trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). The region is now the largest source and recipient of global FDI flows, which is especially important in a pandemic recovery environment of fiscal tightness.

While trade links have evolved into a complex noodle bowl of bilateral and regional agreements, there is ample scope to further lower trade and investment transaction costs through simplified procedures, digitalization and climate-smart strategies. Such changes are proving to be profitable business strategies. For example, full digital facilitation could cut average trade costs by more than 13 per cent.

Governments can create sufficient fiscal space to allow for greater investment in sustainable development. Additional financial resources can be raised through progressive tax reforms, innovative financing instruments and more effective debt management. Instruments such as green bonds or sustainability bonds, and arranging debt swaps for development, could have the highest impacts on inclusivity and sustainability.

Significant efforts need to be made to anticipate what lies ahead. In everything we do, we must listen to and work with both young and old, fostering intergenerational solidarity. And women must be at the centre of crisis-prepared policy action.

This week the Commission is expected to agree on a common agenda for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, pinning the aspirations of the region on moving forward together by learning from and working with each other.

In the past seven-and-a-half decades, ESCAP has been a vital source of know-how and support for the governments and peoples of Asia and the Pacific. We remain ready to serve in the implementation of this common agenda.

To quote United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “the choices we make, or fail to make today, will shape our future. We will not have this chance again.”

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

IPS UN Bureau

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