Transforming Food Systems through Conscious, Mindful Practices

Climate Action, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Global, Headlines, Innovation, Sustainability, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations


Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA) promotes consciousness as a key evidence-based practice to support systemic change – reframing how people think about food to unlock food systems transformation, nourishing all people, and regenerating planet Earth. Pictured here a farmer in Katfoura village on the Tristao Islands in Guinea benefits from opportunities to generate income and improve community life. Credit: UN Women/Joe Saade

Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA) promotes consciousness as a key evidence-based practice to support systemic change – reframing how people think about food to unlock food systems transformation, nourishing all people, and regenerating planet Earth. Pictured here a farmer in Katfoura village on the Tristao Islands in Guinea benefits from opportunities to generate income and improve community life. Credit: UN Women/Joe Saade

NAIROBI, Jun 12 2023 (IPS) – Deep in the Egyptian desert, the SEKEM community celebrates its first wheat crop – grown to alleviate shortages and price increases caused by the war in Ukraine, and the latest crop in a 46-year history of regenerative development, which has effectively made the desert bloom. On another continent, a consumer who buys acai collected and produced by the Yawanawá in Brazil helps protect 200,000 acres of land.

Food connects people, cultures, and planet Earth. But rather than nourishing global health and well-being, food systems remain at the heart of the global community’s social and environmental crises today.

Massive investment and efforts to transform food systems and existing policy and technical solutions are not delivering the desired impact. In the face of the global food systems crises manifested in food insecurity, unsustainable agricultural practices, and climate change, re-examining the origins of ongoing crises and barriers to transformation is critical.

Reframing How People Think About Food

Against this backdrop, the Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA) promotes consciousness as a key evidence-based practice to support systemic change. The alliance is built on the premise that reframing how people think about food is the key to unlocking food systems transformation, nourishing all people, and regenerating planet Earth.

“We know our food systems are in a critical state and sit at the core of the regeneration process this world greatly needs, and we believe this can only happen with a change of mindsets and heart-sets, with different values and worldviews,” says Thomas Legrand, CoFSA Lead Technical Advisor.

Convened by UNDP, CoFSA is a movement of food, agriculture, and consciousness practitioners united around a common goal: to support people from across food and agriculture systems to cultivate the inner capacities that activate systemic change and regeneration.

The alliance aims to leverage “the power of consciousness and inner transformation, including proven approaches such as mindfulness, compassion, systems leadership, indigenous and feminine wisdoms, to support systemic change towards sustainability and human flourishing in the food and agriculture sector.”

CoFSA Challenge Fund to Support Regenerative Food System Projects

The CoFSA Challenge Fund, which is about to be launched, intends to support the development of strategic, innovative ideas and solutions to scale up and accelerate progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the transformation of food systems, which is critical to achieving the UN’s SDGs.

The Challenge Fund focuses on cultivating inner capacities for regenerative food systems. This constitutes a new field of practice that requires testing and innovation to identify, develop and nurture potentially transformative solutions.

In this first round of calls for proposals, UNDP will support approximately four pilot projects of up to USD 20,000.

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Conscious Food System Links Supply Chain

A conscious food system is a holistic approach to the well-being of people and ecosystems, and where there is a connection and awareness between stakeholders across the whole supply chain, says Helmy Abouleish, SEKEM’s CEO. He heads the holistic, sustainable development community established in 1977 by his father, Dr Ibrahim Abouleish, in the Egyptian desert.

According to UNDP, to transform the systems that harm people and the planet and how food is produced and consumed, “We need to look beyond the problems’ symptoms and even systems’ patterns and structures, at what fundamentally drives the systems.”

Consciousness and mental models, or regenerative mindsets and cultures, are increasingly recognized as the key to unlocking systems change in food and agriculture. To this end, CoFSA applies consciousness approaches to technical solutions to support the cultivation and consideration of inner capacities based on the premise that sustainable change comes from within.

Christine Wamsler, Professor of Sustainability Science at LUND University, emphasizes that there is “increasing scientific consensus that creating sustainable, regenerative systems do not only require a change in our external worlds. Instead, it has to go hand-in-hand with a fundamental shift in our relationships — in the way we think about ourselves, each other, and life as a whole.”

Graphic representation of the Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA) concept. Credit: UNDP/CoFSA

Graphic representation of the Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA) concept. Credit: UNDP/CoFSA

Similarly, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Otto Scharmer, stresses, “You cannot change a system unless you change the mindsets or the consciousness of the people who are enacting that system.”

At the heart of it, mindful eating and activating transformation from the inside is a recognition that changing behavior is, at times, more about identity, emotions, and connections than data and analyses in the same way elections are campaigned and won against a backdrop of long-held beliefs and opinions.

Question Impact of Consumer Choices

“I think today, whatever you eat, however you dress, you need to ask yourself where they come from, what kind of impact they are giving back to the Mother Earth, cultural, economic, and spiritual environment,” says Tashka Yawanawá, Chief of the Yawanawá that has survived for centuries in the Brazilian rainforests.

Awareness of the people and processes in food and agriculture systems aligns with indigenous wisdom and is at the heart of the approach taken by the Yawanawá people. For instance, Tashka Yawanawá says: “When somebody drinks the acai collected and produced by the Yawanawá, they’re helping protect 200,000 acres of land.”

“They are also supporting the preservation of our language, our culture, our cultural and spiritual manifestation. Making that link gives value to where you source these products from … when you buy acai made by Yawanawá, you have an awareness that you’re supporting conscious food.”

UNDP stresses that farmers’ lives depend on being seen as human beings, not just economic agents, and says it is “Time to build safe, reflective and connecting spaces to engage in the deep conversations we need for right relationships to replace market rules.”

In the world of conscious thinking and mindful eating, everyone has a role.

A marker trader at a vegetable stall in the village of El-Maadi near Cairo with heaps of fresh vegetables. CoFSA aims to renew lost ties between producers, the foods they grow, cooks, and consumers. Credit: Gavin Bell/Climate Visuals

A marker trader at a vegetable stall in the village of El-Maadi near Cairo with heaps of fresh vegetables. CoFSA aims to renew lost ties between producers, the foods they grow, cooks, and consumers. Credit: Gavin Bell

Teresa Corção, founder of Instituto Maniva, a non-profit in Brazil that values ​​traditional food knowledge and renews the ties lost between producers, the foods they grow, cooks, and consumers, says chefs have a critical role in listening more to the people who grow the food.

“I think we all see now more and more we need other ways of both changing ourselves and helping others change the way they think in order for us to have the right mindsets to make choices that are more sustainable,” says Andrew Bovarnick, UNDP’s Food, and Agricultural Commodity Systems, Global Head.

CoFSA is built on bringing consciousness to food systems to support the transition to a holistic, bio-regional approach and creating productive landscapes of regeneration.

That consciousness can help restore the balance in food systems between food production, conservation, and well-being, support the uptake of agroecological practices which regenerate the soil, and strengthen the capacity of food to distribute wealth and well-being in communities.

IPS UN Bureau Report


“Defending Human Rights Is a Crime in Some Countries and a Deadly Activity in Others”

An activist in Colombia, the deadliest country in the world for human rights defenders in 2022, accounting for 186 killings – or 46% – of the global total registered last year. Credit: Sebastian Barros

By Bibbi Abruzzini and Clarisse Sih, Forus
BRUSSELS, Apr 27 2023 (IPS)

In today’s world, human rights defenders face immense challenges, with threats, attacks, and repression being rampant in many countries. According to the latest report by Front Line Defenders, killings of rights defenders increased in 2022, with a total of 401 deaths across 26 different countries. Despite the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders 25 years ago, the threats faced by defenders persist globally.

One striking example of the dire situation is in Bolivia, where violations of freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and the right to defend rights have been recorded by the Observatory of Rights Defenders of UNITAS, with the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights of Bolivia (APDHB) being a longstanding victim of attacks and delegitimization. A total of 725 violations of the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, democratic institutions and the right to defend rights have been recorded by the Observatory of Rights Defenders.

Gladys Sandova, a human rights and environmental defender in the Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve in Bolivia, reveals how the state often aligns with oil businesses instead of protecting communities. “Tariquía is the lung of Tarija,” Gladys explains, yet this vital source of water for southern Bolivia and home to over 3,000 people, is at risk due to the state-owned Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) seeking to revive oil exploration in the reserve.

“Oil companies are here, we are going to lose our natural richness, they are going to affect the lives of families, and contaminate our water and our air,” says Gladys, reflecting the urgent need to defend human rights and the environment.

Her story is similar to that of several other human rights defenders across the globe : they are victims of hostilities, interference, threats, and harassment. The campaign, ReImagina La Defensa de Derechos, by UNITAS collects the testimonies of human rights defenders and indigenous leaders across Bolivia raising awareness about the challenges they face.

Stories from human rights defenders from across the globe are also featured in the #AlternativeNarratives campaign, which seeks to amplify the voices of civil society organizations and grassroots movements that work towards social justice, human rights, and sustainable development. The campaign encourages the use of storytelling, multimedia tools, and creative expression to highlight alternative perspectives, challenge stereotypes, and advocate for positive chang while fostering a more inclusive and equitable narrative space that reflects the diversity of human experiences and promotes solidarity, empathy, and mutual understanding.

Human rights defenders, including women defenders, continue to mobilize against repressive regimes and occupying forces in countries like Afghanistan, the DRC, El Salvador, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, and Ukraine. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, highlights the underreporting of human rights violations against defenders, particularly women, and outlines “disturbing trends” in relation to civic space worldwide.

Repongac, representing over 1,200 NGOs in Central Africa, states that “human rights in Central Africa are no longer guaranteed,” with civil society actors, journalists, and defenders facing repression, prosecution, and arrests. Recent campaigns organized by Repongac in Central Africa and Repaoc in West Africa, supported by Forus and the French Development Agency, brought together diverse stakeholders, including human rights defenders, political parties, parliamentarians, journalists, and security personnel, to initiate a dialogue and protect civic space amnd fundametnal freedoms in the region.

To support activists and defenders globally, the Danish Institute for Human Rights has launched a monitoring tool that assesses whether an enabling environment for human rights defenders exists across five critical areas. Developed in collaboration with 24 institutions and organizations, including the United Nations and civil society networks, the tool not only tracks the number of killings of human rights defenders but also analyzes the presence of appropriate legislation and practices to protect defenders.

As Carol Rask, a representative of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, explains, defending human rights is a crime in some countries and a deadly activity in others. It is a call to action for change, urging individuals, organizations, and governments to prioritize and protect the crucial work of human rights defenders worldwide.

Griselda Sillerico, human rights defender in Bolivia for over 30 years, quotes Ana María Romero and says “human rights are seeds that we continue to plant and that over the years we harvest.” Griselda Sillerico’s quote echoes the enduring spirit of human rights advocacy, where the work of human rights defenders like her is a constant effort to sow the seeds of justice, equality, and dignity for all. Despite the challenges and setbacks, human rights defenders across the world continue to plant these seeds, often at great personal risk, with the hope of reaping a future where human rights are universally respected and protected.

IPS UN Bureau


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Public Development Banks Can’t Drag Their Feet When It Comes to Building a Sustainable Future

Civil Society, Climate Action, COVID-19, Democracy, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Gender, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequality, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations


Civil society organisations at the Finance in Common Summit. Credit: Noel Emmanuel Zako

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast , Oct 21 2022 (IPS) – A coalition of civil society organisations is demanding public development banks (PDBs) to take radical and innovative steps to tackle human rights violations and environmental destruction. No project funded by PDBs should come at the expenses of vulnerable groups, the environment and collective liberties, but should instead embody the voices of communities, democratic values and environmental justice.

The demands, part of a collective statement signed by more than 50 civil society organisations, come as over 450 PDBs gather in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from October 19th, for a third international summit, dubbed Finance in Common.

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate emergency, coupled with human rights violations and increasing risks for activists worldwide, is bringing the need to change current practices into even sharper focus. While public development banks may drag their feet on addressing intersecting and structural inequalities, civil society organisations are taking actions aimed at creating dignified livelihoods by embedding development with concrete affirmative measures towards climate, social, gender, and racial justice.

PDBs cannot be reluctant to act. They need to hit the target when it comes to supporting the transformation of economies and financial systems towards sustainability and addressing the most pressing needs of citizens worldwide – from food systems to increasing support for a just transition towards truly sustainable energy sources. PDBs must recognise that public services are the foundation of fair and just societies, rather than encouraging their privatisation and keep austerity narratives alive.

9 out of 10 people live in countries where civic freedoms are severely restricted, and with an environmental activist killed every two days on average over the past decade, development banks have an obligation to recognize and incorporate human rights in their plans and actions, following a “do not harm” duty.

Civil society organisations at the Finance in Common Summit. Credit: Noel Emmanuel Zako

Communities cannot be left out of the door. They need to be given the space to play the rightful role of driving forces in the answers to today’s global challenges, without them PDBs will move backwards rather than forward – and this means more environmental degradation, less democratic participation, and to put it bluntly an even greater crisis than the one we are facing today. And nobody needs that.

The recommendations in the collective civil society statement emerge from a three-year process of engagement and exchange, involving civil society networks in an effort to shape PDBs policies and projects. You can find some of their words and messages below.

As the call for accountability grows, the Finance in Common summits are an opportunity for PDBs to show moral leadership and help remedy the lack of long-term collaborations with civil society, communities and indigenous groups, threatening to curtail development narratives and practices.

Here’s the messages from civil society organisations from around the globe directed at public development banks.

Oluseyi Oyebisi, Executive Director of Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) the Nigerian national network of 3,700 NGOs said: “The Sahara and Sahel countries especially have been facing the most serious security crisis in their history linked with climate change, social justice and inequalities in the region. Marked by strong economic (lack of opportunities especially for young people), social (limitation of equitable access to basic social services) and climatic vulnerabilities, the region has some of the lowest human development indicators in the world – even before the covid pandemic. Access to affected populations is limited in some localities due to three main factors: the security situation, the poor state of infrastructures and difficult geographic conditions. PDBs must prioritise civil society organisations and Communities initiatives supporting state programs of decentralization, security sector reforms and reconciliation. This will help reduce the vulnerability of populations and prevent violent extremism.”

Mavalow Christelle Kalhoule, Forus Chair and President of Spong, the NGO network of Burkina Faso said: “Development projects shape our world; from the ways we navigate our cities to how rural landscapes are being transformed. Ultimately, they impact the ways we interact with one another, with plants and animals, with other countries and with the food on our plates. The decisions taken by public development banks are therefore existential. Such responsibility comes with an even greater one to include communities directly concerned by development projects, those whose air, water and everyday lives are affected for generations to come. For this to happen, public development banks must reinforce their long-term efforts to create dialogue with civil society organisations, social movements and indigenous communities in order to fortify the democratic principles of their work. We encourage them to listen, to ask and to cooperate in innovative ways so that development stays true to its original definition of progress and positive change; a collective, participative and fair process and a word which has a meaning not for a few, but for all.”

Tity Agbahey, Africa Regional Coordinator, Coalition for human rights in development said: “Many in civil society have expressed concerns about Finance in Common as a space run by elites, that fails to be truly inclusive. It is a space where the mainstream top-down approach to development, instead of being challenged, is further reinforced. Once again, the leaders of the public development banks gathered at this Summit will be taking decisions on key issues without listening to those most affected by their projects and the real development experts: local communities, human rights defenders, Indigenous Peoples, feminist groups, civil society. They will speak about “sustainability”, while ignoring the protests against austerity policies and rising debt. They will speak about “human rights”, while ignoring those denouncing human rights violations in the context of their projects. They will speak about “green and just transition”, while continuing to support projects that contribute to climate change.”

Comlan Julien AGBESSI, Regional Coordinator of the Network of National NGO Platforms of West Africa (REPAOC), a regional coalition of 15 national civil society platforms said: “Regardless of how they are perceived by the public authorities in the various countries, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) contribute to covering the aspects and spaces not reached or insufficiently reached by national development programmes. Despite the undeniable impact of their actions on the living conditions of populations, NGOs remain the poor cousins of donor funding, apart from the support of certain philanthropic or charitable organisations. In such a context of scarce funding opportunities, aggravated by the health crisis due to COVID-19 and the subsequent economic crisis, Pooled Finance, which is in fact a paradigm shift, appears to be a lifeline for CSOs. This is why REPAOC welcomes the commitments made by both the Public Development Banks and the Multilateral Development Banks to directly support CSO projects and programmes in the same way as they usually do with governments and the private sector. Through the partnership agreements that we hope and pray for between CSOs and banks, the latter can be assured that the actions that will be envisaged for the benefit of rural and urban communities will certainly reach them with the guarantees of accountability that their new CSO partners offer”.

Frank Vanaerschot, Director of Counter Balance, said: “As one of this year’s organisers of the Finance in Common Summit, the EIB will brag about the billions it invests in development. The truth is the bank will be pushing the EU’s own commercial interests and promoting the use of public money for development in the Global South to guarantee profits for private investors. Reducing inequalities will be second-place at best. The EIB is also co-hosting the summit despite systemic human rights violations in projects it finances from Nepal to Kenya. Instead, the EIB and other public banks should work to empower local communities by investing in the public services needed for human rights to be respected, such as publicly owned and governed healthcare and education – not on putting corporate profits above all else.”

Stephanie Amoako, Senior Policy Associate at Accountability Counsel said: “PDBs must be accountable to the communities impacted by their projects. All PDBs need to have an effective accountability mechanism to address concerns with projects and should commit to preventing and fully remediating any harm to communities”.

Jyotsna Mohan Singh, Regional Coordinator, Asia Development Alliance said: “PDBs should have a normative core; they should start with the rights framework. This means grounding all safeguards into all the various rights frameworks that already exist. There are rights instruments for indigenous people, the elderly, women, youth, and people living with disability. They are part and parcel of a whole host of both global conventions and regional conventions. Their approach should be grounded in those rights, then it will be on a very firm footing.

Asian governments need to support, implement, and apply strict environmental laws and regulations for all PDBs projects. The first step is to disseminate public information and conduct open and effective environmental impact assessments for all these projects, as well as strategic environmental assessments for infrastructure and cross-border projects.”

IPS UN Bureau


How Digital Can Drive a Green Recovery

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Education, Featured, Global, Globalisation, Headlines, Inequity, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations



UNITED NATIONS, Oct 13 2022 (IPS) – As much of the world was starting to glimpse recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it now finds itself amid a cost-of-living crisis brought on by disruptions in global energy and food markets that are the result of conflict and climate change.

This again highlights how societal and planetary imbalances reinforce each other, as well as the need for a truly inclusive and green recovery. One that is foundational for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that digital is no longer optional. Countries with existing digital foundations were much better equipped to respond to citizens’ needs, including through the effective delivery of public services such as healthcare, social security benefits, and remote education. Digital will play a similarly important role in shaping a global green recovery.

Beyond building national socioeconomic resilience, digital transformation is also proving a key enabler in advancing global climate commitments. Countries supported by UNDP are leveraging digital in innovative ways to redouble their efforts to adopt renewable energy, transition to a circular economy, and to protect biodiversity.

Ecuador is building a digital traceability system for monitoring land use change and to track commodities through the supply chain. Papua New Guinea has piloted a mobile phone application to assist law enforcers to quickly record and report environmental harms such as illegal logging and bush fires.

Riad Meddeb

Whether it’s emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) or more established digital tools like the mobile phone digital can be a fundamental driver of change. It is reshaping the dynamics between the economy, governments, businesses, and civil society and is an important tool in rebalancing our planetary, societal, and economic priorities.

However, digital is fast becoming the global metric of both inclusion and exclusion. With 37 percent of the world’s population still offline, the digital divide, notably, the lack of accessible broadband, gaps in digital skills, and marginalized groups excluded from technology, has become a key barrier for countries wanting to capitalize on the potential opportunities of the increasingly digital economy.

And digital technologies themselves could constrain a Green Recovery. The industry’s carbon footprint could account for about 14 percent of global emissions by 2040. If digital were a country, it would nearly surpass the US as the second largest contributor to climate change. And this impact may worsen, with emerging technologies also contributing to increased emissions.

Digital and a green recovery

Integrating sustainable development in digital is central to ensuring a green recovery – one that drives inclusive digital access and capacity, promotes openness and open data, and fosters innovations that increase the efficiency of digital technologies and mitigates their environmental footprint.

In this context, the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development organized its flagship event ‘Digital for a Green Recovery’ on the sidelines of the World Cities Summit in Singapore. The event highlighted three priorities for an inclusive and green digital transformation.

First, we must put people at the centre of innovation. This includes ensuring the availability of foundational digital infrastructure so that everyone can benefit. We must also ensure that the technical standards and explorations of emerging technologies are ‘human-centred’, founded on the local needs and aspirations of populations, but also ‘environment-centred’.

Second, we need to strengthen collaboration between innovation ecosystems. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires an enabling ecosystem comprising policies and regulations, investors, incubators and accelerators; and educational institutions. Digital can be a potent enabler for connecting dispersed national and global innovation ecosystems in pursuit of sustainability.

Third, data is the lifeblood of digital transformation and could be an important equalizer for countries in accelerating their efforts towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

However, a number of countries lack even foundational data infrastructure, such as data centres, communication networks, and energy grids. We need to accelerate efforts to build data capacity to ensure that existing digital divides are not widened.

Digital is an indispensable enabler for driving a green and inclusive recovery. But it is truly a ‘whole-of-society’ endeavour.

As a platform to showcase innovation, best practice, and to foster partnerships, the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Development will continue to convene global discussions, support and align innovation ecosystems around the world, and guide governments in leveraging the potential afforded by digital. Through driving the experimentation, adoption, and scaling of digital, we can shape a Green Recovery that works for both people and planet.

Riad Meddeb is Acting Director, UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development & Senior Principal Advisor for SIDS

These insights were drawn from ‘Digital for a Green Recovery’ – the Flagship Event of the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development, held on the sidelines of the World Cities Summit 2022 in Singapore.

Source: UNDP Blog

IPS UN Bureau


Healthy Planet Needs ‘Ocean Action’ from Asian and Pacific Countries

Asia-Pacific, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Headlines, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations


BANGKOK, Thailand, Jun 27 2022 (IPS) – As the Second Global Ocean Conference opens today in Lisbon, governments in Asia and the Pacific must seize the opportunity to enhance cooperation and solidarity to address a host of challenges that endanger what is a lifeline for millions of people in the region.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

If done right ocean action will also be climate action but this will require working in concert on a few fronts.

First, we must invest in and support science and technology to produce key solutions. Strengthening science-policy interfaces to bridge practitioners and policymakers contributes to a sound understanding of ocean-climate synergies, thereby enabling better policy design, an important priority of the Indonesian Presidency of the G20 process. Additionally policy support tools can assist governments in identifying and prioritizing actions through policy and SDG tracking and scenarios development.

We must also make the invisible visible through ocean data: just three of ten targets for the goal on life below water are measurable in Asia and the Pacific. Better data is the foundation of better policies and collective action. The Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP) is an innovative multi-stakeholder collective established to enable countries and other stakeholders to go beyond GDP and to measure and manage progress towards ocean sustainable development.

Solutions for low-carbon maritime transport are also a key part of the transition to decarbonization by the middle of the century. Countries in Asia and the Pacific recognized this when adopting a new Regional Action Programme last December, putting more emphasis on such concrete steps as innovative shipping technologies, cooperation on green shipping corridors and more efficient use of existing port infrastructure and facilities to make this ambition a reality.

Finally, aligning finance with our ocean, climate and broader SDG aspirations provides a crucial foundation for all of our action. Blue bonds are an attractive instrument both for governments interested in raising funds for ocean conservation and for investors interested in contributing to sustainable development in addition to obtaining a return for their investment.

These actions and others are steps towards ensuring the viability of several of the region’s key ocean-based economic sectors, such as seaborne trade, tourism and fisheries. An estimated 50 to 80 per cent of all life on Earth is found under the ocean surface. Seven of every 10 fish caught around the globe comes from Pacific waters. And we know that the oceans and coasts are also vital allies in the fight against climate change, with coastal systems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows at the frontline of climate change, absorbing carbon at rates of up to 50 times those of the same area of tropical forest.

But the health of the oceans in Asia and the Pacific is in serious decline: rampant pollution, destructive and illegal fishing practices, inadequate marine governance and continued urbanization along coastlines have destroyed 40 per cent of the coral reefs and approximately 60 per cent of the coastal mangroves, while fish stocks continue to decline and consumption patterns remain unsustainable.

These and other pressures exacerbate climate-induced ocean acidification and warming and weaken the capacity of oceans to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Global climate change is also contributing to sea-level rise, which affects coastal and island communities severely, resulting in greater disaster risk, internal displacement and international migration.

To promote concerted action, ESCAP, in collaboration with partner UN agencies, provides a regional platform in support of SDG14, aligned within the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Through four editions so far of the Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean, we also support countries in identifying and putting in place solutions and accelerated actions through regional dialogue and cooperation.

It is abundantly clear there can be no healthy planet without a healthy ocean. Our leaders meeting in Lisbon must step up efforts to protect the ocean and its precious resources and to build sustainable blue economies.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

IPS UN Bureau


Do we Really Need a World Ranking to Measure Happiness?

Aid, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Environment, Global Governance, Headlines, Inequality, Population, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations


Credit: UN Women

KATHMANDU, Nepal, Mar 29 2022 (IPS) – The 10th edition of the World Happiness Report was recently published and once again the findings raised an array of mixed emotions with many questioning the real foundations underpinning the most discussed aspect of the Report, the World Happiness Ranking,

For example, according to the ranking, Nepal appears to be the happiest place in the South Asia but is it really the case? Many experts from the country doubt about it as it was reported by The Kathmandu Post on the 22nd of March.

In the article, Dambar Chemjong, head of the Central Department of Anthropology at Tribhuvan University simply asks “What actually constitutes happiness?”

This is a complex question to answer but certainly it is fair to wonder how come each time this report gets published, it is inevitable that the richest nations, especially the Nordic ones come up on the top while the poorest and more fragile ones instead are hopelessly at the bottom.

There is no doubt that material prosperity determines a person’s quality of life and the World Happiness Report looks at GDP and life expectancy. In addition, the report also explores other factors like generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption.

These six variables, put together, are central to depict what the report calls “life evaluations” that “provide the most informative measure for international comparisons because they capture quality of life in a more complete and stable way than emotional reports based on daily experiences”.

The ranking is based on the Gallup World Poll, that asks “respondents to evaluate their current life as a whole using the mental image of a ladder, with the best possible life for them as a 10 and worst possible as a 0”.

One of the key findings is that social connections in dire times, especially if we think about what the entire world had to endure following the pandemic, do make the difference.

“Now, at a time of pandemic and war, we need such an effort more than ever. And the lesson of the World Happiness Report over the years is that social support, generosity to one another, and honesty in government are crucial for well-being” says Jeffrey Sachs, one of the major “architects” behind the entire concept of measuring happiness worldwide.

This statement further validates the need to further think more broadly about the importance these social relationships and social bonds have in developing nations.

That’s why analyzing happiness across nations should be considered as a working progress and the goal should be to better picture the complex situations on the ground in many parts of the developing world.

These are all nations that have been experiencing hardships consistently, even before the Covid pandemic outbreak and, therefore, they should be acknowledged for having developed unique forms of social bonds and solidarity.

Instead, these social factors, these connectors and the levels of reliance stemming from them in these “unhappy” nations”, are overshadowed by some of the variables determining the life evaluations.

People in developing nations have less access to public services and they are more exposed to corruption and bad governance. Lack of health infrastructures or unequal job market do have a strong incidence in determining a person’s human development and quality of life.

Yet does the fact that their lives are tougher automatically means people are there are unhappy?

Moreover, should not we consider the stress and mental health often affecting the “prosperous” lives of the citizens living in the north of the world?

Probably the problem is the idea of having a ranking itself. Though desirable and useful, measuring real happiness is a daunting and complex job.

Trust, benevolence, real generosity (not just the extrapolated, like in the report, based on donations during the last month) are all key determinants of happiness.

Yet these same factors have always been strong in developing societies where people rely on mutuality and self-help rather than depending on governments unable to fulfill their duties.

As it is now, the World Happiness Ranking risks to become just a “plus” version of the Human Development Index.

There is still a long way to better decipher and understand the meaning of happiness in the so called South of the World.

There is also a great need for the authors to better explain in simpler terms their methodology of calculating the ranking especially the relationships between the six key variables analyzed and positive and negative emotions that are also taken into consideration.

The fact that the ranking and the science behind the report is still a working process, it is recognized in the report itself.

An option would be to re-consider the variables of “life evaluations” that, by default, underscore the concept of wellbeing from a western perspective.

On the positive side, it is encouraging to see how the report includes also a part on “cross-Cultural Perspectives on Balance/Harmony”, central if we want to have a less westernized approach to happiness.

The 2022 edition of the Report devotes also considerable space to the biological basis of happiness, the relationships between genes and environment, what the report calls “Gene-Environment Interplay”.

Such nexus, affecting a person’s feelings and emotions and all the intricacies coming from these interactions, should make us reflect if it is really worthy to continue pursuing the goal of having an annual global ranking on happiness.

The idea of a ranking on happiness risks defeating the purpose of the gigantic and noble effort of better understanding how we can be happier and how public policies can have a role or not in these unfolding dynamics.

Simone Galimberti is Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. Opinions expressed are personal.

IPS UN Bureau