The Climate Alarm Is Ringing – It’s Time to Stop Silencing It

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Opinion

Credit: Last Generation Germany

LONDON, Apr 12 2024 (IPS) – The heat records keep tumbling – 2023 was the hottest year in recorded history. Extreme weather events keep mounting up. And yet the voices most strongly calling for action to prevent climate catastrophe are increasingly being silenced.


It’s a sad fact that climate campaigners in the global south – in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America – have long faced repression. People have been subjected to incarceration and violence all the way up to murder for resisting climate-harming extractive projects and environmental destruction. In comparison, climate activists in global north countries – including Europe and North America – for a long time enjoyed relative freedom, which they used to protest against their governments and the corporations headquartered in their countries that bear most of the responsibility for causing global warming.

But they no longer enjoy the full freedom to do so. As the latest State of Civil Society Report from global civil society alliance CIVICUS shows, several global north governments are increasingly making it harder for people to take part in climate protests. They’re using anti-protest laws, raids, arrests, jail sentences and violence to try to subdue voices calling for urgent action.

When it comes to the climate, delay is denial, because if action isn’t taken fast, it may be too late. This means the repression of activists demanding immediate action must be seen as a form of climate denial.

Examples are piling up. In Germany last year, authorities used laws intended to combat organised crime to raid the homes of young activists from the Last Generation climate movement, seize their laptops and freeze their bank accounts. The German police also used violence against activists trying to block a coalmine expansion. The imposition of restrictions on climate activism is one the key reasons the CIVICUS Monitor recently downgraded Germany’s civic space rating.

In Italy too, the government has served climate campaigners with criminal conspiracy indictments historically used against the mafia, and it has also introduced a law to criminalise non-violent action at key sites. The Dutch authorities have responded with mass arrests to roadblock protests demanding it fulfil its promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, which amount to around US$39.9 billion a year. Thousands have been detained and the police have used water cannon against protesters.

The UK government has passed a package of laws that criminalise disruptive and noisy protests, clearly targeted at the non-violent direct action used by climate campaigners. In January, the UN Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders, Michel Forst, condemned these new laws. Numerous climate activists have been jailed for peaceful protest actions that until recently would never have received a prison sentence. Meanwhile the UK government plans to grant over 100 new oil and gas licences. Several Australian states have also passed anti-protest laws that have been used to jail climate activists.

Global north states, apparently eager to do the bidding of the fossil fuel giants, can be expected to intensify this repression as the gap between the action needed and the lack of effort being taken becomes increasingly clear. They silence civil society because activists expose the hypocrisy behind the greenwash. As right-wing populists and nationalists who oppose climate action – and often spread climate disinformation – gain influence across the global north, climate activists can expect an even greater wave of vilification.

The impacts of repression are personal. They increase the costs and dangers of activism in an attempt to deter people from getting involved and sap collective energies. However, in response, campaigners are showing resilience. In Germany, frozen funds were quickly replaced with crowdsourced donations. In the Netherlands, attempts to repress roadblocks motivated more people to turn up to protest.

But the opportunity cost is steep. Energy that should be invested in advancing creative climate solutions is instead being spent in fending off restrictions. In the long-term, there’s a danger of attrition, depleting the ranks of climate activists. And without civil society, who will push to keep the climate crisis high on the political agenda?

Civil society has shown it can make a difference. While there was much to be unhappy about with the last global climate summit, COP28, the fact that for the first time states acknowledged the need to transition away from fossil fuel use came as a direct result of civil society’s decades-long advocacy. More institutions are committing to divest from fossil fuel investments due to campaigning pressure: 72 per cent of UK universities have now done so, because student activists demanded it.

And the growing field of climate litigation keeps paying off. A group of Swiss women just won a ruling at the European Court of Human Rights, which found that their government has violated their human rights by not doing enough to tackle climate change, a verdict that sets a strong precedent. Last year, courts in Belgium and Germany insisted on stronger actions to cut emissions following lawsuits brought by campaigners. More are sure to follow.

Civil society will strive to keep working on every front possible, through protest, advocacy and litigation, because the scale of the climate crisis demands a full spectrum of responses. States should stop trying to hold back the tide and put themselves on the right side of history. They must respect the right of everyone to protest and stop the denial they practise through repression.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

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Unpaid Caregivers, a Symbol of Inequality in Chile

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Labour, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Women & Economy

Women & Economy

On International Women's Day on Mar. 8, thousands of Chilean women of all ages took to Santiago's central Alameda avenue to demonstrate peacefully for several hours and turn the Chilean capital into a stage for protest and demands for their rights. Some of them were women caregivers accompanied by dependent women. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS - In Chile, like elsewhere in Latin America, unpaid caregivers—mostly women—bear the responsibility of caring for individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and children, often leaving them without access to paid work or personal time

On International Women’s Day on Mar. 8, thousands of Chilean women of all ages took to Santiago’s central Alameda avenue to demonstrate peacefully for several hours and turn the Chilean capital into a stage for protest and demands for their rights. Some of them were women caregivers accompanied by dependent women. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

SANTIAGO , Mar 20 2024 (IPS) – In Chile, as in the rest of Latin America, the task of caring for people with disabilities, the elderly and children falls to women who, as a result, do not have access to paid jobs or time for themselves.


Unpaid domestic and care work is crucial to the economies of the region, accounting for around 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Measurements by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) found that in 16 Latin American countries, women spend between 22.1 and 42.8 hours per week on unpaid domestic and care work. Men only spend between 6.7 and 19.8 hours.

Ana Güezmes, director of ECLAC’s Division for Gender Affairs, told IPS that “in most countries women work longer total hours, but with a lower proportion of paid hours.”

“This work, which is fundamental for sustaining life and social well-being, is disproportionately assigned to women. This situation impacts women’s autonomy, economic opportunities, labor and political participation and their access to leisure activities and rest,” Güezmes said at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago.

The situation is far from changing as it is replicated in young women who devote up to 20 percent of their time to unpaid work.

Paloma Olivares, president for Santiago of the women's organization Yo Cuido, works in her office in the working-class municipality of Estación Central, in the northeast of the Chilean capital. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Paloma Olivares, president for Santiago of the women’s organization Yo Cuido, works in her office in the working-class municipality of Estación Central, in the northeast of the Chilean capital. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Women left on their own as caregivers

Paloma Olivares, 43, chairs the Yo Cuido Association in Santiago, Chile, which brings together 120 members, only two of them men.

“Women caregivers are denied the right to participate on equal terms in society because we are forced to choose between exercising our rights or doing caregiving work. And we cannot choose because it is a job we do for a loved one, for a family member.” — Paloma Olivares

“Women caregivers are denied the right to participate on equal terms in society because we are forced to choose between exercising our rights or doing caregiving work. And we cannot choose because it is a job we do for a loved one, for a family member,” she told IPS.

“We are left in a position of inequality, of absolute vulnerability because you have to devote your life to supporting someone else at the expense of your personal life,” she said.

Olivares stopped working to care for Pascale, her granddaughter, who was born with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus.

Three days after her birth, a bacterium became lodged in her central nervous system. She was hospitalized for almost a year and became severely dependent.

At the time, she was given a seven percent chance of survival. Today she is eight years old, goes to school and lives an almost normal life thanks to the work of her caregivers.

She is now cared for by her mother Valentina, who had her at the age of 15. Paloma was able to return to paid work, but her daughter abandoned her studies to take care of Pascale.

“When you start being a caregiver, friendships end, because no one can keep up. Even the family drifts away. That’s why most caregiving families are single-parent, the woman is left alone to care because the man can’t keep up with the pace and the emotional and economic burden,” she said.

Olivares participated from Mar. 12 to 14 in a public hearing, digital and in person, on the right to care and its interrelation with other rights, in a collective request of several social organizations and the governments of Chile and other Latin American countries before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR Court), based in San Jose, Costa Rica,

In the request for an opinion from the IACHR Court, “we asked the Court to take a stance on the right to care and how the rights of women in particular have been violated because there are no public policies in this regard. We want the Court to pronounce itself on the right to care and how the States should address it so that this right is guaranteed and so the rights of caregivers are no longer violated,” she explained.

It is expected that the Court’s pronouncement on the matter will come out in April and could establish minimum parameters regarding women caregivers for Chile and other Latin American countries.

Critical situation for women caregivers

Millaray Sáez, 59, told IPS by telephone from the southern Chilean city of Concepción that her son Mario Ignacio, 33, “is no longer the autonomous person he was. Since 2012 he has become a baby.”

She chairs the AML Bío Bío Corporación, an association of women in the Bío Bío region created in 2017 to address the question of female empowerment and today dedicated to the issue of caregivers.

“I have been a caregiver for 30 years for my son who has refractory epilepsy. He became prostrate in 2012 as a result of medical negligence,” said the international trade engineer who has become an expert in public policies on care with a gender perspective.

Sáez said “the situation of women caregivers is very bad, very precarious. There is a single cause, which is the work of caregiving, but the consequences are multidimensional…. from physical deterioration to the lack of legislation to protect against forms of violence, and ranging from the family to what society or the State adds.”

She also pointed to the economic consequences of dependent care.

She cited cases in which caregivers spend over 150 dollars a month on diapers alone for a person who needs them. And she pointed out that the government provides an economic aid stipend of just 33 dollars a month.

Teresa Valdés, head of the Gender and Equity Observatory of the Catholic University of Chile, praises the new registry of caregivers promoted by the Chilean government, but underlines the importance of municipal experiences and initiatives that promote homes and care centers to facilitate the lives of women caregivers. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Teresa Valdés, head of the Gender and Equity Observatory of the Catholic University of Chile, praises the new registry of caregivers promoted by the Chilean government, but underlines the importance of municipal experiences and initiatives that promote homes and care centers to facilitate the lives of women caregivers. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The magnitude of the problem

It is a pending task to determine the number of women caregivers in Chile.

The government of leftist President Gabriel Boric created a system for caregivers to register and receive a credential that gives them access to public services.

“The credential is the gateway to the Chile Cuida System. With it we seek to make them visible in services and institutions and to reward them for their work by saving them waiting time in daily procedures,” the Minister of Women and Gender Equity, Antonia Orellana, explained to IPS.

So far, there are 85,817 people registered, of whom 74,650 are women, or 87 percent of the total, and 11,167 are men, according to data provided to IPS on Mar. 14 by the Undersecretariat of Social Services of the Ministry of Social Development and Family.

But Chile has 19.5 million inhabitants, and “17.6 percent of the adult population has some degree of disability and, therefore, requires the daily care and support of other people in the home,” the minister said.

That means 3.4 million Chileans depend on a caregiver.

According to Orellana, facing the care scenario projected by the aging of the population will require the collaboration of everyone to “create and sustain an economic and productive system that generates decent work and formal employment, leaving no one behind.”

Other urgent demands by women

Sociologist Teresa Valdés, head of the Gender and Equity Observatory, told IPS that there are many social problems facing Chilean women today, “especially those related to access to health care, social security, unequal pay and access to different goods and services.”

Valdés regretted that the term “women caregivers” is used to refer to the role that women play and the tasks that are culturally assigned to them as a priority.

“We are all caregivers, all women work double shifts. The time-use survey shows that we work an additional 41 hours per week of so-called unpaid reproductive care work,” she said.

According to Valdés, the main advance in this problem is to include it in the debate because these are policies that require a lot of resources and extensive development, since they have to do with the structure of the labor market.

“Part of the proposal should be how to ‘de-genderize’, how care becomes a task of shared responsibility and not only that women have more time to take on the care tasks,” she said.

“When we call women caregivers, we are referring to the group most affected by the conditions of sexual division of labor and family reproduction,” she added.

The expert proposes progressively identifying ways to support women caregivers in order to provide them with available time and take care of their mental health.

She praised the programs promoted by some municipalities to free up time for these women to enjoy leisure and self-care.

“We have to move towards a cultural conception that we are all dependent. Today I depend on you, tomorrow you depend on me. Care is a social task in which I take care of you today so that you can take care of me tomorrow. And that is something that has to start from the earliest childhood,” she argued.

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The World Social Forum: The counterweight to the World Economic Forum

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Democracy, Economy & Trade, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequality, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Opening of the World Social Forum 2024 in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, Nepal, Feb 23 2024 (IPS) – This week the 2024 annual meeting of the World Social Forum (WSF) was held in Nepal. There were fifty thousand participants from over 90 countries, exchanging strategies to address the multiple global crises, from climate catastrophes to unfettered capitalism, inequality, social injustice, wars and conflict.


The WSF was created in 2001 as a counterbalance to the elitism of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The WEF, founded and chaired by a private financial sector foundation, fosters the influence of the corporate world among governments in the luxury ski resort of Davos (Switzerland).

Isabel Ortiz

By contrast, the WSF was created as an arena for alternative thinking, where the grassroots and social avant-garde could gain a voice, challenging the neoliberal idea that “there is no alternative” (TINA); instead affirming that “another world is possible” built upon peace, human rights, real democracy, equity, and justice.

While Davos is the meeting for the 1%, the wealthiest people in the planet, Kathmandu is the meeting for the rest of us. The UN Secretary-General extended his best wishes for WSF 2024 for “restoring hope and finding innovative solutions for people and the planet.”

Indeed, the WSF 2024 was hotbed of ideas, alternative experiences and strategies. There is no concluding summary or annual declaration because the WSF organizers seek to maintain a plurality and diversity of messages. The following points reflect my personal overview of the key topics discussed:

    • Denouncing the genocide in Gaza, a demand for an immediate ceasefire and the establishment of a free state of Palestine.

    • Refuse militarization and wars: Cut military spending and power, promote peace and democracy. Defense spending is increasing while austerity policies cut social spending, this trend must be reversed.

    • Organize against the rise of the far right: Radical right governments around the world have eroded democracy, human rights and civil society. Reports were made of censorship, repression, abuses of justice, unjustified raids and unfair imprisonment of progressive citizens, by the governments of Modi in India, Duterte in Philippines, Orban in Hungary, Duda in Poland, Al-Sisi in Egypt, Trump in the US, Bolsonaro in Brazil, among others There were also many reports of abusive litigation by corporations and politicians against journalists, activist researchers and CSOs, that are silencing critical voices.

    Fight inequality to counter the excessive concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a small elite. Inequality is the result of deliberate political and economic choices, and it can be reversed to build a just, equal and sustainable world.

    End Austerity, illegitimate debt and neoliberal economic policies that have failed citizens resoundingly. These outdated policies, imposed by international financial institutions (IFIs) like the IMF and the World Bank through the Ministries of Finance and G20, mostly benefit corporations and investors in the US and in a few Northen countries, result in real and lasting harm to the lives of ordinary people. There are alternative economic policies, such as the adequate taxation of wealthy millionaires and corporations, that can finance prosperity for people and planet.

    • Redress violations of human rights for women, Dalits (the ‘untouchables’) and lower castes, LGBT, persons with disabilities and different ethnicities; demanding enactment and implementation of inclusive policies and strategies to eliminate class, caste, gender and race-based disparities.

    • The 2024 Feminist Forum focused on addressing systemic barriers that impede women’s rights, from patriarchy to macroeconomic policies, through transformative feminist action that leads to change.

    • Ensure public services, universal social security or social protection, and labor rights for all, including informal workers and migrants, instead of the current austerity driven trend to privatize or corporatize public services, to reduce welfare benefits and to deregulate the labor market.

    • Peasant protests and movements: La Via Campesina is the largest movement today with two hundred million peasant members fighting for food security, against agribusiness and GMOs. It is very active, has alliances with unions, indigenous peoples’ movements and it is a good model for other movements.

    Climate Justice: A number of sessions discussed climate catastrophes, the IFIs support for fossil fuels, just transitions, habitat, and sustainable development.

The lack of will of the world’s political and economic elites to resolve today’s multiple crisis fuels discontent among citizens and disillusionment with conventional parties. People everywhere are losing faith in governments, institutions, and economic and political systems. Governments and world leaders would do well to listen and to act upon the ideas coming from the World Social Forum.

Isabel Ortiz, Director of the think-tank Global Social Justice, was Director of the International Labor Organization and UNICEF, and a senior official at the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank.

IPS UN Bureau

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Pakistan’s Election Outcomes Leave Many Unhappy

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Opinion

Credit: Rebecca Conway/Getty Images

LONDON, Feb 22 2024 (IPS) – Pakistan’s 8 February election has resulted in an uneasy compromise that few wanted or expected. There’s little indication the outcome is going to reverse recent regression in civic freedoms.


Army calls the shots

Around 128 million people can vote in Pakistan, but it’s the army, the sixth-biggest in the world, that’s always had the upper hand. In recent decades, it’s preferred to exert its power by strongly influencing the civilian government rather than outright military rule. Prime ministers have allied with the military to win power and been forced out when disagreements set in. No prime minister has ever served a full term.

In April 2022, Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. But it was common knowledge this was the military’s will. Khan, having cosied up to the generals to come to power in 2018, had publicly and vocally fallen out with them over economic and foreign policy. He had to go.

Khan’s fall from grace was swift. He survived an assassination attempt in November 2022. In December 2023, he was barred from running in the election. Just ahead of voting he was found guilty in three separate trials, with the longest sentence being 14 years. Bushara Bibi, Khan’s wife, was jailed too.

The army turned to a former foe, Nawaz Sharif, three times previously prime minister. After he last fell out of favour in 2017, he was forced out and found guilty of corruption. Yet for this election he’d evidently patched things up enough to become the army’s favoured anti-Khan candidate.

A catalogue of restrictions

But voters didn’t go along with the army’s choice. Candidates running as independents but affiliated with Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the most seats, albeit short of an outright majority. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) came second, with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), its partner in the 2022 coalition of convenience that replaced Khan, third.

This was a shock result, given the obstacles placed in the PTI’s way. The government postponed the election from November to February so, it said, it could hold a census. The suspicion was that the move was to allow more time to prosecute Khan and lean on his party’s politicians to swap allegiances.

Sure enough, some PTI representatives were banned from standing and others faced harassment and violence seeking to persuade them to distance themselves from Khan. In the biggest blow, PTI candidates were banned from using Khan’s cricket bat symbol on ballot papers. Symbols are crucial for mobilising party support, since over 40 per cent of people are unable to read. PTI candidates were forced to run as independents.

There was never any prospect of equal space for campaigning. Last year, the media regulator applied a de facto ban on mentioning Khan’s name on TV. In August 2023, it directed TV channels not to give airtime to 11 people, among them Khan and journalists considered sympathetic towards him. As the election neared, the military interfered in the media on a daily basis, telling them which stories to run.

Given these constraints, and the near impossibility of holding physical rallies, PTI used online opportunities. Khan kept up a virtual presence through AI-generated videos. WhatsApp was used to inform PTI supporters which independent candidates to vote for.

But constraints came here too. When the PTI organised an online rally in December, authorities blocked access to major social media platforms and slowed the internet down. On election day, they imposed a full internet and mobile data shutdown for the first time in Pakistan’s electoral history. The authorities claimed they’d done so on security grounds – the Islamic State terrorist group carried out two deadly bombings the day before – but it made independent oversight of voting and counting much harder. Further restrictions on Twitter followed after the results were out.

This pressure on the PTI and its supporters came on top of the ongoing repression of civic freedoms by successive governments. Pakistani authorities have continued to criminalise, threaten and harass human rights activists, restrict online freedoms, intimidate journalists, censor media and violently repress peaceful protests, particularly by women’s rights activists and people from the Baloch and Pashtun ethnic groups.

Uncertainty ahead

Despite the highly unlevel playing field, results show that many took the opportunity the election offered to communicate discontent with military influence, a political establishment dominated by two families and the dire economic conditions. A youthful population has found something appealing in Khan’s fiery populist rhetoric.

But what’s resulted is something few voters likely wanted. The PML-N and PPP quickly announced a resumption of their coalition. The PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif’s brother, is set to return as prime minister. It would appear to be a coalition united by little more than a determination to keep the PTI out of power, suggesting a weak and fractious government will result.

Strong opposition can be expected. PTI supporters aren’t accepting this quietly. The party claims rigged votes denied it more seats. Thousands have protested and numerous legal cases have been filed. Their claims were given credence when an official in Rawalpindi stepped forward to say he’d been involved in election rigging. One politician from a minor party also announced he was renouncing his seat because the vote had been rigged to exclude the PTI-backed candidate.

Khan is no democratic hero. When he was in power and enjoyed the military’s favour, he used the same tools of repression now being applied to him and his party. Civic space conditions worsened under Khan and there’s been no let-up since.

The bigger problem is a system where the military calls the shots, sets the parameters that elected governments must stay within and actively works to suppress dissent. With many young voters angry and wanting change, problems can only be building up for the future. It’s vital that civic space be opened up so people have peaceful means to express dissent, seek change and hold power to account.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

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Landlocked Developing Countries Conference to Address Development

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Conferences

Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries will be an opportunity to address the issues these countries face.

Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries will be an opportunity to address the issues these countries face.

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 6 2024 (IPS) – Landlocked developing countries need greater support from the international community so that they are no longer left behind when it comes to progressing with the SDGs, says the UN High Representative of the Least Developed Countries.


The Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC3) is set to be hosted in Kigali, Rwanda, in June. A preparatory committee for the conference has been established and convened its first meeting on Monday. 

The overarching theme of the conference, “Driving Progress through Partnerships,” is expected to highlight the importance of support from the global community in enabling LLDCs to meet their potential and achieve the SDGs. The conference invites the participation of multiple stakeholders, including heads of state and government, the private sector, and civil society. Several senior leaders in the UN system, including Secretary-General António Guterres, are expected to attend the LLDC3 Conference.

Thirty-two countries are classified as LLDCs, 17 of which are also classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Sixteen are in Africa, and the remaining are located across Asia, Europe, and South America. This year will mark the first time that the LLDC Conference will be hosted in Africa.

Rabab Fatima, Under Secretary-General and High Representative of the Office for the Least Developed Countries, and the Secretary-General of the LLDC3 Conference, remarked that this conference would be a “once-in-a-decade opportunity” for the global community to address the needs of the LLDCs in order to “ensure that nobody is left behind.”

“The 32 landlocked developing countries are grappling with unique challenges due to their geographical and structural constraints and lack of integration into world trade and global value chains. Their situation has been further exacerbated by the lingering effects of the pandemic, climate change, and conflict,” she said.

The lack of direct access to coastal ports means that LLDCs rely on transit countries to connect them with international markets. This can lead to high trade costs and delays in the movement of goods. In other cases, many of the LLDCs’ transit neighbors are also developing countries with their own economic challenges. According to Fatima, the average cargo travel time for LLDCs was twelve days, compared to seven days for transit countries.

As a result of the slow progress in development, twenty-eight percent of people in LLDCs live in poverty. At least a third of the people are at a high risk of or already live with some form of debt distress, and fifty-eight percent of people deal with moderate to severe food insecurity.

Enkhbold Vorshilov, Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the UN, noted that the conference would be a “critical juncture” for the LLDCs. He also serves as the co-chair of the preparatory committee along with the Permanent Representative of Austria. He added, “Despite our varied cultural and economic structures, we share common challenges that impede our development and economic growth.”

The Preparatory Committee will negotiate the details of the conference’s outcome document, which has been prepared to “encapsulate the challenges and aspirations of the LLDCs,” according to Gladys Mokhawa, Permanent Representative for Botswana and the Chair of the Global Group of Landlocked Developing Countries. Mokhawa expressed that the document has so far received general support from member states and that the final draft would be comprehensive and committed to addressing the challenges that LLDCs face “that align with their specific needs and aspirations.”

“A vision is clear: to transform the geographical challenges and to ensure that our landlocked status is nothing more than a detail of geography,” she said. “We believe that our collective efforts can and will make a difference.”

“Our goal is not merely to draft a document but to build positive, genuine partnerships that will empower landlocked developing countries to overcome their challenges and achieve sustainable prosperity,” said Vorshilov. He added that, along with support from neighboring transit countries, cooperation from development partners and financial institutions would be important to mobilize the resources needed to support the LLDCs.

The document is intended to serve as a guideline for the LLDCs for the next decade and will touch on several areas of interest. In addition to addressing transport and trade, it will focus on emerging issues, such as science, technology, and innovation, and improving capacity and resilience against issues arising from climate change.

Earlier meetings, including the first meeting of the committee, have seen delegations express solidarity with the LLDCs and support for the agenda of the upcoming conference. Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, Permanent Representative of the European Union Delegation to the UN, stated that the development challenges call for “more efficient allocation of financial resources on the path toward the SDGs” and that an “essential element” of their partnership would be the development of connections and transport corridors for the benefit of all peoples.

Speaking on behalf of the Africa Group, Ambassador Marc Hermanne Araba of Benin noted that Africa has faced the brunt of the challenges faced by the LLDCs and their neighboring transit countries. He added that the present moment was an opportunity to “chart a transformative agenda for the LLDCs,” and therefore it is important for the global community to reaffirm its’ commitment to address the LLDCs’ challenges together to “ensure that these countries are not left behind.”.

Fatima welcomed the media as a “key partner,” through which the voices of LLDCs would have a platform, and to bridge the gap between the conference and those communities who will be most affected by the outcomes by sharing their perspectives.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 

Solar Energy Gives Important Boost to Small-scale Farmers in Chile

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Editors’ Choice, Energy, Environment, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Latin America & the Caribbean, Population, Projects, Regional Categories, Water & Sanitation

Energy

Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas stand next to one of the three greenhouses on their farm, where tomatoes are growing, anticipating an optimal harvest this year. The couple uses no chemical fertilizers to ensure the healthy development of thousands of plants on their farm in Mostazal, a municipality in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas stand next to one of the three greenhouses on their farm, where tomatoes are growing, anticipating an optimal harvest this year. The couple uses no chemical fertilizers to ensure the healthy development of thousands of plants on their farm in Mostazal, a municipality in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

MOSTAZAL, Chile , Feb 2 2024 (IPS) – The installation of photovoltaic panels to use solar energy to irrigate small farms is expanding quickly in Chile because it lowers costs and optimizes the use of scarce water resources.


This long, narrow South American country that stretches from the northern Atacama Desert to the southern Patagonia region and from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean is extremely rich in renewable energies, especially solar and wind power.

“Solar panels have made an immensely important contribution to our energy expenditure. Without them we would consume a lot of electricity.” — Myriam Miller

Last year, 36.6 percent of Chile’s electricity mix was made up of Non-Conventional Renewable Energies (NCREs), whose generation in May 2023 totaled 2392 gigawatt hours (GWh), including 1190 GWh of solar power.

This boom in the development of alternative energies has been mainly led by large companies that have installed solar panels throughout the country, including the desert. The phenomenon has also reached small farmers throughout this South American country who use solar energy.

In family farming, solar energy converted into electricity is installed with the help of resources from the government’s Agricultural Development Institute (Indap), which promotes sustainable production of healthy food among small farmers, incorporating new irrigation techniques.

In 2020 alone, the last year for which the institute provides data, Indap promoted 206 new irrigation projects that incorporated NCREs with an investment of more than 2.1 million dollars.

That year, of the projects financed and implemented, 182 formed part of the Intra-predial Irrigation Program, 17 of the Minor Works Irrigation Program and seven of the Associative Irrigation Program. The investment includes solar panels for irrigation systems.

Within this framework, 2025 photovoltaic panels with an installed capacity of 668 kilowatts were installed, producing 1002 megawatt hours and preventing the emission of 234 tons of carbon dioxide.

The six solar panels installed on the small farm of Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas, in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile, allow them to pump water to their three greenhouses with thousands of tomato plants and to their vegetable garden. They also drastically reduced their electric energy expenditure. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The six solar panels installed on the small farm of Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas, in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile, allow them to pump water to their three greenhouses with thousands of tomato plants and to their vegetable garden. They also drastically reduced their electric energy expenditure. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

An experience in Mostazal

“Solar panels have made an immensely important contribution to our energy expenditure. Without them we would consume a lot of electricity,” 50-year-old farmer Myriam Miller told IPS at her farm in the municipality of Mostazal, 66 km south of Santiago, where some 54,000 people live in different communities.

Miller has half a hectare of land, with a small portion set aside for three greenhouses with nearly 1,500 tomato plants. Other tomato plants grow in rows outdoors, including heirloom varieties whose seeds she works to preserve, such as oxheart and pink tomatoes.

Indap provided 7780 dollars in financing to install the solar panels on her land. Meanwhile, she and her husband, Freddy Vargas, 51, who run their farm together, contributed 10 percent of the total cost.

In 2023, Miller and Vargas built a third greenhouse to increase their production, which they sell on their own land.

“We’re producing around 8,000 kilos of tomatoes per season. This year we will exceed that goal. We’re happy because we’re moving ahead little by little and improving our production year,” Miller said as she picked tomatoes.

On the land next to the tomato plants, the couple grows vegetables, mainly lettuce, some 7,000 heads a year. They also have fruit trees.

Vargas told IPS that they needed electricity to irrigate the greenhouses because “it’s not easy to do it by hand.”

Freddy Vargas turns the soil on his farm in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile. Lettuce is his star vegetable, with thousands of heads sold on the farm. The farmer plans to buy a mini-tractor to alleviate the work of plowing the land. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Freddy Vargas turns the soil on his farm in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile. Lettuce is his star vegetable, with thousands of heads sold on the farm. The farmer plans to buy a mini-tractor to alleviate the work of plowing the land. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The farm has two wells that hold about 30,000 liters of water that arrives once a week from a dam located two kilometers away. This is the water they use to power the pumps to irrigate the greenhouses.

“We have water rights and Indap provided us with solar panels and tools to automate irrigation. They gave us four panels and we made an additional investment, with our own funds, and installed six,” Vargas explained.

The couple consumes between 250 and 300 kilowatts per month and the surplus energy they generate is injected into the household grid.

“We don’t have storage batteries, which are more expensive. Every month the electric company sends us a bill detailing the total we have injected into the grid and what we have consumed. They calculate it and we pay the difference,” Vargas said.

The average savings in the cost of consumption is 80 percent.

“I haven’t paid anything in the (southern hemisphere) summer for years. In the winter I spend 30,000 to 40,000 pesos (between 33 and 44 dollars) but I only pay between 5,000 and 10,000 pesos a month (5.5 to 11 dollars) thanks to the energy I generate,” the farmer said.

Above and beyond the savings, Miller stressed the “personal growth and social contribution we make with our products that go to households that need healthier food. We feel good about contributing to the environment.”

“We have a network, still small, of agroecological producers. There is a lack of information among the public about what people eat,” she added.

Their tomatoes are highly prized. “People come to buy them because of their flavor and because they are very juicy. Once people taste them, they come back and recommend them by word of mouth,” Miller said.

She is optimistic and believes that in the municipalities of Mostazal and nearby Codegua, young people are more and more interested in contributing to the planet, producing their own food and selling the surplus.

“We just need a little support and more interest in youth projects in agriculture to raise awareness that just as we take care of the land, it also gives to us,” she said.

Valentina Martínez stands on her father's small plot of land in the municipality of María Pinto, north of Santiago, Chile. The fruit trees provide the shade needed to keep the planted vegetables from being scorched by the strong southern hemisphere summer sun in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Valentina Martínez stands on her father’s small plot of land in the municipality of María Pinto, north of Santiago, Chile. The fruit trees provide the shade needed to keep the planted vegetables from being scorched by the strong southern hemisphere summer sun in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

A pesticide-free new generation

Valentina Martínez, 32, is an environmental engineer. Together with her father, Simón, 75, they work as small farmers in the municipality of María Pinto, 60 kilometers north of Santiago. She has a 0.45 hectare plot and her father has a 0.35 hectare plot.

Both have just obtained funding from the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture (TAS) project, which operates within Indap, and they are excited about production without chemical fertilizers and are trying to meet the goal of securing another larger loan that would enable them to build a greenhouse and expand fruit and vegetable production on the two farms.

“It’s a two-year program. In the first year you apply and they give you an incentive of 450,000 pesos (500 dollars) focused on buying technology. I’ve invested in plants, fruit trees, worms, and containers for making preserves,” Valentina told IPS.

In the second year, depending on the results of the first year, they will apply for a fund of 3900 dollars for each plot, to invest in their production.

“This year my father and I will apply for solar panels to improve irrigation,” said Valentina, who is currently dedicated to producing seedlings.

“My father liked the idea of producing without agrochemicals to combat pests,” she said about Simón, who has a fruit tree orchard and also grows vegetables.

In María Pinto there are 380 small farmers on the census, but the real number is estimated at about 500. Another 300 are medium-sized farmers.

Simón Martínez, 75, proudly shows some of the citrus fruits harvested on his farm where he practices agroecology and does not use agrochemicals. He and his daughter Valentina won a contest to continue improving the sustainability of their farming practices on their adjoining plots, located outside the Chilean town of María Pinto. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Simón Martínez, 75, proudly shows some of the citrus fruits harvested on his farm where he practices agroecology and does not use agrochemicals. He and his daughter Valentina won a contest to continue improving the sustainability of their farming practices on their adjoining plots, located outside the Chilean town of María Pinto. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The rest of the area is monopolized by large agricultural companies dedicated to monocultures for export. Most of them have citrus, avocado, cherry and peach trees, as well as some walnut trees, and they all make intensive use of chemical fertilizers.

Chile exports mainly copper, followed by iron. But it also stands out for its sales of fish, cellulose pulp and fruit. In 2023, it exported 2.3 million tons of fruit, produced by large farms and bringing in 5.04 billion dollars. Agriculture represents 4.3 percent of the country’s GDP.

Family farming consists of some 260,000 small farms, which account for 98 percent of the country’s farms, according to the government’s Office of Agrarian Studies and Policies (Odepa).

Family farms produce 40 percent of annual crops and 22 percent of total agricultural production, which is key to feeding the country’s 19.7 million people.

Valentina is excited about TAS and the meetings she has had with other young farmers.

“It’s fun. We’re all on the same page and interested in what each other is doing. We start in December and January and it lasts all year. The young people are learning about sustainable agriculture and that there are more projects to apply for,” she explained.

She said that 15 young people in María Pinto have projects with pistachio trees, fruit trees, greenhouse gardens, outdoor gardens, animal husbandry and orchards. They are all different and receive group and individual training.

The training is provided by Indap and the Local Development Program (Prodesal), its regional representatives and the Foundation for the Promotion and Development of Women (Prodemu).

“The idea is that more people can learn about and realize the benefits of sustainable agriculture for their own health and for their land, which in a few years will be impossible due to the spraying of monocultures,” Valentina said.

It targets large entrepreneurs who produce avocado and broccoli in up to four harvests a year, both water-intensive crops, even on high hillsides.

“We need to come together, do things properly and recruit more people to create a legal group to reach other places and be able to organize projects. When you exist as an organization, you can also reach other places and say I am no longer one person, we are 15, we are 20, 100 and we need this,” she said.

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