Lalita Roy now has access to clean water and also provides a service to her community by working as a pani apa (water sister), looking after the community’s rainwater harvesting plants. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS
KHULNA, Bangladesh, Sep 23 2022 (IPS) – Like many other women in Bangladesh’s salinity-prone coastal region, Lalita Roy had to travel a long distance every day to collect drinking water as there was no fresh water source nearby her locality.
“In the past, there was a scarcity of drinking water. I had to travel one to two kilometers distance each day to bring water,” Roy, a resident of Bajua Union under Dakope Upazila in Khulna, told IPS.
She had to collect water standing in a queue; one water pitcher was not enough to meet her daily household demand.
“We require two pitchers of drinking water per day. I had to spend two hours each day collecting water. So, there were various problems. I had health complications, and I was unable to do household work for lack of time,” she said.
After getting a rainwater harvesting plant from the Gender-response Climate Adaptation (GCA) Project, which is being implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Roy is now collecting drinking water using the rainwater harvesting plant, which makes her life easier.
“I am getting the facilities, and now I can give two more hours to my family… that’s why I benefited,” she added.
Shymoli Boiragi, another beneficiary of Shaheber Abad village under Dakope Upazila, said women in her locality suffered a lot in collecting drinking water in the past because they had to walk one to three kilometers every day to collect water.
“We lost both time and household work. After getting rainwater harvesting plants, we benefited. Now we need not go a long distance to collect water so that we can do more household work,” Boiragi said.
Shymoli revealed that coastal people suffered from various health problems caused by consuming saline water and spent money on collecting the water too.
“But now we are conserving rainwater during the ongoing monsoon and will drink it for the rest of the year,” she added.
THE ROLE OF PANI APAS
With support from the project, rainwater harvesting plants were installed at about 13,300 households under 39 union parishads in Khunla and Satkhira. One pani apa (water sister) has been deployed in every union from the beneficiaries.
Roy, now deployed as a pani apa, said the GCA project conducted a survey on the households needing water plants and selected her as a pani apa for two wards.
“As a pani apa, I have been given various tools. I go to every household two times per month. I clean up their water tanks (rainwater plants) and repair those, if necessary,” he added.
Roy said she provides services for 80 households having rainwater harvesting plants, and if they have any problem with their water tanks, she goes to their houses to repair plants.
“I go to 67 households, which have water plants, one to two times per month to provide maintenance services. If they call me over the cellphone, I also go to their houses,” said Ullashini Roy, another pani apa from Shaheber Abad village.
She said a household gives her Taka 20 per month for her maintenance services while she gets Taka 1,340 (US$ 15) from 67 households, which helps her with family expenses.
Ahoke Kumar Adhikary, regional project manager of the Gender-Response Climate Adaptation Project, said it supported installing rainwater harvesting plants at 13,300 households. Each plant will store 2,000 liters of rainwater in each tank for the dry season.
The water plants need maintenance, which is why the project has employed pani apas for each union parishad (ward or council). They work at a community level on maintenance.
“They provide some services, and we call them pani apas. The work of pani apas is to go to every household and provide the services,” Adhikary said.
He said the pani apas get Taka 20 from every household per month for providing their services, and if they need to replace taps or filters of the water plants, they replace those.
The pani apas charge for the replacements of equipment of the water plants, he added.
NO WATER TO DRINK
The coastal belt of Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change as it is hit hard by cyclones, floods, and storm surges every year, destroying its freshwater sources. The freshwater aquifer is also being affected by salinity due to rising sea levels.
Ullashini Roy said freshwater was unavailable in the coastal region, and people drinking water was scarce.
“The water you are looking at is saline. The underground water is also salty. The people of the region cannot use saline water for drinking and household purposes,” Adhikary said.
Ahmmed Zulfiqar Rahaman, hydrologist and climate change expert at Dhaka-based think-tank Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), said if the sea level rises by 50 centimeters by 2050, the surface salinity will reach Gopalganj and Jhalokati districts – 50 km inside the mainland from the coastal belt, accelerating drinking water crisis there.
PUBLIC HEALTH AT RISK
According to a 2019 study, people consuming saline water suffer from various physical problems, including acidity, stomach problems, skin diseases, psychological problems, and hypertension.
It is even being blamed for early marriages because salinity gradually changes girls’ skin color from light to gray.
“There is no sweet water around us. After drinking saline water, we suffered from various waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera,” Ullashini said.
Hypertension and high blood pressure are common among coastal people. The study also showed people feel psychological stress caused by having to constantly collect fresh water.
Shymoli said when the stored drinking water runs out in any family; the family members get worried because it’s not easy to collect in the coastal region.
SOLUTIONS TO SALINITY
Rahaman said river water flows rapidly decline in Bangladesh during the dry season, but a solution needs to be found for the coastal area.
The hydrologist suggested a possible solution is building more freshwater reservoirs in the coastal region through proper management of ponds at a community level.
Rahaman said low-cost rainwater harvesting technology should be transferred to the community level so that coastal people can reserve rainwater during the monsoon and use this during the dry season.
He added that the government should provide subsidies for desalinization plants since desalinizing salt water is costly.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sep 1 2022 (IPS) – Pakistan has been going through the worst time of its recent history due to unprecedented colossal monsoon rains and devastating floods. The current floods would have been expected less than once a century, but climate experts claim that what we are seeing today is just a trailer of what’s in store for us if we don’t pay heed to climate change. More than 112 districts are currently afffected and around 30 million people; their property and land are totally devastated. Across the country, where hundreds of thousands of cattle died due to the Lumpy Skin Disease, now more than 727,000 have perished due to floods and rains. The number is increasing rapidly.
We were in the countryside conducting a study on the rights of women farm workers, when the Monster monsoon hit the country. We had to cut our field mission short and we are now relatively “safe” here in Islamabad, busy organising emergency relief and rescue operations.
Pakistan and its people are paying the costs of what they are not responsible for. For the past 20 years, Pakistan has consistently ranked among the top 10 most vulnerable countries on the Climate Risk Index. We are facing such climate change aggression and devastation while contributing only 0.8% of greenhouse carbon emissions to global warming. We are squeezed, geographically situtated between titans China and India, who are the top two emitters of greenhouse gases. This impacts the glaciers of the Himalaya. In Pakistan, our 7253 glaciers – more glaciers than almost anywhere on Earth – are melting faster than ice-cream in the sun due to climate change. Since the whole country is situated in the downstream of the Hamalaya, heavy floods have become the norm. To this scenario, you need to add flawed developement interventions, absence of rule of law and the lack of policy priorities towards the management of “everyday” disasters. This results in risks being left undone instead of being treated as full-fledged national security emergencies.
Today, the horrific scale of the floods are not in doubt, but the catastrophe is still unfolding. Rehabilitation and reconstruction activities need to be initiated immediately. Pakistan is already facing food insecurity due to this manmade disaster. In the long run, this crisis will increase poverty, inequality and economic instability in the country if we – supported by the world at large – fail to respond quickly.
Being part of a civil society network I see with my own eyes how civil society is vehementally engaged in rescue, relief and emergency activities through local resources and philanthropic initiatives. The international community and INGOs have not yet initiated their field operations. Although the government has officially appealed for the support of the international community and has levereged restrictions, the intensive regulatory frameworks are still working against rights based NGOs.
I have a message for the international community. Please support flood affected communities as early as possible. Local civil society needs to be strengthened and financed as well, as they are on the frontlines, they are the first reaching affected communities. In the future, there needs to be serious investments on addressing the impacts of climate change, particularly in vulnerable countries such as Pakistan, where climate change adaptation mechanism and infrastructure support should be mainstreamed. Now they are at the periphery, and it shows.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A placard on display at activists’ demonstration outside the 4th meeting of the CBD Working Group at the UNEP headquarter in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS
Nairobi, Jun 27 2022 (IPS) – As the last working group meeting of the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Agenda concluded here on Sunday, the delegates’ job at COP15 Montreal just got tougher as delegates couldn’t finalize the text of the agenda. Texts involving finance, cost and benefit-sharing, and digital sequencing – described by many as ‘most contentious parts of the draft agenda barely made any progress as negotiators failed to reach any consensus.
Nairobi – the Unattempted ‘Final Push’
The week-long 4th meeting of the Working Group of the Biodiversity Convention took place from June 21-26, three months after the 3rd meeting of the group was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting, attended by a total of 1634 participants, including 950 country representatives, had the job cut out for them: Read the draft Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and its 21 targets, discuss, and clean up the text – target by target, sentence by sentence, at least up to 80%.
But, on Saturday – a day before the meeting was to wrap up, David Ainsworth – head of Communications at CBD, hinted that the progress was far slower than expected. Ainsworth mentioned that the total cleaning progress made was just about 8%.
To put it in a clearer context, said Ainsworth, only two targets now had a clean text – Target 19.2 (strengthening capacity-building and development, access to and transfer of technology) and target 12 (urban biodiversity). This means that in Montreal, they could be placed on the table right away for the parties to decide on, instead of debating the language. All the other targets, the work progress has been from around 50% to none, said Ainsworth.
An entire day later, on Sunday evening local time, co-chairs of the WG4 Francis Ogwal and Basile Van Havre confirmed that those were indeed the only two targets with ‘clean’ texts. In other words, no real work had been done in the past 24 hours.
On June 21, at the opening session of the meeting, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, described the Nairobi meeting as an opportunity for a ‘final push’ to finalize the GBF. On Sunday, she called on the parties to “vigorously engage with the text, to listen to each other and seek consensus, and to prepare the final text for adoption at COP 15”.
Answering a question from IPS News, Mrema also confirmed that there would be a 5th meeting of the Working Group before the Montreal COP, indicating the work done in the Nairobi meeting wasn’t enough to produce a draft that was ready to be discussed for adoption.
The final push, it appeared, had not even been attempted.
Bottlenecks and Stalemate
According to several observers, instead of cleaning up 80% of the texts over the past six days, negotiators had left 80% of the text in brackets, which signals disagreement among parties. Not only did countries fail to progress, but in some cases, new disagreements threatened to move the process in the opposite direction. The most fundamental issues were not even addressed this week, including how much funding would be committed to conserving biodiversity and what percentage figures the world should strive to protect, conserve, and restore to address the extinction crisis.
True to the traditions of the UN, the CBD wouldn’t be critical of any party. However, on Sunday evening, Francis Ogwal indicated that rich nations had been dragging their feet on meeting the commitment of donating to global biodiversity conservation. Without naming anyone, Ogwal reminded the negotiators that the more time they took, the tougher they would get the decision.
At present, said Ogwal, 700 billion was needed to stop and recover global biodiversity. “If you keep giving less and less, the problems magnify. Ten years down the line, this will not be enough,” he said.
The civil society was more vocal in criticizing the delegates for losing yet another opportunity.
According to Brian O’Donnell, Director of the Campaign for Nature, the negotiations were faltering, with some key issues being at a stalemate. It is, therefore, up to heads of state and other political and United Nations leaders to act with urgency. “But time is now running out, and countries need to step up, show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions,” O’Donnell said in a statement.
The Next Steps
The CBD Secretariat mentioned a string of activities that would follow the Nairobi meeting to speed up the process of building a consensus among the delegates. The activities include bilateral meetings with some countries, regional meetings with others, and a Working Group 5 meeting which will be a pre-COP event before COP15.
Finally, the CBD is taking a glass-half-filled approach toward the GBF, which is reflected in the words of Mrema: “These efforts (Nairobi meeting) are considerable and have produced a text that, with additional work, will be the basis for reaching the 2050 vision of the Convention: A life in harmony with nature,” she says.
The upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference will be held from 5 to December 17 in Montreal, Canada, under the presidency of the Government of China. With the bulk of the work left incomplete, the cold December weather of Montreal is undoubtedly all set to be heated with intense debates and negotiations. IPS UN Bureau Report
If done right ocean action will also be climate action but this will require working in concert on a few fronts.
First, we must invest in and support science and technology to produce key solutions. Strengthening science-policy interfaces to bridge practitioners and policymakers contributes to a sound understanding of ocean-climate synergies, thereby enabling better policy design, an important priority of the Indonesian Presidency of the G20 process. Additionally policy support tools can assist governments in identifying and prioritizing actions through policy and SDG tracking and scenarios development.
We must also make the invisible visible through ocean data: just three of ten targets for the goal on life below water are measurable in Asia and the Pacific. Better data is the foundation of better policies and collective action. The Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP) is an innovative multi-stakeholder collective established to enable countries and other stakeholders to go beyond GDP and to measure and manage progress towards ocean sustainable development.
Solutions for low-carbon maritime transport are also a key part of the transition to decarbonization by the middle of the century. Countries in Asia and the Pacific recognized this when adopting a new Regional Action Programme last December, putting more emphasis on such concrete steps as innovative shipping technologies, cooperation on green shipping corridors and more efficient use of existing port infrastructure and facilities to make this ambition a reality.
Finally, aligning finance with our ocean, climate and broader SDG aspirations provides a crucial foundation for all of our action. Blue bonds are an attractive instrument both for governments interested in raising funds for ocean conservation and for investors interested in contributing to sustainable development in addition to obtaining a return for their investment.
These actions and others are steps towards ensuring the viability of several of the region’s key ocean-based economic sectors, such as seaborne trade, tourism and fisheries. An estimated 50 to 80 per cent of all life on Earth is found under the ocean surface. Seven of every 10 fish caught around the globe comes from Pacific waters. And we know that the oceans and coasts are also vital allies in the fight against climate change, with coastal systems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows at the frontline of climate change, absorbing carbon at rates of up to 50 times those of the same area of tropical forest.
But the health of the oceans in Asia and the Pacific is in serious decline: rampant pollution, destructive and illegal fishing practices, inadequate marine governance and continued urbanization along coastlines have destroyed 40 per cent of the coral reefs and approximately 60 per cent of the coastal mangroves, while fish stocks continue to decline and consumption patterns remain unsustainable.
To promote concerted action, ESCAP, in collaboration with partner UN agencies, provides a regional platform in support of SDG14, aligned within the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Through four editions so far of the Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean, we also support countries in identifying and putting in place solutions and accelerated actions through regional dialogue and cooperation.
It is abundantly clear there can be no healthy planet without a healthy ocean. Our leaders meeting in Lisbon must step up efforts to protect the ocean and its precious resources and to build sustainable blue economies.
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
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