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Global growth will be weak in 2023 before rebounding next year: IMF

The IMF estimates growth at 2.9 per cent this year, falling from 3.4 per cent in 2022 and reaching 3.1 per cent in 2024. 

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This represents a slight adjustment, 0.2 percentage points, from its World Economic Outlook (WEO)  forecast in October.  

Possible ‘turning point’ 

“Growth will remain weak by historical standards, as the fight against inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine weigh on activity,” said Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the Fund’s Chief Economist, in projections published on Monday. 

He added that this outlook “could represent a turning point, with growth bottoming out and inflation declining.” 

Resilience and improvement 

Economic growth proved surprisingly resilient in the third quarter of 2022, the IMF said. 

The period was characterized by strong labour markets, robust household consumption and business investment, as well as better-than-expected adaptation to the energy crisis in Europe. 

Inflation also improved, though core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, has yet to peak in many countries. 

Relief for developing economies 

China’s re-opening paves the path for a rapid rebound in activity, while global financial conditions have improved as inflation pressures reduce. 

“This, and a weakening of the US dollar from its November high, provided some modest relief to emerging and developing countries,” said Mr. Gourinchas. 

The slowdown will be more pronounced for their wealthier counterparts, as nine out of 10 advanced economies are likely to decelerate.  

These countries should see a decline from 2.7 per cent last year to 1.2 per cent this year, and 1.4 per cent in 2024. 

China and India wil be the major engines of growth this year.
IMF

China and India wil be the major engines of growth this year.

Interest-rate impacts 

In the United States, growth will slow to 1.4 per cent in 2023 due to the impact of Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes on the economy. 

Conditions in the Eurozone are more challenging despite signs of resilience to the energy crisis, a mild winter and generous fiscal support. 

“With the European Central Bank tightening monetary policy, and a negative terms-of-trade shock – due to the increase in the price of its imported energy – we expect growth to bottom out at 0.7 per cent this year,” said Mr. Gourinchas. 

Meanwhile, emerging market and developing markets are expected to see a modest rise in growth as they have already “bottomed out”, going from 4.0 per cent this year to 4.2 per cent in 2024. 

China should see growth rebounding to 5.2 per cent this year, now the economy has re-opened following COVID-19 outbreaks and central government restrictions. 

The country, together with India, will account for half of global growth this year, compared to just a tenth for the US and Euro area combined. 

Global growth is projected to fall from an estimated 3.4% in 2022 to 2.9% in 2023, before rising to 3.1% in 2024. Watch IMF Chief Economist @pogourinchas summarize the key findings of our latest World Economic Outlook Update: https://t.co/4ifKc9qi4j #WEO https://t.co/HOCfdAl2mz

Eight trends that will impact children in 2023

The war in Ukraine, has resulted in high food and energy prices, global hunger, and inflation – just one example of the way that crises, affecting millions around the world, including children, affect each other.

The report, “Prospects for Children in 2023: A Global Outlook”, also looks at a range of other significant areas, from the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the fragmentation of the internet, and the climate emergency. Here are eight insights contained within the study.

1) The pandemic casts a long shadow, but health breakthroughs offer hope

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for strong global health security and many countries remain at risk. Unfortunately, it is children who are so often the most vulnerable – if not to the virus itself, then to its many impacts.

At the same time, the pandemic has spurred remarkable progress in vaccine development and reforms in global health systems and, in 2023, it is essential the world continues to strengthen health architecture around the world.

A child received a vaccine from a Department of Health worker in Ghwairan neighbouhood, Hasakeh city, northeast Syria, on 26 Oct 2022.
© UNICEF/Delil Souleiman

A child receives a vaccine in Hasakeh City, Syria (file)

2) Efforts at taming inflation have unintended impact on child poverty

Soaring inflation has been the economic story of the year and, unsurprisingly, its impacts can weigh heavily on families and children. Attempts to tame price rises can also have harsh consequences, like slowing economic growth and reducing job opportunities – particularly for young people.

Government action to expand and protect social benefits, cushion the most vulnerable from the impacts of economic austerity. 

3) Food and nutrition insecurity is set to continue 

Food insecurity has been rising as a result of extreme weather events, bottlenecks in key supply chains, and conflicts like the war in Ukraine.

As prices go up, families across the world find it tougher to feed their children – and that’s likely to continue in 2023.

Making the world’s food systems more resilient, is one way to mitigate this issue.

On a misty morning, the Manabovo river is completely dry, the inhabitants are gathering on its bed to dig holes in the hope to find water.
© UNICEF/Safidy Andrianantenain

A girl crosses a bridge over a dried up river (file)

4) Energy crises cause immediate harm, but a focus on sustainability means a greener future

For billions of people, rising energy prices are sharply increasing the cost of living, and the outlook for 2023 is uncertain.

That outlook has spurred an even greater focus on transitioning to clean and sustainable energy sources, with the potential to create new jobs for young people.

However, many of them don’t feel prepared for these new careers, so preparing young job seekers with training opportunities, needs to be a critical part of any green energy agenda.

5) Focus on climate finance, debt relief for developing countries

Developing countries face multiple challenges as they attempt to recover from the pandemic, address the climate crisis, and deal with economic stress, but financial support for these countries is not increasing to meet their escalating needs.

Without reforms to unlock additional development finance, resources will be spread increasingly thin and urgent needs will be left unmet – and that’s bad news for children.

A little boy on a children's bicycle on the territory of temporary shelters in Lviv, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov

Temporary shelter for Ukrainian refugees in Lviv (file)

6) Democracy under threat, social movements push back

Democracy has been increasingly imperilled in recent years, and it will continue to be challenged in 2023. Political instability can lead to positive social change, but it can also leave the door open for authoritarian leaders.

In 2023, it is likely that young people will play an even more prominent role in social movements, whether in climate action, mental health, education, or gender equality. Their advocacy will be powerful and will contribute to momentum for change.

7) Increased antagonism complicates efforts to help children

In an atmosphere of increasing factionalism, multilateralism becomes more difficult: the number of children in need is currently at its highest level since World War Two, and an antagonistic world is unlikely to lead to positive outcomes for children.

Improved international cooperation is needed for multilateral organizations to be able to address challenges facing children; there are still opportunities to set tensions aside, find common ground and prioritize the well-being of children.

8) The internet becomes less open, and more fragmented

Technological, commercial and political factors, are fragmenting the web into isolated islands of connectivity and governance.

Children are particularly affected since they rely heavily on the internet for their education and social interactions. In 2023, we are likely to see efforts to promote a free, inclusive, and secure web, and all opportunities to create a digital future that benefits children must be seized.

Read the full report here.

Global growth forecast to slow to 1.9% in 2023, warn UN economists

This will be one of the lowest growth rates in recent decades, apart from during the 2007-8 financial crisis and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“In most countries we expect that private consumption and investment will weaken due to inflation and higher interest rates”, said Ingo Pitterle, Senior Economist at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). “Several countries will see a mild recession before growth is forecast to pick up in the second half of this year and into 2024”.

The findings come amid the backdrop of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and resulting food and energy crises, surging inflation, debt tightening, as well as the climate emergency. 

In the near term, the economic outlook is gloomy and uncertain with global growth forecast to moderately pick up to 2.7 per cent in 2024.

However, this is highly dependent on the pace and sequence of further monetary tightening – rising interest rates – the consequences of the war in Ukraine, and the possibility of further supply-chain disruptions.

Stronger fiscal measures needed 

The report warns that the findings also threaten the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This is not the time for short-term thinking or knee-jerk fiscal austerity that exacerbates inequality, increases suffering and could put the SDGs farther out of reach. These unprecedented times demand unprecedented action,” said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General. 

“This action includes a transformative SDG stimulus package, generated through the collective and concerted efforts of all stakeholders,” he added.

Slow growth, high inflation and mounting debt burdens are threatening hard-won gains in achieving the Globa lGoals.
© UNDESA

Slow growth, high inflation and mounting debt burdens are threatening hard-won gains in achieving the Globa lGoals.

Gloomy economic outlook 

Both developed and developing countries are threatened with the prospects of recession during this year, according to the report.

Growth momentum significantly weakened in the United States, the European Union and other developed economies in 2022. This adversely impacted the rest of the global economy in multiple ways.

Tightening global financial conditions coupled with a strong dollar, exacerbated fiscal and debt vulnerabilities in developing countries. 

The analysis found that over 85 per cent of central banks worldwide tightened monetary policy and raised interest rates in quick succession since late 2021, to tame inflationary pressures and avoid a recession. 

Global inflation which reached a multi-decade high of about 9 per cent in 2022, is projected to ease but remain elevated at 6.5 per cent in 2023.

Weaker job recovery, rising poverty

The report found that most developing countries saw a slower job recovery in 2022 and continue to face relatively high levels of unemployment. 

Disproportionate losses in women’s employment during the initial phase of the pandemic have not been fully reversed, with improvements mainly arising from a recovery in the informal sector.

Slower growth, coupled with elevated inflation and mounting debt vulnerabilities, threatens to further set back hard-won achievements in sustainable development, it warns.

Women who are part of a female farming cooperative, supported by UNICEF and other UN agencies, tend to their crops in Chipata, Zambia.
© UNICEF/Karin Schermbrucker

Women who are part of a female farming cooperative, supported by UNICEF and other UN agencies, tend to their crops in Chipata, Zambia.

Needs soaring

DESA points out that already in 2022, the number of people facing acute food insecurity had more than doubled compared to 2019, reaching almost 350 million

A prolonged period of economic weakness and slow income growth would not only hamper poverty eradication, but also constrain countries’ ability to invest in the SDGs more broadly, it states.

“The global community needs to step up joint efforts to avert human suffering and support an inclusive and sustainable future for all,” said Li Junhua, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for DESA.

International cooperation key

The report calls for governments to avoid fiscal austerity, which would stifle growth and disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups, as well as hinder progress in gender equality and development prospects, for generations.

It calls for reallocation and reprioritization in public spending policy, through direct interventions that will create jobs and reinvigorate growth. 

This will require strengthening social protection systems and ensuring continued support through targeted and temporary subsidies, cash transfers, and discounts on utility bills, and can be complemented with reductions in consumption taxes or customs duties, it states.

Investing in people

The report points to strategic public investments in education, health, digital infrastructure, new technologies and climate change mitigation and adaptation to achieve large social returns, accelerate productivity growth, and strengthen resilience to economic, social and environmental shocks.

It estimates that additional SDG financing needs in developing countries, amount to several trillion dollars per year. 

Urgent stronger international commitment is urgently needed to expand access to emergency financial assistance; restructure and reduce debt burdens across developing countries; and scale up SDG financing, the report warns.

Based on estimates and forecasts produced with the World Economic Forecasting Model.
© UNDESA

Based on estimates and forecasts produced with the World Economic Forecasting Model.

The latest #WorldEconomyReport by UN DESA predicts global growth to slow sharply to 1.9% in 2023, from 3% in 2022.

Slow growth, high inflation and mounting debt burdens are threatening hard-won gains in achieving the #GlobalGoals.

Learn more at https://t.co/bILU4w7Gbi https://t.co/kEmDbk1gyb

Candlenuts, chilli and chickens: Transforming Indonesia’s rural economy

Wilfridus Ngala, the mayor of Inegena, a village nestled amidst the central hills of Ngada district, on Flores Island, had a vision – to turn his community of 1,100 people, most of them subsistence farmers, into an agricultural powerhouse with its own food processing industry and exports.

Mayor Ngala’s idea might sound far-fetched but, a year after Inegena was chosen to as a recipient of support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD, a UN agency) and Indonesia’s Ministry of Villages, Development of Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration, there are many clear signs of progress in his community, with crops and vegetables grown in formerly barren lands, and chickens clucking along the formerly tranquil village roads.

“Our village now has a future, and many young people have decided to stay and participate in the new agriculture projects,” says Viktorinus Roja, who learned how to farm chickens last year, and has been elected the head of the village enterprise association. “A year ago, I was thinking of moving on to find work in a city. But I’ve decided to give Mayor Ngala a chance.”

Wilfridus Ngala (front right), Mayor of Inegena village, helps his community harvest chilli.
M. Gaspar / UNIC Jakarta

Building long-term economic success

Inegena is one of 1,110 Indonesian villages supported through IFAD’s Integrated Village Economic Transformation Programme (TEKAD), which is funded jointly by the UN agency and the Indonesian government. In Ngada district, 20 communities are benefiting from TEKAD experts, who help villagers design business plans and long-term development strategies, and to submit funding applications to the 68 billion Indonesian Rupiah ($4.3 billion) national Village Fund, managed by the Ministry of Villages. The funding mostly comes in the form of a loan, which the government and the villages will need to pay back from the proceeds of the increased economic activity.

“Many times in rural Indonesia, money is not the issue. Insightful planning to build the basis for long-term economic success is,” says Harlina Sulistroyini, General Director of Economic Development and Investment at the Ministry of Villages. “Places like Inegena are proof of what small funding and big ideas can achieve jointly.”

The key, Ms. Sulistroyini adds, is for communities to focus on a single product where they have economic and market advantage. In the case of Inegena, the main commodity, and future cash-crop, is candlenuts which are used as a raw material in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

With TEKAD support, the villagers drew up a business plan to improve the harvesting and start local processing of candlenuts. Until recently, each farmer harvested the nuts, cleaned them manually and took them to the local market, but they now band together to fetch better deals from buyers. Equally importantly, villagers no longer need to make the one-hour journey to town and spend hours selling their produce – the buyers now come to the village.

The next step involves the purchase, with support from the ministry, of a machine to replace the manual labour now required to peel the nuts, and funding for a machine to extract the nut’s oil, Ms. Sulistroyini says.

Villagers in Inegena, Eastern Indonesia, manually processing candlenuts.
M. Gaspar / UNIC Jakarta

Increasing production, finding markets

By selling the oil rather than the nuts, the village will be able to keep more of the revenues from the candlenut value chain. “We want to support villages with the vision and the potential,” she adds. “Inegena is a small village but one day it will go international – as long as they keep the focus.”

The villagers plan to have the oil extraction machine in place by late 2023, allowing them to process candlenuts harvested in neighbouring villages. “We are planning to become a local centre”, says Mayor Ngala.

While the village’s economic transformation plan focuses on candlenuts, there are other products where locals see potential: they used Rp152 million ($9,600) from the Village Fund to increase the cultivated area of the village by 50 per cent; fields formerly filled with shrubs have been converted into horticulture plantations, and most of the chilli, eggplants, and cabbage grown is sold at the local market.

Local farmer Bonevasius Redo has already managed to extend his bamboo house with the additional income he has earned during the last growing season. Thanks to the new opportunities at home, he was able to move back to Inegana, after many years working on an oil palm plantation on Borneo. He now earns around five million Rupiahs a month ($320), compared to just three million ($190) at the plantation. “We can now lead a life here by growing vegetables and chilli,” he says.

Villagers in Inegena village, Eastern Indonesia, gather monthly to discuss implementation of their village’s economic transformation plan.
M. Gaspar / UNIC Jakarta

Chickens and food security

The aim of the chicken scheme, which convinced Mr. Roja not to move to the city, is primarily to improve food security and nutrition by providing a stable protein intake to the community – as well as income from selling the surplus. There are now 2,400 chickens in the village, up from a few hundred two years ago.

The goal of TEKAD is to provide support in economic transformation to interested villages in the five poorest provinces in Indonesia, including East Nusa Tenggara, where Inegena is located. By hiring and training local facilitators to work with the villagers, the programme ensures that there is buy-in from communities towards long-term planning.

“In order to create the foundations for development that is sustainable, villages need to spend money on projects that will have long lasting economic benefits, rather than simply spending the Village Fund’s money each year on ad hoc initiatives,” says Anissa Pratiwi, Country Programme Officer at IFAD’s Jakarta office. “This fundamental change in approach requires learning and capacity building at the village level.”

The change is sorely needed, as presently only 10 per cent of the Village Fund is used to support rural economic development. TEKAD helps to change that by increasing technical skills and the market information available to villages, along with guidance and oversight in planning and implementation of projects. The villages it works in have a combined population of over 1.6 million – making it one of the UN projects with the largest reach in Indonesia.

“We are using TEKAD not only to help the participating villages develop but to also show other communities in these regions an example for long-term, sustainable economic development,” says Ms. Sulistroyini.

In drought-stricken Cabo Verde, UN chief finds hope for creating sustainable oasis

For hours, António Guterres’ car had moved along a sinuous road, which opened against an arid landscape, but then one last curve, and a few hundred feet up a hill, the view outside his window bursts into myriad shades of green, as small terraces supported by stone walls filled with banana trees, palms and sugar cane, came into view, with silvery water streams flickering in the distance.   

The lush Paúl Valley can be found in the mountainous island of Santo Antão, the westernmost island of Cabo Verde, and represents an oasis in an archipelago where only 10 per cent of the land is arable. Of that already small area, close to 18 per cent was lost between the years 2000 and 2020.   

As Mr. Guterres visited one of the terraces, on the second day of his visit to the country, he was welcomed by a group of farmers. With them, an expert from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Katya Neves, explained that they were in the middle of an experimental garden, where men and women are trying out new plant varieties and learning about sustainable techniques.  

Santo Antão, one of the greenest and most mountainous islands of Cape Verde, is host to several UN system climate resilience and sustainable development projects.
UN NEws/Mark Garten

Muitos Parabéns,” or “great work”, the Secretary-General congratulated the group in Portuguese, pointing to a colorful table overflowing with coffee beans, cabbage, tomatoes, yams, cassava and other products. The locally grown bounty is a rarity in a country that needs to import 80 per cent of the food it needs to feed its population.  

The UN chief was told how some of the plants growing in the garden are a new type of cassava, that experts are hoping will prove to be more resilient to the drought that has affected the country for the last five years. He also heard about how the farmers have learned new ways to irrigate or fertilize their land.  

The initiative is benefiting around 285 farmers and is part of a large number of projects led by UN agencies and other partners that hope to transform agriculture in the country to feed more people and be more sustainable for the planet as a whole. 

Assistant Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Katya Neves, helps bolster sustainable development on Santo Antão, Cape Verde.
UN Photo/Mark Garten

  Managing water amidst drought  

‘Gota a gota’ is one of the initiatives, and it has been making drip irrigation more accessible to hundreds of farmers. “Only 3,000 hectares spread across the 10 islands are irrigated, but studies show that this number could increase to 5,000,” explained Mrs. Neves, Assistant Representative at FAO. 

Angela Silva, who lives nearby, also met the Secretary-General. She is one of the beneficiaries that hopes to start installing the drip system soon.   

“I was born in a family of farmers, my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents. But until I got separated from my husband he took care of the land,” she explained.  

Two years ago, the full-time teacher decided to start working the plots of land she had inherited.  

“I’m still learning, but I want to learn more and be able to turn this into a way to earn money,” she said. “My dream is to transform it into a forest of food, that can be enjoyed by my kids and grandkids.”  

Her land was mostly taken over by sugar cane production, a crop that is not very profitable or sustainable, so she has started to replace it with banana and papaya trees and a variety of other vegetables. This was one of the lessons she learned in a training course supported by the UN.  

UN supported projects include drip irrigation in drought-stricken areas, like this one in Casa do Meio, municipality of Porto Novo, on the island of Santo Antão.
UN Photo/Mark Garten

With the new irrigation system, she hopes to avoid some of the worst consequences of the drought and make better use of the water during an average year. Studies show that, even when it rains in Cabo Verde, approximately 20 per cent of the water is lost through surface runoff, 13 per cent infiltrates, while 67 per cent evaporates.   

This is one of the challenges for Dairson da Cruz Duarte, the young local farmer that brought the coffee that surprised the Secretary-General – he didn’t know the island produced it.   

Pointing towards the bottom of the valley, near a creek filled with yams, the farmer explained that the beans are grown all the way up in Santa Isabel, a locality at the top of the highest mountain the eye can see, a ragged edge where the green of the land meets the blue of the sky.  

You can only access this 100-person town on foot, and all agriculture is rainfed. That has made the last five years of drought especially hard on the population.  

When the rains stopped, the young people were the first to leave.   

“I don’t know if 10 young people live there right now,” Mr. Cruz Duarte explained. “The other ones all left for other places, because of the lack of jobs, rain, drought. Sometimes, even if you have livestock, you don’t have enough forage to feed them. There is no other livelihood, so they left to look for a better life.”  

A UN system climate resilience project in Cape Verde's mountainous island of Santo Antão.
UN Photo/Mark Garten

Spike in food insecurity  

After years of unrelenting drought, the production was zero for the farming season of 2021-2022. By then, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and socio-economic fallout from the war in Ukraine had all combined to create a perfect storm for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and the Cabo Verde Government was forced to make a difficult decision. In June of last year, the executive authorities declared a social and economic national emergency.   

Until very recently, the archipelago, which sits in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa, could have been considered a champion in poverty reduction efforts among Sub-Saharan countries. Estimates from the World Bank show that poverty rates declined by six percentage points between 2015 and 2019, from 41 per cent to 35 per cent.  

But by last June, the number of people affected by food insecurity was set to spike, according to data from UN World Food Programme (WFP). More than 46,000 women, men and children – almost 10 per cent of the overall population of Cabo Verde – were facing an acute deterioration in food security between June and August.   

This represents a threat to the country’s hard-won development gains in recent years. Cabo Verde has committed to eliminating extreme poverty until 2026, and on Saturday, the Prime Minister of the country reassured the Secretary-General that the country is sticking to that goal. But, he admitted, the last few years have made it much more difficult.  

Echoing that sentiment, the Secretary-General said at the same event: “I know that for Cabo Verde – just like other Small Island Developing States – which are a priority in the partnership and action of the United Nations – faces major challenges, such as the consequences of the pandemic and, above all, the increase in the cost of living, which always has a devastating impact on the population.”

The UN chief added, that “sea level rise and biodiversity and ecosystem loss pose existential threats to this archipelago, like to many other archipelagos.”

Katya Neves, the expert from FAO, tells UN News that last year’s crisis has given a new sense of urgency to the efforts by the UN and its agencies. “We can achieve these goals, and we can do this by improving the way agriculture is done.”  

Back in the valley, Mr. Cruz Duarte is also not giving up. Even after seeing most of his friends leave his little town, he did the opposite – after years in a neighboring island, São Vicente, the farmer returned to work the land of his ancestors. “Agriculture is my calling,” he says.   

He has two kids, who had to stay on the other island, because the remote locality closed its school a few years, but he’s been able to provide for them since then. He’s proud to list all the crops he grows – sweet potatoes, beans, pumpkins, the coffee that is sold in other islands for a high price – and how they change with the seasons. “I now know how to do it. I can keep it up,” he says.  

That is no easy task in these islands. But even after a successful crop, there is still a long road ahead.   

From farm to school cafeteria   

For Amilcar Vera Cruz, “the biggest difficulty is to sell it,” he says of the crops se grows.  

Sara Estrela, a Sustainable Development Assistant at the UN Development Programme (UNDP), explains that, historically, farmers are not usually organized in associations or cooperatives in Cabo Verde.   

“With the rule being subsistence farming or small family businesses, it becomes hard when the moment to sell for a fair price comes,” she said.   

One of the projects the UN system has supported is the formation of an Association of Producers in this valley. The agencies have also supported the construction of two commercial warehouses where the crops can be gathered, washed and prepared for sale.  

For Mrs. Estrela, the “bigger goal is targeting the whole sector and trying to organize the whole chain, from putting the seed on the floor to putting the food on the plate.”  

“We are empowering the producers with knowledge and equipment,” she added.  

Mr. Vera Cruz has received this support and, after decades of struggling with the sale of his crops, he hopes “the association is a way to open new horizons in terms of markets.”  

“We have other difficulties, but that’s what has delayed the agricultural development, the selling of the products, the changes in prices. Sometimes you don’t make enough to cover the production costs,” he said.   

The farmer has thought about this day for a long time. He has big dreams, that see his produce travelling well beyond the big town on the island, Porto Novo, to far countries, when the word about the quality of these products gets out. A combination of government and UN sponsored projects, he says, might help turn this into a reality.  

For many years after the country’s independence, in 1975, WFP was responsible for the meals for all students in Cabo Verde. But the country graduated out of the UN’s Least Developed Country category to a lower middle-income country in 2007 and, a few years later, the government took over that task. One of the decisions it made was that 25 per cent of all food in schools used should be bought locally.   

With that decision came the first big test for the recently formed Association of Producers of Vale do Paúl. For the whole school year of 2021-2022, these producers sold all the bananas that were consumed in the schools of the islands of Santo Antão and São Vicente. The initiative reached 20,000 students.  

Now, the association is gearing up and, later this month, will hold its first assembly. Later in March, a final test will arrive.   

The food grown by these farmers, the same as the Secretary-General tried today, will be washed and packaged in the new warehouses, loaded into boats, and eventually reach children in all islands. In just a few weeks, the oasis of Paúl will help feed around 90,000 students, almost 20 per cent of the country’s population.   

Around 2 million facing food insecurity across Lebanon

Lebanon’s first ever Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Food Insecurity Analysis predicts that the situation will deteriorate between January and April this year, with 2.26 million people – 1.46 million Lebanese residents and around 800,000 refugees – expected to be in the “crisis” phase or worse, needing urgent assistance.

The results of the analysis were officially launched by Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in Lebanon, Nora Ourabah Haddad, and World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in Lebanon, Abdallah Al Wardat.

UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon Imran Riza and other stakeholders who took part in the process, were also at the launch.

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Record level of need

A three-year economic crisis which has seen the currency depreciate heavily, protective food subsidies lifted, and living costs rise dramatically, is preventing families from accessing enough food and other basic needs each day.

“More people than ever before in Lebanon are now dependent on assistance,” said WFP’s Abdallah Al Alwardat. “These findings are deeply troubling and reflect the dire situation that many people in Lebanon are currently facing.”

According to FAO’s Nora Ourabah Haddad, “The IPC results give us a bleak picture of the food security in country.  They reconfirm the urgent need to transform the country’s agrifood systems to make them more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient, and more sustainable”.

Integrated approach

She said the study provided an opportunity to highlight the importance of national and international stakeholders coming together, “to provide sustainable support to people most in need through combining humanitarian and development interventions, in an integrated approach.”

The study, conducted by 55 national experts in September, revealed that the district of Akkar has the highest level of acute food insecurity among Lebanese residents, followed by Baabda, Baalbek, and Tripoli.

Among Syrian refugees, Zahle district registers the highest level of acute food insecurity, followed by Baalbek and Akkar. 

The classification of food insecurity and malnutrition was conducted using the established IPC protocols, which are developed and implemented worldwide by the IPC Global Partnership.

The Minister of Agriculture in the caretaker government, Dr. Abbas Hajj Hassan, said that the launch provided and opportunity “to discuss together solutions that keep pace with the crises that Lebanon suffers from, in light of the social and economic crises.

‘Realistic vision’ needed

“The aim has always been to create a joint realistic vision for the Lebanese society on the economic and social levels, linking to food security and in order to ensure that it is not compromised, while also ensuring the ability of the Lebanese citizen to secure their daily needs.”

In their press release on the launch, the two UN agencies said that as they expand assistance across Lebanon, “people’s needs also continue to grow due to ongoing local and global crises. These challenges are pushing more people into food insecurity, making it increasingly difficult for them to access adequate food and nutrition.

“We are grateful for the commitment of our donors and call on additional support from the international community to help address this critical situation. Without urgent action, the consequences for the health and well-being of these vulnerable populations will be severe.”

🔴 NEWS RELEASE:

#Lebanon’s food insecurity situation is expected to deteriorate further in the coming months according to the country’s first #IPC classification.

Urgent actions are required to support people most in need.

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Economic slowdown may force workers into ‘lower quality’ jobs

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), global employment is set to grow by just one per cent in 2023, which is less than half last year’s level.

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The number of people unemployed around the world is also expected to rise slightly, to 208 million.

This corresponds to a global unemployment rate of 5.8 per cent – or 16 million people – according to ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends report.

Lower pay, fewer hours

The UN report warns that today’s economic slowdown “means that many workers will have to accept lower quality jobs, often at very low pay, sometimes with insufficient hours”.

This is likely already the case in Europe and other developed countries, thanks to the Ukraine war and the continued disruption of global supply chains, both of which are counteracting the robust stimulus packages implemented to ride out the COVID-19 crisis.

“Real wages we project for 2022 to have declined by 2.2 per cent in advanced countries and of course Europe makes up a significant proportion of advanced countries, versus a rise in real wages in developing countries,” said Richard Samans, Director of ILO’s Research Department.

Informal economy setback

An equally worrying development is the probability that efforts will be dashed to help the world’s two billion informal workers join the formal employment sector, so that they can benefit from social protection and training opportunities.

“While between 2004 and 2019 we observed decline in incidence of informality globally of five percentage points, it is very likely that this progress will be reversed in the coming years,” said Manuela Tomei, ILO’s Assistant Director-General for Governance, Rights and Dialogue.

This is because employment recovery “especially in developing countries, has been biased very much towards informal jobs”, Ms. Tomei told journalists in Geneva.

A man works in a factory in Dar Es Saalam.
© ILO/Marcel Crozet

A man works in a factory in Dar Es Saalam.

SDG on poverty under threat

The ILO report warned that as prices rise faster than wages, the cost-of-living crisis risks pushing more people into poverty. This trend comes on top of significant declines in income seen during the COVID-19 crisis, which affected low-income groups most, in many countries.

Some 214 million workers live in extreme poverty today, “in other words with $1.90 dollars a day”, Ms. Tomei explained. Although past decades have seen significant progress in poverty reduction, “many of these gains” have been wiped out by the impact of the coronavirus and the ongoing economic crisis, the ILO officer said.

“So it’s rather unlikely that by 2030 the very ambitious goal of eliminating poverty in all its forms will be met.”

The report also calculates the size of the global jobs gap to have been 473 million in 2022.

This is around 33 million more than 2019 and it is defined as a measure of the number of people who are unemployed, including those who want employment but are not actively searching for a job, either because they are discouraged or because they have other obligations such as care responsibilities.

Women overlooked

From a gender perspective, the unequal development of the global jobs market continues to be concerning, ILO’s Ms. Tomei explained.

“Serious gender gaps in terms of labour force participation, in terms of pay, in terms of social protection continue to exist…There are 290 million youth who are not in employment, or in education or in training and young women are faring much worse.”

A woman works in a factory in Albania.
© ILO/Marcel Crozet

A woman works in a factory in Albania.

🔴 The current global economic slowdown is likely to force more workers into accepting lower quality, poorly paid jobs that lack job security and social protection.

New ILO report explains 👉 https://t.co/od5m4S1LvG

World Bank: sharp, long-lasting slowdown to hit developing countries hard

Globally, growth continues to slow sharply due to rising inflation and interest rates, reduced investment, and supply disruptions caused by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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Any new adverse development could further push the global economy into recession, said the World Bank. This includes higher-than-expected inflation rates, abrupt rises in interest rates to contain it, a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, or escalating geopolitical tensions.

Yet, faced with extremely high government debt levels and rising interest rates advanced economies are absorbing global capital.

Poverty rates to rise

Per-capita income growth in emerging market and developing economies is projected to average 2.8 per cent, a full percentage point lower than the 2010-2019 average. 

In Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for about 60 per cent of the world’s extreme poor, growth in per capita income over 2023-24 is expected to average just 1.2 per cent, a rate that could cause poverty rates to rise, not fall.

“The crisis facing development is intensifying as the global growth outlook deteriorates,” said World Bank Group President, David Malpass. 

“Emerging and developing countries are facing a multi-year period of slow growth driven by heavy debt burdens and weak investment in business. This will compound the already-devastating reversals in education, health, poverty, and infrastructure and the increasing demands from climate change.”

Global recession predicted

The report projects that growth in advanced economies is to slow from 2.5 per cent in 2022, to 0.5 per cent in 2023. Over the past two decades, slowdowns of this scale have foreshadowed a global recession. 

In the United States, growth is forecast to fall to 0.5 per cent this year -1.9 percentage points below previous forecasts and the weakest performance outside of official recessions since 1970. 

In 2023, Euro-area growth is expected at zero per cent – a downward revision of 1.9 percentage points. In China, growth is projected at 4.3 per cent; 0.9 percentage points below previous forecasts.

Excluding China, growth in emerging market and developing economies is expected to decelerate from 3.8 per cent in 2022, to 2.7 per cent in 2023.

By the end of 2024, GDP levels in emerging and developing economies will be roughly six per cent below levels expected before the pandemic. 

Over the 2022-2024 period, gross investment in these economies is likely to grow by about 3.5 per cent on average – less than half the rate of the previous two decades.

Sustainable fishing is improving livelihoods in Haiti.
UNDP/Pierre Michel Jean

Sustainable fishing is improving livelihoods in Haiti.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Meanwhile, figures from the United Nations’ latest flagship annual report on goods exports from Latin America and the Caribbean, show a 20 per cent increase in 2022, but a drop in growth from the previous year.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates the growth was driven by a 14 per cent rise in prices and an expansion of 6 per cent in export volumes.

The Commission also found that the value of regional goods imports increased by 24 per cent

Like in 2021, the expansion was driven mainly by external factors (the rise in prices of raw materials, particularly fuel), and not by the capacity to increase export volumes or diversify regional export supply toward new sectors.

A sharp, long-lasting slowdown is expected to hit developing countries this year. The global economy is projected to grow by just 1.7% in 2023. #WBGEP2023

Sunshine, sea, and sustainable tourism: Indonesian women entrepreneurs adapt to a changing world

As the sun sets over the Celebes sea, and its orange glow turns the horizon gold, a couple of dozen tourists are on the pier at Budo, a village of 2400 perched on the ocean, 25 kilometres northeast of the regional capital Manado.

They snap photos and marvel at the view; a woman visiting from a nearby town exclaims that, even for the locals, the sun setting on the volcanoes is an extraordinary sight.

However, until a few years ago, the pier – about 300 meters long, crossing a mangrove forest to connect the village to the open sea – was dilapidated and used only by fishers heading out to sea.

But those were different times, explains Hani Lorens Singa, President of the Village Enterprise Association (BUMDES): back then there were far more fish, and no tourists.

The fishing pier of Budo village has been converted into an area for tourists.
B. Csete

The Budo village fishing pier is now a tourist attraction.

Budo, like many coastal villages in North Sulawesi, in far northeastern Indonesia, has traditionally been dependent on small scale fishing, but fish stocks have shrunk, prompting a new focus on tourism as a way of creating livelihoods.

A programme set up by the International Labour Organization (ILO, a UN agency), is helping the rural community of Budo, and four other villages, to diversify into sustainable tourism, providing skills to local entrepreneurs, mostly women.

The pier has been renovated and painted, with support from the government, and benches and wooden huts have been added for the convenience of tourists, who pay an entrance fee of 10,000 Rupiahs ($0.65), to walk along it and enjoy the view.

Visitors can buy local delicacies and drinks at the ticket counter, and the orders are prepared and delivered to the pier by available members of the village association. “We share the work, we share the income – this is tourism at a human scale”, says Mr. Lorens Singa.

Since the renovation, a fifth of the visitors spend more, ordering local delicacies and drinks at the ticket counter with the occasional visitor also staying the night.

Thanks to support from ILO and its partners, Budo has increased its income from tourism fivefold and now appears on the tourist trail: the village was the winner of the digital marketing category at the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy’s Top 50 Village Tourism Award this year.

Despite the improvements, a lot still remains to be done, and Mr. Lorens Singa is not complacent. “We need to offer more reasons for people to stay for a meal or overnight,” he insists.

The Indonesian government supplied wooden buildings on top of or next to villagers’ houses in Marinsow
M. Gaspar / UNIC Jakarta

The Indonesian government supplied wooden buildings on top of or next to villagers’ houses in Marinsow

Homestays, hashtags, and home cooking

About an hour’s drive east of Budo, the inhabitants of Marinsow have taken a crash course in the bed and breakfast business, a steep learning curve for many of them.

“Many of the entrepreneurs we work with have never been tourists themselves, so without training, it is not obvious for them to know what tourists expect,” says Mary Kent, the ILO Chief Technical Adviser for the project.

Marinsow is in a mining region, several kilometres away from Indonesia’s pristine beaches, so tourists previously had no reason to stop by. But, since Marinsow was designated as a “priority tours destination” by the Government, the village has received a significant financial boost, aimed at diversifying the economy.

More than 50 villagers received small wooden bungalows on their plots to start bed and breakfast businesses, or homestays, as they are known in Indonesia. ILO, with local partners Klabat University and the Manado State Polytechnic, is helping to teach local people the skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur, such as bookkeeping, cost calculation and marketing, hospitality, and tourism.

Yeli Alelo at her homestay in Marinsow, northeastern Indonesia.
M. Gaspar / UNIC Jakarta

Yeni Alelo at her homestay in Marinsow, Indonesia

“I was very surprised to learn that tourists prefer their sheet white and a diversity of meals,” says Yeni Alelo. Ms. Alelo and the other participants have also learned the importance of using hashtags in social media marketing posts, so that tourists looking for a place to stay in the area find them more easily.

“The women’s small businesses are financed through microfinance credits, and they have been able to make all the payments on time,” says Gabriel Tamasengge, the village’s mayor. “We are very proud of our women, of the business acumen we never knew they had.”

The investment in skills for marketing and quality control in these communities is paying off, with about half of the few hundred tourists spending the night in Marinsow last year coming from outside the province, including an increasing number from abroad.

Back in Budo, there is interest in building more homestays, and increasing overnight stays, perhaps by creating a marketing campaign to convince foreign tourists from nearby world-class diving destinations within the Bunaken Marine Park to hop over for an evening meal and make a visit to a typical village, rather than sticking to the usual mass tourism destinations. The Village Enterprise Association also plans to offer cooking and handicraft classes, as well as fishing trips.

“Our task now is to make sure that when the funding from ILO and the government stops, we will have a fully formed business that allows us to stand completely on our own feet,” says Mr. Lorens Singa. “We had the vision, and we have the commitment – I am confident we will succeed.

Members of the Budo tourism association prepare local delicacies for tourists.
M. Gaspar / UNIC Jakarta

Members of the Budo tourism association prepare local delicacies for tourists.

Skills for Prosperity

  • The village tourism project is part of the Skills for Prosperity Programme, funded by the United Kingdom, supporting sustained and inclusive growth through skills development in three Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia. Its goal is to increase employability, employment and livelihood opportunities of beneficiaries.

  • To ensure sustainability of the programme, and to eventually reach more than the initial four supported villages, the ILO has trained local trainers, including staff from higher education institutions Manado State Polytechnic and the University of Klabat.

  • Tourism specialists at project partner University of Gloucestershire in the UK have also contributed to the capacity building of these delivery institutions, helping to integrate the community focus into their standard curriculum and study programmes.

  • ILO’s Decent Work programme focuses on social dialogue, job creation and enhancing the protection of vulnerable workers, and contributes to the UN in Indonesia’s National Blue Agenda Actions Partnership with the government in support of the sustainable development of the ocean and coastal communities.

Flexible work arrangements, a benefit to all – ILO report

Issues surrounding working hours and conditions are “at the heart of most labour market reforms and evolutions taking place in the world today”, Branch Chief Philippe Marcadent said in the foreword to ILO’s Working Time and Work-Life Balance Around the World.

“The number of hours worked, the way in which they are organized, and the availability of rest periods can significantly affect not only the quality of work, but also life outside the workplace”.

Recording hours

The study, which is the first to focus on work-life balance, examines the affects that working hours and time schedules have on the performance of businesses and their employees.

A woman works remotely in Bali, Indonesia.
Unsplash/Daria Mamont

A woman works remotely in Bali, Indonesia.

Covering the periods before and during COVID-19, the report reveals that more than a third of all employees are regularly working more than 48 hours per week, while a fifth of the global workforce is labouring fewer than 35 hours per week, on a part-time basis.

“The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon has placed work-life balance at the forefront of social and labour market issues in the post-pandemic world”, said lead author Jon Messenger.

Varying arrangements

The report analyses different work schedules and their effects on work-life balance, including shifts, arrangements for being on call, compressed hours, and hours-averaging schemes.

Innovative working-time arrangements, such as those introduced during the COVID-19 crisis, can bring great benefits, including greater productivity and improved work-life balance, said Mr. Messenger.

“This report shows that if we apply some of the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis and look very carefully at the way working hours are structured, as well as their overall length, we can create a win-win, improving both business performance and work-life balance”, he added.

However, the report cautioned that the benefits of some flexible arrangements, such as spending more time with the family, may also be accompanied by greater gender imbalances and health risks.

Average hours of work per week, disaggregated by sex and geographic region, based on 2019 data from 160 countries.
Working Time and Work-Life Balance Around the World, ILO

Pandemic responses  

The report also looks at crisis response measures which governments and businesses took during the pandemic to help keep organizations functioning and preserve jobs, which found that more workers on reduced hours helped to prevent job losses.

The study also highlights long-term changes.

“The large-scale implementation of telework nearly everywhere in the world that it was feasible to do so, changed…the nature of employment, most likely for the foreseeable future” it asserts.

The COVID-19 crisis measures also yielded powerful new evidence showing that by giving workers more flexibility in how, where and when they work, can be positive both for them and for business, with significant productivity gains.

Conversely, restricting flexibility brings substantial costs, including higher staff turnover.

“There is a substantial amount of evidence that work–life balance policies provide significant benefits to enterprises, supporting the argument that such policies are a ‘win-win’ for both employers and employees”, stated the report.

Observations

The report includes a number of conclusions, such as that longer working hours are generally associated with lower productivity, while shorter hours are linked with greater output.

It also upholds that laws and regulations which set an upper limit on hours worked and statutory rest periods, contribute to the long-term health and well-being of society.

Sebabatso Nchephe (right), 18, chats remotely with her mentor, Pretty Jagivan (on screen) at the offices of Roche Pty Ltd in Sandton, South Africa.
© UNICEF/Karin Schermbrucker

Sebabatso Nchephe (right), 18, chats remotely with her mentor, Pretty Jagivan (on screen) at the offices of Roche Pty Ltd in Sandton, South Africa.

Recommendations

According to Working Time, countries should continue to support pandemic-era initiatives such as inclusive short-time work schemes, which not only saved jobs but also boosted purchasing power and helped cushion the effects of economic crises.

It also advocates for a public policy shift to reduce the number of working hours in many countries, and promote a healthy work-life balance.

And finally, the report encourages teleworking to help maintain employment and give workers more agency.

However, to contain potential negative effects, it warned that these and other flexible working arrangements need to be well regulated, to support what is often called the “right to disconnect” from work.

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