Latin America Is Lagging in Its Homework to Meet the SDGs

Civil Society, Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals

A view of the Altos de Florida neighborhood in Bogotá, Colombia. Overcoming poverty is the first of the Sustainable Development Goals, and in the Latin American and Caribbean region there is not only slow progress but even setbacks in the path to reduce it. CREDIT: Freya Mortales / UNDP

A view of the Altos de Florida neighborhood in Bogotá, Colombia. Overcoming poverty is the first of the Sustainable Development Goals, and in the Latin American and Caribbean region there is not only slow progress but even setbacks in the path to reduce it. CREDIT: Freya Mortales / UNDP

CARACAS, Sep 15 2023 (IPS) – The Latin American and Caribbean region is arriving at the Sustainable Development Goals Summit on the right track but far behind in terms of progress, at the halfway point to achieve the SDGs, which aim to overcome poverty and create a cleaner and healthier environment.

“We are exactly halfway through the period of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but we are not half the way there, as only a quarter of the goals have been met or are expected to be met that year,” warned ECLAC Executive Secretary José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs.

“We are exactly halfway through the period of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but we are not half the way there, as only a quarter of the goals have been met or are expected to be met that year.” — José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs

However, the head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) stressed, in response to a questionnaire submitted to him by IPS, that “the percentage of targets on track to be met is higher than the global average,” partly due to the strengthening of the institutions that lead the governance of the SDGs.

The 17 SDGs include 169 targets, to be measured with 231 indicators, and in the region 75 percent are at risk of not being met, according to ECLAC, unless decisive actions are taken to forge ahead: 48 percent are moving in the right direction but too slowly to achieve the respective targets, and 27 percent are showing a tendency to backslide.

The summit was convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres for Sept. 18-19 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, under the official name High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The stated purpose is to “step on the gas” to reach the SDGs in all regions, in the context of a combination of crises, notably the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, new wars, and the climate and food crises.

The SDGs address ending poverty, achieving zero hunger, health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, and reducing inequalities.

They also are aimed at sustainable cities and communities, responsible production and consumption, climate action, underwater life, life of terrestrial ecosystems, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships to achieve the goals.

Drinking water is distributed from tanker trucks in the working-class Petare neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is another of the goals that are being addressed with a great variety of results within Latin American and Caribbean countries, and there is no certainty that this 2030 Agenda target will be reached in the region. CREDIT: Caracas city government

Drinking water is distributed from tanker trucks in the working-class Petare neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is another of the goals that are being addressed with a great variety of results within Latin American and Caribbean countries, and there is no certainty that this 2030 Agenda target will be reached in the region. CREDIT: Caracas city government

Progress is being made, but slowly

“In all the countries of the region progress is being made, but in many not at the necessary rate. The pace varies greatly and we are not where we would like to be,” Almudena Fernández, chief economist for the region at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), told IPS from New York.

Thus, said the Peruvian economist, “there is progress, for example, on some health or energy and land care issues, but we are lagging in achieving more sustainable cities, and we are not on the way to achieving, regionally, any of the poverty indicators.”

Salazar-Xirinachs, who is from Costa Rica, said from Santiago that “the countries that have historically been at the forefront in public policies are the ones that have made the greatest progress, such as Uruguay in South America, Costa Rica in Central America or Jamaica in the Caribbean. They have implemented a greater diversity of strategies to achieve the SDGs.”

A group of experts led by U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs prepared graphs for the UN on how countries in the various developing regions are on track to meet the goals or still face challenges – measured in three grades, from moderate to severe – and whether they are on the road to improvement, stagnation or regression.

According to this study, the best advances in poverty reduction have been seen in Brazil, El Salvador, Guyana, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay, while the greatest setbacks have been observed in Argentina, Belize, Ecuador and Venezuela.

In the fight for zero hunger, no one stands out; Brazil, after making progress, slid backwards in recent years, and the best results are shown by Caribbean countries.

In health and well-being, education and gender equality, there are positive trends, although stagnation has been seen, especially in the Caribbean and Central American countries.

In water and sanitation, energy, reduction of inequalities, economic growth, management of marine areas, terrestrial ecosystems, and justice and institutions, Sachs’ dashboard shows the persistence of numerous obstacles, addressed in very different ways in different countries.

Many countries in Central America and the Caribbean are on track to meet their climate action goals, and in general the region has made progress in forging alliances with other countries and organizations to pave the way to meeting the SDGs.

Young people in a Latin American country share a vegetable-rich meal outdoors. The notion of consuming products produced with environmentally sustainable techniques is gaining ground, and a private sector whose DNA is embedded in the search for positive environmental and social repercussions is flourishing. CREDIT: Pazos / Unicef

Young people in a Latin American country share a vegetable-rich meal outdoors. The notion of consuming products produced with environmentally sustainable techniques is gaining ground, and a private sector whose DNA is embedded in the search for positive environmental and social repercussions is flourishing. CREDIT: Pazos / Unicef

A question of funds

Even before the pandemic that broke out in 2020, Fernández said, the region was not moving fast enough towards the SDGs; its economic growth has been very low for a long time – and remains so, at no more than 1.9 percent this year – and growth with investment is needed in order to reduce poverty.

In this regard, Fernández highlighted the need to expand fiscal revenues, since tax collection is very low in the region (22 percent of gross domestic product, compared to 34 percent in the advanced economies of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), “although progress will not be made through public spending alone,” she said.

Salazar-Xirinachs pointed out that “in addition to financial resources, it is very important to adapt actions to specific areas to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The measures implemented at the subnational level are of great importance. Specific problems in local areas cannot always be solved with one-size-fits-all policies.”

Fernández underlined that the 2030 Agenda “has always been conceived as a society-wide agenda, and the private sector plays an essential role, particularly the areas that are flourishing because it has a positive social and environmental impact on their DNA, and there are young consumers who use products made in a sustainable way.”

ECLAC’s Salazar-Xirinachs highlighted sensitized sectors as organized civil society and the private sector, for their participation in sustainable development forums, follow-up actions and public-private partnerships moving towards achievement of the SDGs.

Finally, with respect to expectations for the summit, the head of ECLAC aspires to a movement to accelerate the 2030 Agenda in at least four areas: decent employment for all, generating more sustainable cities, resilient infrastructure that offers more jobs, and improving governance and institutions involved in the process.

ECLAC identified necessary “transformative measures”: early energy transition; boosting the bioeconomy, particularly sustainable agriculture and bioindustrialization; digital transformation for greater connectivity among the population; and promoting exports of modern services.

It also focuses on the care society, in response to demographic trends, to achieve greater gender equality and boost the economy; sustainable tourism, which has great potential in the countries of the region; and integration to enable alliances to strengthen cooperation in the regional bloc.

In summary, ECLAC concludes, “it would be very important that during the Summit these types of measures are identified and translate into agreements in which the countries jointly propose a road map for implementing actions to strengthen them.”


Youth Rally for Peace Through Climate Justice at the UN

Climate Action, Climate Change, Climate Change Justice, Environment, Global, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations, Youth Thought Leaders

Climate Change Justice

Youth rally at the UN for climate justice. Credit: Abigail Van Neely/IPS

Youth rally at the UN for climate justice. Credit: Abigail Van Neely/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 15 2023 (IPS) – “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” youth chanted in an unusually lively conference at the United Nations Headquarters.

Earlier on Thursday morning (September 14), almost 500 young people had streamed into the room to a DJ’s upbeat soundtrack. Spirits were high despite the more somber rallying cry of this year’s International Day of Peace youth event: the planet is on fire. Many speakers focused on the idea that there cannot be peace without climate justice.

“We cannot begin to talk about peace without talking about the climate crisis,” environmental justice advocate Saad Amer said after leading the crowd in the kind of chants more likely heard at a protest. Fossil fuel disputes spark wars that disproportionately affect people of color, Amer explained. Youth must take charge to “re-write destiny.”

To 21-year-old Mexican climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, “Peace is the ability to drink clean air and clean water.” Bastida, a member of the Otomi-Toltec indigenous community, spoke of her community’s traditional commitment to living in harmony with the earth. Now, indigenous people are being displaced as regenerative practices are forgotten. Bastida called for a world free of extreme weather and exploitation. The climate crisis reflects a broken system, she said, but peace is the bravery to imagine a better world.

Young people are “creating a youth movement for climate action, seeking racial justice, and promoting gender equality,” the Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Melissa Fleming, told the audience. In a recorded statement, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated that youth action has power. Still, only four governments have concrete plans to include young people in policymaking, Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanyake noted.

As she lived through brutal conflicts in her home country of Sri Lanka, Wickramanayake said she wondered why people around her continued to fight. Today, she told other young activists that the root causes of conflict always run deep – from inequality to poverty. She stressed that peace cannot be differentiated from development.

The event occurs days before the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Summit, a critical opportunity for world leaders to address failures to implement the goals so far.

“Next week there will be an important breakthrough in creating the conditions to rescue the sustainable development goals. I’m very hopeful that the SDG summit will indeed represent a quantum leap in the response to the dramatic failures that we have witnessed,” Guterres said during a news conference.

Meanwhile, youth are left with memories of their chants: “The oceans are rising, and so are we!” “We are unstoppable – another world is possible!”

IPS UN Bureau Report


Debt & Crisis of Survival in Sri Lanka & the World

Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, COVID-19, Economy & Trade, Featured, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations


Anti-government protest in Sri Lanka on April 13, 2022. Credit: Wikipedia

WASHINGTON DC, Aug 25 2023 (IPS) – Sri Lanka has been faced with an unprecedented political and economic crisis since the beginning of 2022.

The dominant narrative attributes the crisis to the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine conflict, China’s ‘debt trap diplomacy’ and – most importantly – the corruption and mismanagement of the ruling Rajapaksa family.

Western mainstream media celebrated the so-called aragalaya (struggle, in Sinhala) protest movement that led to the ouster of the Rajapaksas and upholds the IMF bail-out as the only solution to the dire economic situation.

The aragalaya protests emerged from genuine economic grievances, but failed to develop an analysis beyond the ‘Gota, Go Home’ demand for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign. Influenced by local and external interests with their own agendas, the protestors exhibited little-to-no awareness or critique of the global political economy and the financial system at the root of the country’s crisis.

In 2022, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reported that 60 percent of low-income countries and 30 percent of emerging market economies are ‘in or near debt distress.’ While the details differ from country to country, the historical patterns of subordination that have given rise to global crises are the same.

The Sri Lankan crisis is an illustrative example of convergent global debt, food, fuel and energy crises facing much of the world. It is corporate media bias and narrative control that deflects from this analysis.

The island’s severe debt and economic crisis must be seen in a broader global context as the culmination of several centuries of colonial and neo-colonial developments, and the disastrous and inevitably self-destructive capitalist paradigm of endless growth and profit. Debt is not “a straightforward number but a social relation embedded in unequal power relations, discourses and moralities…and…institutionalized power.”.

Colonialism and Neocolonialism

The development of export agriculture and the import of food and other essentials under British colonialism turned Sri Lanka into a dependent ‘peripheral’ unit of the global capitalist economy.

Adopting ideologies of modernization and development and theories of comparative advantage, the capitalist imperative integrated self-sustaining indigenous, peasant, and regional economies into the growing global economy, through the appropriation of land, natural resources, and labor for export production.

Monocultural agriculture, mining, and other export-based production disturbed traditional patterns of crop rotation and small-scale subsistence production that were more harmonious with the regional ecosystems and cycles of nature.

Plantation development contributed to deforestation, loss of biodiversity and animal habitats. While a small local elite prospered through their collaboration with colonialism, most people became poor, indebted, and dependent on the vagaries of the global market for their sustenance.

Although colonized countries including Sri Lanka gained political independence following World War II, unequal exchange continued under neo-colonialism. Terms of trade disadvantaged the ‘Third World’ with their labor, resources and exports grossly undervalued and imports overvalued.

The dynamic is better understood as poorer countries being over-exploited rather than under-developed. Rising populations combined with corruption and inefficiency of local governments gave rise to endemic foreign exchange shortages and economic crises in Sri Lanka and many other countries.

The debt relief and aid given by the IMF, the World Bank and bilateral institutions from the Global North have been mere band-aids to keep the ex-colonial countries tethered to the global financial and economic structures. Post-independent Sri Lanka went to the IMF 16 times before the current 2023 bail-out which seeks to further perpetuate the county’s cycle of debt dependence.

The transfer of financial and resource wealth from poor countries in the global South to the rich countries in the North is not a new phenomenon. It has been an enduring feature throughout centuries of both classical and neo-colonialism. Between 1980 and 2017, developing countries paid out over $4.2 trillion solely in interest payments, dwarfing the financial aid they received from the developed countries during that period.

Currently, international financial institutions – notably the IMF and the World Bank – remain outside political and legal control without even ‘elementary accountability’. As critics from the Global South point out, “The overwhelming power of financial institutions makes a mockery of any serious effort for democratization and addressing the deteriorating socioeconomic living conditions of the people in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the Global South.”

Financialization and Debt

Corporate and financial deregulation which accompanied the rise of neoliberalism starting in the 1970s has given rise to financialization, and the increasing importance of finance capital. As more and more aspects of social and planetary life are commoditized and subjected to digitalization and financial speculation, the real value of nature and human activity are further lost.

As a 2022 United Nations Report points out; food prices are soaring today not due to a problem with supply and demand but due to price speculation in highly financialized commodity markets.

A handful of the largest asset management companies, notably BlackRock (currently worth USD $ 10 trillion) control very large shares in companies operating in practically all the major sectors of the global economy: banking, technology, media, defense, energy, pharmaceuticals, food, agribusiness including seeds, and agrochemicals.

Financial liberalization advanced when interest rates dropped in the richer countries after the global 2008 financial crisis. Developing countries were encouraged to borrow from private international capital markets through International Sovereign Bonds (ISBs) which come with high interest rates and short maturation periods.

Although details are not available to the public, BlackRock is reportedly the biggest ISB creditor of Sri Lanka. Most of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt is ISBs, with over 80% of Sri Lanka’s debt owed to western creditors, and not – as projected in the mainstream narrative – to China.

IMF debt financing requires countries to meet its familiar structural adjustment conditions: privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), cutbacks of social safety nets and labor rights, increased export production, decreased import substitution and alignment of local economic policy with US and other Western interests.

These are the same aims as classical colonialism, they are just better hidden in the more complex modern system and language of global finance, diplomacy and aid.

A vast array of policies exacting these aims are well under way in Sri Lanka, including the sale of state-owned energy, telecommunications and transportation enterprises to foreign owners, with grave implications for Sri Lanka’s economic independence, sovereignty, national security and the wellbeing of her people and the environment.

The IMF approach does not address long-term needs for bioregionalism, sustainable development, local autonomy and welfare. A small vulnerable country such as Sri Lanka cannot change the trajectory of global capitalist development on its own.

Regional and global solidarity and social movements are necessary to challenge the deranged global financial and economic system that is at the root of the current crisis.

Global South Resistance

Since the 1970s, major collaborative projects have been initiated by developing countries and the UNCTAD to develop a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring. Yet they are futile in the face of the powerful opposition of creditors and the protection given to them by wealthy countries and their multilateral institutions, and the UN has failed to uphold commitment and implement a debt restructuring mechanism.

Sri Lanka was a global leader in efforts to create a New International Economic Order, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace in the 1960s and 70s. In the early years of their political independence, countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America sought to forge their own paths of economic and political development, independent of both capitalism and communism and the Cold War.

These included African socialist projects such as Tanzania’s Ujamma, import substitution programs in Latin America and left-wing nationalism and decolonization efforts in Sri Lanka and many other countries.

Almost without exception, these nationalist efforts failed, not only due to internal corruption and mismanagement but also due to persistent external pressure and intervention. Massive efforts have been taken by the Global North to stop the Global South from moving out of the established world order.

A case in point is the nationalization of oil companies owned by western countries in Sri Lanka in 1961 and the backlash against the left-nationalist Sri Lankan government which dared to take such a bold move.

The western response included the 1962 Hickenlooper Amendment passed in the U.S. Senate stopping foreign aid to Sri Lanka and to “any country expropriating American property without compensation.” As a result, Sri Lanka lost its credit worthiness, the domestic economic situation worsened, and the left-nationalist government lost the 1965 elections (with some covert US election support).

Observing those developments, political economist Richard Stuart Olsen wrote: “…the coerciveness of economic sanctions against a dependent, vulnerable country resides in the fact that an economic downturn can be induced and intensified from the outside, with the resulting development of politically explosive ‘relative deprivation’…”

These observations resonate with Sri Lanka’s current repetition of the same vicious cycle: an externally dependent export-import economy; worsening terms of trade; foreign exchange shortage; policy mismanagement; external political pressure; debt crisis; shortages of food, fuel and other essentials; mass suffering; and political turmoil.

Geopolitical Rivalry

Sri Lanka’s present economic crisis – the worst since the country’s political independence from the British – must be seen in the context of the accelerating neocolonial geopolitical conflict between China and the USA in the Indian Ocean. Many other countries across the world are also caught in the neocolonial superpower competition to control their natural resources and strategic locations.

There is much speculation as to whether the debt default on April 12, 2022 and political destabilization in Sri Lanka were ‘staged’ or intentionally precipitated to further the US’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy, the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Quadrilateral Alliance (USA, India, Australia and Japan) in its competition to confront China’s $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative and counter China’s presence in Sri Lanka.

It is widely recognized in Sri Lanka that ‘The policy of neutrality is the best defence Sri Lanka has to deter global powers from attempting to get control of Sri Lanka because of its strategic location.’ Although President Gotabaya Rajapaksa claimed to pursue a ‘neutral’ foreign policy, the Rajapaksas were seen as closer to China than the west. After Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were forced to resign, Ranil Wickramasinghe – a politician who was resoundingly rejected in the previous elections by the electorate but is a close ally of the west – was appointed as President in an undemocratic transition of power.

To what extent were Sri Lanka and her people victims of an externally manipulated ‘shock doctrine’ and a regime change operation, sold to the world as internal disintegration caused by local corruption and incapability?

While it is not possible to provide definitive answers to these issues, it is necessary to consider the available credible evidence and the geopolitics of debt and economic crises in Sri Lanka and the world at large.

Paradigm Shift

As the locus of global power shifts from the west and a multipolar world arises, new multilateral partnerships are emerging for development financing, such as the New Development Bank (NDB) – formerly referred to as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Development Bank – as alternatives to the Bretton Woods and other western dominated institutions.

However, given controversial projects, such as China’s Port City and India’s Adani Company investments in Sri Lanka as well as their projects elsewhere, it is necessary to ask if the BRICS represent a genuine alternative to the prevailing political-economic model based on domination, profit and power?

Dominant political power in our era is about propaganda, control of narratives and exploiting ignorance and fear. In the face of worsening environmental and social collapse across the world, there is a practical need for a fundamental questioning of the values, assumptions and misrepresentations of the dominant neoliberal model and its manifestations in Sri Lanka and the world.

At the root of the crisis, we face is a disconnect between the exponential growth of the profit-driven economy and a lack of development in human consciousness, i.e., in morality, empathy, and wisdom.

Ultimately, dualism, domination and the unregulated market paradigm need to be questioned to find a balanced path of human development, based on interdependence, partnership and ecological consciousness. Such a path of development would uphold the ethical principles necessary for long-term survival: rational use of natural resources, appropriate use of technology, balanced consumption, equitable distribution of wealth, and livelihoods for all.

This article is derived from the author’s new book: Asoka Bandarage, CRISIS IN SRI LANKA AND THE WORLD: COLONIAL AND NEOLIBERAL ORIGINS: ECOLOGICAL AND COLLECTIVE ALTERNATIVES (Berlin: De Gruyter,2023)]

IPS UN Bureau


A Plea for a UN Summit on the Global Food Crisis

Civil Society, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Global, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 25 2023 (IPS) – A coalition of civil society organizations, (CSOs), including climate activists, anti-poverty campaigners and celebrity chefs, are among those calling for an emergency meeting of world leaders on the global food crisis during the UN General Assembly (UNGA) sessions in New York next month.

With 735 million people going hungry, 122 million more than before the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers of the ‘Elephant in the Room’ campaign say the food crisis is being overlooked by world leaders, with devastating consequences.

An open letter to world leaders, signed by supporters, including climate activist Vanessa Nakate, award-winning farming advocate Wangari Kuria, musician and philanthropist Octopizzo, SDG Advocate Richard Curtis, and US celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, says the food crisis is being ignored – “a victim of siloed approaches as it’s so multidimensional”.

The letter calls for a massive joined-up response at the highest levels of government. “You know there is a global food crisis. You are ignoring it in your budgets. You do not address it enough with the media. It is not high on your agenda for the G20, UNGA or COP28. And so, it remains an elephant in the room.” (an obvious problem that people do not want to talk about.)

“As leaders, you have allowed this emergency to unfold. The solutions to end the food crisis exist. It is your responsibility to lead the world out of disasters, not compound them.”

Launched by Hungry for Action, the campaign is supported by over 40 organizations including Save the Children, the ONE Campaign and Global Citizen and is coordinated by the SDG2 Advocacy Hub.

The plea for a summit of world leaders on the global food crisis coincides with three unprecedented high-level political meetings in September: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit on September 18-19; a high-level dialogue on Financing for Development (FfD) on September 20; and a Summit of the Future on September 21.

Danielle Nierenberg, President and Founder, Food Tank told IPS the world is facing multiple emergencies–the climate crisis, the public health crisis, the biodiversity loss crisis, and the hunger crisis.

To address these challenges, she said, “we need urgent action–not by 2030–but today. I am thankful for the efforts of activists and advocates who are pushing for change.”

“But we need policymakers to treat these crises like the emergency they are and push for positive transformation of how we produce and consume food at UNGA. We can’t wait any longer.”

Joseph Chamie, a former director of the UN Population Division, and an independent consulting demographer, told IPS there is no question about an increasing and worrisome global food crisis.

“About one billion people, or nearly 12 percent of the world’s population, face severe levels of food insecurity with 735 million people going hungry,” he said.

There is plenty of food in the world. While the world’s population has doubled from 4 to 8 billion over the past fifty years, global food production has more than tripled, said Chamie, who served as the Deputy Secretary-General for the 1994 International Conference on population and development and has worked in various regions of the world.

There is a consensus on the causes of the global food crisis, he argued.

Among the major causes of the global food crisis, he singled out “armed conflict and violence; climate change with extreme weather events and emergencies; poverty and economic shocks with soaring prices for fertilizer”.

He pointed out that there is much that can be done to address the global food crisis.

“World leaders need to adopt policies, provide additional funds and take action to address the major factors creating the global food crisis. The major media outlets need to do more to inform the world community about the global food crisis”.

There are no reasons, he said, for delays in addressing the global food crisis. “It is necessary and appropriate to convene an emergency meeting of world leaders on the global food crisis at the UN General Assembly in New York next month.”

Countries, international agencies and responsible others need to act today to address the global food crisis, not in some distant future.

“Hungry people, especially children, can’t eat excuses, they need food today,” said Chamie, the author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Population Levels, Trends, and Differentials“.

Meanwhile, the Hungry for Action campaign says the global food crisis is caused by a combination of conflict, climate change, rising food prices and the punishing debt burdens faced by many poorer countries, 21 of which now face catastrophic levels of debt distress and food insecurity.

“Admitting the scope of the problem is the first step towards solving it,” said Rev. Eugene Cho, president and CEO of the U.S.-based Christian anti-hunger organization Bread for the World.

“Several countries, including the U.S., have acknowledged there is a problem and taken steps to address it. That is a good start. But it is not enough to get us out of the crisis. The global food and malnutrition crisis is a climate crisis, a conflict crisis, and a rising costs crisis: it demands a powerful and unified global response.”

This year’s UN appeals for emergency assistance are only just over a quarter funded, much lower than for the last global food crisis in 2008, and yet there are twice as many additional people going hungry compared to 2008 levels.

“There is nothing inevitable about children dying because they don’t have enough to eat, just as there is nothing inevitable about families in rich countries queuing for food banks,” said climate activist, Vanessa Nakate.

“There is nothing inevitable about a food system that cannot withstand shocks from climate change or conflict. There is enough food in the world for everyone.”

“During the last major global food crisis, following the 2008 economic crash, we saw world leaders coming together at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, to make bold commitments,” said David McNair, Executive Director for Policy at the One Campaign

“This year, as we live through a so-called ‘polycrisis’, the food crisis seems to be getting lost, a victim of a siloed approach to tackling the world’s problems.”

According to the campaign, action to tackle the global food crisis should focus on three key elements: saving lives, building resilience of affected communities to withstand climate and food price shocks, and securing the future by reform of the global food system to make it more sustainable and equitable.

Solutions world leaders should progress at an emergency meeting include:

    • Fully funding the UN’s $55bn humanitarian appeals and doubling climate adaptation funding for lower income countries, while also cancelling their debts and reforming the multilateral financial system to unlock vital funds.
    • Investing in the smallholder farmers, health workers and communities on the frontlines of the food crisis, including through social protection programmes.
    • Fixing the broken global food system by supporting more sustainable farming, diversifying crops, improving nutrition and access to a healthy diet, and reducing food waste.

These measures would break the cycle of crisis and could save the world billions at the same time, campaigners said.

IPS UN Bureau


UN Must Reclaim Multilateral Governance from Pretenders

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Global, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Aug 24 2023 (IPS) – International governance arrangements are in trouble. Condemned as ‘dysfunctional’ by some, multilateral agreements have been discarded or ignored by the powerful except when useful to protect their interests or provide legitimacy.

Economic multilateralism under siege
Undoubtedly, many multilateral arrangements have become less appropriate. At their heart is the United Nations (UN) system, conceived in the last year of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency and World War Two.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The 1944 UN conference at Bretton Woods sought to build the foundations for the post-war economic order. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) would create conditions for lasting growth and stability, with the World Bank financing post-war reconstruction and post-colonial development.

The Bretton Woods agreement allowed the US Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) to issue dollars, as if backed by gold. In 1971, President Richard Nixon repudiated the US’s Bretton Woods obligations. With US military and ‘soft’ power, widespread acceptance of the dollar since has effectively extended the Fed’s ‘exorbitant privilege’.

This unilateral repudiation of US commitments has been a precursor of the fate of some other multilateral arrangements. Most were US-designed, some in consultation with allies. Most key privileges of the global North – especially the US – continue, while duties and obligations are ignored if deemed inconvenient.

The International Trade Organization (ITO) was to be the third leg of the post-war multilateral economic order, later reaffirmed by the 1948 Havana Charter. Despite post-war world hegemony, the ITO was rejected by the protectionist US Congress.

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) became the compromise substitute. Recognizing the diversity of national economic capacities and capabilities, GATT did not impose a ‘one-size-fits-all’ requirement on all participants.

But lessons from such successful flexible precedents were ignored in creating the World Trade Organization (WTO) from 1995. The WTO has imposed onerous new obligations such as the all-or-nothing ‘single commitment’ requirement and the Agreement on Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Overcoming marginalization
In September 2021, the UN Secretary-General (SG) issued Our Common Agenda, with new international governance proposals. Besides its new status quo bias, the proposals fall short of what is needed in terms of both scope and ambition.

Problematically, it legitimizes and seeks to consolidate already diffuse institutional responsibilities, further weakening UN inter-governmental leadership. This would legitimize international governance infiltration by multi-stakeholder partnerships run by private business interests.

The last six decades have seen often glacially slow changes to improve UN-led gradual – mainly due to the recalcitrance of the privileged and powerful. These have changed Member State and civil society participation, with mixed effects.

Fairer institutions and arrangements – agreed to after inclusive inter-governmental negotiations – have been replaced by multi-stakeholder processes. These are typically not accountable to Member States, let alone their publics.

Such biases and other problems of ostensibly multilateral processes and practices have eroded public trust and confidence in multilateralism, especially the UN system.

Multi-stakeholder processes – involving transnational corporate interests – may expedite decision-making, even implementation. But the most authoritative study so far found little evidence of net improvements, especially for the already marginalized.

New multi-stakeholder governance – without meaningful prior approval by relevant inter-governmental bodies – undoubtedly strengthens executive authority and autonomy. But such initiatives have also undermined legitimacy and public trust, with few net gains.

All too often, new multi-stakeholder arrangements with private parties have been made without Member State approval, even if retrospectively due to exigencies.
Unsurprisingly, many in developing countries have become alienated from and suspicious of those acting in the name of multilateral institutions and processes.

Hence, many in the global South have been disinclined to cooperate with the SG’s efforts to resuscitate, reinvent and repurpose undoubtedly defunct inter-governmental institutions and processes.

Way forward?
But the SG report has also made some important proposals deserving careful consideration. It is correct in recognizing the long overdue need to reform existing governance arrangements to adapt the multilateral system to current and future needs and requirements.

This reform opportunity is now at risk due to the lack of Member State support, participation and legitimacy. Inclusive consultative processes – involving state and non-state actors – must strive for broadly acceptable pragmatic solutions. These should be adopted and implemented via inter-governmental processes.

Undoubtedly, multilateralism and the UN system have experienced growing marginalization after the first Cold War ended. The UN has been slowly, but surely superseded by NATO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), led by the G7 group of the biggest rich economies.

The UN’s second SG, Dag Hammarskjold – who had worked for the OECD’s predecessor – warned the international community, especially developing countries, of the dangers posed by the rich nations’ club. This became evident when the rich blocked and pre-empted the UN from leading on international tax cooperation.

Seeking quick fixes, ‘clever’ advisers or consultants may have persuaded the SG to embrace corporate-dominated multi-stakeholder partnerships contravening UN norms. More recent SG initiatives may suggest his frustration with the failure of that approach.

After the problematic and controversial record of such processes and events in recent years, the SG can still rise to contemporary challenges and strengthen multilateralism by changing course. By restoring the effectiveness and legitimacy of multilateralism, the UN will not only be fit, but also essential for humanity’s future.

IPS UN Bureau


USAID Offers Protection to Journalists & NGOs Facing Defamation Lawsuits

By Thalif Deen

The world’s news media — both under authoritarian regimes and democratic governments– continue to come under relentless attacks and political harassment.

“Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice. It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak truth to power. But in every corner of the world, freedom of the press is under attack,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on World Press Freedom Day May 3.

Journalists and media workers, he said, are directly targeted on and offline as they carry out their vital work. They are routinely harassed, intimidated, detained and imprisoned.

At least 67 media workers were killed in 2022 — a 50 per cent increase over the previous year. Nearly three quarters of women journalists have experienced violence online, and one in four have been threatened physically, according to the UN.

But there is also an increase in non-physical attacks, including defamation lawsuits against media organizations challenging their legitimate right to free expression.

The Washington-based US Agency for International Development (USAID) last week launched Reporters Shield, a new membership program that protects journalists around the world– who report in the public interest– from defamation lawsuits and legal threats.

Established as a U.S.-based nonprofit organization by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, Reporters Shield has been described as “a first-of-its-kind global program that defends investigative reporting around the world from legal threats meant to silence critical voices”.

USAID, which has a long history of fostering the growth of independent media across the world, plans to work with Congress to contribute up to $9 million in seed funding for this groundbreaking new program to support media outside the United States, according to a May 2 press release.

In a statement released last week, USAID said investigative journalists and civil society organizations reporting in the public interest are increasingly facing lawsuits that aim to harass and silence them by burdening them with the cost and time of a legal defense until they abandon their stories or go out of business entirely.

Reporters Shield will help to reduce these risks through training and pre-publication review, as well as funding legal representation to fight lawsuits and other legal actions meant to intimidate and financially burden reporters.

In order to keep the program sustainable, member organizations participating in Reporters Shield will pay reasonable annual fees that are based on a variation of factors, including location of the outlet and how many stories they produce a year.

“To be considered for membership in Reporters Shield, an organization must be legally registered and focus primarily in news, public interest, and/or investigative reporting; publish reporting in print and/or online; have non-profit status or transparent ownership; be independent from political, commercial, or other undue influence or interference; and have editorial independence and adhere to professional editorial standards”.

Reporters Shield is accepting applications worldwide and will be reviewing them in a phased approach, with some regions receiving benefits in the coming months, and others added later this year and in 2024.

Interested organizations can find more information and apply for membership by visiting

The development of Reporters Shield has been supported by the generous pro bono legal support of the law firms of Proskauer, Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

Mandeep S. Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations (CSOs), told IPS “these are hard times for media freedoms due to disinformation and attacks on civic space spurred by deepening authoritarianism, denigration of democracy through populism and consolidation of wealth by oligarchs”.

Uncovering serious human rights violations and high-level corruption, he pointed out, is becoming increasingly dangerous and costly for investigative journalists and civil society activists.

When few companies are ready to sign the Anti- Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) pledge and crafty politicians are busy undermining the independence of judiciaries, this initiative comes at a critical time,” he declared.

According to the Anti-SLAPP pledge by Global Citizen, an international education and advocacy organization, strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, are not a legitimate business strategy for companies.

“The private sector thrives in functioning democratic societies, where the right to freedom of expression is a respected bedrock principle and where everyone can express their views without fear of intimidation or reprisal”.

“Lawsuits and legal tactics meant to silence civil organizations and human rights defenders aren’t just bad for societies, they’re also damaging to companies. When companies stifle free expression, they limit their ability to manage risk related to their operations and global supply chains.”

As companies that are committed to operating in societies where people are able to exercise fundamental rights, said Global Citizen, “we pledge to: define Strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, as both lawsuits and legal tactics that are designed to silence critics and abridge citizens’ ability to exercise fundamental rights.”

— Refrain from engaging in SLAPPs against human rights and environmental defenders and civil society organizations that support affected rights-holders.

— Recognize the critical role that civil society organizations and human rights defenders play in creating a profitable enabling environment for the private sector.

— Encourage partners and suppliers within our value chain to refrain from engaging in SLAPPs to silence legitimate activism.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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