COVID-19 Recovery Requires Justice Beyond Rhetoric

Civil Society, Economy & Trade, Education, Gender, Global, Headlines, Health, Humanitarian Emergencies, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Women & Economy

Opinion

Credit: Global Policy Forum

BONN, Germany, Sep 16 2021 (IPS) – Policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have exacerbated rather than reduced global inequalities. On the one hand, the net wealth of billionaires has risen to record levels since the outbreak of the pandemic (increasing by more than US$ 5 trillion to US$ 13.1 trillion from 2020 to 2021), on the other hand, the number of people living in extreme poverty has also increased massively (by approx. 100 million to 732 million in 2020).


These contrasts alone show that something is fundamentally wrong in the world.

In response to the disastrous effects of the pandemic, there was much talk of solidarity with regard to health support, including access to vaccines. But the brutal national competition for vaccines shows that solidarity is embraced by many world leaders merely as a rhetorical flourish.

The World Health Organization (WHO) made an early appeal to countries to agree on a coordinated distribution of vaccines, with available doses distributed fairly according to the size of each country’s population. This has not happened.

By the end of August 2021, more than 60 percent of the people in high-income countries had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but less than 2 percent have done so in low-income countries.

The European Commission, the USA, the UK, and numerous other countries have signed bilateral COVID-19 Vaccine Agreements with pharmaceutical producers to secure vaccine quotas. By the end of August 2021, more than 400 agreements were concluded, securing over 18 billion doses of vaccine.

The European Commission has so far negotiated supply agreements for 4.3 billion doses of vaccine, equivalent to 8 vaccine doses per capita of the EU population. The UK could vaccinate its population 9 times with the contracted doses, the USA 10 times and Canada as many as 16 times.

Exacerbating the problem for many countries in the global South is the enormous cost of vaccines. The producers do not charge standard prices, but vary their prices depending on the quantity purchased and the bargaining power of the purchaser.

Occasionally, they grant preferential terms to rich countries, while countries in the global South sometimes have to pay higher prices. For example, the European Commission received a batch of AstraZeneca vaccine for US$ 2.19, while Argentina had to pay US$ 4.00 and the Philippines US$ 5.00. Botswana had to pay US$ 14.44 million for 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccine, or US$ 28.88 per dose, while the USA got Moderna’s vaccine at almost half the price (US$ 15.00).

While the vaccine pharmaceutical oligopoly makes exorbitant profits, countries of the global South are confronted with falling government revenues and rising debt burdens. The situation will worsen as regular vaccine boosters become necessary in the coming years.

What is tantamount to a license to print money for the pharmaceutical companies is a massive burden on public budgets. In view of this dramatic disparity, the promise to “leave no one behind” of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains an empty slogan.

Insufficient responses to the global health crisis

As an immediate response to the global health crisis, the People’s Vaccine Alliance has formulated “5 steps to end vaccine apartheid“. These are in line with the demands derived from the analyses in the Spotlight Report 2021.

Increasing global vaccine production capacity, lowering market prices, and substantially increasing public financial support are vital, especially for the poor and disadvantaged people in the global South.

One way to overcome the vaccine shortage is to accelerate technology transfer. In May 2020, WHO established the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), designed to pool voluntary licenses, research and regulatory data. But most countries with large vaccine production capacity, such as the USA, Germany, China and India, do not support the initiative. Thus, it has so far remained without any noticeable impact.

Faced with scarce global production capacity, India, South Africa, Kenya and Eswatini applied for a waiver under the TRIPS Agreement of the WTO to temporarily remove patent protection for COVID-19-related vaccines, medicines and devices.

The TRIPS waiver is intended to enable manufacturers in the global South in particular to produce medicines and vaccines more quickly and at lower cost. More than 100 countries support this initiative, including the USA as of May 2021.

The EU, the UK, Switzerland and the pharmaceutical companies and lobby groups based in these countries are particularly opposed and have so far blocked an agreement.

In this context, the more fundamental question arises as to whether medicines vital to realize the human right to health should be patented at all. Should they not in principle be considered global public goods, especially when, as in the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, billions of dollars of public money have gone into research and development?

In another initiative, the WHO and several partners—including France, the EU and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation –launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and its COVAX initiative.

This has shifted the centre of the global COVID-19 response from WHO to a multi-stakeholder initiative with its own governance and decision-making structure, thereby further weakening WHO’s role in the global health architecture.

But with the unilateral approach of the rich countries to vaccine procurement, COVAX has failed in its claim to serve a global coordination function. Its primary task is now to provide COVID-19 vaccines to 92 low- and middle-income countries with the objective to provide at least 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2021.

By 14 September 2021, just 270 million doses have been delivered. To date, COVAX has received pledges of US$ 9.825 billion, nowhere near enough to provide sufficient vaccines for about 4 billion people in the 92 countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully demonstrated the absence of a functioning global health system. This reality has led to the proposal to create a Pandemic Treaty – a legally binding framework and improved global governance structures for pandemic preparedness and response.

Whether it can actually overcome structural weaknesses of the global health architecture, such as the underfunding of the WHO, is very unclear. Depending on its design, it could lead to an actual strengthening of the WHO, or to its further weakening by outsourcing pandemic preparedness and response to multi-stakeholder bodies with limited public accountability.

More transformational steps are needed

Beyond responding to the global health crisis, far more fundamental transformational steps are needed.

An essential aspect of an agenda for change is the shift toward a rights-based economy and a concept of human rights that forms the basis of our vision of economic justice.

To make this systemic shift happen, the trend towards privatization, outsourcing and systematic dismantling of public services must be reversed.

To combat rising inequality and build a socially just, inclusive post-COVID world, everyone must have equitable access to public services, which must be reclaimed as public goods and run in the common interest, not for profit.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly emphasized that human rights must guide all COVID-19 response and recovery measures. This should also mean strengthening the rights of those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

First and foremost, that means the millions of workers in the healthcare sector, 70 percent of them women. Most of them experience poor work conditions, low wages and job insecurity.

The situation is similar in the education sector. Research by Education International shows that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers’ workloads have steadily worsened, while salaries have remained the same or even decreased.

The situation has continued to deteriorate as a result of the pandemic. The global teacher shortage, which the UN estimated at 69 million even before the pandemic, will continue to grow so long as teaching remains to be “an overworked, undervalued, and underpaid profession”.

A basic precondition for the adequate provision of public goods and services is that States have sufficient resources. To prevent the COVID-19 pandemic being followed by a global debt and austerity pandemic, governments must be enabled to expand their fiscal space and to implement alternatives to neoliberal austerity policies.

This includes implementing a progressive tax reform, which prioritizes taxes on wealth and high earners.

Over the past year, many UN officials, human rights activists and civil society groups (like in the Spotlight Report 2020) have demanded that the resources of the COVID-19 recovery and economic stimulus packages should be used proactively to promote human rights and the implementation of the SDGs.

During that time, initial studies show that this is rarely the case. A report of the Financial Transparency Coalition that tracked fiscal and social protection recovery measures in nine countries of the global South found that in eight of them a total of 63 percent of announced COVID-19 funds went to large corporations, rather than small and medium enterprises or social protection measures.

Particularly poorer countries, some of which were already facing massive budget shortfalls before the pandemic, need substantial external support to finance additional healthcare and social spending and measures to overcome the economic recession.

In this regard, the general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) equivalent to US$ 650 billion in August 2021 – the largest distribution ever made by the IMF – has been heralded as a major achievement. However, its distribution will not benefit the countries most in need without rechanneling measures and again illustrates existing imbalances in the global economic architecture.

Only if the world collectively embarks on the path toward transformational policies is there a chance to reduce global inequalities, protect our shared planet and make the proclaimed goal of solidarity a political and institutional reality.

Jens Martens is Director, Global Policy Forum, Bonn, Germany

The Spotlight Report is published by the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Global Policy Forum (GPF), Public Services International (PSI), Social Watch, Society for International Development (SID), and Third World Network (TWN), supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

The report will be published on 17 September 2021, 9am EDT and will be available at www.2030spotlight.org

  Source

White Privilege: What It Is, What It Means and Why Understanding It Matters

Civil Society, Headlines, Human Rights

Human Rights

Why is racial inequality perceivably so resistant to transformation? Some say it is because of a failure to acknowledge and confront white privilege. . Credit: Gerry Lauzon / Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.

Why is racial inequality perceivably so resistant to transformation? Some say it is because of a failure to acknowledge and confront white privilege. . Credit: Gerry Lauzon / Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.

Sep 15 2021 (IPS) – A prestigious, private school in Pretoria, South Africa, recently became a site of protest. Black learners and parents accused Cornwall Hill College of rejecting calls to make its whites-only board more representative of its diverse learner body.


In response, a right wing South African youth group called Bittereinders (the Bitter Enders), held an anti-transformation protest.“Unhappy? build your own schools,” was the response from one member.

Why is racial inequality perceivably so resistant to transformation? Some say it is because of a failure to acknowledge and confront white privilege.

The police killing of George Floyd in the US city of Minneapolis in 2020 ignited a wave of protests across the globe and intense discussions of anti-black racism.

Focusing the discussion on the individual is especially effective for the purposes of anti-racist teaching and advocacy. Unpacking how whiteness operates to bestow privilege may allow us to understand how ‘others’ are systematically denied those same rights

From France to Colombia and South Africa, demonstrators used the term ‘white privilege’ as a means of challenging people to confront the racial disparities evident in their own countries.

Amid the demonstrations, a group of international scholars brought together at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in 2020 began discussing whether the concept of ‘white privilege’ is useful for addressing systemic racial inequalities across national contexts.

Although it is clear that the term has become popular across diverse contexts, some have argued against it. They say that the term ‘white privilege’ reinforces stereotypes, reifies conceptualisations of race, antagonises potential allies and creates even greater resistance to change.

As movements for racial justice have become more global in scope, the term has circulated across national boundaries. However, it does not always translate well to these new contexts.

A history

The term white privilege originated in the US in the 1980s, referring to both the obvious and the hidden advantages afforded to white people by systemic forms of racial injustice. Unlike terms such as “racial injustice” and “systemic racial bias”, the idea of privilege centres the discussion around individuals.

Focusing the discussion on the individual is especially effective for the purposes of anti-racist teaching and advocacy. Unpacking how whiteness operates to bestow privilege may allow us to understand how ‘others’ are systematically denied those same rights.

By the mid-2000s, the term white privilege had been adopted by many educators and activists in the US. They were seeking to call attention to the myriad ways in which whites, regardless of their class, benefit from white supremacy and are, therefore, implicated in maintaining the system. For whites in the US, where many live in racially homogeneous communities, the concept of white privilege could spark individual self-reflection and motivate individual political action.

While scholars in some other countries have recently used the term to elucidate systemic patterns of inequality in their own societies, in other countries scholars have been more dubious about the concept.

In South Africa, white privilege is the legacy of apartheid, which subjugated and devalued anyone whose skin colour was not white. Despite the political dismantling of apartheid, white privilege persists. Calls to transform racialised organisations are viewed as threats by white people who, correctly, hear demands for racial justice as an end to white privilege.

In France, use of the term white privilege is relatively recent, introduced in the late 2000s by social scientists. The concept is particularly accurate to describe the legacies of slavery and colonial politics. And it captures the experience of structural racism many inhabitants of France’s social-housing neighbourhoods have shared.

Yet, with growing acceptance of the concept, there has also been resistance. Some decry “white privilege” as creeping Americanisation, ill-fit to France’s liberal tradition and universalism.

Others, echoing critics in the US, argue that a sole focus on racial inequity may entrench, rather than repair, racial divisions in the country. For example, the use of ‘white privilege’ can backfire when it fails to resonate with whites disadvantaged by class, gender or religion. Consequently, the term can, at times, elicit defensive reactions and increased denial of racial disparities.

Race as a political category

Constructions of whiteness and its associated privileges are shaped by different – sometimes contradictory – histories of racial discrimination and racial justice activism. This is because understandings of race and racial categories, as socially constructed categories, remain inconsistent and unequally salient across space and time.

For example, a person from North Africa, from the Indian sub-continent or from Oceania could be considered ‘white’ – in spite of a dark complexion – in many contexts.

Race as a political category is loaded with the histories of racial extermination and racist politics in some places and less so in others. In France ‘white privilege’ could be perceived as provocative because it challenges the French universalist narrative and the modern conception of citizenship and a common will.

Thus, discussions of the material consequences of ‘race’ as a category may occur more openly outside of Western Europe, in Africa and the Americas where native populations were exterminated, enslaved and subjected to various forms of social and political exclusion.

Still, the question of who counts as ‘white’, ‘coloured’, ‘black’, or indigenous remains deeply contested across the globe. As do the explanations for the disparate outcomes and treatment of people in these socially, and sometimes legally, constructed categories. Hence whiteness, and the privileges associated with membership in such a category, remains contextually defined.

For example, an individual of European descent may be treated differently based on where they are in the world. But, this does not negate the fact that someone of Black African origin will often be treated worse than a similarly situated person of European origin in many countries. White privilege persists, even in the absence of any universal definition of “white”.

Toward a goal of racial justice

There have been countless moves to maintain the status quo, such as the Cornwall Hill College anti-transformation protest, You Silence We Amplify, and the U.S. capital insurgency.

Privilege is directly contingent on disfranchisement, measured in terms of who does and does not have access and opportunity. In countries with histories of white supremacy, the meaning of white privilege may seem self-evident to many. But for others there and in other countries, the term may prompt new questions and challenges.

Although the concept of ‘white privilege’ has proved valuable to people advocating for social change in different national contexts, there is also resistance in many countries to the notion that white people are uniquely ‘privileged’ by their race. Some critics seem unwilling to dismantle white supremacy whereas others point to the limitations of ‘white privilege’ to capture the full range of inequalities that shape people’s lives.

A transnational movement for racial justice requires a shared commitment to ending racial inequality across national boundaries. It also requires a sensitivity to the specific, local conditions in which race and racism touch the everyday lives of people.

The concept of ‘white privilege’ remains useful when presented in ways that both resonate with individuals and shed light on structural causes of racial inequality. Then, it has the potential to motivate those with advantages to combat injustices. It can undermine movements for racial justice, however, when it fails to raise awareness of the historical, structural, and political forces that confer some groups advantages over others based on skin colour, phenotype, hair texture and other physical characteristics attributed to ‘race.’

What is clear is that, as a tool for advocacy, ‘white privilege’ cannot be an end but rather a beginning, one of many concepts that can lead individuals toward a critique of systemic racism and global anti-blackness.The Conversation

Nuraan Davids, Professor of Philosophy of Education, Stellenbosch University; Karolyn Tyson, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Kevin Driscoll, Assistant Professor of Media Studies, University of Virginia; Magali Della Sudda, Research scientist, Sciences Po Bordeaux; Veronica Terriquez, Associate professor, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Vivian Zayas, Professor of Psychology, Cornell University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  Source

As War Keeps Poisoning Humanity, Organizing Continues to Be the Antidote

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

United Nations military personnel are the Blue Helmets on the ground. Today, they consist of over 70,000 troops contributed by national armies from across the globe and help keep the peace in military conflicts worldwide. Credit: United Nations

SAN FRANCISCO, USA, Sep 14 2021 (IPS) – Last weekend, U.S. corporate media continued a 20-year repetition compulsion to evade the central role of the USA in causing vast carnage and misery due to the so-called War on Terror. But millions of Americans fervently oppose the military-industrial complex and its extremely immoral nonstop warfare.


CodePink and Massachusetts Peace Action hosted a national webinar to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 — the day before Sunday’s launch of the Cut the Pentagon campaign — and the resulting video includes more than 20 speakers who directly challenged the lethal orthodoxy of the warfare state. As part of the mix, here’s the gist of what I had to say:

When we hear all the media coverage and retrospectives, we rarely hear — and certainly almost never in the mass media hear — that when people are killed, whether it’s intentional or predictable, those are atrocities that are being financed by U.S. taxpayers.

And so we hear about the evils of Al Qaeda and 9/11, and certainly those were evils, but we’re not hearing about the predictable as well as the intentional deaths: the tens of thousands of civilians killed by U.S. air strikes alone in the last two decades, and the injuries, and the terrorizing of people with drones and other U.S. weapons. We’re hearing very little about that.

Part of the role of activists is to make those realities heard, make them heard loud and clear, as forcefully and as emphatically and as powerfully as possible. Activist roles can sometimes get blurred in terms of becoming conflated with the roles of some of the best members of Congress.

When progressive legislators push for peace and social justice, they deserve our praise and our support. When they succumb to the foreign-policy “Blob” — when they start to be more a representative of the establishment to the movements rather than a representative of the movements to the establishment — we’ve got a problem.

It’s vital for progressive activists to be clear about what our goals are, and to be willing to challenge even our friends on Capitol Hill.

I’ll give you a very recent example. Two leaders of anti-war forces in the House of Representatives, a couple of weeks ago, circulated a “Dear Colleague” message encouraging members of the House to sign a letter urging the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, to stand firm behind President Biden’s 1.6 percent increase in the Pentagon budget, over the budget that Trump had gotten the year before.

The point of the letter was: Chairman Smith, we want you to defend the Biden budget’s increase of 1.6 percent, against the budget that has just been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee with a 3.3 percent increase.

That kind of a letter moves the goal posts further and further to the liking of the military-industrial complex, to the liking of war profiteers, to the liking of the warfare state. And so, when people we admire and support, in this case Rep. Mark Pocan and Rep. Barbara Lee, circulate such a Dear Colleague letter, there’s a tendency for organizations to say: “Yeah, we’re going to get behind you,” we will respond affirmatively to the call to urge our members to urge their representatives in Congress to sign this letter.

And what that creates is a jumping-off point that moves the frame of reference farther and farther into the militarism that we’re trying to push back against. For that reason, my colleagues and I at RootsAction decided to decline an invitation to sign in support.

I bring up that episode because it’s indicative of the pathways and the crossroads that we face to create momentum for a stronger and more effective peace and social justice movement. And it’s replicated in many respects.

When we’re told it’s not practical on Capitol Hill to urge a cutoff of military funding and assistance to all countries that violate human rights — and when we’re told that Israel is off the table — it’s not our job to internalize those limits that have been internalized by almost everyone in Congress, except for the Squad and a precious few others.

It’s our job to speak not only truth to power but also about power. And to be clear and candid even when that means challenging some of our usual allies. And to organize.

At RootsAction, we’ve launched a site called Progressive Hub, as an activism tool to combine the need to know with the imperative to act.

It’s not easy, to put it mildly, to go against the powerful flood of megamedia, of big money in politics, of the ways that issues are constantly framed by powerful elites. But in the long run, peace activism is essential for overcoming militarism. And organizing is what makes that possible.

Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

  Source

Food Systems Summit’s Scientistic Threat

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Food and Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Global, Headlines, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Sep 14 2021 (IPS) – Timely interventions by civil society, including concerned scientists, have prevented many likely abuses of next week’s UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS). The Secretary General (UNSG) must now prevent UN endorsement of what remains of its prime movers’ corporate agenda.


Summit threat
The narrative on food challenges has changed in recent years. Instead of the ‘right to food’, ‘food security’, ‘eliminating hunger and malnutrition’, ‘sustainable agriculture’, etc, neutral sounding ‘systems’ solutions are being touted. These will advance transnational corporations’ influence, interests and profits.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The call for the Summit supposedly came from the SG’s office. There was little, if any prior consultation with the Rome-based UN food agency leaders. However, this apparent ‘oversight’ was quickly addressed by the SG, which led to the preparatory commission in Rome last month.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was created by the UN-led post-Second World War multilateral system to address food challenges. Later, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) were also established in Rome under UN auspices.

President Donald Trump’s sovereigntist unilateralism accelerated earlier tendencies undermining UN-led multilateralism, especially after the US-led invasion of Iraq. A proliferation of ostensibly ‘multistakeholder’ initiatives – typically financed by transnational agribusinesses and philanthropic foundations – have also marginalised UN-led multilateralism and the Rome food agencies.

Thus far, the Summit process has resisted UN-led multilateral follow-up actions. To be sure, UN system marginalisation has been subtle, not ham-fisted. Besides the Rome trio, the UN Committee for World Food Security (CFS) and its High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) have been casualties.

The CFS has evolved in recent years to involve a broad range of food system stakeholders, including private business interests and civil society. The latter includes social movements – of farmers, other food producers and civil society stakeholders – largely bypassed by Summit processes.

Through the FSS, World Economic Forum (WEF) and other initiatives have been presented as from the UN. In fact, these have minimally involved UN system leaders, let alone Member States. Many refer to the Summit without the UN prefix to reject its legitimacy, as growing numbers cynically call it the ‘WEF-FSS’.

Science-policy nexus takeover
The proposal for a new science-policy interface – “either by extending the mandate of the Summit’s Scientific Group, or by establishing a permanent new panel or coordinating mechanism in its mould” – is of particular concern.

The FSS Scientific Group overwhelmingly comprises scientists and economists largely chosen by the Summit’s prime movers. Besides marginalising many other food system stakeholders, its biases are antithetical to UN values and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Their assessments barely consider the consequences of innovations for the vulnerable. Prioritising technical over social innovations, they have not been transparent, let alone publicly accountable.

Their pretentiously scientistic approach is patronising, and hence, unlikely to effectively address complex contemporary food system challenges involving multiple stakeholders.

Extending the Scientific Group’s remit beyond the Summit, or by otherwise making it permanent, would betray the commitment that the FSS would support and strengthen, not undermine the CFS. The CFS “should be where the Summit outcomes are ultimately discussed and assessed, using its inclusive participation mechanisms”.

Such a new body would directly undermine the HLPE’s established “role and remit” to provide scientific guidance to Member States through the CFS. In July, hundreds of scientists warned that a new science panel would undermine not only food system governance, but also the CFS itself.

Saving UN-led multilateralism
Just as Summit preparations have displaced CFS, the proposal science-policy interface would marginalise the HLPE, undermining the most successful UN system reform to date in meaningfully and productively advancing inclusive multi-stakeholderism.

After the 2007-2008 food price crisis, CFS was reformed in 2009 to provide “an inclusive platform to ensure legitimacy across a broad range of constituencies”, and to improve the coherence of various diverse food-related policies.

Like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the HLPE consults widely and openly with stakeholders on its research assessments and work priorities. Its reports are subject to extensive peer reviews to ensure they serve CFS constituents’ needs, remain policy relevant, and address diverse perspectives.

Last week, several crucial civil society leaders, working closely with the UN system, warned that Summit outcomes could further erode the UN’s public support and legitimacy, and the ability of the Rome bodies to guide needed food system reform.

The group includes UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Michael Fakhri, his predecessor Olivier De Schutter, now UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, CFS chair Thanawat Tiensin and HLPE chair Martin Cole.

Their concerns reiterate those of hundreds of scientists, global governance experts, civil society groups, and the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), among many. The main worry is about “the threat it poses to the role of science and knowledge in food system decision-making”.

Mindful of the controversy around the FSS from the outset, the four urge the SG, “In the wake of the Summit, it will be imperative to restore faith in the UN system…A clear commitment to support and strengthen the HLPE and the CFS would therefore be invaluable”.

They stress, “there is much to be done to ensure that the HLPE of the CFS is equipped to continue playing its crucial role at the interface of food system science and policy”. After earlier setbacks, the UNSG must defend the progress CFS and HLPE represent for meaningful UN-led multilateralism and engagement with civil society.

  Source

A Milestone Anniversary Reiterates The Culture of Peace is a Movement, not a Revolution

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, North America, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: United Nations

NEW YORK, Sep 13 2021 (IPS) – Today, on 13 September 2021, the UN Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the General Assembly in 1999 will be turning 22.

You would recall that the 20th anniversary of The Culture of Peace of its adoption by the world’s highest multilateral body in 2019 was observed by the United Nations in an appropriate and befitting manner, as called for by the Assembly. It was an occasion for reiteration and recommitment by us all to create the culture of peace in our world, beginning with each one of us.


After the UN Charter, this is the only major document of the UN which focuses on peace in a most comprehensive manner. We need to pay increasingly more attention to this landmark document for its full and effective implementation.

Last week another integrally-connected milestone gathering – the 2021 UN High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace – took place at the UN General Assembly convened by its President of the 75th session.

This day-long event organized on 7 September 2021 attained a special profile and attention as it was the 10th anniversary of the annual UN high level forums which was first initiated in 2012 during the 66th session of the Assembly by its then President, Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser of Qatar.

His objective was to create a new platform for the culture of peace at the UN to be held on an annual basis for an opportunity to exchange ideas between the Member States and civil society organizations.

I happened to be his senior special advisor involved in conceptualizing and organizing that very first forum on 14 September, the day after the 11th anniversary of The Culture of Peace.

Ambassador Anwarul K Chowdhury

This year’s Forum was held in a hybrid format, both in-person and virtual platforms. With its focus on the theme “The Transformative Role of The Culture of Peace: Promoting Resilience and Inclusion in Post-Covid Recovery”, the Forum provided the opportunity to the participants and all stakeholders to exchange ideas and make suggestions on how to utilize the values of culture of peace in post-Covid recovery efforts, especially to ensure that the recovery, which unfortunately is yet to happen, is durable, resilient and inclusive.

The President of the General Assembly Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, under whose leadership the 2021 Forum took place, earned the grateful tribute of all stakeholders for his guidance, initiative and encouragement in convening and holding this 10th anniversary forum under extremely challenging circumstances very successfully. The Panel Discussion was a fitting conclusion to this remarkable gathering.

As I was preparing for the Panel Discussion, I ran into the historical perspective that this year will reach the quarter century mark of my close association with and advocacy for the culture of peace at the United Nations. In 1997, I took the lead in proposing along with some other Ambassadors in a letter to the newly-elected UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to include a specific, self-standing agenda item of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on The Culture of Peace.

A new agenda item was thus agreed upon after considerable negotiating hurdles and the new item was allocated to the plenary of the General Assembly for discussion on an annual basis. That is the basis for the annual resolutions on The Culture of Peace by the General Assembly from that year.

Under this item, UNGA adopted in 1997 a resolution to declare the year 2000 the “International Year for The Culture of Peace”, and in 1998, a resolution to declare the period from 2001 to 2010 as the “International Decade for The Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World”.

In the year after that the United Nations adopted its Declaration and Programme of Action on The Culture of Peace, a monumental document that transcends boundaries, cultures, societies and nations. It was an honor for me to Chair the nine-month long negotiations that led to the adoption of this historic norm-setting document by consensus.

As I mentioned Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier, let me quote his thoughts on the culture of peace – I cite this quote often: “Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in peace-building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflict. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, the culture of peace.”

Absolutely right – we need “enduring results” and for that we need “The Culture of Peace”. The Culture of Peace is not a hollow phrase – or an empty sentiment. It has a transformational opportunity for humanity – it has the energy and enthusiasm of many of us individually and collectively around the world.

These annual forums are very special in their involvement of civil society. These are the only High-Level Forums in the UN which are fully 50-50 gender balanced in their panel compositions. I am proud to say that this was possible as the Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP) which is the civil society partner in supporting the Forum has been very diligent in upholding these values.

The concept note of this year’s Forum forcefully reiterated that “…it is an imperative to inculcate the values of The Culture of Peace among nations, societies and communities, with particular attention to the younger generation, through promotion of compassion, tolerance, inclusion, global citizenship and empowerment of all people.”

The theme focusing on the transformative role of the culture of peace in relation to Covid recovery provided a platform to explore and discuss multiple ways and means for empowering all segments of the society, towards a resilient recovery, including by ensuring vaccine equity, asserting universal vaccination as a public good, bridging digital divide, ensuring centrality of women’s equality and empowerment, harnessing the power of youth and highlighting education, health and overall wellbeing of children.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen in his pre-recorded video presentation at the Forum articulated succinctly that “We must recognize that rebuilding from the COVID pandemic necessitates a renewed commitment and partnership of all stakeholders. Our efforts should be undergirded by the values of “The Culture of Peace’ as instilling these values contribute to building a resilient, inclusive and peaceful society.”

This year’s Forum heard the inspirational keynote speech by Dr. Beatrice Fihn, the Executive Director of 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning organization ICAN, International Coalition for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, by calling on all that “On this 10th anniversary of the culture of peace, I am urging you all to continue and strengthen your work to promote education, sustainable and economic developments, human rights, gender equality, democratic participation and international peace and security.

She is the sixth Nobel Peace Prize laureate as the keynote speaker at The Culture of Peace Forums, which also make us proud that all of them are distinguished women Nobel Peace laureates. Complimenting Dr. Fihn for her keynote, I underlined that the essence of her keynote message has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people.

Video message by the activist and globally respected Mayor Kazumi Matsui of Hiroshima, the city which along with Nagasaki bear the scars of nuclear destruction and yearn for global peace, highlighted a major engagement of his world-wide peace organization announcing that “On the 7th of July this year, Mayors for Peace, which I preside over, adopted our new Vision, a set of concrete action guidelines, titled: “Vision for Peaceful Transformation to a Sustainable World.”

One of the objectives set forth by the new Vision is to ‘promote a culture of peace’.” Informing that the foundation of this policy change rests in the ability to build a consensus in favor of the abolition of nuclear weapons, he asserted that “To do this, first cultivating a culture of peace-a culture in which the everyday actions of each person are grounded in thinking about peace-is essential.

It is our belief, that this “bottom-up” approach is the most viable approach to peace, and is in line with the values which prompted the efforts of Ambassador Chowdhury and those in attendance.”

The Mayor’s passionate message included in the Peace Declaration, which he delivered in Hiroshima on 6th of August this year, advocated forcefully that “When like-minded people who seek peace unite for the same purpose, we can bring about a significant change in the world.”

Mayor Matsui encouraged the Forum by informing that “Mayors for Peace consists of over 8,000 member cities in 165 countries and regions around the world. With support from member mayors for our aforementioned cause, we will work to promote a culture of peace by expanding our membership and reaching out to a wider public.”

Often, I am asked how I assess the progress made so far since the Assembly adopted the Programme of Action in 1999. At this year’s High-Level Forum, as the Chair-Moderator of its Panel Discussion, I repeated my concern that lamentably, The Culture of Peace has yet to attain its worth and its due recognition at global and national levels as a universal mandate for the humanity to attain sustainable peace in the true sense.

When people wonder what are my plans to advance the concept in the UN system, my response verges on my advocacy message in general. The Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace adopted without any reservation is a landmark document of United Nations.

The Organization should, therefore, own it and internalize its implementation throughout the UN system. There seems to be lethargy in that direction because, I believe, the Secretary-General needs to make the culture of peace a part of his leadership agenda.

We should get that attention and engagement from him. Also, the UN entities, at least most of them, are preoccupied with what is known as “active agenda” which is a kind of daily problem-solving or problem-shelving.

That means no opportunities to focus on longer term, farsighted objective of sustainable peace with a workable tool that UN possess in the culture of peace programme adopted by its own apex body, the General Assembly. It is like a person who needs a car to go to work and has a car… but with a minimal interest in knowing how to drive it.

Many treat peace and culture of peace synonymously. There is a subtle difference between peace as generally understood and the culture of peace. Actually, when we speak of peace we expect others namely politicians, diplomats or other practitioners to take the initiative while when we speak of The Culture of Peace, we know that initial action begins with each one of us.

For more than two decades, my focus has been on advancing The Culture of Peace which aims at making peace and non-violence a part of our own self, our own personality – a part of our existence as a human being.

I believe The Culture of Peace is not a quick-fix. It is a movement, not a revolution!

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is Founder of The Global Movement of The Culture of Peace (GMCoP); former Under-Secretary-General of the UN and the Chair of the negotiations which resulted in the consensus adoption of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on The Culture of Peace in 1999. He was the Chair and Moderator of the virtual Panel Discussion at 2021 UN High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace on 7 September 2021.

  Source

South-South & Triangular Cooperation to Help Achieve UN’s Development Goals

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Students of the Lira Integrated Fish Farm in Uganda, a South-South Cooperation Facility for Agriculture and Food Security, eat their lunch. Credit: FAO/Isaac Kasamani

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 10 2021 (IPS) – The 2021 high-level commemoration of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, organized ahead of the opening of the seventy-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly, provided an opportunity to discuss Southern solidarity in support of a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable future while effectively responding to the global COVID-19 crisis across the global South.


The 2021 United Nations Day for South-South cooperation presented the opportunity for stakeholders to highlight concrete follow-up to the twentieth session of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation (HLC), which took place from 1 to 4 June 2021 in New York.

“South-South and triangular cooperation must have a central place in our preparations for a strong recovery”, says Secretary-General António Guterres, reminding us that “we will need the full contributions and cooperation of the global South to build more resilient economies and societies and implement the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The General Assembly High-level Committee (HLC) on South-South Cooperation met in June to review progress made in implementing the Buenos Aires Action Plan (BAPA+40) and other other key decisions on South-South cooperation.

This HLC session considered follow-up actions arising from previous sessions and hosted a thematic discussion on “Accelerating the achievement of the SDGs through effective implementation of the BAPA+40 outcome document while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and similar global crises”.

The HLC hosted 75 member states – including a Head of State and Ministers from around the world – as well as 23 intergovernmental organizations, 25 UN entities, civil society and the private sector. More than 400 people participated during side events which HLC Bureau Members took the lead in organizing on issues of importance to the South.

Deliberations focused on actions arising from the Report of the Secretary-General to the nineteenth session, which proposed concrete ways to enhance the role and impact of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, as well as the key measures taken to improve the coordination and coherence of UN support to South-South cooperation.

In terms of important messages and statements, Member States highlighted that COVID-19 has taught the world that South-South development cooperation is critical to an effective response to emergencies.

South-South cooperation was strongly reaffirmed as the means to support countries’ national development priorities, alignment with the SDGs, and the acceleration of achievement toward the 2030 Agenda.

South-South cooperation was also recognized as an effective approach to accelerate and deepen the efforts to build back better, healthier, safer, more resilient and sustainable.

It was emphasized that over the past decade, the world has witnessed the increase in the scale, scope, and diversity of approaches of South-South and triangular cooperation.

Countries of the Global South have strengthened institutional capacities for cooperation by formulating and implementing national development policies, strategies, and agencies, and by developing information and performance management systems for data gathering, expertise and technology mapping, and impact assessment.

With the strengthening of national capacities on South-South and triangular cooperation there is opportunity to collect and exchange evidence of how much South-South and triangular cooperation is being done, how it benefits people, and how to create institutional mechanisms to help countries align South-South collaboration with their national and regional agendas.

As the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic and strives to build back better, international development organizations must offer innovative, timely responses to remain relevant. This includes new forms of coordination based on more “coherent” and “integrated support” capable of unleashing change on the ground.

Traditionally, South-South and triangular cooperation has taken place among governments on bilateral terms. As development becomes more dynamic in nature and unprecedented in scale, South-South and triangular cooperation is now used to source innovation from wherever it is.

Also highlighted was that South-South and triangular cooperation is increasingly recognized as an important complement to North-South cooperation in financing for sustainable development.

UNOSSC will continue to promote, coordinate and support South-South and triangular cooperation globally and within the UN system. It will also continue to support governments and the UN system to analyse and articulate evolving and emerging trends, dynamics and opportunities in South-South cooperation.

Adel Abdellatif. Credit: FAO/Isaac Kasamani

In response to Member States requests, UNOSSC consistently demonstrates strong convening power across the UN system and serves as secretariat of UN Conferences including BAPA+40. UNOSSC has developed research networks at the global level, compiling evidence of good practices in South-South cooperation toward achievement of the SDGs, and created a global network of think tanks on South-South and triangular cooperation. UNOSSC also offers the South-South Galaxy platform for sharing knowledge and brokering partnership. The Office also manages a number of South-South cooperation trust funds and programmes.

Given UNOSSC’s mandate to support South-South and triangular cooperation globally and within the UN system, the Secretary-General requested UNOSSC to coordinate the preparation and launch of the UN System-wide Strategy on South-South and Triangulation Cooperation for Sustainable Development with the engagement of the UN Inter-Agency Mechanism for South-South and Triangular Cooperation, and other stakeholders.

The Strategy’s objective is to provide a system-wide policy orientation to UN entities in order to galvanize a coordinated and coherent approach to policy, programmatic and partnership support on South-South and triangular cooperation and increase impact across UN activities at all levels: national, regional and global. Implementation is governed by each entity individually, based on its own mandate and programme of work.

UNOSSC is also currently developing its 2022-2025 Strategic Framework. It is an opportunity for the Office to catalyze the use of South-South and triangular cooperation to accelerate the speed and scale of action towards achieving the SDGs.

For example, the Office aims to offer a platform whereby: (i) countries of the Global South can exchange knowledge, develop capacities, and transfer technologies to address their own development priorities as well as coordinate and co-design solutions to shared development challenges; (ii) UN agencies, programs, and funds can strengthen their support to SSTC at the global, regional and country levels.

No country is too poor to contribute to South-South cooperation for development, and no country is too rich to lean from the South. All partners have important elements to contribute. So, it follows that triangular cooperation is an important element of our work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare severe and systemic inequalities.

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of the digital revolution. Building institutional capacity in sub-Saharan Africa and LDCs through South-South and triangular cooperation is essential for countries to fully harness digital transformation and recovery.

Triangular cooperation is a flexible platform where partners can mobilize different funding capacities in support of developing countries’ priorities.

Triangular cooperation demands horizontality and shared governance approved by all parties. It is based on a clear respect for national sovereignty and the seeking of mutual benefit in equal partnerships.

Recovery from pandemic requires additional support, innovative development solutions and arrangements between public and private sectors. We must facilitate opportunities to expand development cooperation and its processes and to improve the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation. Fostering multi-dimensionality and multi-stakeholders approaches is the way forward to enhance development impact.

During the June HLC Member States highlighted that in the COVID and post-COVID era, the below priority areas for triangular cooperation could be considered: 1) health, 2) data infrastructure, 3) manufacturing capacity and supply chain for relevant medical material and equipment, as well as treatment; 4) solar energy and reducing carbon footprint; 5) a coalition for disaster resilient initiatives; and 6) currency swap arrangements from international financial institutions.

Adel Abdellatif is the Director, a.i., of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. Before joining UNOSSC, he served as Deputy Director, a.i., and Senior Strategic Adviser in the Regional Bureau for Arab States of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He came to UNDP following a two-decade career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt.

  Source