Billions will Vote this Year – LGBTIQ+ People Must not be Excluded

Civil Society, Democracy, Gender, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, LGBTQ, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

UNDP is working in all regions of the world to integrate LGBTIQ+ people and issues in development efforts. Credit: UNDP Dominican Republic

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 2024 (IPS) – This year has been called the ‘super election’ year, with 3.7 billion people potentially going to the polls. This historic political moment is also an opportunity to reflect on what these billions of voter experiences will look like. Who will vote, who can run for office and who might be excluded from the political process?


It goes without saying and is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone should have the right to participate in the political processes in their country, and huge strides have been made in recent years to recognize and advocate for LGBTIQ+ rights. But the reality for LGBTIQ+ people is often very different.

Because despite progress, one third of countries maintain laws that make same-sex relationships illegal. For the LGBTIQ+ people living in these countries, what is their experience with elections, as voters or as candidates?

Consider the transgender person who faces harassment whenever they leave their home and is ultimately excluded from their community. Or the LGBTIQ+ groups that are receiving constant online hate because of a wave of social media disinformation. To what extent are they free to express their political views, without fear of discrimination, hate speech or even physical violence?

These experiences do not exist in a vacuum. They are the result of a vast swathe of anti-LGBTIQ+ laws and policies, which in some countries are continuing to gather momentum, compounded by the pervasive stigma and discrimination many LGBTIQ+ people face in their everyday lives.

And they directly impact our political processes by silencing people, limiting the extent to which they can have a voice in their societies and in the decisions which affect them, and entrenching structural discrimination.

UNDP has been working for decades to help break these barriers and to strengthen laws, policies and programmes that respect the human rights of all individuals. This demands we work with a broad range of global partners and advocates, recognizing that LGBTIQ+ people are a diverse group and face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

But with estimates suggesting about half of the global population may vote this year, it does throw into sharp focus the need to ensure that the people determining the leadership and political direction of their countries, truly reflects the full diversity of the world we live in.

We have reason to be hopeful that they will. Because with the steadfast support of partners like Luxembourg, UNDP has been supporting global efforts, including LGBTIQ+ organizations and activists, to help transform LGBTIQ+ rights.

For instance, last October, UNDP launched its global publication ‘Inclusive Democracies: A guide to strengthening the participation of LGBTI+ persons in political and electoral processes,’ in a jointly cohosted event with the LGBTI intergroup of the European Parliament.

Its aim is to provide policymakers, electoral management bodies, legislators, civil society and other stakeholders a clear set of tools to work towards a more equal exercise of civic and political rights, freedom of expression and association, and access to public services. The publication, informed by UNDP’s work globally, includes best practices from over 80 countries, mainly from the Global South.

At the same time, UNDP is working in 72 countries and all regions of the world to integrate LGBTIQ+ people and issues in development efforts.

This includes working with young key populations in Southern Africa – which includes young gay men and other men who have sex with men, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people – to help challenge some of the negative stereotypes appearing in mainstream media, and to change the negative narratives.

Support has focused on organizing media skills training for young people to build their journalistic skills and enhance the use of digital platforms for advocacy on issues affecting them.

But digital platforms also have the power to do great harm, and LGBTIQ+ individuals often face disproportionate online harassment, posing a threat to their equal political participation. With support from Luxembourg, UNDP has been able to prioritize combating dangerous online speech that targets individuals based on gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity.

For example, the Cabo Verde Free and Equal Campaign, part of UNDP’s efforts, focuses on fighting gender stereotypes and eliminating prejudices through legal and communication channels.

The global efforts to address LGBTIQ+ rights are having an impact. The recent HIV Policy Lab report – produced jointly by Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute, UNDP and the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) shows a clear and ongoing trend toward decriminalization of consensual same-sex sex around the world, with more countries removing punitive laws in 2022 than in any single year in the past 25 years.

These advances are part of a collective effort, because building inclusive and equitable societies means building a coalition of partners. At UNDP, the importance of partners like Luxembourg in helping to fund this vital work, and shining a light on the injustices LGBTIQ+ people face, is never underestimated.

This is important because investments in human rights are investments in our societies. And thanks to Luxembourg and our core donors, UNDP has been able to help people, whoever and wherever they are, to have a voice in shaping their societies.

This year, the stakes have never been higher. The decisions made in the elections taking place will set the course for how societies develop, and to what extent human rights are respected. Which is why we must also use this moment to recognize our partners and to renew our commitments to the LGBTIQ+ community.

The world’s attention will be focused on the election winners and losers. But the outcome is only one piece of the puzzle. Ensuring the political processes taking place are inclusive, credible and peaceful is how we ultimately build a world where everyone can vote, anyone can run for office, and most importantly, where no one will be silenced.

Ulrika Modeer is UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, UNDP; Christophe Schiltz is Director General, Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Defence, Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Luxembourg

Source: UNDP

IPS UN Bureau

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Solomon Islands: A Change More in Style than Substance

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Democracy, Economy & Trade, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

LONDON, May 16 2024 (IPS) – There’s change at the top in Solomon Islands – but civil society will be watching closely to see whether that means a government that’s grown hostile will start doing things differently.


Jeremiah Manele is the new prime minister, emerging from negotiations that followed April’s general election. He’s part of OUR Party, led by outgoing four-time prime minister Manasseh Sogavare. The party came first, winning 15 of 50 constituencies, but several incumbents who stood for it lost their parliamentary seats, and Sogavare only narrowly held his. Weakened, Sogavare stood aside to allow Manele to prevail as the consensus candidate of the post-election coalition his party stitched together.

China in the spotlight

Voters had to wait to have their say. The election was supposed to be held in 2023 but the government postponed it. It claimed it couldn’t afford to hold the election and host the Pacific Games in the same year, and temporarily suspended constitutional provisions through a parliamentary vote. The opposition accused Sogavare of a power grab and questioned his commitment to democracy.

Political debate in recent years has been dominated by the government’s relations with China, a major funder of the 2023 Pacific Games. Sogavare pivoted towards China shortly after becoming prime minister for the fourth time in 2019. Until then, Solomon Islands was among the small number of states that still recognised Taiwan instead of China. The move was controversial, made with no consultation after an election in which it hadn’t been an issue.

Sogavare then signed a series of agreements with China, including a highly secretive security cooperation deal. For civil society, this raised the concern that Solomon Islands police could be trained in the same repressive techniques used in China, and Chinese security forces could be deployed if unrest broke out. The country has experienced several bouts of conflict, including ethnic unrest and violent protests started by young unemployed men, with some violence targeting people of Chinese origin. Such conflict followed controversial post-2019 election manoeuvres that returned Sogavare to power, and surged again in 2021 over the government’s relations with China. Sogavare blamed ‘foreign powers’ for the 2021 unrest.

China is making extensive economic diplomacy efforts to encourage states to switch allegiance and has developed a keen interest in Pacific Island nations, long neglected by western powers. Its efforts are paying off, with Kiribati and Nauru also abandoning Taiwan in recent years. The Pacific Islands cover a vast oceanic territory, and a major Chinese foreign policy objective is to break up the island chains it sees as encircling it and constraining its reach. It’s long been suspected of coveting a naval base in Solomon Islands.

Further, while the populations may be small, each state has an equal vote in the United Nations, and the more allies China has, the more it can shield itself from criticism of its many human rights violations.

China didn’t just help pay for the Games. It provides direct funding to pro-government members of parliament, and has been accused of outrightly trying to bribe politicians. Daniel Suidani, a strong opponent of deals with China, claims to have been offered bribes to change his position. Suidani was premier of Malaita Province, until 2023, when he was ousted in a no-confidence vote following the central government’s apparent intervention. Police then used teargas against protesters who supported him.

China’s attempts to exert influence extend to the media. Last year, it was reported that the Solomon Star newspaper had received funding from the Chinese state in return for agreeing to publish pro-China content.

Disinformation favourable to China also circulated during the campaign. A Russian state-owned news agency falsely reported that the US government was planning what it called an ‘electoral coup’, a lie repeated by the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper. During the campaign, Sogavare also doubled down on his support for China, heaping praise on its political system and suggesting that democracy might open the door to same-sex marriage, which he portrayed as incompatible with his country’s values.

At the same time as China’s media influence has grown, the Solomon Islands government has gained a reputation for attacking media freedoms. It took full control of the public broadcaster, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, giving itself the power to directly appoint the broadcaster’s board, and made an attempt to vet all of its news and current affairs programmes, which it dropped after backlash. Following an investigation of relations with China by Australia’s public broadcaster, the government threatened to bar foreign journalists from entering the country if they run stories it deems ‘disrespectful’, accusing media of spreading ‘anti-China sentiments’.

Following criticism, the government also threatened to investigate civil society and accused civil society organisations of fraudulently receiving funds. It’s clear that the other side of the coin of closer relations with China has been growing hostility towards dissent.

Looking forward

China was far from the only issue in the campaign, and many voters emphasised everyday concerns such as the cost of living, the state of education, healthcare and roads, and the economy. Some criticised politicians for spending too much time talking about foreign policy – and will be judging the new government by how much progress it makes on these domestic issues.

The good news is that the vote appears to have been competitive, and so far there’s been no repeat of the post-election violence seen after the 2019 vote. That’s surely a positive to build on.

But Sogavare isn’t gone from politics, taking a new position as finance minister. Meanwhile, Manele, foreign minister in the old government and viewed as another pro-China figure, is unlikely to take a new foreign policy direction. But there’s some hope, at least for civil society, that he’ll be a less polarising and more conciliatory politician than Sogavare. The first test will be how the new government handles its relations with civil society and the media. The government should prove it isn’t in China’s pocket by respecting civic freedoms.

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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SBSTTA and SBI—Biodiversity Meetings Crucial for the Global South Begin

Africa, Biodiversity, Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Health, Sustainability, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Biodiversity

More than 1,400 delegates are present at two crucial meetings, where the topic of preserving the planet’s ongoing biodiversity for the benefit of humanity is under discussion. Under the spotlight are the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, synthetic biology, the detection and identification of living modified organisms, and, critically, biodiversity and health.

Over 1,400 delegates, including 600 representing parties or signatories from over 150 countries and a significant delegation of Indigenous Peoples and other observer organizations, including women’s groups are attending two crucial biodiversity meetings in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Over 1,400 delegates, including 600 representing parties or signatories from over 150 countries and a significant delegation of Indigenous Peoples and other observer organizations, including women’s groups are attending two crucial biodiversity meetings in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

NAIROBI, May 14 2024 (IPS) – The 26th meeting of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advisors (SBSTTA) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) started in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday. Over 1,400 delegates, including 600 representing signatories or parties from over 150 countries, are present for the seven-day meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). A large number of members from Indigenous Peoples and other observer organizations, including women’s groups, are also attending the meetings.


SBSTTA will be followed by the meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), another subsidiary body of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The SBI will take place from May 20–29 at the same venue.

Opening the meeting on Monday morning, David Cooper, the Acting Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, called on the delegates for a successful meeting.

“A key part of ensuring the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework is to monitor the progress and that’s why finalizing a monitoring framework includes authenticators for the parties to report on. I would like to give my sincere appreciation to all those working on putting together a comprehensive set of authenticators. I encourage you to make full use of what we have achieved so far and let’s make this meeting a success,” Cooper said.

IPS, which is exclusively covering the meetings, has insights into the meetings and presents here the brief history of both the meetings and their significance in larger global biodiversity protection, especially in the global south, including the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the legally binding international biodiversity treaty adopted by the nations in December 2022

SBSTTA: History, Mandate and Role in the COP

SBSTTA was established 30 years ago, in 1994, as a subsidiary body of the CBD during the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD in Nassau, Bahamas. Article 25 of the CBD, which mandated its creation, tasked it with giving the COP timely advice regarding the application of the Convention.

Since then, SBSTTA ‘s main role has been providing assessments of scientific, technical, and technological information relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It typically meets once or twice a year to review and assess relevant scientific information, including reports submitted by Parties, relevant organizations, and stakeholders. Its discussions cover a wide range of topics, including biodiversity loss, ecosystem services, invasive species, genetic resources, and biotechnology.

The main output of SBSTTA meetings is a set of recommendations to the COP, which are based on the scientific and technical assessments conducted during its sessions. These recommendations provide guidance to Parties and other stakeholders on key issues related to the implementation of the CBD.

For example, in 2007, SBSTTA recommended that the biodiversity COP consider the potential impacts of synthetic biology on biodiversity and ecosystems and encourage Parties to undertake further research, risk assessments, and regulatory measures to address any potential risks associated with the release of synthetic organisms into the environment.

This recommendation was later taken up by the CBD COP, leading to the adoption of decisions on synthetic biology, including Decision XIII/17, which encouraged Parties to continue their efforts to address the potential positive and negative impacts of synthetic biology on biodiversity, and take a  precautionary approach.

A more recent example is the SBSTTA’s recommendation from 2018 that the COP should encourage Parties to mainstream biodiversity considerations into sectoral and cross-sectoral policies, plans, and programs, including those pertaining to agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, energy, and infrastructure.

The CBD COP later agreed with this suggestion, which led to the adoption of decisions and guidelines on mainstreaming biodiversity across sectors. One of these was Decision XIV/4, which asked Parties to do more to mainstream biodiversity into relevant sectors and to encourage synergies between the goals of sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

SBSTTA and Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

SBSTTA-26 has a large number of issues on its agenda. Most prominent among them are: 1) creating a monitoring framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework; 2) synthetic biology; 3) detection and identification of living modified organisms; and 4) biodiversity and health.

It is expected that under the detection and identification of living modified organisms, genetically engineered mosquitoes for Malaria prevention will be discussed. Research on genetically engineered mosquitoes for malaria control has been an area of interest and investigation for several years, although little information is available on it in the public domain.

Scientists in many countries, including in the United States and Brazil, have been exploring various genetic modification techniques to create mosquitoes that are resistant to the malaria parasite or are unable to transmit the disease. One approach involves genetically modifying mosquitoes to produce antibodies that neutralize the malaria parasite when it enters their bodies.

The other approach is to use “Gene Drive Technology,” which involves modifying mosquitoes in a way that ensures the modified genes are passed on to a high proportion of their offspring. Already, many field trials of genetically engineered mosquitoes have been conducted or are underway in different parts of the world, most notably those conducted by the company Oxitec in Brazil and the Cayman Islands.

At the SBSTTA, scientific and technical advisors will look closely at the important environmental and ethical considerations related to GE mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organization’s 2023 World Malaria Report, there has been an increase in malaria infections all over the world as a result of climate change. However, several countries and organizations have serious reservations against the release of GM mosquitoes, which they believe may have an irreversible and devastating impact on local biodiversity. One of the most vocal organizations against GE/GM mosquitoes has been Friends of the Earth, a US-based environmental advocacy group. Dana Perls, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth, said, “Significant scientific research on genetically engineered mosquitoes is still needed to understand the potential public health and environmental threats associated with the release of this novel genetically engineered insect.”

The SBSTTA is expected to witness passionate discussions, especially from environmental NGOs and faith-based organizations, including the need to ensure that communities are properly informed and engaged in decision-making processes, especially in the global south.

The agenda for the meetings includes creating a monitoring framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, synthetic biology, detection and identification of living modified organisms, and biodiversity and health. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

The agenda for the meetings includes creating a monitoring framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, synthetic biology, detection and identification of living modified organisms, and biodiversity and health. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

SBI: Most Crucial Agenda Items

The SBI was established under the CBD during the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD in 1996. The SBI’s mandate includes providing guidance and recommendations to the COP on matters related to the implementation of the CBD as well as identifying obstacles and challenges that may hinder effective implementation.

Like SBSTTA, SBI also typically meets once or twice a year to conduct its work. Its discussions cover a wide range of topics related to the implementation of the CBD, including national biodiversity strategies and action plans, financial resources and mechanisms, capacity-building, and technology transfer.

Chaired by Chirra Achalender Reddy of India, the SBI in Nairobi has placed several items on its agenda. However, the most crucial ones among them are: 1) resource mobilization and financial mechanisms; 2) a review of the progress in national target setting; and 3) the updating of national biodiversity strategies and action plans.

As IPS recently reported, only a handful of countries have so far been able to submit their updated biodiversity action plans, while the rest are said to be facing multiple challenges in doing so, including a lack of capacity. In fact, Kenya, the host country of these meetings, has not been able to submit their updated action plan yet.

On Monday, in her inaugural address during the opening ceremony of SBSTTA, Ingrid Andersen, the Executive Director of UNEP, acknowledged that a lack of capacity to revise and update their action plans has been reported by several member states. “Capacity building is a serious issue and at the SBSTTA and SBI, this will be seriously discussed,” Andersen said.

David Ainsworth, the Communications Director of UNCBD, said that the capacity is lacking in several areas, including communications (where countries do not know how to communicate to different ministries the need for working together to develop their biodiversity action plans), finance (lack of funding, budgetary constraints), and knowledge.

“Perhaps the most crucial of these is finance and this will be seriously discussed at the SBI,” Ainsworth said.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 

Choose Hope: Standing at the Crossroads of the Future

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Global, Headlines, Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Future Action Festival Organizing Committee

TOKYO, Japan, May 8 2024 (IPS) – We are at the tipping point in human history, facing major existential crises. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has heightened the risk of a nuclear weapon being used since the Cold War. Furthermore, the climate crisis is accelerating. In these crises, the most affected are those in vulnerable situations.


Future Action Festival Poster. Credit: Yukie Asagiri, INPS Japan

Amidst all these crises, the UN Summit of the Future will be held for the first time in September to strengthen global cooperation and revitalize the multilateral approach to tackle these challenges. It will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shift the course of humanity to a peaceful world where no one is left behind.

Toward the Summit, together with some youth-led civil society organizations in Japan, we decided to organize the “Future Action Festival” to create momentum to strengthen solidarity toward a peaceful and sustainable future.

The Future Action Festival Organizing Committee comprising of representatives from six organizations, including GeNuine, Greenpeace Japan, Japan Youth Council, Kakuwaka Hiroshima, Youth for TPNW, and Soka Gakkai International (SGI) youth, was established in the summer of 2023.Among all the global challenges, we decided to focus on addressing two major existential threats today – nuclear weapons and the climate crisis.

While youth engagement in these issues is more crucial than ever, there is also a need to cultivate awareness among youth in being agents of change. The event is not a summit, but a “festival” that is led by, with and for the youth and highlights the aspect of joyfulness in youth coming together for a better future.

To achieve a unique event, the committee engaged with as many actors as possible towards the festival. Throughout the process, the festival was joined by multiple stakeholders, including NGOs, private sectors, artists, and UN representatives, in many ways.

Engagement with corporations played a significant role in making the festival possible and raising awareness in the private sector. For example, Japan Climate Leaders Partnership (JCLP), which comprises of more than 240 corporations targeting zero-emission, agreed with the purpose of our event and supported us since the establishment of the organizing committee. In the end, the sponsorship and participation by more than 160 corporations not only supported the event financially but opened new possibilities in the sense of corporations’ involvement in abolishing nuclear weapons.

Future Action Festival convened at Tokyo’s National Stadium on March 24, drawing approximately 66,000 attedees. Credit: Yukie Asagiri, INPS Japan

The festival included entertainment elements performed by professional singers, comedians, YouTubers, and marching bands. The participation and active promotion of the event by those in the entertainment sector mobilized many people, including those who were not very much interested in the thematic issues, making the event uniquely engaging.

Finally, the engagement with the UN expanded the reach and possibilities of the festival. For example, one of the major advocates and partners of the event was the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Tokyo. Since the beginning of its preparation, UNIC supported us in gaining credibility with diverse stakeholders, especially corporations and artists. In addition, the first Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs Felipe Paullier sent us a video message which called upon youth participants to work together for a world without nuclear weapons and a world that is sustainable for all. At the end of the event, the Rector of the United Nations University Professor Tshilidzi Marwala gave his remarks, emphasizing the significance of the role played by youth in tackling these global issues. The partnership with the UN became the core driving force for the event’s success.

The strong partnerships and youth engagement resulted in the success of the festival held at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo on March 24th. It gathered more than 60,000 participants at the venue and was viewed by over 500,000 people online through livestream.

Tshilisi Marwala, President of the UN University and UN Under-Secretary-General (Center) who endorsed the joint statement from the organizing committee, acknowledged the critical importance of young voices in shaping the Summit’s agenda and urged them to “be a beacon of hope and a driving force for change. Credit: Yukie Asagiri, INPS Japan

One of the key purposes of the event was to deliver youth voices to the UN. Toward the festival, the organizing committee conducted a youth awareness survey on nuclear weapons, the climate crisis, and the UN. About 120,000 responses from individuals ranging between their 10s to 40s were collected from November 2023 to February 2024. The results showed that young people have a high level of awareness on climate issues and that they think that nuclear weapons are not necessary. The youth want to contribute to addressing these issues. At the same time, more than half of the respondents find it difficult to have hope for the future. About eighty percent of all the respondents felt that youth voices are not reflected enough in national and government policies. Young people are dissatisfied with the status quo and seek a systemic change.

Based on the outcome, the organizing committee created a joint statement intended for the UN Summit of the Future to ensure youth voices are heard and reflected in the discussion process. The statement was handed over to Prof. Marwala at the event.

This is only the beginning of our journey to create a great momentum of youth standing up for a better future. As a next step to amplify youth voices, we plan to communicate with MOFA, a focal point of the Summit of the Future. We, the organizing committee, will also participate in the UN Civil Society Conference that will take place in Nairobi, Kenya in May, which is a key milestone for civil society to give their input to the Member States. We hope to convey the survey results to the co-chairs and UN high-level officials during the conference. In addition, at a national level, we will engage with the government, the UN, and like-minded organizations to contribute to the Pact for the Future in a meaningful way.

In addressing daunting global issues, we may feel a sense of hopelessness sometimes. However, through this festival, we learned that when diverse stakeholders of different background unite to create change, their solidarity serves as a beacon of hope for the youth. It is our responsibility to create a world where young people feel hopeful. Starting from youth in Japan, we will move forward, taking concrete steps to extend our local and global solidarity together with the UN and multiple stakeholders.

[embedded content]
Future Action Festival Filmed and edited by Katsuhiro Asagiri, Yukie Asagiri and Kevin Lin of INPS Japan Media.

Hiroko Ogushi is a Committee Member, Future Action Festival Organizing Committee Co-representative, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) youth

IPS UN Bureau

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Harnessing Science-Policy Collaboration: The Vital Role of IPBES Stakeholders in Achieving Global Nature Targets

Biodiversity, Conferences, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Indigenous Rights, Natural Resources, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Dr. Anne Larigauderie, IPBES Executive Secretary

Dr. Anne Larigauderie, IPBES Executive Secretary

BONN, Germany, Apr 26 2024 (IPS) – In December 2022, the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) saw governments worldwide unite behind a set of ambitious targets aimed at addressing biodiversity loss and restoring natural ecosystems, through the Global Biodiversity Framework – known now as the Biodiversity Plan.


As the world gears up to meet these critical commitments for people and nature, success depends very directly on the concrete choices and actions of people from every region, across all disciplines and at every level of decision-making. In this collaborative effort, non-governmental stakeholders of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) are vital actors, in addition to the 146 Governments who are members of IPBES.

But who are IPBES stakeholders? Any individual or organization that can benefit from or contribute to the science-policy work of IPBES is an IPBES stakeholder. They include individual scientists, knowledge-holders, experts and practitioners, as well as institutions, organizations, and groups operating within and beyond the fields of biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people.

There are two main self-organized groups of IPBES stakeholders: ONet and IIFBES. ONet provides a broad space for individuals and organizations to exchange knowledge, align actions and deepen engagement with the work of IPBES—with subgroups from the social sciences, young career researchers and many more. IIFBES is a network to bring together the expertise, perspectives and interests of Indigenous Peoples and local communities interested in IPBES’s work. Both of these ‘umbrella’ groups are instrumental in amplifying diverse voices, knowledge systems, and experience, to strengthen science-policy for biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. This is important not only in support of IPBES, but also to the success of the Biodiversity Plan.

IPBES stakeholders contribute to the achievement of the Biodiversity Plan in three distinct ways. Firstly, they fortify the scientific foundations underpinning policies to protect biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. Their expertise, channeled into the IPBES assessments, was instrumental in shaping the targets and indicators of the Biodiversity Plan. IPBES stakeholders will also continue to play a central role in ensuring that the actions to meet these targets are grounded in robust scientific knowledge and evidence.

Secondly, IPBES stakeholders are equipped with the resources and tools provided by IPBES: including Assessment Reports and their summaries for policymakers, to advocate for and effect change. These resources offer invaluable insights into national, regional, and global thematic issues. When considered by decision-makers, they become catalysts for evidence-based policies. Effective dissemination and uptake of these resources are paramount in translating global targets into tangible, on-the-ground initiatives that address local challenges. Consequently, stakeholders can make a substantial contribution by widely disseminating IPBES products and providing information for their effective use.

Thirdly, IPBES stakeholders have a tremendous opportunity to engage in the international forums where policy decisions are explored and made. Their active involvement and participation in decision-making bodies within these forums, coupled with their own extensive networks, foster the exchange of knowledge and resources. Collaborations forged in these settings bridge the gap between science and policy. Many IPBES stakeholders are active participants in the CBD processes, for instance, facilitating the exchange of information between these two bodies and thereby driving the Biodiversity Plan’s effective implementation.

Only through collective action and close collaboration between international institutions, policy actors, scientists, local and Indigenous communities, and other relevant stakeholders can we seamlessly translate science into policy and practice, ultimately achieving the goals of the Biodiversity Plan. This is why more individuals and organizations should seize the opportunity to become active IPBES stakeholders. Joining the IPBES community is not only a commitment to a sustainable future for people and nature but is also a positive response to the pressing global biodiversity crisis.

Dr. Anne Larigauderie is the Executive Secretary of IPBES (www.ipbes.net) – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which provides objective scientific assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems and the contributions they make to people, as well as options and actions to protect and sustainably use these vital natural assets.

IPS UN Bureau

 

The Summit of the Future Is a Rare Chance to Fix a Broken System: Civil Society Must Be Included

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Economy & Trade, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

NEW YORK, Apr 22 2024 (IPS) – Today, the spectre of a major regional conflict, and even a possible nuclear conflagration, looms large in the Middle East. Despite stark warnings issued by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, the multilateral system is struggling to resolve the very challenges it was supposed to address: conflict, impoverishment and oppression. In a deeply divided world, this September’s Summit of the Future offers a rare chance to fix international cooperation and make good on gaps in global governance.


The problem is, too few people and civil society organisations, outside UN circles, even know the Summit is happening. This is characteristic of a lack of broad consultation. Things started poorly with limited time and opportunities for civil society to provide inputs last December into the zero draft of the Pact for the Future, which is supposed to be a blueprint for international cooperation in the 21st century.

The zero draft, released in January 2024, lacks the ambition many hoped would be on show to tackle the enormity of the challenges before us. It included just one mention of the role of civil society and nothing about civic space, even though growing restrictions on fundamental freedoms are severely impeding the transparency, accountability and participation needed to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the set of ambitious but largely unrealised universal commitments the Summit intends to reaffirm.

To be clear, the Summit’s co-facilitators, Germany and Namibia, are in an unenviable position, having to balance the demands of states that want the process to be purely intergovernmental and others that see value in civil society’s engagement. Some don’t see any role for civil society: in February, a handful of states led by Belarus sent a letter to the Special Committee on the UN Charter questioning the legitimacy of civil society organisations. If their demands were acceded to, the UN would miss the innovation and reach that civil society participation brings to the table.

Next month, the UN is hosting a major civil society conference in Nairobi with the aim of providing a platform for civil society to contribute ideas to the Summit of the Future. But, with barely a month between the selection of applicants and the hosting of the conference, it remains to be seen how many civil society representatives, particularly from smaller organisations in the global south, will be able to make it.

There remains a need for the UN to take on board the Unmute Civil Society recommendations, which include a call for the appointment of a civil society envoy. Such an envoy could drive the UN’s outreach to civil society beyond its hubs. With many finding the institution remote, an envoy could champion better and more consistent participation of people and civil society across the UN’s sprawling agencies and offices. So far, civil society engagement with the UN remains deeply uneven and dependent on the culture and leadership of various UN departments and forums.

The Summit can only benefit from civil society engagement if it’s to achieve it aims, particularly as many conflicts are raging around the world, including in Gaza, Myanmar, Sudan, Ukraine and elsewhere. Many of civil society’s reform ideas are included in the UN Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace, which will be deliberated at the Summit, including nuclear disarmament, strengthening preventative diplomacy and prioritising women’s participation in peace efforts.

There’s also an urgent need to address the soaring levels of debt many global south countries face, which is diverting public spending away from essential services and social protections into debt servicing. Civil society backs efforts such as the Bridgetown Initiative to secure commitments from wealthy countries on debt restructuring and debt cancellation for those countries facing a repayment crisis. But civil society needs to be included to help shape plans, because if financing for development negotiations don’t include guarantees for civic space and civil society participation there’s no way of ensuring that public funds benefit people in need. Instead, autocratic regimes could use them to shore up repressive state apparatuses and networks of corruption and patronage.

Civil society further calls for reforms in the international financial architecture. These include demands to bring decisions by the G20 group of powerful economies into the ambit of the UN’s accountability framework, and to equitably distribute shares and decision-making at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, presently controlled by a few highly industrialised countries.

But it’s unclear how many of civil society’s transformative proposals for global governance reforms will end up in the final outcomes of the Summit of the Future. So far, there’s been limited transparency in relation to UN member state negotiations, records and compilation texts, despite civil society having shown its commitment by making over 400 written submissions to the Pact for the Future process.

Troublingly, few governments have consulted nationally with civil society groups on their positions for the Summit of the Future negotiations. If these trends continue, the international community will miss a key chance to make life better for future generations. It isn’t too late to robustly include people and civil society in the process. The aims of the Summit are too important.

Mandeep S. Tiwana is CIVICUS Chief Officer for Evidence and Engagement and representative to the UN in New York.

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