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


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


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


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


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 ( – 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


IPCI 2024: Technology as a Tool to Advance and Threaten Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Population, Sustainability, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health


The benefits and challenges of technology in SRHR were a key topics at the International Parliamentarians' Conference on Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action 2024, in Oslo, Norway. Credit: Petter Berntsen / NTB Kommunikasjon

The benefits and challenges of technology in SRHR were a key topics at the International Parliamentarians’ Conference on Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action 2024, in Oslo, Norway. Credit: Petter Berntsen / NTB Kommunikasjon

OSLO, Apr 12 2024 (IPS) – Technology emerged as a core theme of IPCI Oslo for its relevance in advancing the objectives of the Cairo Programme of Action.

When channeled for good, it is an effective tool that can fill accessibility gaps in the health sector and spread awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights. Yet, the way in which digital technology has been weaponized against SRHR is of great concern for parliamentarians, especially for women.

In a plenary meeting on Thursday, April 11, 2024, parliamentarians shared their countries’ experiences of employing technology to enhance sexual and reproductive health practices (SRHR), while also cautioning its misuse as a tool to propagate misinformation and disinformation about SRHR and to enact online harassment, among other offenses. Information and communications technology was seen to be used often to raise awareness of reproductive and sexual health or to facilitate access to services.

Telemedicine is one example of the way that technology is used to enhance access to reproductive health services. Countries like Tanzania and Ireland saw an increased reliance on telemedicine and digital technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person appointments were not an option, along with an increased use of digital family planning apps that have allowed young women to make informed decisions.

It was acknowledged that uneven access to technology is a sign of and can result in inequalities in this sector, which can, as Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, a member of parliament from Uganda, remarked, hinder progress in the ICPD. Within the healthcare sector, this is evident in the skills and training of healthcare workers in urban areas versus rural areas. Rural areas already face the issue of fewer options for sexual and reproductive health services and fewer opportunities to develop digital skills, so this digital divide is further indicative of inequality.

Parliamentarians may find it challenging to uphold SRHR in the first place when vocal opponents of these rights are driving online discourse. Women in politics who advocate for these rights are often targets of harassment. Annie Hoey of Ireland’s Seanad Eirann Party recounted her own experience of harassment. She noted in such cases that not only was the politician attacked on an individual level, but the social issue would be attacked as well, and any person involved by association would face harassment online.

The impact of this on SRHR is that women in politics are threatened or prevented from doing their job. Developments in SRHR policies are drafted by women parliamentarians, often based on lived experiences, and women in politics have a public platform through which they can raise awareness on the issues. But if they are driven away from public life out of fear for their safety, the issues may not get picked up again. At the parliamentarian level, there would be no one to advocate for these rights to be enshrined.

Neema Lugangira, MP, Tanzania, said that this form of technology-facilitated gender-based violence on women in politics can cause them to retreat from online spaces, a form of “self-censorship,” which can “shrink democracy.”

“To get more women in politics, we need to be online,” she said. “If we want to truly take advantage of the paths to technology, which will impact more young women and girls who are mostly marginalized, we have to make these online spaces safe. Because how are we going to access the information if the online space is not safe?”

This also ties back to the concept of bodily autonomy and the right to live safely in one’s body. “If there are threats of violence online that can then become in-person, that is, I think, an impact on our sexual and reproductive health because we can’t live as fully,” Hoey told IPS.

She explained that she knew of women politicians who got abortions and had to be private about this in fear of facing judgement and scrutiny from critics online.

“All of this online discourse of demonizing women, demonizing women in politics… means that other elements of our lives are under threat. People should be able to access abortions whether they want to or not, whether they are women parliamentarians or not. This online discourse creates a lack of safety for women to do that.”

This is just one example of technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TF-GBV), where online harassment leads to a fear of safety for one’s life and even risks reducing women’s public presence.

UNFPA defines this as an act of violence committed using digital media and communications technologies against a person on the basis of their gender. Other examples also fall into the category of cybercrimes, such as cyberstalking, doxxing, and revenge porn.

What the discussions revealed was that there remained gaps at the legislative level to address violence against women in online spaces, especially for women in politics. Gender inequality in politics persisted within communities that perpetuated gender inequality on a societal level. When it came to how technology factored into this, it was identified that this would develop at a faster rate than legislation could keep up to address it. Nevertheless, it was important to revisit the legislation and ensure that it could protect all vulnerable communities.

“As parliamentarians, we are perfectly poised, perfectly placed, to ensure this legislation is in place,” Alando Terrelonge, MP, Jamaica, said as the session reached its conclusion. “We have a duty of care to ourselves, as well as a duty of care to women, children, and other vulnerable groups, to ensure that appropriate legislation is in place all over the world and is enacted.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


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.

[embedded content]

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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